If you are going to leave your alcohol abuse behind, then you will find it helpful to leave all of the 12 Step mythology behind – including the unconscious beliefs you have accumulated. Over the past 75 years our culture has become saturated by ideas that have no foundation in research or experience. But driven by rehab mills’ marketing hype they have nonetheless wormed their way into most of our psyches.
I’d like to start with the most pervasive ones:
- is a disease;
- is “forever”;
- can only be arrested by AA’s 12 Steps;
- means you can never drink anything containing alcohol ever again.
That’s hardly an exhaustive list but it will help get us started in exploring what most of us, at one time of another, have been led to believe.
To begin with the big one, the misuse of alcohol is not a disease. It’s a choice. Granted, your current state is not one you chose, but the process of getting there was, and staying there is. You arrived at your current problem not because you were dumb or diseased but because alcohol worked, until it didn’t.
Let’s not forget that alcohol is an excellent short term solution to anxiety, loneliness, boredom, hormonal shifts, role loss, physical and emotional pain, and a dozen other conditions. The trouble is, medicating isn’t fixing and alcohol prevents fixing.
Alcohol abuse isn’t forever. Most people “outgrow” it and either give it up or return to “normal” drinking habits. The research is clear on this point though largely ignored or suppressed. For confirmation, you can review “Who’s Recovered?”
Perhaps the most unfounded myth is that AA and the 12 Steps not only “work” but are the only thing that does. Again, nonsense. They work for a small demographic of people but the “success” rate remains under 5 % of those who try it. For real success look at “Ending Alcohol Abuse: What Works.”
It’s interesting that most people who end their alcohol abuse go back to lower levels of use. Again, see “Who’s Recovered?”
There are many other myths of course. Things like “it’s progressive,” – it rarely is and is far more commonly stable or regressive. Imagine that?
Then there is the popular “you have to go away for 30, 60, or even 90 days!” myth. In fact, for most people, short-term outpatient works far better than “residential” which has the same dismal, and planned, “success rates of under 15% and most of these successes happen despite the program offerings (AA meetings) not because of.
Oh, and your anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and marital problems will not be solved by pretending that alcohol is the cause rather than the symptom, nor will they be fixed by the magic of the beach, palms, vortex, wolf-dogs, equine therapy, magic mountains, heliotherapy (I kid you not), or any of the other snake oil potions programs add to their already bogus “Steps.”
Remember, if you fix the problems you are currently medicating, the need to medicate will go away. If you don’t address the underlying problems, no amount of meetings, steps, or degradation and humiliation is going to do anything but increase your drinking.
Instead, think about acquiring real skills: CBT, Motivational Enhancement, Assertiveness Training; diet and exercise regimens you can actually live with, and other coping and living skills that improve both you and your life.
That what we offer, not phony fixes which are, in any case, available to you for free at some church’s back room near you.