Of all of AA’s many myths I doubt any are more harmful than the one which states that a person must hit “rock bottom” before they can move to being “in recovery.”
There are any number of ways to approach debunking this foolishness but I’d like to begin with its tie to another myth: ‘’alcoholism’ is a ‘disease’”. If “alcoholism” is a “disease” then wouldn’t it make sense to treat it like any other disease where the universal refrain from the medical community is, “early intervention?” Yes, the sooner the diagnosis and treatment the better the prognosis.
“Rock bottom” on the other hand, suggests treatment of cancer be delayed until the patient has reached Stage 4. You know how that will likely turn out. Would you delay removing your cataracts until you were blind? Or replacing a joint until you were totally immobile?
Of course, some people – more men than women – will wait until it’s too late to address a medical condition and all of us have areas in our lives we delay addressing until the cost is higher than need be. We suffer through abusive relationships, postponing and procrastinating those medical tests, examining our financial realities, and discovering our legal realities and remedies.
And so it is with our alcohol usage.
All of the conditions I have mentioned, and a hundred more, are most often treated with the most common Rx: denial.
Denial comes in many forms: it’s my lot in life, my fate, my penance for my sins, my burden, and so on until we finally escape and “Rest In Peace.” We drown our sorrows until…
Consider other possibilities. One of the conditions that keep many drinking until they perpetuate a crisis is another popular myth: “AA is the only way.” There are literally dozens of “other” ways – not that you’ll hear about them on TV, read about them, or learn of them through flashy ads.
Learning about them means doing your own research past the superficial level. Learning about medical assists like Naltrexone, developed in Europe as a moderation aid and, therefore, kept off of the U.S.D.A. approved formulary because abstinence is the only acceptable outcome in the war on demon rum (or any other War on Drugs).
So if you don’t have to wait or use “bottoming out” as your excuse to delay, what are the options?
The best one for you is one tailored to you – imagine that. For fifteen years Dr. Barnes and I treated individuals – and occasionally couples – but we never once led a group unless you considered yourself, Mary Ellen, and me a group.
Tailored to you means the right mix of ingredients: maybe CBT + Naltrexone + Reading + new or revived interests + physical activities + new friends + ………
It can also mean expanded outcomes including (gasp) MODERATION. Real research shows that most “alcoholics” abstain or revert to social drinking on their own or without the help of any group – yes, there will always be the conformists who need a peer group to support them (which is why my guide to AA is titled “AA: Who It Helps, Who It Harms, Who It Kills & Why.”
Some people’s lack of maturity makes a preadolescent peer group necessary just as others need AA’s escape from responsibility – responsibility for allowing the problem to occur in the first place and responsibility for the “relapses” that are another AA benefit.
So, if you’re serious about changing your drinking habit, don’t wait for “rock bottom” and don’t go to AA – unless your preferred outcome is being a “dry drunk” Stepper. Find a good therapist who will assist you in creating your own life based on your unique skills, interests, and values.
Do it your way.