There are many times I find myself thinking a lot about the AA 12 step program and whether or not alcoholism/addiction is a disease. I have been questioning 12 step programs a lot for some time now. I find myself feeling really restricted if I am part of AA/NA. Most people who are part of a 12 step program believe that NA and AA 12 steps are really the only way to get and stay clean and sober.
I feel like I have gotten so caught up the AA 12 step program that I have a hard time formulating and articulating my own opinion about the matter. I think it’s both arrogant and ignorant to make the assumption that abstinence and 12 step meetings are the only solution to someone who has a problem with alcohol and drug use. Sometimes I express these feelings to people I know in AA, and their first reaction is that I should work a better program and finish doing the steps. Just the mere mention of the idea that maybe AA isn’t the only answer makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
It’s hard to know exactly what to do. I’ve been told for years that if I don’t want to go to a meeting or I think I don’t need meetings anymore, I better get to a meeting because this is what leads to a relapse. I think sometimes that can be true, but I also have a lot of other things in my life that are much more beneficial to me than meetings and working the steps. I don't think that the AA 12 step program is the only way to get and stay sober.
For me, the idea of alcoholism and addiction being a disease isn’t very relevant. I think it’s important in regards to getting funding for proper treatment and insurance coverage, but that’s a different topic entirely. For me, I know that I can’t drink or use drugs. When I do, I am beyond miserable, and so are the people around me who love and care about me. I can’t drink or use in moderation, and once I start, I can’t stop and, honestly, don’t want to stop. I can’t accomplish any kind of productive goals in my life and I can’t have any meaningful relationships because as soon as I pick up a drink or a drug, that becomes the most important thing in my life.
I have spent the last few years in an AA 12 step program, and it seems that in these rooms, it’s not up for discussion whether or not alcoholism is a disease. In the literature and in the meetings, it is said to be a disease and that’s the end of the conversation for a lot of people. I’ve been clean for almost 3 years and should give credit where it’s due, and a lot of that credit should go to AA/NA and the people I have met in those rooms. I don’t, however, feel like I have to agree with everything that is said in meetings or everything that is in the 12 step books.
I have mixed feelings about the AA 12 step program in general and about addiction being a disease. Honestly, though, I would rather label myself an addict or an alcoholic and say I have a disease that will never be cured. The alternative, spending any more time trying to figure out if one day I can drink or use responsibly, is terrible. To me, it doesn’t matter what you call it – disease, disorder, problem, or anything else. I can’t have the life that I want when I’m not sober. When I’m clean and sober, I am productive. For the most part I am happy, and there’s no question that I’m happier sober than when I’m getting high.
There are things that I miss about drinking and using drugs, but it’s something I hope to never go back to. I could spend my life wondering if alcoholism/addiction is a disease or not, but for me on a personal level, it just doesn’t matter. Sure, I think it’s important to explore why I drank and used drugs the way I did. Using drugs and alcohol served a purpose, and it’s important to know what that purpose was so I can replace using with different, more productive and effective behaviors. I didn’t wake up one day addicted to drugs or alcohol. It was a progression, and for me, there were certain catalysts that led to my addiction. It's more than just a disease.
If I can really explore why I drank and used drugs, I have a chance to move forward and live my life the way I want: clean and sober. This may or may not include an AA 12 step program and step work in the long term. I think AA/NA is fantastic. There are so many positive aspects of these programs, and I can’t really say anything bad about them. I just don’t like that it's often viewed as the only option. I think it’s important for people to have all the facts, and the fact is, many people get and stay sober without a 12 step program.
For some, a twelve step program may just be a means of support to start living clean and sober. For others, it may be the only thing that works to maintain sobriety. Where the AA 12 step program is concerned, there is a lot each meeting can offer, if you go with an open mind that your personal journey might not perfectly match the steps and traditions offered by AA/NA.