Why Go To 12 Step Meetings?



So-called "twelve step" support programs are those patterned after the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded in 1935. There are now many such "fellowships" besides AA, including Narcotics, Cocaine, Sex Addicts, Overeaters, Debtors, and Gamblers Anonymous. In addiction, there are a number of others such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon intended to help the family, friends, colleagues and caregivers of those afflicted by addictions. (This caregiver category, of course, includes anyone working in the addictions field.)

The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) and other addiction treatment educators strongly urge those who work in the field to attend 12 step meetings. Here's why it help you:

To grow professionally. 12 step programs form the base of the current treatment system in the Western world. Ruth Ackerman, PhD, past president of NADA, points out that acu detox goes hand in hand with the social and psychological aspects of treatment and "in this county most treatment is 12 step based". Even those programs that espouse other philosophical basis often represent an evolution, derivative of, or reaction to, 12 step thinking. Ackerman notes that at the most basic level, to work collaboratively with treatment providers and with clients, it is important from a professional point of view to have sophistication about how "the program" (as 12 step systems are often referred to) works -- its language, ideas, values and practices.

While you do not need to be a recovering person to be an effective clinician and/or acupuncture detoxification specialist (ADS), you do need to have done your homework -- to understand the disease and the "recovery process". Misperceptions abound. Variance abounds. Go and see for yourself. It will prove enlightening and extremely useful to you as an addiction professional. What does it mean to "be in recovery", "to work the steps", "to make amends", "to have a sponsor", "to do 90 in 90"? What are "the traditions", "the promises", "the Big Book"? Go so you stay humble. Listen to the challenges and realities of staying clean and sober "24/7". Listen to the profound spiritual transformation "in the rooms".

To assist your clients in going. Go so you know, experientially, just how hard it can be to go to a strange place to join a bunch of strangers in ritualistic behaviors that you suspect might challenge all that makes you feel safe. Add to that challenge the additional barriers of transportation and child care and additional risks such as going out at night in bad neighborhoods, especially for women. Finding a meeting may be remarkably easy or remarkably difficult. Go so you will not be cavalier and so you know which barriers and complaints are real, which are contrived and what solutions exist.

To protect your health. In Al-Anon, the only criteria for membership is that your life is affected by someone's alcoholism (or drug addiction for Nar-Anon). By having chosen to do addiction work, we "totally qualify" as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon members, says Ackerman. "I happen to think" she adds, "that people should work the program, especially get a sponsor, because they will have a broken hearts -- clients relapse, die, commit suicide. The helplessness factor is severe." Furthermore, Ackerman likens it to professionals working with trauma victims. These professionals have to be debriefed by counselors, even though the trauma is not their own. Few members of society live lives untouched by addiction. Those drawn to work in the field of addiction treatment tend to have even more ties.

To see how "It Works". Help yourself to the joy of recovery. Practice what you preach. "Beware of personal spiritual transformation when you least expect it" cautions a laughing Ackerman. The 12 step program gives a connection, an entry point to learning about spirituality that people don't expect, she says. Ackerman asserts 12 step programs lead to "wisdom teachings and how to listen for them" and the development of compassionate listening. Go because, in her words, "it makes the world a better place."

J&M Reports, LLC.


By Claudia Voyles

Share this with your friends