What is recovery?

For many people the term "recovery" conjures up negative images of grimy, smoky basements with people talking incessantly about their problems. These are usually people who have never been to an AA or NA meeting, or have seen movies which portray it in this manner. The term "recovery" is, in fact, usually linked with the Twelve-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, although it doesn't necessarily mean that this program is the only path. However, for the majority of people suffering from the more severe or more progressed forms of the illness, Twelve-Step programs offer a very positive and effective plan for re-gaining stability in your life.

The idea of recovery from addiction has been around for a long time, but crystallized with the work of Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, who co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous. This program has been so successful that many of the practices and terms of the program have become household terms. "Thanks for sharing", "One day at a time", the Serenity Prayer, have all been popularized by Twelve-Step programs. Despite what some rumors say, there is abundant research that AA/NA can be powerful tools to help people find and maintain sobriety, and to transform their lives.

Is AA for everyone? In many parts of the recovery world, any objection to AA is seen as "denial" or "resistance". In a lot of cases, in fact, this is true. Too many people reject the Twelve-Step method without ever having attended a meeting. Shame, negative stereotypes (particularly about the "religious" aspects of the program), fear of being "outed" and other factors have prevented many from taking part in a supportive, caring community.

On the other hand, not everybody can benefit from AA or is ready for it. For those, there are other pathways for achieving sobriety, which are also valid. Although AA and NA are the most commonly known programs, other programs (Women for Sobriety, Rational Recovery, Smart Recovery), are also available, although a bit harder to find than AA/NA.

One definition of recovery is: "The process of making changes to lifestyle, thinking and values in support of maintaining sobriety. It is usually characterized by an increased level of humility, honesty, interpersonal connection and spiritual grounding".

In order to maintain abstinence from addiction, it is usually necessary to make changes in lifestyle, thinking and attitudes. Any method that works on achieving these goals can be effective. Bill Wilson has written that AA has "no monopoly on recovery", and he continued to seek other paths to recovery to help more people. If AA is truly "not for you" I am happy to work with you to develop your own plan of recovery.