Some of us don’t give ‘addiction’ much thought unless it has directly impacted us in some way. Whether that be an alcohol, or substance addiction or the inability to let go of your coffee maker, it is topic that is a weighted subject that is often times a taboo in discussion.
However, for the people who decide (or for whom the courts decide) that their addiction has reached an all time high, and sobriety is the only means to an end, there is the ever familiar Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous groups.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to these groups that I do not think people are comfortable discussing because it paints a bleak reality on addiction and leaves no room for hope. However, in my opinion, it is not a solution, but rather replacing one addiction for another, with intangible goals, religious pressure and a success rate no higher than sobriety on its own.
Yes I am talking about those very same groups, that promise “If you keep coming back, it works” as well as some other fun rhymes that are suppose to keep you motivated to stay sober. AA/NA groups from the outside seem like a wonderful idea to help those suffering from addiction. But once looked at closely, there are some not so flattering areas that may make one think twice before thinking this is their haven.
To begin with, AA is not friendly towards the non-religious. AA began with Bill W. and Dr. Bob’s belief that humans were incapable of change without the surrender to the ‘higher power.’ Although the adaptation of this word has turned into whatever higher power you deem fit, the origins come from Christianity. More specifically, from the Oxford Group, an evangelical Christian cult.
This group catered to the rich and elite, reinforcing their belief that they were the chosen ones, and aside from their uncontrollable addictions, they could be saved by admitting they were powerless over their addiction and that salvation was in the hands of God. Bill and Dr. Bob left this group due to the inconsistencies with its members showing up under the influence of something or other, and the leaders’ obsession with sexual matters, and went on to form their own group now known as AA.
The same messages from the Oxford Group are still found in the AA steps today. Seven out of the 12 steps directly refer to God and the need to turn yourself over to him, because apparently you suck without him.
This sort of thinking limits the audience in which AA/NA is trying to address. The non-believers of the addiction world are singled out. Sometimes, this causes detrimental effects, causing those people to leave the group prematurely (with the idea that it would have been successful for them) or are forced to stay due to a court order and grow increasingly hostile towards the group, making it difficult to see a way of becoming sober without this societal only-way-out approach.
Also, either with a court order or the dozens of chants created by the group, the forced approach is all wrong. Making someone do something oftentimes results in them doing the opposite. And because of the anonymity of the program, there are no reliable statistics proving the success rate of AA versus voluntary sobriety. From what little information that is available, the odds are 50/50.
No matter how many cute sayings they create, or how many cups of coffee they provide, addiction is more complex than these organizations are willing to admit. Working the program will never change the effects the alcohol or drugs had on your body, nor will it help with the biochemical workings either. If anything, these meetings are replacing one addiction with others: the addiction of sobriety, being kept to an unattainable standard and the lack of accountability.
As a society, we will always be faced with addiction and it is about time to shine light on the other possibilities of achieving sobriety, instead of focusing on just one. There are groups out there that provide the same support AA/NA does without the religious fixation.
There are also thousand of accounts of people just waking up and deciding to stop, with the help of a healthy support system and therapy ranging from Dialectical Behavior Therapy to other methods. Forcing one to do something under the context that it is the only way is never going to solve anything.
Holly Mayer is a junior English Major and ethnic studies minor. Letters and Feedback can be sent to email@example.com