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I was impressed by Alex Boyt’s thoughtful and intelligent article regarding 12-step programmes (DDN, April, page 12). I wanted to explore the current wisdom of encouraging people who approach drug services struggling with addiction to attend 12-step meetings.
It may be that my experience is particularly shaped by the culture in Bristol where there are an awful lot of people, predominantly men, who have to attend meetings as a condition of living in a ‘dry house’. Anyway, unless you are an attractive woman going to a meeting currently using, if you don’t have any friends in the fellowship will get you treated like a leper. Imagine someone’s state of mind who perhaps through hard struggle has abstained from crack and heroin when on a methadone script and then seeks support at NA only to be made to feel unwelcome. Workers should bear this in mind before encouraging clients to attend.
Some sort of pre-briefing of the rituals at these meetings (hand holding and chanting) would also be wise, as it can seem pretty weird to a newcomer. I’m including these thoughts as notes of caution as I have friends who have gone on to live drug-free lives after using 12-step support.
Richie, Bristol, by email
Brilliant read. I did 12-step abstinence for six years, but never felt I was being true to myself and witnessed so much judgement within fellowships. It’s 14 years in July since I took my last methadone or any other class A, following nearly 18 years of chaotic addiction and lifestyle. The six-year abstinence was definitely a good foundation for my recovery but once I realised I had a great support network within my life outside of NA I made a choice to get on with my life. So for eight years now I’ve not questioned myself – if I want a drink with friends I have one. I even went to Amsterdam on a girly trip and had a puff on a joint, didn’t beat myself up, no one judged me and guess what… I’m still living and loving a productive life!
I thank the 12 steps for giving me some great principles to apply within my life but I too disagree with the ‘powerless forever’ statement! If 12 steps forever are what works for you then I’m happy for you, but for me it was the bridge to normal living and the biggest factor in my recovery is definitely my support, acceptance, love and laughter from friends and family. Do what works for you but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t always go to plan, especially if it’s someone else’s plan!
Tara, via www.drinkanddrugsnews.com
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
What am amazing well-written paper. You have raised some valuable points, that I for one have just been discussing with a friend. I am a person in long-term recovery, and have been working on myself for many years. I have always believed that those who commit suicide or relapse either cannot maintain the ‘all or nothing’ concept or the self-development which I believe is needed to continue in recovery.
I stopped attending the rooms because I changed, as simple as that. I didn’t pick up nor do I want to pick up, even after losing a son and more recently the death of my mother. I didn’t want to use because I knew that would not be the answer – I do believe that NA is not the answer to everyone’s drug problems. I believe we all have a unique guidance system and our soul knows the way. I have worked in drug and alcohol serves and I am now a qualified, integrative therapist in my final month of a BA honours degree. I have wonderful choices now, that I would not change for anyone. Thank you for your article – being my true authentic self has always been my goal.
Anonymous, via www.drinkanddrugsnews.com
Reading this has ruined my day and I was upset it had been even brought anywhere near me. I think you are a clever person who could help a lot of people change – why bother to get bogged down with an unnecessary debate?
Ellie, via www.drinkanddrugsnews.com
It didn’t/doesn’t work for me personally. Things didn’t really click for me until I found Smart Recovery. That’s not to say I didn’t find a lot of value in some of the 12 steps approach, I just couldn’t get totally comfortable with it – for many reasons. At the end of the day though, it’s whatever works for you. Any positive steps.
Craig Rees, via Facebook