Isn’t AA (or 12 Step) Enough?
” Now about health: A body badly burned by alcohol does not often recover overnight nor do twisted thinking and depression vanish in a twinkling. We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health. But we have seen remarkable transformations in our bodies. Hardly one of our crowd now shows any dissipation.
But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitated to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward.” Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 133 (The Family Afterward)
The truth is that “working a program” may well be “enough” for many people in recovery. Or it may be enough at different seasons of life. A holistic program in which the person in recovery lives in steps 10 – 12 and according to pages 84 – 88 goes far to build a healthy sober life.
However, engaged AA participation often does not heal co-occurring issues such as anxiety or depression. It does not address grief, children acting out, or career challenges. Even dedicated work with a sponsor may not heal relationships; you’ve probably heard that a sponsor is not a marriage counselor.
There are a multitude of trained and licensed professionals who can help you sort through challenges beyond early recovery. I have assisted clients through the stress and psychology of adding to their family with the birth of a child, with becoming empty nesters, with buying a home, with responding to the needs of an addicted child, considering a career change, and finally addressing life-long anxiety. Other topics include:
- Relapse prevention from the medical and behavioral model
- Depression, grief, trauma
- Career support
- Marriage and family counseling
- Deepening a spiritual program
- Cognitive Behavioral therapy to affect change
How Can Therapy Help with Relapse Prevention?
Alcoholism is a disease; a progressive brain disease in which the brain of the alcoholic (or addict) has a maladaptive and unhealthy response to the introduction of recreational and mind altering substances in the brain. Individuals with this disease react with an actual craving – and eventually a literal need – for more of that substance. In time, this consumption leads to what is known as “tolerance” and the addicted brain needs more and more in order to experience the desired response.
The treatment of this illness begins with completely stopping all mind-altering substances. It is then that the now clean and sober person can begin to heal. This healing comes through avenues known to impact the brain in restorative ways. Some of the most profound ways include:
- Routine and ritual
- Adequate sleep and nutrition
- Being of service
- Personal transformation
- The experience or perception of spiritual development
A person in recovery must “match” their recovery activity with the aggressiveness of their illness. This is comparable to persons who suffer with diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. What is needed to successfully treat varies per person due to many complicated factors.
A solid 12 step program can assist and sustain a healthy and happy recovery. A trained professional can walk alongside the person in recovery and together they can identify and respond to triggers. As a team, they can help the person in recovery match their habits, thoughts, routines, and activities to the level needed to avoid relapse.
Remember that drinking or using is the LAST ACT in a relapse. A recovering individual should utilize all resources to be aware of movement in recovery or movement away – which is synonymous with moving towards relapse. A licensed and trained professional can be an integral part in the individual’s recovery, partnering with the client to weave healing and healthy habits into the fabric of their days.