Thursday, January 02, 2014

Is Abstinence the Only Way?

This is one of those questions that can be troublesome for those of us who love AA and who have benefitted from an "abstinence-only" approach to sobriety or recovery or changing our drinking. Even those words are phrases are fraught with implication --and sometimes ownership.

In today's New York Times there is a provocative article by Gabrielle Glaser, author of "Her Best Kept Secret--Why Women Drink". Glaser's book is an excellent account of women's drinking patterns and the increase in women's use and misuse of alcohol. She looks at lifestyle changes, marketing, and the humor and beliefs around alcohol use among women.

However she is shaking up the AA world by describing it's history: very male, and it's approaches: religious or spiritually based. None of that is new to us. But what's got recovering people twitching is her bold statement that AA is not the only way. And she is challenging the medical and psychiatric community to think about all of the possible interventions and methods including medication, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Moderation Management and others.

This is one of those places where you have a nice litmus test of your own recovery and your confidence in your recovery. Does the idea that other alcoholics can still drink bother you? Does the idea that other people can benefit from other approaches make you doubt your program? Does any criticism of AA or Twelve Step programs give you a giant resentment? Then think again.

One of the smart--though provocative--things that Glaser says at the very end of today's article is this: "We don't treat cancer, depression or asthma with the same tools we used in 1935. We need to get away from the one-size-fits-all approach to drinking problems."

I think she is right. AA is not the only way. We should learn all we can about addiction and methods of treatment. As for me, I'm grateful that AA recovery worked for me and that I have made this choice. I only wish for others who struggle with addiction that they can find whatever will work for them. And we can welcome them to sobriety and good health whichever route they take.

Here is the link to Glaser's article in the New York Times:

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

This is fascinating. In the OA world there are also factions: some swear by "gray sheet" type of abstinence and others have been able to find a way to eat sugary foods in moderation. (I am deeply envious of the latter group.) I agree that we need to remain open to scientific advances in the treatment of addiction and...different strokes for different folks. Sadly for me, until they come up with a vaccine against sugar addiction, the Oreo Food Group is off my plate.