For the past almost year I have drafted and trashed about one thousand posts on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the 12-steps, each time telling myself that the point of this site is to provide more options and not to criticize the ones that exist, and further to steer clear of that nasty AA debate trap - leave it to sites like The Fix to tackle and keep this site to the meat of Hip Sobriety's mission which is to offer readers a place to explore paths to sobriety in a positive, optimistic, hopeful, beautiful, modern space minus the rhetoric and minus the infighting. To empower and build and to leave each to their own devices and own conclusions (with a lot of my loud opinion thrown in, of course.)
But time and again it comes up, and time and again, I find myself searching for the right thing to do and the right words to say. Because while my experience in AA was a shit-show and my resulting opinion of its efficacy - both from those first-hand accounts and the amount of time spent researching it over the past few years - is less than dismal, I strongly believe that arguing whether or not AA works distracts us from the real problem at hand.
While it may appear through my various opinions shared on this site that I'm hot and bothered about AA and the 12-Steps, the truth is my primary critique is notof AA at all. My primary critique is of our society in general and how deeply we failto serve the addiction space. The failed war on drugs. The fact that we exclude treatment from healthcare system and leave it to the legal system, church basements, and private cost-prohibitive treatment facilities. The lack of funding to find new and improved treatment modalities. The justification and glamorization of drinking and party culture. The stigmatization of addiction, "addicts", and "alcoholics". The anonymity and shame factor that we all embrace and perpetuate. The severe amount of misinformation and misunderstanding of how addiction actually works. The fact that we treat only those who are acutely addicted and completely miss opportunities to treat those who are well on their way (WHERE IS OUR PRE-ADDICTION?!).
We have failed thousands of times over before a human being even arrives at the doors of an AA meeting.
It is not going to be the obliteration or the preservation of AA that fixes our mess. It is going to be the evolution of it, as well as one trillion other things. To believe that the answer to the question lies somewhere within the debate of what is right and wrongabout AA is to be watering the lawn while the house is on fire.
But. But. Those experiences in AA, and the resulting opinion of both the fellowship and 12-step programs not only informs the information that you find throughout this site, but was in fact the impetus for starting this project in the first place. And my silence on the matter doesn't serve a damn soul who comes to this space.
Like it or not, if we are exploring recovery and sobriety, we are navigating Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step programs. Because the foundation of addiction recovery in America for the past 80+ years was birthed from Alcoholics Anonymous - more than 90% of our treatment programs are based off of AA/12-step principles. It is the default treatment method, it is the method by which our physicians are "trained" and exposed to addiction treatment, it is where the courts order us to go should we tangle with the law inebriated. Even movements like Tommy Rosen's Recovery 2.0 and Noah Levin's Refuge Recovery that purport to go beyond addiction recovery and outside the box are rooted in 12-step philosophy and are more or less evolved 12-step programs. It's EVERYWHERE and because it is everywhere, it colors not only your experience navigating sobriety, not only almost every treatment program and philosophy you'll encounter, but society's understanding of addiction and those who suffer it.
In the end, I feel like the right thing to do is to share the story of me and AA - the full long tale. But I also don't want to leave it hanging on just that note. Because that is just a story and ONE persons experience. So I will be providing a few additional pieces.
A piece on how you can navigate your own recovery in a world dominated by 12-Step and AA programs with some alternative solutions and resources (or complimentary - however you see it). A piece on what we can do as a society to start moving away from our current broken tragic model. A pro and con list of what AA is doing right and what AA is doing wrong. And finally, a piece written by my dear friend Laura McKowen of I Fly At Night who has had a much different relationship with AA and the 12-Steps, to offer a different perspective.
Because it is so long, and because it is so personal, and because I care that it is extensive and comprehensive, I've broken it into a series that I'll be posting over the next few weeks (as I go to HAWAII to check out Wanderlust in Oahu to yoga my ass off and hang out with Mastin Kipp in Maui for a week to try and learn how to make Hip Sobriety work better. Fuck yes.) The final post will be on March 5th and a full schedule is below.
You can use this link to find the entire series if you want to follow along. Also please make sure and sign up for my mailing list as I'm starting to put out more content and resources and make sure you stay looped in - scroll to the top of this page to do so.
Outside The Rooms. Hip Sobriety & Alcoholics Anonymous: A 9 Part Series.
1. Hip Sobriety & Alcoholics Anonymous: A 9 Part Series, Introduction. // February 18 //
2. My AA Story, Part 1. // February 19 //
3. My AA Story, Part 2. // February 20 //
4. 10 Ways To Evolve Alcoholics Anonymous. // March 26 //
5. Guest Post by Laura McKowen, Why AA Works For Me. // March 30 //
6. Outside The Rooms. Through AA Colored Glasses: How We As A Society See Addiction. // July 10 //
7. The Real Cause of Addiction + Why The AA Debate Is Useless // November 18 //
8. How To Navigate Recovery In an AA Dominated Culture. // TBD //
9. Dear America: Here Is How We Fix Addiction. // TBD //