I decided to support a friend at an AA meeting for the first time during COVID. I have to admit that it felt eerie when I first entered the room. Nothing like how it used to be before the pandemic. After all, all who were inside were desperately in need of psychological resuscitation. However, when the sharing started, in was surprised to learn that all of them are highly articulate and in fact very intelligent.
Just because they were all intelligent doesn’t mean that they didn’t need therapy. I was impressed by all the speakers who had the integrity and discipline not to relapse during the pandemic despite the statistics on alcohol usage increasing due to people lacking connection. They say the opposite of addiction is connection so it made sense to me why the sales of alcohol skyrocketed.
Many of these heroes and leaders of AA still had unprocessed trauma from even before the pandemic. These past unprocessed trauma’s contribute to our stress and while the current conditions are inherently stressful, at the same time, our response to our situations make it more or less stressful. When it becomes more stressful due to one’s reactivity, addressing the patterned response that is not adaptive to the situation and replacing it with a more adaptive pattern of response will not only help you cope, it addresses developmental deficits and needed life skills. This is what therapy helps with that AA on it’s own doesn’t.
It is my perception that the strongest point of AA’s approach is the ‘sponsor’ technique. This method involves those who were once addicted to alcohol and have since fully recovered, to take under his or her wings one of the new participants. This indeed is very effective, given that the sponsor knows exactly what the new member is going through. He knows the hardships of overcoming the withdrawal symptoms that serve as a hindrance to total alcohol abstinence. Likewise, the ‘step’ wherein a new member has to openly admit that he or she is totally under the control of alcohol is a very effective method of facing one’s problems. An example of such case is my friend who we will call Albert. He is one of more senior among the group, being a constant participant for the past seven months. According to his short testimony, there are times when he thinks that the simple act of confessing in front of the group that he cannot fight the influence of alcohol is enough to fend off the urge of having a few shots of whisky when he is at home. This confessing act, as he terms it aptly, seems to have a healing effect on its own that the more he speaks of his drinking problem the less powerful it becomes. Hence, the ‘sponsor’ and one’s admission of helplessness from the influences of alcohol are definite cures that I will highly recommend all alcoholics and addicts.
Other than possible genetics of alcoholism which is not something we have much control over I prefer to focus on what I can change and that is the trauma that occurred before our alcoholism and addiction. Doing the trauma work with a therapist while attending a 12-step program can reduce many of your negative symptoms and emotions to make sober life more pleasant.