I used to go to 12-step meetings. That was a little over six years ago. Today, I don’t go to 12-step meetings anymore, and for that, some people would say I’m setting myself up for a relapse. But, in my opinion, I’m countering what triggered me to relapse.
I haven’t relapsed since I stopped going, and some would say I’m crazy. Some meeting-goers would say that “if you don’t go to meetings you’ll die.” But the majority out there would, and should say, “Do whatever keeps you sober, bro!” And that’s the motto I live by.
Note: This is just my opinion and my story. I do not hold grudges against 12-step meetings; they work for many people and are saving millions of lives! I choose differently, just for today.
In the past I would attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings religiously, but I couldn’t seem to stay away from the people that were chronically relapsing. And then I’d gotten 18 months sober and headed down hill with some new acquaintances. It was hard when most of the younger crowd was relapsing and I was young, too. My sponsor said stick around with the people who had over a year to five years clean, but I felt alone in that group! My 18 months was around August 2010 and the beginning of my last relapse. From that moment on—December 25th, 2010, my last day of use—I chose not to go back to 12-step meetings.
Now, stopping the 12-step meetings doesn’t mean that I stopped working a program. All it means is that I work a different program, just for today. I still use a lot of the principles that I learned in 12-step meetings, but what my sponsor—who is very active in Narcotics Anonymous—told me was to take what worked and leave the rest. And that’s exactly what I did. But, this also meant that I couldn’t bring myself to go back to N.A. meetings as it had me on a path for relapse the last few times I did attend.
What I did do was continue to stay in touch with the people that worked for me from N.A. meetings, including my sponsor, whom is approaching 12 years next week. He told me, “Brian, you don’t have to go to meetings anymore if PARTS of them weren’t working for you. But I do want you to work a program that will help you in your path of recovery. And that’s why I will never leave your side, as long as you choose to work the recovery that works for you!”
A lot of people get mistaken when they see themselves “having” to do a 12-step approach when it comes to healing in recovery. And that’s not always true. There are a number of other meetings out there. There are places like SMART Recovery and are rational based. There are also places like Celebrate Recovery that are faith based. And then there are many programs that churches run, based on religious healing. Then on the other hand there are places that hold no religious affiliation whatsoever, like shelters whom hold healing type programs but run a little bit more loosely. And this goes to show, “Do what works for your recovery, whatever it may be. As long as you stay sober, and get better!”
In fact, only around 10% of people in recovery or whom have been in recovery in the World choose to use a 12-step based method. That’s about 2.5 million people in 12-step based programs! And there’s parts of me that say “That’s huge!” because if I didn’t find a sponsor and a 12-step program early in my recovery I probably wouldn’t have the types of recovery relationships I do today, and wouldn’t have made it through the worst parts of my life. But, just for today, I am working on a holistic based program that includes a 75%-25% holistic approach and the rest is comprised of mentors, faith based programs, and my old sponsors from N.A. without the bars of going to a meeting itself.
So, some of you may really stick to your guns when you read this and say that because I don’t go to meetings I will do great harm to myself. And some sayings at meetings go, “Meetings or die!” I get that. And I understand that’s a saying by many of the older folks at meetings out there, but that isn’t necessarily true for the other 247.5 million people in recovery. Me included. And to bring this experience of mine, that’s been eating at me for a while to a close, I choose to continue to spread my message whatever way possible. And today, I’m busting my ass to do whatever it takes to stay healthy, alive, and active in recovery. So don’t let this discourage you from 12-step programs, but as I get asked it more and more in my lifestyle as Substance For You, I have to tell you all truthfully and honestly… I don’t go to meetings and I haven’t died. Why? Because I’m doing WHATEVER it takes to stay sober and active in a recovery that WORKS FOR ME.
So, like I’ll tell anyone who asks me this question in private. “Do whatever it takes to keep you sober and in recovery, moving forward.” There are many paths that work for many other people. So, whatever your way of healing is, just do it and forget the other negative comments. If 12-steps work, continue that. If holistic approaches work, continue that. If faith based programs work, continue that. I’m not picking and choosing sides, because I work them all. And remember, “DO WHAT KEEPS YOU SOBER, AS LONG AS YOU DO IT SOBER!” But, I will urge you that in that “keeping sober” you definitely should be working some sort of “program” or theme that involves you staying in a community of recovery folks because they may understand things others won’t. And as the old saying goes, “Together we rise, alone we fall.”
This article is meant for those lost in the confusion of what road to take on recovery. May your confusion be debunked and you’re able to continue working on yourself, further from relapse, and closer to serenity! All I hope is that we all recover in the best way we can. Saving lives is the priority, not which way we do it!
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