Recently there was an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post entitled How AA Fails To Support Young Addicts. The story was written by a young woman who had a negative experience when she introduced herself as a drug addict at an AA meeting. Here is a link to the article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-aa-fails-to-support-young-addicts/2012/07/06/gJQAthdGSW_print.html
The article, despite its misperceptions about AA, raises some interesting topics for discussion.
Perhaps it's a testament to its success but many view Alcoholics Anonymous as a treatment provider or social service agency. An organization so successful has to have funding, strategic planning to expand it's mission and a Board of Directors that runs the organization. This isn't the case with Alcoholics Anonymous.
According to the AA Preamble: "Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and woman who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism". It goes on to say its primary purpose is to help its members "stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety". The essence of the program is one alcoholic sharing with another his/her "experience, strength and hope" in order to make a connection. This is not done through evidence based medicine, best clinical practices or the application of therapeutic techniques. Ernie Kurtz puts it nicely when he says AA is based on "the shared honesty of mutual vulnerability freely acknowledged".
A powerful notion of Alcoholics Anonymous is that one alcoholic can identify and connect with another in a unique way. The idea of telling one's story as a way to connect with another alcoholic who is wondering if he/she is all alone in struggling with drinking and hopeless is powerful. "This person drank the way I do and she's been sober for a year" is a beacon of hope. It is easy to lose sight of this principle in an age of "An addiction is an addiction is an addiction"?
Let's not even think about the problems caused by different types of alcoholism and focus on more obvious problems. Are addiction to methamphetamine, IV heroin, gambling, sex, nicotine and now even the internet the same as alcoholism? Are the stories interchangeable? Can a sex addict "tell his story to an alcoholic who's still drinking and create a connection? Are the goals for all "a spiritual awakening as the result of practicing the twelve steps in all our affairs? I'm not sure but I think not.
AA is a fellowship of people who joined together to stop drinking one day at a time based on spiritual growth and helping others stop drinking. It has the humility to have limits and not claim to be a cure all for every "addiction". Perhaps the writer should look for another young addict to help then together find a third and then build their own small fellowship and help it grow. Her mistake is the perspective that AA is an organization that should provide her service. Perhaps a better perspective would be for her to be grateful she's not using and show that gratitude by being of service to another young addict who wants to stop using but can't.