One Step – Real Or Bogus?

I love to read success stories about alcoholics and addicts who’ve managed to change their lives for the better. But sometimes they go a bit far in recommending their own particular path to others who are still suffering. This was the case when I read a popular online article about AA and how it’s “cult-like” culture actually promotes alcoholism.

The article talks about a “one step” method for sobriety. It’s on a website that is apparently devoted to some very harsh criticism of AA. This piece tells a story and advocates a single step to sobriety: “Just stop drinking.”

If only it were so simple.

First, let me say that any success is worthwhile. Whatever it takes. Whatever works for you. I think most in AA would agree with this, even if they don’t think your method will work in general. AA isn’t out to make their program the single authority. In fact, the Big Book talks about the community as those who found themselves powerless over alcohol. This is the first step, after all.

Here’s what’s going on.

The “just stop drinking” plan is actually no different than the traditional 12-step program except it combines some key items as background and hidden. For example, take a look at this article on changing bad habits. I picked that because it isn’t strictly about drug or alcohol abuse, but is rather more general.

What you should see is that the becoming aware of the issue, wanting to change and commitment are all prequels to the single step of taking action. The only other thing mentioned is maintenance. The one-step method covers the maintenance part with a general, “don’t take up drinking again.”

I’m arguing that the structure we use for change is different, but the real meat of it stays the same, no matter if it is one-step, or twelve, or five. If it takes a group dynamic to move someone along the path to recovery, so be it. If, on the other hand, they can manage it alone – that’s OK too.

What a support group does, and does well, is the human connection. We are told that we are social animals and groups have an influence on our behaviors. Why not use this powerful mechanism to accomplish good? Certainly, a lot of addicts and alcoholics “discovered” the disease by way of a peer group. It makes sense that recovery by way of peer group will help them.

The bottom line is that one-step is real, whether or not it happens in the context of a 12-step program. At some point the decision is made to stop and stay stopped. Let’s focus on that rather than the clothing it’s dressed up in or the title of the organization.

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