Many heroin addicts prefer medicine assisted treatment (MATs) because it helps alleviate both cravings and nasty withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin and/or opiate use. But what about those who go “cold turkey”?
Those who go without medicine typically enroll in another useful program referred to as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and/or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Their program is an emphasis on the 12 steps and includes extensive literature on using the 12 step method to conquer addiction. The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) also includes a plethora of success stories of how alcoholics and drug users (including heroin) have used the 12 step program to transform their lives into one of sobriety and normalcy away from all drugs.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) both use the 12 steps as a tool to help men and women abusing alcohol and drugs to beat their addiction. The only real difference between them is the subject matter changes from alcohol (discussed at AA) to other drugs (discussed at NA). However, their method of changing behaviors, believes and lives are the same.
Unlike MAT (medicine assisted treatment) programs that typically include licensed physicians and counselors, AA and NA are ran by former addicts who’ve completed the 12 step program successfully and are living a life of sobriety today. No medical or counseling degree or license is required to run AA and NA.
While both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have been highly successful at helping people, the fact that leaders within the program aren’t licensed medical professionals or counselors is a major disadvantage. Leaders are trained in the 12 step program and have been successful at implementing it in their own lives. However, leaders are recovering addicts and not trained or licensed counselors.
This community supports a multi-modal approach to treating heroin addiction. This means that there are multiple methods available and proven in successfully helping heroin and/or opiate abusers conquer their addiction. The 12 step program is statistically proven to help some people while MATs (such as Methadone, Suboxone and Naltrexone) also possess statistic evidence of successful recovery. Is one necessarily better than the other? The publishers of this community say no.
While the 12 step method is a viable solution to some, many 12 steppers argue that MATs are horrible and often bring shame and discouragement to others in recovery who’ve chosen a particular medication to help them conquer their addiction. It is said that those using both MATs and the 12 steps to conquer their addiction should not publicly announce their involvement in MATs at meetings because some members may discourage them. Since we believe some heroin and opiate addicts greatly need MAT programs, encouraging them to quit could have detrimental effects and ultimately, lead them back to abusing heroin and/or other drugs again.
The original 12 steps contain a spiritual component however, because many people do not believe in God or any kind of higher power, the 12 steps have been re-written without mentioning God. The original 12 steps are written below:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The “humanist” alternative by B.F. Skinner to the above 12 step program containing a strong spiritual element also exists. I’ve listed the B.F. Skinner alternative 12 steps below:
1. We accept the fact that all our efforts to stop drinking have failed.
2. We believe that we must turn elsewhere for help.
3. We turn to our fellow men and women, particularly those who have struggled with the same problem.
4. We have made a list of the situations in which we are most likely to drink.
5. We ask our friends to help us avoid these situations.
6. We are ready to accept the help they give us.
7. We earnestly hope that they will help.
8. We have made a list of the persons we have harmed and to whom we hope to make amends.
9. We shall do all we can to make amends, in any way that will not cause further harm.
10. We will continue to make such lists and revise them as needed.
11. We appreciate what our friends have done and are doing to help us.
12. We, in turn, are ready to help others who may come to us in the same way.
Those who firmly believe in the 12 step program from a spiritual perspective do find fault and problems with the above because it takes away the fundamental concept that only God can produce change and replaces it with a dependence on other imperfect people. However, those who advocate the alternative 12 steps argue that people are meant to help carry one another’s burdens and that there is power in numbers.
Enrolling in the 12 step program is relatively easy. The first step to joining is to research and find a meeting that’s convenient and nearby. The AA website (www.aa.org) would be a good place to start. Their website provides specific information about the program including search tools that assist in locating a nearby meeting and program.
AA, NA and the twelve steps is an excellent method of conquering addiction to alcohol and drugs including heroin. However, their program is not the only proven effective method. You are encouraged to read critically and use discernment when browsing their literature. Just because the “big book” suggests something doesn’t make it more than yet another perspective/opinion on conquering addiction. For example, some in AA and NA may quote from the “big book” in an attempt to argue against another proven treatment solution. But just because it’s written in their literature, doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. Think critically, use discernment and at the end of the day, choose whatever road(s) to recovery that resonate the most with you.
To learn more or to share your own experience with Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or the 12 Steps, visit our “12 Step Program: Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous” discussion forum.
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