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The Many Varities of 12 Step Programs


Many Varieties of 12 Step ProgramsAs an addict, it is in my nature to flood my brain’s pleasure centers. After a night of riding the tidal waves, I come to in a pool of spilled bourbon and stale sweat. I begin to feel at home in the deep end, dependent on the bottom feeders.

What begins as a problem with benzos and alcohol might grow to include codependency or addictive thrill-seeking behaviors. I begin to associate the desperation of the morning after with the high itself, and the shame cycle becomes familiar and thus, comfortable. Self-sabotage soon pervades every aspect of my life. After a while, it doesn’t even have to feel good for me to do it addictively.

I’d get barred out and steal from friends’ parents. I’d take a razor to my wrists in a drunken mania. Paranoid after a night of bath salts, I’d hole up in my filthy apartment, hoarding trash and resentments. Kleptomania, self-mutilation, isolation, cluttering. All potentially dangerous and/or alienating behaviors I found myself engaged in during my active addiction. Some of these desperate choices became patterns, and ultimately coping mechanisms all their own.

In early recovery, I felt exposed and scared. I craved total distraction: I stayed up all night on my laptop, gorged myself with sweets, and chain-smoked unfiltered cigarettes all alone. I’d awaken bloated and anxious, exhausted and sick. Without the substances, my life felt more unmanageable than ever.

In the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I learned that I was not alone. In time, I found that each of my bizarre dependencies was shared by at least one other person in the rooms. I was informed of Overeaters Anonymous (OA), which follows the 12-step model, but of course does not preach total abstinence. I attended a Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) meeting in support of a friend in the program; to my surprise, I found myself relating to a good deal of what was shared. Just as with Alcoholics Anonymous years before, I arrived in the SLAA meeting with a tainted picture of the program and its members. An hour and a half later, the stigma associated with sex addiction had been lifted from my mind.

I’ve met gamblers, rage-a-holics, and smokers who have all found support in respective 12-step programs. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), there are 12-step meetings for specific drugs of choice, such as Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Opiates Anonymous (OA), Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), and Marijuana Anonymous (MA).

In my research, I found Homosexuals Anonymous (HA), a 12-step (technically, 14-step) fellowship for (you guessed it!) homosexuals. But, here’s the kicker: HA is openly rooted in Christian theology. No God of your “own understanding.” The men and women who join this fellowship believe that gay sex, relationships, even love and attraction, are sinful and can be eradicated using the principles of the Bible and their 14-steps. Though HA does not consider homosexuality a choice, it believes that a member can effectively root these “tendencies” out of his or her identity.

If you’ve already picked your poison, hit up a meeting and grab some solution. If it’s addictive, someone’s done it, and if it’s been done, someone wants to stop.


By Michael M.

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