Anyone convinced for any drug or drinking related crime, such as drunk driving or substance related domestic violence, will likely find themselves given several options instead of jail time. For first-time offenses, courts will often offer jail time or the option to attend 1-25+ AA meetings. For more serious offenses, judges may offer rehab instead of AA, or both, as an alternative to jail time.
However, while AA has a long history of providing addiction support in the United States, there are many questions regarding whether it is effective or not. If someone with a drug or alcohol problem is sentenced to AA, will it help them to stop drinking or using?
How Court Ordered AA Works
In most cases, you must be arrested for a substance related crime. From here, you will be sent to a probation officer or case worker, who will work with you to determine whether you have an alcohol or drug problem. This typically includes a screening test, which will determine how much and how often you drink or use. If they find that you have problematic usage, they will create an evaluation which will be used to determine whether you need to attend meetings and how many you have to attend. For example, your ‘sentence’ may range from just 1 meeting to 25, or a period of 90 days.
Once you go, you’ll have to meet with your caseworker to sign a card or attendance slip, which you can use as proof of your attendance.
How Does 12 Step Work?
If you or a loved one have been sentenced to AA, you are likely wondering if it works and how it works. You likely know that AA is one of the most common treatment methods for alcohol addiction in the United States. More than 74% of all rehab centers use some form of 12-step, alongside therapies like CBT. At the same time, AA has fallen under criticism for being religious and for its high rate of failure.
You should understand all these factors before you make up your mind to decide if AA can be effective in your case.
AA uses a combination of group therapy, goal based learning, and the ’12 Steps’.
The 12 steps:
- Recognize powerlessness in the face of your addiction. You are addicted, you cannot deny it.
- Recognize that there is a greater power at work in your life. Most AA uses God as a focus, but some are not Christian based.
- Choose to turn your life over to that higher power.
- Create a moral inventory of yourself
- Admit your wrongdoings
- Admit that you are a person in need of change and make yourself ready for change
- Ask your higher power for change
- Make a list of people you have harmed directly and need to make amends to
- Make amends to those you have harmed
- Continue to create a personal inventory of yourself and your wrongs
- Seek God
- Spread the message of recovery to others.
Group Therapy – AA uses a strong element of group therapy, where each member is held accountable by the rest, asked to share and to listen, and asked to give and receive in equal amounts. Every person is paired with a sponsor who helps them to stay sober, gives them guidance, and who offer help. As a member, you gain supports, people to talk to, the ability to share without judgement in a room full of people with similar experiences, and direct contacts who work to be there for you. Over time, you can give back in the same way, being there for new members of the group.
Most people would admit that many of the steps and processes of AA make sense on a purely practical basis. By asking addicts to recognize their addiction and their faults and work to correct them, AA has the potential to get over one of the biggest barriers to seeking treatment, self denial. It also works to reduce negative emotions, create bonds, and face the problems behind their addictions so that they can move on with their lives.
While 22% or more of the U.S. public is secular, AA demands a strong spiritual connection and often direct communion with the Christian god. This can be difficult for many atheists and agnostics to accept, especially if they are adamantly anti-Christian. As a result, it can be very difficult for some to integrate into 12-step teachings. Studies show that persons with a religious background or who are currently religious perform better in AA and therefore see better results, because they are more open to the treatment and open to following the steps, rather than resisting them because of the presence of “God”.
Therefore, if you are secular and are given the choice to attend, it is important that you do so with an open mind. Approaching God as simply something greater than yourself rather than specifically the Christian God, may be a solution for you.
Is AA Effective?
While AA is right for some people and wrong for others, data shows that AA is primarily effective for people who attend meetings, who keep going, and who dedicate themselves to learning. While the approach is flawed, it is shown to have a continuously positive impact on persons attending. For example, in one study, persons who attended AA for at least 27 weeks were almost 50% more likely to be abstinent at a follow-up than those who did not attend regularly. 12-Step has been shown to be comparable to other forms of group therapy in the long-term, making it at least as effective as other popular treatment choices.
Studies point to the fact that regularly being exposed to people in recovery, being held accountable by a group, being given people to lean on, and the 12 steps of recognizing faults and working to improve them, can have a substantial impact on people. Actively participating in the group improves chances of recovery, suggesting that social incentive and accountability are a key factor in AA working.
What Does that Mean to AA Sentencing?
While AA has mixed results for some, it overall has very positive effects for many people. Being pressed into an AA environment may be unpleasant, especially for those who do not admit to having a drinking problem or who are deeply irreligious, but it can help. For example, persons who are in denial may be forced to come to terms with the fact that they have a problem and need help. Even a secular person may realize that the support and help from the group enables them to take steps towards sobriety which they could not take on their own. Therefore, court sentenced AA can be effective, providing the person sentenced attends the meetings with an open mind, participates in the meetings, and works with the group while they are there.
12-step rehab is one of the most common forms of treatment in the United States, so court ordered Alcoholics Anonymous is a very common step. However, if you prefer not to attend AA, most judges do leave an alternative of spending the time in jail and sometimes attending another rehab program. If you or a loved one is facing a court sentencing, it is for a reason. Attending the meetings may be the best choice, even if it seems unpleasant at first. Good luck.
If you or your loved wants to know more about AA or the 12-step program please call us at Lighthouse Treatment Center today. At any time we are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Contact us today to discuss your situation in confidence.