AA for introverts?
June 7, 2010 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Are there any effective, well-respected alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous that don't require group meetings?

My father is the kind of guy who has historically hated the idea of being involved in any group. Now, he's trying to stay in recovery but can't get over the hump of interacting in group situations.

The demographic is always wrong, or they're not talking about the right thing, etc--I know he's prone to making excuses, but at the same time, I would love to see if his recovery would go more smoothly without the extra hurdle of having to meet and deal with new people.

I've seen Smart Recovery and Rational Recovery mentioned on here a few times, but no one seemed to have any first-hand experience with them.

Is it possible for an addict to recover solo? At least at the beginning? If so, have you seen success with any program that helps people do this? Or should he just suck it up and keep going, with the assumption that he'll eventually get over his anxieties and get something out of group meetings?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
He can see an individual therapist. That might be less daunting than opening up to a group. His therapist might also be able to hook him up with good groups.
He could try to recover solo but the point of being addicted is that it's really tough to just make yourself stop.
posted by amethysts at 10:05 PM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Has he tried different AA meetings? Friends say each AA group has its own vibe and they needed to try quite a few before they found one that "fit" them.
posted by MsKim at 10:14 PM on June 7, 2010

AA's success rate is actually less than the success rate of people who just try quitting on their own. I recommend looking at some of the info on addictioninfo.org on the topic, which proves a lot of evidence-based information that might help your father. Best of luck to you both.
posted by Jairus at 10:41 PM on June 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think part of what does work about AA is getting used to the group part. Some of it's bad, some of it's good. But once you start to meet like minded people who will go as far as coming to your house when you're craving really bad, i think that's when I knew the group part was important. A lot of alcoholics tend to isolate, and that can contribute to drinking.

On the other hand, individual therapy with someone who specializes in addiction can be really helpful.

If you don't mind mentioning your location you may get more specific answers or suggestions. Memail me if you want.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 11:14 PM on June 7, 2010

I recommend this book, Sober for Good, which contains many true stories from successfully recovered alcoholics and addicts who did it alone, at least in the sense that they were not in group programs. It also discusses people who used pharmaceutical treatments, residential treatments, moderation approaches, psychoanalysis etc. Luckily for your dad he has you, who are obviously very supportive, so no matter what he tries, he won't be without a support network.

Or should he just suck it up and keep going, with the assumption that he'll eventually get over his anxieties and get something out of group meetings?

In my opinion, sticking with something that's not working for him is only going to be demoralising and depressing. AA is not for everyone. Why not suggest a number of other approaches, including finding a supportive one-on-one therapist, and then see if some group therapy can eventually be integrated - if that would help? Despite what your dad would have been told in AA, it is TOTALLY possible for an addict to recover solo (although it is hard).

Here is some more information and another book that might be useful.
posted by Weng at 11:16 PM on June 7, 2010

People have had success taking Bacoflen to tread alcohol addiction. paper:
FINDINGS: Of 42 patients allocated baclofen, 30 (71%) achieved and maintained abstinence compared with 12 (29%) of 42 assigned placebo (odds ratio 6.3 [95% CI 2.4-16.1]; p=0.0001). The number of dropouts (termination of treatment) did not differ between the baclofen (6/42 [14%]) and placebo (13/42 [31%]) groups (p=0.12). Cumulative abstinence duration was about twofold higher in patients allocated baclofen than in those assigned placebo (mean 62.8 [SE 5.4] vs 30.8 [5.5] days; p=0.001). No hepatic side-effects were recorded. INTERPRETATION: Baclofen is effective at promoting alcohol abstinence in alcohol-dependent patients with liver cirrhosis. The drug is well tolerated and could have an important role in treatment of these individuals.
posted by delmoi at 3:22 AM on June 8, 2010

entirely possible to recover on one's own, but i suspect it's more difficult. (there are many things the group provides, but a subtle or not-so-subtle form of peer pressure is key amongst them.) either i couldn't do it, or the time where i would have been able to do it on my own had either passed or was at some point in the future. so, upfront disclosure: i sobered up in a.a., feel i owe it my life, and haven't been to a meeting in almost 15 years.

while i was going to a.a. meetings, i also attended Women For Sobriety and Rational Recovery meetings. i did so for two reasons: i was curious about those programs, and i wanted to lend support to other people who wanted to quit drinking. oh: those two groups were also available in my area; if i'd found other groups, i might have attended those, too.

i was not impressed with either of those alternatives, and can't say as i know anyone who used them successfully to attain & maintain sobriety. however, i'm sure those people are out there. the *biggest* difference between a.a. & the others i attended was the lack of continuity of members--i.e., people would come to the meetings in the initial stages of desperation, and when that desperation lessened or dissipated, they disappeared. (i have no way of knowing if they disappeared sober & stayed that way. i suspect not.) the continuity was VERY important to me--i needed to know that others who were as bad off as i was at the time were able to recover, and that they were able to stay recovered. that was paramount to me--there was no reason going through the physical agony, the emotional despair, the guilt, etc. if it was all for naught. i also wanted to see sober people who were actually living a life i wanted to live--when i was drinking i thought that putting down the drink was tantamount to condemning myself to a life of boredom.

those, however, were all my issues & impressions; not your father's. to try it on one's own, i would recommend the a.a. big book, especially the stories in the back, and whatever else can be found about getting & staying sober. a.a. also has online meetings to perhaps help shore him up through the tough times. because there will be tough times.

best of luck to your father & also to you. it's a difficult road you both tread, but at the end of this particular road, it's like the changeover in the wizard of oz from black & white to color: zing! there it is & it's been there the whole time & it's the same but it's so. much. better. it really is worth it to see what living sober can be like.
posted by msconduct at 5:41 AM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Find a men's only AA meeting. My town is small (200k people) and I just did the lookup and there's a men's meeting tonight. I suspect your town has one too, and soon.

I knew guys in recovery and the presence of women while possibly seeming weak was a distraction. Improves the odds for demographic affinity.
posted by artlung at 6:34 AM on June 8, 2010


Individual psychotherapy is at least as effective as AA, and probably more so. As Jairus alluded to, AA's success rate is wildly inflated in the popular imagination. (In fact, certain teachings like abstinence-only might make sobriety less likely by causing all-or-nothing thinking. Oh, well I had one drink. AA says I'm going to go on a 3-day binge now. Might as well get on with it.)

I don't know that there is any evidence a person can't do just as well or better by himself or with a therapist.
posted by callmejay at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2010

Follow up from the OP:

Could you let the thread know that he's in Michigan (Oakland County) and that he hasn't had a drink in over 6 weeks. His problem is depression, anxiety, and paranoia related to quitting.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 8:26 AM on June 8, 2010

Those are things I would DEFINITELY go to a therapist for. There are several AskMe threads about finding a good one, which may take time, but sounds like it would be very much worth it in his case.
posted by amethysts at 9:53 AM on June 8, 2010

does your dad know any sober (recovered) people? for me, that was (is?) the power of the group, and the most stable group i could find was a.a. i had someone--lots of people, actually--who understood those feelings of anxiety & who would let me ramble on at length about my problems. the slogans, the prayer, the ritual of a.a. were far, far secondary to me finding like-minded people i could talk to and spend time with. time seems endless when one first sobers up, which makes perfect sense; a person's entire lifestyle changes.

i understand the reluctance on your father's part; hell, i'm an a.a. cheerleader & it took me forever to get there.

perhaps a hospital in your area has some kind of sober living group that he could attend--something that focuses more on the physiology of drinking and sobering up than on steps and traditions. it looks like the henry ford clinic has Early Recovery Groups for people who are trying to kick various habits. i don't discount therapy, but for me, an hour once/week was just not going to cut it. also recommending again that he try some sort of online support.

best of luck to you both.
posted by msconduct at 5:05 PM on June 9, 2010

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