You Are Not Alone

One of the things I like about all the 12-step groups out there is that none of them (to the best of my knowledge) was ever started by a professional trying to help lay people. The grandaddy of all 12-step group sis AA, of course, and it dates its birth from the day the two first people who got sober met. Now the 12-step model has expanded to include groups like Procrastinators Anonymous and Self-Harm Anonymous.  While some in the professional community argue about whether or not gambling is really a valid anonymous, GA has been going since 1957. The other thing that’s totally cool about the whole movement is that it is a completely headless grass roots movement. Because 12-step fellowships typically also use the 12 Traditions, that means the groups are self-supporting and autonomous. That means that the model is also self-pruning. If there’s a group (or an entire fellowship) that isn’t working, it simply goes out of business. There are ways for the process to be distorted, I suppose, but it’s hard to imagine.

So what does that have to do with the title, “You Are Not Alone?” Well, let’s look at the first step. The original AA version was “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” It only takes a modicum of life experience to see that you can change it to “We admitted we were powerless over (your problem here)… and boom! you have a new 12-step fellowship.  Now, when we step over the the 12 Traditions side side, the third tradition is the key. “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop (your problem here).” And of course the original AA version has “drinking.”

Why is this such a big deal? Maybe it’s not. But humans are gregarious creatures. At the most extreme, babies who don’t get enough human contact can die. Others grow up with huge problems. At the adult level, social contact has been shown to increase health and to slow or prevent cognitive declines with age.  Everybody needs somebody– in fact, a whole group of somebodies.

OK, what if you don’t feel you are powerless over anything & your life’s not unmanageable, but you still feel a big something missing? Maybe you feel messed up, but don’t want the 12-step model. Fine do a web search on support groups for almost any problem.

What if you don’t feel safe going to a public and peer-led group? There are group therapy groups available, some of which are general, some of which are geared to very specific problems indeed. They cost money, of course, but health insurance can cover group therapy. check with your provider. And because they are groups, the cost per session is typically lower than individual therapy.

And finally, there’s always the Ann Landers solution– get a volunteer gig, become a docent at a museum, take a class, support a cause. It won’t solve your problems at the level of therapy or a 12-step group, but you don’t have to be alone.

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About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in group therapy, mental health, Therapy processes, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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