Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is credited with helping many individuals escape their addiction. This program is based on working the Twelve Steps. There is also a focus on spirituality. Lifelong attendance at meetings is advised to ensure sobriety. AA has proved to be a very successful community based self-help program. However, their approach does not work for everyone. Some people are put off by the spiritual focus of the group, or the view that alcoholism is a chronic disease. A number of other solutions have developed as an alternative to AA. Rational Recovery offers a non-spiritual program that has worked well for some people.
Rational Recovery (RR) is described by its members as the antithesis of AA. It was developed by Jack Trimpey. This program has been around since 1986 in various incarnations.
Trimpey came upon his ideas while battling his own alcohol addiction. The only help that seemed available to him at the time was AA. He did not believe that this approach could work for him. Instead he developed his own program that later became known as Rational Recovery. Those who wish to practice RR can buy books, DVDs, and other multimedia where the program is explained in full. It differs from Alcoholics Anonymous in that it is a commercial enterprise. There is also a lot of information available for free online.
Rational Recovery differs significantly from AA in a number of important ways including:
- Alcoholism is not viewed as a disease
- RR is not a religious/spiritual program
- The label of recovering alcoholic is not used
- There is far less emphasis on recovery groups
- Once AVRT (described below) is mastered there is no need for any additional steps
- Recovery is viewed as an event and not a process Rational Recovery is similar to AA in that it views lifelong abstinence as the only reliable way to manage this addiction.
Rational Recovery Program
The key element of Rational Recovery is Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT). It is the addictive voice inside the individual’s mind that drives them to keep on drinking. The idea is that by recognizing this voice as the enemy the individual will be better able to deal with it.
In RR there is the view that people abuse alcohol due to ambivalence. This means that part of their thinking supports the behavior, but a large part of them wants to escape. This ambivalence means that the individual remains trapped until they learn to battle against the addictive voice. People can learn to use AVRT so that they are no longer controlled by the thoughts supporting addiction.
RR offers the Crash Course on AVRT for free. This introduction to the program is said to contain most of the information that the individual will need to beat their addiction. Those who wish to follow the program are encouraged to purchase supplementary material.
Rational Recovery and Self-Efficacy
RR puts great emphasis on self-efficacy. This refers to the belief that the individual has in their ability to achieve something. The higher a person’s self-efficacy the more likely they will be at finding success in a venture. If the individual has low self-efficacy they will be less likely to deal successfully with their alcohol addiction. An important element of Rational Recovery is convincing the individual that they have the capability to defeat their addiction.
Rational Recovery Meetings
In the early days of RR there were groups which members could attend. This has changed because of Trimpey’s view that meetings provide no real benefit. It is even claimed that AVRT is incompatible with support groups. SMART Recovery was once closely associated with RR and this group continues to use the meeting format.
Rational Recovery and Criticisms of AA
RR is known to be highly critical of Alcoholics Anonymous. The main criticisms include:
- AA convinces the addict that they have no free will, but that instead they are suffering from a chronic disease with no cure.
- Members are told that sober living is impossible without the AA program.
- The program encourages people to live with the uncertainty that they could relapse at any time.
- Those individuals who join the group become dependent on it. It replaces addition to alcohol with a dependence on the program.
- Sobriety is dependent on divine intervention and requires belief in religious/spiritual ideas.
- RR is strongly opposed to court-mandated attendance at AA.
Criticisms of Rational Recovery
Rational Recovery does not work for everyone. Some people seem to do better with the type of approach offered by AA.
Rational Recovery can be accused of providing a simplistic approach to what can be a complex problem. The program fails to give any attention to the motivations that drive people into addiction in the first place. If these problems are unresolved then it may lead to further problems later on. Rehab is often required to help the individual make a clean break from their addiction. Those addicts who are dealing with a dual diagnosis may find that a program like RR does not offer an effective solution to their problems.