The Rebel Doctor
What do you think of 12-step programs?
The principles of the 12 steps are essential: the recognition of the powerlessness over addiction. You gain power and end your denial by acknowledging your powerlessness. The Higher Power concept is difficult for some people but it is really just saying that there’s something higher than the egoic personality. Spiritual emptiness is addressed by that acknowledgement of a Higher Power and then, of course, that’s repeated through the moral inventory of your behaviors and their effects on other people. My only issue [with 12-step programs] is that they never address the original cause of the addiction—the childhood trauma—which I think keeps people in a stuck place. That is not a rejection of the 12 steps—just a suggestion that they could be deepened. For people that had religion pushed down their throats or were abused by religion, there are programs like LifeRing, which is a [secular] 5-step program.
Do you think addicts can be as happy as non-addicts once they find recovery?
Some of the happiest people I know are in recovery: they serve others, they develop self-esteem, and they connect to something larger than themselves. They are often happier than people who have never been addicted because they are dealing with stuff that other people have never had to deal with.
Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about old timers in AA and sober travel, among other topics. She is the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life.