Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, November 10, 2012

Professionals tout benefits of AA program at meeting

November 10, 2012

Advertisement

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous gathered in the Lawrence Memorial Hospital auditorium on Saturday for a meeting unlike any the area had seen in at least 30 years.

It featured a panel of local professionals, including a judge, a church pastor, a representative from the Douglas County Jail, and a substance abuse counselor, who each led a discussion of how AA worked with their profession. One AA member, who drove all the way from Hays to speak to the group, said the goal was to discuss with professionals how 12-step programs could help those struggling with drugs and alcohol.

“We don’t tell them what to do,” he said. “We tell them what AA does. We don’t say we have the market cornered on recovery.”

The member from Hays said AA saved his life in 1998. He had been living on the street for years, sleeping behind Dumpsters, able to carry everything he owned in a paper sack. After going to meetings and following the program, he changed his life. He has a home, is married and cares for his stepchildren. He asked that his name not be used, to protect his traditional anonymity as a member of AA.

More than 30 members of Douglas County AA groups organized and attended the meeting, which was open to the public and also included members of Narcotics Anonymous.

Each of the guest speakers said they supported AA’s efforts, and some had suggestions for how they could work together more effectively.

Douglas County District Judge Sally Pokorny said the vast majority of assault, domestic violence and theft cases in her courtroom occurred because the offender was either under the influence or desperate for money to get their next fix of drugs or alcohol. But state budget cuts, she said, have left the court with no easily available drug and alcohol treatment programs to send the offenders to. Pokorny often orders defendants to complete treatment plans that include AA meetings, but she does not order people directly to the meetings.

“Some people are not ready,” she said.

For years, AA and NA members have gone into the Douglas County Jail to hold meetings with prisoners. Mike Caron, the jail’s volunteer coordinator, said those meetings could be very effective in reaching people at a time when they most need help, and he is desperately looking for more volunteers to hold more meetings.

“I’m getting to the point where if anybody says they’re willing to volunteer to come in and do a meeting, I try to schedule them that week,” he said.

One difficulty, Caron said, was getting permission to let them into the jail. Many AA and NA members who are willing and able to volunteer are still on probation or parole from their own past run-ins with the law. He said jail administrators feared that such a volunteer could use the opportunity to smuggle in contraband, or blackmail a prisoner with information learned in a meeting. But, Caron said, he would work with any well-intentioned group member who stepped forward.

Wally Mechler, a Lawrence counselor licensed to treat drug and alcohol addiction, said he has been sending clients to AA meetings for years. Some professionals in his field disagree with the 12-step philosophy, Mechler said, but he argued that it had a sound scientific basis as a form of therapy. And, he said, statistics confirmed its success rates. He also echoed a point made by Pokorny: AA is free.

“It’s a very elaborate cognitive-behavior therapy, used in the community, that my clients don’t have to pay $110 an hour for,” he said.

The Rev. Tom Brady, pastor at First United Methodist Church, said his church was one of those that offered meeting space to an AA group. He said he admired their efforts and viewed AA as a ministry not unlike his own.

“It’s about people helping other people,” he said. “Our doors are always open.”

For more information about Alcoholics Anonymous in Douglas County, visit aa-ksdist23.org.

Comments

Robert Rauktis 2 years, 1 month ago

Like exercise, simple, cheap, humble, and good for what ails (not ales) ya.

Centerville 2 years, 1 month ago

Pokorny often orders defendants to complete treatment plans that include AA meetings, but she does not order people directly to the meetings.

“Some people are not ready,” she said.

So they are ready for jail and institutionalized treatment, and you wish you could sentence them to these options more often? But you defer to their drug-addled sensibilities about going to an hour-long meeting a few times a week? Please explain.

wishtoremainanonymous 2 years, 1 month ago

I do not speak for any of those involved as a whole, but having attended the event, I do not believe that quote necessarily ties in with the statement that precedes it. One of the professionals that spoke indicated that there was a recent court decision that (here is some info: http://www.practicalrecovery.com/pr/court-ordered/) judges are not permitted to order offenders to 12 step meetings. Community corrections officers and addiction counselors can order 12 step meetings to meet the requirements of probation/parole or to complete treatment.

The statement regarding people not being ready was, I believe, made as a more general statement about people that stand in her courtroom -- though I do not want to speak for the judge.

I hope that helps give you some better understanding.

home_at_heart 2 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps she meant that unless a user is ready to make that change/committment, they are not ready to hear or accept what the AA group has to offer.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 1 month ago

Additionally, if a person not yet ready to make that change/commitment is attending only because they are being coerced into doing so, their mere presence might disrupt a person who is ready for that change/commitment.

Boogieman 2 years, 1 month ago

Yup, crazy as it sounds. Some fortunate addicts/alcoholics soak the program up "through their ass" just by forced attendance ( butt in chair for one hour) , but most souls require the self realization they are at a "bottom". Sometimes that "bottom" ( losing things perceived as valuable:, job, family, freedom, whatever) is the only self realization that gets offenders attention. One really important thing to remember, and the reason the panel the article discussed is so important: professionals/loved ones try to apply logic and rational reactions to addict/alcoholic behavior. There is nothing logical and rational and normal about addictive behavior. Good, experienced judges and professionals and all AA/NA members know this.
It takes awhile for the families and friends to catch up.

Glenn Reed 2 years, 1 month ago

An article about testimony from a panel of professionals from all walks of life. Sounds like the beginnings of an infomercial. Exactly as much substance as an infomercial, too.

The problem with this type of thing is that while all of these folks are talking, they have no evidence to back up their claims. "Professional" or not, these people folks are lacking in expertise on this subject.

One point that I feel compelled to make is that the phrase "scientific basis" is used incorrectly. Mr. Mechler would do well to remember the differences between "I believe it works" and "I have scientific basis for.."

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't work. At least, no more than any faith-based, non-scientific program does.

parrothead8 2 years, 1 month ago

Were you there? How do you know how much "substance" there was at the meeting?

Is personal experience not evidence?

Do you have some sort of scientific basis for your claim that AA doesn't work?

Glenn Reed 2 years, 1 month ago

To answer your questions in order:

First question:

No I wasn't there. I don't see how it's relevant.

Second question:

Discussions about programs like AA that happen in real-time-meat-space events rarely have anyone giving honest critical reviews of such programs. In the event that someone DID represent a science-based approach to evaluating AA, I'm sure Mr. Cummings would have noted it in the article. Though I suppose there's always a chance that he dropped the ball here.

Third question:

Personal experience is not valid scientific evidence. Why this question was asked, and why the answer needs to be given eludes me. Do we claim that someone on an acid trip really spoke to unicorns simply because they insist that they did?

And for the last question:

The last question is a funny one, givez me gigglez. Do you have some sort of scientific basis that there is NOT a 2 oz. lead statue of, say, George Washington hurtling around Saturn hidden in the planet's rings? Yeah, I know the classic rebuttal to that question is Russel's Teapot, but I like to mix things up a bit.

The tendency to make that kind of logical fallacy should be ground out of people by the time they're done with grade school. ><

That being said, AA is not an unstudied topic. According to Wikipedia (I'm not really eager to dig much further right now), the Cochran Review meta-analysis going from 1966 through 2005 (39 years of data) suggests no demonstrated efficacy in the program.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 1 month ago

Of course AA works, if you work it, which requires the desire to work it. Then again, so does traditional therapy. So does simply quitting on your own. It all depends on if you're ready.

Amy Heeter 2 years, 1 month ago

True AA was started when Bill Wilson utilized the Oxford Groups concept that talking to another in the same situation helps avert relapse. That in addition ti turning obsessiin over o god. AA changed thus to higher power for agnostics, but its all the same.

Amy Heeter 2 years, 1 month ago

Ok this meeting and coverage therein is a violation of the traditions. This is the kind if thing that happens when a certain community corrections officer blends two programs and inserts his own recovery into his job. Jonny coiller worked very hard to create a recovery community that was anonymous and safe. It seems this is no longer the case. In addition I wouldn't trust the so called authorities either. They are in your meeting rooms now. Nothing you say stays there. Let me be the first to thank you all for those who will relapse because they have no safe place to discuss thier malady free from the watchful eyes and ears of the authorities.

trinity 2 years, 1 month ago

Arti, with all due respect, there has been information and efforts for many years, within 12 step programs, for "Bridging the Gap" (approved AA literature). I don't believe that approved and sanctioned literature and its subsequent "action" violates tradition at all. My perception from this article was not that professionals who work with addicted individuals are spying-but rather are grasping for measures to utilize for those who keep having problems that likely have a foundation in substance abuse. What I gleaned from the article was that an informational meeting was arranged, with panels of different professions, and that the presentation was geared toward educating professionals on "how it works". The black robes as well as others NEED to know more about 12 step programs and how they work! I sincerely doubt that any of the anons who attended this panel had a gun to their head to go. Their anonymity in cases such as this is their call. I grant you, I don't know anything of the community corrections officers of whom you speak; care to expand on that? And please-never forget "Rule 62".

Centerville 2 years, 1 month ago

ArtichokeHeart: I'm with you. People in AA are wise to keep this part of their lives out of the public eye - and they are wise not to be used by anyone in the addiction treatment industry. Think Kitty Dukakis.

unite2revolt 2 years, 1 month ago

I'm kind of sorry I missed this event. I've got about 15 years under my belt thanks to AA, and this is likely the best example I've seen of how anonymity is supposed to work in accordance with the 11th Tradition.

Centerville 2 years, 1 month ago

ArtichokeHeart: I'm with you. People in AA are wise to keep this part of their lives out of the public eye - and they are wise not to be used by anyone in the addiction treatment industry. Think Kitty Dukakis. As for the 'being ready', someone who is court-ordered may not be ready and may not get sober then, but they learn that AA will be a welcoming and safe place when/if they finally do get ready.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 1 month ago

There is a certain incestuous pathology inherent in the recovery industry, strife with conflict of interest. This is an industry in serious need of an overhaul.

creedbratton 2 years, 1 month ago

@Centerville; "not ready" likely meaning some offenders' crimes reflect problems untreatable by AA.

creedbratton 2 years, 1 month ago

From @Glenn Reed "these people folks are lacking in expertise on this subject."

; a judge for example is someone lacking expertise on this? Please explain.

creedbratton 2 years, 1 month ago

"There is a certain incestuous pathology inherent in the recovery industry, strife with conflict of interest. This is an industry in serious need of an overhaul."

Agreed. Fewer state cuts would be great.

Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

Their is no god. How is an atheist supposed to stop being a drunkard?

"; a judge for example is someone lacking expertise on this? Please explain. "

You explain how a judge, unless he has a medical background, has any expertise regarding a medical condition, a treatment that is regarded by some doctors as ineffective and the actual efficacy of any treatment. Do you take law advice from your doctor?

creedbratton 2 years, 1 month ago

Ah, so only doctors and medical professionals can have valid experience, opinions or insight into alcoholism and it's impacts.

Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

What does AA have to do with the impact of alcoholism?

Don't get me wrong, if people opt into AA and it helps them, that is good. I'm not knocking the program. I wouldn't choose it because I'd be compelled to lie and I avoid cops, judges, jailers and the like. Not my sort of thing.

I take it you are involved with AA, and we should thank you for helping people that avail themselves to the service.

cowboy 2 years, 1 month ago

Its all about timing and intervention IMHO. The substance abuse industry is woefully pathetic in delivering care and treatment. Most is court ordered and revolves around high fees / punishment instead of taking advantage of an event to get someone sober for a period of time so they can make some decisions to modify their abuse. We bet on a court process that takes months and in the majority of cases does nothing other than perpetuate the flow of dollars and appearances in court.

I say intervene at the time of offense. Don't be concerned with the "punishment. Hold them in jail for 24 hours , get them sober , offer deferral of charges if you enter a 30 day inpatient "drunk farm". Get them sober , healthy , and moving in some direction other than abusing.

Lord knows what were doing now has little impact

creedbratton 2 years, 1 month ago

"Don't get me wrong, if people opt into AA and it helps them, that is good. I'm not knocking the program. I wouldn't choose it because I'd be compelled to lie and I avoid cops, judges, jailers and the like. Not my sort of thing."

If one was/is in AA no one or nothing is compelling one to lie to authorities.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.