June 16, 2012
Let's Not Be Limited in Our Thinking, K? It Might Hurt Someone
There are very well meaning support groups who are highly beneficial to some people. 12 step programs are some of these. 12 step programs help a lot of people and offer invaluable support.
However, my beef (tofu) is what I have heard recently (recognizing everyone's experiences are different).
Some people self-medicate through alcohol and other drugs, as well as other self harming behaviours (including eating disorders) because they experience complex pschological conditions, including Anxiety, Schizophrenia, and mood disorders (like Bipolar and Depression).
I am not saying that 12 step models can't and don't help persons with mental health challenges (when the addiction is part of coping). But I struggle with the belief (of some 12 steppers) that surrending, attending meetings and praying are the sole or best solution to the "problem".
There are so many roads on the path towards wellness. There is counselling, peer support groups, yoga and meditation, proper nutrition, exercise, sleep hygiene, crisis lines, and supportive friends and family. And for some people, medication is part of this path.
I am concerned when 12 step programs prioritize meetings and minimize medication and psychiatry, e.g. "You don't need meds, just pray and come to meetings." While medication is not needed by many people, the fact is is that it is needed by some.
Anyone who knows me realizes I am not a pill pusher. But there are situations when medications and consultations with doctors and psychiatrists are needed.
Just as we can't "pray the gay away" (thank goodness!), pushing 12 step programs exclusively while ignoring all of the many other options can be harmful to people with complex mental illness.
A person with Bipolar or Schizophrenia (for example) may very well benefit from 12 step programs if substance misuse or abuse is an issue. But that doesn't mean that this person may not also benefit from therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health practioners.
So 12 step programs, you are a terrific resource but you are not the only resource some people will need.
Posted by Monika