Book review – this is it, the AA guide to sobriety

ADHD is a personality type that highly predisposes to addictions of all kinds. Studies show that around 60-70% addicts in rehab clinics have undiagnosed ADHD. So “The Big Book” unsurprisingly has wisdom, a strong process and a lot of tools to help addicts and/or ADHD people better manage their lives and handle their emotions.

I have given up alcohol myself for several multi-year-long periods. I did not use any system other than my fear/belief that I needed to stop for my own health and wellbeing.

Addictions are hard to shift and help is scarce, so the global AA movement provides companionship, support, advice and a “program for life” that helps many (ADHD) people through addictions to sobriety. For many, myself included, the slightly religious-cult feel, the repeated life-time self-branding of “addict”, the underlying intolerance of AA members taking medications for mental health problems – are aspects of AA that I am not comfortable with. But that does not mean the AA does not work, as it clearly does for many. In fact the Big Book written by Bill and Bob, seems to offer a lot of insight to emotional, fragile and unstructured people.

Based on his own history, Bill was thrown out of the AA later for his “out of the box thinking” on vitamin B, most likely ADHD himself. Addictions, not only substance abuse, are in many of our destinies with ADHD, with a neurological deficit in the chemicals of reward, impulse and emotional control and a disconnect from the consequences – it is no wonder. The many stories (shares) I have heard when visiting meetings with AA friends, all sound so ADHD-like to me but no one mentions ADHD, I find this strange and unhelpful.

Many people need help from other people and the AA is really the de-facto option and can work well. This is the “big” book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and its program of freedom from alcohol. The 12 Steps were devised by Bill W. and Dr. Bob – their kitchen meeting in Ohio, in 1935 spawned a global program. The main tenants are in admitting: “we were powerless over alcohol” …”that our lives had become unmanageable”, in carrying “the message to (other) alcoholics” and in practising the steps.

AA’s recovery program puts the responsibility and recovery on the addict’s shoulders, the steps helps the sufferer wrest control over alcohol, and design their personal recovery and maintenance program, with the help of the Higher Power. Sobriety once attained, is then maintained and strengthened by the steps.