“AA: Not The Only Way–Your One Stop Resource Guide to 12-Step Alternatives”
(2nd Edition) by Melanie Solomon
-Richard Ceranek, SMART Recovery® Volunteer
This book is the best, perhaps the only, work that pulls together in one small volume most, perhaps all, of the many treatment programs and self-help addiction recovery groups available to the one who is either addicted to, or has a serious problem with, alcohol or other drugs. There are many options other than the 12-step programs of A.A. and N.A.
As those of us in SMART Recovery already know, and as Ms. Solomon reminds us, knowledge is power. Her book provides great direction to assist one in obtaining more knowledge, including knowledge more specially tailored to the individual’s needs. She gives hope for those who are dually diagnosed with such things as alcoholism, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, depression, anxiety and other diagnoses. Those who suffer from dual diagnoses can take heart in Ms. Solomon’s successful resolution of a multiple diagnosis.
Ms. Solomon’s personal story goes into some detail concerning her problems with A.A. and the 12-step program. Many of us who now attend SMART meetings went through a similar dilemma. Regardless, her story will bring to mind thoughts such as: “That sounds like me”, “I had that problem”, “That sounds like some of the poor or ineffective advice I was given”. I could go on and on but suggest that you, the potential reader, pick up the book, read it, and find your own lodestar of connection.
The personal “associative moments” continue in the pages in which Solomon describes different programs and self-help groups. Total Abstinence, 12-step groups, Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery and other programs are examined briefly. The author provides a concise synopsis of the different programs. As Ms. Solomon states, all of the programs contain useful ideas and each method produces some successes and some failures.
There is an interesting review of the concept of moderation, or managing one’s alcohol intake. There is even some information about Harm Reduction Therapy (HRT) which tries to support and convince the user that he or she can reduce the harm to himself/herself and those around them by learning more about drugs and alcohol and by developing strategies to reduce their usage.
There is even a section on alternative treatments such as fitness, hypno-therapy, Chinese herbs and acupuncture. Some of these treatments are indeed “alternative”. Nevertheless, most of us would agree that fitness supports recovery and the others are at least thought provoking.
In short, this work contains something that will both intrigue and resonate with all who read it. However, the most important thing about Ms. Solomon’s work is the resource guide. No one else, at least not to my knowledge, has ever put together such a comprehensive treasure trove of program summaries and a resource directory allowing one to find reading materials, treatment professionals, programs and websites to gain further knowledge on treatment alternatives. The 71 pages of professionals and treatment programs are organized by state. There are brief, descriptive summaries of the treatment professional’s area or areas of practice and descriptions of the treatment centers’ individual programs, treatment methods, and the theory behind their programs. For each of the professionals and programs she provides a location, telephone number, e-mail address, and often a website. Similar contact information also appears in the non-directory, text portion of the book. Additionally the book includes a recommended reading guide and notes to assist those who wish to read more about different aspects of addiction and recovery.
Although there probably is a program out there that isn’t mentioned in this book, there are none of which I have heard. And if there are, I am sure that Ms. Solomon would include them in her third edition.
In conclusion, AA: Not The Only Way is a fantastic resource guide with something for everyone. Solomon provides information on many programs. She reminds us that some programs work for some people and other programs work for other people. Although I am certainly most comfortable with the cognitive therapy and cost benefit analysis of SMART, she provides many other windows of opportunity for those who wish to obtain additional information. And in point of fact, those are tools of recovery and any tool that is useful to one’s own recovery, by definition, is a good and useful tool for that individual.