This article is about treatment programs for recovering alcoholics, so the word alumni will of course not be used in its college meaning. In refers instead to an individual who has “graduated” from an alcoholism treatment program but are not quite finished with the recovery process. These people require some form of long-term recovery treatment before they can consider themselves to be ready to function as normal, healthy human beings again. This article will explain many of the advantages that there are to taking part in an alumni group.
Why people join alumni groups
It is important to realize, above all else, that participation in an alumni group is entirely voluntary. The members are there, not because a court ordered them to be as an integral part of their long-term recovery program, but because they want to be. They possess the desire to share their experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous — the trials and tribulations through which they had to go, how they succeeded in getting to “the other side” and so on. Above all, the function of alumni is to serve as the “lights at the end of the tunnel” for those who are still in AA and have a long way to go before they too, are ready for reintegration into society.
The twelfth step toward long-term recovery
As the general populace knows, AA has long used a twelve-step program to help addicts to overcome their problems. The twelfth of these is for the recovered alcoholic, having undergone a spiritual awakening as a consequence of going through the other eleven steps, to try and carry the message that he or she has received to other alcoholics, as well as to practice these principles in the course of his everyday life. The fundamental principle on which the alumni group is based is that long-term recovery is most effective when one addict conveys the message to another. As a valuable analogy, it may be mutually destructive for the blind to lead the blind, but spiritually constructive for the erstwhile blind to lead those who are still in that state (though, to be sure, many newly-sighted individuals have tremendous difficulty in adjusting to their new condition, coordinating the new sense with those they have always had).
As with the great majority of human ventures, remaining sober is something that can be best achieved by people working together in groups. With a combination of support and mentorship, the graduates share their experiences, their hope and strength, with their fellows who are struggling with their addictions. Alumni also help each other in making the transition to their families and communities and provide education for their communities on what is involved in the long-term recovery of alcoholics and drug addicts.
Education and discussion are not the only instruments used by alcoholic alumni groups; so are fellowship and even recreational activities. As an example of the many events held throughout the year by alumni groups, here are some of those held by MARR, a member of the National Association of Drug Treatment Programs:
- Freedom from Co-dependence Workshop — Co-dependents are those who, though not addicted themselves, feel forced to “take up the slack” for those who are. They might for instance; take on themselves the duty of paying rent both of them in order to avoid being evicted.
- softball games
- Thanksgiving lunch
- an annual Celebration of Recovery banquet
- speeches by alumni
All of these things and many more, are essential elements in an addiction recovery program. They provide rest from the struggle and generate the sense of community that is indispensable.
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