Alcoholics Anonymous provides us with many great tools. We suddenly are given an amazing support network, a spiritual program of action, and wonderful opportunity to grow. Although Twelve-Step programs offer us so much, there are certainly things that we may find outside of Alcoholics Anonymous. The stigma surrounding this prevents many people in the program from doing so, which is hurtful toward recovery. There are several ways people look outside Alcoholics Anonymous for help, and none of them are wrong.
There are many professionals out there that offer great help to addicts of all kinds. However, people tend to treat seeking professional help as taboo in twelve-step programs. This attitude is extremely hurtful and close-minded. Many of our fellows benefit from professional help of different kinds, and discouraging them or making them feel different because of it can change someone's life.
Taking the example of physicians, there are many issues which we cannot ourselves handle. Our physical health is of the utmost importance to our recovery, as the body's health can dictate the mind's health. There are times where we must seek a physician's help. Our physician may prescribe medications as he or she sees fit. In my personal experience and opinion, we may take certain narcotic medications when they are absolutely necessary. It is also always important to speak with a sponsor or mentor before doing so. We must be careful in taking any medication of any kind, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary. We cannot trust our own heads to make the decision on whether or not it is necessary, and this is why we speak to a sponsor. Also, it helps substantially to have a doctor that is sober.
Another professional that we may seek help from is a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists may help diagnose and treat mental illness. Obviously medication comes into play here, and that is perfectly alright. There are many addicts that suffer from mental disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, "Over 8.9 million persons have co-occurring disorders; that is they have both a mental and substance use disorder."* Not seeking help can be an issue of life and death.
Although psychiatrists may prescribe medications, this is not a reason to shy away from them. Dealing with co-occurring disorders is not easy. Without treating the mental illness, sobriety is near impossible. The addiction and mental illness create a vicious cycle, and without treating both simultaneously, the person has little chance of recovery. Again, we should be careful of blindly accepting medications without speaking to those with more experience than us....