Are All Addictions the Same?

alcohol and pills

People who have been to AA before may notice that they deal only with alcoholism. In most meetings, talk of drugs or other addictions is discouraged. Many, especially younger addicts who have both drank and used drugs, might wonder why this is. They might even get offended and assume AA is saying “alcoholics are better than addicts.” Aren’t all addictions the same? The answer is tricky — both yes and no.

Consider if we were talking about cancer instead of addiction. If you were a cancer patient, you’d probably be in a hospital ward with all the other cancer patients. Yet, there are different kinds of cancer: lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. Obviously, the same treatment can apply to each different cancer, but you’d want a doctor who specializes in your kind of cancer, right? It would be unsettling if your doctor said, “I’ve never treated your kind of cancer, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same.”

Alcoholism and addiction to heroin are the same in the sense that breast cancer and lung cancer are the same. Just as chemotherapy works for different cancers, the 12 steps can work for different addictions. Even still, we will need help from people who know exactly what we’re going through. For example, sharing needles in heroin addiction risks HIV and AIDS, whereas alcoholism does not. Alcoholics likewise face their own unique challenges. Because alcohol is legal and more socially acceptable, alcoholics are confronted with temptation at parties and weddings where liquor is served.

We’ve felt alone and misunderstood our whole lives. When we come into recovery, we don’t want to hear, “I don’t know what that’s like.” That’s why it is so important to find the fellowship that’s right for you and your addiction. If you’re a pure alcoholic, try Alcoholics Anonymous. If your addiction is to pills but not booze, maybe Narcotics Anonymous is where you belong. Many addicts do both fellowships; some who drank and used drugs settle on only one. The same can be said for treatment centers. Many substance abuse treatment centers treat alcoholics, but there are alcohol treatment centers, as well. The point is to recover where you feel comfortable — and more importantly, where you can meet people who can identify with your experience in addiction. These are the people who are best equipped to help you!

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