Does a 12-Step Recovery Program Work When its Court Mandated?

When an alcoholic enters into a 12-step recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous, their odds of staying sober greatly increase, but what’s the success rate of these programs when they’re court-mandated? Read on to learn the effectiveness of these programs under varying conditions.

Very few alcoholics have an easy time getting sober. In fact, the percentage of true-blue alcoholics who get sober and stay sober over the long-term is actually pretty low. Having said that, when an alcoholic enters into a 12-step recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous, their odds of staying sober greatly increase.

There are various reasons why an alcoholic might start attending AA meetings. The ones who have the most success are generally those who’ve hit rock bottom and have chosen on their own to get sober. Those people know deep-down that their lives have become unmanageable, and they tend to have a very strong desire to change. There are, however, a variety of other reasons why an alcoholic might start going to AA. These reasons can range from family or spousal pressure to court-mandated AA meeting requirements resulting from things like DUIs or other alcohol-related offenses.

Do court-mandated AA meetings actually work?

The answer to this question really depends on who you ask. They work for some people and they don’t work for others, which is true regardless of whether there was a court order or not. Some will say that if an alcoholic hasn’t made the personal choice to get sober on his own then the program won’t work, but remember that not all alcoholics are created equal. Also, everyone’s situation is different. For many alcoholics, getting busted and convicted on a drunk driving charge IS their rock-bottom in which case they might be 100% mentally ready to get sober. On the flip side, if someone has been convicted of an alcohol-related offense and they don’t think they have a problem, then court-mandated AA meetings probably won’t work.

What about those who are court-ordered and know they’re struggling with alcoholism, but they don’t agree with the spiritual principles of AA?

This is a relatively heated topic, as AA asks its members to adopt the concept of a Higher Power. This can mean “God” or some other spiritual entity, but many people in the program will also choose the group itself as their higher power.

One thing people do find appealing about AA is that the literature includes subtle nuances to suggest you interpret the program how you’d like. In other words, the steps outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous are generally understood to be suggestions. This often helps anyone who might be resistant to AA, or who might otherwise just be going through the motions in order to get their court cards signed.

Do 12-step recovery programs work for everyone?

There are so many reasons why 12-step recovery meetings work for some people and not for others. Furthermore, there are a number of reasons why court-mandated 12-step recovery is effective over the long-term for some and not for others. What it all boils down to are the individuals. Do they think they have a problem with alcohol? Are they ready to admit that they’ve hit rock bottom and cannot control their drinking? Do they have the desire and willingness to change while committing to the work they need to do to stay clean? If the answer is yes, then it doesn’t really matter whether they started going to meetings because of a court order or because they chose to go on their own. These people have a high likelihood of staying sober because their decision is not based on outside influences.

Finally, Alcoholics Anonymous asks its members to identify as alcoholics, but not everyone who has a drinking problem will want to do this. As mentioned earlier, however, the program itself is not rigid in terms of its rules––the only real requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. If you know your drinking has gotten out of hand and you’ve been entertaining the thought of slowing down or stopping, that DUI court order might be just the catalyst needed to get you to your first meeting. And perhaps you’ll stick around and stay sober because sobriety happens to be a pretty sweet deal.

A powerful supplement for 12-step recovery programs

For those who are on the straight and narrow path, a good remote alcohol monitoring device can be a great supplement to any recovery program. Not only does it serve as an excellent accountability tool, but with products like BACtrack View, you can share photo-verified records of your sobriety in real-time, right from your smartphone. Let friends, family, courts, and counselors in on your progress with easy-to-use BACtrack devices that you can take with you wherever you go.

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