Some Similarities and Differences with 12-Step
If you are familiar with the recovery universe, you will know that the dominant force in this sphere for the past fifty years or more has been the 12-step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The first “Step” of the Addiction Canada Empowerment philosophy—Sobriety—is the same as the approach of AA. Like AA, Addiction Canada Empowerment firmly, exclusively, and unambiguously supports abstinence. People whose objective is not to stop but to cut down on their drinking/using, to drink/use in moderation, or to drink/use at a controlled level will not find support in ACE any more than in AA. They need to find other groups.
There are some subtle differences: ACE groups integrate people struggling with alcohol as well as with drugs other than alcohol, whereas AA typically refers individuals with drug issues other than alcohol out to separate drug-specific groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous. We support people taking prescribed psychoactive medications, whereas the prevailing attitude in AA tends to oppose pharmacological tools.
Our great and fundamental agreement on abstinence is the reason why we expect a third of the people who participate in ACE will also participate in 12-step organizations. It is also the reason why the philosophical and practical differences between ACE and AA on other issues never rise to the level of enmity. Although we may travel on widely divergent roads, we are on the same journey with the same objective. On philosophical issues other than abstinence, however, we tend to see many things differently from AA and other 12-step groups. We have different attitudes toward the causes of addiction. The notion that we are quite powerless over alcohol, fundamental to AA, resonates within ACE only as applied to the second drink. We do possess—or we can through effort develop—the power to abstain from the first. Consequently, we do not join in the recommendation, urgently made in the 12 steps, to hang our recovery program on belief in a higher power, or “God as you understand Him.” We believe that such a belief is not necessary for recovery and may even be counterproductive.
We also do not see good evidence to pin the cause of alcoholism on defects of character, as the 12 steps imply.
ACE also has a different vision of many issues that are not core doctrinal beliefs of AA, as the 12 steps are, but nevertheless have come to define the organization. The discussion of our differences with AA should never obscure the fact that the brave band of people who hang in with the 12-step organizations are our brothers and sisters in recovery. Something about what they do works for them. We would not wish their organization to go away or to fall down. All that we are asking is that people in recovery every- where have a choice.