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Why Twelve Step Program Members Shouldn’t Advise You on Psychiatric Medications

Some 12 step members have a terrible habit of recommending that newcomers stop taking their psychiatric medications. They think you’re not sober if you “depend on pills every day.” They even go so far as to suggest that you shouldn’t start considering that you have accumulated clean time until you’re completely off of them.

This is dangerous advice. It also stands in opposition to what the official literature states — no member should play doctor. If they are a doctor, they’re not your doctor. You should always consult with your doctor about any prescribed medicine.

Taking medicine Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Sober.

The most compelling advice these wayward members try to suggest is that you’re not officially sober while you take these meds. It makes sense on the surface, but you will see that you take medicine as prescribed by a professional upon closer inspection.

Your doctor prescribed medication to treat an actual condition, and you’re not getting euphoric from it.

The purist ideology doesn’t have to define your recovery. I reject it outright when it gets as extreme as this.

You are sober even if you still take medicine as prescribed.

The 12 Step Don’t Fix Everything.

There’s a purist belief that the 12 steps are all you need, and taking medicine is a rejection of this belief somehow. However, the big book is quick to recommend anyone seek outside help in the medical community.

Many addicts and alcoholics come in with grave emotional and mental disorders. And yes, sobering up does help them in many cases and makes treatment much more effective. However, treatment for mental illness may need to last a long time into sobriety, well after putting down the last drink or drug. This doesn’t imply the 12 steps failed you, or you failed the 12 steps.

Doctors are Your Guide; Not Strangers in a Meeting

No meeting, sponsor, or other attendee is your doctor, and they never should become one. Even if you hear medical suggestions, such as what meds to take or what not to take, you don’t have to act on those opinions.

You and your doctor decide your treatment.

Twelve-step programs have a narrow goal — working the steps and helping newcomers. So the goal implies that the program isn’t there to take over your life and guide even your very medicine. Members are not 24/7 life coaches, and you shouldn’t put them on a pedestal in that way.

Alcoholics and Addicts Run Afoul When They’re Not Honest with Their Doctors

We also conclude that prescription medicines do sometimes lead addicts astray from sobriety with all the above said.

We aren’t usually honest with doctors and have other motives in mind for seeing them. Since an essential piece of recovery is honesty, we’d be wise to come clean with our doctor about any addictive behaviors. This deception includes not taking medicine as prescribed, not being honest with the situations of our lives (“medical history”), hiding side effects experiences, etc.

The best bullet points from the official pamphlet states:

  • Be completely honest with your doctor and yourself about the way you take your medicine.
  • Let your doctor know if you skip doses or take more medicine than prescribed.
  • Explain to your doctor that you no longer drink alcohol and you are trying a new way of life in recovery.
  • Let your doctor know at once if you have a desire to take more medicine or if you have side effects that make you feel worse.
  • Be sensitive to warnings about changes in your behavior when you start a new medication or when your dose is changed.
  • If you feel that your doctor does not understand your problems, consider making an appointment with a physician who has experience in the treatment of alcoholism.

-Source: The A.A. Member — Medication & Other Drugs

Conclusion: Sobriety improves medical treatment when you heed your doctor and not other members

Meeting attendees aren’t your doctor. Their opinions about medications might be well-meaning. However, those who act on the views get themselves in serious trouble, especially if the medicines are treating severe mental illness.

Suicide, psychosis, and worsening quality of life have been the results of members who act without consulting with their doctors.

In the same breath, it’s crucial to get honest with your doctor once you find the road to recovery. The best they want from us is honesty so that they can provide the best treatment. Even if we have veered far from the treatment plan they recommended, it’s never too late to let them know and start fresh.

Sobriety has offered us an opportunity to apply treatments for our other disorders with more clarity and willingness, so we should seize it. Using medical treatment to the fullest extent can bring us more happiness in sobriety and a much better quality of life. Addiction recovery also makes more room for medical treatment to work better, as a belly full of alcohol tends to counteract any medication prescriptions.

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