co-attendance of recovery groups

Recovery is Recovery is Recovery?

Cross fertilisation among Recovery Fellowships

I have unfortunately heard sometimes not very complimentary remarks about different recovery groups and fellowships which I have never found particularly helpful or useful in attracting the alcoholic or addict who is still suffering. The simple reality is that people recover from alcoholism and addiction by a wide variety of means, and recovery regimes.

My father recovered via the Catholic Church and was probably not even aware of 12 step or other recovery groups?

People seem to recover in a myriad of ways – unassisted, via religious, spiritual and secular means.

The Big Book says we (AA) have no monopoly on God – I would add we have no monopoly on recovery or treatment either, however widely and prolifically used 12 step programs have become internationally.  We may benefit more from a position of love and tolerance and understanding of the reality we are in recovery from a potentially fatal malady and support each other however we can, no matter what our recovery affiliation is.

It may be that each and every group have many useful recovery knowledge and skills to learn from each other. Showing a united front as a greater recovery community may have a profound effect on attracting suffers of addictive behaviours to recovery.

In this video, William White explains how co-attendance between different fellowships is becoming much more common, as recovering individuals stray over to check out other recovery groups and fellowships. For example for woman for sobriety to attend woman’s groups in AA, perhaps brought to together by a general  “woman in recovery” generality.

It is not unusual for secular groups in recovery to also attend AA meetings especially atheist and agnostic groups with AA. Again a commonality in a more  non theist approach may be a commonality here, especially as there is  rise of agnostic and atheist  approaches within recovery, and especially 12 step groups, such as AA Agnostica. In fact, the Ernie Kurtz and William White have researched this rising trend in much detail.


In fact William White writes about this in his website – in the blog “Further reflection on Dual Citizenship” by himself and John Kelly, another leading researcher into recovery.

The Dual Citizenship Phenomenon

“Dr. Tom Horvath recently posted a blog on the “dual citizenship phenomenon”–individuals who concurrently participate in SMART Recovery and AA or other 12-step meetings.

Dr. Horvath’s interest in this phenomenon was sparked by recovering people simultaneously being involved in secular, spiritual and religious recovery support groups–groups whose core ideas and practices would on the surface seem to be incongruous.

The degree of dual citizenship in recovery is revealed in the membership survey of various recovery mutual aid groups.  In Gerard Connors and Kurt Dermen’s survey of Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) members, 30% of (SOS) respondents reported concurrent AA attendance with an average of more than 50 A.A. meetings attended in the past year.

Lee Ann Kaskutas’ study of Women for Sobriety (WFS) revealed that about one-third of WFS members also concurrently attend AA meetings. 

In the LifeRing Secular Recovery Survey, 35% of LSR members surveyed reported co-attendance in another recovery support program–57% of those reporting attending AA. 

The most recent survey of SMART Recovery membersrevealed that 32.4% of SMART Recovery members also attend AA, NA or another 12-step program, 13.8% attend meetings of another secular recovery support program, and 10.5% participate in a faith/religious/spiritually-based program.

(Typically these dual citizens report that “I attend AA for the fellowship and community, and SMART Recovery for the tools.” These individuals, I suspect, would not attend AA if SMART Recovery were as large and had the same depth of community – certain individuals who seem equally committed to both organizations and both approaches –  these individuals are the true dual citizens.)

Such surveys reveal considerable eclecticism in recovery support participation across what are often portrayed as quite distinct frameworks of addiction recovery support.”


More recovering individuals are looking at themselves as members of a greater recovery community rather than simply identifying themselves within the confines of fellowship membership.

My own recovery has hugely enhanced by researching the neuropsychology of addiction and recovery over the last 5-6 years, in fact, on occasion this research has saved my life from probable relapse. My blogs seek to embrace aspects of DBT, CBT, psychological and psycho-analytic theories of addiction etc.

I have come to an understanding of my own addictive behaviours as being driven by an inherent emotional dysfunction mainly via academic research. For me the spiritual malady of AA can also be explained in terms of emotional dysregulation as can the processes of positive behavioural change prompted by working the 12 steps.  These views are not opposing but complementary, mutually supporting views.

I have a “critical” head which is not at odds with 12 step spirituality. I have not given up on self, but chosen to exercise self under the direction of my Higher Power, a HP that does not act via fear. My critical head has helped me explore my spirituality.  I do not leave my reasoning brain at the door when I enter the rooms of AA and I don’t suggest any one else does either.

In fact my initial understanding of myself as an alcoholic is primarily based on the perceived wisdom of AA members in their lived experiences  as recovering alcoholics –  I believe AA is as much about this shared recovery experience as it is the contents of the Big Book.

The “traditions” of AA are also borne out of the lived experience of recovery, compiled and organised by Bill Wilson from the lessons learnt in a multitude of recovery settings and recovery group experiences throughout the US and beyond over a number of years.

The Big Book described this illness in one way nearly 80 years ago and this way is still valid today but it should never preclude us from adding to this sum of knowledge, from explaining this illness given the understandings which have been developed in that 80-year time frame. We now know a huge amount about this condition and increasingly about recovery.

Bill Wilson himself commented that he feared the Big Book would become “frozen in time”. As someone who looked at different possible supplements to recovery, such as vitamin therapies, one can be sure that he were alive today he would be absolutely fascinated with  developments in our knowledge base about this condition and it’s recovery.

He may even have some pride that he helped in no small part, by  prompting such inquiry. Bill Wilson was fascinated and intrigued by alcoholism and his fellow alcoholics. For him anything that alleviated  the suffering of alcoholics would be considered helpful. He after all asked us to be “friendly with our friends”?

Isn’t that we are all trying to achieve, a greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms of this emotional disorder, this spiritual malady? A greater awareness of the recovery process and possible outcomes of recovery? For ourselves and our families and communities.

Isn’t this a wonderful journey that we can all share?





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