I always enjoy Susan Cheever’s articles for “The Fix” –
“At a popular center for meetings in New York City on most days of the week, an addict can get 12-step help for spending, under earning, sexual compulsiveness, cocaine, co-dependency, crystal meth addiction, debting, overeating, surviving incest and problems with addicted family members. The miracle of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is that they often work when nothing else does. Although few of the more than 50 12-step programs for other addictions are as organized or as effective as AA, they seem to have a good effect on the people who attend them.
Yet their proliferation raises a larger question: What is the difference between being an addict and being a human being? Everyone has some kind of problem. Can a 12-step program help every problem?
Although addictions vary in intensity—some addicts are more addicted than others—there is a difference between an addict—someone who cannot stop—and someone who is not addicted. It is also true that many addicts can switch substances if they need to. “High-functioning alcoholics” are often people who also have other addictions, such as money, food and pills‑all kept more or less in check by spreading the addiction thin. Recovery author Patrick Carnes, PhD, who put sex addiction on the map, calls this “bargaining with chaos.”
In many AA meetings members talk about drug addiction, eating disorders and struggles to stop smoking. Although all addictions are the same in some ways, it is deeply reassuring and comforting to sit with a group of people who have exactly the same problems as you.