AA Not the Only Way is subtitled “Your One Stop Resources Guide to 12-Step Alternatives” and a resource guide is exactly what it is. It is targeted to alcoholics (and other addicts) who want to stop drinking but for whom 12-step programs aren’t a solution. This is the second edition of the book, written after the author, Melanie Solomon, experienced a relapse following many years of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The first half of the book tells her story and explains why she believes AA and other 12-step programs might not be the solution for every person who suffers from addiction.
The Introduction section of the book provides statistics on the success rate of AA. Essentially, AA is only 5% successful--95% of attendees stop going after one year. The author mentions the ideas advanced in AA to take what works for you and leave the rest, and that “[The program] works if you work it.” Both slogans would seem to address any potential objections an alcoholic might have to following a 12-step program. However, Solomon argues that for some addicts, almost everything about AA might not work; that a completely different approach is what is needed. The title of the book itself might provoke criticism for those who’ve found recovery through a 12-step program as it might be seen as an attack on those types of programs. The information in this Introduction section support the idea that Solomon is not suggesting that all alcoholics abandon AA, only that there may be alternatives for those seeking them. Some of the specific shortcomings include AA’s failure to provide information about physical healing, such as nutritional advice or stress reduction techniques; the social involvement required (cited as a potential trigger for those who are nervous in social situations); and a potential switch from being overly focused on drinking to a near-obsessive focus on not drinking.
The second half of the book is a directory of various treatment options grouped by type and divided up by state. Some of the sections included are Self-Help Groups, Alternative Treatments, Licensed Professionals, and Treatment Programs. Each section contains a description of how that method works, and lists contact information for organizations and/or individuals who offer it. The resource list would be useful to a therapist or other professional exploring treatment options for a client. It might also offer hope to an addict or someone close to an addict who is frustrated with AA and seeking other options. Anyone looking for an alternative could read the descriptions and select options to explore that are better suited to what they feel they need, such as more of a focus on the physical aspects of addiction and recovery, or less social involvement.
Statistics and specific studies are mentioned to support the author’s ideas, but there are no footnotes. A Notes section at the end of the book does list some of her sources. This leads me to believe that the book rests largely upon her experiences and to a lesser extent on research and outside sources. This might make the book less appealing to treatment professionals even though her book is targeted to them. To overlook the book for this reason would, in my opinion, be a mistake, as it does offer something that a professional might not get elsewhere. That something is a look at her story--good, bad, and ugly--without excuses.
© 2011 Pratima Sampat-Mar
Pratima Sampat-Mar is the Online Education Coordinator for an allied health school in Arizona. She holds an Association Montessori International Primary Diploma, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College, and Master of Education degree from Loyola University Maryland.