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Anybody involved in medication-assisted treatment will tell you how important it is to attend 12-step meetings. For those who engage in medication-assisted treatment, unfortunately, that can be easier said than done. Many of the folks at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are pretty unwelcoming to those who are using methadone or Suboxone. If you are unable to locate a 12-step group that welcomes you, what should you do?
The Rooms Are For Recovery
First, rid yourself of the idea that you can simply attend your chosen methadone program, see the doctor, take your medication, and be well. Substance abuse professionals overwhelmingly agree that group sessions and 12-step meetings both make up an important part of treatment. The rooms are the places where you hear how people put their recovery tools to work. The rooms are also the places where you hear other people’s war stories, and you understand—with relief—that your stories are not the worst.
Through your attendance at groups or one-on-one sessions plus the 12-step meetings, you will discover the negative aspects of your life that may have contributed to your addiction. Before you got into heroin addiction recovery, your relationships with friends and family members worsened and fell apart. So attending the 12-step groups lets you become reacquainted with the best part of yourself. You also get the opportunity to restore lost relationships, and form new friendships with people who understand your journey.
Heroin Addiction Recovery as a Treatment Adjunct
Adjunctive treatment refers to anything that supports your primary source of treatment. In other words, what can you do besides taking your medication to strengthen your recovery? The Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center’s chief medical officer, Dr. Marv Seppala, has tracked the success of clients with medication-assisted treatment alone and also with 12-step programs. One study focused on patients taking Suboxone for heroin addiction recovery. The patients took two weeks to become stable on the Suboxone, then tapered off the medication, and then attended an eight-week aftercare program. Anybody who relapsed resumed Suboxone therapy for another 12 weeks, took four weeks to taper off Suboxone, and then repeated the eight weeks of aftercare.
Dr. Seppala believes that both the aftercare classes plus 12-step meetings provided ways for clients to learn more about their addiction. Those who became educated about heroin and heroin addiction recovery remained in treatment 46 percent more often.
Find Your Own Group For Heroin Addiction Recovery
There are websites for Methadone Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous, but neither organization offers a wide selection of meetings, and the MA website still lacks much development. At least, you can visit those sites to see if there are meetings in your area.
Look, instead, for 12-step AA or NA groups geographically close to the methadone or Suboxone program that you’re attending. Your counselor will likely know of meetings where MAT clients are welcome. While Narcotics Anonymous issued Bulletin #29 prohibiting MAT clients from holding office or placing issues on meeting agendas, many of the its members will welcome you nonetheless. NA has inserted a preamble on Bulletin #29 admitting that it was formulated in 1996—about 20 years old at this point.
Some of the people at NA and AA meetings may view your recovery as incomplete as long as you are on maintenance medication. Others realize that methadone or Suboxone is as important to your heroin addiction recovery as insulin is for the diabetic. They will embrace your participation and your wish to change your life, one day at a time.
The people at 12-step meetings are like people anywhere—some of them you will like, and others you can do without. Get a list of the meetings in your area and try out a variety of meetings until you find the ones that fit you.