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Helping People Stay Sober: From AA to Apps to Sober Companions

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Helping People Stay Sober: From AA to Apps to Sober Companions

MY NAME IS ALCOHOLICA few days ago I was a patient in my local emergency room (too long a story) and was interested to see a number of AA pamphlets in a display on an end table. Granted, it had been awhile, but the last time I was there, they weren’t, and I wondered if the recent news that doctors aren’t asking patients about drinking had anything to do with it. In effect, the hospital was saying, “we’re aware that a number of people find themselves here directly as a result of their drinking, and for anyone who would like help, read this pamphlet.”

I’ve written before that AA is controversial, both on the Malibu Beach Recovery blog and here. Liana Unger, MSW, former Brentwood House Program Director and now a Clinical Therapist at Malibu Beach Recovery Center, passed along to the MBRC staff a Salon article whose authors believes that although many people swear by it, AA is not the answer when it comes to recovery. In fact, the success rate is low, the authors say. (Unger said she was forwarding the article only because people might find it interesting.)

On the other hand, MBRC counselor Craig Sadler notes that “It is very rare that a person who has relapsed can honestly say that he or she was working the program in its entirety. Every relapser I have talked to over the years has systematically dismantled his or her program over a short or longer period. That’s why it’s so difficult to put % numbers on success or failure rates.” Sadler, too, said he wasn’t offering an opinion about AA.

(For those who don’t care for the religious aspect of AA, here’s an article about AA groups that meet and refrain from bringing religion into the meetings.

I knew there were apps for almost everything today, but I have to admit I’ve been clueless about Apps That May Help People Stay Sober, that a headline in my local paper proclaimed. The original article came from Healthday, about a clinical trial which showed that one app has been successful in helping “recovering alcoholics stay sober or reduce their risky drinking.”

The app, which took six years to develop, is called A-CHESS, for Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System, and sends support messages every day and weekly questions designed to help counselors assess the person’s struggle. It also tracks their location and sends an alert if they’re in a bar, although it wasn’t clear to me if that goes to both the counselor and the person. Finally, there’s a panic button that allows the user to access reminders, distractions, or a support person like a sponsor.

A researcher said apps like A-CHESS are the way of the future, which is no surprise, but an unbiased expert agreed. Of course, I was hoping for a statement saying that in no way does this take the place of an intensive treatment program or counseling, which may have happened if this news appeared on a treatment site. And then—oh dear—the price. It’s not available to the public yet, and “agencies pay $10,000 a year for access for up to 100 patients.”

I wonder how helpful sober companions help. Haven’t much about them since the last article I saw years ago on celebrities using them. Here’s an interview on aol with a sober companion.

 

 

 

Comments
  • China Isler
    Reply

    While this app is helpful in many respects, it violates a major Al-Anon suggestion-no one has the right (it being no ones business) to “track” an alcoholic or addicts’ whereabouts, bar or anywhere else for that matter. This borders on stalking. “Keep the focus on yourself,” an Al-Anon slogan, is the idea here.

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