Help. Hope. Healing.

The ‘C’ Word

By Rex Goode


A friend of mine attended the local ARP meetings for awhile until financial and family pressures made him quit. He is doing well and continues his struggle with some success.

I have never attended ARP meetings or any other 12-step for my issues, mostly because I don’t struggle with acting out. I have been to AA meetings with clients and through my education and training know a lot about the 12-step model.

My friend has never attended other 12-step fellowships. He is currently in the same education program as I went through. He did a paper and presentation on addiction for a class. The head of the social work department was the professor for the course. During the presentation, he mentioned how the steps can help a person get control over his addiction.

He was immediately interrupted by the professor, who took great exception to his use of the word “control” when talking about addiction. Another student, a member of another group, also jumped in and sharply criticized him for it.

I wish I could have warned him. I didn’t realize what he was planning to do. The 12 steps of ARP are only loosely based on the 12 steps of AA. I haven’t done a step-by-step comparison of the two, but I remember when I read the ARP version of the 12 steps, I was struck by how culturally LDS they were.

While my friend was attending, he used me as a sponsor as in other 12 step programs. He mentioned me one too many times and was told by the group leader that ARP didn’t have sponsors. I don’t know how true that is, but it is what he was told. As he and I talked about the things he was struggling with, I would talk in terms of my understanding of 12-step methods. They were things he wasn’t hearing at ARP. Indeed, they seemed to do things completely differently.

One issue was the subject of control. He was taught that the point of the 12 steps, at least as taught in ARP, was to help a person get control of his life. That’s very different from the usual 12-step point of view, enough to cause the kind of visceral reaction he got for his presentation.

I explained to him that “control” was a dirty word for most 12-steppers. In fact, a diagnosis of addiction can’t be given unless the professional finds there to be a loss of control. By definition, an addict can’t control his own behavior anymore.

I don’t mean any of this to be a criticism of the ARP program or its version of the 12 steps. I’ve always been in favor of anything that works and for many people, ARP works. I think it’s important to note that the 12 steps, as practiced in other fellowships can be quite a different thing. I’m in favor of that too, since research shows it works.

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8 Responses to “The ‘C’ Word”

  1. Tim B said:

    Addicts with issues about control. Never heard that one before.

    There are many little niggly details of difference between different 12 Step fellowships. For some people, those differences are stumbling blocks — they jolt them out of their comfort zones and mess things up badly for them. For me, I find the differences interesting, but not significant when it comes to recovery. I tend to like erring on the side of inclusion and invitation, rather than exclusion and division. I tend to find my approach to be more that of the NA of my understanding, where a drug is a drug is a drug, rather than the AA of my understanding, where you’re there to talk about Alcohol with a capital “A” and that’s all.

    Mormons have such a thing about control — it’s such a big word. I can’t even think of all of the things I might want to say about that right now. I think it comes from the idea of Free Agency, that we control our own behavior, period. I’m pretty strong on that, but not that absolute. I’ve found that influence is something that needs to be factored in, and limits of self-control also exist. It’s just a bit more complicated than the making of choices. Addiction is about choices, but the ways in which we make choices is multi-faceted and multi-layered.

    Further complicating it is the Mormon distrust for all things non-Mormon, along with our inability to acknowledge that.

  2. Rex Goode said:


    You’ve said a mouthful there. I don’t mind that we Latter-day Saints do things differently. In most things that we do differently, we don’t mind pointing it out. With 12 steps, it isn’t clear to us insiders how they’re different or even to outsiders. It can be confusing. Personally, I like the outside version of the 12 steps, because it makes it so that I can could go to any 12-step fellowship that is applicable to my issues and find a home there. My friend that I talked about would probably be pretty surprised at how different they are. He certainly wasn’t ready for the backlash when he tried to talk about it in ARP terms.

  3. Tim B said:

    One of the problems with doing things the Mormon Way is that there’s not one Mormon Way. Another thing we don’t acknowledge.

    I think the difference between the ARP Steps and the AA Steps is like a Mormon looking at the Apostles Creed vs a Catholic looking at the same creed. We might agree with our understanding of the words, but those understandings are fundamentally different. However, AA is okay with us having a different understanding — it’s the Mormons who aren’t. There’s our way, which is the One True Way, and then there are all the different ways to be wrong.

    But there is no one Mormon Way. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  4. admin said:

    I agree very much that there is no one Mormon Way. There is one faith and one doctrine, but culturally many differences. To me, the alterations in the 12 steps for ARP were at least culturally driven. I know it was informed by doctrine, but so much of what changed would have been fine doctrinally if interpretted semantically in light of doctrine. It didn’t necessarily have to change to be still useful to Mormons. It’s the separationist part of our culture that bothers me.

    The authors of the AA steps took great pains to be inclusive, ie. “God as we understood him.” That includes all forms of different understanding. Having gone to a lot of 12-step meetings with clients, I see the wide diversity of understanding of God represented. No one is pressured to accept another person’s theology.


  5. julie said:

    I have gone to ARP meetings before and I think they are good if you want to concentrate more on just the spiritual. In my personal opinion, I felt like I was going to church for another Sunday School lessson on repentance. And that’s fine, but I needed someone to be accountable to and to have an outline of how to work the steps. In ARP I felt like I was still on my own and had to figure out how to work the steps on my own. I just didn’t trust doing things on my own since I had tried my whole life to figure out how to manage this disease and so I felt like I was back where I started from in the first place. That was frustrating. For me I needed it to be more about why I turned to this addiction and what it was doing for me and that meant going deeper into the psychological aspects of it. And by doing that I was able to realize for the first time how to connect to God because I was finding myself the more I have looked into this addiction and all that goes with it. That is why I went to SA because even though it’s non denominational, it’s still very spiritual for me to connect to others and to really get in touch with my feelings and not medicate with my addiction. By having faith in the program of the 12 steps has helped me learn new insights to myself and who I am and I believe that it is God, who has given me all that because of my faith in a program where I am actually doing it-working the steps, instead of just reading about them and wondering how to do it.

  6. Rex Goode said:

    Thank you, Julie! Amazing insight!

  7. Rex Goode said:

    “rather than the AA of my understanding, where you’re there to talk about Alcohol with a capital “A” and that’s all. ”

    Tim, I’ve been to AA meetings where they were fine with visiting NA people talking about their addictions.

  8. Tim B said:

    Late getting back here — sorry.

    I understand that there are many, many AA meetings, and they all have their own style and tone. I’ve run into the attitude I was mentioning more than once, but a few times doesn’t mean it represents every AA group.

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