Should I Attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) If I Get a DUI?

Most people who receive a first DUI/OWI will never receive a second offense OWI. The costs and fear that comes with with a first OWI are usually enough to scare someone straight. However, even with a first OWI, most people want to know if they should attend AA or NA (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous).

First, I must say that AA is definitely not for everyone. I would never recommend that someone attend a form of therapy that they directly oppose. It is a waste of time for you and those that do attend. Yet, some form of therapy is usually encouraged.

No one believes that you are a terrible alcoholic just because you received your first OWI. However, some people have exhibited drinking-problem behaviors for years prior to receiving an OWI. For those people, the OWI could be considered a “rock bottom”. Therefore, I normally recommend to my clients that they undergo a substance abuse evaluation.

What is a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

A substance abuse evaluation is a counseling session performed by someone trained in substance abuse therapy. The professional will administer some paper and pencil tests to determine your alcohol related thoughts and behaviors.

Moreover, they will have a conversation with you about your current legal issues. This evaluation can be a one-time visit to get a base-line on any possible issues. The professional will give you some insight into your possible substance abuse issues and recommend any follow-up addiction recovery therapy. 

What Kind of Therapy is Normally Recommended?

There are three popular options for substance abuse therapy.

  1. AA – Alcoholic Anonymous uses the Twelve-Step Program (12-Step Program) to lead someone towards a lifetime of sobriety. The program consists of AA group/open meetings (either online or in-person), where members anonymously interact with each other. They usually discuss their struggles and work “The Steps” through the “big book.” For more information, visit here.
  2. Outpatient Therapy – Outpatient therapy consists of meetings with a trained substance abuse counselor. The sessions can be group or personal. These meetings can focus on personal issues or broader, more generalized issues. Some topics may include learning to avoid triggers, prayer and meditation (“spiritual awakening”), the dangers of alcohol abuse, and learning to lead a sober life. Many places offer outpatient therapy, especially hospitals. Find outpatient therapy options in the United States here.
  3. In-Patient Therapy – Sometimes life becomes too much to handle. Maybe a person’s addiction has reached a breaking point. All of these things can cause a person to enter into a residential treatment center. A person stays for a period of time, usually 14-30 days, at the facility. Their day is filled with multiple group and personal meetings with fellow AA members. These meetings focus on sharing experiences and on mental health and substance abuse treatment.

The end result is to break the chain of use and implement new strategies and behaviors to become a recovering alcoholic. Sometimes being taken out of the environment and remaining sober for two weeks is exactly what someone needs.

Does it Matter Which Method I Choose?

NO! Unless you have been otherwise advised by the court, attending any form of substance abuse therapy is a HUGE step in the right direction. For some, the substance abuse assessment may show no issues. That person may not have a need for substance abuse treatment and can move on.

However, it is best to address any issues the evaluation uncovers head on. If your condition is not properly treated the first time, you can expect a second OWI in your future. You will also continue to feel powerless over alcohol. Addiction is a cycle that repeats itself. Identifying possible issues and treating them will lead to a better outcome in your current case and the future.

You do not have to make this decision alone. Incorporate your family and any friends into your decision. Moreover, consult with your attorney. At the end of the day, the goal is to get sober and back on a promising path. You should never feel too afraid to ask for help.