Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) is a unique 12-step program. It is intended for individuals with not only a substance use disorder but also a co-occurring mental health issue. In many ways, it is like other programs that follow the 12-step model started by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Many people with a substance use disorder -- alcohol, illicit drugs, other substances -- also have a mental health issue. This condition of having two co-occurring disorders is called a dual diagnosis.
Despite how common dual diagnosis is, not enough people know about this convergence of substance abuse and a separate mental health problem. Even many people who have it may be undiagnosed. Without that information, they may find recovery difficult to impossible.
Sometimes the mental health problem leads to substance abuse: the individuals, knowing something is wrong, attempt to self-medicate for their depression, anxiety, stress, or trauma with alcohol or drugs. Less often, a mental illness may be caused or triggered by drug use.
Either way, both disorders need to be treated for the individual to recover. The 12 steps can be an important tool.
Twelve-step programs have their origin in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded by Bill Wilson (“Bill W.”) and Robert Holbrook Smith (“Dr. Bob”) in 1935. The 12 steps were codified a few years later in 1938.
They are intended to lead individuals with alcohol abuse problems to admit their addiction, ask for and accept help, make restitution to those they have injured (at least the ones who will accept help), and to help others with the program.
There have been many 12-step programs since AA, including Narcotics Anonymous. Most are for one specific type of addiction, but all use some variation of the 12 steps.
Formed in 1989, Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) isn’t much different from other 12 step programs except that its members have a dual diagnosis. They have meetings where members -- former and current substance abusers with an emotional or psychiatric disorder -- admit their dual problems, tell stories of their struggles (both successes and failures), and support one another.
Members are expected to work the steps, and in order, but there’s more to 12-step programs than the 12 steps. They are not a school from which you graduate but a lifelong discipline. After recovery, you are encouraged to keep coming to meetings, both to maintain your sobriety and to help others achieve and maintain sobriety.
There should be no blame-placing. Everyone there has a problem and none of ahem wished it upon themselves. Some older, sober members act as role models, evidence that people can get better.
Some go further and act as sponsors for the newly sober and emotionally and mentally stable, someone to talk to who knows what they are experiencing. They are someone the new member can contact when things are bad. Sponsors should be members of the same sex to avoid sexual exploitation.
Twelve-step programs should not be confused with professional therapy or evidence-based treatment. The programs are a supplement, not a replacement.
On its website, DRA notes it is “a nonprofessional self-help program,” and states, “There must always be a clear boundary separating the work of DRA from the work of chemical dependency and mental health professionals.”
Despite this limitation, 12-step programs are sometimes the first step towards recovery because they are free and because acknowledging addiction is the first step. Many people aren’t ready for treatment until they make that admission.
Twelve-step programs also can be an important part of aftercare and relapse prevention once formal recovery ends. Their meetings allow everyone in attendance to share stories of their struggles, their successes and failures, and what they have learned along the way.
Most experts believe that addiction is never cured. Everyone is subject to relapse, even years or decades later. Continued membership helps keep them on the path of recovery and provide them with a social safety net if they do relapse.
Dual Recovery Anonymous
Email - [email protected]draonline.org
Phone - 877-883-2332 - Toll-free
Find a meeting - draonline.org/meetings.html