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What’s the Difference Between AA and NA?

Going through addiction treatment is just the first step to recovery. Staying sober is a life-long journey that requires constant work every day.

When you are in treatment, especially an inpatient treatment program, it is relatively easy to stay sober. Your day is mostly planned out for you with different addiction therapy sessions and activities so there is little time to think about drugs or alcohol. You are also living at the facility which means there isn’t even access to substances of abuse.

Once treatment is over though, everything changes. You are solely responsible for your sobriety and not succumbing to the temptations that are out there.

A great and effective tool for remaining sober once treatment has ended is support groups. Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment to share what you are going through with others who can understand what you are dealing with because they are also on the same sobriety journey.

When it comes to support groups, two of the more popular and well-known ones are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

In this blog, we will take a look at what AA and NA are as well as look at the difference between AA and NA.

na-vs-aa What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous

More commonly referred to as AA, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Bill Watson (Bill W.) and Robert Smith (Dr. Bob) in 1935. The two men founded AA with the goal of helping those struggling with alcoholism not just give up alcohol themselves, but also empower others to give up alcohol.

AA revolves around the 12-steps of recovery which is why AA is known as a 12 Step Program. The 12 steps focus on the spirituality within a person as well as acknowledging a higher power. AA is non-denominational, meaning your “higher power” can be anyone or anything and doesn’t necessarily need to be a religious figure.

One of the main things that AA does is shows us how our actions while we were drinking caused pain and suffering for those around us so that we can make amends for said pain and suffering.

As you progress through AA, another important principle that you learn is how to take what you have learned with the 12 steps and apply them to every part of your life. For those who have been in the program for a long enough period of time, some will choose to essentially mentor someone who is newer to the program. This is called being a sponsor.

What Is Narcotics Annonymous?

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AA became so popular so fast, that it lead to the spinoff of other support groups. One of those that were created in a similar mold to AA was Narcotics Anonymous or NA.

NA was started in 1955 as a way to provide those with the support they needed for their narcotics addictions. Many who were suffering from a drug addiction didn’t feel like they were getting the support that they needed in AA and, as a result, NA was born.

NA stuck to the same general model and principles of AA. NA also uses the 12-step program, simply adjusting it to put the focus more on the recreational or prescription drugs side of things instead of alcohol. Just like AA, the main focus of NA is to help us identify how our actions and drug use hurt those around us so we can make amends for our actions and behaviors.

NA also has a sponsor program for those who have been in the program for a while to mentor someone that is newer to the program.

What Are the Differences Between AA and NA?

After reading the descriptions of both NA and AA you might be thinking to yourself that they are essentially the same thing. While they do share many similarities, there are some distinct differences that set them apart as well.

Who They Cater To

By far the biggest and most significant difference between AA and NA is the types of people they are designed for. AA was designed to help those that are strictly suffering from an alcohol-related issue such as alcoholism. NA is a little broader, helping those that are dealing with a narcotics addiction of any kind. Additionally, those who are suffering from both drug addiction and alcohol addiction can attend NA meetings.

The Application of the 12 Steps

Another major difference is the way in which both AA and NA address and approach the 12 steps.

In the AA book, step 1 reads as follows:

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The first step is written in the following way in the NA book:

“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

In addition to the difference between alcohol as opposed to other substances, the larger difference in these two sentences is the way they are presented. AA believes that the lack of control is simply due to the alcohol itself. NA, on the other hand, believes that the lack of control is the result of the actual addiction.

This largely goes back to the importance of a higher power. In AA, a focus is put on that higher power to help us with our addiction and recovery. With NA, it’s much more about looking within ourselves to find the strength to remain sober.

Want To Know More about the Differences Between AA and NA?

While 12-step therapy programs can be a great tool for staying sober once treatment has been completed. They are also a valuable part of any treatment program.

At Casco Bay Recovery, we understand the importance of support groups and 12-step programs throughout the recovery process. That’s why we offer 12-step therapy as part of our various treatment programs.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse problem and could benefit from treatment, whether it be inpatient, outpatient, or partial hospitalization, contact us today.

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