Before the 1930s in America, those with drinking problems frequently wound up in prison, insane, and prematurely dead including from suicide. It was a nasty situation, especially for employers and families.
Then 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was put together by two drunks - a medical doctor and a stock broker. That provided a way to manage what came to be classified as a disease. Given the promise of recovery, the legal system in the U.S. has defaulted into sentencing those with DUIs to so many AA meetings a week for so many years.
Of course there are those who wonder about the constitutionality of this because AA can be classified as a "religion." But a more serious concern is that AA has a poor track record for the number of those who try it and get and stay off the booze.
Therefore, it might be time to experiment with another approach to assisting those with drinking problems. One is mindfulness. It's a mixture of learning to meditate and being educated about how to stay in the now and not ruminate about the past or be in angst about the future. As the centuries-old conventional wisdom goes, most human beings can handle what is. Mindfulness is being used in diverse settings, ranging from schools to modes of psychotherapy to prisons. At the Shambhala Center in New Haven, Connecticut, it is now being applied directly to recovery, defined in its broadest sense. Those who attend could have struggled with booze or simply with a compulsion to over-achieve.
On Thursday evenings, at Shambhala, from 7:30 P.M. to about 9:00 P.M. those in recovery first receive instructions in meditation, then meditate. They read a short chapter from a standard text associated with mindfulness. Then they talk. There is no charge. Since the majority of those who attend also are AA members, the 12-step mindset is there. However, it receives a fresh injection of and reinforcement for, as the Beatles put it, letting it be.
Judges in the New Haven Metro area might consider an alternate sentencing approach: 12 sessions of mindfulness, with a private practitioner or a group program like Shambhala's.