The most successful DUI group activity is the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Program. Almost everyone has heard of AA’s original 12-step program, and there are many places that offer and hold AA meetings in DeKalb County. Churches, civic organizations, and even some companies will sponsor Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, which can either be open or closed. Another group therapy activity is a victim impact panel, which is usually sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Open meetings are designed for people who are seeking information, so people in attendance may not necessarily feel or believe that they are alcoholics. Open meetings are just that, open, and anyone is welcome to attend. A closed meeting is for people who have already admitted that they have a drinking problem and are not there simply for informational purposes, but are people who are actively involved in the program and seeking to change their lives. Many people, including several of our own clients, actually do change their lives through involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous programs.
As an organization, Alcoholics Anonymous is focused on supporting the members and supporting the individuals who are coming there for help. AA is not the type of group that tries to shame people, rather they ask people to embrace the decisions that they have made in their lives. As part of the process of learning how to deal with what they have done and change their behavior, one of the most common things to see is helping people deal with the shame and embarrassment of some decisions they have made concerning alcohol and drugs that perhaps cost them their jobs, their relationships, and maybe even convictions or jail time.
Basically, one of the key purposes of these group discussions is helping people deal with the shame of what they have done; not that they should be ashamed, but rather learning how to deal with the personal shame that they are carrying from their decisions.
The other big topic in these discussions is support. The Alcoholics Anonymous group facilitators encourage their members to seek a sponsor that is someone who will help guide them to the program and not be afraid to pick up and call another member if they think that they are going to relapse.
The victim impact panel is a program that is most often sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Victim impact panels are one, two-to-three-hour evening sessions presented and attended by people who have been impacted negatively by DUI. They often take place on weekend nights so that people who would like to attend are able to do so. Participants at victim impact panels have generally either lost a loved one, or have been themselves convicted, and the panel is their way of trying to influence people’s decisions about drinking and driving, and to change some attitudes about the importance of not drinking and driving.
The victim impact program is usually required of anyone in DeKalb County who has been convicted of a DUI. It is in the judge’s discretion to require attendance, and it is a good program to help someone understand and transform their own decision making. While going to a victim impact panel is frequently required as part of a sentence for a DUI conviction, it is not typically a government program and is not run by or controlled by the government, the panel is simply an effort to change people’s attitudes about drinking and driving.