Building on the success of its specialized residential treatment programs for “warriors”—active duty military, veterans, first responders, and EMTs/paramedics—Warriors Heart has launched Warriors Anonymous, a new AA specialty meeting for the same population.
WA was developed by Warriors Heart founders Josh and Lisa Lannon and former special forces Tom Spooner with input from a team of licensed clinicians, industry professionals and frontline protectors.
Spooner tells Addiction Professional that the Warriors Heart leadership team had heard from program alums that they missed the camaraderie and atmosphere of the treatment environment. Recognizing the value and accountability of peer support and fellowship, the Warriors Heart leaders set out to create an AA program specifically for the population treated in its programs.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Spooner says. “We’re taking something that has already been proven to work and adding our experience on top of it to make it a specialized meeting.”
Traditional AA meetings that include civilians often create an environment where warriors are reluctant to share their experiences, Spooner says.
“At times, there is a very big divide. Even though all alcoholics and addicts need to do the same thing, generally, to recover, some things culturally just weren’t fitting with this population,” Spooner says. “Law enforcement sitting next to drug dealer—even though they need to do the same things to get better, we can see how that wouldn’t create an environment of kinship.”
One key difference in a WA meeting is that there is more discussion of trauma than a traditional civilian AA meeting, Spooner says. Even though their specific jobs are different, certain trauma experiences are common among meeting attendees, Spooner says. Military members who have served overseas and law enforcement personnel working stateside both may have dealt with losing a coworker while on the job, for example.
“A lot of times, there are things shared that are more graphic and deep and heartfelt than your average meeting just because that’s what the profession exposes them to,” Spooner says. “A lot of the guys and gals are more comfortable with sharing things that would make people outside of this population cringe. However, we state that this is not a psychology session. This is not armchair psychology. This is not a group session. It’s a 12-Step meeting. We have good parameters on it so that it doesn’t turn into something it’s not.”
Warriors Heart currently is holding two types of meetings per week—an open meeting for all warriors and another for program alumni as part of the organization’s aftercare program. The number of in-person meetings nationwide has been limited by social distancing directives, but there have been some small meetings held in San Antonio and outside Atlanta, with more to follow in other regions as more states begin to reopen, Spooner says. In the meantime, WA meetings are primarily being conducted through video chat platforms.