How Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has helped millions of people suffering from alcohol addiction to create better lives for themselves without the use of alcohol. It’s run by and for people with addiction disorders involving alcohol, and its meetings can be found in nations all across the world. As a fellowship group, it isn’t run by clinics, doctors, or psychologists, and there’s no central authority.
Each individual group is therefore free to operate in the way that works best for its local members. However, there are some universal policies and philosophies that each group operates by. According to the organization, there are over 115,300 groups around the globe.
Alcoholics Anonymous Treatment Model
Alcoholics Anonymous adheres to two models: the Twelve Traditions, which outlines how groups maintain unity and relate to the world around them, and the 12-Steps, a set of principles that members follow to help guide them through a life in recovery.
Alcoholics Anonymous was considered to be the first organization to use the 12-Step model to address addiction. Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith are credited for creating these steps as part of their founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Over time, many individual AA groups use altered versions of the original steps, often to make the language more inclusive, and they have been modified for use in other 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous.
How AA Works: The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Members of AA don’t necessarily have to follow the 12 Steps or complete every one of them; the only requirement of membership is a desire to stop drinking. However, many members find success in recovery by following a version of this program.
The 12 steps as stated in “The Big Book” are:
- “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”
- “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
- “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
- “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
- “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
- “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.”
- “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
- “Made a list of all person we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
- “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
- “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
- “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying for knowledge His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
- “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
What Is 12-Step Facilitation?
12-Step facilitation is a set of therapies designed to help people maintain their recovery efforts by helping them abstain from alcohol by encouraging them to participate in 12-step programs. Types of 12-Step facilitations can include:
- System Encouragement and Community Access (SECA).
- Making AA Easier (MAAEZ).
- Twelve-Step Facilitation Therapy (TSF).
- Stimulant Abuser Groups to Engage in 12-Step (STAGE-12).
How Do AA Meetings Work?
Whether or not someone wants to try or complete the 12-Step program, the first thing a person needs to do to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous is simply attend a meeting. There, new individuals are often encouraged to share their stories, and get advice and information about the program from other members. New members are also encouraged to go to 90 meetings in 90 days – three months of daily AA meetings – in order to help them through the often very difficult early period of addiction recovery.
After this, members are often still encouraged to attend meetings regularly for the rest of their lives. The idea is that constant vigilance and support are needed to prevent triggers and general stressors from creeping up on members and causing relapse.
Members of AA can also seek out a “sponsor” – a more senior member of the local AA chapter who can be there for them when they’re tempted to drink again.
Other than these general guidelines, membership in Alcoholics Anonymous largely works however you want it to work. How involved an individual is in the organization is up to that person, though it’s generally believed that the more effort members put in, the better off they’ll be.
Is Alcoholics Anonymous Effective?
Since its founding in 1935, AA has helped thousands of people find recovery from alcohol addiction. In 2021, it’s estimated that there are nearly 2 million members across the globe. However, it’s important to note that addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder and part of the journey to recovery can involve relapse for many people.
The group and community aspect of AA is one of the facets that make it effective. Having a community of peers who understand what you’re going through, has experience navigating cravings, triggers, and stressors, and a provides support network can go a long way toward helping people achieve recovery and maintain their efforts.
How to Find an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting
There are hundreds of thousands of in-person meetings across the globe, virtually and telephone conferences.
- AA has a meeting finder app that you can use to find local meetings wherever you are.
- Local drug and alcohol rehabs often have 12-step group meetings for their patients. Some have open meetings for members of the community.
Meetings are generally held locally at churches, schools, and other centers. You can often find an AA meeting by searching for them on Google or other search engine. At meetings you may find “Where and When” pamphlets that will give you a list of meetings with their locations and times.
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