Home Education 100 Questions & Answers About Alcoholism
What is AA, and how does it work?
AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous, grew out of the Christian temperance movements in the 19th century. These movements were connected to local churches, and self- professed alcoholics who pledged abstinence formed them. A drinking buddy introduced the eventual founder of AA, Bill W., to one of these church groups. The buddy falsely claimed that he had been treated by Dr. Jung, who told him that he was a lost cause unless he experienced a religious epiphany. AA grew slowly out of the roots of the Christian temperance movement, and in 1938, the Big Book was written and published. The AA name was first used along with the 12 steps that Bill W. developed.
The 12-step approach works on developing strong social support networks and the use of role models. Thus, obtaining a sponsor is an important component toward successful sobriety. The sponsor should be older, sober, and the same gender in order to provide a mentoring role. The concept of a higher power deters people because they attribute a higher power to "God" and assume it is "faith based"; however, the required faith is in the 12-step process. The concept of faith is generic. For example, faith in a variety of authority figures is required in order to depend on their guidance, including doctors, other professionals, even mechanics, spouses, parents, and so forth. The type of faith that AA seeks to instill in its members has to do with the AA community and should not be mistaken for any specific religious faith. The important concept is that one cannot recover on one's own. Thus, the "higher power" is the power that comes from faith in the community and the recovery process. It is important for the recovering alcoholic to understand his or her own personal limits in order to enlist the support of a community of members and have faith in the recovery process to achieve and maintain sobriety. The higher power is different for each person because everyone has unique challenges to achieve and maintain sobriety.
The first several AA meetings may be uncomfortable and may seem foreign. The usual response is this: "I am not like these people." They are too old, too young, too ethnic, too white, too rich, or too poor. To address the initial reaction, there are a variety of meetings that comprise individuals of similar demographic backgrounds so that one can feel “more at home.” Although this may temper the initial discomfort, it is often the people that initially seem the most different that inevitably have the greatest impact in helping to maintain sobriety. The important lesson is to stick with it through the initial discomfort. Studies have shown that patients who attend regularly, as little as once a week, have better success rates than those who drop out (Tables 8 and 9).
Table 8 The 12 Steps
Table 9 The 12 Traditions
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