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Alcoholics Anonymous

Learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous, the world-famous organization that offers support groups for recovering alcoholics.

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All About Alcoholics Anonymous

In 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded by recovering alcoholics, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. It was formed to create a community-based organization to encourage sobriety and support other recovering alcoholics. 

Wilson and Smith developed the 12 Steps as a way to govern AA meetings and went on to introduce the 12 Traditions.
There are currently more than 2 million AA members worldwide, with more than 50,000 groups in the United States alone. The original 12 Steps are still utilized today and many members credit the group with helping them through recovery, and with maintaining sobriety.

The Format of AA Meetings

It can be overwhelming and intimidating to make the decision to attend an AA meeting. These feelings may be amplified if the attendee has no idea what to expect.
Every member of AA understands these feelings and will make sure that all new members feel welcome, and know what to expect. Because the organization was founded by recovering alcoholics and is upheld by strong values and the 12 Steps, there is a unique sense of community and understanding in every AA branch throughout the world.
Upon arrival at their very first AA meeting, the individual is welcomed into the group. It is encouraged that new attendees engage with and chat with other members, but it is not required.
During the meeting, attendees may share their personal stories and experiences. Other members may interject and share their related stories, provide advice, and offer support.
The host of the AA meeting and the other members will understand if a new member feels uncomfortable sharing their story at their first meeting. However, as time goes on, most people find comfort in sharing their stories and will find great healing in revealing their struggles amongst like-minded people.

Some members may choose to sponsor a new attendee. A sponsor is a recovering alcoholic and member of AA who has made good progress in their recovery program. They will then share their experience on a private, continuous basis with another alcoholic who is trying to maintain sobriety through AA attendance.

This form of sponsorship adds another layer of accountability and support for the recovering addict.

Closed vs. Open AA Meetings

In a closed AA meeting, only recovering addicts may attend. Sometimes, closed meetings are to protect privacy, and to give members a greater sense of security and discretion.
Open meetings allow for members to bring friends, spouses, and family members along. Open meetings help with facilitating the healing of interpersonal relationships that may have been affected by the recovering addict’s alcohol use. Many people in recovery find great comfort in their loved ones attending AA meetings with them.

The 12 Steps

Nearly all addiction groups today use the 12 Steps. The steps are presented in a linear way, although most participants see them as ongoing and circular.
The recovering addict may revisit the steps until they feel comfortable in their particular stage of recovery.
The 12 Steps, as defined by Alcoholics Anonymous, are:
  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 Traditions

Unlike the 12 Steps, which are focused on the individual, the 12 Traditions speak to the members of the AA as a group. The 12 Traditions are laid out and defined in the Big Book – the main literature governing the AA.
The 12 Traditions, as defined by the AA, are:
  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority, a loving God, as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never to endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities

How Effective is AA

Multitudes of success stories from recovering addicts and how widely used the 12 Step model is, suggest that it is highly effective.

AA offers support, accountability, encouragement, and a sense of community for people who want to overcome their alcohol addiction. The sponsorship model and the regular meeting times have helped innumerable people stay clean.

Overcome Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism is a devastating disease that impacts families and communities, and ruins lives. If you or someone you love is abusing alcohol, it is never too late to get help. Get in touch with us today so we can help you find a treatment provider. One of our compassionate treatment navigators will guide you to find the right inpatient rehab center.

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