Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the original 12 step recovery program. It is an organization of people who share a mutual desire to stop drinking alcohol. It was founded by a stockbroker named Bill W. and a physician called Dr. Bob in 1935. AA recommends total abstinence from alcohol.
The AA preamble sums up the precepts of the organization:
"Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope we'd each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with an exact, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety."
Recovery from alcoholism is based on the following suggestions:
1. Regular attendance at the AA meetings.
2. Reading the Alcoholics Anonymous book (also known as “The Big Book”).
3. Working the 12 steps of the program.
4. Obtaining and working with an "AA sponsor."
Although it has been observed that short-term sobriety can sometimes be seen in members to simply attend meetings regularly, long-term sobriety is predicated on completely following the four suggestions listed above. Working the 12 steps is considered essential to reap the rewards of sobriety, serenity and an improved life.
These are the 12 steps:
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 all 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 a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
AA believes that human structure is represented in three dimensions: physical, mental, and spiritual. AA addresses each of these dimensions. Every member of AA must decide for himself or herself whether or not he is truly an alcoholic. No one can make that decision for him. Part of that decision making process involves giving up the long-held illusion that he can control his own drinking by himself. The term "powerless" refers to the lack of control over the compulsion to resume drinking, even after very negative consequences from drinking, and even after long periods of abstinence from alcohol.
In broad terms, AA purports to provide instructions and suggestions to help the alcoholic reduce or eliminate cravings for alcohol through its method of spiritual growth and development. Although references to "God" and "Higher Power" are found in the text, belief in God is not necessary for entry into the program.
AA regards alcoholism as an illness. It challenges the belief that a true alcoholic can stay sober by willpower alone. Dr. William Silkworth introduced to AA the idea that alcoholism is an illness consisting of obsession drink alcohol, and an "allergy" to alcohol that causes the alcoholic to develop craving for more alcohol after consuming it. The mental obsession is described as a cognitive process that causes the individual to repeat the compulsive behavior of drinking after some period of abstinence, either knowing that the result will be an ability to stop or operating under the delusion that the result will be different.
Fundamental to the AA model of a "spiritual malady" is that an alcoholic must strive to move from self-centeredness toward a growing moral consciousness developed by willingness for self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action. This is known in the program as "a spiritual awakening." Although this may happen suddenly, it usually develops slowly over a period of time.
The basic format of all 12 step meetings is the willingness of members of each group to share with one another their experience, strength, and hope. Usually this takes the form of describing how things were prior to abstinence, how working the 12 step program has changed their lives, and how the program offers hope for continued spiritual growth and development by working the 12 step program daily.
An AA "sponsor" is a more experienced person in the 12 step recovery process who guides the less- experienced newcomer (referred to as a "sponsee" or “sponsoree”) through the program. New AA members are encouraged to immediately find one sponsor and follow directions. A sponsor is not a therapist. He/she is simply another alcoholic who is willing to share his/her journey through 12 steps. The sponsor guides the sponsee in working through all of the 12 steps. A sponsor or is considered a confidant, providing a basis for complete honesty and disclosure in discussing behaviors and thoughts with a sponsor. This relationship not only benefits the sponsee, but also the sponsor. The sponsor’s recovery is strengthened by selflessly offering himself/herself to another suffering alcoholic.
AA meetings are designated as either open or closed. An open AA meeting welcomes anyone who wants to attend. Closed AA meetings or reserved for individuals who have made a personal decision that they suffer from alcoholism.
Alcoholics Anonymous lists the following countries with General Services Offices:
• Costa Rica
• Czech Republic
• Dominican Republic
• El Salvador
• Great Britain
• The Netherlands
• New Zealand
• South Africa
• Trinidad and Tobago
• United States
It also has officially recorded the following statistics:
Estimated A.A. Membership and
Groups in U.S. 53,665
Members in U.S 1,213,269
Groups in Canada 4,874
Members in Canada 95,443
Groups Overseas 53,590
Members Overseas 616,899
Groups in Correctional Facilities
Members in Correctional Facilities 63,357
Lone Members 227
Total Members: 1,989,260
Total Groups: 114,561
INTERNATIONALISTS (SEAGOING A.A.s)
Approximately 65 persons in naval service or the merchant marine on sea duty describe themselves as "A.A. Internationalists." General Service Office staff members correspond with these members and make it possible for them to correspond with each other. Internationalists have been responsible for starting and encouraging local A.A. groups in many ports.
Some 227 men and women living in isolated areas throughout the world (or in areas where it has not been possible to form a local group) are listed at the General Service Office as Lone Members. Many achieved sobriety solely through study of A.A. literature. They correspond with G.S.O. and with their counterparts in other sections of the world. In a number of cases, notably U.S. military installations overseas, Loners have been responsible for establishing local groups.