AA and Foundations for Sobriety
Most of us have heard of the recovery fellowship Alcoholics Anonymous. It is the largest and most recognized recovery fellowship in the world. It has helped change the way that addiction and alcoholism are treated, and it not only changed the entire thinking of the general public about what these illnesses are, but it also created an effective and duplicable way to help those struggling with alcoholism and addiction.
Before the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous, the only real way that we knew of to treat alcoholism was to stick an individual in jail or lock them away in a mental institution. As arcane as this sounds, before the 1930s this was the common treatment for alcoholics and addicts, because, for the most part, doctors, family members, and members of law enforcement were at a loss as to what to do with the alcoholics and addicts in their cities and towns.
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Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson in Akron, Ohio. The AA fellowship, which has saved the lives of millions of people and helped to birth the 12 Step Based Treatment model, came about almost by chance, as Wilson, who was six months sober at the time, was away on a business trip and was struck with the urge to drink. Bill stood in the hotel lobby that he was staying in after his business deal fell apart and looked into the bar where he saw people drinking with total impunity.
The Origins of AA
At that moment he was faced with a decision. He could either join them and throw away his sobriety, thereby repeating the same cycle he had lived so many times before, or he could pick up the phone and try to find another alcoholic that he could help. This notion of helping others was instilled in him during his time with The Oxford Group, a group that was a precursor to Alcoholics Anonymous, and lucky for all of us, Bill decided to phone a local church, which put him in touch with Dr. Bob Smith.
The two men sat down together and over time they created what is known as the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is partially credited with the “disease theory” of alcoholism and the program is based on the idea that an alcoholic cannot just simply remain absent from alcohol and live a happy and productive life.
They believe the alcoholic has to change their way of thinking and have a “spiritual awakening”, which is something that can be accomplished by completing the 12 steps.
Since this method proved to be so effective in the treatment of alcoholics and addicts, over the years many substance abuse treatment centers adopted the model, into what is now known as 12 Step Based Treatment.
Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Based Treatment
When Alcoholics Anonymous is integrated into a treatment facility it is referred to as the Disease Model of treatment or 12 Step Based Treatment centers. Many facilities follow the 12 Step based treatment structure but with that said, this does not mean that the program is entirely based on the 12 steps. All it means is some of the teachings of A.A. will be part of the treatment plan. In most facilities clients will not be forced to find a “God of their understanding”, nor will they have to complete the 12 steps in order to graduate from the program.
Some programs will be stricter than others when it comes to this, but for the most part, many of these types of treatment centers simply follow the 12 Steps as a basic outline for their treatment methodology. However, one thing that they will all have in common is the disease theory. They view addiction and alcoholism as a disease of the mind, and they will be treated as such.
Many private and state insurance companies recognize the Disease Model and the 12 Step Model as fact-based recovery. This means that they are more willing to help someone enter into one of these programs. Treatment can become quite expensive without the help of insurance, so having them help out financially is very beneficial.
12 Step Based Treatment Centers Integration of the Steps
The First Step from the book Alcoholics Anonymous is a very important one, and most people in a rehab center will have completed this step before they even enter into treatment. The Step states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” Chances are if you are in a rehab center your life got a bit out of control and unmanageable. Deciding to get help is a big part of Step Two and Step Three. So just by going into a treatment center and being willing to change you have already completed one-quarter of the 12 steps.
Some people will decide to continue to work on the 12 steps while in a rehab facility, this is sometimes suggested against but will vary from program to program. In order to do the 12 Steps the way the Big Book suggests you need to have a sponsor and be able to see and make amends to the people you’ve harmed, which sometimes is not possible to do until after completion of the treatment program.
Regardless of the timeline that it takes to finish the Steps or even the setting in which they are worked on, it can be said that an individual who completes the Steps has a much better chance of achieving long-term sobriety, than someone who does not work the Steps at all.
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Charles F. has been an active part of the Florida recovery community for over 5 years. He began as a behavioral health technician at an addiction treatment facility in Ocala, Florida and has since begun training as a Licensed Addiction and Chemical Dependency counselor in Boca Raton. Charles’ passion involves the promotion of recovery and helping spread the hope of recovery to as many readers as possible!