Alcoholics Anonymous: Everything You Need to Know About AA
Table of Contents
- Alcoholics Anonymous: Everything You Need to Know About AA
- How did Alcoholics Anonymous Start?
- What Happens at Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings?
- What is the Alcoholics Anonymous Philosophy?
- What are the Twelve Steps of AA?
- AA Benefits for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
- What are the Different Types of AA Meetings?
- Effective Forms of Therapy for Alcohol Abuse
- Help With Alcohol: Found Here
- Medically Reviewed By
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings can benefit anyone who thinks they might have a drinking problem and wants to become sober. Those who struggle with substance abuse or alcohol addiction and possess a desire to stop drinking are encouraged to take that first step to attend an AA meeting, and bond with other individuals in recovery who can empathize, motivate and inspire them to stay sober.
Since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, the fellowship has helped millions of people around the world achieve sobriety, and today has over two million active members. Ultimately, the goal of AA is to foster hope and the possibility of a new lease on life for those struggling with alcoholism.
Here’s what you need to know about Alcoholics Anonymous and the benefits of attending AA meetings as part of your recovery from alcohol addiction.
How did Alcoholics Anonymous Start?
Alcoholics Anonymous was created by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. AA is not affiliated with any outside organization, institution, or governing body. According to its website, AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes.
There are no fees associated with participating and the details and information shared are considered confidential. The only real requirement for membership is the struggle with the common problem of being an alcoholic.
What Happens at Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings?
Most Alcoholics Anonymous meetings begin with a reading of the AA Preamble, followed by the Serenity Prayer. AA members may read sections of the Big Book — the Alcoholics Anonymous text that outlines the 12 traditions and other information about how to recover from alcoholism.
The AA chairperson may ask the group if there are any new AA members or first-time visitors, and ask that these individuals raise their hands and introduce themselves, though this is not required.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can be either open or closed. An open AA meeting welcomes anyone who is interested in participating in alcohol recovery — including those who may not have a drinking problem.
A closed AA meeting is only open to AA members who have a drinking problem or who think they might have a drinking problem, and want to stop drinking. Common signs of alcohol addiction include drinking daily to relieve stress, and drinking higher amounts of alcohol to experience its effects.
Some AA meetings may revolve around allowing one guest speaker to share their story and make their own contributions, while other meetings allow every member to share their personal stories and struggles surrounding alcohol abuse.
Many times, group discussions revolve around one of the 12 steps, and often conclude with the Lord’s Prayer, or a more secular version depending on the meeting. AA members may also have the opportunity to share personal tips with one for avoiding relapse and staying sober.
What is the Alcoholics Anonymous Philosophy?
At Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, all members are anonymous and refer to one another by their first name only. A top Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy is maintaining and respecting the anonymity of its members, which helps prevent factors like social stigma, controversy, and negative opinions from interfering with one’s recovery from alcohol addiction. The last three traditions of AA recognize the importance of anonymity in the fellowship and stress that anonymity reminds members to always rank principles above personalities.
The overall Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy is embodied in its 12 steps, which are designed to help people recover from alcohol addiction both spiritually and emotionally. The 12 steps encourage AA members to recognize that they cannot control their addiction and that they require help from a higher power, such as God. The 12 steps also ask that AA members examine their past behavior, make amends with themselves and those they have wronged, and learn how to navigate the world without giving in to urges to drink.
It is critical to remember and be aware of the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous is a fully self-supporting system with the primary purpose being to bolster the resolve of sobriety. It is not designed as a form of primary substance abuse treatment, nor is it intended to be a place that dispenses professional treatment advice.
What are the Twelve Steps of AA?
The twelve traditions of AA are the framework that Alcoholics Anonymous is based on. These twelve traditions are essentially the steps that all members go through in order to achieve sobriety in a long-lasting and sustainable way.
- We admit that we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable with our inability to stop drinking.
- We come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Male a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
- Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continue to take personal inventory and, when we are wrong, promptly admitted it.
- Seek 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.
- Have a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we try to carry this message to other alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.
AA Benefits for Alcohol Addiction Treatment
AA meetings offer countless benefits for those who need help recovering from alcohol addiction. Evidence reveals that AA benefits people most when combined with alcohol detox and therapy, and gives patients a solid support system to turn to at times when factors like alcohol cravings can threaten a relapse. Attending regular AA meetings can also help members stay on track with sobriety in the weeks, months, and years following alcohol rehab.
The Office of the Surgeon General says AA meetings are effective at motivating many people to recover from alcohol addiction, and that AA can improve a person’s ability to manage triggers in situations involving alcohol.
Other known AA benefits:
- AA meetings are free to attend.
- AA meetings can be attended by anyone who needs help recovering from alcohol abuse.
- AA is anonymous, meaning you won’t have to reveal your last name or full identity.
- AA meetings happen daily and/or weekly, and are available in nearly every town and city.
- AA meetings allow you to bond with peers who respect your willingness to stay sober.
- AA meetings allow you to speak freely about your opinions, emotions, and experiences as they relate to alcohol addiction.
- AA meetings allow you to pick up new tips and tricks for staying sober and avoiding relapse.
- AA can provide you with a sponsor you can contact when you need help staying sober or navigating the 12 steps.
What are the Different Types of AA Meetings?
- Open Meetings: Anyone can attend an open AA meeting. The group is open and allows people struggling and not struggling with alcohol abuse.
- Closed Meetings: Closed meetings are not open to the general public, but are specific to individuals who acknowledge that they struggle with alcohol abuse.
- Beginners’ Meetings: Beginners are designed for the “newcomer” it is structured to help people new to the rooms get acclimatized with AA.
- 12-Step Meetings: In 12 step meetings a specific step is selected and discussed during the meeting. It is designed to help people better understand the purpose and reasoning for the step.
- Big Book Study Meetings: The “AA Big Book” is the primary literature for AA. During a Big Book meeting members read from the book and have open discussion about it.
- Demographic-Specific Meetings: Some AA meetings may be specific to a certain demographic. some popular demographics include “Mens Groups” & “Womens Groups”
- Substance-Specific Meetings: AA has evolved and branched out into substance-specific groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) And HA (Heroin Anonymous)
- Behavior-Based Meetings: Similar to substance-specific meetings the 12-step basis of AA has branched out to behavioral-based meetings such as SA (Sexaholics Anonymous) & CODA (Codependency Anonymous)
- Online Meetings: Since 2020 there has been an increase in the number of Online AA Meetings also known as AA Zoom Meetings. These meetings are conducted online and allow for people to get the same experience of AA while remaining at home.
- Meetings for Families: The individual struggling with alcohol abuse is not the only person who suffers from their addiction. Because of this groups like ALANON have been formed to help the loved ones of alcoholics learn to cope and address their family member or friend’s alcoholism.
Are There Alternatives to AA?
Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is the most well-known of all the 12-step programs. It has helped millions of people recover from alcohol and drug addiction over the last 75 years. However, for many people, AA simply doesn’t work. They find it too restrictive or that it doesn’t fit into their lifestyle.
One alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous is SMART Recovery. This is a secular program that offers an alternative to traditional 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). SMART Recovery uses a four-point approach:
- Self-management: You take control of your own recovery process.
- Mental flexibility: You learn how to deal with cravings and urges without giving in to them.
- Abstinence: You learn how to live without drugs or alcohol if you choose not to use them again after rehab.
- Tolerance: You develop positive ways of dealing with cravings and urges instead of just trying to avoid them altogether.
One of the major hurdles with Alcoholics Anonymous for many is how deeply entrenched religion and a belief in a higher power are in the entire system. For many, this can act as the only requirement that bars them from receiving the value from the service and membership that can be derived in the fellowship of AA.
The Importance of Treatment Before AA
The care provided by AA membership should not be looked at as the first step to recovery from alcoholism. It is best viewed as a tool for encouraging long-term sobriety and keeping hope alive. When an alcoholic expresses a desire to stop drinking, this should absolutely be encouraged and facilitated. However, the process usually begins with a treatment center.
Professional treatment advice from a properly qualified medical provider is usually the first step. Treatment facilities are usually best equipped to treat problems of substance abuse. They have access to more resources and the experience and expertise required to help one recover.
Alcohol Detox: A Life Saving Choice
Alcoholism works by making the body dependent on the substance. This is why it is referred to as a substance abuse problem. Once one stops drinking, their body begins to rebel shortly after the last drink. Alcohol withdrawal is the body’s reaction to stopping drinking after a period of heavy or prolonged alcohol use. Alcohol withdrawal may occur in persons who drink heavily for a long time, even if they are not alcohol dependent.
Alcohol withdrawal usually begins 6 to 48 hours after your last drink. The severity of symptoms depends on how much and how long you have been drinking. Symptoms can include anxiety, agitation or irritability, insomnia (trouble sleeping), tremors or shakiness, nausea or vomiting, fast pulse, sweating, and seizures.
The care provided by a high-quality treatment facility can absolutely make a difference for someone who wants to stop drinking. The goal to achieve sobriety starts with the detox and, self-supporting withdrawal without the assistance that a treatment center can render can result in persons giving up on the process and remaining stuck in the vicious cycle.
Effective Forms of Therapy for Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a form of substance abuse. As with most other forms of addiction, there are usually underlying issues that create alcoholics. Much of the time, undiagnosed mental disorders result in persons turning to alcohol with the desire to self-medicate. In order to truly recover from alcoholism, the underlying factors that have led to the addiction must be dealt with. This is where therapy can be extremely helpful.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one of the most widely used forms of psychotherapy for treating addiction. It focuses on changing the way you think about yourself and your environment so that you can make better decisions about how to live your life. CBT can help you:
- Identify negative or unhealthy thoughts, beliefs and attitudes
- Understand how these thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes affect your behavior
- Learn how to change those negative thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes into positive ones
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
Group counseling sessions help people who are addicted to alcohol by providing them with support from others who have shared their experiences. Many people confuse 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous with group therapy but the two are actually quite distinct.
Group Therapy usually is moderated by a trained medical provider, whereas Alcoholics Anonymous is closer to a support group, moderated by other former alcoholics. The primary purpose is also fairly distinct. Group Therapy seeks to unpack and process trauma in a group setting whereas AA’s focus is on maintaining sobriety through fellowship and solidarity.
Family Therapy is often used as well. Many alcoholics may wish to stop drinking but hesitate because their environments do not facilitate a life of sobriety. The truth is that many families have problematic and even toxic dynamics amongst the various family members that do not make for easy sobriety. It is a common problem. This is where family therapy can be extremely helpful if the members are willing to honestly engage with the process.
The confidential nature of a treatment center can encourage open and honest discussion amongst families with problematic dynamics. The care provided in these family-specific treatment sessions can be transformative and lead to a more stable environment that can encourage hope and long-lasting sobriety.
Help With Alcohol: Found Here
Alcoholics Anonymous is a non-profit organization that facilitates support meetings in nearly every city in 170 countries across the world. One of the easiest ways to find nearby AA meetings is to look up Alcoholics Anonymous online and find the site for your city’s AA home office. The AA website for your city will usually feature a schedule displaying the locations and times of nearby AA meetings. If you are in need of more than an AA meeting, however, you have come to the right place.
If you need help recovering from alcohol addiction or finding Alcoholics Anonymous online, call our 24/7 hotline at 877-959-7271 to speak with an addiction representative. Find Addiction Rehabs will perform an insurance verification check and discuss all your available treatment options. Give yourself a break from the booze, and reach out now!
Rachael Goldstein has been a freelance writer for more than 10 years, having written for Find Addiction Rehabs for the past two years. She specializes in writing about the law, mental health, psychology, and addiction. She is the owner and author of the website www.addicted-to-sobriety.com. Rachael is also a licensed attorney in the state of Pennsylvania.