Alcoholics Anonymous is perhaps the most famous and most successful peer support recovery group in the world.
With meetings held all across the world, AA has helped countless people to tackle destructive alcoholism and live a healthy, sober life.
But before we explore what this amazing organisation can do for you, we have to fully explain the nature of addiction.
What is Addiction?
Contrary to common misconceptions, addiction is officially recognised as a brain disease.
According to modern models of addiction, it is a brain disease of chronic relapsing.
This is because the addicted person has experienced an alteration in their brain’s reward pathways (mesolimbic pathways), making them incredibly dependent on an addictive substance.
Addiction, or substance use disorder, has both significant short-term and long-term physical and psychological ramifications for those that suffer from it.
Some of the short-term symptoms that are associated with addiction include:
These symptoms and consistent substance use can lead to long-term physical and psychological effects, including:
While addiction in general poses negative effects on a person’s wellbeing, alcoholism is especially dangerous.
This is because alcohol can be both physically and psychologically addictive.
This is especially dangerous when considering how accessible alcohol is.
This makes sufferers of alcoholism more prone to relapse due to the mainstream consumption and perception of alcohol.
Prolonged alcohol use can lead to Korsakoff’s syndrome, or Wet Brain, a brain disorder related to acute and chronic phases of Vitamin B1 deficiency.
How Do People Recover From Addiction?
One of the most optimal forms of recovery for addiction or substance use disorder is to enter a drug and alcohol rehab.
This way, patients can undergo treatment as an inpatient or outpatient depending on their addiction severity, and they can get all the support that they require.
At a drug and alcohol rehab, patients will undergo a personalised recovery programme and attend therapy and counselling sessions at a medically supported rehab facility.
Not only will they learn how to recover, but they will learn how to maintain recovery.
One of the ways people do this is by joining a fellowship group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship group with the purpose of helping its members overcome alcoholism.
It was founded in 1935, meaning that it has been helping people recover from alcohol addiction for almost a century.
Some studies of over 140 scientists and over 10,000 participants have even suggested that fellowship groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous are one of the most effective ways of overcoming addiction and promoting abstinence.
AA does this by promoting a lifestyle of abstinence as opposed to moderation or harm reduction management.
To encourage this life of abstinence, it utilises the 12-step programme to help its members maintain their progress.
What is the 12 Step Facilitation Programme?
The 12-Step Facilitation programme is essentially a self-improvement program where AA members must follow its principles.
It offers a series of structured steps for members to take in order to make visible progress in their recovery.
Some of the steps or principles of the 12-Step Facilitation programme include;
- Honesty: Admitting that we are powerless over alcohol in order to become honest with ourselves and the severity of our own addiction.
- Hope: Finding faith in a higher power – however you perceive it.
- Courage: Making a note of every mistake we have made so that we can learn from them while moving forward.
- Willingness: The willingness to change by replacing negative and self-destructive habits with positive ones.
It is important to note that Alcoholics Anonymous is apolitical and non-denominational.
It does not require that its members pay anything, and it is inclusive and accepts people from all races, backgrounds and religious beliefs.
The only requirement you need to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous is the desire to overcome alcoholism.
What Can I Expect From an AA Meeting?
At an AA meeting, members will be seated in a circle in a way that they can communicate clearly.
After everyone is settled and an introduction has been made, people will then begin to introduce themselves by sharing their forename only and that they are an alcoholic.
They will then proceed to share with the group their experiences dealing with alcoholism.
Members have the opportunity to share their experiences with others, whether those experiences were positive or challenging.
It is an excellent way to inspire others and to be inspired by sharing some insight into other people’s experiences of dealing with addiction
Social reinforcement is a huge driving force in promoting a lifestyle of sobriety.
Honesty is integral to an AA meeting –no one will be judged for their personal stories or events associated with addiction.
The Alcoholics Anonymous environment is one which welcomes all kinds of people who come from all walks of life.
While the members may be different, they all have the common objective of seeking recovery.
What Are the Benefits of Joining a Group Such as Alcoholics Anonymous?
The benefits of joining an AA group are endless for those that want to stay in recovery.
Subjects that are keen to be members should not be concerned about affordability, flexibility or the social environment of their AA group.
In fact, there are many benefits to joining an AA group.
There are no strings attached when turning up for your first AA meeting.
You are not required to pay any sign-up or membership fees (some AA groups do collect donations, however) or to schedule in advance.
You can also attend AA meetings as little or as often as you like.
It is also important to note that, should a member want to remain quiet during an AA meeting, they are absolutely welcome to do so.
While open communication is encouraged, members are not obligated to do anything.
Should members only want to listen and not talk, they can do so in a safe environment without being judged.
This essentially means that there is no risk to joining an AA group.
however, the rewards may be monumental.
AA and the 12-Step Facilitation programme has helped people stay sober and improve their quality of life significantly.
However, the benefits of joining an AA meeting go far beyond just logistics or flexibility.
There are a range of psychological, emotional and social benefits associated with attending AA meetings.
Social Reinforcement & Strong Support Networks
Studies have shown that support sessions or group sessions like that of an AA meeting have immeasurable benefits when recovering from addiction and abstaining.
One of the most significant reasons behind this is that social reinforcement facilitated by peer discussion can help reinforce a subject’s willingness to sustain a lifestyle of sobriety.
It is important that when recovering from addiction subjects surround themselves with those who want the best for them or have similar priorities.
By surrounding themselves with more people who want to practice and sustain abstinence, it makes it easier to do so themselves.
This can create a strong support network to reinforce their motivation.
However, it is important that other members do not interject or cut across members who are gathering momentum in their communication.
This is because it can take a lot of courage for members to open up, and it is important for them to feel heard during their time to speak.
Catharsis & Purging
Not only that, but once members begin to openly discuss their problems with alcoholism, they will begin to experience a form of catharsis or purgation.
Openly communicating with others can prove to be incredibly therapeutic for the member speaking as well as the group.
Not only do they unburden themselves, but they can also inspire other members of the meeting.
Your Recovery is Prioritised
At your local AA group, you will be pleased to hear that the people who are hosting or facilitating these meetings will have your best interests at heart.
This is because these workers are actually volunteers, not employees.
They do not get paid to assist you in their recovery, it is in their nature to help others recover from alcoholism.
Often, volunteers at Alcoholics Anonymous are people who have recovered from addiction themselves.
This means that they can resonate with each of the members and their difficult journey of addiction recovery.
Their insight can also help to navigate discussions and help members who struggle to express themselves to others in the group.
Accepting Different People
Addiction is a disease which does not discriminate.
It will not avoid those who are young, healthy, rich or who worship a particular god.
Addiction can affect anyone regardless of their age, race, wealth, health or beliefs.
Because of this, Alcoholics Anonymous is accepting of all people from all walks of life.
It welcomes those who are religious or atheist, homosexual or heterosexual, rich or poor.
To be a member of an AA meeting, all that is required is having the desire to make a change.
Although one of the principles of the 12 Step Facilitation programme is the ‘surrender to a higher power’, this higher power can mean anything according to the member’s perception.
Alcoholics Anonymous may have elements of spirituality and was initially rooted in Christianity, however, it is now accepting of all religions and beliefs.
What if I Want to Stop Attending Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings?
Members are free to leave or stop attending AA meetings whenever they like.
There are no penalties for leaving, as Alcoholics Anonymous wants to make things easy and accessible for its current, former and future members.
While AA meetings can yield immeasurable benefits, they might not be for everyone.
It is worth seeing for yourself just how effective they can be.
Is There a Similar Fellowship Programme for Drug Addictions?
If you are suffering from a drug addiction but are intrigued by the structure and method of a fellowship programme such as AA, you can join Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
NA was founded in 1953 and follows the same principles as AA, utilising the 12-Step Facilitation programme to help its members sustain their recovery.
NA is a programme which promotes abstinence from all drugs including alcohol.
Should you struggle to find an AA meeting near you, NA also caters for those that are suffering from alcohol addiction.
Can I Find An Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting Near Me?
Alcoholics Anonymous has a presence in over 180 countries worldwide.
It is estimated that there are over 2,000,000 Alcoholics Anonymous members and around 123,000 groups worldwide.
This means that it is very accessible and that you are likely to have a group nearby to your location.
You can find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting near you by entering your state, province, zip code or postcode.
Then, you will see the nearest options to your location.
Since the pandemic, AA meetings have moved online to abide by rules of social distancing.
Now, members can choose to attend AA meetings in-person or find an online meeting to attend.
Contact Rehab Recovery Today
At Rehab Recovery, we can assist you in finding drug and alcohol addiction treatment whether in the form of a rehab facility or a fellowship programme.
Our support line is entirely free and needs no commitment from you – we are here to help.
By dialling 0800 088 66 86 from the UK or +44 330 333 6197 internationally, we can answer your concerns and guide you towards recovery.