Founded by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in Ohio, in the US, in 1935,Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international organisation dedicated to helping alcoholics stay sober. It is based on the principle of fellowship, where an experienced sober alcoholic help other newer members not to relapse, and provides a support network. Although it isn’t a religious entity, it has a strong spiritual component and encourages members to examine themselves honestly and endeavour to build their character.
Alcoholism can be found in all social backgrounds, all levels of education, and affect people indiscriminately, men and women, teenagers, young and old alike, and this is why their members come from all walks of life, from well-off people who started drinking to cope with work pressures, to less well-off who may have been struggling financially; those who binge-drink and those who drink heavily on a regular basis.
How Alcoholics Anonymous works
AA states that alcoholics are people who have lost control over their drinking, and that it can never be regained, and it therefore advocates total abstinence as the only solution. It doesn’t try to convince alcoholics to try and stop drinking; it will support alcoholics who have already made the decision to stop.
Based on a self-developed Twelve-Step programme, AA offers a framework which structures the recovery of its members, within which it offers complete anonymity. Newer members can be “sponsored” by older members – usually from the same sex to avoid romantic feelings clouding recovery- who they can call upon at any time if they are about to “fall off the wagon”.
Members are also encouraged to attend meetings regularly. Free, with no need for signing up or prior appointment, they are run by alcoholics for alcoholics and provide a safe platform for members to share their feelings, battles and victories.
People are free to tell their life story or just listen, but what makes those meetings so healing for alcoholics is to hear that they are not alone, that others face the same challenges and thoroughly understand what they are going through, without having to explain or justify themselves and without judgement, and indeed, this is at the core of the success of AA: An alcoholic who doesn’t drink anymore has an intimate understanding of what newer members are facing and the ability to reach out and help them.
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcohol addiction doesn’t only affect the person who drinks, but also their families and loved ones. More often than not, their drinking will have taken over their lives and they will have hurt those around them, emotionally if not physically.
The reason why alcoholics don’t recover is because many of them are in denial. As the first step to recovery is to admit to yourself that you have a problem and need help, likewise, AA’s programme puts a great emphasis on accepting responsibility for how drinking has affected your behaviour and the people around you. It expects its members to take a “moral inventory” of themselves, as they call it, and potentially face some unpleasant truths.
From there, AA members must be willing to make amends to those people, which will often take the form of sincere apologies, which is harder than one might think if you haven’t been in that situation.
The spiritual aspect of the programme is undeniable, but it should be stressed that neither do you have to be a Christian to join, nor will they try to convert you. Their philosophy is more about putting yourself into the care of a benevolent higher power who will be an understanding witness and can help you become a better person.
In addition, members are actually not obliged to follow the 12-Step programme, although it provides a useful structure. AA is first and foremost about helping alcoholics to achieve sobriety, not promoting an agenda.
AA and alcohol rehab in Auckland
Alcoholism, like any form of addiction, is hard work to overcome and, more often than not, willpower won’t be sufficient.
A support group like the Alcoholic Anonymous will help you to realise that your situation isn’t unique and that feelings of guilt and remorse, cravings are to be expected once you become sober, thus helping to alleviate them. Hearing stories of people who turned their lives around can also be incredibly encouraging and inspiring. You may feel like you are at the bottom at the pit right now, but you will also be able to see that it is possible for your situation to improve.
Alcoholism is often rooted in deeper issues, and counselling is advisable to get to the bottom of them and lay the foundations of a sustainable recovery, but the AA can be a very effective complement to dealing with your addiction.
If you are looking for alcohol addiction treatment in Auckland, email the Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950.