A quick introduction to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Helping you recover from alcohol addiction – and turn your life around.

Fun fact: the first time I went to an Al-Anon meeting, I ended up next door in Alcoholics Anonymous instead. It’s something I look back on and laugh about now. But at the time, sitting in that room, trembling  with anxiety, full of resentment, listening the stories of pain from the people who had essentially caused so much of it… I can’t say it helped. It wouldn’t. I wasn’t the one with the drinking problem.
 
It was only at the end of the meeting that I spoke to one of the AA Members that  they, very kindly, directed me towards the Al-Anon room instead. There I was finally able to share everything that had built up inside and begin to find relief from the effects of alcoholism on my life.
 

Offering hope to the hopeless.

I’ve since been to several open AA and Al-Anon meetings. And that initial kindness I experienced from that AA member no longer surprises me. This is a fellowship of men and women who have become painfully aware of the devastating effects their alcoholism has had on their own lives, and those around them. That’s why they sought help in the first place.
 
Alcoholics Anonymous is the original 12-Step Fellowship. In AA, alcoholism is considered to be a disease. And, like with any disease, the first step is admitting that you have a problem, and that you’re powerless to do anything about it on your own. The denial that comes with an addiction is strong, though. An alcoholic usually has to hit a significant rock bottom before they’ll walk through the doors and into an AA meeting.
 

A programme for change.

When they do, it’s rarely plain sailing. There is no cure-all for addiction, and anyone thinking that Alcoholics Anonymous members have ‘figured it out’ are missing the point. In AA, members take things a day at a time. They attend meetings, make connections, get a sponsor, and work the steps. This last part means answering a series of questions in writing, reading back their answers to their sponsor, and slowly beginning to realise the cause-and-effect of their life’s choices.
 
Through doing this on a regular basis, they slowly begin to arrest the urge to drink,and rewire their mind. They also make amends to those they’ve hurt, take responsibility, and keep each other accountable. 
 
Ultimately,  those who keep at it begin to build a better life than the chaos of the one they left behind.
 
And all the time, they know that one slip – one single drink at the end of a very bad day  – could undo all of their hard work.
 

Does Alcoholics Anonymous work?

For some, yes. For others, the thought of never touching another drop is too much to bear. Pretty much everybody slips, though. That doesn’t mean the programme isn’t effective. Although it’s easy to see why such a hit-and-miss solution, to such a widespread and devastating problem, might have its detractors.
 
For my money, AA works for anyone willing to change their ways… but it might not be the only way. Addiction is a crutch – a faulty, maladaptive psychological response to deeply buried trauma, anxiety, or a sense of unworthiness; one that’s usually rooted in childhood. In that sense, the chaos of drinking is merely the surface level symptom of a much deeper problem. AA can interrupt the symptom, but truly fixing it means going deeper to fix the underlying codependency issues.
 

It’s all Recovery.

That’s why you’ll often find people who begin in AA crossing over into other Fellowships – like SLAA, or ACA. In fact, one alcoholic recovery friend of mine once told me he’d been driven to Al-Anon by the behaviour of the alcoholic he was sponsoring! If that doesn’t illustrate the relationship between the two fellowships – and the way alcoholism affects everyone involved – I don’t know what does.
 
Alcoholics anonymous has its fans and its detractors. But one thing is for sure: if you want to stop drinking, AA might very well be your best bet.
 
If you’re struggling with a growing drink habit, you could do worse than to give AA a try. It doesn’t stick for everyone. But even if it doesn’t for you, the principles you learn there might do. And the friendships I’ve seen blossom there can certainly help you build an entirely new life, with healthy boundaries, behaviours and relationships at its core.
 
If that sounds good to you, take a look at the links below.
 
All the best,
Mark
 

Credit for post header image: Alcoholics Anonymous page at Floris Methodist Church website.
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