What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and how has it effected Alcoholism

Alcoholics Anonymous owes its roots to an organization known as ‘The Oxford Group’ in Akron, Ohio as some of the founders started their recovery there. Early members of AA were introduced to the idea that alcoholism was a disease, that it was a physical, mental and spiritual malady, and that by working with other alcoholics, a solution could be found. Bill W., a New York Stockbroker, with Bob S., an Akron surgeon were both hopeless alcoholics that ended up helping each other and founding the first group that would adopt the name Alcoholics Anonymous. Their first task was to seek out and work with other alcoholics and see if their ideas would work. Bill W. wrote a book that presented a solution which contained the twelve steps, and new groups started to form as members worked to carry the message to other alcoholics. As a fellowship grew, those early groups found they struggled to work together until the publication of the twelve Traditions in the 1950’s. By this time there were over a thousand groups. The traditions gave groups the principles they needed to function both internally and with other groups, if they chose to. The traditions provided stability and unity to the emerging fellowship and ended many of the internal struggles.

The twelve-step process of recovery for the treatment of alcoholism is the application of basic spiritual principles learned in the steps, drawing on the experiences of other members who are striving to carry a message to other alcoholics. This simple formula has inspired millions of alcoholics to find sobriety, and Alcoholics Anonymous is now a worldwide fellowship. Many new 12-step programs adapted this simple formula and have been spurred to seek a similar solution to other problems.

Attendance at AA Meetings

Principle to the success of the program is regular attendance at meetings. New members and old who meet regularly to support each other. Members are encouraged to join and support a group. Regular attendance seems to be the best insurance against relapse into old behaviors and back to actively drinking again.

Twelve Steps

Bill W. drew on his life experiences and the success he found working with Bob S. in trying to help other alcoholics. The original Oxford Group had experienced some successes and had some prescribed ideas of a nature to aid in the treatment of alcoholism. There is some contention of how much of the 12 steps came from Bill W in his writings on the subject, and how much came from others and precursors. Each step builds upon the experiences of applying the previous steps. The first step introduces the alcoholic to the idea that they are powerless over the need to drink, and that some form of surrender is required to succeed in their recovery. Each step progressively leads the individual member to a solution to the many problems faced by people who struggle with the disease of alcoholism.

From opaque to transparent – A window on world services history

Early successes of groups were largely responsible for the spread of Alcoholics Anonymous. Each group operated independent of the other groups, but many were able to communicate and share ideas. It was not until the twelve traditions were written by Bill W. and adopted by the groups that some structure was possible. Structure within the group aided them in clarifying the message of recovery and allowed groups to work together as a unifying force. The twelve steps freed the individual and the twelve traditions aided the emerging Fellowship of alcoholics to gain strength and clarity of purpose. Everyone could understand and help another alcoholic equally when the twelve steps and twelve traditions expose the process to any observer. Transparency was the key to success as members communicated with each other.

Australia – the first country outside of North America to adopt AA

The General Service Office of AA first received an inquiry in 1942, and by 1945 Sydney Australia had established a group. New groups formed and the message of success spread to more and more cities in Australia. General Service Offices were established and the first national convention was held in Sydney in 1959. Groups were introduced to the idea of forming a national body and in 1961 the second national convention was held where the idea of forming a publishing body and magazine were presented and adopted by representatives from across Australia.

“Over a period of years, the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous situated in New York encouraged the Australian General Service Conference to establish a General Service Board and a publishing operation along the same lines as had occurred in North America.

The year 1967 saw the emergence of AA Publishing, Pty. Ltd. which then began to supply most of the literature needs of Australia and other nearby countries. (AA Publishing Pty. Ltd. ceased operations on January 5, 1979. The General Service Board of AA Australia is now responsible for the literature needs of Australia).”

Other countries follow suit and AA is widely available in many countries in the world and continues to expand.

Alcoholics

When does someone fall into the category of alcoholic? It’s a difficult diagnosis to make. Some individuals who drink excessively are considered binge drinkers and others drink moderately but rarely go a day without drinking. Alcohol will often allow the user to relax socially and lower inhibitions. Alcohol can reduce brain functions and dampen the ability to regulate our emotions. With higher concentration in the blood stream, alcohol will impair motor functions and affect our breathing. Sustained alcohol use will require higher doses to achieve the same effects and quitting can become dangerous when the body becomes physically dependent. The user will experience dangerous and life threatening consequences if they quit suddenly. Alcohol dependency and withdrawal can be very dangerous and should not be attempted alone.

Their personal stories and problems

Twelve step programs like AA are peer-based support systems. Everyone who attends AA should have a desire to quit drinking. New or old, members will meet regularly to share their experiences, strengths and hopes. All members are considered equals, and each person brings their own stories to meetings where they can share with other members. By meeting regularly and sharing honestly, members can support each other as they learn the skills required to live with the disease of alcoholism.

Drinking and addiction

When a person realizes they are alcoholic and begin seeking help they can be quite vulnerable. Many will experience the force of their emotions like anger, shame and regret for the first time. AA meetings are designed to provide a safe place for members to meet and talk openly. Some members will find it difficult to quit and may not succeed on their first attempt but continued attendance and support from other members will allow the alcoholic to continue to seek sobriety.

Attendance at AA meetings provides hope and lasting health

Many members believe that the disease of alcoholism is spiritual, physical and mental in nature. Continued attendance ensures a member remains or finds abstinence. The idea that the disease is incurable ensures members continue to attend and critical to the success of AA is that members are committed to helping other members find and maintain sobriety. Continued abstinence and the application of the principles learned in the program will provide hope and often improve the health of members.

Information and Events

Members will often form lasting bonds, and this creates a culture unique to AA. Working together to provide information about AA to the public and institutions (i.e. treatment centers and government agencies) benefits the program. Many members find the events focused on AA and recovery are wonderful experiences where members can celebrate their sobriety.

References

Southern Highlands Alcoholics Anonymous

Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought 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.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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