For many, understanding Alcoholics Anonymous and how it works can be difficult. Why shouldn’t it be? If you’ve never experienced the fellowship, it could be mystifying. Take, for instance, attempting to explain alcoholism and addiction to someone who has never experienced either. As popular as the term “Alcoholics Anonymous” is in today’s society, the majority have little to no understanding of how this fellowship works. Some believe it’s a religious organization, while others will go as far as believing it’s a cult. Both of these assumptions could not be further from the truth. For this reason, we’re sharing more on how Alcoholics Anonymous works and how it helps people in recovery.
AA: How It Works
While the program has a spiritual backbone, religion plays no role in Alcoholics Anonymous. And as for a cult, we have no leader, we are not socially deviant, nor are our beliefs extreme or dangerous. Marc Galanter, MD, professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at the New York University School of Medicine, in 2016 wrote and published a book titled, What is Alcoholics Anonymous? in which he hopes to address misconceptions and provide more insight into Alcoholics Anonymous, within the medical and addictions communities, as well as for the general public.
“In many respects, AA is underutilized by the medical community because they understand surprisingly little about it, particularly even specialists in addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine,” says Galanter. Within this book, Galanter focuses on Alcoholics Anonymous in three different sections – AA in the public arena, the AA experience, and AA within the setting of addiction treatment.
As the book is in-depth, it digs deep into the origin of Alcoholics Anonymous while addressing the spiritual (not religious) aspect of the fellowship and an in-depth look into the experience of meetings, sponsorship, and the importance of helping other alcoholics/addicts. Many doctors and professors alike agree Galanter’s work is an ideal tool for positively addressing misconceptions while utilizing said tool within the treatment of addiction.
In short, Galanter pushes that understanding Alcoholics Anonymous, how it works, and how it can aid recovery is important, especially for those either treating people with substance use disorders or those who have been personally affected. People who have struggled with addiction come to realize that without the fellowship of AA step work, they would more than likely still be drinking, using drugs, or worse.
Many of us come in only after exhausting every other effort to get and stay sober. We have tried to “just stop,” we attempted moderation, and many have also tried medication-assisted treatment and geographical changes. Without fail, no other option worked. It wasn’t until we entered into a 12-step fellowship, and began a journey of self-identification and establishing a relationship with a Higher Power, that we were able to have a chance toward recovery.
Does AA Work?
The truth of the matter is that many will judge Alcoholics Anonymous because it is foreign to them. Without experiencing the program firsthand, it is difficult to grasp how an alcoholic can get sober this way. This ignorance, sometimes, is even perpetrated throughout the medical community, which may be understandable to a degree. Physicians study science; they understand science; they look for research. While Alcoholics Anonymous has no biological standing, it has proven effective for countless groups.
Established in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has grown to an estimated 2 million members on an international basis. Currently present in 170 countries, with the book Alcoholics Anonymous selling over 30 million copies, this fellowship has touched and positively impacted the lives of so many. While some individuals come into the fellowship and do not stay, it is evident that this program of recovery has and does work. If it hadn’t, how could it be the longest-standing self-help group for 87 years and the basis for other groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous?
There is something about this abstinence-based program that works. In today’s current standing of recovery, where many in the medical and addictions field want to promote and encourage medication-assisted treatment, it can be easily confusing as to why AA or NA is even necessary. Many will think, “Well, I’m on Suboxone or Vivitrol, so why do I need to attend a support group?” Countless times over, these medications fail to live up to their promise without the necessary work done to address underlying issues and the emotional and spiritual well-being of the individual.
While we can say that AA does work, our Northeast addictions treatment center also acknowledges that 12-step recovery will only take the individual as far as they’re willing to go. In other words, their level of involvement greatly contributes to how much they get out of the experience. This means that AA participants who attend meetings regularly and actively participate in other forms of 12-step work will see more improvement in their recovery and sustain abstinence longer than those who do the bare minimum.
Should I Go to AA?
Some may never understand, and some may never care to try. That’s okay. Nevertheless, for those in the medical and addictions field that have little to no understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is most definitely crucial for lasting sobriety. Whether it is a model you agree upon or not, to underutilize it in the alcohol treatment process based on a lack of understanding is incredibly detrimental to the individual.
With that said, if you have difficulty conceiving the idea of an abstinence-based model of recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous and how it works, you can connect to a member of Alcoholics Anonymous through our Clearbrook rehab locations, or you can read Dr. Galanter’s book. Either way, you’ll walk away with a better scope of what it is to be a part of this mysterious fellowship that so many have come to rely on.
Also, you may find that your misconceptions of alcoholics are just that. We are not religious fanatics or a part of a cult. We are simply men and women who have come together to solve a common problem (alcoholism/addiction) while sharing our experience in hopes of helping the next suffering individual. So if you want to receive all the support possible during recovery, you should go to AA and give it a shot.
Contact Clearbrook Today
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, our rehab can help. Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing effective inpatient rehab programs in Pennsylvania and now Massachusetts for years. This is done through the use of various addiction therapy programs while incorporating a 12-step model of recovery.