Does AA Work? How Effective are Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Are Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings Really That Good?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was an idea created by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson in 1935. The well-known 12 steps only came about in 1946 to help its members to better deal with outside influences and triggers. Since then, it has helped thousands of people in the United States and around the world through the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

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But does AA work for everyone? Are Alcoholics Anonymous effective for addiction management? According to a 16-year study that compared to abstinence of people in AA and those who didn’t receive any treatment, 67 percent of the people who did AA were still sober after a follow-up. Conversely, only 34 percent of people who didn’t use AA remained sober. In this article, we will take a deeper look at what AA is, what the steps are, who it’s designed for and the best way to incorporate it into your recovery.

What is AA?

AA is best described as a mutual aid fellowship whereby members help and support each other through the 12 steps of recovery, as put forth in the program guidelines. Its ultimate purpose is to help alcoholics stay sober in the long-term. The program doesn’t directly associate with any other organization and members can remain completely anonymous.

A person who takes part in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings will instantly notice that the program’s roots are in the realm of spiritualism – specifically Christianity. The core beliefs of the program are that only through a higher power, such as God, can you achieve sobriety and that substance abuse originates from the absence of spiritualism – the empty hole inside of addicts cannot be fixed with alcohol, only through God. This is achieved through members assisting each other more so than through professional assistance, although some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have professionals present.

What Are the 12 Steps?

The 12 steps are designed to guide an alcoholic through their recovery. Each step serves a purpose in the evolution that the addict goes through. Once at the final step has been reached, then what they learned can be passed on to another alcoholic just starting out in the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The 12 steps are as follows:

  1. Admission of a problem that is out of your control.
  2. An understanding that only through a higher power can one get better.
  3. A decision to let a higher power take control of your life and the alcohol problem.
  4. Create an honest moral inventory of yourself.
  5. Admittance of the problems you have and the wrongs you did to a higher power and to another person.
  6. Open yourself up to a higher power to remove these flaws and defects.
  7. Ask a higher power to remove your shortcomings.
  8. Create a conclusive list of all the people who you wronged during alcoholism.
  9. Seek to make amends with people you wrong as long as it doesn’t cause them more harm.
  10. Carry on taking personal inventory and continue to seek amends.
  11. Through prayer and meditation, continue to connect with a higher power to ask for continued help and the power to carry out their will.
  12. Once spiritually awakened and attuned to God’s Will, help others through the 12 steps to improve your own resolve.

Does AA Work for Everyone?

Are Alcoholics Anonymous effective for everyone who tries it? The short answer is no. The complexity of addiction as a disease, as we understand it today, means that one way to treat all addictions is not possible. While the 12-step program may work wonders for some people, others may not be helped as much by it.

The main reason why some people don’t feel like Alcoholics Anonymous meetings will work for them is because of the major focus on Christianity. If a person is non-religious or perhaps believes in another religion, they may not find the teachings of AA palatable.

Furthermore, because there may be a mental disorder present along with the addiction, simply treating the addiction is not enough. In a case of co-occurring mental disorders, they often catalyze each other – if a person still had an untreated mental disorder, such as PTSD, then self-medication through substance abuse becomes a likely result.

Another reason why Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and the 12 steps might not work is when there have been multiple relapses after using the program. In such a case, returning to the program might not be as effective as turning to professionals for help.

The Best Way to Incorporate Alcoholics Anonymous

In general, rehab programs will achieve greater results in a wider range of people because rehab is able to adapt to individual needs and look beyond just treating an addiction with their whole-patient approach. However, there is nothing that says you can’t use both.

Due to the fact that mental disorders occur in almost 40 percent of addicts, a rehab program can address not only the addiction issue but the other mental disorder too, thus improving the effectiveness of treatment.

Additionally, the FDA has approved several medications that are highly effective ways to manage alcoholism, especially when combined with traditional treatment methods such as behavioral therapy. AA doesn’t provide these medications. In cases where there have been multiple relapses after a basic rehab program or through AA, the only thing that might help is using a medication such as antabuse that blocks the pleasing effects of alcohol.

As such, the best way to treat an addiction while also using AA is as follows:

  • Go through a medical detox program to safely deal with the symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Seek therapy and counseling from a professional.
  • Create a relapse prevention plan that includes the use of AA support group meetings.
  • Continue to follow your relapse prevention plan by going to regular meetings and using your relapse prevention skills that you learned in rehab.

AA Meetings Near Me

We have created a simple way to search by zip code for all of the meetings in your particular area. Not only can you easily find local AA meetings through our search feature, you can find meetings in others areas that can be useful for when you travel. Simply look at the AA meetings near me.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2746426/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2220012/

https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders