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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

For over 75 years, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been providing support and a path for healing for those wanting to gain sobriety from alcohol.

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History Of Alcoholics Anonymous

The creation of the globally-known support group Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) began with just 2 men navigating their recovery from alcoholism. Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob Smith, a surgeon, found each other through the Oxford Group they both attended. This group was a primarily nonalcoholic fellowship that emphasized universal spiritual values in everyday life. After meeting, the 2 men developed their community-based fellowship to help others achieve sobriety from alcohol abuse. With some help from original members, the pair wrote the group’s introductory textbook published in 1939: Alcoholics Anonymous. This is later referred to as “The Big Book.”

With its humble beginnings in the United States, AA now spans more than 180 countries. The group has reached millions of individuals devoted to achieving sobriety. There are 123,000 AA groups worldwide, and its literature has been translated into over 100 languages.

What To Expect From An AA Meeting

It is no small feat to decide to go to an AA meeting for the first time. The idea of opening up about one’s struggles with alcohol to strangers can be intimidating to say the least. However, individuals can find comfort in the fact that those in the room with them will not remain strangers. A group bond can develop by sharing their stories, bringing feelings of safety and unity.

An AA meeting is the first building block of the entire fellowship, and it is often where recovery begins for individuals who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The purpose of all AA meetings is for individuals to share their experiences, strength, and hope with each other. By doing so, they can solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

Furthermore, AA members meet together to help one another achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol. The meetings, which are free and open to anyone, can include a general format of an opening discussion by a leader, usually based on AA literature, followed by individuals sharing their experiences, and then a focused conversation on one or two of the 12 Steps or traditions. During these meetings, individuals will never be forced to share their stories before they are ready to do so. But as time goes on, many attendees feel comfortable enough to share their trials and victories with their fellow attendees who can relate.

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AA Meeting Types

While AA meetings share a universal theme of recovery for members, those who are allowed in the room during these meetings vary. These meetings are either “closed” or “open.” A closed meeting is only for AA members or those who struggle with alcohol abuse and have a desire to stop drinking. Closed meetings can benefit those who want separation between their struggles and the other aspects of their lives. Closed meetings can offer privacy to those who are not ready or who do not wish to share their journey with loved ones yet.

Open meetings are available to anyone interested in the AA program of recovery from alcohol abuse or anyone who wants to offer support. Open meetings allow friends and family to attend to support their loved ones. This is beneficial to those who find the support of their friends and family helpful in their journey. Whichever form of an AA meeting an individual goes to is based on preference, but either option provides multiple benefits for attendees.

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What Are The 12 Steps?

The 12 Steps of AA represent the heart, or the beliefs, of the group. The steps serve as a set of guiding principles for recovery. These steps originated in AA’s first published textbook: Alcoholics Anonymous. The core of this text outlines the 12 principles that many support and recovery groups now use.

The purpose of the 12 Steps is to help restore a sense of order or manageability to one’s life. Reestablishing order starts with an individual first accepting that they have a problem and need help getting through it. Additional steps include turning over willpower to God, admitting to others the exact nature of a mistake, and making amends.

Having 12 points of reference can act as an evaluation point for individuals to check in with themselves on their journey to recovery. During AA meetings, the 12 Steps are thoroughly discussed as they play such an essential role in recovery.

Concerns About AA

While there is plentiful research supporting AA’s effectiveness on those wanting to reach and maintain abstinence from drinking, that doesn’t alleviate all of the concerns that some individuals face about joining. Multiple circumstances can hinder individuals from taking that first step through the doors of a recovery meeting. However, for some, listening to others’ stories about their experiences can be triggering or upsetting, especially if an individual can recognize themselves in the story. To some, sharing stories brings the group together, but it can be too much and feel alienating for others.

Moreover, some of the concepts in AA, like the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, are faith-based. For those who are not religious, this may seem like a barrier to joining. The idea of relinquishing control to a higher power can be a comforting concept for many. Still, this may be alienating or deterring for some, even if they find the group’s overall message meaningful. Other concerns include seeing someone they know, not believing it will work for them, or not being ready to admit they have a problem.

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Finding An AA Group Near You

Numerous AA groups span across the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world. In fact, there are over 60,000 groups in the nation alone, so the odds of an individual finding a support group in or near their city is promising. Alcoholics Anonymous’ website has a group locator readily available for those searching for local groups. If you or a loved one require treatment options beyond support groups, contact a treatment provider today with any questions or concerns.

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