Alcoholics Anonymous has helped many people dealing with addiction escape their problems. It was once hoped that this program would be the answer for all individuals dealing with this type of addiction, but this is not the case. A.A. does work extremely well for helping some people overcome their alcoholism and build a good life in recovery. This program does have a proven track record of helping people escape all types of addictive behavior.
The 12 Steps outline the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. There are the steps that it is suggested that members should take not only to overcome their addiction but also build a good life away from addiction. The individual never graduates from the program. It is a way of life. These are the 12 Steps:
* Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. It is usually this acknowledgment that brings people to Alcoholics Anonymous in the first place.
* Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Here the individual understands that while they may be powerless against addiction there is a greater force that can help them.
* Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him. If this higher power can help the individual beat their addiction, then it makes sense to make use of such help.
* Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. The individual takes a personal inventory of their morals to get a clearer picture of their current situation.
* Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. This often involves sharing the inventory from step four with a sponsor.
* Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. The individual becomes willing to develop their character.
* Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
* Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. This list is usually made with the help of the personal inventory from step four.
* Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
* Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. The work of the 12 Steps is never complete.
* 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.
* 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. These steps should lead to a spiritual awakening, but this not necessary imply some type of intense mystical experience.
* Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity. It is more important to protect the group rather than the interests of just one member.
* For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern. This tradition is to prevent people trying to seize power in the organization.
* The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. Only the individual can decide if they are a member.
* Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole. This means that individual groups are free to adapt their meetings to suit members.
* Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
* An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose. This is to prevent damaging the name of the organization or taking it off track.
* Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. This will prevent outside interests gaining power of the organization.
* Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
* A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. Too much bureaucracy could divert A.A. from its primary purpose.
* Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
* Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films. No member should put themselves forward to the media as a spokesperson for A.A..
* Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
The only qualification for membership in Alcoholics Anonymous is the desire to stop drinking. It is not a requirement that people follow the 12 Steps. This is a suggested program of recovery devised by the early members. It is based on another program of action devised by a Christian group known as the Oxford Group. There should be no pressure put on members to follow these steps. It is a personal choice.
Many people are put off A.A. because it appears to be a religious program. Atheists may feel that there is pressure to believe in a god. While it is true that there is frequent mention of God in the program, it is left to the individual to interpret this as they wish. Some atheists manage to get around the problem by thinking of this higher power as being internal or coming from the power of the group. Those who just feel too uncomfortable with any talk of spirituality may decide that it is best to choose a more secular program such as Rational Recovery.
It is recommended that A.A. members attend regular meetings, and this should continue indefinitely. There is the fear that it is when people stop going to the meetings that they are most at risk of relapse. When people first become sober they are encouraged to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. This is to ensure that they have enough support during the early days of recovery and get a good grounding in the A.A. philosophy. There are different types of meetings available. For example, some are open to the general public while others are closed. The atmosphere at these gatherings can vary greatly. The individual may need to do a bit of experimentation before they find a group where they really feel at home.
Members will gain a great deal of support and encouragement from attending A.A. meetings. This can be enough for some individuals but others will decide they need more than this. A sponsor is able to offer one-to-one support. Their role is a mix between a mentor and a trusted friend. If people intend to work through the steps then it is recommended that they have a sponsor to guide them through the process. It is always a good idea to only pick a sponsor who has a strong sobriety. Otherwise, it can be a case of the blind leading the blind.
In order to get the most from Alcoholics Anonymous it is suggested that people:
* Become involved in service. Helping other people can benefit the individual even more than the recipient because it strengthens their recovery.
* Collect the phone numbers of other members. These can be life saving if the individual feels vulnerable and needs to talk to somebody who understands.
* Speak at meetings. In order to get the most from these gathering the individual needs to become involved.
* Read the Big Book. This is the guiding text for the program and contains a great deal of wisdom.
* Stick with the winners. There can be a wide variety of people who attend these meetings and not all of them will be getting better.
* It is important to keep an open mind. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably not going to work for everyone, but it makes sense to give it a fair try.