About Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is the original 12-step program designed to provide no-cost addiction treatment for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members are all alcoholics, and some meetings are open to the public. Alcoholics Anonymous has become known around the world, and there are thousands of meetings happening during any time of the day. This program is based on the belief that we all answer to a higher power, and each member can interpret this differently. The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous designed the program around his own beliefs in God. AA functions on its own and does not depend on any outside funding to run its programs. The anonymity of members allows members and prospective members to feel they are protected and enables individuals to share without risking exposure.
There are several things that the AA program believes members should understand and embrace their drinking and addiction recovery. For starters, the program is for those with the desire to abstain from drinking altogether. Following the 12-steps is central to the programs successful treatment of alcoholism. Alcoholics Anonymous expects members to accept they need help from a higher power in order to achieve and maintain sobriety. This includes total abstinence from all alcohol as the idea of “controlled drinking” is false and will cause members to stumble. The idea that alcoholism is a disease that can be cured is incorrect. Once an individual develops an alcohol addiction they will remain an alcoholic for the rest of their lives and will need to belong to a strong support group designed to help navigate long-term addiction recovery.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not a short-term program. A lifelong commitment to abstinence requires help and AA is often continued for decades, if not indefinitely. Learning to rely on other recovering alcohol addicts for support can bring healing and create deep bonds within an AA group. AA meetings are open to individuals of any age, race or gender. AA’s desire is to provide hope and support for all those suffering from alcoholism, and their families.
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Alcoholics Anonymous Steps
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There are 12 steps laid out in Alcoholics Anonymous that alcohol addicts will work through as they seek continued sobriety. As an individual embrace each of the steps, they are encouraged to take on an AA sponsor that has been working the steps for a longer period of time. As these sponsors have more experience with the process, they can often aid newer members as they seek to stick with the program. This means that members taking on the responsibility of sponsorship must have achieved their own sobriety success story, as the emotional expense of partnering with a less stable member can be taxing. AA sponsors provide personal attention and make themselves available between group meetings, usually over the phone. This process can make sobriety possible for newer members, deepen one’s own understanding about their addiction, and strengthen ties within the group.
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
The initial step of AA is a starting point for an alcoholic’s recovery journey. The idea that one can maintain sobriety without support is something that AA firmly disagrees with. Alcoholics are not capable of willing themselves to demonstrate restraint when it comes to drinking and is encouraged to reach out to other members for support.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Alcoholics Anonymous was developed with the idea that a higher power exists and can be relied upon to provide much needed spiritual support recovering addicts need. While this higher power does not need to be God, the acceptance that one is not alone is central to AA’s treatment module.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
The founder of AA understood that not everyone shared his beliefs and encouraged members to incorporate their own higher power in place of God. The purpose of step 3 was to remind recovering alcoholics that attempting to travel the journey alone would likely create more problems than solutions.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Members make lists of their perceived addiction issues and contributing personality issues which can bring many underlying causes to the surface for discussion. Sometimes individuals will need to confront uncomfortable truths about how their addiction has negatively impacted others’ lives. They will also deal with their own emotions and feelings regarding lingering guilt or shame, and use these lists as a stepping off point moving forward.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This step is often worked through with a sponsor as admitting prior downfalls to another is much more powerful and purposeful than simply acknowledging it privately. The act of sharing can be freeing and empowering for members, even though it requires humility. Removing the veil of secrecy is often a game changer for members and allows for transparency in other areas as well.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
This step is closely related to a previous step, and will again require a member to confront the reality of their dependence on their higher power while acknowledging any previous pitfalls and vulnerabilities. It is important for members of AA to be open to change that is required while following through on all 12 steps.
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Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
It is important for all recovering addicts to focus on their strengths, too. AA encourages individuals within their program to remember they are worth more than their addiction and they have infinite value. Only listing negative characteristics will be a discouragement to change needed for ongoing recovery.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
For many AA members, this can be a difficult step. Confronting the past in regards to relationship issues will likely be painful and bring with it a great deal of regret. The act of asking for forgiveness is important as it cements responsibility for the damage done to others while under the influence of alcohol.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Some members prefer to attack this step with the aid of their sponsor as it can be difficult to process the reactions of those that are on their above list. It is important to recognize that apologizing will likely not make things different, but that it is more of an opportunity for people to let go of their past.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Alcoholics Anonymous includes this step as a constant reminder that recovering addicts must be watchful for back stepping and defaulting to harmful habits. Remaining humble is key to maintaining a healthy perspective on shortcomings and keeps many members on track.
Step 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.
Members of AA are not only encouraged to define and acknowledge their own higher power, they are prompted to make time on a daily basis to spend time meditating or reading scripture. While there are no set requirements about this time, the foundation of AA focuses on each member’s need for a spiritual relationship.
Step 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.
This last step is important as it often leads more mature members to become actively involved in other member’s lives. This can mean helping with the meeting set up or becoming a sponsor. At this point in a recovering alcoholics life, there should be clear evidence of changed behavior and attitude.