AA works

Since its birth in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has helped millions of afflicted individuals achieve lasting and rewarding sobriety. Still, many more millions of their family members, friends and associates have achieved freedom and relief from the chaos and pain associated with the disease that touched their lives through their connection to the alcoholic. To say that AA has proven itself is an understatement.Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is first and foremost a fellowship of like-minded individuals who, through open and honest sharing, help one another to stop drinking. The achievement and maintenance of abstinence from alcohol is the basis of a program of recovery. Sobriety is a prerequisite of recovery. There can be no recovery without it…ever.

While not everyone can make a meaningful, productive connection to AA it seems to be, by a wide margin, the most effective treatment option for the widest range of alcoholics. Fortunately, for those who do not find that AA is a good fit, other treatment approaches and treatment technologies are currently available and, hopefully, everyone who needs help can find it in places and utilizing resources outside the realm of Alcoholics Anonymous.* Suffice it to say, however, that for better than the past three-quarters of a century, AA has been the best approach and has done the most for alcoholics and their families.

Perhaps the most difficult and critical element of getting AA to work is simply getting to AA. Most individuals, either because of misconception, misinformation, embarrassment, or fear, find the notion of walking into a room of self-diagnosed alcoholics daunting at best and horrifying at worst. Couple those factors with the denial associated with alcoholism and the usually embedded illusion that “I can do this on my own “and the getting there becomes quite problematic. Few individuals wake up on a given morning and say, “Gee, I think it would be a great idea to go to AA today.” The process of getting there just doesn’t work that way.

How then does it work ?

Many years ago I assisted the brother of a colleague, (whose life was in shambles ), in getting sober. He was ready when he was ready. I had the knowledge and motivation to help and, because he was willing to follow a few simple directions, he made an immediate connection and commitment to AA and, precisely because “AA Works,” he achieved sobriety, remade a very fine and commendable life, and has been sober, productive and happy for the past 27 years.

Relatively early in his sobriety, my colleague, his sister, had attended a number of AA meetings with him and came to me with an interesting question. She said, “I go to these meetings and see roomfuls of seemingly happy, comfortable individuals who, on the surface have nothing in common, sitting next to each other, apparently, nicely connected to one another and enjoying each other’s company… guys in motorcycle jackets sitting next to older ladies, blue collar guys sitting next to others in tweeds and shiny shoes… I don’t get it. Is there any single element that you can think of that holds this thing together, that explains the connections ?”

Hmmm…interesting question and one that I’d never been asked.

“Pain,” I answered. People get to AA only when they’ve had enough pain. The denial no longer works. The excuses, the rationalization, the lying and self-deception have run their course. Finally, the dawn breaks and the alcoholic recognizes, (in a genuine, profound and often private way), that the pain, shame, self-hatred, fear, chaos, loneliness etc. which characterizes his life is a direct consequence of the use and abuse of alcohol. Period !

So, not particularly for any high-handed or noble reason, the alcoholic is interested simply in making the pain go away. If giving up alcohol is what’s required, then, so be it, he becomes willing to accept help. He surrenders to reality. And this surrender becomes the basis of recovery.

If only the acceptance of help was a simple proposition! No, it’s often complicated and difficult. A lot of common misgivings about AA come into play, e.g. “I don’t believe in God” (not a requirement), “I don’t want to talk in front of people” (not a requirement), “I’m embarrassed and I don’t want to expose my identity” (so use a phony first name… last names are never used, anyway… not a problem). The list goes on… and on.

There is one (and only one) requirement for AA membership and that is “a desire to stop drinking.” Not only that, but AA doesn’t require membership for attendees at many meetings and it’s perfectly legitimate for newcomers to check things out, over whatever period of time they choose, before deciding to affiliate, or not.

Once affiliated, the new member will be welcomed and energetically coached and supported in achieving sobriety and adopting a manner of living which recognizes that alcoholism is a disease that never takes a day off. Thus, the skills necessary to achieve and maintain, often hard-won, sobriety are employed on a daily basis. “One Day at a Time,” as the bumper stickers proclaim.

With the acquisition of sobriety, comes the “Program of Recovery.”

The Twelve Steps of Recovery are an interrelated and precise series of procedures which, taken one by one and taken as an entire system, are a simple-in-appearance but deep and life-altering roadmap for living a life… free of alcohol and the madness and misery associated with it.

Like many aspects of our lives, sacrifice and hard work are essentials to growth and betterment. Seldom has there been a better reason to sacrifice, focus and work hard. The remaking of a broken life… and “broken” is a relative term… is worth the effort and time.

In the most extreme sense, beyond remaking, Resurrection occurs.

AA Works.

*While we clearly endorse Alcoholics Anonymous as a primary and valuable treatment option we also recognize the worth of other available approaches and treatment models, including medically, i.e. chemically, supported treatment. We understand that “One Size Does NOT Fit All.”

- Mark B. Dunay, LICSW, LADC 1

On February 1, 2013, posted in: 12 Steps, AA, addiction, alcoholism by
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