Alcoholics Anonymous: What it's About and How it Works
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who come together to solve their common problem with alcohol.
The 12 step programme that is used today was originally founded in 1939. The programme was then shared with other alcoholics through the first edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 1
Over time, AA has released further updated editions of the Big Book, keeping its personal stories relevant to our time.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are available to access worldwide. Meetings are accessible 24/7 face to face, over the telephone, online and now with the recent addition of Zoom.
To help alcoholics to stay connected during Covid-19 restrictions, Zoom meetings have gained in popularity. They have been so successful that it is likely they will remain a staple part of AA’s evolution.
As a platform solely dedicated to addiction recovery, Recoverlution believes in providing accessible recovery for all. As such, Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the many evidence-based treatment methods that you learn about here and can benefit from. You can also use our platform to easily access and hold meetings online.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
Alcoholics Anonymous is an independent organisation that relies solely on voluntary contributions and is classed as a mutual aid group.
Based on the concept that only an alcoholic can help another alcoholic, AA’s members go through the process of the 12 steps, not only to get well from alcoholism themselves but also to help other alcoholics to recover.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a set of traditions and concepts for members to follow. These regulations help ensure group meetings run smoothly and protect members' confidentiality 2,3
Alcoholics Anonymous is an alcohol-specific recovery group. As such it is run by alcoholics for alcoholics.
AA’s focus is on healing the past, remaining present in the day and having faith in the future. The Big Book provides a sober living manual that members can refer to for guidance and direction.
Who can attend Alcoholics Anonymous?
Anyone with an honest desire to stop drinking is able to attend AA. There are no membership fees, conditions or contracts.
Some face-to-face Alcoholics Anonymous meetings allow you to take a person for support. You can find further details of these meetings on the AA website.
The History of Alcoholics Anonymous - How Alcoholics Anonymous Evolved
The history of AA dates back to 1935 in Ohio, America. A stockbroker named Bill and a surgeon named Bob (both were deemed to be chronic alcoholics) developed a concept from which the 12 steps evolved 1
Bill and Bob both found that they needed to support each other in order to avoid relapse. Neither had any training or qualifications in addiction treatment. However, they both had an abundance of personal experience. They used this personal experience to help support each other in staying sober.
In 1939, Bill and Bob listed a set of philosophies and concepts. To this day these still play a huge role in Alcoholics Anonymous and in other 12 step fellowships. 1
Since its initial founding, the AA programme has been adapted to be all-inclusive. This was to ensure that anyone could benefit from the process of the steps, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, social standing or background. From this point, the growth of Alcoholics Anonymous was extremely rapid.
What Are The 12 Steps?
The 12 steps are a set of concepts that Alcoholics Anonymous members use as a programme of recovery from alcoholism.
Whilst alcoholism can never be cured, it can be arrested by stopping drinking. From there, recovery can then be maintained by remaining abstinent.
If you have a dependence on alcohol then the safest way to stop drinking is by undergoing a medical detox. AA’s recovery programme can then help you stay sober once you have safely detoxed.
Alcoholics Anonymous offer a programme and way of life that supports its members in remaining sober, one day at a time.
The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of 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.
- 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.
- 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 4
How The 12 Steps work
Alcoholics Anonymous has literally saved millions of lives during its time.
Recognising that alcoholism is an incurable relapsing disorder, Alcoholics Anonymous sets out a programme that helps its members to avoid relapse 5
Whilst alcoholism cannot be cured, it can be successfully treated. Alcoholics Anonymous offers a method of treatment that is free for anyone to access.
Accessing a greater Power through the 12 steps
Through practising the 12 steps of recovery, AA members are able to discover a power that is both greater than themselves and their alcoholism.
The power that the Big Book refers to as ‘God’ can be of your own understanding. It is important to understand that this power does not have to be a religious God of any kind. It can be as simple as connecting to your own consciousness. AA’s then use this power or ‘higher consciousness’ to guide them in their everyday lives.
AA members continue to practice the steps to ensure that they keep free from thought patterns and behaviours associated with their addiction. By doing this on a daily basis and working with other alcoholics, members are able to find a new purpose and freedom that replaces the desire for alcohol.
The benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous offers many benefits to those seeking recovery from alcoholism. It appeals mostly to people who have tried other methods of staying sober that have not worked.
The benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous include:
- It is very accessible
- It is very supportive
- AA encourages anonymity
- It is free
- AA is open to all with a desire to stop drinking
- It offers help and support to affected family members.
- AA provides a sense of belonging and purpose
- It encourages a healthy recovery from alcohol addiction
- The organisation regularly hold conventions and sober parties
What to expect at your first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting
Regardless of how you attend your first AA meeting, whether it be through zoom, a face-to-face meeting or telephone, you should receive a warm welcome.
If you are attending an AA meeting for the first time you are encouraged to listen with an open mind.
AA meetings follow a set format that consists of AA literature readings and a personal story of recovery. Some meetings offer meditation or sober living readings. You can find out the format of your local AA meetings by asking other members or by checking on their website.
They are many members who have gone through the process of the 12 step recovery programme, they will be able to offer you support and guidance.
At a meeting of AA you are likely to hear a mention of a sponsor. A sponsor is another member who has been through the programme of recovery and who applies it to their daily life. As such, they are able to show others how they stayed sober through the process of the steps and act as a recovery mentor.
What Alcoholics Anonymous is not
Alcoholics Anonymous is not a substitute for medical care or therapy. Their programme is designed to complement other traditional alcohol addiction treatments.
AA cannot stop you from drinking if you have become alcohol dependent, it can however show you a way to stay sober. If you need help with an alcohol detox then you should consult your GP or local drug and alcohol team for treatment and support. You may also want to consider private rehabilitation.
Professional therapy and counselling either be accessed directly through our site, here at Recoverlution or through the NHS.
Alcoholics Anonymous is also not a social network. Whilst many members do benefit from spending time together socially, this is not the primary purpose of AA.
Other 12 Step fellowships that are available
As a result of Alcoholics Anonymous’s huge success, other 12 step fellowships have since been founded to help people with other addictions.
There are now numerous 12-step fellowships where those suffering from any type of addition can connect with like-minded others. Identifying with others can be very helpful, especially in the early days of addiction recovery.
Other 12 step fellowships available include:
- Al Anon - For family and friends of alcoholics
- Alateen - For teenagers of alcoholics
- Cocaine anonymous - For those with a cocaine problem or a substance abuse problem (including alcohol)
- Narcotics Anonymous - For those with a substance abuse problem involving narcotics
- Marijuana Anonymous - For those with a marijuana/cannabis problem
- Overeaters Anonymous - For compulsive overeaters
- CODA - For those with codependency issues
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) - For those with any type of sexual addiction
- Gamblers Anonymous - For those suffering with a gambling problem
- Sex and Love Addiction Anonymous (SLAA) - For those with an addiction to sex, love or both
The above list is not inclusive.
Join us at Recoverlution
If you wish to try a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous or set up your own community, you can do so within our purpose built platform. We at Recoverlution believe in recovery for all, and as such we offer various methods of recovery that have proven themselves over the test of time.
You can try a meeting of AA through using our platform. You can also try other methods of recovery that we have to offer. There is no one right way to recover that fits all. We fill in the gaps in recovery groups by offering professional therapy, education, development and wellbeing treatments within our Wellness Hub.
Take a look around our site and access as many of our free services as you wish. Here you will have a safe and confidential space in which you can find what works for you as a unique and individual person. We are here to join and support you every step of the way.