We do not claim this to be the perfect program for recovery (there is no such thing), but it can be an incredibly useful resource for those who are trying to break free of alcohol addiction.
In this post, we are going to be examining what is good and what is not-so-good regarding AA – so you can make a more informed choice.
What is Good about Alcoholics Anonymous?
‘We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace’
Big Book (page 83 – The Promises)
Alcoholics Anonymous began when one alcoholic decided to help another, and this continues to be the basis of the program today. Those of us who have had to deal with addiction often become frustrated due of the inability of doctors, psychiatrists, social workers, and other experts to understand where we were coming from – it feels like they treat us like a symptom rather than a person. There are no paid experts in AA, just a group of people sharing a common purpose – it is a place where you will find real understanding and compassion.
If all you do is quit drinking, it may not be enough to ensure your happiness in the future. The problem is, that all giving up alcohol does, is get you back to where you were before getting caught up in this behaviour, but all the reasons for drinking may still be there. The purpose of the AA 12-steps is to provide you with a path to a much better way of living, where you will be free of fear, no longer regret the past, and experience serenity on a regular basis.
Trying to behave like a penguin in a world full of crocodiles isn’t easy. If you go back to a life where you are surrounded by people who consume alcohol, or you spend your time in places where drinking is promoted, it is going to be hard to resist temptation. To encourage your continued sobriety, you need to spend time with your own kind, and this is what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about. It is a place where you can meet like-minded friends and inspirational role models.
You’ve probably heard about how ‘time heals all wounds’, but this ability to forget the pain of the past isn’t always such a great thing. You are going to be all fired up when you enter rehab because your recent suffering is still vivid in your mind, but what about a year from now? If you start forgetting how bad it was, it puts your recovery in danger. One of the great benefits of regularly attending AA meetings is that it keeps you committed to recovery by reminding you of what you could go back to.
Boredom is a common relapse trigger for people in early recovery. The great thing about sobriety is it opens up a world of possibility, but it is likely to take you time to add enough enjoyable activities to your schedule. In the meantime, you may be left with huge chunks of time that you previously devoted to engaging in your addition. AA gives you somewhere to go to. If you live in a big city, there is going to be multiple meetings every day, so there is never going to be any reason to feel bored.
Other benefits of choosing AA:
- It provides you with an opportunity to do some service – you will find helping others is the surest way to increased joy in life
- You will have somewhere to go to for support when things get hard
- You will spend time with people who ‘get you’
- It offers a path to a spiritual awakening in the form of the 12 Steps
What is not so Good about Alcoholics Anonymous?
Critics of AA like to quote statistics that suggest there is a high drop-out rate for the program. The reliability of these studies is questionable, but it is reasonable to say that this approach does not work for everyone. Of course, the question shouldn’t really be whether AA is the best program for everyone, but only if it is the right one for you.
AA members can be dogmatic, fanatical, arrogant, pushy, manipulative, unreasonable, intolerant, and sometimes even a bit unhinged mentally. If you start going to the meetings, you are almost certainly going to come across people who rub you the wrong way. The good news is that none of these people have any more of a right to be there than you, and your own character flaws are going to be as tolerated as much as anyone else’s. All members are a ‘work in progress’, although some have further to go than others, but the only requirement for membership is the ‘desire to stop drinking’.
One of the most common reasons for people to dislike AA is the fact that it is a ‘spiritual program’ where there is a lot of God-talk. The fact the 12-steps are based on a program created by a Christian evangelical group called the Oxford Group raises further concerns about its religiosity – some have gone so far as to call it a cult. Bill Wilson understood that people might be put off by the spiritual elements of the program, and this is why he made it clear:
“It must never be forgotten that the purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is to sober up alcoholics. There is no religious or spiritual requirement for membership. No demands are made on anyone. An experience is offered which members may accept or reject. That is up to them.”
Alcoholics Anonymous is open to people of any religion, and many members define themselves as atheist. There is talk of a higher power, but this can be interpreted as the power of the group rather than coming from God.
A reasonable objection many of us have about groups like AA is the idea that we need to go to meetings for the rest of our lives. The reality is, some people just go for a few years, at least until they have a solid recovery, while others make this a permanent fixture in their life – it is up to you. Even Bill Wilson said “You didn’t get sober to go to meetings”.
Is Alcoholics Anonymous the Right Option for You?
What do you have to lose by giving Alcoholics Anonymous a try? If you go to a few meetings and you don’t like it, at least you will be making a decision based on evidence. Don’t be swayed by hearsay or myths about the program. During your time here at Hope Rehab Center, you will get the opportunity to go to some meetings, and you may decide to continue going once you return home – the choice is always yours.
Written by Paul G.