Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-Step program that was created in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. As a worldwide recovery mutual-help organization, AA has helped many people find their way from addiction to a life of recovery and as a non-denominational organization, there is truly something for everyone. A 2017 study published in the journal Addiction confirmed this by the assessments of many pieces of literature regarding AA; researchers found that AA generally supports a “spiritual awakening” for those in recovery, as well as living a life of sobriety by providing those in the community with resources to get there. One individual shared his personal success story via the AA official website. Here is an excerpt from his story:
“…My mind was open because A.A. is not a religious program. So, I found a sponsor and I continued down the path [of recovery]. It has been the single best thing I have ever done in my life. Coming to terms with the past me, how I really ‘ticked’ and how I perceived life was such an awakening.”
With so many people having had such transformative experiences with 12-Step programs such as AA, it’s important to understand the many areas of recovery that AA addresses.
Core Aspects of Recovery
A study published in the journal Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly explored the many ways in which AA works for those in recovery and these were some of the topics covered:
1. Regulating Emotions
A core component of AA is the belief that addiction doesn’t derive from pleasure, but rather from psychological suffering. Pleasure may certainly be involved in addiction, but it is often within our own feelings of loneliness and despair that we turn to other things – such as substances – to distract us from what we’re really feeling. 12-Step programs, such as AA, help individuals understand why sobriety is so important in solving life’s problems along with guidance to becoming more flexible and willing to grow in these areas of life instead.
Much of what AA speaks to is the pain of the “self” and how many elements of narcissism are often found in alcoholism. This inflation of self is what causes us to develop a “big ego”, which leads to us feeling bad for ourselves or unimportant and that’s often where alcohol and other substances make their way in an attempt to bridge this gap. 12-Step programs remind us that we are only human – and while we can’t control everything that happens in our lives, we can control our own actions. Ultimately, this gives us an entirely new perspective on ourselves, placing that “selfish” part of us to the side and opening our hearts to others.
As the study emphasized, the group dynamics of AA promote engagement with others, along with a universal understanding that as humans, our suffering should not be faced alone. The way we view ourselves and our problems is often what leads us to distance ourselves from others and AA works to counter feelings of shame and guilt with the building of connection to others. In addition to this, people find that admitting their mistakes and apologizing for the pain they’ve caused others actually fosters further development of those relationships which are so meaningful to them.
AA emphasizes the powerlessness and loss of control that is associated with alcoholism. This statement of responsibility and vulnerability opens pathways for those in addiction recovery to connect with others without judgment and many find that it helps them understand the importance of self-care as well as adopting a more genuine approach to caring for others.
Getting the Most Out of 12-Step Programs
As with every aspect of recovery, a person must create space in their mind, body and spirit for healing. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment sought to explore “readiness factors” and what best prepped individuals for success in 12-Step programs such as AA. The two most important factors were quite simple: 1) prior involvement in AA and 2) active engagement. If you’ve recently begun exploring the world of AA, don’t give up. Become connected to others in the program and engage in self-care activities along with other recovery efforts to strengthen your treatment.
12-Step programs can work beautifully alongside outpatient treatment programs, as a person explores more personal issues through individual and group therapy in treatment and builds their support network through AA and relevant programs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that 12-Step programs are,
“…a fundamental component of the substance use disorder treatment system.”
If you’re looking for a safe environment where you can meet others on their journey to recovery while also engaging in meaningful discussions on topics such as sobriety, relapse and more, AA could be an excellent option for you. Don’t wait any longer to start strengthening your mind, body and spirit.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.
Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.