Alcoholics Anonymous

What is Alcoholics Anonymous ?

Many people will have heard of AA, and will associate it with people being able to stop drinking. Some of the most common questions people have about AA include :

 – How do you define an alcoholic ?

 – Is AA religious ?

 – What are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous ?

 – What is a higher power in AA ?

 – What are the principles of AA ?

Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation that is generally well known, and a significant number of people will understand that its main focus is to help people stop drinking. That aside, many will not have any real idea what constitutes an alcoholic, or what the organisation Alcoholics Anonymous really does or how it developed.

The history and origins of Alcoholics Anonymous are well documented, not least by the organisation itself, as well as by many outside independent researchers and historians.It is worth clarifying that Alcoholics Anonymous is and always has been a completely independent organisation, funded entirely by its membership, without any links to any medical or governmental body or organisation.

Its independence is a critical part of its survival and much valued by its membership.This independence is a crucial part of understanding the integral relationship between Alcoholics Anonymous and many rehabs and treatment centers that exist.

This is largely because the majority of rehabs and treatment centres that offer an addiction treatment program have such a program rooted in part of the 12 step program that Alcoholics Anonymous pioneered and offers as its main recovery process, and adapted by other organisations.

It is also worth clarifying that a significant number of rehabs and treatment centres offer a programme that is in effect quite different from the program offered by Alcoholics Anonymous, but with certain similarities.

The independence of Alcoholics Anonymous is also important in the context that many rehabs and treatment centres will actively encourage clients whilst in rehab to attend meetings of AA, both during treatment and once they have left in the context of after-care and support.

Many rehabs and treatment centers will host meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous on site, with the AA group paying a rental fee or giving a donation of similar kind in order to maintain and arm’s-length relationship.

Alcoholics Anonymous

If the rehab does not offer meetings on its own premises, then it is likely to have close links with local AA groups in the nearby vicinity or community.Many people entering a rehab will assume that Alcoholics Anonymous is in some way a part of the rehab, or a part of the recovery program or the addiction treatment program that the rehab offers.

It may well take a while for the individual to make a distinction that AA is not part of the rehab, and this is an important distinction to make for the long-term sobriety of that individual.Alcoholics Anonymous is an independent organisation, that has many years experience of recovery from alcoholism that is completely independent of any rehab or treatment center.

Many people get sober and stay sober simply by going to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, and normally after a while beginning to use the experience of the 12 step program in their own lives as a way of healing their inner emotional turmoil and emotional drives.

There are many different meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, and individuals have the freedom to try any specific meeting that they wish, until they find one that suits their needs. Again in the context of a rehab this is really important.

Rehabs and treatment centers have fairly strict rules and regulations regarding both admission to the rehab, and the type of behaviours and activities and dress code etc clients can conduct themselves in whilst in treatment.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Rehab

Rehabs normally defend these rules and regulations as being part of a structured environment within which the individual can begin to feel safe, and begin the process of their own recovery in an environment that is structured and has boundaries.

This obviously works for some people, and can present a real problem for others. In the context of Alcoholics Anonymous there are no rules or regulations. Anyone who feels they have a drink problem can turn up at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and see if it is of help them.

Alcoholics Anonymous is often best seen and best understood when thought of as a body of experience going back many decades, that is effectively expressed through the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, most notably in the book of the same name.

Any individual can use the experience of Alcoholics Anonymous in any way that they find helpful or not. AA, although not always seen as such, should be a real route to freedom, and an opportunity for people to begin the process of understanding whether or not they are alcoholics.

Such an understanding can give the individual a real sense of freedom in the context of understanding their lives, and a real sense of freedom in the context of being able to rebuild their life, both internally and externally.

Addiction Recovery AA Meetings

Addiction recovery is very generally taken to mean that it is referring to the 12 step recovery process originally pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, and then adapted by other organisations to deal with specific problems not related to alcohol, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous.

The notion of addiction has widened considerably over the last few years, and there are two important elements to this recovery process that need to be understood.

Firstly that the destructive nature of a wide range of addictive behaviours and practices can now realistically be treated, in ways that were never possible a few decades ago.

That is not to say that everyone who uses a 12 step program or enters a treatment center will automatically be able to break the addiction, the recovery process is more complex than that, but these areas of treatment recovery do offer hope to many people in a way that simply did not used to be possible.

The other area that can be a cause for concern, is that some treatment centres and rehabs will use the notion of addiction  as a way of effectively been placing clients by promoting slightly spurious addictions that aren’t really a problem, but the rehab treatment center will make them a problem in order to promote their view of recovery.

Addiction Recovery AA Meetings

Simply because something can seem a bit of an addiction  does not mean that the individual has to enter treatment in order to deal with it.

People can often joke about being addicted to chocolate or ice cream, and in reality for most people that is not a problem. For other people issues around food can be a major emotional block, and they may well need some type of professional help in order to get them to be more emotionally aligned as a person.

It is worth noting that meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous don’t generally refer to addiction, people tend to talk about alcoholism and their understanding of alcoholism as an illness.

Very generally, this is likely to centre around individuals craving for alcohol, and the various emotional drives and problems generated the underlying causes of problems within them that alcohol appeared to be the solution to.

Alcoholism, is understood or not by those who have it, is at least a very complex problems which whilst it certainly includes it type of addiction to alcohol, is way more complex and needs much time and spirit in order to process and deal with it.


There are innumerable books that are either literally titled quit drinking, or how to quit drinking, or what happened when I quit drinking etc.

As with many books, the title itself is effectively the selling point, and the content of the book or sometimes magazine article is quite often a fairly woolly or vague approach to and possible solution to the specific problem raised in the title of the book.

When people talk about wanting to quit drinking there is a wide range of experiences that can be helpful, but could also be a bit confusing as well.

There is a very simple starting point.

If someone recognises that the drinking is either out of control or they need to moderate it  or to quit drinking together, then the simplest solution is simply to do it.

That of course is  oversimplifying the issue, but it goes to the heart of why people talk about the need to quit drinking.

If someone can simply stop or quit drinking then it is not an issue. If they cannot stop or quit drinking then becomes a much more serious issue, with possible locations in terms of alcoholism and alcohol addiction.

It is often the sphere of an inability to stop or moderate leading to concerns about active alcoholism that will block people from even beginning to research and understand the possibility of why they can cannot quit drinking.


The early experiences of members of Alcoholics Anonymous  were very clear, both to themselves and other people, that they could not quit drinking on their own, and in fact prior to the emergence of Alcoholics Anonymous as an organisation, were unable to stop drinking at all.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous details both the history and the routes which only members of this organisation took in order to get sober and stay sober, and is widely available to anyone who wants to use the experience that this book contains.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous also makes it clear that it does not wish to force its ideas on anyone, and that if people are able to quit or stop drinking on their own then that is absolutely fine and book wishes them well.

The experience contained in the book is really put that to help people who acknowledge that they cannot stop on their own any help. That is often a far more difficult position to acknowledge, and ultimately one that is much more fulfilling.

Does a Rehab make you go to Alcoholics Anonymous ?

It is probably fair to say that the majority of rehabs that are residential base their approach to their addiction treatment programs with a view that they are better supported by the individual attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and other 12 step organisations .

Indeed the majority of rehabs base their addiction treatment programs and their therapeutic treatment methods on the 12th model of Alcoholics Anonymous which they adapt to their own purposes.

A rehab that follows this viewpoint is likely to make it a condition of the residency that the individual attends a certain number of meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12 step organisations during their stay at rehab.

This is a condition of treatment that should be made clear at the outset and at admission, and if the individual has a real problem with it then it is something that needs to be factored into the decision-making process as to which rehab should be considered or not.

Some rehabs are stricter than others about applying this condition of residency. Some rehabs take a view that it is down to the individual to decide whether or not they want to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous whilst in rehab.

On this basis a number of clients in rehab will be attending meetings while a significant number will not be. This can often lead to conflicts within the rehab which add to a general pressure on the individuals concerned and can sometimes generate real problems.

Rehabs and Alcoholics Anonymous

Other rehabs will take a view that is in effect stricter and will make it a condition of entry and residency that people need to attend a minimum number of meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous whilst in rehab.

Whilst this avoids some of the problems mentioned above, it does mean that the individual does not come to the view that they need to attend AA meetings based on their own individual experience, rather they are forced into it by the rehab.

This can have complications further on, where the individual feels that there principles of choice about their recovery and rebuilding their lives has been taken away from, first by being forced into rehab against their will effectively, and secondly by being forced to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The counter argument to this normally runs that although the principle of choice may have been compromised, the reality of being forced into a rehab or of being forced to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous at some level breaks down the denial of the alcoholic and give them the opportunity to experience a real freedom and truth that they would otherwise not have.

It is important to add that there are rehabs that do not push meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12 step organisations and operate more on what is known as a life skills basis.

Alcoholics Anonymous in a Rehab

Alcoholics Anonymous was the first of the so-called 12-step programs to be developed, followed by Narcotics Anonymous, followed by literally hundreds if not thousands of other 12-step programs, most based on the AA principles, using a different addiction or weakness instead of alcohol.

Although Alcoholics Anonymous and all 12 step fellowships are completely independent of all rehabs and detox’s and hospitals, there is a significant overlap in terms of the therapeutic work that is done in a rehab, and the fact that many, if not most, rehabs will either have AA meetings on site.

Some will make it a condition of being in recovery in a rehab that clients attend a certain number of AA/NA meetings whilst in treatment.

In many ways rehabs grew out of a need for alcoholics to be detoxed and hospitalised prior to and being able to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.

This was because most of the early members of AA were effectively end-stage alcoholics who needed some type of medical attention before any type of treatment could be given.

This has changed dramatically over the last 60 to 70 years, and many people attend AA/NA etc by approaching these fellowships directly, or by being introduced to them through being a client at a rehab.

In many ways the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous is significantly different to the approach of many rehabs. A rehab will often promote the fact that it’s therapeutic program is based on the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

There is some truth in this but it needs to be understood more fully. A rehab will normally work through what it calls the first five steps, but its interpretation of what steps mean will normally be significantly different to that written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.

To someone entering a rehab or their family, this can be something of an academic debate, as all they are really interested in doing is getting sober or clean in a rehab. It often becomes more of a question where the issue is once a person has left a rehab and is attending AA meetings and trying to get sober and clean or stay sober and clean.

Alcoholics Anonymous is best understood by understanding the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The most prominent book is titled Alcoholics Anonymous and is the experience of how the first hundred members of AA got sober and stayed sober at a time when there was virtually nothing else around that worked.

The book Alcoholics Anonymous gave rise to the name of the same fellowship, and the subsequent growth in that fellowship and all other 12-step fellowships.

There is a vast amount of other AA literature available, including a substantial and significant number of history books. Some of these may be available in a rehab or not.

Understanding the history of how AA developed, its timeline and subsequent growth, is actually essential to really be able to use the freedom of AA/NA, as it was originally intended.

Understanding the literature of AA is important. AA is its literature.

The AA literature is the body of experience that constitutes Alcoholics Anonymous. What is said at meetings and by individual members of AA is their own opinion, experience, belief etc.

What is in the literature is the experience of AA globally, since it first started.

Understanding that the AA literature is what Alcoholics Anonymous is, and that it is a body of experience is key to giving people the freedom to interpret and use that literature in any way that they find helpful.

This is a point made over and over again in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, that people can effectively take what they like and leave the rest.

Unfortunately, often in a meetings and likely in a rehab, people will be far more rigid in terms of telling newcomers what they can and cannot do, what they can and cannot believe in, often under the pretext of being essential in terms of staying sober or clean.

A rehab has a special responsibility in many ways to make sure that its promotion of Alcoholics Anonymous, and its interpretation of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme is presented in its entirety, and in such a way that people realise the two tiers of recovery.

Firstly that there is a body of experience they can use however they wish to, secondly that their sobriety is their own responsibility, and how they choose to put that experience into their life will play a major role in whether they stay sober or not.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

The official wording of the introduction to Alcoholics Anonymous that is read out at AA meetings, which is known as the AA preamble, gives a clear if slightly awkward message, that Alcoholics Anonymous is a completely independent organisation, that has no affiliation with any outside body or enterprise, is completely free to all its membersand, raises money by donations at meetings to cover the cost of rent/tea and coffee etc.

As with many organisations, it is sometimes easier to describe what Alcoholics Anonymous is not rather than what it is. Both are important. To most people Alcoholics Anonymous is a place that people go when they have a pretty serious drink problem that they need to deal with in the hope that they will be able to stop drinking. Beyond that most people don’t necessarily know that much.

Essentially Alcoholics Anonymous is a body of experience of a number of individuals that reach into the many millions who have been able to overcome their problem with alcohol that otherwise they probably would not have been able to. This level of experience is recorded in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous that is available for anyone to buy either through the organisation itself or online or at numerous bookstalls.

Individual members of Alcoholics Anonymous meet regularly at various venues that are normally held in church halls and community centres etc where people often share their own stories about their drinking, what happened to them and what they do in order to try and stay sober. The nature of the stories can vary widely, as do the individuals concerned.

Alcoholics Anonymous

As with many organisations there is a theory and a reality in one sense. Alcoholics Anonymous should be as described above in terms of a body of experience that people can tap into and use in their own lives as they feel appropriate. One of the aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it’s body of experience and its 12th step program has been widely used in rehabs and treatment centres, often adapted very widely and with varying levels of appropriateness.

In addition, many rehabs will actively encourage clients to attend meetings of AA and other 12 step fellowships whilst in rehab, and once they have left as a way of maintaining their sobriety. This has given rise to much confusion as to whether AA and other 12 step fellowships are connected or have any type of financial association with a rehab treatment center.

They do not and most certainly should not. It is also the case that many people who either own or working a rehab or treatment center are recovering or recovered alcoholics and are members of Alcoholics Anonymous themselves. There is no other connection.

What is the relationship between a Rehab in Florida and AA?

Someone considering entering a rehab in Florida might well have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, or might even have been to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the past.

There is likely to be a degree of confusion as to the relationship between a rehab or treatment center and that of Alcoholics Anonymous.

This is partly inevitable, given that the nature of rehabs and treatment centres grew out of the early work and the recovery movement that Alcoholics Anonymous engineered.

Alcoholics Anonymous has been very clear and consistently warns that it is not affiliated to any outside organisation, such as a rehab or treatment center or hospital or any type of clinical facility. It is a completely independent, autonomous organisation.

A rehab in Florida is likely to have some type of relationship with groups or meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition it is quite likely that the rehab will base some of their treatment methods and programs on the first five steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Whilst the work undertaken in a rehab is normally different to that undertaken in Alcoholics Anonymous itself, there will be a number of similarities.

A rehab in Florida is also likely to encourage clients to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, both whilst in rehab, and once they have left as part of their after-care or ongoing transitional living approach.

Such meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous will likely be in the local area or community where the rehab is based. It is also possible that meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous will take place in the actual rehab in Florida itself. If this is the case, then it needs to be understood that the meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are not part of the rehab itself.

They are independent and will pay rent to the rehab for use of their premises.

Rehab in Florida – AA meetings

To some people this may seem a slightly irrelevant issue. In fact it is very important. The independence of Alcoholics Anonymous is a huge part of its viability and ongoing stability, and it’s very nature is rooted in it being an independent autonomous organisation.

Having said that, a significant number of rehabs in Florida have adapted the experience of Alcoholics Anonymous and use it as part of their own clinical program or treatment method in dealing with alcoholism and other types of addiction.

It is likely that a client entering a rehab in Florida will have little interest in such a subtle distinction. The important nature of the distinction is likely to become evident if the client gets sober, stays sober and uses Alcoholics Anonymous as part of their journey in recovery.

It will then become clearer why this is an important issue, and the necessity for maintaining the independence and integrity of Alcoholics Anonymous.