The AA big book is the book itself Alcoholics Anonymous. Before AA was formed a number of people found a way they could get sober and stay sober, in effect recover from alcoholism.
One of the things they decided they needed to do was to write a book detailing their experiences, both of drinking and of recovery. This they did and published the book. For a number of reasons they decided to call the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
From this book the organisation took its name, and meetings that were happening began to call themselves groups or meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Why the big book
The description of the book as the big book came simply from the fact that the first edition was printed on very thick paper. This was to give the impression to the people who were paying for the book, recovering alcoholics, that they were getting real value for money.
What is the big book
The reason, or the main reason the book was written was to put in writing the experience of the early members of AA. At the time of writing there were two groups in America, one in New York and one in Akron. It was estimated that without some form of literature to spread the message it would take hundreds of years to even reach most major cities in the US. There was a degree of urgency that was needed, and it was agreed that a book was the best way of meeting this need.
The significance of that decision had ramifications that no one could have imagined. Most important perhaps was that it established the principle that AA is and was a body of experience. It set out that experience so that other people could benefit from it. It gave people the freedom to look at and understand AA’s experience, and then use that experience in any way they felt it could work for them.
This is hugely important. AA did not set out any creed or belief system, or try to convince or convert people about what they should or should not do, by way of drinking or staying sober. It really was a very courageous approach. Sadly, much of AA today does not necessarily see it as a body of experience. People often tend to fluctuate to various degrees of fundamentalism, and there are real concerns around issues of control and coercion.
Whatever the day-to-day practicalities are of AA, the fact that the book exists and was written, and continues to be used how it was written, reinforces this essential principle that AA is a body of experience.
This principle can quite literally be a lifesaver for a number of people. It should also ensure, however fragile, that AA continues to offer a degree of freedom, both from alcohol, but also from other people and their belief systems.
Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step organizations use several different readings and sayings that help members.
Some of these sayings are best known at meetings, others in the literature.
Perhaps the best-known of these is a prayer, commonly referred to as the serenity prayer. It may be one of the first things someone learns in rehab
There is a full version of the prayer, but AA tends to use a shortened version of it that reads as follows.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer is sometimes used at the beginning of meetings and sometimes used to close meetings at the end.
Also, it has become a common prayer that many people use in times of difficulty. It is particularly easy prey for people to remember and get used to.
Like any prayer, its meaning depends to a large extent depends upon the person who is using it.
Their interpretation of what it says to them and how it makes them feel is important. Any prayer should in effect make the person think, what is this saying to me about me.
For many people in AA, the serenity prayer can be a bit of a mantra.
People are often advised simply to repeat it over and over again.
This can be done when people are new, or at any time in their recovery. The simplicity of the prayer and the fact that it is regularly used at meetings makes it much more accessible for many people.
There are three basic elements to the structure of the prayer. People find these different and helpful.
The first element is about asking for acceptance of things that you cannot change. This is acknowledging some degree of powerlessness over events outside your control.
The second element is about asking for the power to change the things that you can control, and the third element is asking for help in knowing the difference between the two.
The value of the structure is that it embodies one of the most important principles in AA recovery. Acknowledging the difference between the things you can change, and the things you cannot is not simply a matter of semantics.
It is about reinforcing your real sense of power and control over your own life.
This is done by focusing energies on things that are within your control, and not outside of it.
This is particularly important for members of AA. Many of them have grown up in what is known as an alcoholic home. One of the key effects of growing up in such a home is that you reverse this whole principle.
Most alcoholics have a strong sense of feeling responsible for things that are outside of their control and at the same time little control over their own lives.
This is one factor in their understanding of their alcoholism. For many active alcoholics, alcohol seems to give them this sense of control. Although it is an illusion, it is often preferable to their reality.
The serenity prayer is not the main way that people tend to change or reverse this sense of responsibility. That is a much longer process and simply saying a prayer.
In many ways, the whole nature of 12 step recovery is about this process. The value of the serenity prayer is that it embodies this process in a few simple words.
It can be used as a stop-gap and a very important way to buy yourself some time.
‘I used to judge myself by my intentions while the world was judging me by my actions’
Quote from Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
Most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, and know that it has something to do with people stopping drinking.
People also have very different and often conflicting views of what an alcoholic is, and also the difference between someone who is an alcoholic and a heavy or problem drinker.
Some people are also wary of Alcoholics Anonymous because they have heard that it is a religious or spiritual organisation, and do not want any involvement with something akin to this.
For anyone really wanting to understand how Alcoholics Anonymous works, there are two important things.
Firstly is to understand the context of Alcoholics Anonymous in today’s world, and do that it is really important to have some sense of the history of AA and how it has developed.
Describing Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous describes itself as a fellowship of men and women who share their experience strength and hope with each other, in order to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
Whilst this is quite a broad generalisation, there is a good deal of truth in this very simple premise, that AA is about individuals sharing their experiences in the hope of helping others.
History of Alcoholics Anonymous
AA is fairly unique as such, apart from other 12-step organisations, and does not have a traditional form of structure. Understanding the history of AA is a big part of being able to see how the reality of AA functions.
There are a number of history books, some written by AA itself, others written by independent journalists and authors. All will give slightly differing viewpoints as to how AA developed, and what its strengths and weaknesses are.
The books written by AA itself are slightly sanitised, but do also carry much if not all of the historical information that is relevant and pertinent to how AA developed.
AA, both in print and in reality, can have a slight gloss to it that is part protective, and in part slightly focused on not wanting to appear divisive or confrontational.
Independent books on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous are quite often written either why people who are members of AA themselves, although not always, and people who are quite unashamedly opposed to AA and everything about it.
The fact there are differing viewpoints about AA is not surprising, and should not of itself be a problem or an issue.
It can become an issue because people tend to become either very hostile or a protective about AA, both approaches tend to blur the reality.
Reality of Alcoholics Anonymous
Anyone wanting to understand the reality of Alcoholics Anonymous should really go to one or more meetings and experience it for themselves.
Whatever meeting they go to, they are likely to experience a different reality to other meetings, and other people’s experiences of them.
This is simply because anyone’s reality is different to someone else’s.
However there is a general shape and form to AA meetings, which largely focus around the definition given at the beginning of this post.
Individuals who have had serious problems and have been able to get sober, meeting together and sharing their experience in the hope of helping others who have had similar problems.
This has always been at the heart of AA, and continues to be in most of the meetings that anyone is likely to attend.
This will vary to an extent, simply because there are literally hundreds of thousands of meetings all around the world, all of which will have a slightly different structure and format.
The other thing that is worth saying about AA is that at most meetings, if not all, there is a mix of both practical and spirit. The practical tends to be the physical reality of individuals meeting and talking and sharing with each other.
The spirit tends to be an underlying energy which pervades the nature and process of the meeting, and for many people is the most powerful element of what happens to them, both in terms of getting sober and staying sober.
This mix of practical and spirit is perhaps the unique element of AA that makes it so difficult to describe. The good news is that people do not have to understand it in order to experience it.
Pretty much anyone can attend an AA meeting, as all are open to anyone thinks they may have a drink problem, and a good number of what are known as open meetings, where anyone who is interested in AA can attend and listen to what is being said.
Potted history of AA
There are a few basic points of history that should probably be flagged up, although none are a substitute to really understanding the full time line of AA.
AA was started in America in the mid 1930s, largely as a result of a chain of individual experiences of people who had a drink problem, and who got sober using a number of spiritual principles.
The best-known of these individuals were the two co-founders of AA, who stayed anonymous during their own lifetimes, but became quite well known afterwards.
Their individual experiences formed the basis of how AA developed, both in terms of individual groups in certain cities, through to the enormous growth of meetings and groups throughout the world today.
These and other individual spiritual experiences were collated into a book, which was entitled Alcoholics Anonymous, which became the name and basis of the whole organisation itself.
Perhaps the most important thing to take from the history of AA is that it has always been a collection of experience.
It has no ideology or belief system or any agenda other than an openness to share its experience in the hope that it can help others.
This sharing of experience is done primarily through the AA literature, which is open for anyone to buy or download on-line, as well as through AA meetings and individuals sharing their experience on a one-to-one basis.
What should in fact be a relatively simple question, is often quite difficult to answer, simply because there is normally another issue underlying it.
For many people, going to an AA meeting itself is an acknowledgement or a recognition of the fact that they may have a drink problem, and this is often a huge deal for them and other people.
Most people who have a serious drink problem are in denial about it, often for a large part of their life.
It often takes something seismic for them to recognise that they have a problem, let alone become willing to do something about it.
AA has become almost synonymous with the idea of getting sober and staying sober.
Whilst people may have very differing interpretations of what alcoholism is and means, the reality is often that going to AA is the first or the most focused thing people will do.
People may go on to other types of treatment, or simply get sober and stay sober on their own, but at some point there is a strong likelihood they will go to an AA meeting.
The nature of denial is often misunderstood, especially in the context of alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Anyone who is an active alcoholic is likely at some point to become protective about their drinking, and depending upon the extent of that alcoholism, that defensiveness will increase as the drinking progresses.
Denial in this sense is protective, and someone who is an alcoholic is likely to get to a point where they see alcohol is being only thing that matters to them.
At this point, the worse things get both internally and externally, the more the alcoholic will turn to alcohol as being the only thing that matters, the only thing it is important for them to hold onto.
This is often why it is so baffling for someone who is not an alcoholic to understand try and make sense of why an alcoholic will carry on drinking in the face of almost relentless pressures to stop, both internal and external.
There has to come a point, where the internal pressure is so great that the alternative of going to AA as opposed to carry on drinking becomes a reality.
It is at this moment that someone might attend an AA meeting. Timing is crucial, as this may be the only time the alcoholic is exposed to the reality of what can happen to help them get and stay sober.
This is really about the reality of what happens at an AA meeting. There may be many different formats, readings talks etc, but there is one central element which should run through all and any meeting.
What is at the heart of all AA meetings is a mix of people from all walks of life, some of whom will be new, some will have been sober a long time and some have been sober for differing lengths of time. there may also be some people whoa are still actively drinking, although not usually at the meeting.
All are there on an equal basis, and will share with each other what helped and did not help them get sober, and what they find helpful in their day-to-day life regarding sobriety.
It is this sharing of experience, both at a group level and on a one-to-one basis that really is the heart of Alcoholics Anonymous, and should be at the heart of most meetings.
There is also often continual sharing between people before and after meetings, and often on the telephone during the day or at night when there are no meetings taking place.
The Spirit of AA
The practicality of describing an AA meeting can give it a sense of normality that in fact it does not have.
In addition to individuals sharing with each other about their alcoholism and recovery, there is an energy to the meeting that transcends the actual event itself.
This energy is hard to define, but most people seem to experience it, albeit in different ways.
This energy goes a long way to explaining the reality of Alcoholics Anonymous, but is also as one of the undefinable elements that makes it so hard to give a concrete picture of what Alcoholics Anonymous is, and how AA meetings work.
Apologies at the outset if this seems a slightly patronising question (which it is) but it is one that a number of people do ask, and is generally around the so called issue of the God question in AA.
The history of AA largely revolves around the experience of people’s understanding and interpretation of God, and at the same time the freedom to experience this in anyway they do.
Part of this experience has always been a thread of underlying pressure for people to at some point come round to a belief in God in some way, shape or form.
People who would consider themselves atheists often feel they are being sort of being tolerated, with an expectation that at some point they will come round to the God view.
Right to Believe
Society as a whole has in many ways had the same problem for decades and centuries, reinforced by the institutional nature of organised religion.
Whilst AA doesn’t have any organised religious involvement, it does have a degree of being institutionalised, which can manifest itself in a degree of rigidity, both structurally and individually.
This often leads to people being referred to either as believers or non-believers, or believers or atheists.
It is almost a bit too obvious, but it does need saying, that labels of all sorts carry an inherent risk. They run the risk of putting people in a box, and categorising them from the outside in.
People sometimes like labels because it gives them a sense of external identity, something to hang onto, something to belong to, a sort of tribalism.
Understandable though this is, it also means that labels in effect carry very little meaning. Describing someone as a believer or an atheist in reality means very little if anything.
There are so many different arguments that people seem to want to go with about whether or not God exists as to drown out the real issue.
Most of the arguments seem to centre around a theoretical idea, and people’s ability to prove it or not. This is certainly the case with a lot of organised religion, and one of the reasons it is so divisive in its nature,
Theoretical beliefs are in effect a form of ideology, and wherever they have come from, they tend to become very tribal in nature, and normally end up being a rallying point for most types of fundamentalism.
Religion has probably been saved, not by its ideology, but by the fact that there are numerous people who have had some type of spiritual experience that manifests itself in Christianity and other religions.
Going back to labels, and why they are potentially very dangerous. People may come to a label, whether it is that of believer or atheist, because it seems to give them cover for where they are coming from.
This quickly can become something of a trap, as changing your ideas or beliefs then removes you from that label, and the sense of safety that may go with it.
On the whole, labels should really be avoided, and in effect replaced by the individual’s sense of self, and their ability to trust in their own experience.
AA as a Body of Experience
People sometimes forget that the book Alcoholics Anonymous was written to preserve the body of experience of the early members of AA, and to share that experience with anyone who wanted to read the book.
At the time the book was written, AA had two groups, one in Akron and one in New York.
Part of the purpose of the book was to share this experience with the whole world, and allow anyone who wanted to, to use the experience in the book to get sober and stay sober.
This principle was quickly established as the root of AA. That AA was essentially a body of experience, that anyone could use in any way they wanted to in order to get sober and stay sober.
This dual thread of AA was and is still core to its very existence. The structure of AA has continually reaffirmed the literature of AA as being deemed to be the experience of AA from its start to the present day, worldwide.
This experience is open to anyone who wants to use it. This gives people a freedom to interpret the experience of AA in any way they choose. Period.
Experience and Belief Systems
It is likely that now always been to be people who belief systems about God, whether for or against believing. What AA can offer is a way through this.
AA gives people the benefit of its experience, and at the same time freedom to use that experience, or any part of it as they see fit.
Whilst in theory this is the best of both worlds, in reality this freedom is often hugely abused. People often see other people’s freedom as a threat to their own identity or belief system.
This sense of a threat often leads people to try and curtail other people’s freedom, either through some type of bullying, or through the well practised fear factor.
AA, and the 12 step movement generally, should have nothing to do with either. Bullying and fear factors have no place in the world of recovery.
Happy Joyous and Free
This phrase of happy joyous and free from the book Alcoholics Anonymous is often one of the most quoted. It is often used as a sort of symbolic embrace of the AA 12 step program, and what it can offer.
The bit that is perhaps most important is the word free. In large part this because this freedom, the sense of being free is a precondition of the other two.
The reality is that many people in AA do not experience this freedom, not because they cannot, but because it is often curtailed by other people, intentionally or not.
This curtailment of freedom can take many forms, but is perhaps most common around the issue of the God question.
The issue is not really that belief or unbelief, God or atheist, but around people’s ultimate freedom to be themselves, and the right to have their own experience whatever that may be.
This right is paramount and absolute.
Depriving people of this right may ultimately deprive them of the freedom to attend AA or use its literature, which ultimately is about that right to recover from alcoholism, and potentially about their right to life itself.
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.
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 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.
Many people are familiar with the name of Alcoholics Anonymous, and many have a vague understanding that people go to Alcoholics Anonymous when they have a drink problem and hopefully they get sober and stay sober for the rest of their lives.
People may also be familiar with certain basic concepts of Alcoholics Anonymous such as the saying one day at a time, or the understanding that you can only deal with a problem once you have acknowledged that the problem exists.
The world of Alcoholics Anonymous is a very wide one, and is in many ways a bit of a subculture. Its importance lies perhaps in fact that for many people it is the first port of call if and when they recognise, or someone close to them recognises, that they have a seriously problem that they are unable or unwilling to do anything about.
Many people go directly to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, either willingly or unwillingly, and once exposed to the process of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting have an understanding, or a better understanding of what alcoholism is about, and/or what recovery from alcoholism involves.
The other way people are exposed to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous is when they enter a rehab for a treatment center. Whilst a rehab or a treatment center will have no direct links in terms of ownership or anything else with Alcoholics Anonymous most will have quite close ties with local Alcoholics Anonymous groups that crossover certain boundaries.
The majority of rehabs or treatment centers tend to offer what they refer to as addiction treatment programs which are normally based in part on the 12 step programme of recovery that Alcoholics Anonymous pioneered and lays claim to.
The rehab is likely to take certain aspects of the 12 step program and use elements of them in such a way as to be unique to themselves whilst enjoying the reputation of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Many rehabs refer to themselves as 12-step rehabs, meaning that they have a close affinity to the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and support and endorse its use.
It may well be that the rehab has close links with local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and encourages or maybe insist that an individual whilst in rehab attends local meetings.
It may also be the case that meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous are held on the premises of the rehab or treatment center, and if this is the case it should be stressed that these meetings are still completely independent of the rehab, they are simply using its venue as a basis for hosting the meetings and will pay them an appropriate rent for such use.
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 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.
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.
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.