Alcoholism is a disabling addictive disorder characterized by the uncontrollable need to consume alcohol despite any negative consequences, whether they are social, interpersonal or health related. There are two main perspectives on treatment for alcohol: one that views it as a disease and one that views it as a social choice. Because alcoholism is a medical as well as emotional addiction, several treatments must be used in order to help the patient. The typical treatment is detoxification, whether in a rehab facility or not, followed by support therapy and self help groups. The most well known and proven treatment for alcoholism following detoxification is on-going participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups.
Ebby Thacher, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith started AA in 1935 after meeting at The Oxford Group and becoming sober together. June 10, 1935 is the date marked by AA as its anniversary, which is the date of Dr. Bob Smith’s sobriety. In 1937 the three men separated from The Oxford Group after a pastor from the group spoke against them, calling their work with those suffering from alcoholism as part of a “secret, ashamed sub-group”. AA was founded on several Oxford Group practices such as meetings, stages to a changed life and altruism. Their main deviation from the group’s practices was the anonymity of AA, which was in stark contrast to the publicity-seeking Oxford Group. AA quickly spread with different groups setting up meetings in their areas and incorporating Thacher’s, Wilson’s and Smith’s 12 steps, 10 practical points to recovery and their focus on the Serenity Prayer.
The 12 steps are considered by AA as the way for alcoholics to reach the recovery stage at which they will stay for the rest of their lives. In AA, an alcoholic is never considered cured. These steps include: admitting one is powerless over alcohol, believing in a greater power, deciding to turn one’s life over to the greater power, taking a moral inventory, admitting alcoholism, allowing the greater power to remove defects of character, asking the greater power to remove shortcomings, make amends to those harmed, admit wrong doing, improve contact with the greater power and experience a spiritual awakening. The ten practical points to recovery are a list of ten questions that every alcoholic must ask themselves before embarking on the road to recovery. These questions were originally listed in the “Big Book” in chapter 5, which is the manual written in 1939 by the founding members detailing the spiritual and emotional reasoning behind the AA program. AA members also often recite the Serenity Prayer at meetings and in their daily life, which was originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr, a prominent theologian during the early to mid 1900s.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have helped people all over the world manage their alcoholism and help others in doing so as well. While AA does focus strongly on spirituality, it maintains that it is associated with no single denomination or political party. This all-inclusive attitude is what has helped so many people suffering from the disease of alcoholism.
The following links provide more information on AA, as well as the full text of many of their teachings.
Understanding Alcohol Abuse Provides information regarding the cause of alcohol abuse, how it affects both physical and mental health and possible treatments.
Alcoholism Provides a detailed description of the disease, risk factors, prevention and treatments.
Alcohol Abuse and Dependence Provides information on how symptoms of alcoholism usually manifest.
How Alcoholism Works Describes how alcoholism affects the brain as well as other organs.
Alcohol Withdrawal Complications Details the possible complications associated with detoxification.
Family History of Alcoholism Describes why those with family members suffering from alcoholism should be aware of their increased risk factors.
Treatment and Drugs for Alcoholism Provides information regarding different treatment options, including drugs, for alcoholism.
Treatment Plus AA Details how detoxification treatment and participation in AA is the best way for most to deal with alcoholism.
Description of AA Provides an overview of AA and their philosophy as well as additional resources and contact information.
History of AA This provides information on the origins of AA and its history from inception through 2008.
Brief History of AA Provides a condensed version of the history of AA and its presence in over 180 countries.
The Serenity Prayer A full text of the Serenity Prayer as written by Reinhold Niebuhr.
The 12 Steps Provides a full list of the 12 steps as well as resources and information about them.
The 12 Step Program and AA Describes what AA is and how the 12 step program works.
10 Practical Points to Recovery Provides the full text of chapter 5 of the Big Book, including the 10 practical points to recovery.