Living with alcohol use disorder can feel lonely and hopeless. Even after you complete a rehab program, you may still feel as though you miss drinking or that you may be able to drink successfully.
The truth is alcoholism is a disease that can affect the way you think and the decisions that you make. It can convince you that you can control your drinking or that your drinking wasn’t really “that bad.” In order to stay sober and keep these thoughts under control, it’s important that you continue engaging in your recovery or ongoing treatment.
One of the most popular and effective methods of staying sober after rehab is going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and participating in the 12-Step fellowship.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?
Alcoholics Anonymous, usually referred to as AA, is a support group for people struggling from alcoholism. It was developed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1935 in Akron, Ohio. The two men had the intention of staying sober themselves as well as helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
The fellowship revolves around a 12-Step program of recovery that encourages you to accept that you are powerless over alcohol, ask a Higher Power for help, and develop a spiritual connection that keeps you sober. Although the program is spiritual, it is not religious nor is it affiliated with any religious organizations. AA welcomes people with all beliefs–even agnostics and atheists.
The program is free to attend and is open to anyone who wants to stop drinking. All you have to do is go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps with your sponsor, and begin sponsoring other men or women.
What once started as a small group in Ohio is now a worldwide fellowship. There are AA meetings in nearly 180 nations and there are more than 123,000 AA groups in the world. The fellowship’s literature has also been translated into over 100 languages.
The 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
AA is a 12-Step fellowship that involves working the 12-Steps under close guidance from a sponsor. After working through the 12-Steps yourself, you are able to become a sponsor and begin guiding other men or women through the steps. The 12-Steps are as follows:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
What are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meetings Like?
There are several different 12-Step meeting formats, but each meeting starts in a similar way. The meeting begins with a group serenity prayer and announcements about the group. Then, the meeting uses one of the following formats:
- Guest speaker
- Topic discussion
- Open discussion
- Big book study
The vast majority of AA meetings last one hour.
Meetings are hosted by individual “homegroups.” Homegroups are groups of people who host their own 12-Step meetings, choose the format, collect donations, and facilitate the meeting. Each month, a chairperson is chosen. The chairperson is in charge of running the meeting.
Guest speaker meetings feature one or two guest speakers who share their stories of recovery. Speakers talk about what their life was like during their alcoholism, what happened to make them want to stop drinking, and what their life is like now that they are sober. The idea is to spread hope to other people in the group.
Some guest speaker meetings will have a portion of time set aside at the end for sharing or discussion. This period of time allows other members of the group to share how they relate to the speaker’s story or what they learned during the meeting.
Topic-discussion meetings involve a group discussion about a specific topic. The topic may be chosen by the chairperson of the meeting, drawn from a bucket, read from 12-Step related literature, or be focused on one of the 12-Steps or 12-traditions. After a topic is chosen, group members have the opportunity to share their thoughts, experiences, or questions about the topic at hand.
Open discussion meetings are similar to topic-discussion meetings, except there is no assigned topic. Group members can take turns discussing whatever they’d like. They can check-in and talk about their well-being, discuss the steps or the program, or express painful feelings that they are struggling with. Regardless of the topic, AA meetings are designed to be a safe place for anyone in recovery.
Big Book Study
The “Big Book” is a nickname used for the official book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This book describes the 12-Steps in-depth and gives clear-cut directions for a program of recovery. Big Book study meetings are AA meetings that focus on the Big Book. Members usually read a few paragraphs or pages from the book, discuss, then continue reading. There may be time for sharing at the end.
Benefits of Going to Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings in Recovery
Attending 12-Step meetings and working the steps can help you stay sober after completing an alcohol rehab program. However, it’s important to remember that AA does not replace therapy. AA is peer-led and is meant to show you a way of living sober, not to treat underlying mental, emotional, or behavioral health conditions. Most people benefit from combining a 12-Step program of recovery with treatment and counseling.
There are many benefits of going to alcoholics anonymous meetings, including:
- Meetings are a great place to develop a sober support network
- You can find meetings almost anywhere, so you can get support when you are traveling or out of town
- Going to meetings and joining a homegroup will help hold you accountable for your sobriety
- Developing a spiritual connection with something greater than yourself can help you cope with challenges
- Meetings allow you to learn from the experiences of others and learn new strategies for overcoming addiction
Studies have shown that rates of abstinence are nearly twice as high among those who go to AA compared to those who do not. Similarly, higher rates of meeting attendance are related to higher rates of abstinence.
Are Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings Free?
It is free to attend AA meetings, however, the meetings do depend on donations and voluntary contributions from group members. According to AA’s Seventh Tradition, “Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.” This means AA groups do not accept donations from people who don’t identify as members of Alcoholics Anonymous.
To raise these self-supporting funds, groups pass a basket around during each meeting and ask members to contribute $1-2, if possible. However, if you are unable to donate any money, you are still welcome to attend the meetings.
12-Step Focused Recovery at Moving Mountains
At Moving Mountains Recovery, our holistic, integrated approach is designed to promote 12-Step ideologies and participation. Our clients may have the opportunity to participate in 12-Step meetings, host their own 12-Step meetings, and begin working with a sponsor so they can get one step further in their recovery. When combined with evidence-based treatments such as behavioral therapy and counseling, AA can be a highly effective approach to recovery.
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, please don’t wait any longer to get the help you deserve. Call now to speak with one of our admissions coordinators.