September 2018 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

No discussion about recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is complete without mentioning support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

At the Hader Clinic Queensland we integrate the “12 Step Program” as one component of the holistic treatment model of our addiction treatment program. We also recommend continued involvement in these support groups following completion of the treatment program.

What is AA?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was established in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith to enable its members to “stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.”

It is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. In Australia, there are about 18,000 members.

AA works through members telling their stories of what they used to be like, what happened and what they are like now. The AA program, known as The Twelve Steps, provides a framework for self-examination and a road to recovery, free of alcohol.

AA is not a religious organisation nor is it affiliated with any religious body. It welcomes members of all religions, agnostics and atheists alike. AA states that their program has a spiritual element but it is up to the individual to decide what that means to them.

There is no membership fee. The only requirement to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is the desire to stop drinking alcohol.

What AA does not do

  • Furnish initial motivation for alcoholics to recover
  • Solicit members
  • Engage in or sponsor research
  • Keep attendance records or case histories
  • Join “councils” of social agencies
  • Follow up or try to control its members
  • Make medical or psychological diagnoses or prognoses
  • Provide drying-out or nursing services, hospitalisation, drugs, or any medical or psychiatric treatment
  • Offer religious services
  • Engage in education about alcohol
  • Provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money or any other welfare or social services
  • Provide domestic or vocational counselling
  • Accept any money for its services, or any contributions from non-AA sources
  • Provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, social agencies, employers, etc.

The benefits of AA

Combining a residential treatment program with membership of AA improves the likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and drugs – by up to 66 percent.

A ten-year study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that, after eight years, people with alcoholism who were part of both residential treatment and an AA group had a better chance of staying alcohol-free for the first three years of study. By the end of the eight years, those who received both had a much higher rate of abstinence.

The study found  that AA’s effectiveness may not be due to its specific content or process, rather in its ability to provide free, long-term, easy access and exposure to recovery-related common therapeutic elements, the frequency of which, can be self-regulated according to the person’s own need.

Other benefits of AA are:

  • Meetings are free
  • There is no obligation to join
  • You can go as often as you wish to any meeting, in any location
  • There are no intrusive questions or obligations
  • You can retain anonymity
  • Open to everyone regardless of race, religion or beliefs
  • It creates a network of support

Different benefits for men and women

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s study also found that the therapeutic benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings were different for men and women. According to the study, men find that Alcoholics Anonymous helps them build a network of socially supportive friends who can assist them in staying alcohol-free in high risk situations (for example, parties), whereas for women it helps them deal with the negative emotions that may cause relapse.

Find out more

For more information on Alcoholics Anonymous and to find local meetings please visit www.aa.org.au.

If you would like to find out how we combine the 12 Step Program into our individual addiction treatment programs please call us on 1300 856 847.

References

  1. Kelly, J; Magill, M; Stout R: (2009) “How do people recover from alcohol dependence? A systematic review of the research on mechanisms of behaviour change in Alcoholics Anonymous” Journal of Addiction Research and Theory.
  2. Carter R, et al: (2013) “The 10 Year Course of AA Participation and Long-Term Outcomes: A Follow-up Study of Outpatient Subjects in Project MATCH” Journal of Substance Abuse Vol 34 (1)

Worried About Addiction? How To Ask R U OK?

Addiction and mental health disorders go hand in hand. If your loved one is suffering from addiction, chances are they will be suffering from one, or more, mental health conditions too. So there is never a better time than today to ask them if they are ok.

How to know if you should ask

You may already know your loved one is drinking excessively or using drugs, you may just have a feeling, or know something is not right. If they aren’t behaving as they normally would, or seem out of sorts, or are more agitated or withdrawn, trust your gut instinct and just ask. It could save their lives.

By just mentioning the changes you’ve noticed in them, you could help them open up and start to talk about something they have been afraid to, or embarrassed to talk about.

If your loved one says they are not ok, you can follow the steps below to make sure they know there is help available to them and that you will help and support them as well. If they are ok, they’ll know you’re someone who cares enough to ask and that if they need to talk in the future, they can.

If your loved one is suffering from addiction they might say everything is alright, even when it’s not. They simply may not want to talk about it. They might not think they have a problem. They might not be ready to open up. But by asking you are letting them know that it’s ok to talk and you will be ready to talk and help when they need you.

How to ask RU OK?

This can be the hardest part and you might be scared to ask. But just try to be relaxed, friendly and concerned. Try starting with a simple question and mention something specific that has concerned you, for example: “How are you? You seem a bit more withdrawn than usual, is everything ok?”

What to do if they say “no”

  • Listen, and acknowledge that yes, they are doing it tough.
  • Empathise – try to focus on listening on what they are saying rather than talking at them. Try to ensure it is a two-way conversation.
  • Let them know it’s common that people suffering from mental health issues also suffer from addiction and visa versa.
  • Avoid accusations – keep the conversation positive and upbeat, and avoid using scare tactics. Ensure there is no blaming, aggression or critical reactivity.
  • Don’t reveal past drug or alcohol use – studies have shown children don’t perceive drugs and alcohol use as being bad for them if they’ve been told about their parents’ alcohol or drug use.
  • Explain that you love them and will support them.
  • Let them know that there is always hope and that professional help is available should they want it.
  • Tell them that although you may not be able to relate directly to their feelings, you want to understand it better.
  • Agree to talk often and regularly – don’t simply have the talk and never bring it up again. Offer to sit with them again soon or arrange to catch up for a coffee.
  • Encourage them to see a professional. You could say, “It might be helpful to talk with someone who can support you. I’m happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”
  • Call us on 1300 856 847 and talk to one of our staff members to receive education and support in how to help a loved one with addiction.

Addiction and suicide

People suffering from addiction are at high risk of suicide, with alcohol abuse being found to contribute to up to 50 percent of suicides. Substance abuse is the second most common risk factor for suicide.

Young adults and adolescents are the highest risk age group for suicide, but the risk of suicide with concurrent alcohol addiction issues increases with age, often driven by life management issues that occur as a result of addiction, such as family breakdowns, criminal activity, financial difficulties and social isolation.

Alcohol and drug abuse can increase vulnerability to suicide in three ways:

  • Alcohol and other drugs, especially opioids, maintain a depressive effect within the body – which impairs judgment and problem solving abilities and also prompts individuals to show a lack of restraint in disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment.
  • The abuse of alcohol and other drugs can increase social risk factors – which include family breakdown, criminal justice issues, financial difficulties and social isolation.
  • Underlying common factors such as mental illness, genetic predisposition, low socioeconomic status and other life factors can predispose individuals to both suicidal thoughts and drug abuse.

About RU OK? Day

RU OK? Day is a national day of action to remind us that any time is good to ask the question “Are you OK?”

RU OK? focuses on the lack of connection and lack of belonging that people can feel by inspiring people to take the time to ask “are you OK?”. Providing connection has been proven to make a positive difference, long before anyone thinks of suicide.

References

  1. Suicide Prevention Australia – Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide Prevention. 2011.
  2. RU OK? – “What we’re about”. 2018.
  3. Beck A.T: “Clinical Predictors of Eventual Suicide: A 5-10 year prospective study of suicide attempts” Journal of Affective Disorders, 1989 (Nov-Dec) 17(3) 203-209
  4. Buddy, T: “Alcoholics’ Suicide Risk Increases with Age”

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