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.
- 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.
- 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)