Posted on May 17, 2011, under Anti Depressants-Sleeping Aid.
Volumes have been written about the phenomenon of AA. It has been investigated, explained, challenged, and defended by laypeople, newspapers, writers, magazines, psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, sociologists, anthropologists, and clergy. Each has brought a set of underlying assumptions and a particular vocabulary and professional or lay framework to the task. The variety of material on the subject reminds one of trying to force mercury into a certain-sized, perfectly round ball.
In this brief discussion, we certainly have a few underlying assumptions. One is that “experience is the best teacher.” This text will be relatively unhelpful compared to attending AA meetings over a period of time, watching and talking with people in the process of recovery actively using the program of AA. Another assumption is that AA works for a wide variety of people caught up in the disease and for this reason deserves a counselor’s attention. Alcoholics Anonymous has been described as “the single most effective treatment for alcoholism.” The exact whys and hows of its workings are not of paramount importance, but some understanding of it is necessary to genuinely recommend it. Presenting AA with such statements as “AA worked for me; it’s the only way,” or, conversely, “I’ve done all I can for you, you might as well try AA,” might not be the most helpful approach.
Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginnings in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, with the meeting of two alcoholics. One, Bill W, had had a spiritual experience that had been the major precipitating event in beginning his abstinence. On a trip to Akron after about a year of sobriety, he was overtaken by a strong desire to drink. He hit upon the idea of seeking out another suffering alcoholic as an alternative. He made contact with some people who led him to Dr. Bob, and the whole thing began with their first meeting. The fascinating story of this history is told in AA Comes of Age. The idea of alcoholics helping each other spread slowly in geometric fashion until 1939. At that point, a group of about a hundred sober members realized they had something to offer the thus far “hopeless alcoholics.” They wrote and published the book Alcoholics Anonymous, generally known as the Big Book. It was based on a retrospective view of what they had done that had kept them sober. The past tense is used almost entirely in the Big Book. It was compiled by a group of people who over time, working together, had found something that worked. Their task was to present this in a useful framework to others who might try it for themselves. This story is also covered in AA Comes of Age. In1941, AA became widely known after publication of an article in a national magazine. The geometric growth rapidly advanced, and in 1983 there were an estimated 1 million active members world wide.
Alcoholics Anonymous stresses abstinence and contends that nothing can really happen for a drinker until “the cork is in the bottle.” Many other helping professionals tend to agree. A drugged person-—and an alcoholic is drugged—simply cannot comprehend, or use successfully, many other forms of treatment. First, the drug has to go.
The goals of each individual within AA vary widely; simple abstinence to a whole new way of life are the ends of the continuum. Individuals’ personal goals may also change over time. That any one organization can accommodate such diversity is in itself something of a miracle.
In AA, the words sober and dry denote quite different states. A dry person is simply not drinking at the moment. Sobriety means a more basic, all-pervasive change in the person. Sobriety does not come as quickly as dryness and requires a desire for, and work toward, a contented, productive life without reliance on mood-altering drugs. The Twelve Steps provide a framework for achieving this latter state.