If you have a drinking problem, you might have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) from your friends and family. They might have recommended it to you to help you overcome the addiction. You may have even heard them say it’s really effective.
Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the so-called 12-step programs for addiction treatment. They are known for the 12 steps they let their members go through in their meetings:
- Admitting you are powerless over alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable.
- Believe that a higher power greater than yourself could restore your sanity.
- Make a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understand Him.
- Make a moral inventory of yourself.
- Admit to God, to yourself, and to others the exact nature of your wrongs.
- Be entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly ask Him to remove your shortcomings.
- Make a list of everyone you have harmed, and be willing to make amends to all of them.
- Make direct amends to such people where possible, except when doing so would cause injury to them or to others.
- Continue to take personal inventory and immediately admit when we make a mistake.
- Through prayer and meditation, seek to improve your conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for you and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, try to carry this message to other alcoholics and to practice these principles in all aspects of your life.
AA meetings are very popular amongst recovering alcohol addicts in the United States as well as the rest of the world. Many people do attest to its effectiveness, but you could be wondering if it’s right for you.
Before you decide to enroll yourself in an AA group, have a look at its pros and cons first.
Pros of Alcoholics Anonymous
Your identity is kept a secret
When joining a support group like AA, you may be ashamed to reveal yourself to total strangers. That’s where the “anonymous” part of AA comes in. To help you overcome that initial shame, your identity will remain hidden, and only people from the group will know about the things you share with them.
In short, everything in an AA meeting stays in the meeting.
You gain insights from other people’s experiences
AA is a group focused on interaction with other members. Meetings always involve sharing your struggles with the group, and each member does the same. AA groups foster a culture of openness, which helps you break down your walls and become more open about your own struggles too.
AA meetings are also designed to be environments of low pressure and no judgment. Because of that, it’s a lot easier to be open, especially when every member is supporting you.
AA meetings are highly structured
The orderly nature of each AA meeting ensures that all members of the group achieve the same objectives. Everyone will have a chance to share their thoughts, and everyone can learn from each other in every meeting.
AA is free to join
If you don’t have the money to go to private rehab centers, AA is a great alternative. It will cost you nothing to enroll in the program.
AA is effective in preventing relapse
There is evidence from studies done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) showing that many alcoholics who went through AA meetings stay sober in the long run. Everyone in the group is motivated to stop drinking, and so they can positively push each other towards that goal. You can even call on other members if you struggle with threats of relapse. They’ll give you that dose of encouragement that you need.
Cons of Alcoholics Anonymous
Despite the effectiveness and low cost of AA groups, they are not perfect. Here are some cons you should be aware of.
AA does not address the biological aspects of addiction
AA groups do not employ medical professionals who can assist with detox programs and medications. For some people struggling with alcoholism, they may need medications to fully recover. AA cannot provide that service.
AA depends a lot on social interaction
If you’re much of an introvert, or just don’t prefer to interact with a large group of people, AA meetings may make you uncomfortable. More so if you have to share details about your life that you don’t want anyone else to know.
AA requires a lot of your time
When you’re in an AA group, you need to attend at least 90 meetings over the course of 90 days. That means daily meetings of 1 to 2 hours each plus the time it takes you to get to the meeting venue. That much commitment of time might be too overwhelming for you.
Some AA members turn on those who relapse
Despite the effectiveness of AA in letting its members stay sober, relapse is still possible. And there have been some reports from members who relapsed that they were judged and told off instead of supported. That only makes the relapse worse.
You might not be comfortable with confessing your habits in a big group
AA meetings emphasize that you declare yourself as an “addict.” This may be disempowering to you, more so if you have to declare it in a room full of strangers. It may feel more like public humiliation than recovery.
Some members may not be fully committed to recovery
Your group may have some members who are just evading jail time, like those who have been charged with drunk driving. They are allowed to attend AA meetings in place of a prison sentence, so their intentions may not be as pure. With that, they may turn out to be bad influences on the entire group.
Now that you know of AA’s pros and cons, it’s time to make an informed decision. If you decide not to enroll in AA, you have lots of other options. Recovery is still within reach.
Talk to an addiction recovery professional today and discover alternatives that are right for you.