Study after study has demonstrated that alcoholism treatment has the ability to help people turn their drinking lives around for good. For example, in a study in the journal Addiction, researchers found that people who obtained help for an alcohol addiction were more likely to be sober three years later than people who tried to go it alone. The help provided in a treatment program can allow people to develop new opinions and new behaviors, and this can allow them to live stronger, healthier lives as a result. But the help provided in a treatment program shouldn’t end when a person leaves the facility for the last time. Sometimes, people need a little extra help in order to make the lessons of recovery really stick for a long period of time. For these people, Alcoholics Anonymous may play a key role.
Addiction experts don’t consider Alcoholics Anonymous a form of treatment for an addiction issue, as there are no medical treatments dispensed through this program and there are no therapists or mental health professionals monitoring the work that goes on. Instead, the program is designed to provide people in recovery with a community of understanding peers. As a document published by Alcoholics Anonymous explains, “We in A.A. are men and women who have discovered, and admitted, that we cannot control alcohol… We have but one primary purpose: To stay sober ourselves and to help others who may turn to use for help in achieving sobriety.”
In essence, this is a peer support group that’s run by people in recovery, designed to help people who are in recovery.
There are no fees to pay, contracts to sign or obligations to participate. Anyone who wants to stay sober can benefit from participating in a program like this, and research suggests that those who do get involved tend to attain and maintain a robust recovery as a result.
Much of the research published on Alcoholics Anonymous has focused on abstinence rates among people who participate, when compared to people who do not. The results of studies like this are truly impressive, and they might motivate people to participate, even when they previously thought they’d never do so.
For example, in a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers found that those who joined the AA movement relatively early in their recovery process and who stayed involved for long periods of time had better sobriety scores eight years later, when compared to people who weren’t so quick to latch on to the ideas of AA. Even so, people who joined later and who participated less frequently still did better in sobriety, when compared to people who didn’t attend at all.
Studies like this suggest that AA has the ability to:
Since AA has the ability to bring about all of these diverse benefits, it’s commonly included as part of an addiction aftercare program. People who complete their treatment programs might be provided with a list of meetings in their communities, or they might even be required to attend meetings in the original treatment facility as part of their release agreement. Since AA can be so valuable, it’s reasonable for therapists to ensure that their clients take advantage of all the benefits, and make the best choices possible.
It’s relatively easy to discover how well AA works, but it might be much more difficult to understand how this organization has the ability to bring about such dramatic changes in the people who participate. While each person who makes space for this program in his/her life is bound to come away with a different benefit from the experience when compared to someone else, learning a little more about how the programs work might help people to understand the power of AA, and what it might do for them.
Meetings are the centerpiece of the AA process, and people who are affiliated with the organization are expected to go to meetings on a regular basis. Some people go weekly, some go daily, and some go to meetings when they’re struggling with deep cravings or some other trigger that might lead to alcohol use. While television shows and movies seem to imply that there’s only one form of AA meeting, in reality, there are a variety of different formats to choose from.
For example, in a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, researchers were able to name six different types of meetings, including:
As this study makes clear, some meetings allow people to talk and learn from one another. Meetings might also provide people with the opportunity to learn more about addiction, and how the process manifests in others and is successfully controlled by them. Meetings might also provide people with socialization options, so they can meet others in recovery and learn more about their healing techniques.
People who affiliate with AA may go to meetings regularly, but there may be other things these people do that could contribute to their success. For example, in a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers found that people who participated in AA went to meetings, but they also spoke to their sponsors twice per week and they talked to other AA members once per week. They utilized the social options of AA, in other words, and they did so outside of the meeting culture.
People who participate in AA may also work hard to incorporate the steps of recovery into their day-to-day lives. They may try to reach out to a higher power for help, for example, or they might try to keep an inventory of their daily wrongs and make amends when they can. The steps can provide people with a roadmap and a plan for success, and progress through the steps can give life a sense of purpose that may have been missing in the past. For some, this is also an important part of the healing process.
People who are asked to participate in AA as part of an aftercare program can get started on the work right away. There are no forms to fill out or checks to sign. They just need a willingness to work on the addiction issue. If you need help motivating someone you love to develop that willingness, please call us. We can help you to find an interventionist who can help your family break through denial and get the person needed help.