If you or someone you love is dependent on alcohol, you may feel hopeless. Perhaps the person has tried to quit, but relapsed. Before you give up, realize that it sometimes takes several attempts to achieve sobriety. The key is not to give up. One program that can help is a back-to-basics approach of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many have turned to this method because things have changed since that institution was founded in 1935. As time passed and the organization expanded, many local groups strayed from the original principles of A.A. In some cases, this has led to groups becoming more like social clubs. That was not the original purpose. The reality is that attaining sobriety can be hard and these challenges need to be addressed. A simple communal gathering is less helpful than one focused on the original goals.
What is the purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous?
The main purpose of A.A. is to encourage its members to stay sober. It is understood that the reason someone is attending an A.A. meeting is that they want to attain sobriety, that they are tired of having alcohol control their lives. They are tired of the devastation their dependency has wreaked upon them emotionally, spiritually, socially and cognitively. They are tired of having their relationships with others destroyed, of having their memories stolen and of losing their health and joy to the disease of alcoholism. The secondary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous is for members to voluntarily help each other. The program’s focus is not just on helping one’s self, but also others.
Do you have to be religious to join Alcoholics Anonymous?
Absolutely not. A.A. does have loosely Christian roots, but the founders of the program, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson, wanted it to be open to anyone who needed it. Therefore, while Christians may be familiar with many of the concepts, such as confession, it is done in a generic sense that allows anyone to participate. While local dynamics may affect how accepting a particular group is, in general, A.A. is not meant to be exclusive and participants are encouraged to find the group that best suits them. This applies not only to religion, but also to any other controversial or hot-button areas such as politics. The sole purpose of A.A. is to help members attain sobriety and to help each other. A.A. meetings are supposed to be safe spaces for members to share their personal struggles, their feelings, and their experiences, and to find encouragement from others who are further along the path. Meetings are supposed provide hope, not judgement.
Understanding alcoholism leads to compassion, not judgment
All too often, society blames alcoholics. This is not helpful and ignores the physiological changes that occur due to substance use dependency. Lack of willpower is not the problem. Instead, there are various risk factors such as the person’s genetics, history of trauma, and social factors. Sometimes a person self-medicates with alcohol due to emotional pain. Others may metabolize alcohol differently due to genetic factors. For those who have experienced physiological changes, their innate biological need for alcohol can be as powerful as the need for food or water. Just as a starving man craves nourishment, an alcoholic may crave his next drink. Given how powerful these urges are, quitting becomes difficult and relapses occur. It is important that the alcoholic not blame him or herself. By understanding the nature of the disease, the focus becomes healing, not self-judgment. One important lesson to be learned from AA is that alcoholics struggle to attain sobriety. By listening to the stories of others in the program, new members realizes they are not alone, that others have walked this path. This helps give perspective and hope. This is particularly important for those who experience withdrawal symptoms such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, nausea and restlessness. In cases where these are severe, medically supervised detoxication may be recommended.
These types of programs can be used in conjunction with Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is not about restricting access to necessary medical care or any other therapies that might help its members attain sobriety. Rather, it’s designed to support those who need it. The back-to-basics approach emphasizes the original goals of the program, and renews the focus on sobriety for members. If you or someone you love is ready to start the journey towards healing and sobriety, call us today at 954-523-1167. We are here to help you.