What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

Golden AA symbol against a blue night sky

November 14, 2021

By Andy F

Categories: Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is widely accepted as a successful treatment for alcoholism. It enjoys a membership of over two million alcoholics. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international fellowship requiring no membership dues or fees. It is dedicated to helping alcoholics achieve sobriety. In AA, this is achieved through its spiritually inclined Twelve Steps program. Structurally, it is guided by its Twelve Traditions. AA is nonprofessional and non-denominational. It is self-supporting and apolitical. The avowed desire to stop drinking is its sole requirement for membership. 

It has not endorsed the disease model of alcoholism. Nevertheless, AA is sympathetic to viewing alcoholism as an illness. As of 2020, AA has spread to diverse cultures. This includes geopolitical areas normally resistant to grassroots movements. The AA fellowship has an estimated worldwide membership of over two million. 75% of its members reside in the U.S. and Canada. Paraphrased from Wikipedia.

The twelve steps: a path to recovery from alcoholism

The Twelve Steps is a suggested self-improvement program for people who have lost the power of choice over their drinking. Initially, this involves admitting powerlessness over alcohol and acknowledging its damage. The recovery process then suggests listing and striving to correct personal failings. The twelve steps encourage the making of amends for past misdeeds.

Steps ten, eleven, and twelve are the maintenance steps and support ongoing spiritual development. A large part of this involves helping other alcoholics towards sobriety. The Steps also suggest the healing aid of an unspecified God ”as we understood Him.” AA is also accommodating to members who identify as unbelievers.

The 2020 Cochrane meta-analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “Based on randomized trials, AA-oriented therapies have a 42% abstinent rate one year after treatment”. Paraphrased from Wikipedia.

A secular path to sobriety

Historically, AA has supported the idea that alcoholics need to believe in God; if not God, then an unseen higher power. This greater power offers alcoholics a solution to their powerlessness. Over the years, these ideas have changed. Now, many atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers are getting sober in AA. There is now a strong and flourishing movement of alcoholics who follow a secular path toward sobriety.

Good Orderly Direction – (a useful acronym for GOD)

Alcoholics come to AA when they admit that they don’t have a solution to stop drinking. They become teachable to the suggestions offered through the twelve steps. Many receive the willingness to follow suggestions from an agnostic-friendly sponsor. Unbelievers view the program itself as a powerful therapeutic alternative to God or a higher power. Good Orderly Direction is a practical alternative to the traditional idea of God. It is another helpful acronym for GOD.

AA, a spiritual, not religious program

This unique altruistic movement is free of charge. It is a powerful and supportive therapy for alcoholism. AA continues to help alcoholics find recovery, irrespective of their belief systems. One of the central slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous is “Keep it simple.”

What is keeping it simple for many atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers? They define the spirituality of the program as offering love and service to newly sober members. Unity, service, and recovery symbolize AA’s three-sided triangle. AA members are encouraged to live by these principles through the twelve steps. Their primary purpose is to carry the message to the newcomer.

Love, unity, and service make up the three sides of the AA symbol, which is the triangle within a circle. The circle stands for “the whole world of AA” of recovery possible. Love, unity, and service are the three legacies that offer a solution to the still-suffering alcoholic. They are powerful enough to facilitate a non-God-centred spiritual awakening. When consistently practiced in AA, the three legacies represent a powerful alternative to God. They are undoubtedly powers greater than the individual alcoholic.

In fellowship,

Andy F


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