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How Alcoholics Anonymous Works

Despite being around for over 80 years, there is still a certain aura of mystery surrounding Alcoholics Anonymous. Some people say it is a miracle program that saved their lives, while others call it a cult.

The truth is, it is neither. Alcoholics Anonymous is a structured program that aims to facilitate recovery by providing a solid structure for a fulfilling spiritual life, to help addicts overcome their alcoholism.

How AA Works

How does it work? Members of AA regularly attend meetings and find a sponsor. The support of these individuals is crucial to a successful recovery. They then work the 12-steps outlined in AA literature carefully and methodically. If members genuinely want to quit drinking and follow the steps, they usually able to find recovery and establish a more fulfilling life in the long run.

Let’s examine the major elements that help AA members remain in recovery and fulfilled in the long run.


Members regularly attend meetings with other alcoholics. In these meetings, members discuss the challenges of sobriety. But they also talk a lot about the benefits of sobriety and following the program.

The overall effect of sharing and listening to others who faced similar problems and have overcome them, provide many members with a sense of hope. After all, when you see people who have faced the same challenges and you and come out stronger, it is an inspiring experience.

While members can attend any group they want at any time, it is always best if they find and maintain a homegroup. This means that they attend specific meetings regularly. This creates a sense of community and is essential in building the bonds of fellowship.



One of the most important roles of the group and its members is to alleviate the sense of loneliness and isolation that often accompanies addiction. Addicts can feel rejected by those around them and as if society will never accept them because they are inherently flawed.

AA groups tend to be very accepting of the flaws and failings of addicts, which after all, they understand deeply. However, while very accepting, the group also served to steer members in the right direction: towards sobriety and a healthier lifestyle.

When people think of AA groups, they mostly imagine participation in meetings. And this is certainly one of the most important functions of the group. However, the support and company group members provide each other outside of meetings is just as important.

Most groups have regular activities after meetings. The camaraderie and closeness that develops in these meetings can be one of the most important elements in recovery. This works in two ways – first, it shows alcoholics that they can find social connections, fun and enjoyment in life without alcohol. They also see that the connection is far more genuine and sustainable than it was in their addiction days. It also alleviates the loneliness and isolation in a more organic and long-lasting manner than the meetings do. Members report making life-long friendships through fellowship. These are the relationships that help keep sober those in recovery in the long run.

Another way that the group members support each other’s recovery is through constant contact. In a newcomers’ first meeting, they are given the phone numbers of several other group members.

Though it can be awkward at first, contact with other members can become a crucial part of recovery. The caring of others makes sober life more fulfilling. They also provide support in times of need. Also, helping others when they are in need helps create a sense of purpose in life.

The Sponsor

Early on in recovery, members are encouraged to pick a temporary sponsor. Someone, they feel a kinship with and can help them make the most of the program. The sponsor should ideally be someone trustworthy who is further along in the program. It is also important that they provide an example of living sober that a sponsee can look up to and hope to emulate in meaningful ways.

One of the most important roles of the sponsor is to guide the member under their tutelage and provide support in moments of hardship. While it is important not to turn solely to the sponsor, as bonds with the rest of the group are crucial, they should ideally be the first port of call in these situations.

However, the primary role of the sponsor is to guide their sponsee through the 12-steps.

The Steps

After attending some meetings, getting a sponsor, and making a commitment to remain in recovery, the real work starts. AA is called a 12-step program because the steps outlined in the Big Book of AA are at the heart of the program.

The 12-steps start with taking a deep look at the damage addiction has caused and understand the powerlessness of the addict in overcoming it on their own. It continues with a genuine effort to understand and ultimately rectify the pain it has caused others. Finally, the process ends with a spiritual awakening and a dedication to spreading the message of recovery to other addicts in need.

The 12-steps do not work for everyone, but many people find at the end of the process that they are healthier and happier. They are also often more aware of the needs of others and more capable of fulfilling these needs. This can result in more genuine and fulfilling personal relationships.

One of the main sayings prevalent amongst AA members is “it works if you work it.” Aside from establishing a new spiritual foundation in life, there is something about the commitment to a program and the sense of belonging which facilitates long-term recovery.

The combination of a social support network and through the patient weaving of a wide spiritual tapestry, AA helps many addicts fully recover. The idea behind all of these components is not just to keep people from drinking. It is to fill the spiritual and social emptiness which led to addiction in the first place.

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