Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization based on mutual help that has around 1 million members not just in the United States, but in other countries. This organization claims that it has great effect in terms of fostering and maintaining recovery in alcoholics. It is known, that the general population is skeptical towards understanding this organization’s nature and how it can have any effect on the problem. The main principle of the psychological treatment is the 12-step program, which has also been adapted for treating various other addictions: smoking, gambling, eating, and sex.
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Mankind possesses a huge experience of alcohol abuse. For many centuries, even when people drank only wine, the detrimental influence of alcohol on the individual psyche, as well as on the morally ethical condition of the society was noted. In the past and present artistic and medical literature, and also in today’s movies the condition of alcoholic intoxication was made equivalent to madness.
Concerning alcoholic addicts, different measures were taken. They were sometimes pretty cruel: the drinkers were expatriated from communities, and subjected to various bodily punishments, or even death. These harsh measures were used by the society in order to protect itself from dissemination of alcoholism that had a tendency to disrupt all rational interpersonal relations. Emphatically, such cruel measures were given up for much more humane methods of battling alcoholism, as approximately in the middle of the 19th century it was for the first time addressed as a medical condition, which implied that different medical treatment methods were needed in order to fight this disease. However the implemented measures did not bring to desired results yet, as the dissemination of alcoholism is not decreasing, but has a tendency to rise. This can be observed from the number of alcoholic patients who have appealed to substance abuse professionals and psychiatrists in order to seek medical assistance. Besides, the majority of alcoholics do not turn for professional help. This fact is associated with high permissiveness of society towards this problem, as well as negative attitude of the population towards alcoholic therapists. Nevertheless it is quite difficult to distinguish alcoholism as a disease from ordinary inebriety.
Alcohol is an easily acquired by almost anybody. It is used by two out of three Americans over 18 year of age. This number adds up to about 120 million, and most of them believe that their right to drinking is as inherent as the right to life, pursuit of happiness, and liberty. Many Americans are being encouraged to drink, as a lot of business depends on selling of alcohol. It is estimated by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, that 7 million of Americans abuse alcohol regularly, and 11 million have a physical dependence. Generally, most alcoholics who participate in Alcoholics Anonymous have had plenty of experience with the use of alcohol that negatively impacted their ability to maintain adequate relations with families, employers, and the legal system. It is largely true that most of these people thought that loss of control was one of their primary problems. Loss of control and the unmanageability of their lives caused a great deal of suffering. Another thing is that they continued to deny that they were alcoholics in the face of massive evidence to the contrary.
During the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that I have attended I understood that this treatment approach is appealing only to those individuals, who are very concerned by their relationship with alcohol. According to the words of the instructor, for each person who has recovered, 19 other alcoholics have not considered or simply rejected participating in the program, despite their problematic drinking. During and after the meeting it became clear that this organization views alcohol dependence and recovery from it as a cultural, rather than solely individualized personal phenomenon.
I believe that in order to turn to Alcoholics Anonymous for help, and succeed in fighting ones dependence, one has to be interested in what is happening around oneself. As most alcoholics are having negative influence primarily on the people who are close to them – members of the family and friends some of them might feel concerned about their adverse effect and turn for assistance to such organization. In order to do well in the group of Alcoholics Anonymous, it is better if the individual is talkative and open to conversations, as the main way of psychological therapy is telling stories about their alcohol abuse, discussing situations and factors that might induce their alcoholism, and finding ways of avoiding these situations in order to stop drinking. Very important quality required for succeeding in this group is comparing own experiences and opinions with others, as this is the main concept of group therapy. Action and initiative is required in order to bring the tendency to abuse alcohol to a stop, therefore the successful participants must be active. Making new friends is also essential to adapting to a new group, just as freely stating what one thinks. Interest in new people plays a vital role of motivating alcoholics to participate in Alcoholics Anonymous as it will increase the mutual enthusiasm and help quit drinking.
In view of the above it is clear, that extrovert types of individuals are more likely to seek help from this organization, as the above qualities characterize this type of personality. After they acknowledge their problem and find its roots, their ability to easily break relations that are unwanted might help them in breaking up with old friends that might have been persuading them to drink. On the other hand, if extroverts are directed towards the world that is objective, introverts are much more inclined to the subjective one. They are have no interest in what is happening around them and what trouble thy might be causing. In fact, they are more interested in own feelings and thoughts. Instead of being open and talkative like the extraverts, these individuals need to have their own territory. Their tendency to always be quiet, thoughtful, and reserved is an obstacle in the way of admitting their problem to the other group participants, and attempt solving the issue of alcohol abuse together. These qualities result in introverts not having many friends, and having difficulties with creating new ones. Thus, they will have difficulties adapting to the new group, and the group therapy might not have much effect on them due to their closedness and communications gap. Their preference of concentration and quiet, as well as working alone shall not make the group of various individuals, each suffering with own problems a very pleasant environment. A psychological population-based study was carried out, examining tendencies of adolescent affiliation to Alcoholics Anonymous, and it concluded that among adolescents, extroverts were most likely to turn for help to this organization (Hohman & Lecroy, 1996).
The meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous appeared to be making an emphasis on alcoholism’s spiritual dimensions, which at first made an off-putting impression. I believe that this fact can make many cases unsuccessful in their recovery from alcoholic dependence, as for many people cannot tolerate believing in some “higher power” or importance of “total psychic change”. There are many more alcoholic dependant individuals who are living in constant emotional pain and who disagree to participate in this program due to their religious orientation. These people require some solution to their issue, and this rejection of the offered assistance is a very tragic occurrence. However I believe that these people are misunderstanding the main concept of the program, which as I later on understood was the most attractive to me. The instructor had pointed out that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious program. This fact is clear, according to its traditions, as it dos not want to be associated with any type of sect, institution, organization, or politics. The aforementioned is one of strong sides of Alcoholics Anonymous and can be considered one of the reasons of this program’s success. The newcomers to this organization do not know what they should believe in. The members insist that they find something outside themselves in which to believe, the emphasis is being made on “God, as we understand him.” These people must find something that will be a symbol of higher power. To many it turns out that their higher power is the group dynamic. Newcomers to this organization are told by its other members that agnostics and atheists also have to live by faith. The faith or “the higher power” does not necessarily have to be in one single God, but it can also be faith in such things as love, acceptance, tolerance, grace, or truth. It is important that those people believe in something abstract, besides their own gratification and will power.
It seemed very attractive to me that in Alcoholics Anonymous great value was put on the concept of non-interference. Spiritual values and way of life was not an exception to this concept. This organization fosters love, duty, responsibility, patience, kindness, hope, charity, and generosity, and at the same time does not give these values any religious requirements. I really liked the fact, that it was exclusively up to the individual to develop own concept of higher power, and use it to fight alcohol dependence during his daily life. Most references in Alcoholics Anonymous connected literature make an emphasis on the nature and love of a God which is personal to each member. It is vey important that the rules of this organization refer to some kind of spiritual existence, although do not suggest this existence to any specific type of religion. This serves the organization in three essential ways.
At the meeting I have understood that most alcoholics who are members of Alcoholics Anonymous have in the past had amble experiences of alcohol use that negatively influenced their relations within the family, at work, and within the legal system. It became clear that the majority of these people thought that their primary problem was loosing control of their alcohol consumption, which caused suffering, as they were unable to efficiently manage their lives. Based on the experience that I have obtained during this meeting, I would recommend this group therapy to others however I believe that in the majority of cases affiliating to Alcoholics Anonymous would be ineffective. This is evident, as treating alcoholic dependency is a complex therapeutic task, and some severe alcohol abuse cases require other interventions, such as sensibilizing therapy, or conditioned reflex therapy. It is more likely for Alcoholics Anonymous group therapy to succeed, if it is combined with other types of treatment.
- Hohman, M., & Lecroy, C. W. (1996). Predictors of Adolescent A.A. Affiliation. Adolescence, 31(122), 339+.
- Ksir, C., Hart, C. L., & Ray, O. (2007). Drugs, society and human behavior. McGraw-Hill, 12th ed.