At an ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS ( A.A. ) meeting, the alcoholic finds people who know the pain, loneliness, fear, and hopelessness that he has been living with, all the while thinking, “I’m different. Nobody really understands what I’m going through!” As other alcoholics describe their lives under the influence of alcohol, the newcomer realizes that no theories or generalities are being presented.These are people who understand because they have lived through these emotions and experiences. If they have lived through the same emotions and experiences of degradation and despair, there can be no judgment involved. Before this, the guilt, remorse, and ensuing judgment, by others and oneself, have been reinforcing the drinking pattern.
The alcoholic has now met people who truly understand. The A.A. members then say, “I found out I had a disease, and I found a way to arrest it.” There is recognition of the suffering person’s condition, and what is more, there is indication of a way out. At this point, the encounter with A.A. has offered the suffering alcoholic understanding, equality, and a proved solution to the problem.
Whatever deep troubles the person has, there is only one place for the alcoholic to start: he must first stop drinking. The newcomer is told that all recovery is dependent on the decision to stay away from the first drink. Total abstinence is the key. But the newcomer also is told that it is done only one day at a time. Here is the beginning of the training to bring life into perspective. By placing the decision to drink or not to drink squarely in the moment at hand, it becomes apparent — perhaps as a previously unthought- of possibility — that the alcoholic actually has a choice.
If the alcoholic is to become willing to make the choice not to drink, changes in attitude must take place. He felt relief in finding people who truly understand, but now he recognizes that this compassion does not lead to indulgence. As well as knowing the pain of the newcomer, the new found friends also know all about the evasions, dishonesty, and manipulating techniques. Self-deception and self-pity are noted for what they are.Members explain that self-honesty is the key to recovery, and this confrontation,without judgment, lessens the need for self-deception and reinforces the basis for trust.Once trust begins to be established, recovery is on the way.
“Twelve Steps” to recovery in A. A. are suggested. Never is a person required to follow any prescribed program of therapy in order to be considered a member. But the identification and trust that develop do encourage the member to try the methods that have helped others.
Alcoholics Anonymous is not organized, in any formal sense.There are no governing officers, rules, or regulations. What structure there is has grown as A. A.has expanded, and communication and some standardization of approach have become necessary.The principle of consistent rotation of responsibility is followed in virtually all A. A. service positions.
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