Simply put, Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, is a fellowship of people who are committed to the personal recovery and ongoing sobriety of alcoholics.
AA is freely available to anyone who reaches out for help, and its ethos is based on the 12-steps – a set of guidelines that focus on self-improvement, altruism, and spiritual growth. At Cirque Lodge, the 12-steps form the foundation of our treatment program and are a fantastically straightforward, effective, and dynamic approach to achieving abstinence.
They work well as a stand-alone method for maintaining sobriety and couple well with other therapies.
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are available in over 180 countries worldwide, and with the advent of video conferencing, you can now access meetings online nearly 24/7. It is open to anyone who wants to stop drinking, although many people who did not have alcohol as their primary substance of choice (or no choice) still attend AA meetings and benefit from them.
Alcoholics Anonymous was officially founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, through a chance meeting between Bill W. and Dr. Bob.
They both struggled with alcoholism, and traditional methods (at the time) had proven ineffective.
Between them, they realized that by supporting each other and developing spiritually, their urge to drink subsided.
They officially published the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939, and within a few years, there were thousands of meetings across the United States. Since their inception, the 12-steps have been shown to be an effective method for treating all manner of substance and behavioral addictions.
As it says in the Big Book, “the only requirement for (AA) membership is a desire to stop drinking.” You can go to an AA meeting at any point in your recovery journey, whether you are looking to maintain sobriety or you are actively drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous will never refuse you entry if you need help.
Many people see the word “God” in the steps and assume this means an organized religion.
This can be very off-putting for people who do not follow a set faith; however, it is up to you to define your own God or higher power in AA.
The spiritual path you choose to follow is entirely your choice. The steps are merely a set of guidelines for living – there is no prescriptive religion at all. Some people might find meditation or yoga helps fulfill them spiritually, and many people use the strength of AA as their higher power.
Whatever your beliefs are, you are welcome at AA’s support groups and online meetings.
The 12-steps are a linear guide to sobriety.
They begin with admitting that you are powerless over alcohol and are maintained by helping other people through the steps. You look to make amends for any past transgressions and change your behavior to ensure it does not happen again.
The 12-steps are:
The first three steps introduce the idea of a higher power that can help us in our lives and asks us to examine our relationship with alcohol. The term ‘powerless’ means different things to different people.
All powerless means is that you cannot predict what will happen when you start drinking 100% of the time. It does not matter if you have had periods of controlled drinking or if you have maintained sobriety for short periods. If drinking sets off something you cannot always control, then you are powerless.
During steps two and three, we look at our lives without the guidance of a higher power. We realize that left to our own devices, we will end up drinking again. However, as long as we live our lives according to a higher power, we will be supported on our journey of maintaining sobriety.
Although these steps might seem like we are giving up our power, we regain control of our lives and start to rebuild it by turning over our will.
People often call these the ‘action’ steps – they involve you making a list of everyone you have harmed, admitting it to another human being, and making amends to others. People often get worried about confronting their past, but most people are very grateful for an apology.
When we create a list of our past harms, we can start to spot behavior patterns and examine which character defect is responsible. Through spiritual development, we can rid ourselves of these traits and become better people.
Although apologizing is something you do for their benefit, the happy by-product of an amends process is that you achieve freedom and closure from your past.
These are often called the ‘maintenance’ steps – these are repetitive actions we work into the fabric of our lives. We examine our day-to-day behavior and see if we acted out on any of our character defects or harmed anyone, and we apologize if necessary.
We continue to develop spiritually, and most importantly, we help other people. It is through altruism and service to our fellow humans that we achieve long-term sobriety. This involves attending meetings regularly, being accountable, and sponsoring other people through the steps.
“No AA member should “play doctor”; all medical advice and treatment should come from a qualified physician.” – Alcoholics Anonymous
You can still work the steps while taking prescribed mental health medication. All medication aims to restore your body to equilibrium rather than alter your mind. As long as you take your medication as prescribed, it should not interfere with the steps.
The 12-steps underpins the treatment program at Cirque Lodge.
In essence, they focus on an overhaul of our lives and a commitment to self-improvement and helping others. The 12-steps work in parallel with the other therapies offered here, including:
There is no place better to start your recovery journey than surrounded by the outstanding natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains and in the care of our attentive, knowledgeable, and compassionate staff.
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