Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?
This morning I was watching a very interesting debate on a media channel as to whether A.A. works. I found myself getting really frustrated with some of the dialogue and assumptions by the three individuals involved. One woman was a Psychotherapist, one woman had written a book on the question titled, Does AA Work, and then there was the interviewer, who was doing his best to get some black and white answers. One thing I found extremely amusing, was the author of Does A.A. Work, stating there is really no way to know how well A.A. works as it is an anonymous program and cannot be measured.
Does AA really work?
I shall now give my humble opinion on whether A.A. works, and my answer is yes and no. First we have to define what ‘works’ means in the context of A.A. Does it mean just staying sober? No, it does not. As an alcoholic with fourteen years sobriety, who was in and out of this program like a revolving door I can share my personal experience, and what I observed over a twenty-year period.
When I joined A.A. in 1985 I was broken, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, as we say in the fellowship. I had a wonderful sponsor, who sadly after years of sobriety is drinking again, and her grown children have become estranged to her. My sponsor took me through the twelve steps. A.A. is a spiritual program. I enjoyed this, as basically the steps teach us how to live as good people, who are not self- centered. After a year I believed I could drink like a normal person i.e. have a glass of wine with dinner, but I could not. Once I had that first drink I could not stop. My mind and body were screaming for more alcohol. If I knew I was meeting someone for a drink after work, I would not be able to concentrate all day. I was watching the clock just waiting to get that first drink down me. A.A. affirmed for me I was without a doubt suffering from Alcoholism and abstinence was the only cure. They were 100% correct.
However, going to meetings for me was a nightmare. I got so frustrated listening to the same people tell the same story day after day. I would become so full of anxiety I would have a panic attack if I did not leave. I also hated that the groups seemed like sheep. No one had an original thought. They had simply replaced their addiction to alcohol with an addiction to the fellowship. If one person made a profound statement everyone would agree, and use the statement without giving it any thought. An example is, “God never throws anything at us we cannot handle.” After hearing this a hundred times I lost it and screamed out, “If that was the case no-one would ever commit suicide you morons”. I think that was the last time I ever attended a meeting.
Why I started drinking
The first time I drank at the age of fourteen I felt euphoric, and that night I slept like a baby. I had suffered from insomnia all my life. Alcohol took away my anxiety. Alcohol calmed my brain down so I could focus on one thing at a time. Alcohol took away my fear of life, and made me feel confident. Alcohol became my best friend. Only years later was I diagnosed as having acute ADHD and Manic Depression. I was given the appropriate medication and as I stated, have not had or desired a drink for the last 14 years.
Does Alcoholics Anonymous work for everyone, or just some?
Yes, A.A. works for some people who love being a part of a fellowship. For people like me the answer is yes, in terms of teaching me the twelve steps that every human can benefit from, and no, because without my medication I would never be able to stay sober.
You can read more about Jane’s life experiences in her upcoming book Living to Drink, Drinking to Live.