Alcoholics Anonymous is the original 12-step program. Because of their long history and success rates, 12-step groups have become a very popular form of treatment.
This model works because of the social support offered by peer discussion, which assists in promoting and sustaining drug and alcohol free lifestyles.
It's not uncommon for treatment programs to use 12-step groups during and after the formal process. Because they offer a layer of community support, they do a great job in conjunction with traditional therapy and other treatment norms.
In fact, data reports 9 percent of adults in the US have been to an AA meeting at some point in their lives and more than 3 percent in the previous year.
What Are the Benefits of Attending AA?
First of all, people who participate in AA tend to have better recovery outcomes than those reported by peers who do not participate. But, what counts as participation? Participation used to just mean attendance, but it now includes:
- Working the Steps
- Reading 12 Step Literature
- Obtaining a Sponsor
- Communicating With Your Sponsor
- Becoming a Sponsor
- Performing Service Work
Studies show that attendance alone has a positive impact on outcomes of substance abuse. For example, one study compared the outcomes of 12 step groups, cognitive behavioral therapy, and motivational enhancement therapy. Their findings demonstrated that people attended AA more often were more likely to maintain their abstinence during the time they attended and in the period afterward.
But, that study isn't alone. There are numerous studies that demonstrate the long-term positive outcomes of participation in AA.
Why You Should Not Delay Joining an AA Group
It is important that you get into Alcoholics Anonymous as soon as you have determined that you have an alcohol use disorder.People who delay joining for up to a year after realizing they have a problem were shown to be more likely to have drinking problems eight years later when compared to people who joined soon after recognizing a problem.
They also didn't show outcomes that were any bit more positive than those who did not join at all. Delaying joining could be due to a lack of commitment to sobriety and that issue with motivation would naturally lead to a decrease in positive outcomes. You have to work the steps.
Lower motivation often leads people to avoid finding and maintaining a relationship with a sponsor or attending meetings regularly.
Why You Should Continue AA Meetings
People who delay joining aren't the only people missing out. People enter AA but choose to drop out also don't have very good outcomes; they are more likely to relapse than regular attendees of AA meetings.
Apparently, 91 percent of people with a substance use disorder go to at least one 12 step meeting during the time they are in treatment or during the year after they complete it. But, 40 percent of them have dropped out by a one year follow up.
For the people who drop-out are less likely than people who continue to attend, to remain abstinent. In fact, they are more likely to disclose a substance abuse problem at a one-year check-in.
How Is AA Helpful?
The effectiveness of AA can be traced to four main components:
- Support, structure, and goal direction that highlights abstinence and the significance of powerful bonds with family, religion, friends, and work.
- Involvement in substance-free social gatherings.
- Bonding with abstinence-oriented role models and a reliable belief system that advocates a substance-free lifestyle.
- A stress on boosting members' self-sufficiency and coping skills and on assisting others in overcoming substance use problems.
By performing each of these roles, AA is able to help members achieve and maintain abstinence.
The more of a commitment a person makes to AA, the more help it appears to provide them with. Participants who help their peers remain sober are more likely to do so for themselves. Further, people who become sponsors are more likely to remain sober than people who don't.
Additionally, by fully participating in AA, recovering addicts create a series of connections that help them to better cope with stress without resorting to alcohol use. This allows people to reward themselves for dealing with situations without relapsing. This leads to an increase in self-esteem which further motivates one to do well in AA.