What is alcoholism?
A.A. members believe that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested. Many A.A.s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking cannot be broken by willpower alone. Before coming to A.A., many alcoholics who are unable to stop drinking think of themselves as morally weak or even mentally unbalanced. The A.A. concept is that alcoholics are sick people who can recover if they will follow a simple program that has proved successful for more than two million men and women. Once alcoholism has set in, there is nothing morally wrong about being ill. The sufferer has lost the power of choice over alcohol. The important thing is to face the facts of one’s illness and to take advantage of the help that is available. There must also be a desire to get well. Experience shows that the A.A. program will work for all alcoholics who are sincere in their efforts to stop drinking; it usually will not work for those not absolutely certain that they want to stop.
How can I tell if I am really an alcoholic?
Only you can make that decision. Many who are now in A.A. have previously been told that they were not alcoholics, that all they needed was more willpower, a change of scenery, more rest, or a few new hobbies in order to straighten out. These same people finally turned to A.A. because they felt that alcohol had them licked and that they were ready to try anything that would free them from the compulsion to drink.
Can an alcoholic ever drink ‘normally’ again?
So far as we know, no one who has become an alcoholic has ever ceased to be an alcoholic. The mere fact of abstaining from alcohol for months or even years has never qualified an alcoholic to drink “normally” or socially. Once the individual has crossed the borderline from heavy drinking to alcoholic drinking, there seems to be no retreat. Few alcoholics deliberately try to drink themselves into trouble, but trouble seems to be the inevitable consequence of an alcoholic’s drinking. After quitting for a period, the alcoholic may feel it is safe to try a few beers or a few glasses of light wine. This can mislead the person into drinking only with meals. But it is not too long before the alcoholic is back in the old pattern of too-heavy drinking — in spite of all efforts to set limits for only moderate, social drinking.
Can’t an A.A. member drink even beer??
There are, of course, no musts in A.A., and no one checks up on members to determine whether or not they are drinking anything. The answer to this question is that if a person is an alcoholic, touching alcohol in any form cannot be risked. Alcohol is alcohol whether it is found in a martini, a Scotch and soda, a bourbon and branch water, a glass of champagne — or a short beer. For the alcoholic, one drink of alcohol in any form is likely to be too much, and twenty drinks are not enough. To be sure of sobriety, alcoholics simply have to stay away from alcohol, regardless of the quantity, mixture, or concentration they may think they can control.
How can I make work contacts, if I don’t drink?
Social drinking is an accepted part of business these days. Many now in A.A. would be the first to concede that they had often transacted important business in bars, cocktail lounges, or hotel rooms or even during parties in private homes. It is surprising, however, how much of the world’s work is accomplished without the benefit of alcohol. It is equally surprising to many alcoholics to discover how many recognized leaders in business, industry, professional life, and the arts have attained success without dependence on alcohol. In fact, many who are now sober in A.A. admit that they used “business contacts” as one of several excuses for drinking. Now that they no longer drink, they find that they can actually accomplish more than they used to. Sobriety has proved no hindrance to their ability to win friends and influence people who might contribute to their economic success. This does not mean that all A.A.s suddenly avoid their friends or business associates who drink. If a friend wants a cocktail or two before lunch, the A.A. will usually take a soft drink or a coffee. The alcoholic knows from experience that most people are concerned with their own drinks and are not likely to care particularly what anyone else happens to be drinking.
Why is A.A. interested in problem drinkers?
Members of A.A. have a selfish interest in offering a helping hand to other alcoholics who have not yet achieved sobriety. First, they know from experience that this type of activity, usually referred to as “Twelfth Step work,” helps them to stay sober. A.A.s who give freely of their time and effort to help other alcoholics seldom have trouble preserving their own sobriety. A.A.s are anxious to help problem drinkers for a second reason: It gives them an opportunity to square their debt to those who helped them. It is the only practical way in which the individual’s debt to A.A. can ever be repaid.
How did A.A. get started?
Alcoholics Anonymous had its beginnings in Akron, Ohio, in 1935 when a New Yorker on business there and successfully sober for the first time in years sought out another alcoholic. During his few months of sobriety, the New Yorker had noticed that his desire to drink lessened when he tried to help other drunks to get sober. In Akron, he was directed to a local doctor with a drinking problem. Working together, the businessman and the doctor found that their ability to stay sober seemed closely related to the amount of help and encouragement they were able to give other alcoholics. For four years, the new movement, nameless and without any organization or descriptive literature, grew slowly. Groups were established in Akron, New York, Cleveland, and a few other centers. In 1939, with the publication of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, from which the Fellowship derived its name, and as the result of the help of a number of nonalcoholic friends, the Society began to attract national and international attention. AA has been active in Thailand for many years and the first meetings held in Phuket began in the late 1980s
What does membership in A.A. cost?
Membership in A.A. involves no financial obligations of any kind. The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is available to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking, whether he or she is flat broke or has millions. Most local groups “pass the hat” at meetings to defray the cost of renting a meeting place and other meeting expenses. A.A. is entirely self-supporting, and no outside contributions are accepted.
Is A.A. a religious society?
A.A. is not a religious society, since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. Although it has been endorsed and approved by many religious leaders, it is not allied with any organization or sect. Included in its membership are members of many faiths but also agnostics and atheists. The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is undeniably based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. The individual member is free to interpret those values as he or she thinks best, or not to think about them at all. Most members, before turning to A.A., had already admitted that they could not control their drinking. Alcohol had become a power greater than themselves, and it had been accepted on those terms. A.A. suggests that to achieve and maintain sobriety, alcoholics need to accept and depend upon another Power recognized as greater than themselves. Some alcoholics choose to consider the A.A. group itself as the power greater than themselves; for many others, this Power is God — as they, individually, understand Him; still others rely upon entirely different concepts of a Higher Power. Some alcoholics, when they first turn to A.A., have definite reservations about accepting any concept of a Power greater than themselves. Experience shows that, if they will keep an open mind on the subject and keep coming to A.A. meetings, they are not likely to have too difficult a time in working out an acceptable solution to this distinctly personal problem.
Are there many women alcoholics in A.A.?
At Phuket AA meetings there are many women, both regular attendees and visitors.
I can stay sober quite a while - do I need A.A.?
Most A.A.s will say that it’s how you drink, not how often, that determines whether or not you are an alcoholic. Many problem drinkers can go weeks, months, and occasionally years between their bouts with liquor. During their periods of sobriety, they may not give alcohol a second thought. Without mental or emotional effort, they are able to take it or leave it alone, and they prefer to leave it alone. Then, for some unaccountable reason, or for no reason at all, they go off on a first-class binge. They neglect job, family, and other civic and social responsibilities. The spree may last a single night, or it may be prolonged for days or weeks. When it is over, the drinker is usually weak and remorseful, determined never to let it happen again. But it does happen again. This type of “periodic” drinking is baffling, not only to those around the drinker, but also to the person still drinking. He or she cannot understand why there should be so little interest in alcohol during the periods between binges, or so little control over it once the drinking starts. The periodic drinker may or may not be an alcoholic. But if drinking has become unmanageable and if the periods between binges are becoming shorter, chances are the time has come to face up to the problem. If the person is ready to admit to being an alcoholic, then the first step has been taken toward the continuing sobriety enjoyed by thousands upon thousands of A.A.s.
Should I join A.A.?
Many members of A.A., during their drinking days, were assured by relatives, friends, and doctors that they were not alcoholics. The alcoholic usually adds to the problem by an unwillingness to realistically face the facts of drinking. By not being completely honest, the problem drinker makes it difficult for a doctor to provide any help. The amazing thing, in fact, is that so many doctors have been able to penetrate the typical problem drinker’s deceptions and diagnose the problem correctly. It cannot be emphasized too often that the important decision — am I an alcoholic? — has to be made by the drinker. Only he or she — not the doctor, the family, or friends — can make it. But once it is made, half the battle for sobriety is won. If the question is left to others to decide, the alcoholic may be dragging out needlessly the dangers and misery of uncontrollable drinking.
Can a person get sober reading A.A. literature?
A few people have stopped drinking after reading Alcoholics Anonymous, the A.A. “Big Book,” which explains the basic principles of the recovery program. But nearly all of those who were able promptly sought out other alcoholics so they could share their experience and sobriety. The A.A. program works best for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a program involving other people. Working with other alcoholics in the local A.A. group, problem drinkers seem to learn more about their problem and how to handle it. They find themselves surrounded by others who share their past experiences, their present problems, and their hopes. They shed the feelings of loneliness that may have been an important factor in their compulsion to drink.
Won’t people know I'm an alcoholic if join A.A.?
Anonymity is and always has been the basis of the A.A. program. Most members, after they have been in A.A. awhile, have no particular objection if the word gets around that they have joined a fellowship that enables them to stay sober. Traditionally, A.A.s never disclose their association with the movement in any public media. And no one has the right to break the anonymity of another member. This means that the newcomer can turn to A.A. with the assurance that no one will violate confidences relating to his or her drinking problem.
What about a person who has ‘hit bottom’?
The record shows that A.A. will work for almost anyone who really wants to stop drinking, no matter what the person’s economic or social background may be. A.A. today includes among its members many who have been on skid row, in jails, and in other public institutions. The down-and-outer is at no disadvantage in coming to A.A. His or her basic problem, the thing that has made life unmanageable, is identical with the central problem of every other member of A.A. The worth of a member in A.A. is not judged on the basis of the clothes worn, the handling of language, or the size (or existence) of the bank balance. The only thing that counts in A.A. is whether or not the newcomer really wants to stop drinking. If the desire is there, the person will be welcomed. Chances are, the most rugged drinking story the new member could tell will be topped by an amazing number of people in the group, with similar backgrounds and experiences
What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
There are two practical ways to describe A.A. The first is the familiar description of purposes and objectives that appears earlier: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” The “common problem” is alcoholism. The men and women who consider themselves members of A.A. are, and always will be, alcoholics, even though they may have other addictions. They have finally recognized that they are no longer able to handle alcohol in any form; they now stay away from it completely. The important thing is that they do not try to deal with the problem single-handedly. They bring the problem out into the open with other alcoholics. This sharing of “experience, strength and hope” seems to be the key element that makes it possible for them to live without alcohol and, in most cases, without even wanting to drink. The second way to describe Alcoholics Anonymous is to outline the structure of the Society. Numerically, A.A. consists of more than 2,000,000 men and women, in approximately 180 countries. These people meet in local groups that range in size from a handful of ex-drinkers in some localities to many hundreds in larger communities. 15 In the populous metropolitan areas, there may be scores of neighborhood groups, each holding its own regular meetings. Many A.A. meetings are open to the public; some groups also hold “closed meetings,” where members are encouraged to discuss problems that might not be fully appreciated by nonalcoholics. The local group is the core of the A.A. Fellowship. Its open meetings welcome alcoholics and their families in an atmosphere of friendliness and helpfulness. There are now more than 118,000 groups throughout the world, including hundreds in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions.
Are there any rules in A.A.?
The absence of rules, regulations, or musts is one of the unique features of A.A. as a local group and as a worldwide fellowship. There are no bylaws that say a member has to attend a certain number of meetings within a given period. Understandably, most groups have an unwrit16 ten tradition that anyone who is still drinking, and boisterous enough to disturb a meeting, may be asked to leave; the same person will be welcomed back at any time when not likely to disrupt a meeting. Meanwhile, members of the group will do their best to help bring sobriety to the person if there is a sincere desire to stop drinking.
Who runs A.A.?
A.A. has no officers or executives who wield power or authority over the Fellowship. There is no “government” in A.A. It is obvious, however, that even in an informal organization, certain jobs have to be done. In the local group, for example, someone has to arrange for a suitable meeting place; meetings have to be scheduled and programmed, a website has to be maintained. Newcomers who have a reasonable period of sobriety behind them are urged to take part in handling group responsibilities. The answer to “Who runs A.A.?” is that the Alcoholics Anonymous is a uniquely democratic movement, with no central government and only a minimum of formal organization.
Is A.A. a temperance movement?
No. A.A. has no relation to temperance movements. A.A. “neither endorses nor opposes any causes.” While many A.A.s appreciate that alcohol may be all right for most people, they know it to be poison for them. The average A.A. has no desire to deprive anyone of something that, properly handled, is a source of pleasure. The A.A. merely acknowledges being personally unable to handle the stuff.
Are there many young people in A.A.?
One of the most heartening trends in the growth of A.A. is the fact that more and more young men and women are being attracted to the program before their problem drinking results in complete disaster. Now that the progressive nature of alcoholism is better appreciated, these young people recognize that, if one is an alcoholic, the best time to arrest the illness is in its early stages. There are people of all ages present at AA meetings in Phuket.