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A Word From Our Doctors

Dispelling the Myths of Alcoholics Anonymous

by: Mick Oreskovich | Nov. 04, 2015

Psychiatric Medicine Associates incorporates twelve-step facilitation therapy as a component of the treatment of substance use disorders. This includes: AA, NA (narcotics anonymous), CA (cocaine anonymous), MA (marijuana anonymous), ACOA (adult children of alcoholics), SLA (sex and love addicts anonymous), and Al-Anon (for parents, spouses, partners, etc., of those afflicted).

AA was started on June 10, 1935 in Akron, Ohio by a New York stockbroker and a colorectal surgeon. AA meetings now occur throughout the world. Because of the meetings, steps, and sponsors tens of millions of alcoholics have achieved and maintained their sobriety. There have been several studies that demonstrate the efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Because AA is anonymous, there are several myths regarding this program.  Because of the use of the term “higher power”, one of the myths is that AA is a religious, faith-based program that requires a belief in God. That is simply not true. Approximately 40% of members of AA are atheistic or agnostic. In fact, there is a chapter in the "Big Book" entitled “We Agnostics".  Belief in a higher power is not a requirement to attend AA meetings.

The second most common myth is that AA “is just another form of brainwashing.” Actually the only requirement to attend AA meetings is a desire to stop drinking. The 12 steps are suggestions only. Members are encouraged “to take what you want and to leave the rest.”  Shaming, blaming, and fear tactics are not a part of AA.

The third myth is that very few people who go to AA actually stay sober.  It is often said that only 1 in 20 of those that attend AA actually stay sober on a long term basis.  As evidenced in the graph below, that is definitely not the case.  In fact, where close monitoring accompanies AA, and includes random urine toxicology tests, 88% of individuals were clean and sober at 5 years (Oreskovich 2011).

For our patients who are willing to go to an AA meeting but need further support to attend, we will have an active member of AA take them to the meeting.  This is a part of “The Bridging the Gap” program of AA and is a compelling example of “carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers” and is part of the 12th Step of AA!

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