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What is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) & The Twelve Steps?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a community-based program designed to help people struggling with alcoholism to become sober with their peers' support and help. Members attend meetings and have discussions about addiction to help them overcome their drinking issues.

These meetings provide men and women with a safe space to come together and share their experiences, recover from problem drinking, and achieve sobriety. The concept of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) revolves around the notion that alcoholism is a condition that can be managed but not controlled. 

ARH 12 step meeting

The only requirement in joining Alcoholics Anonymous is that members have a desire to quit drinking. It is not associated with any sect, politics, institution, denomination, or organization. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) join either voluntarily or as a continuation of rehab or therapy.

Alcoholics Anonymous’s approach follows a set of guidelines framed as ‘steps’ toward recovery. Attendees can revisit these steps at any time during their recovery. 

These 12 steps are:

  1. ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.’
  2. ‘Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.’
  3. ‘Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.’
  4. ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.’
  5. ‘Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.’
  6. ‘Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.’
  7. ‘Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.’
  8. ‘Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.’ 
  9. ‘Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.’
  10. ‘Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.’
  11. ‘Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.’
  12. ‘Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.’

What is the 1st Step of AA?

The first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is:

‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.’

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What Does the 1st Step of AA Mean?

The first step refers to accepting powerlessness over alcohol and that any addictions must be managed rather than controlled. 

Alcoholics Anonymous’s first step is the beginning of the 12-step program to help with substance abuse problems and achieve sobriety. While it is the first step, many members do not just address this step once. Instead, many people study and work on the first step consistently.

Many people return to this step if they relapse or experience a slip in sobriety, while others check it periodically to remind themselves that they will always have powerlessness over alcohol. It helps many people remember that they need to use tools and strategies to remain sober.

How to Follow Step 1 of AA

There are several ways to follow step one of AA: 

Speak at an AA Meeting

Many AA meetings allow members to speak about their experiences. Before speaking, you will have to state your first name and state that you are an alcoholic. While speaking for the first time at an AA meeting may be daunting, each time you do, you are admitting to your peers that you have a drinking issue.

Tell Someone If You Feel Like Drinking

If you desire to drink, you may feel like you should keep it a secret because you may feel ashamed. Or, you may believe that you should not be tempted to drink. However, if you do not share your feelings with your peers, you may end up relapsing.

By admitting to at least one other person that you are struggling with sobriety, you are following step one in AA.

Meet a Counselor 

By reaching out to a counselor and seeking addiction treatment for your alcohol and mental health issues, you admit that you are powerless to quit drinking alone. Your counselor can help you learn methods and strategies to stop drinking and be one of the people you confide in when struggling with sobriety.

Some people may prefer to rely on an AA sponsor. An AA sponsor is someone who has overcome alcoholism for a significant period and understands the desire to drink. They are someone you can trust to listen to you and help you when you have an urge to drink.

Depending on your addiction's severity, attending a treatment facility for detox or rehab may be essential for a successful recovery.

Tell Someone If You Do Drink

If you do drink, always tell someone. While you may feel ashamed, keeping your mistakes to yourself makes recovery harder. By keeping secrets, you make yourself appear as if you are in control when you are not.

If you tell your sponsor or another person you trust that you have drunk, it is a way of admitting that you are powerless over alcohol.

Questions to Ask Yourself While Following Step 1 of AA 

When following step one of AA, there are several helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • What does addiction mean to me? 
  • How has my disease affected me in different ways? Physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Financially? 
  • How does the self-centered part of my addiction affect my life and the life of my loved ones and family members?
  • Have I blamed other people for my behavior? 
  • What does unmanageability mean to me?
  • Have I compared my alcohol and drug addiction with other people’s? 

How to Join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 

Only you can decide whether you would like to try the AA program. Before joining, determine if you feel alcohol has become a problem for you. Remember that if alcohol is a problem for you, you are always welcome to join the thousands of people in AA who have recovered from their drinking and mental health issues and now lead ‘normal’ lives.

If you want to join AA, the first step is attending a meeting. AA meetings often take place in public in accessible buildings with plenty of parking. These locations include churches, schools, coffee shops, and restaurants. Both open and closed meetings are available.

There are various types of AA meetings, and the basic format and rules depend on the style. At speaker meetings, AA members typically share their alcohol use experiences, how they discovered the program and their addiction recovery. These meetings typically focus on sharing and listening rather than interaction.

During discussion meetings, one participant speaks about their experience and struggles with alcohol. Then, they lead a discussion about their addiction recovery experience with AA and any alcohol-related issues that other members bring up. This type of meeting is more interactive than a speaker meeting.

At step meetings, members discuss one of the twelve traditions and steps.

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Resources

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The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf

This Is AA, an Introduction to the AA Recovery Program, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-1_thisisaa1.pdf

Step One, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), https://www.aa.org/assets/en_us/en_step1.pdf

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