The History of Alcoholics Anonymous

It was a long journey from 1934 when Bill W. was diagnosed as a hopeless alcoholic by Dr. Silkworth to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 almost a year later. In that time, Bill W. met Dr. Bob, his lifelong friend and companion, on the journey to sobriety. They discovered early on through the lessons of others that one of the most important keys to sobriety was sharing their experiences with another. In fact, that is how Bill W. and Dr. Bob met. Bill was in Akron on business and needed to talk to another alcoholic. After much searching he connected with Dr. Bob. An immediate and strong kinship developed and these two men forged a path that, with the help of many others, has been a gift to millions seeking recovery.

Dr. Bob and Bill W. discovered the mutuality of their predicament when they met for the first time in the home of Anne S. in May of 1935. Carrying the message of Alcoholics Anonymous was to be the work of Dr. Bob, Bill W. and an army of others for years to come. Even today the message of AA passes from one alcoholic to another as they share their stories and work the 12 Steps with the support.

The First Steps

The Twelve Steps began as “six chunks of truth” (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 161) in an effort to pass on the message of AA, but Bill W. had the foresight to understand that the “literature would have to be as clear and comprehensive as possible… There must not be single loophole through which the rationalizing alcoholic would wiggle out” (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 161). The purpose of the steps was to ensure that every alcoholic who picked up AA literature would be able to understand the severity of the disease and the necessity for following the steps as they are written. By doing so, the alcoholic experiences the spiritual movement that is within the steps.

Step One. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable. The first of the Twelve Steps is about recognizing one’s powerless in the face of alcohol. Dr. Silkworth’s work on the dilemma of alcohol as both an obsession and an allergy proved to be foundational for this step. This disease which is both obsession and allergy takes over and leaves one devastated.

Step Two. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. This second step is headed toward a path of surrender which happens more fully in Step 3. This is a difficult reality for alcoholics who have depended for a great deal of time on their own failed efforts to restore themselves. And yet, an important step to take because alcoholics who work the steps begin to see that relying on something or someone greater than oneself makes recovery attainable.

Step Three. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Letting go and letting God means that the alcoholic is able to “lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 63) because he or she recognizes they do not have to run the show.

Step Four. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This step is about looking at one’s own life and laying claim to wrongs done to self and others. Without the assurance of the presence of a High Power from Step 3, this would surely be an impossible step to complete thoroughly. Writing down resentments gives them less power and allows the alcoholic the chance to begin to let them go. Trusting in an infinite Higher Power makes this step easier because the alcoholic knows that he or she is not alone on the journey.

Step Five. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. This step requires trust in a Higher Power that another will hear the story of the alcoholic with compassion and grace, sans judgment. For many this is when a cloud is lifted and a spiritual experience begins (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 75).

Step Six. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. This step rests between full disclosure of one’s self to another and the moment when the God of one’s understanding removes all those defects that once buried the alcoholic. Willingness is key because without the willingness to ask for their removal, these defects remain.

Step Seven. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. The gift of humility is one learned and accepted by the alcoholic in recovery. Faith in something greater than one’s self means having the courage to let yourself be changed for the better.

Step Eight. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Just as Steps 6 and 7 are intricately woven together, so it is true of Steps 8 and 9. This step is about preparing for the work to follow. It is important to take time to reflect on the amends to be made and be sure to include one’s self in the list.

Step Nine. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Step 9 puts recovery into action. This is the opportunity to take a deep breath of the faith the alcoholic has in his or her Higher Power. Trusting in the system and in the process of letting go, the alcoholic faces the ones who have been hurt and offers amends. This is done with care for the other individual and for the self and no one should be put in danger in this endeavor.

The Maintenance Steps

Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. The next three steps work together to maintain the recovery of the alcoholic. They lead to a spiritual awakening that comes slowly to some and quickly to others. Step 10 requires vigilance in the process of recovery. Humility again, comes into play. Being able to admit one’s wrongs promptly saves a person from walking away with guilt, anger and resentment.

Step 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. Authentically working Step 11 maintains a connection with one’s Higher Power. Asking for help, praying when one wakes up and lies down, giving thanks, meditating-these are all means by which the recovering alcoholic remains humble and relinquishes control to their Higher Power.

Step 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. In brief, this step is about passing the message on to others who need it, too. This is a spiritual practice because it intertwines one person to another. One individual’s story becomes a part of the tapestry that blankets the recovery movement of Alcoholics Anonymous. As was mentioned in the introduction, Bill W. and Dr. Bob recognized the importance of sharing their experiences as a means by which to maintain their own recovery. This is a critical step in the AA legacy.

The Legacies

There are three legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous born out of the early years: Recovery, Unity and Service. The Legacies were handed over to the movement known as Alcoholics Anonymous on July 3, 1955 at the 20th Anniversary Convention in St. Louis, MO. This was a passing of the torch, so to speak. Those who had built this movement and allowed their recovery journey to be shared by so many-the old timers-passed on their gifts to the newest among them.

The first, the Legacy of Recovery, offers the lessons learned and the Steps to be taken to those who have yet experienced the spiritual journey of recovery and to those who may experience it anew. The Legacy of Unity ensures that the focus of Alcoholics Anonymous stays on recovering and sharing that recovery with others. The first of the Twelve Traditions says that “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A. A. unity” (Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, p. 78). No one person is the face or the voice of A. A. Finally, the Legacy of Service is focused on sharing the message of recovery.

Conclusions

The Alcoholics Anonymous movement is a movement toward recovery. The historical founders and contributors, both alcoholics and non-alcoholics, laid a path for others to follow that encourages surrender, honesty, humility, and faith in something bigger than one’s self. When an alcoholic follows the Twelve Steps and gives themselves over to the journey, they generally find healing and experience powerful spiritual change in their lives that most will say is due to their work in the program and their faith in their Higher Power.

By Charlsi Lewis Lee

References

Alcoholics Anonymous comes of age: A brief history of A. A. (1985). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Alcoholic Anonymous (4th ed.). (2001). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Help For The Alcoholic

Question: If an alcoholic is unwilling to get help, what can you do about it?

Alcoholics don’t respond very well to advice, suggestions, or threats. One would imagine that under these circumstances an alcoholic is doomed to oblivion. You must realize the alcoholic is desperate to get more and more alcohol, and he or she may lie, cheat and steal in order to do so.

Very simply, an alcoholic is a person whose life is controlled by alcohol. They are sick.

Question: If the alcoholic is sick why doesn’t he or she just go to the hospital?

Because in the early stages of alcoholism, the alcoholic does not appear sick, in pain, or visibly abnormal. Alcoholics do not comprehend that they are about to become a very sick person, and neither do the people around them.

By the time an alcoholic is in the late stage, he or she is often irrational, deluded, and unable to understand what has happened. The alcoholic is simply not aware of what is going on in his or her body and is in a complete state of denial.

Being an alcoholic is not a curse. The alcoholic is a sick person and should be treated as one. Alcoholics are born with a hereditary, genetic predisposition to addiction having to do with brain chemistry. Alcoholics need to ingest alcohol before the addiction takes hold. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and without treatment it only gets worse.

If an alcoholic is unwilling to seek help, is there any way to get them into treatment?

Sure the courts force alcoholics into treatment all the time. Rehab centers are overflowing with people who don’t want to be there. The real question is, will forcing an alcoholic into treatment guarantee recovery? The answer is no.

A perfect example is the alcoholic with multiple DUI arrests. These folks have all been through one or more alcohol treatment programs. Why didn’t any of them stick? The answer is the alcoholic refused to admit to themselves they have a problem.

No alcoholic is hopeless. If you’re trying to get an alcoholic sober, learn to accept the fact that the alcoholic is sick, from an illness he cannot control, and neither can you. The alcoholic is addicted and an addict cannot stop on their own volition.

The first step in treating the alcoholic is the detoxification stage. The alcoholic must truly want to stop drinking or detoxification becomes a temporary solution. The biggest symptom to overcome for an alcoholic is their denial of having a drinking problem. An alcoholic is “someone who could be helped and is worth helping only if they decide not to drink.

Once an alcoholic is in treatment, they more than likely will be asked to start attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, usually daily. It is not easy to know when or if an alcoholic is “ready” for (AA). You can’t make the decision for them. People bounce in and out of (AA) all the time.

The right alcohol recovery program depends upon the severity and nature of the alcoholic and most importantly their personal level of commitment and motivation. A big part of getting the alcoholic into treatment, is overcoming the hurdle they face of actually going to treatment.

Many of the hurdles are self imposed, yet like fortified brick walls – to the alcoholic they are impassible. The walls are constructed from fear, shame, embarrassment, and denial. The uncertainty of what they must face is enough to trigger enough stress that they simply refuse to go.

It may never be completely understood what causes alcoholism, and (AA) is only one of many recognized treatments for alcoholism. The difference is its track record for success. More than 700,000 Americans receive alcoholism treatment of one kind or another on any given day. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the best treatment options for a recovering alcoholic.

Overcoming denial and enabling is often the first step to successful recovery for the alcoholic. Treatment only works if the alcoholic wants it. Forcing a treatment program on an alcoholic does not work. If an alcoholic is going to get anything positive out of an alcohol treatment program, they must be a willing participant.

The (AA) membership knows the routine as far as the alcoholic is concerned. They are all recovering alcoholics too. They supply the means, knowledge, and opportunity. It’s up to the alcoholic to take action. It’s part of the reason why (AA) is so effective. Very simply, they understand the alcoholic is a person whose life is controlled by alcohol.

Nagging the alcoholic is not the answer to successful recovery. Or is it an effective method to get an alcoholic to stop drinking. The choice must be made by the alcoholic.

Admitting you’re an alcoholic is not a requirement for membership to (AA), it is however, the #1 requirement to your recovery. Don’t Drink Today – and get involved. Listen to a speaker. Hear their story. In many cases you’ll find it’s not all that different from yours.

If you don’t like the first meeting you attend, go to a different one. It’s not like they’re difficult to find. Eventually you will find a meeting you like, with people who care and are will help you through the recovery process.

You can get more quality information in this 5 part mini-course called “Break Free From Alcohol Addiction – Your 5 Day Solution” [http://DontDrinkToday.com]

Alcohol – A Health Malefactor

Many people consider alcohol as a social drink because its associated with parties, relaxation and adventures. Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has been aware of the benefits and harms of alcohol. Today, for some alcohol is part of an everyday complete meal. Because evidence has proven alcohol a health benefactor when consumed moderately, some people tend to consume more than their body needs, which turns it into an insidious substance. While the health benefits of alcohol are being promoted since it prevents coronary heart disease and stimulates the circulatory system when consumed moderately, those benefits should not be encouraged because not only does alcohol increase the risk factors of many internal organs, it aggravates many environmental problems.

Alcohol consumption has been part of many cultures. Before the European colonization, the native population of the territory that would eventually become the United States used to produce weak beers or other fermented. In the past, alcohol was used as a trading medium, often bartered for highly sought-after animal skins and other natural resources such as indigo. During the colonial era, however, not only was alcohol used for medicinal purposes, it was also employed for religious ceremonies. For example, until the twentieth century, alcohol was the only painkiller generally available in western civilizations. In addition, alcohol was applied to help people recover their health and to reduce the risk of certain diseases including flu. Furthermore, liquor was associated with transcendental experiences and other cultural rituals that were purported to put people in contact with supernatural forces.

The peyote ritual is a prime example of these ceremonies. Peyote ritual is a sacrament intended to put one in communication with spiritual forces to instill harmony in ones life. The ritual follows a prescribed structure: it is composed of a leader called a Roadman who makes certain rules and regulations that are to be precisely followed. Finally, the Roadman uses a variety of sensory stimuli [including] cedar smoke and sprinkled water to prevent participants from drifting off into a disconnected state of conscientiousness. In fact, the peyote ritual is often used within Indian communities for the treatment of alcohol abuse.

Moderate consumption of alcohol lowers the risks for coronary heart disease. According to the United States Department of Agriculture and Human Services, moderate consumption is defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. Ideally, a drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. In order for the cardio-vascular system to function properly, the tissue that constitutes the bulk of the heart requires frequent supplies of oxygen containing blood, which is delivered to the heart through the arteries. Cholesterol and other fatty substances can accumulate within the coronary arteries and ultimately block the flow of blood. Normally, this blood clotting condition is known as a CHD (coronary heart disease) attack. Alcohol plays a momentous role in facilitating the circulation of blood throughout the body. For example, alcohol prevents the formation of blood clots. In addition to cholesterol and other fatty substances impeding blood circulation, clotting also occurs from chemicals released into the blood through the arterial wall. Moreover, alcohol not only suppresses fibrin, the substance that promotes clotting, it produces certain substances that preclude the clotting process. Alcohol basically prevents the risk of CHD by eliminating most of the contributing factors.

In addition, alcohol consumption might play an important role in stimulating the cardio-vascular system. For example, laboratory research has demonstrated alcohols usage as a positive factor in preventing arterial narrowing in mice. Arterial narrowing in the human body occurs in the blood concentration of certain fatty substances that influence the deposition of cholesterol within the coronary arteries. In addition, alcohol may prevent the formation of clots within already narrowed arteries. For instance, analyses of blood samples of many individuals indicate that alcohol consumption increases blood levels of anti-clotting factors and decreases the stickiness of the platelets, the specialized blood cells that clump together to form clots. Other laboratory research suggests that alcohol might help protect against reperfusion injury, which is a form of blood flow to heart muscles weakened by lack of oxygen. Alcohol can be considered something of paramount importance since it enhances the cardio-vascular system.

In contrast, alcohol consumption has detrimental effects. It impairs bone development. To begin with, alcohol has some harmful effects on the two types of bone the human skeleton encompasses: cortical bone, which is dense and thick, forms the outer layer of bone and the shafts of the long bones of the arms and legs and cancellous bone, which is a porous meshwork of thin plates [which shape the vertebral column]. Alcohol is harmful for both types of bone although the most crucial effects occur in cancellous bone. Medically speaking, the process of skeletal growth and maturation involves three general phases: growth and modeling, consolidation and remodeling. Heavy alcohol consumption interferes with the growth-and-modeling phase by stopping the longitudinal growth rate and the rate of proliferation of bone. Moreover, usage of alcoholic beverages affects parathyroid, the hormone that regulates the calcium metabolism.

Overindulgence of alcohol causes adverse effects, particularly on women. For example, alcohol might indirectly affect bone through estrogen since the deficiency of such a hormone is a major contributing factor of osteoporosis. Over the last decade, many studies have shown an obtrusive relationship between the consumption of alcohol and bone loss. Specifically, a 1997 study conducted by a group of researchers showed that women aged sixty-five and older who were heavy alcohol consumers had an increased risk of vertebral deformity compared to moderate alcohol drinkers. Another study investigated the influence of moderate alcohol consumption on ovariectomized rats to imitate menopause. Subsequently, the rats that had their ovaries removed for the experimentation exhibited a diminished bone density and volume compared to nonovariectomized rats. Because fewer osteoblasts are found in the alcohol-fed animals, this finding leads to the conclusion that moderate alcohol consumption has no absolute health benefits since it inhibits bone quality.

Heavy alcohol consumption may lead to the necessity of liver transplantation. Because the liver is the largest organ in the body, it performs a variety on tasks, namely digesting, absorbing, and processing food. Moreover, the liver stores vitamins, synthesizes cholesterol, controls blood fluidity and regulates blood-clotting mechanisms. A liver disease is one of the most serious medical consequences of long-term alcohol consumption. In 1991, 25,000 Americans died mainly from liver cirrhosis, making it the elevenths nation leading killer. Another study demonstrates approximately one half of cirrhosis deaths have been ascribed to alcohol usage. Moreover, long-term alcohol consumption is the most prevalent single cause of illness and death from liver disease in the United States since the only possible cure is a liver-transplantation, which is a risky undertaking. In addition, the liver is so fragile that a single occurrence of heavy drinking is enough to dispose fat in the liver and may lead to alcoholic hepatitis, a severe inflammation of the liver characterized by nausea, weakness, pain, loss of appetite, weight loss and fever. Finally, alcoholic cirrhosis is the most advanced form of liver injury. The disease is characterized by progressive development of scar tissue that blocks the blood vessels and distorts the livers internal structure, impairing the liver’s function. Basically, liver disease compromises the body’s ability to perform multiple functions essential to life.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption can damage the nervous system. Because alcohol is a toxic substance, it can cause alcoholic and chronic drinkers to suffer from abnormalities in their mental functioning and changes in behaviors associated with brain impairment. Alcohol consumption can have direct or indirect effects in the neurological system, which makes it even more dangerous to consume casually or regularly. Over the past twenty-five years, images of the brain created with modern neurological techniques, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computer Tormography (CT), generally show a [clear] relationship between prolonged alcohol consumption and changes in the brains structure. For example, MRI and CT results have shown brain shrinkage and brain lesions or tissue damage in some alcohol consumers.

In addition, alcohol has some adverse effects on many other neurological processes. While moderate alcohol consumption of alcohol lowers body temperature, severe intoxication in cold weather may lead to hypothermia, a massive, life-threatening decline in temperature. Moreover, alcohol usage can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Light consumption of alcohol can cause early sedation of sleepiness, awaking during the night and suppression of Rapid-Eye-Movement (REM). Psychologically speaking, REM is the dreaming state of sleep and when it occurs near wakefulness, it often produces vivid hallucinations. Another severe consequence of alcoholism is the Korsokoffs Syndrome (KS), a devastating memory disorder in which a person forgets the incidents throughout the course of his day or as they occur. Hence, because of this dramatic loss of short-term memory (also called anterograde amnesia), patients with KS virtually live in the past.

Not only is alcohol consumption detrimental for the user but for others in his path. Drunk driving is one of the nations leading killers. Over the past decade, drunk drivers have killed more than 42,000 people on a yearly basis. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, alcohol significantly increases the changes of fatal car accidents. In 1997, more than 17,000 Texans died mainly from drunk driving accidents. Another study of the same year shows more than 30 percent of driving fatalities involved alcohol consumption. Most shocking of all, teenage drivers represent less than 7 percent of the total population; however, the damage of teenage drunk drivers is more than 13 percent of motor vehicle deaths. In order to minimize driving fatalities, most states have now adopted the Zero Tolerance policy in compliance with the National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995. Fortunately, with the new law in place, more than 17,000 lives are being saved every year.

In addition, alcohol plays a causal role in violence. Over the past forty years, many studies have shown a conspicuous relationship between alcohol consumption and violent events. According to these studies, alcohol is linked to one-half to two-thirds of homicides, in one-fourth to nearly one-half of serious assaults. In addition, alcohol consumption appears to be connected with sexual assault. For example, police reports have demonstrated 24 percent of a group of identified sexual offenders and 31 percent of their victims had been drinking. Moreover, although many people consume alcohol moderately and responsibly, studies show that a number of people drink to get drunk and therefore, their behaviors create some serious problems for people around them. For example, alcoholics and people who frequently binge drink usually have problems with friends, marriage, home-life, work and finances. Statistically speaking, 5 percent of drinkers reported that their drinking affected their finances. Furthermore, heavy drinking can have major social costs on society including lost of productivity in the workplace, family violence, which in most cases, leads to a divorce, accidental injuries and even death.

Although there are opposing viewpoints on the effects of alcohol, there is one factor on which researchers can agree: Heavy consumption of alcohol is harmful. From some researchers standpoint, moderate consumption of alcohol can also be harmful because it can interfere with the normal functioning of the liver, impede bone formation and most importantly inhibit the nervous system. Medically speaking, alcohol has no health benefits without negative externalities.

In summary, although some have found that moderate alcohol consumption has some benefits, the actual adverse impact that it has on society is far from being beneficial. In order to circumvent being affected by the deleterious chain-of-reaction that comes along drinking, society has to understand one fact: the best way to prevent something is never to start.

References

Alcohol and Coronary Heart Disease.

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Oct. 1999. Sirs Researcher. 09 May 2001. http://sks.sirs.com.

Alcohols Harmful Effects on Bone.

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Alcohol Use and Its Consequences.

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American Indian and Alcohol.

Sirs Researcher. 22 (1998). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 06 May 2001. http://sks.sirs.com.

Drunk Drivers Beware.

State Legislatures. November 1999. Sirs Knowledge Source. 07 May 2001. http://sks.sirs.com.

The Epidemiology of Alcohol-Related Interpersonal Violence.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. 16 (1992). Sirs Government Reporter. 08 May 2001. http://sks.sirs.com.

Hunter, Beatrice Trum.

Some Effects of Alcohol. Consumers Research Magazine. 82 (Mar. 1999). Academic Search Elite. 09 May 2001. [http://www.ccla.lib.fl.us].

Liver Transplantation for Alcoholics With Terminal Disease.

Alcohol Research and Health. Winter 1997. Sirs Researcher. 07 May 2001. http://sks.sirs.com.

New Benefits and Concerns about Alcohol. John Hopkins Medical Letter After 50. June 1997. Sirs Researcher. 04 May 2001. http://sks.sirs.com.

Oscar-Berman, Marlene et al.

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