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AA's 12 step recovery process

‘Addiction must be viewed as a process that is progressive. Addiction must be seen as an illness - in AA it is described as a three-fold illness: physical, mental/emotional and spiritual; and unless there is ‘adjustment of personality’ on all three levels, there will be no permanent sobriety; additionally, it is an illness that undergoes continuous development from a definite, though often unclear, beginning towards an end point.” (Nakken,1988, p.4.) Simply stated, recovery in AA and its relatives (Narcotics Anonymous (NA), The Minnesota Model, Overeaters Anonymous (OA), etc) involves reaching a personal ‘rock bottom’ whereby the alcoholic or addict become motivated enough to stop. (Waller and Rumball, 2004.) Recovery, AA believes, is made possible through a realisation that ‘only a spiritual experience can conquer alcoholism’ (Flores, 1988) and involves moving from an external locus of control to an internal one – an experience which is actuated  through practise of the 12 Step “suggested” programme of recovery, and which involves: 1) Self examination – alcoholics have to admit defeat, 2) Acknowledgment of faults – they also need to take stock of themselves and confess any defects to another person in confidence, 3) Restitution of wrongs done – they need to make amends for harm done to others and, above all, 4) Constant work with others – they need to practice the kind of giving that has ‘no price tag on it’, the giving of themselves to somebody’ (Flores, 1988). AA  advocates abstinence and believes, from collective experience, that the illness is characterised by a loss of control. It is the first drink that does the damage by setting off a compulsive need for more. Alcoholics (and addicts in NA) do not say they’ll never drink (or use) again. They stay sober or clean ‘One day at a time’. The 12 Step AA/NA approach is structured, specific, solution-focused, goal-oriented and manual-driven, and is based on behavioural, spiritual, and cognitive principles. (Perkinson, 2002.) It is, as AA itself admits, ‘a programme for living’ – and, as such, is a ‘way of life’ for the lifetime of the recovered alcoholic or addict. (AA, 1976.)

Alcoholics Anonymous. (1976). 3rd ed. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

FLORES, P. J., (1988). Group Psychotherapy with Addicted Population. New York: The Haworth Press.

NAKKEN, C., (1988). 2nd ed. The Addictive Personality – understanding the addictive process and compulsive behaviour. Minnesota: Hazelden.

PERKINSON, R. R., (2002). 2nd ed. Chemical Dependency Counselling – A Practical Guide. California: Sage Publications.

WALLER, T., RUMBALL, D., (2004). Treating Drinkers & Drug Users in the Community. Kundli: Blackwell Publishing

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