If you think going out with the girls for a few drinks before your baby is born is acceptable, think again. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) is a condition where a fetus develops brain damage due to alcohol consumed by its mother and is a very, real danger. A few drinks now, might be condemning your unborn child to a very difficult life.
Most damage occurs in the beginning of a pregnancy, when things are beginning to develop. During weeks six to nine, a baby develops facial features and crucial organs. Professor Neil McIntosh, an Edinburgh-based Neonatologist, says there is scientific evidence that shows mothers who drink during this three-week window are more likely to have babies with the facial deformities associated with FASD. So when is okay to drink during pregnancy? Never.
How Can We Identify This Global Problem?
It is believed that the dangers of imbibing while pregnant were known as far back as the ancient Greeks, though Fetal Alcohol Syndrome wasn’t officially diagnosed until 1973. Since then, the syndrome has continued to be a problem in countries around the world. It is estimated that 1 in 500 babies born in the United States will be affected with this condition. Statistics vary by race with the highest rates in the US occurring among Native Americans. Canadian Aboriginals also have a high occurrence, followed by South Africans and Russians.
Behavioral And Physical Characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
There are several characteristics, both physical and behavioral, that are often shared by those affected by FASD. Physically, the shape of the head is often smoother, eyes are smaller than normal, the ridge between the nose and lip is under developed, and the upper lip is thinner than usual. Deformity of the limbs, low weight, hearing, kidney, and heart difficulties can also result.
Mentally, a host of problems can result from drinking with an unborn human inside of you. In infants and young children, these range from lack of focus, developmental delays, trouble understanding cause and effect, and problems with boundaries.
But what happens when a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome grows to adulthood? Oftentimes, life is hard for them. A condition such as this, involving the brain, cannot be outgrown. A mother drinking alcohol before her child is born has scarred that child for life. 90% of adults with FASD have mental health issues, and 80% find it difficult to keep a job. They often lack impulse control, have a “short fuse,” and cannot understand concepts such as time or money. Short-term memory issues can also come into play.
Society is not equipped to handle those who may look normal, but don’t function like average adults. Many struggling with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome feel like they are forever children, stuck in a harsh adult world. Next time you reach for a bottle of wine or head out for an evening of cocktails, think about what you’re doing. The price of your indulgences now may well be your unborn child’s lifelong health.
Contact us at Alcoholtreatment.net to learn more.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded by Bill Wilson (Bill W) and Dr. Robert Smith (Dr. Bob) in 1935. The program was developed to help those seeking recovery from alcoholism through literature, group therapy, and support. Members have continued this tradition of recovery over the years, revising and augmenting the methods to better serve the AA community. Members have found great solace in recovery sayings, or mantras used in the group. These quotes and acronyms promote a positive mindset, and remind members to push through when things get tough in recovery.
“One Day At A Time”
Stress is the biggest relapse trigger for many people in recovery. One of the most well-known mantras of AA, “One day at a time,” refers to the focus, patience, and persistence necessary to tackle addiction. Considering sobriety a day-to-day endeavor puts focus on the task at hand, easing anxiety about the future, and regret over the past. Put a bit more bluntly by AA members, “When you’ve got one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow, you can only piss on today.”
Having a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Some of the most common quotes from AA are regarding the relationships of those in recovery. Self-awareness and problem solving is the key to finding peace. AA members are encouraged to embrace the things that can’t be changed, and work toward changing the things that can. Many AA quotes support this mindset, including:
- “What other people think of you is none of your business.”
- “I’ve found that you can not save your ass and your face at the same time.”
- “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
- “The healthy person finds happiness in helping others. Thus, for him, unselfishness is selfish.”
Changing things that can be controlled is an empowering experience. Many people in recovery are to face conflicts without the assistance of alcohol. Mantras such as these allow a “go-to” mentality, and help keep thoughts and actions in check.
Realistic expectations are one of the many reasons for the success and longevity of AA. Your experience with addiction and recovery will never be sugar-coated. Honest, authentic representations are useful in accepting things that have happened. Some blunt sayings regarding addiction and the recovery process include:
- “If you like everyone in AA, you’re not going to enough meetings!”
- “I’ve never done anything in moderation — except maybe these steps.”
- “You are not responsible for your disease, but you are responsible for your behavior.”
- “Sponsoring yourself is like using unskilled labor.”
- “An alcoholic without a sponsor is like leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”
- “If you want what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done.”
- “Winners do what they have to do and losers do what they want to do.”
- “Most alcoholics would rather die than learn anything about themselves. In fact, they do.
- “Insanity is not doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results; insanity is doing the same thing over and over again knowing full well what the results will be.”
These honest quotes have been adopted by the AA program as unofficial mantras to assist members when hope is hard to find. These quotes serve as reminders to stay grounded in recovery, and acknowledges the difficulties in a realistic and clever way.
AA members follow their own advice by “keeping it simple” with acronyms. These sayings inspire empowerment, prevention, and a reminder of the principles that are taught in the group. Some acronyms adopted by the AA community include:
- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired (HALT) – Referring to the common triggers involved in relapse. When temptation strikes, make sure you’re putting your mind and body in check.
- Sobriety Losing Its Priority (SLIP) – When menial issues take precedence over sobriety, this can challenge the recovery process.
- Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) – Stress and over-complication can lead to temptation. Maintaining simplicity can cut the distraction and ensure focus on recovery.
- False Expectations Appearing Real (FEAR) – Fear and anxiety are sometimes unfounded, but feel very real. Deciphering what is real and what is not is an important step in recovery.
- Good, Orderly Direction (GOD) – Guidance from a higher power is a core principle of the teachings of AA.
- Easing God Out (EGO) – Feeling that you can take on more than you’re able can lead to relapse. By easing out your higher power, you’re losing a level of support that is much needed in recovery.
- Hang In There (HIT) – The road to recovery is a very bumpy one. Sometimes, we need a good reminder that there are better times ahead.
When times get very rough, it may be difficult to think positive thoughts. These acronyms provide quick mental guidelines for boosting progress and thought conditioning. In recovery, you may find that these acronyms come in handy when a good reminder is needed.
AA Helps Members Grow And Thrive
AA provides guidance for facing these difficult experiences by providing mantras that are useful in everyday life. AA sayings have been documented over the years to provide inspiration, hope, and a good push to help members stay on track. Through repetition, these ideas become a go-to mindset for AA members. By bolstering goodness, AA helps members grow and thrive throughout recovery, and beyond.
We Can Help
If you or someone you know needs guidance in alcohol addiction recovery, the caring staff at AlcoholTreatment.net can help. We are here to listen, provide guidance, and aid in connecting resources for treatment. Contact us today.
Al-Anon is a free international program founded by Lois Wilson, the wife of one of the men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous. She thought that a separate group needed to be formed, one that would focus on the loved ones and family members of those who suffer from addiction. As a result, it helps create a support group for families, one that will help them move and grow together through addiction. These 12-steps have been adapted from the program created by Alcoholics Anonymous, but have been adapted for family use.
The biggest change comes in the final step: instead of specifying reaching out to people who just struggle from alcohol addiction, it focuses Al-Anon on reaching out to other family members and friends of addicted individuals. That helps separate Al-Anon from other recovery programs.
Step one: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Acknowledging the problem is the very first step to regaining control over alcohol addiction. While members may find this step challenging, it is possibly the most important step on the road to recovery.
Step two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
By placing hope in the hands of a greater power, addiction can be viewed from a more dynamic perspective. The journey to sobriety has a guiding hand to help aid in struggling. While Al-Anon is not affiliated with any religious organization, faith is an integral part of the program. Understanding that everyone interprets God differently allows members to find their own higher power and release some of the burden to him.
Step four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Categorizing your positive and negative aspects can prove challenging. The idea of accountability for negative behavior can also be met with the good in every member of Al-Anon. Opening up about wrongdoings can help people in recovery achieve accountability for their actions. Admitting fault can lead to dedicated improvement in the lives of someone struggling with alcohol addiction.
Step six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Surrendering control over the past while moving forward helps members to focus on recovery. Having a higher power to answer to and rely upon is an important step. While accountability is imperative, freeing oneself from the total burden is thought to encourage growth.
Step eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Finding peace after wrongdoing is an important step. Making amends can free those suffering from addiction and allow members to realize spiritual growth. In addition, those on the receiving end may feel more at ease with with what has happened, potentially rebuilding the relationship.
Step eleven: 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.
Step twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Spiritual growth is a key element in the Al-Anon program. Seeking answers from a higher power, members can receive personal guidance through prayer and meditation. A will to find spiritual enlightenment can open the door to other endeavors for those in recovery. Helping others may provide a purpose to the individual, boost esteem, and aid overall life improvement.
We Can Help
If you, or someone you know could benefit from Al-Anon meetings, do not hesitate to contact the caring staff at AlcoholTreatment.net. We are here to help you find the right programs and resources to fit your needs, and live a healthier and happier life.
Labor Day and its surrounding parties can be seen as a fun exclamation point that sends off summer with one last big blast. Unfortunately for people recovering from alcohol abuse or addiction, it often serves as a dangerous period of potential relapse. If you’re concerned about suffering from a relapse during this Labor Day season, keep these simple sober living tips in mind.
Talk About It First
Talk to the hosts of any party you plan on attending and explain your position. Most hosts will understand your personal needs and will try to respect it by offering non-alcoholic alternatives. When you’re at the party, politely decline any alcoholic drinks that may be offered to you. A majority of the people there should understand.
Just be aware that some people may actually become suspicious and resentful if you tell them you are recovering from addiction. Resentment like this is called the “lobster effect,” because it resembles the way that tanked lobsters behave when one tries to escape: they pull them back down.
In other words, people feel that you are labeling their drinking as a problem by abstaining or speaking of your own drinking as a problem. Many of them may even try to convince you that you don’t have a problem and pressure you to drink. Don’t fall down that slippery slope: just politely explain that you are not judging them, but are simply trying to take control of a situation that has been taking over your life.
Bring A Sober Buddy
Drinking is often a social situation and if being surrounded by so many drinkers severely tests your willpower, bring along a sober buddy. This friend can be someone who doesn’t drink or who is also going sober. They can steer you away from the temptation to drink and can also serve as a great companion if the drinking gets too hot and heavy.
Staying sober in a heavy drinking situation can also serve as a great example of how you may have behaved when you were still struggling with addiction. Seeing the silliness of typical drunken behaviors from the outside ruins the nostalgia you may still associate with partying.
Bring Your Own (Non-Alcoholic) Drinks
Bringing your own non-alcoholic drinks to a party ensures you have something safe to drink. Excellent non-alcoholic drinks that you can enjoy at a Labor Day party include:
- Orange juice
These drinks should be all that you and your sober buddy need to stay alcohol-free. However, if these drinks feel too “kiddish” or simple for you, there are several high-quality non-alcoholic drinks you can bring. However, for some people recovering from addiction, drinks like this can often seem very close to mixed drinks, and may trigger relapses.
Avoid Possible Trigger Situations
Before planning to attend any Labor Day party, take a moment to consider your common trigger situations. Are there any people at the party that may trigger a relapse? What about the location: is it at a home or a cottage where you have excessively drank in the past? Or the food: is any of the planned cuisine something you often paired with alcohol?
Relapse triggers are often psychologically difficult to resist, and if necessary, you may simply have to avoid going to any Labor Day party: avoiding hurt feelings isn’t worth the risk of relapse.
Search Out Sober Activities
If the temptation to drink is too strong at parties with alcohol, you can try out any of the sober activities offered by AA and non-12-step rehabilitation groups, such as The Camping Trip. People who attend these events have access to a wide range of activities, including:
- Sporting events
- Camping activities
- Friendly competitions
- Sober group discussions
Having a support group filled with people recovering from alcohol addiction can give you the strength you need to create a sober Labor Day.
Know How And When To Escape
If you’ve followed all these tips, but are still struggling to avoid taking a drink, make a quick exit as soon as possible. Don’t just stick around to be polite, because even taking one drink may start a chain reaction of relapse. Bringing your own car is the most sure-fire way to ensure you have a suitable way to escape.
Don’t worry too much about saying goodbye to anyone at the party: if your temptation is too strong, just go without explanation. If you fear any misunderstanding, call the host later. Any good friend will understand and support your need to escape.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
If you are interested in learning about even more sober Labor Day activities or tips on staying alcohol-free, please don’t hesitate to contact us at AlcoholTreatment.net. Our free information can help you stay on the path to sober living this Labor Day.
When a person is in a marriage or partnered relationship with someone addicted to alcohol, it’s not just the person dependent on alcohol who suffers, the partner is also directly affected, as they have to deal with everything from emotional distress to financial worries. It often falls to the sober partner to “pick up the pieces” and maintain. The stress this puts on them is very real and they are just as deserving of help as the person who struggles with drinking.
The partner of a person who drinks is often in the sad position of being in conflict or distress with the very person who might ordinarily be their closest confidant. The person they would normally go to for support, advice or comfort is the source of the problem itself. This can leave them feeling very alone and without anywhere to turn.
Family And Friends Aren’t Always The Solution
Sometimes friends or family don’t grasp what the husband, wife, or partner of the dependent are dealing with. Often when one hasn’t had their own experience with someone struggling with alcohol addiction, they can’t fully empathize with someone who is going through the stress of being in such a relationship. This isn’t always true, but it is in many cases, particularly if the person who is dealing with the issue has a sparse circle of friends or family to go to.
It can be frustrating to try to seek solace from someone who leaves you feeling: They just don’t understand. Or someone who can’t see past their own anger at the situation. Their advice often boils down to just leave them and the relationship. This can be aggravating when have your own, informed reasons for not believing that that’s the right course of action. They may mean well, they love and care for you and just don’t want to see you hurting; but their dismissive viewpoint can actually add to your distress.
Barriers To Obtaining Help
Organizations and groups exist to help the spouse/partner of a person dependent on alcohol, but sometimes circumstances such as lack of transportation, a physical disability, or psychological condition such as agoraphobia could preclude a person seeking help outside of the home. Maybe one lives in a sparsely populated or isolated area where no such groups exist. They might be afraid of potential stigma attached to being open about marital problems. They may just be too shy to open up to someone publicly. Perhaps the spouse/partner has ideological disagreements with an available organization’s methods. In any case, sometimes support just isn’t easily at hand in everyone’s community.
Whether you just need someone to talk to, or need actual assistance of some sort, the internet can be a great alternative to traditional walk-in-the-door methods of getting help.
Talking It Out With Peers
Sometimes all you’re looking for is a way to vent your feelings, to talk about your situation instead of bottling it up. Talking to others who have been there or are going through the same things can be very supportive. There is a wealth of message boards, forums, chat rooms, and discussion groups you can find with a simple search. Often on these you’ll meet friendly people who can direct you to other helpful resources, or just lend a virtual shoulder to cry on. You can usually spend some time unregistered just “lurking” and reading what others have said to gauge whether or not a given website would be comfortable for you to actually take part in. If you don’t like the back-and-forth that takes place on one website, there are dozens more to choose from. Spend some time checking out various sites and you’re bound to find one or more that would work for you.
Some people find it easier to be open in an online setting than they would face-to-face. The anonymity of communicating from behind a keyboard can sometimes be freeing to someone who might be too shy to discuss things like alcohol dependency in person. A sense of privacy can be comforting, and maybe encourage a struggling spouse to seek further help of some sort. Maybe you’re not actually looking for a solution to a problem, either. If you’re not seeking feedback, but only want confirmation that It’s not just me going through this, you can just do some reading and not take part in discussions.
The Role Of Social Media In Support
Social media can be a great outlet, as well. This is best approached carefully, however. One should take into consideration that the privacy of all individuals involved needs to be respected. You might need to be more discreet about what you do and do not share in a social setting online, just as you would at an actual gathering of people such as a party.
Some people do go so far as starting a personal blog to share their experiences and thoughts. Sometimes all we need to do is get it out there, give voice to what’s going on in our lives and minds so that we can take a step back and look at where we are. Input from others who read can maybe shed a new perspective we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And maybe sharing your own experiences might just help someone else. It can be empowering to know that by sharing your own situation, you have helped another going through the same thing. Beware, however. If your website allows commentary, not everyone is understanding or kind. Some people “troll” the internet with the sole intention of pushing people’s buttons, offending or criticizing for their own cruel and selfish entertainment. Website commentary is very often the venue of choice for a commenter’s snark.
Beyond Talk: Assistance From Resources
Sometimes the need is there for actual help of some kind, assistance or support that goes beyond just talking. The internet can be a valuable resource for this as well.
Books, Articles, And Reports
If it’s research you’re seeking, you can find scholarly articles, scientific reports, and medical journals reprinted online. Often these are readily available to the public and free. Sometimes there may be a fee charged by magazines that offer online versions of print issues.
You can shop for self-help or reference books as well through websites such as Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, Ebay, and many others. One benefit of doing your shopping online is that there may be reviews by people who have already read the books you are considering. You can look at the reviews and gauge whether or not said book would offer the sort of knowledge you seek. A few websites also let you read a selection of pages before purchasing.
Library websites can be great ways to find resources, as well. Many list their entire catalog so you can search for a book or other source such as a DVD by title, author, subject, etc. A lot of libraries are now making audio books, digital books, and reports available as downloads for e-readers, tablets, and cell phones. Usually these services are all free.
You can find some books or programs available for sale via downloads or direct sales. These would be on websites from the author or organization that created the book or program. It is helpful prior to committing to a purchase to do some searching to see if others have read these books or tried these programs and what they have to say about the value of them.
Support Groups, Outreach Centers, And Shelters
The internet is a great way to find local support groups. Many post locations and schedules for meetings or gatherings organized by locale. They also make phone numbers available to confirm dates and times, and sometimes can offer other types of support.
If things have reached a point where you might actually need to remove yourself from the situation with your loved one, many outreach centers and shelters for victims of domestic abuse have websites with information, addresses, and contact information. They usually have 24-hour emergency lines available and posted on their sites.
We Can Offer The Support You Need
If you find yourself in a domestic relationship with someone suffering from alcohol dependency and need assistance, AlcoholTreatment.net is here to help. If you don’t know where to turn or what to do, contact us – we’ll be happy to guide you toward what you need to not feel alone or helpless in your situation.
Being labeled by your illness, whether it’s cancer, diabetes, or alcoholism, carries with it the negative implication that you are your illness. Though that’s not the intention behind a label like “alcoholic,” for some, the strong stigma associated with the term is enough to prevent them from entering a recovery program, especially a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Though the word describes someone suffering with an addiction to alcohol, the stigmatic definition reflects a weakness of character, as our former understanding of the disease of alcoholism indicated some matter of choice.
The Powerful Impact Of Labels
It isn’t that labels always cause harm, but studies do indicate they have a profound effect on humans and our intentions. One study involved randomly selected students who had scored similarly in IQ testing. Academically, these students were no different from one another, but 20 percent of the group was then labeled “bloomers,” indicating they had shown greater proficiency over their peers. While this 20 percent did not receive any additional tutoring over their peers, later testing revealed the labeled group raised their IQ by an astonishing 10-15 points compared with the non-labeled group. The only difference between the two groups? A label.
Now, imagine a label which indicates an illness. In 2006, I was diagnosed with blood cancer. Immediately, in support groups and by peers, I was labeled, “a cancer survivor,” despite any known outcome. I didn’t think much about it until someone inadvertently and innocently referred to me as a “cancer victim.” I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
For decades, cognitive psychologists have been studying the impact of language and labeling on the human psyche. They quickly determined that labels don’t just describe something; they inform what we see.
Labels Determine What We See
One of my favorite linguistic experiments involves the use of simple imagery. Researchers divided people into two groups. They showed each group a set of images. Both groups viewed exactly the same images, but beneath the images were different labels. For example, one group saw a rectangle with a triangle atop it labeled “House.” The other group saw the exact same image, with a different label, “Envelope.”
The two groups were told to memorize these images because they would be tested on their memory two hours later. When “tested,” the two groups did not draw the images they had seen, but rather what the labels suggested they had seen. While the images included only the two identical, distinct shapes, the “house” group had added a door or window, and in some cases a chimney, while the “envelope” group added a stamp, or inverted the triangle and overlayed it over the rectangle.
Each of these experiments on the power of labeling indicate a profound impact on how we view the world around us. Groups like “Alcoholics Anonymous,” who involve the label in their title, were founded at the time these linguistic studies were in their infancy.
“I am an Alcoholic”
Asking individuals participating in programs like AA was not a deliberate attempt to demoralize them; the purpose is to remove all other labels and put everyone on equal footing. Whether or not this ultimately has a negative impact is not known. Alcoholics Anonymous has been a powerful tool for many in seeking and achieving long-term recovery. At the same time, this label may be a barrier for some individuals in need of treatment.
For some, the label alcoholic deflates any sense of empowerment they might otherwise feel in their recovery journey. For others, use of the word can be humbling. For one person, it connects them with the negativity, and for another, they connect to others in the same boat through the word.
Depending on how you associate with a label, it can have a powerful impact on how you view yourself and your recovery experience. While the disease of addiction does not go away (one of the reasons AA insists the label), some five or 10 years into recovery may feel inhibited by the label, while others might still identify as alcoholic as a means to remind themselves that the threat to sobriety is still present.
Working Around The Stigma Of The Alcoholism Label
The stigma surrounding the word alcoholism comes from an archaic understanding of the disease. The stigma attached to alcoholism suggests everything the disease is not; a choice by someone to drink. The stigma can also prevent someone who is seeking employment from being able to obtain that employment. Sadly, in other cases, medical care may be affected. And moreover, someone who is afraid of being labeled is likely to avoid care.
There are many types of treatment someone can undergo that do not necessitate use of the label “alcoholic.” These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational therapy (MT), and some secular groups similar to AA, but who do not necessitate use of the label.
A Rose By Any Other Name…
Regardless of whether or not you identify with the label, alcoholism is a real disease and if you need help, there are ways to cope without finding yourself under the thumb of a word like ‘alcoholic.’ If you are worried about close friends and family referring to you in a way that evokes negative feelings, then it is okay to ask people to refrain from using the term. In fact, if there’s a phrase that evokes positive feelings regarding your recovery, then ask them to replace the word alcoholic with that word or phrase.
In fact, studies have shown that just including the word “recovering” before “alcoholic” can improve outcome. A recovering alcoholic is reminded of how far they’ve come, rather than labeled after the disease.
Get Help For Alcohol Addiction Today
AlcoholTreatment.net connects you with the online resources, professional support, and the evidence-based treatment solutions to get you from a place of alcohol addiction to a place of recovery. Contact us today and discover a new and rewarding life in recovery beginning today.
With the best of intentions and excellent credentials, even the top addiction treatment professional may lack the human experience of coping with alcohol addiction. That’s where a sponsor can relate and provide the kind of emotional support not necessarily replicated elsewhere. Having experienced the challenges of alcohol addiction recovery, a sponsor can help you identify areas to work on for improving your chances of a successful long-term recovery.
Though limited studies on the efficacy of 12-step programs exist due to a strict adherence to anonymity, information can be extracted from the interview and review process conducted by these organizations. This information indicates that those involved in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), who attended regular meetings and remained in weekly contact with their sponsor, remained sober longer.
There are at least a few studies on sponsors which indicate some of the perceived primary functions a sponsor plays, as well as other data. The study demonstrated that the average length of involvement in a 12-step program like AA for an individual who becomes a sponsor is between nine and 10 years, and an average of 11 years of sobriety.
The Role Of The Sponsor In Recovery From Alcohol Abuse
Key roles identified during one study indicated sponsors saw their primary role as one that encourages sponsorees to “work the program.” Second to this was a sponsor’s role as a regular and available emotional support person. And third, the sample group revealed the importance of sharing their individual success story in preserving the message of the program.
Externally, the role of the sponsor is one that cuts through the niceties to get to the grit of the matter. With years of experience behind them, they’re capable of identifying risk factors for relapse while providing guidance on avoiding drug triggers and encouraging positive coping strategies.
When To Locate A Sponsor
You are ready to locate a sponsor when you arrive at a point of deep commitment to your ongoing recovery from alcohol addiction. Some groups will recommend regular participation with specific programs for a certain time period before seeking a sponsor, however, there is no written rule. In some ways, the sponsor represents the transition from treatment into your long-term recovery goals. He or she functions as friend, mentor, and educator in helping you better understand the steps necessary for a long-term recovery.
How To Locate A Sponsor
If you are currently attending meetings, make it known that you are seeking a sponsor. Sponsors are typically of the same gender as the individual, have been in sobriety for at least five years, and can act as positive role models in their success having worked the program. In locating a sponsor, it is important to interview a number of people until you get a feel for which potential sponsor is a good fit for you. Choosing someone you respect or admire for their adherence to the program, positive outlook, and ability to speak candidly and communicate clearly on any subject is hugely beneficial.
What To Look For In A Good Sponsor
The role of the sponsor is an important one in helping you maintain sobriety through the stresses and challenges that can arise early in recovery. This relationship can offer a lifeline, and as such requires a level of trust, respect, openness, and commitment. A good sponsor will make themselves available within reason. This means your phone calls, if unanswered, will be returned within a reasonable time-frame. It also means you feel comfortable with the person you’ve chosen as a sponsor, enough to share even the darkest thoughts that can arise post-treatment.
A good sponsor can also communicate clearly and openly. They should be well-versed in the program and assertive in pushing you to continue with meetings, or to seek help, if risk of relapse becomes evident.
Most importantly, a sponsor is available to help someone work through the twelve steps. In this sense, regular communication, even when things are going well, is essential. In addition to helping you work through the program, the sponsor should also serve as a positive role model.
A Good Sponsor Will:
- Communicate openly, clearly
- Offer positive coping strategies
- Act as a good role model
- Also have a sponsor
- Help you work the program
- Have at least five years in recovery
- Be available as needed
- Be the same gender
How Does A Sponsor Increase Your Success In Recovery
In accompaniment with regular meetings, having a sponsor offers an additional level of support and a consistent reminder of what you need to do to work the steps of the program. It’s one thing to avoid attending a meeting after a while; the meeting won’t call you. A good sponsor, if they don’t hear from you, will check in and encourage you to attend and participate in the program.
Having also been on the other end of alcohol abuse, a sponsor can remind you of the harsh realities of returning to alcohol to cope, and connect you as needed with professional support to keep you on track with your recovery goals. In the end, a sponsor is a valuable resource for ongoing encouragement, support, as well as a means of regular contact to keep you from slipping back into the grip of addiction.
Get Help Today For Alcohol Addiction
If you are currently suffering from an addiction to alcohol, AlcoholTreatment.net can connect you with the online resources, professional support, and comprehensive evidence-based treatment options that will work best for you.
Contact us today and free yourself from alcohol addiction. Discover a better life in recovery starting now.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the most utilized recovery tools available. The program, founded in the 1930s centers around the 12 steps, a series of spiritual principles that serve as individual guideposts for an individual’s physical and spiritual recovery from alcohol addiction. Widely accessible and free, AA’s 12-step recovery process has served as a powerful tool in helping many overcome their struggles with alcohol since it’s inception.
Today, several offshoots of the program exist, modeling after the same 12-step model, including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA), and Pills Anonymous (PA), to name a few.
Where Do I Get Started With An Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program?
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are typically posted publicly with crisis centers, hospitals, libraries, and other community organizations. A search at https://www.aa.org/ can also help you locate a meeting in your area. At your first meeting, you’ll likely be given a list of meeting times, meeting topics, and groups hosted in your area.
How Alcoholics Anonymous And The 12-Step Program Work
As a fellowship dedicated to helping those battling an addiction to alcohol, AA centers around regular group meetings. These meetings are open and free to anyone interested getting sober. The only requirement for participation in the program is a desire to stop drinking. There are two types of meetings: open and closed. Open meetings may include anyone interested in attending, whether they are current drinkers, interested observers, or actively participating in the program. Closed meetings are open to participating AA members only.
There’s also a subtle difference between meetings and groups. Meetings are held regularly, are moderated to some degree by a leader, and tend to center around alternating themes like codependency, sponsorship, gratitude, and coping skills. Meetings may also invite a speaker to share their story or professional insights or begin with a Q&A for those new to the program. An AA group is more informal and may be held at any time and include as few as two to three people who are all committed to working the steps and adhering to the tradition of the program.
Part of the tradition of AA, as the name suggests, is a strict adherence to anonymity. Those who attend meetings or groups are asked that they not share the experiences of others outside of the group. This anonymity affords a level of openness that is important for those recovering from addiction.
One of the more moving aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs is that, by design, it creates continuum of support built upon the experience of those overcoming alcohol addiction, from the beginner to the person who has remained sober for 30 or more years. Each member has a shared responsibility to other members within the group to step up and offer support as is needed.
When attending your first or first few meetings, you’ll receive a warm welcome and be offered an additional level of encouragement. Those in attendance are all too aware of the challenges of getting sober in those first few months and are eager to help newcomers feel comfortable and welcome. An individual is never required or be pressured to speak. And while collections are taken to support the group, it is not a requirement.
Meetings specific to the 12 steps are held regularly and will address each individually. Groups may form between individuals at similar stages in their recovery and are hugely beneficial as a way to maintain momentum in the program. When an individual has been in the program for a period of a few months or more, they may request a sponsorship from another member of the group who has been sober for a longer period of time (often five years or more). A sponsor acts as a guide and mentor, helping you stay on task with your sobriety in following the steps and avoiding some of the pitfalls common to those newly in recovery.
Efficacy Of The Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program
There are few studies available to conclude the ultimate efficacy of 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous due to their high level of anonymity. However, through program interviews and assessments, and use of the program by rehabilitation centers, those who apply the 12 steps and attend regular meetings have a significantly higher success rates in achieving long-term sobriety.
In 1998, a federal study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism looked at the efficacy of 12-step programs compared with other treatment types including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Enhancement Therapy. While these programs were all determined to be effective at helping people achieve sobriety, the AA 12-step program achieved slightly higher rates of long-term sobriety.
Why Attending An AA Is Helpful For Current Drinkers
Alcoholics Anonymous welcomes anyone to attend their meetings, as long as there exists an honest desire to stop drinking. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be in recovery to attend. For many, it is through sitting in on an AA meeting that they discover recovery is possible. They are introduced to others who share similar stories to their own and have stopped drinking, and for some, a meeting can offer a level of support and understanding not found elsewhere. Hearing the stories of others can help current drinkers overcome their denial about the addiction and move forward with a plan toward sobriety.
Governance Of Alcoholics Anonymous
While the program goal is not to develop a hierarchy, it does include some structure for the sake of preserving its traditions. Group leaders or “officers” share in the responsibility of conducting meetings, ensuring the integrity of materials covered, handling contributions, and in some cases, acting as public relations persons. Officers are also critical in helping those new to AA locate a meeting and become involved in the program.
Help For Alcohol Dependency
If you or someone you love is suffering with an addiction to alcohol, AlcoholTreatment.net is a life-line of online resources and can connect you with the professional support and comprehensive, evidence-based recovery programs that meet your individual needs. Contact us and speak with someone in confidence today and make this your first step toward a life-long recovery.
The message behind each of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps is a guide to becoming centered as a human being. The core themes appearing in the framework of the program are those of honesty, faith, surrendering to a higher power, acceptance, forgiveness, service to others, and the encouragement to follow a vein of spirituality. They also provide a platform to allow someone to begin the process of recovery, one achievable step at a time.
Someone newly in recovery may feel overwhelmed with the enormous task of reconstructing their life post-treatment. The steps, as laid out by Alcoholics Anonymous, allow for a smoother transition from the chaos of addiction to a more orderly approach that reduces anxiety and stress common to the process.
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
- We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- We are entirely ready to have God (Higher Power) remove all these defects of character.
- We humbly asked Him (Higher Power) to remove our shortcomings.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, we promptly admitted it.
- We 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 it out.
- Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The 12 Steps Of Alcoholics Anonymous Explained
Step One “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
This is a key first step and is critical toward gaining any traction in recovery. People attempt sobriety for many reasons. A spouse may threaten divorce, child custody may be hanging in the balance, a career may be at risk, but unless the person seeks sobriety because they can see the whole picture and the loss of control over the addiction, they may get clean temporarily only to relapse.
The first step is really about being honest with yourself. When we tell ourselves that we are in control, we ignore the reality of the addiction, fail to address corresponding issues related to the addiction, and are vulnerable to a whole host of threats to our sobriety. Being honest and acknowledging the addiction is the first step in finding a solution to overcome it.
Step Two “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
While some aspects of this step may mean different things for different people, step two embraces the notion that we are unable to solve the problem of our addiction without help. And that faith in a higher power, whether it be God, or the program, is needed to help someone achieve sobriety.
Step Three “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.”
The third step may also be interpreted to mean a literal higher power for the program, and again the idea is one of surrendering to something more powerful than our individuality. If we think of step two as the way to seek out a treatment plan, step three would apply to the act of entering rehabilitation.
Step Four “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
This step can be as excruciating as the withdrawal process for many. It involves searching within and discovering the wrongs and shortcomings within us. This process involves a literal honest inventory of those character flaws that may have nurtured the addiction.
While painful, this process can offer enormous relief in finally relenting to the acknowledgement of our mistakes and flaws that may be remedied toward becoming a better, stronger person.
Step Five “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
This step is about building integrity within ourselves and the greater AA community. By openly acknowledging our shortcomings in group meetings, not only does the individual experience a sense of relief, but those around the individual, each with their own set of shortcomings, may relate and feel more comfortable opening up and sharing.
Step Six “We are entirely ready to have God (Higher Power) remove all these defects of character.”
Step six is about acknowledging the reality of your situation, letting go of the old ways, and allowing for positive change.
Step Seven “We humbly asked Him (Higher Power) to remove our shortcomings.”
Step seven is about asking for help and having enough humility to seek guidance along your path toward recovery. We are raised to believe we are the centers of our universe, but this is not a helpful attitude when it comes to recovery from an addiction to alcohol. Instead, step seven helps us to maintain a humble approach forward; one that is not too proud to ask for help when and where it is needed, can mean the difference between relapse and a successful recovery.
Being humble also allows us to remain open to positive criticism or suggestion that will be of benefit during recovery.
Step Eight “We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
When using, people make many mistakes. Some of these mistakes may be severe and may have resulted in the loss of life. Others may involve money you borrowed from a friend to purchase alcohol that was never repaid. Making a list of these wrongs not only helps us remain humble and reminds us of the frightening reality of our life with alcohol, but it also leads us to the next step, in seeking forgiveness.
Step Nine “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
This step is about making contact with those you have wronged in some way, whether big or small, and attempting to make amends or to repay your debt, as able. When starting on this list, it can feel like an insurmountable task, but begin with something that is easier and you’ll soon find yourself reconnecting with friends, family, and acquaintances. Not everyone will welcome you with open arms, but it isn’t about the response you get; it’s that you make the effort.
Step Ten “We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, we promptly admitted it.”
This is a maintenance step for steps eight and nine. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. This step is about making sure these mistakes don’t continue to feed guilt and generate anxiety, but are instead addressed and let go. This step is part of a positive coping strategy. It allows us to face those things that we might have found too scary to address in the past.
Step Eleven “We 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 it out.”
In many ways, this step is about mindfulness. Being mindful of the positive forces in your life, whether God, the program, or some other spiritual belief, that you are opening yourself to the momentum brought about by positive actions in your life. This step can help eliminate doubt, relieve anxiety, and help you reduce stress by allowing for quiet meditation or reflection.
Step Twelve “Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Live the life you intend to live using these principles to guide you whether in your recovery or in your daily life. You might choose to become a sponsor for someone newly entering recovery, or perhaps you will continue to share your story at group meetings long into your sobriety. Step twelve is about service to others as it relates to the steps you’ve taken to achieve sobriety. As a graduating step, it really begs the question, “What will you do with this profound knowledge and experience to help others?”
The 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-supportive entity that is not overseen by any outside influences. As such, the 12 Traditions were established as a sort of guideline to help AA continue to function and stay in existence. These guiding principles help the groups, or meetings, in AA run smoothly and exist independently of each other and outside support.
The Traditions listed here are the “short form” of the original 12 Traditions. This is the form that is typically used today.
The 12 Traditions of AA:
- One — Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
- Two — For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.
- Three — The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
- Four — Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups, or A.A. as a whole.
- Five — Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
- Six — An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
- Seven — Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
- Eight — Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
- Nine — A.A., as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
- Ten — Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues, hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
- Eleven — Our public relations policy is based upon attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
- Twelve — Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Does The 12 Steps Model Work?
For many, the 12 steps model of Alcoholics Anonymous is the sole reason they were able to get and stay sober. Founded in the 1930s by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson, AA has been the cornerstone of alcohol addiction recovery for more than 80 years. This program is based on the belief that by helping others get and stay sober, an individual can stay sober as well.
The AA Big Book is the primary source of literature used in AA and thoroughly explains the 12 steps that are used as a guideline to recovery. Through personal stories and anecdotes, the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book outlines the steps that have been successful in helping countless individuals recover from alcoholism.
At the end of the day, AA has been around as long as it has because it works. Countless studies have shown that AA is a proven method of recovery. However, there’s one catch: individuals in AA have to thoroughly work the steps and stay diligent to the program. Without this commitment, there is less of a chance of success in AA. So, whether or not the 12 step model works will depend on the individual.
More Information About The 12 Steps Of AA
There are many treatment options that put the 12 steps of AA at the forefront of their program. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that incorporate AA into their method of recovery are available, and chances are there’s a treatment center near you.
Twelve-step meetings and groups can be very beneficial in the treatment and throughout the entire recovery process, as they challenge individuals to address their problems in addiction and find a solution. This program also provides the opportunity for people to form lasting bonds with others in recovery and to discover things to do for fun sober.
If you are looking a meeting near you, you can visit the AA website to find meetings in your area or contact our treatment specialists for more information.