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Twelve-Step Programs: Alcoholics Anonymous


Addiction is a serious issue for a person of any class, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. When a person becomes either chemically addicted to a substance or psychologically addicted to an activity, their life often experiences a multitude of negative changes. This is why programs designed to transform this behavior into a healthy one are so important. There are dozens of programs operating in the United States, but this paper is dedicated to the most effective organizations. It will provide an overview of some and a more detailed description of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

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Most Effective Programs

One of the most effective and famous twelve-step programs is Alcoholics Anonymous. The program was established in 1935 in Ohio by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith. The founders were concerned with the increased incidences of misconduct under the influence of alcoholism in their community. Their program consists of twelve distinct steps designed to allow the person to change their behavior and stop drinking alcoholic beverages.

The group quickly grew as the effects of the meetings proved to be positive for those who attended. It has spread across the United States and even internationally, as official branches of Alcoholics Anonymous are now present in many countries of the world. While the organization has its origins in religious beliefs, it is all-inclusive and accepts members from all cultural and religious backgrounds.

Narcotics Anonymous is a similar twelve-step program but founded to assist people with narcotics addictions. It was originally founded by Jimmy Kinnon in 1953. While the approach to rehabilitation is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, it differs in the presentation as Narcotics Anonymous organizations do not promote themselves and only inform people who may find it useful in hospitals, treatment centers, and jails. The organization is smaller in scope than Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is present in 139 countries and assists tens of thousands of members.

Sex Addicts Anonymous is a program of a smaller scale but it has gained popularity due to its increased attention to the anonymity of its participants. It was founded in 1977 and unlike programs that are based on complete sobriety members of Sex Addicts Anonymous have lists of specific sexual behaviors that they want to abstain from. The majority of the participants are focused on supporting a monogamous relationship with their partner.

Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting

The meeting I attended was open to both members of the organization and observers. The meeting proceeded informally with only some structural elements to allow time to everyone who wished to speak. The meeting consisted of people presenting their thoughts on how they are dealing with addiction currently, their successes and failures since the last meeting. During some stories, other members chose to ask questions or support the speaker by relating to their experiences.

These moments especially seemed to be effective in transforming behavior because the speaker was able to realize that they are not alone in this experience. By understanding their faults, the members gained a greater sense of self-awareness as well as a sense of comradery with their fellow addicts. The sponsor system is designed especially for such support, as the more experienced alcoholic chooses to help a new member to change their behavior.

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List of Used Materials

In preparation for the meeting, I examined three scholarly articles on the Alcoholics Anonymous organization. The first was written by John Kelly (2017) and concerned the question of whether the organization is spiritual. The second article was written by Kevin Montes and Scott Tonigan (2017) and examined if higher levels of spirituality lead to longer periods of sobriety for the participants. The final article was written by Chad Emrick and Thomas Beresford (2016) and challenged the assessments that AA is not an effective organization.


Addiction can ruin a person’s life. This is why programs designed to combat it are so important. Even when the number of long-term successes is limited, those who change their behavior through such programs become sober and healthy. This effect should not be understated.


Emrick, C. D., & Beresford, T. P. (2016). Contemporary negative assessments of Alcoholics Anonymous: A response. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 34(4), 463–471.

Kelly, J. F. (2017). Is Alcoholics Anonymous religious, spiritual, neither? Findings from 25 years of mechanisms of behavior change research: How AA works. Addiction, 112(6), 929–936.

Montes, K. S., & Tonigan, J. S. (2017). Does age moderate the effect of spirituality/religiousness in accounting for Alcoholics Anonymous benefit? Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 35(2), 96–112.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Twelve-Step Programs: Alcoholics Anonymous'. 8 March.

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