What are the alternatives to AA

Alcoholics Anonymous: For the really desperate


Alcoholics Anonymous Goal
is absolute abstinence. Photo: Caro
With more than two million members worldwide, Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the largest support groups.
Your concept is pragmatic and philosophical at the same time.

More than 5,000 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) came together for the annual meeting in Hamburg on May 1st to celebrate their “dryness”. In the “meetings” they tell each other their story and encourage each other in their decision to stay “dry”. The “12-step program” - as the AA concept is called - often makes outsiders think of a sect at first. However, anyone who as a doctor has had the opportunity to accompany a few "hopeless" cases over the years knows about the special competence of Alcoholics Anonymous.
"Salvation Stories"
Poisoning, attempted suicide or delirium: those who have been abstinent for a long time emphasize at the meetings that they only found their way to the community because they had reached the edge of the abyss. Many report that only this uncompromising crisis, in which the loss of a partner, job or even death threatened, made this reversal possible. You speak of their "low point".
The doctor-patient relationship can become very difficult in such crises. Jürgen from Hamburg: “My doctor gave me strong tranquilizers and psychotropic drugs. Actually, these preparations only made my misery worse at the time. He treated me regularly for all sorts of chronic illnesses. But there was never any mention of alcohol. ”At some point, Jürgen said, he asked the doctor why he hadn't asked him about his alcohol consumption earlier. The answer: “If I had addressed that right away, you would probably not have come back. That way I could at least keep your situation under control. ”Especially in the first few years of abstinence, many AA accuse their family doctor of having acted in the staging of the addictive drama. Experienced AA, however, are aware of the difficulty their doctors have in figuring out the right time to openly address the alcohol problem. You can see what risk it is for a doctor to speak “plain language” for once.
Many only find Alcoholics Anonymous after years in which alcohol has ruined themselves, their partners and children. When they finally "capitulate" and contact one of the groups, it happens very quickly for some of them. Others have to struggle for a long time to be dry. No one dictates to the other, everyone just listens to the often exciting "redemption stories". The goal is absolute abstinence - to take the world as it is. Social drinking is no longer conceivable for the "real" alcoholics.
The AA emphasize that they are not a "temperance or abstinence movement", but just a community of "practitioners" who share their strength and experience with the sole aim of remaining abstinent. "Sponsorships" are entered into, in which experienced people make themselves available to beginners day and night on the phone. The elderly often do this to ensure their own sobriety. "Because even after 20 years of drought, I'm only an arm's length from the next glass," says Jim from the USA. In order to maintain their sobriety, the AA have developed “twelve traditions” in addition to the twelve steps: These postulate to stay out of politics, business and other dependencies. The AA do not accept donations, all expenses are borne by the "hat collections" of the meetings.
Today there are over two million AA members worldwide and more than 2,000 groups in Germany alone. This community originated in the USA in 1935, where a handful of desperate laypeople developed the pragmatic and at the same time philosophical concept. After a few years, the women of the early AA found out that they too needed something for mental health. This is how “Al-Anon”, the self-help group for relatives, came into being. This established a preliminary form of family therapy ten years before it came into being.
Spirituality instead of spirits
AA and Al-Anon describe themselves as not religious, they speak of "God as everyone understands him for himself". They understand their program as a spiritual concept that leaves everyone open to develop their own idea of ​​a "higher power". The "twelve steps" are reminiscent of the purification or knowledge paths of earlier mystical communities. However, it is repeatedly emphasized that it is all about getting rid of addiction. This path contains stages such as the recognition of one's own powerlessness, daily self-acceptance, entrusting oneself to a higher power, dealing with one's own guilt, personal “maturing” and the commitment to those who join later.
Dr. med. Friedrich Ingwersen
Specialist in psychosomatic medicine and psychiatry

Alcoholics Anonymous, Postfach 46 02 27, 80910 Munich, Telephone: 0 89/3 16 95 00, Internet: www.anonyme-alkoholiker.de; Email: [email protected]
Alcoholics Anonymous: For the really desperate

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