Can I Be in Alcoholics Anonymous and Still Drink?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous is admitting one is “powerless over alcohol” and that one’s life has become unmanageable because of this issue. Though some people still do drink while in AA, the crux of the program is based on abstinence from alcohol and other mind-altering substances.

Why Does AA Teach Its Members Abstinence is the Only Way?

Still Drink

Drinking while in AA will likely lead to relapse.

AA teaches that abstinence is the only way because many individuals, especially those who experience addictive symptoms after abusing alcohol for a long period of time, cannot continue to drink and control that drinking. According to AA, this lack of control is what causes the need for abstinence, which takes the decision and ability to control or not control alcohol use out of the person’s hands. If an individual truly feels that they cannot control their alcohol use, the truest and safest solution, according to the program, is abstinence.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses 12-step facilitation therapy, which helps many individuals hoping to attend a 12-step group learn more about the program and why it teaches what it does. One of the treatment’s three key ideas, acceptance, includes “the realization that drug addiction is a chronic, progressive disease over which one has no control, that life has become unmanageable because of drugs, that willpower alone is insufficient to overcome the problem, and that abstinence is the only alternative.” This is the same as what AA teaches, and following this pattern, one can see how the program by nature endorses full abstinence from alcohol use of any kind.

Do Some People Attend AA and Still Drink?

Some people do attend AA and still drink. However, this is against the teachings of the program, and it can make it much harder for an individual to fully embrace the program and gain its full benefits. In addition, while some people can control their drinking enough to be able to do this and not relapse, others can’t. Therefore, it is a difficult concept and, though a person will not be kicked out of AA for making this choice, it is not in keeping with the program’s teachings and can be a point of contention among members. Also in many cases (especially those of true alcoholism), this behavior increases the likelihood of relapse for those in recovery.

Can I Be in Alcoholics Anonymous and Still Drink?

It isn’t likely you will gain the full effects of the program if you do, and perhaps, you may want to choose another program that falls more in line with your beliefs and the treatment regimen you’ve chosen. Still, it all depends on your needs in recovery and what works for you. If you have been diagnosed with alcoholism or severe disorders caused by your drinking, though, it is probably much safer for you not to drink, whether you are in Alcoholics Anonymous or not.

Treatment is necessary if you have noticed you are unable to control your alcohol use, and ending your drinking entirely may often be necessary as well. Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? today to find out more about AA and its principles or to find meetings in your area.

AA Alternatives: What is HAMS?

How Our Helpline Works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.