Debunking Classic Myths About AA

AA has helped many people work through their alcoholism and alcohol abuse since it was first created in the 1930s. But there are many widely held beliefs about the program that cause large numbers of individuals to decry it. While AA isn’t for everyone, some of these beliefs are myths and are damaging to those who do or could receive help from the program. Here are several classic myths about AA debunked.

Myth #1: There Isn’t Any Scientific Research to Back Up the Effectiveness of AA

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Most 12-step-based programs do not have a research tradition due to their emphasis on preserving the anonymity of their members.” However, this is gradually changing, and many more programs of this type are being evaluated for their effectiveness in different populations. While there isn’t as much research on AA as there is for other recovery programs, there has been enough to back up the effectiveness of AA considerably, especially in recent years.

As stated by a study from the US Department of Veteran Affairs, “Individuals with substance use disorders who participate in 12-step self-help groups tend to experience better alcohol and drug use outcomes than do individuals who do not participate in these groups.” Many other studies state the same. Although there have been fewer of these reviews than for traditional modalities, it is important to understand that AA can and has been studied for its effectiveness as a recovery option.

Myth #2: A Person Has to Be Religious to Join AA

Myths About AA

Recent studies support AA as being an effective form of addiction treatment.

Even though many of the 12 steps and traditions concern the concept of God “as members understand him,” this does not mean that one has to be religious to become a member of AA or to benefit from the program. This concept has been broadened to the idea of a higher power, which can be almost anything as long as individuals feel comfortable giving themselves over to it. One’s higher power could be a god or the concept of the universe, nature, music, or humanity as a whole. Being nonreligious should not stop someone from becoming an AA member and deciding for themselves if the program is beneficial to them.

Myth #3: You Have to Follow the 12 Steps and Rules of AA Exactly to Get Results

Every person needs to be able to find their own way to make the program work for them. Just like in traditional addiction treatment, AA is designed so that each individual can create the kind of treatment and recovery they can count on and that truly helps them. AA is much more flexible than people believe, allowing members to come and go whenever they please, to attend as few or as many meetings as they want, and to practice the 12 steps in whatever way is most effective for them.

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