The Main Philosophies of Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous, the first of the 12-step programs and that which every other 12-step model is based upon, has many philosophies. Sometimes, it can be difficult to separate the most important of those and to understand what you must focus on most intensely as a recovering alcoholic in AA. Below are these main philosophies of Alcoholics Anonymous that, in many ways, make up the program itself.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, acceptance is one of the “key ideas” that predominates all 12-step programs. Members must come to the “realization that drug addiction is a chronic, progressive disease over which one has no control” in order to be able to successfully begin treatment through AA. The individual also must accept a number of other important truths:

  • They are an alcoholic.
  • Their life has become unmanageable because of their dependence on alcohol.
  • Their willpower alone is not strong enough to help them overcome the problem for good.
  • Abstinence, therefore, is the only possible way to change their life and avoid further issues caused by alcohol abuse.

Once the individual is able to accept these factors, they will be able to understand many of the other philosophies of AA and to begin their journey through recovery.



It’s important to surrender and let others help you.

This is the philosophy many individuals struggle with, but it is just as important as the other two. As the person realizes they are unable to stop abusing alcohol on their own and that they are themselves powerless against the substance, they must then give themselves over to a higher power. This higher power can be whatever the specific member wants it to be.

According to a study from the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, “Individuals who have a higher level of religiosity can more readily connect with the philosophies of groups such as AA,” but some do not need to be religious in order to do so. The higher power does not always have to be a God figure, but depending on the individual’s faith or needs, it may be.

In addition, the individual must not only surrender to the help of this higher power but also to the need for fellowship and support from other addicts. It is also important for them to surrender to the philosophies of the program, as it will be much easier for them to participate if they believe in the program’s ability to help them make a change.


“Active involvement in 12-step meetings and related activities” is also extremely important to one’s success in the program (NIDA). If the individual does not attend meetings, they will not gain very much from AA. It is also important for them to be open to others who may need their support during recovery, as it is a mutual-help program that asks everyone to be just as involved with other members as they are in their own recovery.

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