Alcoholics Anonymous, which is most often just called the Big Book, was first published in 1939. Since then it has sold millions of copies throughout the world and, for over six decades, has helped millions of people recover from alcoholism.
The purpose of this editorial is for those who are interested in A.A. for themselves, for a friend or relative, or simply because they wish to be better informed about this unusual fellowship. Information adds up of a loosely knit society of men and women who have one great interest in common, the desire to stay sober themselves and to help other alcoholics who seek help for their drinking problem.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; A.A. Membership is self-supporting through their own contributions. The primary purpose is to stay sober and help others alcoholic to achieve sobriety.
Not long ago, alcoholism was viewed as a moral problem. Today many regard it primarily as a health problem. To each problem drinker, it will always remain an intensely personal matter.
There are many different ideas about what alcoholism really is. The explanation that seems to make sense to most A.A. members is that alcoholism is an illness, a progressive illness, which can never be cured but which, like some other diseases, can be arrested.
Going one step further, many A.A.s feel that the illness represents the combination of a physical sensitivity to alcohol and a mental obsession with drinking, which regardless of consequences cannot be broken by willpower alone.
Before they are exposed to A.A., many alcoholics who are unable to stop drinking think of themselves as morally weak or, possibly, mentally unbalanced. The A.A. concept is that alcoholics are sick people who can recover if they will follow a simple program that has proved successful for more than two million men and women.
Once alcoholism has set in, there is nothing morally wrong about being ill. At this stage, free will is not involved, because the sufferer has lost the power of choice over alcohol. The important thing is to face the facts of one’s illness and to take advantage of the help that is available. There must also be a desire to get well. Experience shows that the A.A. program will work for all alcoholics who are sincere in their efforts to stop drinking. ( It usually will not work for those not absolutely certain that they want to stop.)
Only you can make the decision being an alcoholic. Many are told that they were not alcoholics, that all needed was more willpower, a change of scenery, more rest to straighten
out. These same people turned to A.A, because they felt that alcohol had them licked. And they would try anything that would free them from the compulsion to drink. They knew enough about alcoholism as a progressive illness to scare them. They joined A.A.
So far as determined, no one who has become an alcoholic has ever ceased to be an alcoholic. The answer, based on A.A. experience, is that if you are an alcoholic; you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time. That leaves two paths open; to let your drinking become worse and worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober constructive living.
If a person is an alcoholic; touching alcohol in any form cannot be risked. Alcohol is alcohol. For the alcoholic, one drink of alcohol in any form is likely to be too much, and twenty drinks not enough. To be sure of sobriety, alcoholics simply have to stay away from alcohol, regardless of quantity, mixture or concentration they may think they can control.
After quitting for a period, the alcoholic may feel it is safe to try a few beers or a few glasses of light wine. This can mislead a person with drinking only with meals. But it is not too long before the alcoholic is back in the old pattern of too-heavy drinking — in spite of all efforts to set limits for only moderate, social drinking.
The answer, based on A.A. experience, is that if you are an alcoholic; you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time. That leaves two paths open: to let your drinking become worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober, constructive living.
The second way to describe Alcoholics Anonymous is to outline the structure of the Society. Numerically, A.A. consists of more than 2,000,000 men and women in more than 180 countries. These people meet in local localities to many hundreds in larger communities.
The local group is the core of the A.A. Fellowship. Its open meetings welcome alcoholics and their families in an atmosphere of friendliness and helpfulness. There are now more than 114,000 groups throughout the world, including hundreds in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions.
An Alcohol Anonymous Fellowship core is located in Newberry and welcomes alcoholics and their families in an atmosphere of friendly helpfulness. A.A. is supported by the clergy of the great faiths.
Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.