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Alcoholics Anonymous Participation May Make You a Better Person

Update Date: Sep 06, 2012 05:25 PM EDT

Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the longest running substance abuse treatment programs in the country.  Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, AA, as Alcoholics Anonymous is commonly known, was been successfully treating problem drinkers for generations.  The basis of the program is a twelve-step process that is religion based.

These steps are as follows:
1. We admitted we are powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become
Unmanagable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we
understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature
of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make
amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do
so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly
admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with
God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us
and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to
carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

A  new study conducted by Case Western Reserve has determined that recovering alcoholics who help others in 12-step programs furthers their time sober, increases their consideration for others, leads to effecient step-work, and long-term meeting attendance. 


These novel findings are from a 10-year, prospective investigation led by Maria Pagano, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the "Helping Others" study.

Dr. Pagano and colleagues evaluated the decade long treatment outcomes of participants using data from a single site in Project MATCH, the largest multi-site randomized clinical trial on behavioral treatments of alcoholism sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

In a large sample with high representation of Hispanic problem drinkers, this study investigated the 10-year course and impact of programmatic activities in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on long-term outcomes. Results showed that participation in Alcoholics Anonymous-related Helping (AAH)  lowered alcohol use and increased interest in others at each subsequent follow-up assessment.


"Our study is the first to explore the 10-year course of engagement in programmatic 12-step activities and their simultaneous influence on long-term outcomes," says Dr. Pagano.

"The AAH findings suggest the importance of getting active in service, which can be in a committed 2-month AA service position or as simple as sharing one's personal experience in recovery to another fellow sufferer."


The data indicates that someone who participates in AAH, is better able to manage their recovery with better results, becomes a better mentor and has a lower failure rate.

"Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction," says Dr. Pagano.


It seems that working the program and helping someone else in their recovery can indeed make you a better person, which is ensured through the moral support and neccesary adoption of a higher power.

The results of this study were published in Substance Abuse.

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