Maybe you know you have a problem with alcohol. Or, maybe you haven\u2019t had the guts to admit it yet. But you are slowly becoming aware that things are deteriorating around you at a fairly rapid rate. You just can\u2019t seem to put your finger on the cause \u2013 or you don\u2019t want to. Perhaps you\u2019ve tried to \u201ccut down\u201d your drinking in the mistaken belief that this would somehow make things better. Maybe you think it will allow you to see the situation more clearly and figure out where to go next. Nothing good comes out of this strategy, however, and you find yourself deeper in the pit of despair, hating yourself. Alcoholics and AA are the last thing on your mind. We at Promises Behavioral Health want to help. It\u2019s a pity when alcoholics try to wend their way out of the mess they\u2019ve made of their lives by attacking it single-handedly. Hubris is often at the heart of this obsessive determination to go it alone. The alcoholic \u2013 you \u2013 may think you are too good to join a group of \u201cdrunks\u201d who sit around and pathetically analyze their need to drink, chronicle in detail their missteps and relapses \u2013 and prop each other up. You reject out of hand the notion that Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, could possibly help you. Maybe, just maybe, you should rethink your position. You\u2019ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain by giving AA a chance. Why? Because recovery for alcoholics and AA go hand in hand. Everybody\u2019s Equal in AA The first thing to know about alcoholics and AA is that there are no superstars. There are no pedestals for the high and mighty, the celebrity alcoholic, the political hotshot. Each and every member is just like the next one \u2013 an alcoholic who\u2019s trying to work the steps, to become more firmly grounded in their sobriety, to help others new to the program, and to help themselves in the process. Who you are and where you came from doesn\u2019t matter. How much you have in the bank or lost due to your addiction to alcohol is irrelevant. Sure, it factors into your own personal story, but that\u2019s unique to each man or woman in AA, and not a badge of distinction. It neither matters nor is heralded among members. The guy sitting next to you or the woman two rows in front of you may be a Hollywood celebrity, or a high-powered attorney, a Wall Street investment banker, a real estate mogul, or a member of Congress. So what? Does their stature make any difference in the fact that they\u2019re alcoholics and need help? Of course not. Equality is one of the hallmarks of membership for alcoholics and AA in general that you can count on. In fact, the only requirement for membership is a genuine desire to quit drinking. AA is not a Bunch of Seedy Drunks Let\u2019s get one thing clear right off the bat. Alcoholics and AA is not about a bunch of seedy drunks. Just wipe that image from your mind forever. The only thing seedy about alcoholism is the depth to which each of us sinks when we give our lives over to drink, the pursuit of alcohol, the quest for the never-ending blurring of reality we find when we drown ourselves in liquor, beer or wine. Are there individuals at meetings who\u2019ve fallen far down, who\u2019ve lost everything and are having a difficult time finding a sense of purpose? You bet there are, and you may be one of them. But just because things have gotten so bad in their lives doesn\u2019t mean they\u2019re hopeless or without a chance at changing things around. That\u2019s why they come to AA, for the opportunity to be with others who\u2019ve not only been in the same position, but they understand completely and offer their words of encouragement and support without any demands. AA is Free Another thing to remember about alcoholics and AA is that membership is free. There are no costs, no hidden charges, no fine print contracts to read. You can join with one caveat, already mentioned: you have to have a genuine desire to stop drinking. It\u2019s as simple as that. Of course, many of the programs and services that AA offers cost money. Those funds have to come from somewhere, and some of it comes from donations by members. If you can give some money, it is certainly welcomed, and always put to good use. Unconditional Support The biggest benefit members receive from their participation in AA meetings is the unconditional support and encouragement they get from fellow members. Newcomers especially are understandably nervous about attending their first meetings. You don\u2019t need to worry about being the \u201cnewbie\u201d in the crowd. You will be made to feel welcome by other members. This is a genuine show of encouragement and immediate acceptance that is simply unparalleled. Nowhere else can you be assured of such a complete invitation to join in and heal. Maybe you\u2019re thinking now that you might give it a try for a meeting or two. That\u2019s a very good sign. After all, if nothing\u2019s worked so far for you, what could it hurt to devote an hour or so to a meeting? But, you wonder, what happens at these meetings? How can you find out in advance? What if you don\u2019t like it after you go? AA is a Fellowship AA meetings occur somewhere in your city or town (or a nearby one) every day of the week. There are morning meetings, mid-day meetings, meetings at night, on weekends and holidays. In fact, there are many different chapters in most major cities and towns, so you can go to several different meetings until you find one that \u201cfeels right\u201d to you. Drop in on various meetings whenever you feel the need. Or, make it a regular part of your routine. Early in your road to recovery, following alcohol treatment (if you\u2019ve gone through this), or if you are just starting on your path to sobriety, you\u2019ll probably want to attend meetings daily. The reason this works for so many recovering alcoholics is that AA meetings bring them into contact with others who understand exactly what you\u2019re going through. They\u2019ve been through the depression, the self-hatred, and self-pity, the loss of self-esteem. They know what it\u2019s like to go through detoxification and experience the withdrawal as alcohol leaves your body. They understand the sleepless nights, the cravings and urges that become so powerful you want to bash your head against the wall \u2013 and reach for another drink. This fellowship of men and women can help you through the tough times \u2013 and provide support and encouragement as you bring your life back into focus. AA provides assistance every step of the way on your journey to sobriety. Your fellow AA members want nothing more than for you to succeed. And, they\u2019ll be there to celebrate with you every milestone you achieve. You Don\u2019t Have to be Religious to Join AA Many misconceptions about alcoholics and AA revolve around the idea that you somehow have to \u201cget religion\u201d to join the group. That\u2019s simply not true. While the early AA organization did have a basis in the Bible\u2019s teachings, today\u2019s AA groups are more egalitarian. The AA membership ranks include people from every major religion and those who are atheists as well. You don\u2019t need to ascribe to any particular belief to find success in AA \u2013 just a belief in your own higher power, your higher self, or whatever you want to call it. Spirituality is an important component of healing from an addiction to alcohol, or from any addiction. But spirituality can be discovered within you. In fact, that\u2019s where it all originates from anyway. What do you call it when you set yourself goals, give yourself a timetable, prepare yourself by getting training, education, and building up your physical and mental abilities, and push forward in the belief that you can do it? That\u2019s your own inner core of spirituality, the belief that you can, indeed, accomplish your goals. Healing of Mind, Body, and Spirit If you\u2019ve been in professional treatment for alcohol addiction, whether you completed it or left the program, you are most likely aware of the emphasis on healing. According to most successful addiction treatment programs, several treatment modalities are utilized. Treatment professionals stress that you need to heal on three levels: the mind, body, and spirit. What does this have to do with A.A. membership? For some individuals, A.A. is all they have. They can\u2019t afford or don\u2019t want to go through, a treatment program. For others, particularly those new to recovery, A.A. provides the continuing support and encouragement they need to stay on their elected path of sobriety. No, you\u2019re not going to do calisthenics before your A.A. meeting. There are no hypnosis sessions to magically cure what\u2019s wrong in your mind. No spiritual guru will attempt to have you embrace a particular philosophy. But the mind, body, spirit connection is never far from what goes on. A.A. provides seminars and workshops. There are workbooks and literature, CDs and audiotapes, all designed to help the alcoholic come to grips with some aspect of his or her sobriety. In a sense, the healing camaraderie of fellow members is a little like free counseling. No, they\u2019re not shrinks, and they offer no diagnoses. But they do listen to what you have to say, however painful it may be for you to get out, and there is no judgment in their support. As previously mentioned, the support from A.A. members is unconditional. And it matters. It matters a great deal. What\u2019s This About a Sponsor? After you\u2019ve attended a few meetings and found one where you feel comfortable, something you may want to consider is to find someone there to be your sponsor. This may be an individual you admire, or who has had a similar circumstance as yours with drinking, or one who has been successful in his or her sobriety for a long time. Your sponsor is a person whom you can call whenever you need to talk about your urge to drink, when a crisis, major or minor, occurs that you don\u2019t know how to deal with when you\u2019re depressed, angry, lonely or confused. Your sponsor can help you navigate through the tough times between meetings or when it\u2019s the middle of the night. Naturally, you want to choose your sponsor carefully. This won\u2019t be a person that you can walk over. Your sponsor will gently \u201ckick your behind\u201d to get back on the right track, not literally, but figuratively. He or she will be there to remind you of your desire and commitment to stay clean and sober, help you pick up and resume your journey if you suffer a slip, or just to lend an ear when you need one. How Long Do You Need to Attend AA? This is a natural question, especially from people who are used to seeing things in only a linear perspective. On a journey, there\u2019s a beginning and an end. In mathematics, there\u2019s only one answer, although you may arrive at it via different paths. For the alcoholic in recovery, however, there is no one answer as to how long you need to attend meetings. You go as long as you need it. For some members, according to AA literature, they go because they need to, while others continue to go because they want to. Some AA members consider attendance at meetings to be a convenient maintenance program. Their participation in meetings helps them reinforce their resolve to be sober. Often, especially when members have been sober for a period of about six months, they look for ways to help others. They volunteer to help set up meetings or participate in other ways. Many become sponsors to new members. This is a way to give back to others, just as they received support when they needed it most. Learn More About AA If you are an uber-planner, or just want to know more about what you\u2019re getting into, you have an easy way to find out about Alcoholics Anonymous by visiting their website. There are pages devoted to What AA Is and Isn\u2019t, Is AA For You?, Archives and History, Literature, and more. Most important, for new members and those considering attending, is How to Find AA Meetings. Become Informed and Give AA a Try After you examine the AA website, look at some of their downloadable pamphlets and literature, thumb through the Big Book of AA, the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions, take stock of where you are right now. Where do you want to be a year from now or five or ten years hence? Don\u2019t let pride stand in your way of getting the type of support and encouragement that\u2019s available to you today, tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that. Give yourself the gift of giving AA a try.