top of page

AA in our society

Why should people learn about alcoholism and AA?

Alcoholism disease (= alcohol dependence) is a major health care problem. It is the third biggest killer after heart disease and cancer. It not only hurts the alcoholics themselves, but its effects are felt in homes, workplaces, roads, streets and everywhere where alcoholics live and work. It is estimated that the drinking of one alcoholic more or less affects the lives of about twenty people closest to them on average. Alcoholism costs society millions of euros every year.

Even if the reader of this text will never become an alcoholic himself, it is still very possible that alcoholism may sideline his life in one form or another.

Alcoholism and AA

What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a physical and mental illness in which the ability to control the use of alcohol is permanently lost. If the victim of the disease does not get rid of drinking completely, his alcoholism will continue to worsen. Much has been learned about how to recognize alcoholism and how to stop its development. However, no way has been invented to prevent it. No one knows why a drinker becomes an alcoholic. Doctors and scientists have not reached a consensus on the causes of alcoholism.
What are the symptoms of alcoholism?
Not all alcoholics have all the symptoms, but most of them notice some of the following signs of the disease at some point in the development of their disease:

* Only alcohol can make them feel confident and liberated in the company of other people.
* They often want "just one more" when others have already finished.
* They look forward to drinking events and think about them a lot.
* They get drunk even when they didn't mean to, later even when all common sense speaks against getting drunk.
* They try to control their drinking by changing the quality of the drinks.
* They take vows of sobriety, pick up swag, hide bottles and drink secretly.
* They drink alone, have memory lapses; they don't remember the next day what they did or said when they were drunk.
* They drink in the morning to get rid of their severe hangover, guilt and fear states.
* They may experience loss of appetite and malnutrition, severe tremors, hallucinations and convulsions when they have to withdraw from alcohol.

What is AA?
AA is a fellowship whose members share their experiences, strength and hope to solve their common problem and help others recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no obligations or membership fees in AA; it is self-sufficient based on its own voluntary contributions. AA is not connected to any ideological, religious or political trend, organization or institution. It also doesn't want to take a stand on any controversial issue, nor does it want to defend rather than oppose anything. The only goal of the membership is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

AA started when two desperate alcoholics met each other in 1935 on Mother's Day. One was a stockbroker from New York and the other a surgeon from Ohio. They realized that an alcoholic might stay sober by discussing their drinking problem with an alcoholic who is still suffering. In order to stay sober, they needed a third alcoholic to share their experience with. And when this became sober, a fourth had to be found and so on. Thus the need dictated the growth of AA.

What is AA's position in the field of alcoholism?
The fellowship of AA is worldwide. It comprises about 90,000 local groups in about 180 countries on all inhabited continents. Although AA does not maintain a membership list, it is known based on estimates provided by AA groups that AA has more than two million members. AA has adopted the principle of "cooperation, but not association" in its relationship with others working in the field of alcoholism. As individuals, AA members can work as employees in organizations or institutions whose goal is to help alcoholics. But then they can never represent AA, nor represent its ideas. And when they have to appear in public for work or otherwise, they should under no circumstances reveal their membership in AA.

Many people working in the field of alcoholism may be members of AA. AA membership as such does not qualify for professional activity in the field of alcoholism. AA is happy to share its experience with those who need it, but it does not force anything or teach anyone.

Does an alcoholic have to go "all the way down" before AA can help them?
In the early years, most AA members were seriously ill when they joined AA. It seemed that only the most desperate could become sober, those who had always been sent to mental hospitals, sanatoriums and prisons by alcoholism. But as people began to hear more and more about AA, many alcoholics soon realized that not everyone needs to let their illness cause the same amount of damage. Alcoholism can be recovered in AA long before life is completely in decline, even when the alcoholic still has a home and a job. This is how even younger and less damaged alcoholics began to join AA. It was soon discovered that alcoholics could become sober and stay sober in AA, regardless of the quality or duration of their drinking experiences.

How does AA help an alcoholic?
AA group members sometimes help by sharing with each other their extensive experience of the suffering caused by alcoholism and how to recover from the disease. With the example and camaraderie of already recovered alcoholics, the new member gains the strength and courage to stay away from drinking one day at a time, just as older AA members do. Instead of vowing eternal sobriety or worrying about tomorrow, the alcoholic in AA focuses on not drinking today and now.

AA's extensive experience has shown that once an alcoholic has become an alcoholic, he is an alcoholic for the rest of his life. Once you have lost the ability to control your drinking, you can never drink without danger. In other words, according to AA's experience, an alcoholic can never become a former alcoholic. So an AA member always says, "I'm an alcoholic," even if he's been absolutely sober for years.

By being able to keep alcohol out of their system, the alcoholic's body gets a chance to heal. However, one should always keep in mind that the disease is not only physical, as important as that aspect of the disease is considered in AA. The disease also has a psychological side. Without nurturing his state of mind, an alcoholic can clearly become so confused that he takes the fatal first drink. That's why AA's experience has now given birth to a mind-healthy and emotional 12-step recovery program as the basis for a happier and more balanced life, as well as a tradition forged with the anvil of 12 experiences to nurture good relationships and a guide for living together.

By trying to follow the suggestions of the 12 steps and 12 traditions in his life, the alcoholic experiences a miraculous inner change that frees him from the need for alcohol and before long from most of the other harms, disadvantages and difficulties that burdened his life.

What is an AA group?
AA members gather in groups to share their experiences, strength and hope. The group is the basic unit of AA. It is completely independent, except when its affairs concern other groups or AA as a whole. The group cannot make any rules or regulations for its members, and no member of the group can command or force another to do anything. The only rule in AA is unwritten, and it is fulfilled as if by force of nature: you cannot participate in a group meeting if you have consumed alcohol on the same day.

There are both open and closed group meetings. The open meetings are open to anyone who is interested in AA's proposed solution to the alcohol problem, regardless of whether they are alcoholics or not. A closed meeting, on the other hand, is closed to outsiders. Only alcoholics who are members of AA can participate in it.

Who can be a member of AA?
Like other diseases, alcoholism hits a person without looking. So even in AA there are both men and women, old and young, poor and rich from all races and all cultural circles on the road to recovery. There are atheists, agnostics and believers. There are workers, managers and practitioners of their own profession. There are salesmen, housewives, car drivers, waiters and janitors. There are lawyers and doctors, there are priests and soldiers. There are representatives of all professions. But they all have in common the desire to stop drinking. Everyone is enlivened by a warm, close camaraderie, the sincerity of which springs from an understanding of the common interest.
Anyone who comes to an AA meeting and says they are an alcoholic is an AA member as soon as they say they are.

Who runs AA?
AA takes care of itself. The groups do not have any common leadership that can control or give orders. Leaders are only confidants, servants and directly accountable to those they serve. The group's common affairs in Finland are handled by the Finnish AA service (SAAP) with the assistance of the AA office. SAAPs mainly deal with matters of spirit and principle. In order to manage AA's small funds, there is a legal entity required by law, Suomen AA kostenlos ry (SAAK), which, as its name suggests, also takes care of all the literature and printed materials needed by AA. Money has been successfully separated from spirit in a safe way. It doesn't really bother me, because as a community, AA tries to stay poor.

What does AA membership cost?
It doesn't cost anything if you don't want to or if you don't have anything to pay for. There are no joining fees or membership fees. All funds needed for operations come from a money box or hat, which may or may not circulate in the meeting, and is the only place where spirit and money in AA go hand in hand. Everyone puts or doesn't put their money into the common party, the others don't have to know that. Anyway, enough money. Rents are paid, coffee is made and refreshments are offered. And it is still possible to maintain both local and national service bodies.

Donations and grants are not solicited or accepted from external sources. Alcoholics know very well that "he who pays for the violins determines what is played". In AA, they want to maintain their independence and be self-sufficient.
The help that AA members give to other alcoholics is also free. "Freely you have received, freely give" is the condition of all activities. The AA member gets his salary for helping another alcoholic from the pleasure that helping gives, and from the fact that by supporting the other person he stays sober himself.

What is AA not and does not do?

* does not collect members.
* does not monitor or monitor the lives of its members.
* is not an educational organization.
* is not a religious community.
* is not a medical company, does not provide drugs or psychiatric treatment.
* does not maintain hospitals, wards or healthcare facilities, and does not provide services related to healthcare.
* is not affiliated with any organization or institution.
* does not accept money from sources outside AA.
* is not a bank
* does not take a position on external currents and does not defend or oppose anything.
* does not offer any social services.
* does not want the names of its members to be mentioned in public media, such as radio, television or press columns.

What can loved ones of alcoholics do?
Only alcoholics can be members of AA, but nothing prevents their loved ones from taking part in open meetings of AA groups. Experience, on the contrary, shows that the participation of loved ones together with alcoholics in AA activities often improves their relationships.

The loved ones of an alcoholic also have another way to seek help. They can join Al-Ano groups founded by loved ones of alcoholics and participate in their meetings. Al-Anon follows the same principles as AA in its activities, but its members are not alcoholics, but their relatives, friends, colleagues or other close ones.

For teenagers, one or possibly both of their parents are alcoholics, there are also Alateen groups in some places.
Relatives of alcoholics can participate in AA's open meetings, Al-Anon and Alateen groups, regardless of whether the alcoholic is a member of AA or not.

bottom of page