If you have ever found your drinking to interfere with your career or your life at home, then chances are you’re either an alcoholic or on your way. Those who drink responsibly tend to use alcohol as a treat, something to be consumed once the day’s work is done, or at special social occasions. Those who are alcoholics tend to use alcohol for really no reason at all.

People who abuse alcohol may experience acute problems associated with problem drinking, but continuing to drink in spite of the negative effects puts them at risk of developing chronic health problems. Alcohol abuse damages most organs in the body, especially the liver, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, and brain. Chemical changes to the brain that lead to addiction may also cause harm to memory and cognition.


Feeling a "kinship of common suffering" and, though drunk, Wilson attended his first Group gathering. Within days, Wilson admitted himself to the Charles B. Towns Hospital after drinking four beers on the way—the last alcohol he ever drank. Under the care of William Duncan Silkworth (an early benefactor of AA), Wilson's detox included the deliriant belladonna.[16] At the hospital a despairing Wilson experienced a bright flash of light, which he felt to be God revealing himself.[17] Following his hospital discharge Wilson joined the Oxford Group and recruited other alcoholics to the Group. Wilson's early efforts to help others become sober were ineffective, prompting Silkworth to suggest that Wilson place less stress on religion and more on "the science" of treating alcoholism. Wilson's first success came during a business trip to Akron, Ohio, where he was introduced to Robert Smith, a surgeon and Oxford Group member who was unable to stay sober. After thirty days of working with Wilson, Smith drank his last drink on 10 June 1935, the date marked by AA for its anniversaries.[18]
While this provides a blanket of comfort and security to the many thousands of people it helps, the secrecy has not gone over well with the more scientifically minded in the treatment community. The success and acceptance of the program has clashed with the desire for evidence and statistics, leading to Pacific Standard saying that AA is not a form of professional treatment, and it offers mixed results; but as a “mutual aid organization,” the 12-Step method comes into its own. Similarly, The Atlantic goes so far as to call Alcoholics Anonymous a pseudoscientific organization, one that dictated the treatment conversation for generations (to the point where its claimed success rate of 75 percent went unquestioned for decades), but has overstayed its privileged place in American culture.
The illness of the spiritual dimension, or "spiritual malady," is considered in all twelve-step groups to be self-centeredness.[17][18] The process of working the steps is intended to replace self-centeredness with a growing moral consciousness and a willingness for self-sacrifice and unselfish constructive action.[18] In twelve-step groups, this is known as a spiritual awakening not a religious experience.[21] This should not be confused with abreaction, which produces dramatic, but ephemeral, changes.[22] In twelve-step fellowships, "spiritual awakening" is believed to develop, most frequently, slowly over a period of time.[23]
"I discovered how good relationships get better and how unhealthy relationships get exposed when you work your program," said Cathy. "I've been friends with Hannah for years, but we had been partying friends. So when I entered recovery, we were really careful around each other. Then we began talking—really talking. Now our friendship is deeper and more honest. Recovery has been good for both of us."
When alcoholism affects a spouse or partner, it’s possible to become too wrapped up in their well-being. This is called codependency. You may get to the point where you feel compelled to help your person get well. However, family members and friends often have deep emotional ties that prevent them from having the objective viewpoint necessary for treatment.
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In order to effectively recover from an addiction, professional help in the field of substance abuse is only part of the equation. Often times, recovering individuals additionally need the support of others who are also recovering from addiction. This is where support groups can provide a critical element needed to bring success to an individual's recovery process.
Alcohol abuse, now included in the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, is a disease. While many have described this disorder as dipsomania, the latter term more accurately describes the intense craving that can be a symptom of alcohol use disorder. A maladaptive pattern of drinking alcohol that results in negative work, medical, legal, educational, and/or social effects on a person's life characterizes the disorder. The individual who abuses this substance tends to continue to use it despite such consequences. Effects of alcohol use disorder on families can include increased domestic abuse/domestic violence. The effects that parental alcoholism can have on children can be significantly detrimental in other ways as well. For example, the sons and daughters of alcoholics seem to be at higher risk for experiencing feelings that are more negative, stress, and alienation as well as aggression. There are a multitude of negative psychological effects of alcohol use disorder, including depression and antisocial behaviors.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to life threatening. Mild withdrawal symptoms include nausea, achiness, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, sweatiness, anxiety, and trembling. This phase usually lasts no more than three to five days. More severe effects of withdrawal can include hallucinations in which a patient sees, hears, or feels something that is not actually present, seizures, an unbearable craving for more alcohol, confusion, fever, fast heart rate (tachycardia), high blood pressure (hypertension), and delirium (a fluctuating level of consciousness). Patients at highest risk for the most severe symptoms of withdrawal are those with other medical problems, including malnutrition, liver disease, or Wernicke's syndrome. Severe withdrawal symptoms usually begin about three days after the individual's last drink, and may last a variable number of days.
Alcohol withdrawal can occur when alcohol use has been heavy and prolonged and is then stopped or greatly reduced. It can occur within several hours to four or five days later. Signs and symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety, and occasionally seizures. Symptoms can be severe enough to impair your ability to function at work or in social situations.
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Since Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in the 1930s, 12-step treatment models have gained widespread acceptance among psychologists, therapists, social workers and medical doctors. Twelve-step groups like AA have also become a gold standard of recovery for many members of the general public. What makes the 12 steps such an effective model for drug and alcohol rehab? The psychology behind these principles indicates that these non-profit, mutual self-help groups fulfill several important needs, such as:

We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.[63]
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Ascites, the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity is most commonly caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Some of the other causes of ascites include portal hypertension, congestive heart failure, blood clots, and pancreatitis. The most common symptoms include increased abdominal girth and size, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. Treatment depends on the cause of ascites.

Abstinence-based recovery, as the name suggests, focuses on complete abstinence from drug use, thereby breaking the cycle of addiction and dependency. To achieve remission from the disease of addiction, complete withdrawal of all mind-altering substances, including alcohol, is required. Abstinence-based recovery teaches us how to live a life of freedom that no longer requires us to turn to mood or mind-altering substances in order to help change the way we feel. The 12-Steps are an abstinence-based program that offers a lifeline of support to anyone hoping to recover from addiction.


Support groups provide people with understanding peers and ongoing support, in church basements, community centers, and public facilities scattered all across the country. Here, people can come together to discuss addiction’s difficulties, and they can meet with other addicted people to gain support and insight. Alumni groups are similar, in that they link peers together to discuss addiction, but these groups contain people who all worked within the same facility for help.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Narcotics Anonymous is an organization that adapted the same principles as Alcoholics Anonymous. Just like AA, NA emphasizes a spiritual connection to a higher power. The program is targeted towards men and women for whom drugs have become a major problem. These people come together regularly in support group meetings and help one another to maintain abstinence as they recover from their addictions.
Programs like AA and other 12-Step groups provide a healthy community of support and solidarity filled with individuals who are all seeking to remain sober on a long-term basis. Individuals who regularly attend AA meetings are about twice as likely to remain abstinent over those who don’t, per the Journal of Addictive Disorders. The 12 Steps can go a long way in providing individuals in recovery with the support they need.
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At least two thirds of all alcohol consumed by Australians is consumed at levels which present either long or short term health risks. Some 10% of Australian men and women consume more than the average number of drinks recommended in the Australian guidelines. While a smaller proportion of Indigenous Australians drink than non-Indigenous Australians, a higher proportion of Indigenous Australians (20%) exceed the recommended average daily drinking limits than non-Indigenous Australians.
During addiction recovery, individuals in treatment may also undergo various types of therapy and participate in support groups as they work to address and heal the attitudes, thoughts, emotions and behaviors that led to substance abuse in the first place. Ongoing participation in therapy and support groups may continue long after the initial period of treatment as they may continue to provide lasting recovery benefit for many individuals.
Since the 1950s, alcohol addiction has been treated as a separate addiction from that of other illicit drugs under the AA program, meaning that drug abuse disorders are considered to be a different struggle, so a separate 12-step program is recommended. Chemical dependency is considered the most life-threatening addiction disorder and addicts are advised to address this addiction first and prior to other addictions such as gambling or sexual addiction, until abstinence is established and recovery has begun. Drug dependency is sometimes considered the root addiction, causing the individual to develop other addictive tendencies and therefore should be addressed first.
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Stanton Peele argued that some AA groups apply the disease model to all problem drinkers, whether or not they are "full-blown" alcoholics.[90] Along with Nancy Shute, Peele has advocated that besides AA, other options should be readily available to those problem drinkers who are able to manage their drinking with the right treatment.[91] The Big Book says "moderate drinkers" and "a certain type of hard drinker" are able to stop or moderate their drinking. The Big Book suggests no program for these drinkers, but instead seeks to help drinkers without "power of choice in drink."[92]
Average member sobriety is slightly under 10 years with 36% sober more than ten years, 13% sober from five to ten years, 24% sober from one to five years, and 27% sober less than one year.[64] Before coming to AA, 63% of members received some type of treatment or counseling, such as medical, psychological, or spiritual. After coming to AA, 59% received outside treatment or counseling. Of those members, 84% said that outside help played an important part in their recovery.[64]
Alcoholism often reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years.[22] The most common cause of death in alcoholics is from cardiovascular complications.[155] There is a high rate of suicide in chronic alcoholics, which increases the longer a person drinks. Approximately 3–15 percent of alcoholics commit suicide,[156] and research has found that over 50 percent of all suicides are associated with alcohol or drug dependence. This is believed to be due to alcohol causing physiological distortion of brain chemistry, as well as social isolation. Suicide is also very common in adolescent alcohol abusers, with 25 percent of suicides in adolescents being related to alcohol abuse.[157] Among those with alcohol dependence after one year, some met the criteria for low-risk drinking, even though only 25.5 percent of the group received any treatment, with the breakdown as follows: 25 percent were found to be still dependent, 27.3 percent were in partial remission (some symptoms persist), 11.8 percent asymptomatic drinkers (consumption increases chances of relapse) and 35.9 percent were fully recovered—made up of 17.7 percent low-risk drinkers plus 18.2 percent abstainers.[158] In contrast, however, the results of a long-term (60-year) follow-up of two groups of alcoholic men indicated that "return to controlled drinking rarely persisted for much more than a decade without relapse or evolution into abstinence."[159] There was also "return-to-controlled drinking, as reported in short-term studies, is often a mirage."
The first book written to cover the 12 step program was titled "Alcoholics Anonymous", affectionately known as the Big Book by program members. Following the subsequent extensive growth of twelve step programs for other addictive and dysfunctional behaviors, many additional books were written and recordings and videos were produced. These cover the steps in greater detail and how people have specifically applied the steps in their lives. An extensive chronology and background about the history of A.A. has been put together at Dick B.'s website.
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