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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 50% of Americans age 12 or older have used alcohol in the past 30 days, almost 25% are binge drinkers (5+ drinks within 2 hours), and 7% drink heavily. Alcoholism negatively impacts the lives of many, and not just those who are the alcoholics.

Started 2 years after Prohibition ended, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international organization helping people get and stay sober. The program is so well-known that 11% of participants indicate they have even been court-ordered to attend AA. AA has a twelve-step program that is used to facilitate sobriety. The program, which has been adopted by many other organizations to help address substance abuse and dependency, can be summarized as follows:

  • admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion;

  • recognizing a higher power that can give strength;

  • examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);

  • making amends for these errors;

  • learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;

  • helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.

The twelve steps have a significant religious component, referring to God nine times. Effectively, the program is based on defining yourself as a sinner ("hello, my name is... and I'm an alcoholic") and then obeying God as part of your path to health. In fact, the US Supreme Court ruled that AA has enough religious components to make coerced attendance at AA meetings a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

As you had failed to solve the problem yourself, AA says you "absolutely must turn your will and your life over to the care of a higher power called God." Turning yourself over to God also helps to remove the isolation that many addicts feel. If you're secular, you can choose the higher power to be whomever or whatever you want it to be, but what you may not do is choose your higher power as yourself. The program is successful for some, but not many.

The definition of a disease is "any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown." Although there is one gene that appears associated with increased risk of alcoholism, there isn't any conclusive evidence that alcoholism results from heredity or genetic problems. As a result, some claim that addiction is only a psychological problem and one that is solely based on voluntary choice. As proof, they offer that some even go "cold turkey" (i.e., choose to give up your addiction and then do so immediately).

Is addiction a choice or a disease? Have you ever had any addictions and, if so, how did you overcome them? Is the twelve-step program the best way to stop an unhealthy addiction? Why do programs like AA work for some but not others? Is AA a faith-based organization and, if so, does it matter? Does the program undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem by requiring you to put your faith in a higher power? Should we blame alcoholism on a disease or a lack of responsibility? Is requiring people to attend AA compulsory religion?

the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous

Penn and Teller - Bullshit - 12 Stepping


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on May 23, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=562

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