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AUTHORITATIVE GUIDE TO SELF-HELP BOOKS
J.W., Minnett, A.M., Campbell, B.D.
Guilford Press, N.Y., N.Y., 1994.
ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (3rd ed., 1976). New York: Alcoholics
Anonymous World Services
the national survey, this was the highest rated of the three
books published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
Revised twice since the first edition was published in 1939,
the book is the basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous self-help
groups. These groups are open and free to anyone, nonalcoholics
as well as alcoholics. The average period of sobriety for
A.A. members (who call themselves A.A.'s) is 52 months;
29% stay sober for more than 5 years. Members range from
teens to the elderly. Increasing numbers of young people
have joined A.A. in recent years. About twice as many men
as women belong. The number of A.A. members addicted to
substances other than alcohol hasincreased to an estimated
38% overall. The principles of Alcoholics Anonymous have
been revised and adapted by a number of self-help groups
such as Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, and Al-Anon
(for people with a variety of addictions and their families).
the "Big Book" by A.A.'s, Alcoholics Anonymous
is divided into two basic parts. The first part describes
the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program, which relies
heavily on confession, group support, and spiritual commitment
to God to help individuals cope with alcoholism. Extensive
personal testimonies ofA.A. members from different walks
of life make up the latter two-thirds of the book. Successive
editions of the book have expanded the case histories to
describe examples of alcoholics from a variety of backgrounds
in hope that alcoholics who read the book can identify with
at least one of them. The chapter long stories record the
experiences of pioneers of A.A. (such as Dr Bob, a co-founder
of A.A ), individuals who stopped in time (such as a housewife
who drank at home, hiding her bottles in dresser drawers,
but recovered through A.A.), and people who nearly lost
all (such as a middle-aged man who began drinking heavily
in college and didn't beat the addiction until he joined
and stayed with A.A.). Brief appendices include the Twelve
A.A. Steps and Traditions and several testimonials to A.A.
by ministers and physicians. The book also explains how
to join A.A. and attend meetings.
Anonymous was given a 4-star recommended rating by the mental
health experts in the national survey. A.A. has helped millions
of individuals throughout the world to cope effectively
with their addiction to alcohol. The positive and supportive
atmosphere created by recovering alcoholics at A.A. meetings
- which are held daily -- make a difference in helping many
people to become sober.
however, is not without its critics. A.A. works for many
but not all alcoholics. Some agnostic or atheistic alcoholics
have difficulty relating to A.A.'s strong spiritual emphasis,
although A.A. welcomes these individuals to join its groups.
Three self-help groups that have sprung up in recent years
as alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous are Rational Recovery
(RR), Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS), and Women
for Sobriety (WFS). Put off by A.A.'s religious emphasis,
the new groups leave God out of their battle with the bottle
and rely more on willpower than on higher power. While A.A.
calls drinking a disease and urges members to accept their
helplessness against it, the newer groups emphasize the
importance of taking personal responsibility for recovery.
of the mental health professionals in the survey said that
A.A. is too "cultish" and that an adequate research
base to support the success of A.A. over other treatments
has not been established. Another mental health expert commented
that in most cases A.A. is not a replacement for therapy
but can be useful when it precedes or is combined with therapy.
Such qualifications of the A.A. approach by some mental
health professionals in the national survey meant a 4-star
recommended rating for Alcoholics Anonymous rather than
a 5-star, Strongly Recommended rating.