Learning Coping Skills in AA

Learning Coping Skills in AA

Understanding and Coping With Alcohol Use Disorder in AA

When life seems to be the most out of control, we strive to find ways to get a handle on it. Sometimes, we use substances as a means to cope with our problems. After going through inpatient rehab and outpatient counseling, you will have a skill set for coping with problems as they arise. But some deep-seated issues can still be tough to deal with, and you might find that you lack enough support and acceptance.

That’s where Alcoholics Anonymous comes in to assist. On page 430 of “The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous,” it says, “Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world, as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” This is the basis of AA’s coaching at its meetings.

You can think of AA as a continuation of what Defining Wellness Centers focuses on during inpatient rehabilitation treatment. It’s all about compassion, understanding, and acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t need to come just from outside sources such as friends, family, and even others in recovery. It needs to come from within. So let’s take a moment to talk about how AA assists you in learning to cope and accept yourself and your recovery status.

Learning Acceptance in AA

People with alcohol use disorder tend to experience a lot of guilt over their addiction, even after completing rehab. This guilt stems from the denial of dependence. Studies show that self-forgiveness can reduce the risk of negative experiences that contribute to a suboptimal recovery. While these feelings of guilt and shame are natural, work needs to be done to overcome them.

You can start to accept your dependence on alcohol by attending AA meetings as well as going to counseling and staying in rehab. For many people, dependence starts in the formative years of adolescence. The younger someone is when they start drinking, the more prone they are to engaging in risky behaviors and making poor life decisions. However, with some guidance, you can start to make better decisions while accepting your dependence on alcohol.

Reaching out for help is crucial, especially now that you are starting to accept that you have a dependence on alcohol. Start by communicating with your primary care provider, as they can help you with diagnoses and referrals.

How Acceptance Helps You Cope

Acceptance has become such an integral part of therapy for many people that there is actually an approach called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). ACT has six core principles that center on mindfulness — being present in the here and now. These techniques can help you develop your acceptance and guide you on how to commit to a more positive approach to life.

Mindfulness and acceptance work well together since they allow you to be present in the moment and experience the world the way that it is. Researchers at Duke University indicate that mindfulness is linked with higher self-esteem, enhanced life satisfaction, and optimism. Likewise, there are negative correlations between mindfulness and anxiety, depression, cognitive activity, and the intensity of psychological symptoms. In other words, the more you practice mindfulness, the more you can reduce your negative emotions and distorted perceptions of reality, which many people who use alcohol as a coping mechanism experience.

What Is AA Anyway?

Here’s the gist of AA: The goal of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help people find peace of mind and mental clarity and stay on track with sober living by providing support in their anonymous meetings. Since its founding in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, AA has functioned as an international fellowship of people whose stated purpose is to help AA members remain sober and help others who use alcohol to achieve sobriety. Support groups are available throughout the world, and they are all free to attend. AA has over 2 million members around the globe.

The 12 Steps of Recovery

The 12 Steps of AA make up its foundation and form the structure for AA members to go about achieving and maintaining their sobriety. Members aren’t forced to follow the steps, but past members will encourage them to try to follow these steps as best they can. The 12 Steps provide guidance on how to manage alcoholism as a disease and give advice for how to talk about it in meetings.

The 12 Steps are:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

When you seek treatment at Defining Wellness, you will find that we incorporate many of the teachings of 12-step programs within our curriculum.

The 12 Traditions

The 12 Traditions were laid out as a way for members to make the most of their experiences in AA. These traditions detail how AA can function and thrive at its most optimal level. They also detail the purposes of the AA meetings themselves.

The 12 Traditions are:

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
5. Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
6. An AA group ought never to endorse, finance or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
9. AA, as such, ought never to be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never to be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Anonymity is crucial to the success of AA and its members. Finding support among a community of people who have struggled with similar problems is important, especially since you go into it knowing nothing about anyone while everyone knows nothing about you. This lends to the coaching of mindfulness and acceptance in a judgment-free, safe place.

Are There AA Alternatives That Are More Secular?

You don’t have to be religious to attend an AA meeting, but you might feel more comfortable going to a secularly based AA alternative. There are quite a few of them to choose from, but here are a few of the most recognized and long-standing options out there.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a nonprofit self-help group dedicated to self-empowerment. They have a 24/7 chat room, daily online meetings, and in-person meetings throughout the United States. The objectives of SMART Recovery are:

1. Cultivating and maintaining motivation
2. Learning to manage the urge to use
3. Coping with emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
4. Finding and creating balance in life

Their meetings usually last for an hour and a half, and you’re asked to do a little bit of homework each week. Often, there is a social hour after the meeting so that you can get to know your fellow members while still maintaining a level of anonymity. Meetings are strictly confidential, and the only way people in your life will know you go is if you tell them.

Women for Sobriety

Women face some unique challenges when battling alcohol use disorder. Founded in 1976, Women for Sobriety (WFS) focuses on 13 acceptance statements relating to emotional development, self-responsibility, and positivity. This program can help women change their negative and unrealistic thoughts and feelings into more positive and realistic ones.

Holistic methods of healing, including a healthy diet and exercise regimen, are encouraged for members. Meetings take place once a week and last for about 90 minutes. After your first meeting, you should get your own Program Booklet, and it is recommended that you read founder Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick’s book titled “Turnabout: New Hope for the Woman Alcoholic.”

How to Get Started

The best way to get started is to admit that you need help. Reach out to your primary care physician and let them know your concerns. Detail any thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing as well as any urges you are having. PCPs are able to generate referrals to psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and in-patient treatment programs.

However, it will be up to you to contact AA or a similar program. You can search for local meetings or join in on one that is held online. You won’t be forced to attend every meeting although you’ll be encouraged to come to as many as possible. The frequency and consistency of attendance can keep you on track with your acceptance and commitment to choosing better coping mechanisms than alcohol.

If you’re struggling with alcohol dependency and are ready to get the help that you need, contact us at Defining Wellness Centers. You can live a sober, satisfying life, and we can help.