Alcoholics Anonymous was the first of the so-called 12-step programs to be developed, followed by Narcotics Anonymous, followed by literally hundreds if not thousands of other 12-step programs, most based on the AA principles, using a different addiction or weakness instead of alcohol.
Although Alcoholics Anonymous and all 12 step fellowships are completely independent of all rehabs and detox’s and hospitals, there is a significant overlap in terms of the therapeutic work that is done in a rehab, and the fact that many, if not most, rehabs will either have AA meetings on site.
Some will make it a condition of being in recovery in a rehab that clients attend a certain number of AA/NA meetings whilst in treatment.
In many ways rehabs grew out of a need for alcoholics to be detoxed and hospitalised prior to and being able to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
This was because most of the early members of AA were effectively end-stage alcoholics who needed some type of medical attention before any type of treatment could be given.
This has changed dramatically over the last 60 to 70 years, and many people attend AA/NA etc by approaching these fellowships directly, or by being introduced to them through being a client at a rehab.
In many ways the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous is significantly different to the approach of many rehabs. A rehab will often promote the fact that it’s therapeutic program is based on the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
There is some truth in this but it needs to be understood more fully. A rehab will normally work through what it calls the first five steps, but its interpretation of what steps mean will normally be significantly different to that written in the book Alcoholics Anonymous.
To someone entering a rehab or their family, this can be something of an academic debate, as all they are really interested in doing is getting sober or clean in a rehab. It often becomes more of a question where the issue is once a person has left a rehab and is attending AA meetings and trying to get sober and clean or stay sober and clean.
Alcoholics Anonymous is best understood by understanding the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The most prominent book is titled Alcoholics Anonymous and is the experience of how the first hundred members of AA got sober and stayed sober at a time when there was virtually nothing else around that worked.
The book Alcoholics Anonymous gave rise to the name of the same fellowship, and the subsequent growth in that fellowship and all other 12-step fellowships.
There is a vast amount of other AA literature available, including a substantial and significant number of history books. Some of these may be available in a rehab or not.
Understanding the history of how AA developed, its timeline and subsequent growth, is actually essential to really be able to use the freedom of AA/NA, as it was originally intended.
Understanding the literature of AA is important. AA is its literature.
The AA literature is the body of experience that constitutes Alcoholics Anonymous. What is said at meetings and by individual members of AA is their own opinion, experience, belief etc.
What is in the literature is the experience of AA globally, since it first started.
Understanding that the AA literature is what Alcoholics Anonymous is, and that it is a body of experience is key to giving people the freedom to interpret and use that literature in any way that they find helpful.
This is a point made over and over again in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, that people can effectively take what they like and leave the rest.
Unfortunately, often in a meetings and likely in a rehab, people will be far more rigid in terms of telling newcomers what they can and cannot do, what they can and cannot believe in, often under the pretext of being essential in terms of staying sober or clean.
A rehab has a special responsibility in many ways to make sure that its promotion of Alcoholics Anonymous, and its interpretation of the Alcoholics Anonymous programme is presented in its entirety, and in such a way that people realise the two tiers of recovery.
Firstly that there is a body of experience they can use however they wish to, secondly that their sobriety is their own responsibility, and how they choose to put that experience into their life will play a major role in whether they stay sober or not.