Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual experience
December 14th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual experience

Only the first of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous mentions alcohol. The other 11 talk about redemption, restoring moral character, and devotion to God (or other higher power).

From that perspective, it makes sense that a new study finds that Alcoholics Anonymous increases spirituality. But it goes further than that: Spirituality may actually play a role in successful recovery from alcoholism, says research in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The way that Alcoholics Anonymous members share their experiences of suffering is akin to what happens in a military unit or a musical group or a family, where the idea of "we’re all in this together" becomes particularly strong, said Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

"Someone will say something profound that everyone can connect with beyond themselves, and it can be very moving," said Humphreys, who was not involved in the study but also researches the effects of Alcoholics Anonymous. "That is a spiritual process."

Alcoholics Anonymous has more than 1.2 million members in the United States, encompassing more than 55,000 groups across the country. Founded in 1935, participation in this group has shown to be effective in short-term and long-term outcomes in numerous scientific studies. Since a large body of research has found that this and similar groups work (Narcotics Anonymous for drug use, and other organizations), more studies are turning to a deeper question: Why do they work?

Meetings of 12-step support groups vary according to how "religious" they seem, Humphreys said. Some of them are full of discussion about God; others don't emphasize it as much, but focus more philosophically on the nature of being and existence.

"Certainly the basic frame is about minimizing selfishness, minimizing grandiosity, giving to others, accepting character flaws, and apologizing when you’re wrong," Humphreys said.

Addiction to any substance, be it alcohol or marijuana or harder drugs, raises common issues prompting spiritual questions, Humphreys said. These experiences include loss of control, terror, doing things you’re ashamed of, and being close to death, he said.

The new study looked at data from 1,726 adults randomly assigned to different psychosocial treatments for alcoholism. Researchers asked the participants questions at the beginning of the study and then every three months.

They found that participants in Alcoholics Anonymous said they increased their spiritual beliefs and practices, especially people who were low on those measures when they first began Alcoholics Anonymous. Moreover, spiritual beliefs and behaviors appear to at least partially be responsible for successful recovery from alcoholic behaviors. Perhaps that also relates to findings from a separate study that religion breeds happiness because of personal connections made in a congregregation.

Still, spirituality and religiosity don't probably operate alone in Alcoholics Anonymous - the coping skills, support, and other encouragement of abstinence from alcohol likely also help participants in recovery, the authors wrote.

Also, the study does have limitations.  For instance, most participants were Caucasian men participating in a larger study called Project MATCH. Also, what is meant by "spirituality" varies and means different things to different people.

This wasn't the only news in favor of Alcoholics Anonymous today.  A study published in the same journal found that women returning from prison decreased their drinking habits after weekly meetings of the group for six months.

Of course, Alcoholics Anonymous isn't for everyone, and there are plenty of secular programs out there, such as Rational Recovery, that don't overtly make religiosity part of the process.

Here are some guiding questions to help you decide if you need help with a substance problem: Do you need to consume more and more to get the same effect? Do you find yourself repeatedly consuming more than you intended to? Do you find yourself thinking about your next use? Does your habit end up taking more and more of your time? Are you waking up in the morning thinking about it?

soundoff (1,091 Responses)
  1. UlVmMsYZjsf

    623629 364027There exist a couple of numerous different distinct levels among the California Weight loss program and each and every a person is pretty essential. Youre procedure stands out as the the actual giving up with all the power. weight loss 642159

    January 12, 2021 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Elane

    It's а shame you don't have a donate button! I'd definitely donate to this fantastic blog!

    I suρpose for now i'll settⅼe for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google accߋunt.
    I look forwarԁ tо brand new updɑtes and will share this site
    with my Facebook grߋup. Chat soon!

    Feel free to visit my webpage :: greyhound

    January 12, 2021 at 22:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. buy face mask

    You're better than this ;D


    January 13, 2021 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. depth

    Hellⲟ! Someone in my Facebⲟok group shared this website with us so
    Ӏ came to take a look. I'm definitеly loving the information. I'm bookmarking and
    will be tweeting this to my followers! Wonderful blog and outstanding design and

    January 15, 2021 at 03:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rosalyn Cocanougher

    Wow! This can be one particular of the most useful blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Magnificent. I'm also a specialist in this topic therefore I can understand your hard work.


    January 15, 2021 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Antoinette Angert

    Very high-quality brief description. keep up the fantastic work. nintendo games


    January 17, 2021 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Clay Orsten


    January 17, 2021 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rico Avola

    Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your website is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you've on this web site. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for more articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched everywhere and simply couldn't come across. What a perfect web-site.


    January 21, 2021 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Marissa Cackett

    Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.


    January 21, 2021 at 02:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. tangerine banque signin

    607649 478755Nicely written articles like yours renews my faith in todays writers. Youve written data I can finally agree on and use. Thank you for sharing. 276119

    January 26, 2021 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rudy Despain

    Hi there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


    January 27, 2021 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jason Forgue


    January 28, 2021 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. zortilo nrel

    Some genuinely fantastic posts on this internet site, regards for contribution.


    January 29, 2021 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. filofax classic croc

    Sweet blog! I came across it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Are you experiencing any suggestions on the way to get listed
    in Yahoo News? I've been trying for a time having said that
    i never appear to arrive! Thanks a lot

    Feel free to surf to my blog post; filofax classic croc

    January 30, 2021 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Phil Kressler

    Looking for more customers for your website or online store? We can get you targeted visitors specifically for your type of business For additional information Check out: http://bit.ly/hi-quality-web-traffic


    February 3, 2021 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. tree removal near me

    I really enjoyed this article, thank you for that! Beaver Tree Services, 2545 N 29th Pl, Phoenix, AZ 85008; (602) 671-0226


    February 4, 2021 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Pianino.XMC.pl

    Hello, i just thought i would post and inform you your weblogs structure. It seems to look great on the Firefox cell phone browser. Anyhow keep up the good work.


    February 5, 2021 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. xemkqxs.com

    Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you|


    February 6, 2021 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Pianino

    This website has got a lot of extremely useful info on it! Thanks for sharing it with me!


    February 7, 2021 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Metale Cechy

    Brawo tak trzymac. Widac, ze dbasz o merytoryczne wpisy na Twoim blogu, Dzieki i zapraszam do siebie...

    February 8, 2021 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. zipper pocket insert for chic sparrow pemberley

    Does your website have a contact page? I'm having problems locating it but,
    I'd like to shoot an e-mail. I've got some recommendations for your blog you could be thinking about hearing.
    In any event, great site and so i enjoy seeing it expand
    with time.

    my blog post zipper pocket insert for chic sparrow pemberley

    February 9, 2021 at 03:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. https://europa-road.eu/hu/kombajn-szallitas-mezogazdasagi-gep-szallitas.php

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!


    February 9, 2021 at 04:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Learn More

    Hi there, I found your web site via Google while looking for a related topic, your website came up, it looks great. I've bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.


    February 9, 2021 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Socjologia

    I just added your blog to my blogroll, I hope you would give some thought to doing the same.

    February 10, 2021 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. laminate flooring quotes Pittsburgh, PA

    Really very happy to say,your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You're doing a great job.Keep it up. Flooring Installers of Pittsburgh, 1933 Crafton Blvd #5, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, (412) 415-7629


    February 14, 2021 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Norwegia


    February 15, 2021 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Roofing Belleville, MI

    Really very happy to say,your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You're doing a great job.Keep it up. R 5 Roofing and Construction, 45041 Ecorse Rd, Belleville, MI 48111, (734) 215-6189


    February 15, 2021 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Cincinnati, OH Roofing

    I am really happy to say it's an interesting post to read . I learn new information from your article , you are doing a great job . Keep it up. R 5 Roofing and Construction, 4422 Appleton St, Cincinnati, OH 45209, (513) 434-6711


    February 15, 2021 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. East Chicago, IN Roofer

    I am really happy to say it's an interesting post to read . I learn new information from your article , you are doing a great job . Keep it up. R 5 Roofing and Construction, 405 E 151st St, East Chicago, IN 46312, (219) 266-6596


    February 15, 2021 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. www.Filozofia.XMC.pl

    Hi! Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!


    February 19, 2021 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. forex copy trader



    February 19, 2021 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. sex and the city season 6 dvd



    February 21, 2021 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. United State of America

    I love it when I hit the jackpot and get this great information


    February 22, 2021 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. credit card holder

    Please let me know if you're looking for a writer for your blog.
    You have some really great articles and I feel I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd absolutely love to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please blast me an email if interested. Thank you!

    Here is my web site – credit card holder

    February 24, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. https://j-website.net

    Best view i have ever seen !


    February 25, 2021 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. https://www.shinsen-mart.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    February 28, 2021 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Cukrzyca

    This is a different sort of opinion that many people dont usually talk about. Usually when I find stuff like this I stumble it. This article probably wont do well with that crowd. I will be sure to submit something else though. http://www.xmc.pl


    February 28, 2021 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. ClarkTauts

    9in5f pwjry zepl

    March 1, 2021 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. https://thuocladientu123.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    March 2, 2021 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. https://topphimhot.net

    Best view i have ever seen !


    March 2, 2021 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Kendall Knupke

    Somebody necessarily lend a hand to make seriously articles I would state. That is the first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I surprised with the research you made to make this actual put up amazing. Wonderful task!


    March 4, 2021 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Romana Jerald


    March 6, 2021 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. https://thuocladientu123.com

    Best view i have ever seen !


    March 9, 2021 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Szkło Charakterystyka

    Excellent brief and this article helped me alot. Say thank you I looking for your information and my seotons.


    March 11, 2021 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. window cleaning Denver

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    March 14, 2021 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Window washing Denver

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    March 14, 2021 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Window washing Denver CO

    This blog is great check it out


    March 14, 2021 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Window washing Denver CO

    nice information for a new blogger. it is really helpful


    March 14, 2021 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Window washing Denver CO

    very interesting , good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog.


    March 14, 2021 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Window washing Denver

    I really like this post


    March 14, 2021 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.