Researching alcoholism, the meaning of this term should be clarified first. Alcoholism is an illness characterized by an impairment directly linked to the persistent and excessive use and abuse of alcohol (Roth & Khantzian, 2015). The impairment may either be a psychological, social or physiological dysfunction. The causes of alcoholism remain unknown. Some studies state the problem may be congenial. The paper aims at discussing alcohol use and abuse as well as the ways the 12-step meeting attendance helps alcoholics achieve sobriety.
Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting
My sister and I attended an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting held on 10/24/2015 at 4011Dunsmore, La Crescenta 91214. The meeting was opened with a serenity prayer and a reading of the AA preamble. Following the opening, those new to the group were given an opportunity to introduce themselves, and they were welcomed. Afterward, those in attendance told personal stories of how they have struggled with alcohol use and abuse, as well as their struggles to remain sober. The meeting was attended by people from all walks of life both young and old. Some had recently quit drinking while others had long periods of sobriety. The only common issue to the members was that once they had started drinking alcohol, they had problems stopping the behavior. I must confess it was a little daunting attending an AA meeting. However, the audience was cordial, friendly and understanding, and I felt safe. Most people shared their drinking experience, the strength they have gained from the meetings and their hopes for the future. No one from the meeting criticized or judged others. I noted that almost everyone identified with other personal stories, and they were all determined to achieve sobriety. People talked of profound things that the rest of the group could connect with themselves; and this was quite moving, especially to those who were there for the first time. It should be noted that before attending the AA meeting, I thought the organization was religious. However, AA does not dictate any religious beliefs but guides people to stop drinking. To be a member of the group, one was required to be honest and willing.
In every thirteen adults, one is considered an alcoholic. Nowadays, America has fourteen million people suffering from alcoholism. The disease starts as a desire to take alcohol for social purposes and progresses to overdependence on drinking (Dossett, 2013). In the meeting, most people agreed that their drinking habits changed over time, and in the end, they realized they had no control over the problem.
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Women who consume alcohol while pregnant can give birth to babies with fetal alcohol syndrome. This condition affects the brain development of a child and can result in severe illnesses. Past research has sought to prove that the problem could be hereditary and that genetically, people are prone to be addicted at some point.
Ethyl alcohol is the substance used to make alcoholic beverages. The substance is clear and consists of C2H5OH. It has a burning but pleasant taste. Ethyl alcohol is harmful to the body as it causes sedative effects. Alcohol affects major organs in the body. For example, it causes inflammation of the pancreas, ulcers and liver cirrhosis (Cao, Willett, Rimm, Stampfer, & Giovannucci, 2015). Moreover, it results in permanent damage to the nervous system. In the meeting, I learned that an attempt to withdraw from alcohol can be dangerous if not well managed. The reason is that it leads to hallucinations, blackout and shaking limbs. The largest internal organ in the body is the liver. A normal adult has a liver that weighs 3 pounds. It aids in the supply of blood and nutrients. It performs more than 500 important functions in the body (Cao et al., 2015). Excessive ingestion of alcohol affects the functioning of the liver. First, the liver tolerates alcohol by working harder. Due to overworking, it becomes unable to metabolize. Continued alcohol consumption increases the levels of cholesterol in the body leading to clogged arteries. Further, the red blood cells are damaged; hence, a person becomes anemic. Minerals and vitamin deficiencies weaken heart muscle resulting in heart and circulatory disorders (Dossett, 2013). Moreover, the lack of nutrient absorption in the body makes alcoholics susceptible to infections, recurrent colds, and skin rashes. Studies indicate that most alcoholics usually suffer from heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes.
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There are several options of treatment that an alcoholic can choose. To begin with, there is a 28-day inpatient treatment (Miller & Nirenberg, 1984). This option is popular, and it entails going to a treatment clinic for 28 days to detox the body. The inpatient treatment can be considered as a crash course to the whole recovery process. It does not offer much help to the patients; hence, they must continue receiving care and support even after the treatment. Residential therapy takes 6 months. In this duration, patients are required to live in the treatment facility. As stated by Miller and Nirenberg (1984), many alcoholics need this method to succeed. An example of such a clinic is the Betty Ford Clinic which allows the patients to live there until they attain sobriety. On the same note, there is outpatient therapy. This method offers different programs for patients who visit the premises regularly. All the programs offer psychological therapy to individuals or groups. It is a form of counseling. Evidently, it is easier talking with a group of people sharing the same addiction problems rather than taking treatments in a clinic. Research indicates that this method is not effective for people with serious drinking problems (Miller & Nirenberg, 2012). Therefore, it is important to combine outpatient therapy with other methods.
The last method is the most popular across the globe. Founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous is based on a 12-step recovery process (Smith & Wilson, 2013). AA can be concerned with a community of alcoholics who are determined to attain sobriety. It is the most used method in AA meetings. Similar to research, members in the meeting share their problems with drinking and help each to recover from the addictions. The main goal of AA is to help people recover from alcohol addiction.
Alcoholics Anonymous has over two million people across the globe (Roth & Khantzian, 2015). The members meet in local groups, and the meetings are free. The AA meetings are open to the public. However, some meetings are closed, especially when the members want to talk about their alcohol problems and do not wish to be distracted by non-alcoholics (Smith & Wilson, 2013).
The 12-step program is a method used to treat all kinds of addictions, including alcoholism. The treatment method encourages alcoholics to do the 12 steps. First, is admitting they do not have power over alcohol and that it has taken over their life. The second step is making the alcoholics believe that there is a greater power that will help them overcome the addiction. The step reflects the religious impact of the whole process (Smith & Wilson, 2013).
The steps continue to maintain the healing process. The alcoholic is asked to visit the friends or family members that have been hurt by the drinking problem and offer apologies. This was reiterated in the meeting. Next, the alcoholic is asked to identify a sponsor. A sponsor comes from the group, but it must be a person who has been sober for long. The sponsor is supposed to help the recovering alcoholic through the 12 steps of treatment. Throughout the 12-step treatment, the alcoholics are given chips of different colors depending on how long they have been sober.
The last two steps of the recovery process involve taking an inventory to understand the reason one acted the way they did when drunk (Smith & Wilson, 2013). They are referred to as the motivations of the drinker. The last step talks about having a spiritual awakening, practicing the learned lessons, and spreading the message of recovery to other addicts. This step stresses the effort one should put in the program for it to work for them.
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Once completed, the patient has a lifetime of recovery. Scholars agree that alcoholism cannot be cured completely (Cao et al., 2015). Therefore, alcoholics should receive continued care and support. As reported in the group, patients are sometimes tempted to abandon their mission. Preferably, alcoholics should first enter a long-term treatment facility for detox, join Alcoholics Anonymous and complete the 12-step treatment (Cao et al., 2015). Most alcoholics agreed that being in the treatment for long increases the chances of attaining sobriety. Thus, though the 12-step treatment worked for many AA members, a review of the literature indicates that the method is successful if people get professional assistance through the program.
As aforementioned, alcoholism is a disease that can be fatal if not addressed. Notably, attending the AA meeting helped me realize that the discussed issues are similar to the statements in research concerning alcoholism, especially the 12-step treatment. From a personal perspective, the only way for curing alcoholism is through abstinence. Drinking has been termed as a disease by psychologists and doctors. Once drinkers are addicted, it becomes hard to stop drinking as the urge is beyond their control. Addicts cause physical harm not only to themselves but also for those close to them. Addicts have poor health, and in severe cases, they end up dead. For this reason, it is better for people to abstain from drinking. Those who drink in moderation can continue drinking; however, for alcoholics, it is better to abstain for the sake of themselves, their friends and families. Thus, alcoholics should use the most effective treatment to cure themselves of alcoholism.