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The 12 Steps of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has become synonymous with the concepts of recovery and sobriety and has been instrumental in changing the conversation surrounding addiction since its inception 80 years ago. As the psychology and science of addiction evolves, the role of AA may change, but is likely to remain a cornerstone of many people’s aftercare efforts, if not their overall recovery journeys.
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What Is AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global program created to help those struggling with alcohol misuse achieve and maintain sobriety with the support of their peers through meetings surrounding addiction.1 AA allows people to come together, share their experiences, and support their recovery.1 Its concept revolves around the premise that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is an illness that can be managed, but not controlled.

Bill Wilson and his physician, Dr. Bob Smith, founded AA  in 1935 and eventually grew to include two more groups by 1939.2 That same year, Wilson published Alcoholics Anonymous, a text that explained its philosophy.2 We know it today as the 12 Steps of Recovery. Over the years, the 12 Steps have been adapted by other self-help and addiction recovery groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, to those struggling with other forms of addiction. Additionally, many groups have changed the explicitly Christian overtones of the original 12 Steps to reflect more secular or agnostic philosophies.3

There are no other requirements for AA other than having a desire to quit drinking, and it is not associated with any organization, sect, politics, denomination, or institution. Those attending AA commit to joining either voluntarily, as a continuation of therapy, or via court-mandated rehab.

Given the number of individuals struggling with or at risk for an AUD, it is understandable that AA has grown to what it is today—an organization with more than 115,000 groups worldwide.

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What Is the Big Book in AA?

The Big Book in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a foundational text outlining the principles of recovery for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Published in 1939, the AA Big Book contains 11 chapters that include personal stories and spiritual insights.

The AA Big Book also includes the 12-Steps of AA to provide guidance and support to people looking to achieve and maintain sobriety through the AA fellowship.

Statistics on Alcohol Use and Addiction

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), individuals must meet any two of 11 criteria during the same 12-month period.4

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 29.5 million people aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder in the past year.5 Among people aged 12 or older, 60 million people were binge drinkers in the past month (4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men on one occasion), and 16.3 million people engaged in heavy alcohol use over the past month (binge drinking on 5 or more days over the past 30 days).5, 6

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Success Rates of Alcoholics Anonymous

The AA Big Book cites a 50% success rate with 25% remaining sober after some relapses.7 However, since many of the group’s published success rates are provided by AA itself—and because some members choose to remain anonymous or don’t want to admit to relapsing—there isn’t enough impartial data to measure those rates.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states that approximately 10% of the people who become part of a 12-Step program enjoy long-term success in their recovery.8 Yet, members also tend to drop out at a 40% rate during their first year, according to some studies, causing group attendance to change often.9

Finding 12-Step Programs Near Me

To find Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings near you, you have options. You can start by visiting the official AA website, which includes local listings. You can also contact local community centers, churches, or healthcare facilities for more information on AA and other 12-Step meetings near you.

If you’re looking for more support, contact American Addiction Centers (AAC). AAC can help you learn more about inpatient and outpatient treatment programs or alcohol support groups other than AA. You can also find an alcohol rehab using our directory or contact an admissions navigator 24/7 when you call . They can answer your questions, discuss treatment options, and help you begin the admissions process once you’re ready.



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