Does 12-Step Work? Why I Still Go to AA Meetings

I am 13 years sober. But when I talk to people starting their recovery journey, they’re often surprised that I still attend 12-step meetings.

“See! If you still HAVE to go to meetings, it doesn’t work!” they insist. To which I respond, “I CHOOSE to attend meetings BECAUSE it works.”

AA has helped millions of people get sober

12-step meetings are not filled with people being forced to attend by some invisible hand. Those people choose to show up because the meetings have become an integral part of their recovery.

My alcohol addiction is categorized as being in “sustained remission,” which means that it has been stabilized. However, I know if I wanted to start drinking today, I could. I am free to make that choice and occasionally, it has crossed my mind.

But since it’s a lifelong illness, I must consistently make a conscious effort to control my impulses and remind myself that I am in full control of my decisions. I have created a great life for myself and risking it by returning to use is no longer worth it to me.

Because of this responsibility, I navigate life with increasing discipline and self-awareness. Attending 12-step meetings is one of the ways in which I apply these skills and continue to reap benefits from this journey.

The long-term benefits of Alcoholics Anonymous

AA gives me a place to socialize with other sober people 

After regularly attending the same meetings for years, I have met and became friends with many people who are also in recovery. Given the open nature of these sessions, we are given the opportunity to share our stories, divulge our secrets, and express our emotions with each other. This has allowed us to develop an inexplicable level of empathy towards each other and build genuine connections that can last a lifetime.

AA meetings give me a place to vent

During these meetings, I can take my eccentric thoughts, my anxiety, and my frustration and unload them onto an audience that is equipped to support me. By using that space to vent and express how I feel, without judgement, I have been able to better my relationship with my fiancé.

Recognizing that he’s not my therapist, but rather my life partner, has significantly improved the connection between us. He doesn’t have to bear the full weight of my recovery experience. I am now able to show up in our relationship in a whole new way.

AA reminds me of how I used to be

It is said that many alcoholics have selective memory. I know that if I go a few weeks, or even days, without reflecting on my past experiences, I will forget the reasons that I chose to be sober. Listening to the struggles of someone who is newly sober allows me to recall my darkest days and renew my commitment to recovery.

AA is great for my mental health

I think we can all relate to the ebbs and flows of mental health. Some days, I’m in a great mood while other days are more challenging. Being diagnosed with alcoholism has made it easier for me to actively manage my mental health.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to stabilize my mental health is to attend a minimum of three meetings a week. If I’m feeling anxious or need to talk, taking an hour out of my day to have a cup of coffee and meet with my support group always helps me feel better.

I now look at my recovery in a different way

In the early stages of my recovery, I didn’t think I had a problem with alcohol. However, I also couldn’t imagine going several weeks, let alone a day, without drinking.

It wasn’t until I started trying to wean myself off alcohol that I realized the severity of my addiction. Although I had been proudly defining myself as a “functional alcoholic,” I was oblivious to the lack of functionality in my life.

I was able to recognize the root of my addiction once I was in a state of sustained remission and had undergone years of therapy. It has taken a lot of discipline, accountability, and emotional excavation to get to where I am, but with the help of 12-step meetings, processing my past has gotten easier.

I understand the reservations people might have about 12-step meetings. As a young man, I didn’t want to be part of the experience and resisted at every turn. But once I attended my first session, I recognized that none of that matters. There is scientific evidence to support the claim that AA works, but my life is all the proof I need.

Everyone goes to AA for the same reason, to feel understood and get help. Once you feel that, everything else falls away.

Break free from the confines of your mind and see for yourself.

About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one. 

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. 

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