Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has helped millions of people recover from alcoholism. For many women, however, AA may not be best choice when it comes to difficult task of quitting drinking. The main reason it may not be best choice is this:
AA is based on philosophy that self-centeredness is root of alcoholism. In other words, AA's approach is to instill humility and minimize egotism in its members.
While this method may have been appropriate for white males in 1940's when AA was founded, it does not meet very different needs of women. Here's why.
- Women who have a problem with alcohol oftentimes suffer from feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.
- Women already judge and berate themselves mercilessly.
- What women need to recover is to develop a sense of competency in themselves and rebuild their feelings of self-worth.
- Quitting drinking requires overcoming dependencies, forgetting past and planning for future.
SELF EMPOWERMENT, NOT HUMILITY, LEADS TO SOBRIETY
I agree that it is necessary for a woman to have humility in order to accept that she has a drinking problem. But taking humility beyond this first step is actually counter productive for woman alcoholic.
Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D., founder of Women for Sobriety Program (WFS), writes that "to accept humility is absolutely worst thing that could happen to a woman alcoholic." From long experience Jean understood that for women to overcome feelings of helplessness and powerlessness they must have a program that helps them to rebuild their self-image.
DOES GIVING YOURSELF UP TO A HIGHER POWER WORK FOR YOU?
The main component of AA's program is spirituality. Specifically, they believe that in order to recover, one must surrender one's will to a higher power.
WFS, on other hand, does not encourage reliance on a higher power or something outside yourself. Women for Sobriety believes that your power must come from within.
THE WOMEN FOR SOBRIETY PROGRAM WORKS
This new, empowering method for women to quit drinking produces concrete results. An interesting study was published in American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse by L. A. Kaskutas in 1996.
What study found was that after women became really aware that they had to do something about their drinking, percentage of women who were sober within 1 year after attending Women for Sobriety meetings was 38%. In contrast, percentage of women who were sober within 1 year after attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings was 26%.
WHY HAVEN'T I HEARD OF WFS?
One of reasons why AA meetings are so prevalent is fact that one aspect of their spiritual philosophy is a strong emphasis on service. Specifically, AA members are encouraged to attend meetings for life, and be part of a sponsorship program where experienced members assist beginners.
In contrast, because WFS encourages self-sufficiency, it does not promote lifelong attendance at meetings. Also, although WFS does not have a formal sponsorship program, it encourages an informal support structure among women. A result of this WFS philosophy of leading women away from dependencies is that meetings are not as widely found with Women for Sobriety Program as they are with AA.
The Women for Sobriety web site does, however, provide support in form of on-line meetings, chat, and a bulletin board. They also have a large collection of popular books on recovery as well as their own literature for sale. This contrasts with AA meetings where only AA approved literature is allowed.