Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-step recovery program that aims to help alcoholics achieve sobriety and continue to stay sober. It is an international, self-supporting system that is open to anyone, regardless of age or education, to assist anyone that wishes to do something about their drinking problem. Many look at this program as a treatment of sorts, however, it is not a treatment. It is a fellowship of people practicing a guide of principles that are aimed towards assisting the suffer(s) in achieving a happy and wholesome life.
It is crucial to understand the fundamental differences between alcohol and addiction treatment versus a recovery program. Alcohol and addiction treatment centers provide a variety of services and care in residential and outpatient groups. Most of these services are paid for, whether it be by the individual, or through local, state, or federal programs. Care is typically provided to patients, and the aim is to help them understand themselves and their addiction. Therapy is usually included in the service through various settings, such as group or family therapy, in addition to individual therapy. In some cases, some parts of a 12-step program will be incorporated as well, but this does not mean that the groups in rehab are a part of the program.
As I previously stated, AA and other 12-step recovery programs are more along the lines of a fellowship, as it is fundamentally spiritual. The individuals that attend these meetings and incorporate the recovery program into their daily lives are doing so alongside others with a common problem. While the programs accept donations, they do not expect it, and the programs are free to attend. Unlike rehab centers, there are no administrators, therapists on clinicians. The sole purpose of these meetings is for individuals to help themselves and others reach a common goal: recovery. They share their personal experiences with others, hitting home the fact that addicts in recovery are not alone. Additionally, there is not a time frame or limit to these programs. More often than not, active involvement in a program becomes a lifelong venture.
This is not to say that AA and other 12-step programs are merely social gatherings. While there is a social aspect to the meetings, these programs are a source of inspiration for addicts and alcoholics. Most importantly, by recognizing marks in sobriety and the group celebration spurs a sense of pride not only for the individual but the group as a whole.