‘ Before finding AA I didn ’ t know it was possible to connect with people that want the best for me , who I had never met before ...’ erwin _ ps / iStock • Girts Ragelis / Alamy tual
POSITIVE IMPACT The significance of AA to its members ’ wellbeing during the pandemic was apparent when the data in the study were compared with two independent research projects on COVID-19 and wellbeing . The participants in this study showed markedly higher levels of wellbeing than those recorded in both COVID-19 studies , and demonstrates that AA has had an important and positive impact on its members ’ wellbeing – so much so that they have avoided the overall decline seen in the general population during lockdown ( DDN , December / January , page 9 ). According to one participant , ‘ The positive impact goes well beyond healing health , family life and personal recovery . It has led me to know myself , to access other help as needed . Today I have a healthy relationship with myself and others ’.
Further analysis showed participant wellbeing compared favourably with data collected by ONS prior to the COVID-19 pandemic , which even exceeded the threshold for having a high level of wellbeing as designated by ONS . This indicates that cohesion with AA not only improves wellbeing but provides its members with a foundation on which to flourish .
To flourish is the pinnacle of living a happy and meaningful life , and is the main focus of positive psychology ( Seligman , 2011 ). To see such clear evidence of this in a sample of recovering alcoholics was an unexpected finding , perhaps best captured by one participant who said , ‘ Belonging to AA has meant many things to me during my recovery . Inclusion , wisdom , support , guidance and spiritual growth . Above all it has given me freedom and the freedom to just be me and that is a miracle ’.
SHARED COMPASSION This study convincingly supports the basis for the research – that being moved by
THE TWELVE STEPS
The heart of the suggested programme of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps .
1 We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable .
2 Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity .
3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him .
4 Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves .
5 Admitted to God , to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs .
6 Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character .
7 Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings .
8 Made a list of all persons we had harmed , and became willing to make amends to them all .
a shared compassion will have a transformative effect on the wellbeing of AA members . It demonstrated that people in recovery who are members of AA have better wellbeing than that of the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic . Most remarkably , evidence of flourishing was discovered , indicating that cohesion with AA not only acted as a protective factor against the general decline in wellbeing seen during lockdown , but also improved it , with higher levels reported in this study than seen only in pre-pandemic research .
All of this introduces an exciting avenue for future study , looking at flourishing and addiction recovery and how to enhance this process . It has long been known that AA members benefit from being part of a group of recovering addicts . It has not been known that such membership actually leads to flourishing .
Lisa Ogilvie recently completed an MSc in counselling and positive psychology at the University of Bolton , and is a member of AA .
Jerome Carson is professor of psychology at the University of Bolton . Previously a ‘ high functioning alcoholic ’ he has been abstinent for more than four years . A more detailed version of the research can be obtained by emailing Lisa on lco1eps @ bolton . ac . uk
9 Made direct amends to such people wherever possible , except when to do so would injure them or others . 10 Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it . 11 Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him , praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out . 12 Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps , we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practise these principles in all our affairs .
Newcomers are not asked to accept or follow these Twelve Steps in their entirety if they feel unwilling or unable to do so . They will usually be asked to keep an open mind , to attend meetings at which recovered alcoholics describe their personal experiences in achieving sobriety , and to read AA literature describing and interpreting the AA programme .
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