Running head: alcholics anonymous: a breakdown

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Alcoholics Anonymous: A Breakdown

Kevin Kokaska

University of Kentucky


This essay researched the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous over the course of about two weeks. There were a number questions in which this essay and its research are centered around, like, what perceptions and preconceptions do some hold about this culture, what ideas does the dominant culture have about this focus culture, what the crucial norms of the focus culture are, and what is the most important identifying aspect of the focus culture. The first way I went about identifying answers to these questions was through the use of databases that had scholarly journals. I learned a great deal about the statistics regarding the Alcoholics Anonymous community as well as information on religion in the organization as well. The second way, and the way found most useful, was through interviews with members of the Alcoholics Anonymous community. They gave the best information because it was firsthand and unadulterated. The interviews combined with the scholarly information compiled could lead one to the conclusion that all of the stereotypes the dominant culture holds on this culture are false. Also, that the positive preconceived notions were further reinforced.

Keywords: Alcoholics Anonymous, Stereotypes

In a society where drugs and alcohol are constantly being promoted and romanticized to the general public through TV, radio, and music, it would appear that sobriety is not a fashionable trait to wear. In my high school, to fit in with the “popular” kids you had to be able to party and drink a lot. And if you didn’t capitulate you were not considered to be cool or popular. Again, sobriety seems like an unpopular ideal almost anywhere you go. Because of this many stereotypes and unfair assumptions are placed on those who follow a different moral compass.

No better example of this can be found than with the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous. An organization that describes itself like this, “Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem,” ( obviously garners a lot attention. And with notoriety come negativity, stereotypes, and preconceived notions from the general public. To fully understand AA as a culture, one would need to have a basic understanding of the history of AA and how it works, know there are stereotypes and what those consist of, and also be familiar the norms of the culture as a whole and how they operate.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ founding date is recognized as June 10, 1935, also the sobriety date of its cofounder, named Bob Smith. Smith was a medical doctor and a raging alcoholic who had sought help from the traditionally sober Oxford Group, but those efforts were met with no success. The other co-founder, Bill Wilson, was a stockbroker who also was an alcoholic, but had gotten sober before meeting Wilson. When the two finally met, Smith had finally come face to face with another person who had the same problem he did, but had attained sobriety. Upon hearing Wilson’s ideas on sobriety, he attained sobriety and with this Alcoholics Anonymous was founded. Over the 79 years of its existence, AA has helped millions change into better human beings. With more than 2 million members in over 160 countries, AA’s methods are tried and tested. In the United States alone, there are 1.2 million members of AA (Gross, 2010, p.2361). For more statistics similar to these, visit

Figure 1 shows the all-important 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The disease of Alcoholism simply put is, the definitive symptom being the inability to control consumption after the first drink and the condition being irreversible (Medina, 2014, p.29). For other pertinent information, visit There are two main facets of this program, which every member is suggested to follow, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions. The 12 steps are read aloud at every meeting that takes place. These steps are to be worked through to completion upon becoming sober. There is no correct amount of time to fully complete the steps, and it is emphasized that it is not a race to complete them. Once, all 12 steps are completed, you are supposed to work them everyday for the rest of your life. So in a sense, you are never done with your steps. The traditions encompass the entire community as opposed to individually like the steps do. These traditions sort of lay out what the group as a whole need to do in order to continue the success of the program as well as everyone in it. In addition to the 12 Steps and Traditions, there is a good amount of literature in which the organization endorses. While there are many components that make up this culture, these are the main ones.

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