What Is Binge Drinking?

Have you ever gone to a party with friends and started off with a few mixed drinks, then taken a couple of shots of tequila in between drinks, then shotgunned a beer, and had a couple more mixed drinks? Well, that is certainly a case of binge drinking, but not all cases are this severe and some are more severe. So what exactly is binge drinking?

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of the noun binge is an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence or an act of excessive or compulsive consumption (as of food). Binge drinking is when you drink excessively, but “excessive” can be subjective? In order to talk scientifically about binge drinking, we need to define where the line is. 

Different organizations define binge drinking differently based on a few different factors. These factors could be the number of drinks consumed, blood alcohol content, gender, and length of use. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction (NIAAA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are 2 of the more reputable organizations that provide definitions of binge drinking.

NIAAA – “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent – or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.” 

SAMSHA – “5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.”

Binge Drinking vs. Heavy Alcohol Use

We now understand that binge drinking is drinking alcohol to excess, but then what is heavy alcohol use? Aren’t they the same thing? Actually, they are not. 

The NIAAA’s definition for binge drinking isn’t that far off from their definition of heavy alcohol use, “more than 4 drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women.” However, the way SAMHSA differs the 2 is that binge drinking is drinking heavily within a short period of time whereas heavy alcohol use is binge drinking over a period of time: “binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.”

Who Binge Drinks?

According to the CDC (who uses the NIAAA definitions for binge drinking and heavy alcohol use0, about 1 in 6 adults binge drink 4 or more times per month. Additionally, men and people between ages 18 and 34 are the populations most likely to binge drink. Lastly, of the people under age 21 who report drinking any alcohol, the majority participate in binge drinking.

Risks of Binge Drinking

The risks associated with binge drinking are many and are extremely severe. These include:

  • Alcohol use disorders/alcohol addiction
  • Heart disease
  • Accidental injuries (car crashes, falls, and burns)
  • Violence towards others and self
  • Poor pregnancy outcomes
  • Cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, breast, liver, colon)
  • Memory loss
  • Learning impairments
  • Death

Preventing Binge Drinking

It can be easy to say “don’t drink excessively”, but it is not as easily done. For one, many people don’t know what constitutes binge drinking or how dangerous it can be. Additionally, alcoholism is a powerful mental illness that is not always overcome easily. However, just because preventing binge drinking is difficult, doesn’t mean it is impossible. If you could save yourself or your loved one from the risks listed above, wouldn’t you? Here are 3 things you can do to prevent binge drinking:

  • Educate your children, friends, and/or family members on what binge drinking is and it’s risks.
  • Set an example and limit your drinks. Say no to the round of shots. Just by you saying no, others who aren’t interested will feel more comfortable also saying no.
  • Provide delicious alternatives to alcoholic drinks. Think mocktails. Believe it or not, those fruity mixed drinks still taste amazing without alcohol.

How Do I Know If I’m An Alcoholic?

The DSM-V, the diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals in America, refers to alcohol addiction as an alcohol use disorder. However, Alcoholics Anonymous leaves it up to the individual to identify themselves as an alcoholic or not. Additionally, an “acceptable” amount of alcohol consumption seems to differ by country, religion, family, age, and one’s overall social environment. Consider an Islamic family that drinks zero alcohol versus an American college student who regularly goes out to bars. If someone in a devout Islamic family drinks any alcohol at all, it is unacceptable. However, an American college student can drink heavily several times per week without anyone batting an eye. With so many different standards and criteria for what is acceptable, it leaves many people wondering “How do I know if I’m an alcoholic?”

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the criteria that a couple of organizations have outlined:

Alcohol Addiction According to the DSM-V

The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders lists 12 criteria used to diagnose an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Only 2 of these criteria need to be met in order to be diagnosed with a mild AUD, 4-5 for a mild AUD, and 6 or more for a severe AUD. These criteria include:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
  4. Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  5. Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

However, just a few years ago, the medical community used significantly different criteria to diagnose alcohol addiction. In the DSM-IV, alcohol-related mental health disorders were broken down into 2 categories: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. There were 4 criteria for alcohol abuse but only one had to be met to be diagnosed with alcohol abuse. Three out of seven different criteria listed in the DSM-IV needed to be met to diagnose alcohol dependence. 

An Alcoholic According to AA

Alcoholics Anonymous does not serve as a medical organization, but a support system for individuals that struggle with alcohol addiction. Thus, it does not set out to diagnose the condition. However, the one requirement to join AA is a desire to stop drinking. Some might be confused because AA is known for the phrase “My name is [insert name] and I am an alcoholic.” In reality, it is not required for members to identify as an alcoholic. Still, one could infer that an individual who seeks help with their desire to stop drinking may have been struggling to do so on their own. This does align with the 2nd criteria listed in the DMS-V for an AUD.

Additionally, the first step of AA states “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Most would argue that someone who often drinks more than they intend or has tried to stop drinking, but didn’t, is powerless over alcohol. Also, most would agree that someone’s life is unmanageable if they are frequently hungover, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or experiencing relationship and work issues due to their alcohol consumption.

Are you an Alcoholic?

Although over time and across different sources it has not always been clear how to know if someone is an alcoholic, there does also seem to be many consistencies. In the end, if you feel like you or a family member is struggling with alcohol, there is never shame in getting help. 

Get Help Now

At Find Recovery, we help connect individuals and families in need with resources such as AA meetings and treatment centers nearby. Find Recovery today when you call our hotline!

What Does Unmanageability Mean In AA?

So you’ve decided to get sober, begin your journey to recovery, and follow a 12 step program. That’s awesome! Only, here you are looking at step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol––that our lives had become unmanageable.”

When reading this sentence, you may think to yourself, what does “unmanageable” mean? The Big Book examines powerlessness very deeply but doesn’t go as in-depth about unmanageability. Let’s take a look at how alcohol can lead to an “unmanageable” life, what unmanageability is in AA, and how it is correlated with addiction or alcohol abuse.

Manageability: The Line Between Alcohol Use & Addiction

Alcohol use is extremely common in societies across the globe, and not everyone who drinks alcohol develops an alcohol addiction. Many people who drink on an even somewhat regular basis may at some point ask themselves, “Am I am alcoholic?”. How can you tell the difference between simple alcohol use and addiction? Well, understanding manageability is a factor that can be used to determine if someone has crossed that line.

When someone who is not struggling with addiction begins to experience the consequences of their drinking, they simply stop drinking. However, if someone is drinking, experiencing consequence after consequence and does not or cannot stop, then this is an unmanageable life. Everyone makes mistakes, but they usually learn from them and make better choices moving forward. Someone who seeks help for addiction is either someone who is court-ordered to, or someone who is not able to manage their drinking, and ultimately their life.

The DSM-V and Alcohol Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, or DMS, lists Alcohol Use Disorders in the manual and includes 11 criteria. Only 2 of the 11 criteria have to be met to be diagnosed with the disorder. Of these 11 symptoms, 4 of them are social symptoms that align with an unmanageable life. 

Signs Your Life Is Unmanageable

  • Frequently running late for events or meetings
  • Using the “I’m too busy” excuse often
  • Uncontrollable, angry outbursts without any regret or remorse
  • Getting fired because of inappropriate behaviors
  • Maintaining emotional distance from loved ones due to a focus on substance use
  • A lack of romance or intimacy caused by intrusive thoughts of substance use
  • Consistent alcohol use despite a fear of being called out
  • Cravings prevent responsibilities from being tended to
  • Hospitalization or self-harm
  • Uncontrollable depression, anxiety, or loneliness

Internal Vs. External Unmanageability

Signs of an unmanageable life can be broken down into 2 different categories, internal and external factors. Internal factors include being unable to manage emotions, feelings, and thought. Internal factors often contribute to external factors such as relying on excuses, exhibiting inappropriate behaviors, and projecting emotions onto others. 


If you or your loved one’s life has become unmanageable, get help from a local AA meeting or treatment center today.

A Complete Guide to the AA Big Book

If you have ever looked into or attended an AA meeting, you may have heard of The Big Book. The Big Book of AA is a text used in Alcoholics Anonymous to spread the word of how to recover from alcoholism and share the AA recovery stories of others. The book is over 400 pages and can be broken down into 2 overarching parts. The first is dedicated to explaining how the program works and using anecdotes for an explanation. Included are chapters targetted towards certain groups of people, as well as how the 12 steps, 12 traditional, and 9 promises tie in. The other part of the book is dedicated to recovery stories. This 2nd part has changed from one edition to the other to include more recent stories that are more relatable to members in recovery today.

It was actually written by the first 100 members of AA. However, a man named William G. Wilson, aka Bill W., took on the bulk of the project and is credited as the author. He began wroke on the text in 1938 and the first edition was published on April 10, 1939. Over the years the book has been republished with new stories of recovery, without changes to the sections discussing the recovery program itself. There are 4 editions of the AA Big Book, with the most recent edition having been published just in 2001. 

The Big Book Across the Globe

Alcoholics Anonymous began in New York and didn’t really take off to become the widely trusted program we know today. However, this 12 step recovery program did eventually spread across the world. Today, the big book is one of the most all-time sold books with over 30million copies sold. In fact, The AA Big Book has been translated into 67 different languages and used by members in over 170 countries.

Big Book AA Acronyms

There are countless acronyms used in the AA community. A few of these are specifically related to The Big Book. In fact, if you see “BB”, this is the direct acronym for “Big Book”. It may be used to reference the text or to indicate that a particular AA meeting will be focused on the Big Book text. 

What happens at a Big Book Meeting?

Although all AA meetings generally start and end the same, the bulk of the meeting may vary. During a Big Book meeting, the leader will likely read a passage of The Big Book to the group and discuss the reading, what it means to them, and how it relates to recovery. During some meetings, they may open the discussion to other members present.

Search our AA meeting directory to find an AA Big Book meeting near you.

What is Big Book Study AA? 

Depending on the context, if you see “Big Book Study AA” it may be an AA meeting or a reference to a Big Book Study Guide for Alcoholics Anonymous. There are multiple groups that have published study guides designed to help members understand the contents of the Big Book. However, these are not published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. 

How Much is an AA Big Book?

If you are in the market for an AA Big Book, you have a few options. Of course, you can purchase a book off of Amazon, but this may not be the best option for you. There are ways to get the text for free as well as digital options. Consider all of your options before making a purchase, especially if money is tight.

A Hand-Me-Down Book

Step 12 of AA states “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” As a part of this step, AA members are encouraged to pass on their books and other materials to other members who may need it more. This is one way in which they carry the message of the program to alcoholics. If you do not have the means to purchase a Big Book, you can likely get one with the help of a local chapter. 

Purchase a Book

The Big Book can also be purchased new or used. Depending on where you purchase your book, the price can vary. They can be purchase from the following locations:

Substance Addiction vs. Behavioral Addiction

Addiction is a destructive disease that can lead to once-unthinkable consequences. And the addiction doesn’t have to be to heroin, alcohol, cocaine, or any chemical substance for that matter. It is possible and more common than one may think, to be addicted to a particular behavior. Substance addiction and behavioral addiction are different, but there are also a number of similarities between those who struggle with either form of addiction. 

Defining Addiction

When searching for a definition of addiction, most sources focus on chemical dependency and substance addiction. Even on the American Psychiatry Association (APA) website, addiction is defined as “a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence”. Note the use of the term “substance use”. However, we discussed above that behavioral addictions are not that different from substance addiction. Unfortunately, the APA definition reads the way it does because the only behavioral addiction listed in the DSM-V is gambling due to insufficient evidence to support other behavioral addictions. The DSM-V is the most widely used publication guiding the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.

Stanley Peele is a psychologist, psychotherapist, and co-author of the book Love and Addiction. In this publication, Peele describes addiction as when addicted individuals are dependent on a particular set of experiences and goes on to explain that the reaction to chemical substances is just one example of this dependence. This somewhat broader understanding of addiction seems more accurate when considering the reality of behavioral addictions.

Substance Addiction

The APA definition of addiction being a compulsion to use substances despite harmful consequences is quite accurate when referring to chemical substance addiction. Dependency is when the substance needs to be consumed in order for the individual to simply feel normal. An individual with chemical dependency likely will experience withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue drug use. Physical dependence is one criterion for diagnosing a substance use disorder, but the two usually go hand in hand. Treating drug and alcohol addiction requires addressing the physical effects, as well as the behavioral issues that may be associated with use.

Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral addiction is a psychological dependence on a particular set of experiences that are not a reaction to chemical substances, rather behaviors. Unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, someone with a behavioral addiction is not experiencing a physical addiction to anything. This lack of physical addiction means many signs that make it easy to identify the addiction may not be present.

Examples of behavioral addictions include:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Sex Addiction
  • Gaming Addiction
  • Shopping Addiction
  • Pornography Addiction
  • Exercise Addiction

How are substance and behavioral addictions alike?

The multitude of similarities between substance addiction and behavioral addictions may be surprising to many. Most addictive drugs act on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Similarly, when behaviors such as gambling or sex are engaged, it triggers the release of pleasure hormones and initiates a reward signal. Additionally, addiction to behaviors can have consequences on the same areas of one’s life as drug addiction. The addict may display functional impairments in there work, relationships, and in various social situations. In both cases, the addict is also likely to continue on with their behavior despite negative consequences that arise.

Behavioral Therapy & Addiction

Although most behavioral addictions are not covered in the DSM-V, behavioral therapy is recognized as one of the most effective forms of treatment for addiction. The goal of behavioral therapy is to identify unhealthy behaviors and change them to produce better outcomes. Behavioral therapy is a promising treatment option for individuals struggling with any form of addiction, but treatment plans should be personalized to meet each individual’s needs.

Sources:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

https://www.mentalhelp.net/addiction/vs-behavioral-addictions/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354400/

Does AA work for everyone?

Asking “does AA work for everyone?” is like asking if everyone has the same fingerprint. Of course not! Every human is unique in their biology, how they were raised, and how they react to medications, therapies, and certain situations. Similarly to how you can never know for sure if someone will struggle with addiction until they do, you will never know if AA will work for someone until they try it. 

The Success of Alcoholics Anonymous

How many people does AA work for? Although we know AA will not be the answer for every single individual who struggles with alcoholism, we do know that it helps some people. Additionally, measuring success is not black and white. Is success 1 year sober, 5 years sober, or a lifetime of sobriety? Moreover, can we say the program is successful if someone attends meetings for the first year or so of their sobriety and then stops attending meetings but still maintains their sobriety?

Self-reported Statistics on AA

In 2014, Alcoholics Anonymous conducted a survey of its members. Members were not required to participate, and the survey ended up with approximately 6,000 participants. One question on the survey asked how long the member had been sober1. The results were as follows:

  • 27% – Less Than 1 Year
  • 42% – Between 1 and 5 Years
  • 13% – Between 5 and 10 Years
  • 14% – Between 10 and 20 Years
  • 22% – Over 20 years

In the Big Book, the program also claims a 50% success rate and that 25% remain sober after some relapses.

Outside Studies on Alcoholics Anonymous

In addition to the surveys and statistics provided by AA, outside groups have preformed studies to try and provide an unbiased understanding of the program’s success. One study was published under the Alcohol Research Current Reviews (ARCR). This was a long-term study that looked at individuals who received formal treatment, informal treatment (AA), and no treatment at all. The study followed up with these individuals after 1 year, 3 years, and 8 years following their initial sobriety. The results were as follows:

  • Of the participants who entered AA on their own, half were still sober after 1 year and 3 years, but a fourth of the participants had maintained their sobriety as of the 8-year follow up.
  • 46% of individuals who had formal treatment and 49% who attended AA meetings were sober at the 8-year follow-up.
  • For some, attending AA meetings was associated with long-term sobriety, but not for all.

Although these were limited studies, they do show that some success is seen with 12 Step programs, but it is not a perfect solution for all. Also, studies have shown that formal treatment and AA meetings together provide better success than one of these programs on their own.

Limitations of 12 Step Programs

Why does AA not work for everyone? Admittedly, there are some limitations to AA meetings and the 12 Step program. These limitations often receive criticism, but studies more often show that AA helps. With that, take these limitations with a grain of salt. 

Loosely Structured Addiction Support

Although 12 step programming does follow a structure, this structure is not strictly enforced. Individuals groups may adjust the way they operate depending on the individual group’s needs. Although many see this as a benefit, it can also be viewed as a limitation. It leaves lots of room for practices that are not proven or evidence-based. These programs are not usually run by trained professionals and they may say or do something a professional may advise against. This brings me to the 2nd major limitation…

Not Formal or Professional Treatment

From the group leaders to the sponsors, AA meetings are not usually made up of people who have any professional experience or training in addiction treatment. The members and leaders work off of their own personal experiences with addiction. As everyone is different and has their own unique experiences with addiction, one cannot necessarily apply their experience and what worked for them to others. Some argue that the lack of formal training could be detrimental, or even dangerous.

Alternatives to AA

There are alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous for those who do not feel that the program is for them. In addition to traditional 12 Step programs, there are alternatives for people who are not religious. 

  • AA Agnostics is a group for people who may be spiritual but do not believe in God in for traditional fashion.
  • Formal Addiction Treatment Programs provide a variety of treatment programs from residential treatment to outpatient treatment. Although some do incorporate the 12 steps as a part of their treatment programming, not all do. Others have non-12 step programming and group meetings.
  • SMART Recovery is another alternative approach to addiction treatment which many turn to when 12 step programs do not work for them.

At Find Recovery, we know that the answer to “Does AA work for everyone?” is “No”. We also know that AA does work for many. This is a part of why we hope to provide struggling addicts with as many resources as possible. Our goal is to, you guessed it: help you Find Recovery. Check out our directory of Treatment Centers and AA meetings near you to find the recovery path right for you!

What do they say at the beginning and end of AA meetings?

An overview of a typical AA meeting structure.

Businessmen do research on their prospects before sitting down to pitch them. Parents research neighborhood crime rates and school ratings before moving into a new home. Some people simply like to be prepared, and there is nothing wrong with that. Even those who struggle with addiction make like to know what they are getting into when attending an AA meeting. The following breakdown of an AA meeting’s structure will help provide insight to those who are new to Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA Meeting Structure

When it comes to the beginning and ending, most AA meetings follow the same general structure. However, each meeting is individually run and may differ some based on the group’s specific needs and interests. For instance, an AA Agnostics group may not say all of the prayers that are usually recited. As a reference point, the following elements make up a typical AA meeting:

  1. AA Preamble
  2. Moment of Silence
  3. Serenity Prayer
  4. Newcomers Intro
  5. “How It Works” readings
  6. Meeting Sharing & Discussion
  7. 7th Tradition Contribution
  8. Closing Prayer

What do they say at the beginning of AA meetings?

The very first thing that is recited at a typical Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is the AA Preamble. The Preamble is a short reading that states what AA is, what the purpose, is, and what the requirements are.

AA Preamble:

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Although the AA Preamble is the first thing they say at the beginning of AA Meetings, there are a few other things said before they get to the topic of the meeting. After a moment of silence, the Serenity Prayer is recited, typically as a group:

Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference. 

Living one day at a time, Enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, Taking, as Jesus did, This sinful world as it is, Not as I would have it, Trusting that You will make all things right, If I surrender to Your will, So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

Next, the leader will ask if there are any newcomers. The newcomers are given an opportunity to introduce themselves, and in some cases, all members partake in introductions. This is not a time to share a long story, but to tell the group your name. It is not required, but the individuals may identify themselves as an addict if they so choose. In some instances, the members also share their sobriety date.

As the last element before beginning the meeting topic, a “How It Works” reading may be recited.

What do they say at the end of an AA Meeting?

After the sharing and discussion part of an AA meeting is completed, there are just things done to close out the meeting. The first is the 7th Tradition collection and the last is a closing prayer. 

The 7th tradition states “Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.” This means that it is the member’s own contributions that fund the meetings. This includes purchasing any chips, materials, and refreshments provided during the meetings. No one is required to contribute. In fact, many groups suggest that first-timer refrain from contributing. 

The closing prayer is typically the “Our Father Prayer”:

Our Father, Who Art in Heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass
against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
and the Glory Forever and ever.

Amen.

Once this prayer is completed, the meeting is concluded and the members disperse. They may grab a snack to go, stay and talk with other members for a little, go leave and go about their business.

How Do I Get an AA Chip?

Members who join Alcoholics Anonymous are working every day to maintain their sobriety and to live a better life. It is a day by day process and it is not easy. Those who maintain sobriety should be proud of their accomplishment. However, many need a reminder of what they are doing and how far they have come. For many, an AA chip fills this role. However, newcomers might beg the question “How do I get an AA chip?” From the milestones to the actual process of receiving the chip, there is more to know then you may think.

AA Chips are earned by members of alcoholics anonymous who achieve certain time periods of sobriety. These are recognized by members as a reminder of their personal length of sobriety or of the achievement they have made. These chips start with a newcomer picking up a chip for 24 hours of sobriety all the way to veteran memberships that have been sober for decades through the program of alcoholics anonymous. The following is a specific timeline that is used to distribute these chips and to mark each milestone.

  • 1 Day
  • 30 Days
  • 60 Days
  • 90 Days
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 1st year

After 1 year sober, chips are given out yearly. This means members get a chip at 1 year sober, 2 years sober, 3 years sober, and so on. These milestones are generally the ones recognized in all AA groups, but some groups provide chips for additional milestones. They may be every month for the first year, or even longer. 8-month and 18-month chips are not unheard of. It is really up to the individual chapter to provide these chips at the milestones they choose.

Receiving my AA Chip

In order to receive an AA chip, you must attend AA meetings. At these meetings, members are encouraged to share that they have reached a milestone, and the group leader will present them with the appropriate chip.

Unless you are on parole, there is no one following you and making sure that you aren’t drinking or drugging. It is up to the individual to be honest about their substance use. If you relapse, you are asked to turn in your chips and to start back at day 1. If you lie about this, you are only hurting yourself. The group cannot provide proper support if you aren’t’ honest, and the chips mean nothing if they are representing real milestones achieved.

What Women Should Know About Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is a program that is designed to be applicable to people of all ages, gender, race, nationality, religion, etc. However, there can sometimes be a tremendous benefit to meetings that are focused on one particular group of people. This is especially true for gender. Generally speaking, women face different challenges in life and with addiction than men do. This is what you should know if you are a woman who is recovering from alcohol addiction and looking to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Benefits of A Women’s AA Meeting

Generally speaking, women face a whole set of societal pressures and expectations that men may not also experience. Women are also more likely to struggle with alcohol due to a relationship with a man and they are more likely to avoid treatment due to judgment or fear that they may face losing their children.

Women’s AA meetings…

  • allow more time to be dedicated to talking about issues most common among women who are alcoholics.
  • create a unique opportunity for women to tell stories that their fellow women are more likely to be able to relate to.
  • foster a space where women can talk about issues and stories that they may not be comfortable sharing among men.

What does “AA Woman” mean?

When looking for an aa meeting near you, there are a number of different acronyms used to identify what type of meeting it is and who is invited to attend. If you are looking for a women-only AA meeting, look at the tags to identify if it is a women’s meeting. The potential tags to identify these meetings are “Women” or “W”. 

Are Trans Women Welcome to Women’s AA Meetings?

Many LGBTQ+ alcoholics feel quite comfortable in any A.A. group. However, there are many unique issues that those who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community face. To provide a safe space for these individuals, there are also meetings that are organized specifically for the LBGTQ+ community. 

When looking for a meeting, some of the tags you may find to help you identify these meetings include: 

  • Gay, 
  • LGBTQ, 
  • Lesbian.

Find a Woman’s AA Meeting

Is Heroin The New Alcohol?

Substance use among Americans is transitioning from one deadly drug to another.

substance abuse treatment admissions by primary drug

Rates of Alcohol are Dropping and Heroin Use is Rising

In a recent analysis of data gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the team at Find Recovery observed a worry-some pattern. The graph above shows the number of individuals admitted to a substance abuse program for use of alcohol, heroin, other opiates, and alcohol with a secondary substance. Between 2007 and 2017, it is clearly observed that the rates at which Americans use Alcohol alone and with other substances have been declining. This decline would be more exciting if it was not also met with an equally significant rise in Heroin use. 

When observing this data, the first question that comes to mind is “Why? Why this shift from one dangerous substance to another.?” It did not take long for our team to make a connection between this data and a few major shifts already commonly known.

Prescription Opioids: Why Heroin Use Is On the Rise

The presence of heroin has been increasing for decades, with an increase observed since back in 1999. Yet, heroin and other opioid addiction did not start to rise significantly until about 2007. “What changed?” you might ask. Well, prescription opioids became the drug of choice for physicians across the country when patients came to them in pain and looking for relief. These prescription substances included oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and synthetic opioids such as tramadol and fentanyl. The problem with these drugs that they are highly addictive, but people trusted it because they were prescribed by their doctor. 

Heroin: A Dangerously Cost-Effective High

As millions of Americans became physically dependant and undoubtedly addicted to these prescription opioid drugs, their tolerance grew and their bank accounts were drained. It didn’t take long before American’s addicted to prescription opioids switched to a cheaper, stronger, and easier to obtain alternative: heroin. 

The reality is that a drug dealer is significantly more likely to sell a fix of heroin to anyone with the money than a doctor is going to be to refill your prescription bottle for the 5th time this month. A substance that is 2 to 5 times stronger than morphine and potentially cheaper than prescription pain killers, heroin is an easy choice for anyone dealing with cravings.

A New Awareness of the Dangers of Alcohol Use

With an understanding of why heroin use is rising, the next question is why is alcohol use declining? One possible reason is due to an increased awareness of the dangers of alcohol use. 

A 2011 publication on PubMed.gov explored a bold claim that “alcohol is more dangerous than heroin” and this was just one of the many scholarly articles published on the risks and dangers of alcohol. Another article published by the Royal College of Physicians was titled “Is it time to ban alcohol advertising?” It seems that western society has caught on to the dangers of alcohol consumption. Studies are showing the truth, professionals as talking about it, and people are listening.

What is interesting is that the numbers show a decline in alcohol use with a second drug. This points to the fact that even individuals who use other substances such as heroin or other opiates are declining in their rates of alcohol use. Do these individuals not understand the dangers of opioid use? Perhaps they don’t, but perhaps the issue is something else.

Another event that may have sparked the decrease in individuals seeking help for alcohol addiction is the introduction of Vivitrol (Naltrexone), an opioid antagonist administered once-monthly for the treatment of alcohol dependence. In 2006, this drug was approved to be administered to treat alcohol dependence. Things began to level off and in the years following the approval, and decreased shortly after. 

Questions We Still Have

There are still a lot of questions. For instance, these numbers do not include individuals who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. How would those numbers affect the data? What can be done to help bring down overall addiction numbers? What should we expect in the coming years? Only time will tell. For the time being, we do what we know, education, early detection, and treatment.

References: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt23259/NSDUHsaeTotals2018/NSDUHsaeTotals2018.pdf
https://www.drugs.com/newdrugs/vivitrol-approved-alkermes-inc-cephalon-inc-alcohol-dependence-403.html
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/increased-drug-availability-associated-increased-use-overdose
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-abuse-heroin-use/heroin-use-driven-by-its-low-cost-high-availability
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21665157-is-alcohol-more-dangerous-than-heroin-the-physical-social-and-financial-costs-of-alcohol/
https://www.drugs.com/newdrugs/vivitrol-approved-alkermes-inc-cephalon-inc-alcohol-dependence-403.html