Indeed, must attest to the act that, stigma surrounding alcoholism still exists tremendously. Especially, after having been personally humiliated and laughed at by fellow students at the university during my search for AAA self-help meeting was a revelation. This paper will present what I learned as a participant observer in two different AAA self-help meetings that occurred face-to-face and online. First, a brief review of the two observed groups is presented; second, the similarities and differences between the two groups will then be discussed.
Followed by the comparison between the observed process and the theory of what a mutual aid group should offer. Keywords: Alcoholics Anonymous, Mutual aid, self-help, alcoholism, Meetings Introduction “God grant me the serenity to accept the things cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference” (AAA World Services, 2014). As much as Alcoholics Anonymous (AAA) fellowship has a strong spiritual component, it does not associate with any religious belief or political party, or any organization.
It stands by itself as an intercontinental fellowship of resilient men and women confronted by related problems of alcoholism. It brings folks from all lifestyles that have a shared aim of wanting o stop alcohol use, allowing them to share their struggles and progress, at the same time, giving hope to one another as they uphold the spirit of togetherness in search for solutions to their alcohol recovery. It is also worth noting that, membership is entirely free at no cost, with no obligation and the process is completely autonomous (AAA World Services, 2014).
AAA Group Participation as an Observer Having considered attending the face-the-face meeting first, it was exactly at 10:00 am on a Saturday morning, when I walked through the door of a community centre, to participate in an AAA open group meeting as an observer. I must admit that was very nervous and felt like an intruder. As I entered the room, there were already some participants, some getting coffee, others talking to each other at the same time re-arranging the chairs for the meeting to start.
The attendees were welcoming and seemed in good spirit to be at the meeting. The room was spacious and clean, had a sign of the cross on the wall. Introduced myself to the chairperson and informed him was only participating as an observer. The Chairperson called the meeting to order; it all began with a moment of silence, followed by the serenity prayer De by the chair. After the prayer, two participants read the meeting preamble of ‘Twelve Steps”. The theme of the meeting was “gratitude, powerlessness and promotion” suggested by three members.
The chair opened the discussion; participants were invited one person at a time, to share individuals’ stories in relation to the three topics. Participant speakers introduced themselves as “My name is so-and-so and I am an alcoholic. ” Those who did not want to contribute simply said, “Thanks, I’ll pass. ” The contributors’ for the most part updated the group on their current progress grading their continuous endeavourer to recovery. A moving story told by a young middle-aged mother of two children, who lost her family, partner and two lovely children due to drinking problems.
She talked about how her husband discovered forty-two bottles of wine under their matrimonial bed, most of which were empty and a few still had wine in them. She had passed out from drinking and ended up in the hospital detect. Due to her continuous excessive drinking of alcohol, her partner threw her out of her matrimonial home, she has since been homeless for six months now, and living in a omen shelter. She talked about the feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness.
Nonetheless, she was grateful to be part of the AAA meeting, she said ” it’s my hope that I continue to be part of my new found family, I want to Stop drinking and become sober sees my biggest problem right now, my life is a mess without my children In it”. In response to her emotional story, one male participant shared his own experience, “for being sober have taken one day at a time it’s a miracle every day, I’m just thankful to be here and will forever be grateful to God for helping me. ” I was amazed by the ensue of cohesiveness within the AAA meetings.
As the time reached 1 1 :Moa the meeting had to end, the chair thanked all attendees and speakers. In closure, all members stood up in a circle, holding hands of the person next to them and everyone bowed their heads down in prayer. The chair led the Rod’s Prayer and the meeting closed for the day. In the same way, on a Monday morning October 27th at 8:30 am, participated on an online AAA open group meeting that uses “web chat room” for members to engage in the discussion. As I opened the chat page, it requested me to register a chat name and I logged in as a guest participant.
Welcome note to Aniline. Net appeared at the top of the chat room window, pointing out the meeting protocol “type! If you want to share” People were called on in order by the chairperson, “type go ahead (GA) when you are finished sharing”. After joining the rest of the members, noticed that participants had to wait until called on GA surname by the chairperson before sharing, one person at a time. During the chat process, members were obligated to follow the room policy “no interrupting the speakers. Personal attacks, harassment, Racial, Political, or
Religious slurs were all unacceptable. The topic of discussion was “life of laughter with three main speakers who all had the chance to share their contribution. One particular story that I found quiet remarkable was that of one man in his own words said “before was sober I never laughed I was very miserable and desperate. Then I started living the steps of AAA and has the chips came off my shoulders I have discovered a deep sense of humor. Each day I’m sober is a gift I never expected and I have learned to love myself with the help of God and AAA family. The more I listened to these AAA stories, the ore I learned and understood how AAA is tremendously changing and saving lives. As the last speaker typed GA, the rest of the participants followed with “thank you” messages. The chairperson wrapped up the meeting, called for a moment of silence prayer dedication made “to other people suffering inside and outside of those rooms as well as families and friends of those who have died or not knowing there is a solution”. The chair thanked God and all participants in attendance.
All members were reminded that “who you see here, what you hear here and when you leave here, let it stay here. That brought the session to an end and members left the chat room (www. Aniline. Net, 2014) Each of these AAA self-help groups observed above makes an important contribution to the understanding of the commonalities and the differences existing between the face-to-face and online meetings. Before considering discussing the commonalities between these two groups, it is important to understand the numerous differences first.
As a starting point, we know that as human, we are social beings that relate with each other by ways of eye contact, body language and sense of touch. Therefore, the lack of physical contact experienced by AAA members when using computer-based self-help support, makes it tough for the peers to build strong bond and intimacy with one another, has obtained in a face-to-face meetings. Steering at a computer desktop does not give some people that intimate relationship they may need from their peers. That natural connection and sensation reciprocated to one another during fellowship in person goes beyond just being there in person.
In the face-to-face group, almost all attendees had the chance to share their struggles, growth and popes with other peers, and the group size was convenient helping members to understand each other’s struggles at a mutual level, at the same time made it suitable for the chair to lead the group successfully. On the other hand, the web chat room only provided three members to speak in spite of the larger number of people in attendance. It seemed to me that, most online participant’s ends up not gaining or sharing their stories in as much as they may want to do so.
The complexity of enforcing group regulations online by the peer leaders can be challenging. Some online attendees kept on posting assuages even though the protocol clearly indicated that interruption of the speaker during session was not acceptable. I personally found it very frustrating and hard to catch up with the readings online; nevertheless, the speakers were orderly in their writing. Another difference is that, online meeting requires members to be very familiar with basic computer skills to be able to navigate the web-based meeting structure.
All the same, it provides anonymity making peoples identity to remain hidden. However, the question here is who is on the other side of the computer? Since most participants readily use their true names, avian their identity hidden may help some individuals to remain anonymous at the same time may endanger the lives of some people. Which is not the case with face-to-face meetings; peers get to familiar themselves and intermingle with each other providing them the opportunity of acquaintances. Group participation in face-to-face becomes much easier for mostly new members in particular.
Despite these differences presented above, the commonalities between these two groups included but not limited to the following; the tradition of ritual structure guided by the “Twelve-Step” recovery morals, spiritual by nature applies to both groups. Galantine (2014) talks about how AAA that began in 1935, has been the foundation of the “Twelve-step” ritual, which has since become a resource used as the format for most alcohol recovery programs, with a number of about two million members’ worldwide and 200,000 weekly meetings utilizing this approach (p. 300).
Having witnessed the testimonies shared by AAA members the structure of both AAA groups seemed to rely on the contribution Of its members as per the twelve-step program. In the face- to-face meeting members read aloud the AAA twelve-steps for all attendees. While on an online meeting, the chat room window had the link to the twelve- step recovery at the beginning of the chat. Both groups talked about member’s dependence on a “Higher Power,” regardless of being online or in a face-to-face meeting. The “Lord’s Prayers” was performed and testimonies on how God has been good to them was shared most people in both meetings.
Another similarity between these two groups is the existence of open topic discussions guided by standard protocols. Both meetings required all attendees to maintain uninterrupted conversation, when individual speakers hared their narratives. All members remained silent and orderly, with minimal interruptions particularly for the online meeting. It was emphasized in both meetings that, all members who are on the road to recovery or new comers in the fellowship should respect each individual experiences shared without making any judgment.
At both group meetings, the participants were encouraged to hold their conversation to matters pertaining to alcohol recovery as guided by the ‘Twelve -?Step” model. Another similarity is the self -labeling and self-identification as an “alcoholic” used at all times in both groups. All members that had the chance to speak in these meetings both online and in person had to mention their names and attached the label on it before they shared their stories with the rest of attendees.
Members in both group continuously talked about how alcohol was their major problem Theory of What a Mutual Aid Group We know that the terms mutual-aid groups and self-help groups are frequently used interchangeably. Castro (2012) has defined mutual-aid groups as consistently small gatherings of individuals struggling with similar problems that have decided to collectively build a casual or formal allegations to provide emotional, informational and social support for each other in finding solutions to their individual problems (page number).
By applying Castrato’s definition to the AAA self-help groups, the participants of AAA characterized by alcoholism, as they attend AAA meetings with the intention of wanting to stop alcohol consumption, and become sober by sharing mutual experiences and building resilience with one another (AAA IGRP meeting). Most participants in AAA engaged in self-reflective confessions and shared encouraging testimonies pertaining individual struggles with alcoholism. Other member’s engagement stimulates another peer’s own narration, and issues that someone else had previously shared; respectfully is addressed from another individual’s situation.
Some people’s narratives were quiet emotional that brought tears to some members. Nevertheless, some were funny and made people laugh. The groups demonstrated sense of cohesion, remarks such as “you are not alone” constantly was mentioned. From a mutual-aid framework, Barman believes that, individual helpfulness to others, instead of just being a beneficiary of help is a significant element of mutual aid. He talks about, how individual own self-confidence and self-worth can be attained once they recognize how their engagement in the group gives hope to other peers despite of how heart breaking their experience has been.
He also points out how” The Exchange of experiences, solace, and encouragement by peers forms a nurturing environment’ (p. 1 54). Roomier (1990) uses Mascots theory of human motivation, to explain the idea of self- help, in the process of helping someone else; a self-helper satisfies several of his or her own basic needs. Sense of worth, the need to belong, to be love ND acceptance, and safety, because satisfying our own basic needs constitutes a form of helping ourselves, it become clear that the magic of self- help lies in helping oneself by helping others (p. 36). A theory, which proposes that basic human needs ordered in hierarchy.
While Michael K. Barstools (1992) has pointed out the contradictory nature of the terms “self-help” and “support,” the former US. Surgeon general C Everett Kop has said that self- help brings together two central but disparate themes of American culture, individualism and cooperation (“Sharing Solutions” 1992). In traditional society, family and friends provided social support. In modern industrial society, however, family and community ties are often disrupted due to mobility and other social changes. Thus, people often choose to join with others who share mutual interests and concerns.
In 1992, almost one in three Americans reported involvement in a support group; more than half of these were Bible study groups (“According to a Gallup poll” 1992). Of those not involved in a self-help group at the time, more than 10 percent reported past involvement, while another 10 percent desired future involvement. It has been estimated that there are at least 500,000 to 750,000 groups with 10 million to 15 million participants in the United States (Katz 1993) and that more than thirty self-help centers and information clearinghouses have been established (Barman 1992).
Basic Self-Help Group Models Self-help groups may exist separately or as part of larger organizations. They may operate informally or according to a format or program. The groups usually meet locally, in members’ homes or in community rooms in schools, churches, or other centers. In self-help groups, specific modes of social purport emerge. Through self-disclosure, members share their stories, stresses, feelings, issues, and recoveries. They learn that they are not alone; they are not the only ones facing the problem.
This lessens the isolation that many people, especially those with disabilities experience. Physical contact may or may not be part of the program; in many support groups, members informally hug each other. Using the “professional expert” model, many groups have professionals serve as leaders or provide supplementary resources (Gardner and Irishman 1977). Many other groups, using the “peer articulator” model, do not allow professionals to attend meetings unless they share the group problem and attend as members or unless they are invited as speakers (Stewart 1990).
Comparing the self-help peer participatory model with the professional expert model, experiential knowledge is more important than objective, specialized knowledge in the peer model. Services are free and reciprocal rather than commodities. Equality among peers, rather than provider and recipient roles is practiced. Information and knowledge are open and shared rather than protected and controlled. Peers can model healing for each other. By “the veteran helping the rookie,” the person who has “already ‘been there'” helps the newer member (Manual 1992).
Through peer influence, the newer member is affected (Silverman 1992). Although the newer member learns that the problem can be dealt with and how, the older member who helps also benefits (Irishman 1965). One possible effect of this peer model is empowerment. Self-help group members are dependent on themselves, each other, the group, perhaps a spiritual power. Together they learn to control the problem in their lives. Those that share a common shame and stigma can come together, without judging, to revived an “instant identity” and community (Barman 1992).
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