Recovering Alcoholics Find That Helping Others in AA Helps Them Improve Their Own Outcomes

Posted on October 1st, 2012
Posted in Alcoholism

When a parent helps their high school student with math homework, they often have to reach back to the lessons they learned in order to properly explain it to their child. They, in turn, learn all over again by recalling and reinforcing the lessons they had come to understand. A proverbial quote states that "By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn." Some individuals in Alcoholics Anonymous Help groups (AAH) are benefitting their own lives by teaching others the lessons they have learned as they worked on overcoming their substance abuse addiction.

A new study, published in Substance Abuse, found that individuals recovering from alcohol abuse are helping themselves by helping others work through 12-step programs. They are remaining sober longer, successfully accomplishing step-work, attending meetings regularly, and showing considerable concern for others. As they encourage others, they are gaining back their own personal strength to overcome addiction.

"Helping Others" Study

Dr. Maria Pagano, associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, led the "Helping Others" study that reaffirmed that when you teach you learn again. She and her colleagues studied the 10-year learning outcomes of individuals involved in 12-step alcoholic recovery programs. They used clinical trials on behavioral treatments for alcoholism from Project MATCH, a program sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Dr. Pagano proudly asserts that their study is the first of its kind in studying the long-term outcomes and influences of helping and engaging in 12-step programs.

Every Little Bit Helps

Dr. Pagano stresses that any aid that a recovering alcoholic gives to another alcoholic seems to help the recovering alcoholic improve their own outcome. It is just imperative that they get involved in helping somehow.

Whether they offer personal stories and advice to another alcoholic or agree to volunteer in an AAH service position, they are moving themselves forward in healing.

Focusing on Others Aids Recovery

Researchers assert that one reason this program is working is because the recovering alcoholics are focused on someone besides themselves. They believe that preoccupation with one’s own problems is at the root of addiction.

When recovering alcoholics are focused on helping someone else get through the daily struggles of recovery, they feel a sense of worth and of purpose to educate and guide someone with the lessons they personally learned. They can intensely focus on someone they can help and it helps them stay closely connected to their program.

Dr. Pagano hopes to further her research by studying minors who are in alcoholism recovery programs. She wonders if they will also find that helping others recover can help themselves and that in giving, they will receive.

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