Alcoholic Thinking: Language, Culture, and Belief in Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholic Thinking: Language, Culture, and Belief in Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholic Thinking: Language, Culture, and Belief in Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholic Thinking: Language, Culture, and Belief in Alcoholics Anonymous


Based on long-term observation of Alcoholics Anonymous, the author focuses on cultural rather than personal causes of drug dependence. The author also discusses how the symbolic action of AA language and culture is the key to recovery. This study yields critical information about the development and practice of alcoholism and other drug dependence. Through the shared linguistic and cultural interaction of AA, the U.S. cultural ideology that emphasizes individualism, personal achievement, self-control, and self-reliance is shown to result in conflict; thus the gap between the perceived ideal and reality intensifies feelings of separation, alienation, and isolation leading to dependency.


Alcohol is a drug. Unlike other drugs, it is available to anyone of legal age and easily acquired. Two out of every three Americans over age 18 use some alcoholic beverage. Most of these 120 million people are social drinkers and consider their right to drink as inalienable as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Americans are encouraged to drink. Many businesses depend heavily on alcohol sales. Sports centers, restaurants, drinking establishments, and the beverage and advertising industries all have a serious economic stake in the acceptance of alcohol. But every American that pays taxes or a monthly premium for health insurance has an equally important interest in the 10 percent of the adult population that exhibit symptoms of alcohol dependence or habitual abuse.

The National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIKAA) estimates that more than 11 million adults in the United States are alcohol dependent and another 7 million regularly abuse alcohol. These 18 million individuals and others unlucky enough to suffer from single bouts of drinking contribute 16 billion dollars per year to health care costs. Approximately 20-40 percent of all hospital beds are occupied by someone with an alcohol-related problem, 20-45 percent of all homeless people are alcohol impaired, and alcohol is a contributing, causal factor in 3 percent of all deaths.

Alcohol is the most prevalent drug problem in America today. At a total cost of 150 billion dollars per year, it is also the most expensive. The American public pays the bill as millions of people struggle with dependence on alcohol. Most alcoholics fight their battle alone. They live in increasing isolation and attempt to juggle survival and contentment while becoming progressively debilitated by the excessive use of alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a mutual-help organization of almost 1 million members in the United States and other countries. Most of them claim it is effective in fostering, effecting, and maintaining recovery from alcoholism. The 12-step program of AA has been adapted to the treatment of other addictions like eating . . .

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