Alcoholics Anonymous Turns 80

May 28, 2015

R.T., who hails from the East Central Iowa, hasn’t had a drink of alcohol since July 3, 1986. He got sober when he was 26 after binging heavily on a daily basis.

“My life was in shambles. The best way I could describe it was outer confusion and despair. I truly couldn’t imagine living my life any different but I couldn’t imagine living three days any different.”

After going to a rehabilitation clinic, he was directed to Alcoholics Anonymous. As someone turned off by religion, he says he didn’t think it would work.

I walked into that meeting and felt a coming home feeling. I felt like I had come to a place where I was understood. - Chet, member of A.A.

“People like me don’t say sober,” he says. But the program did help him, and he’s still active in the organization.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous, and during this River to River conversation, host Ben Kieffer talks with R.T.  Chet, another AA member, and Dr. Anthony Miler Director of Addictive Disorder Services for the Iowa City VA, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry for the University of Iowa, also join the program.

While A.A. has been criticized for its influence by Christian ideas, Dr. Miller says every group is different.  

“Here in Iowa City there is an AA squared group for agnostics and atheists,” he explains.

During this River to River, we hear about the founding and history of AA, how it works, and how our understanding of addiction has changed since the 1930s. 

Dr. Miller says over the years scientists have developed methods of behavioral cognitive therapy and medications to aid in helping people stay sober, including nalextrone and antabuse.

"When people take nalextrone, they crave alcohol less," he says. "It seems like there's an anticipatry endorphine release, so that may be the most effective thing about it."