What's the difference between alcohol rehab and AA?

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Alcohol rehab and AA are both the treatment paths for alcohol addicts. 

The difference is that alcohol rehab is a more conventional treatment option that often involves addiction medicine, AA focuses on the therapeutic aspects of the treatment and not on medicine.  

Alcoholics anonymous offers community support to the addicts and helps them get past their addiction and alcohol abuse.  

A key difference between AA and rehab treatment is that rehab or “Residential Rehabilitation” is tailored more to the patient’s individual needs.

It allows them to rehabilitate in a residential rehabilitation facility. The patient is isolated and undergoes detox and smart recovery.  

The top rated alcohol rehab centers offers a clear, structured path to recovery and aftercare. 

Patients get a proper plan for incorporating their recovery into their everyday routine after rehabilitation.  

The entire rehab process, particularly the detox, is also supervised by trained medical professionals.  

AA, on the other hand, is an organization that helps individuals struggling with alcohol or substance abuse. They’re known for their popular 12-step rehabilitation program.  

The best thing about AA is that it’s completely free, and you don’t have to pay any fees.

The financial burden is removed completely, and the patients can focus only on recovering from alcohol use disorder.  

The difference between AA and rehab is that Alcoholics Anonymous often gives you a flexible schedule, and you can easily find a meeting in a location near you.

They will just plug you into your support network.  

What is alcohol rehab? 

Alcohol rehab addresses any psychological issues that lead to and results from alcohol addiction.

alcohol rehab facilities

It offers help with ongoing mental and physical health problems allowing you to adjust to your new life after recovery. The rehab treatment program aims to ensure long-term sobriety.  

Residential Alcohol Rehab facilities are dedicated environments for healing alcohol users.

The addicts get treatment at these facilities and address their pressures as well as any dangers involved due to dependence, detox, and withdrawal.  

Who can join?  

Any alcohol addict who has his health, relationships, or work at stake due to chronic alcohol use should get into residential rehab and follow their treatment plan.  

Rehabilitation is aimed at enabling patients to achieve success in life while avoiding any drastic consequences of alcohol abuse.  

How does it work? 

Rehab programs can be offered as inpatient or outpatient treatment. During inpatient treatment, the patients get a holistic program for treatment.

Their treatment plan includes detox, withdrawal, therapy, on-site medical care, and bespoke dietary and fitness plans.  

The following steps or elements may be involved in the rehab treatment.  

  • Initial assessment by medical staff including a physical and psychological examination to decide on the treatment options 
  • Alcohol detox if needed (Mostly the patient is monitored, and medication is given only in case of extreme alcohol withdrawal symptoms) 
  • Psychotherapy and behavioural treatments to pave way for future sobriety 
  • Prescription medications 
  • Continuing education on alcoholism and the harms of taking drugs for engaging the patients’ rational mind 
  • Support through social services outside a rehab 

These treatment programs may take 1-3 months to complete. The patients who are part of these treatment programs are given a calming, confidential, pleasant, and secure environment at the residential treatment facility.

It allows them to keep their focus only on treatment and recovery from alcoholism with no distractions or temptations from outside.  

What is the AA?

AA or Alcoholics Anonymous is an international organization that aims to help alcoholics return to sobriety through their support groups.

They have developed a spiritually inclined 12-step self-help program for achieving that goal.  

alcoholics anonymous (aa)

AA is nonprofessional, multiracial, self-supporting, and apolitical. It is available just about everywhere and alcoholics can get their support for free by just participating in their support groups.  

Who can join? 

There aren’t any education or age requirements to join Alcoholics Anonymous. Anyone looking to get rid of their drinking habit can get a membership and attend AA.  

Drug abuse and alcoholism are often called “chemical dependency” or “substance abuse”. So, both alcoholics and non-alcoholics can be introduced to Anonymous Alcoholics.

They are all encouraged to join and attend the meetings of the organization.  

However, only the patients with a habit of drinking alcohol are allowed to join the closed sessions of AA or take the membership of the organization.

Individuals with a drug addiction other than alcohol use disorder are only eligible to become AA members if they also have a drinking issue.  

How does it work? 

The members of AA share their stories and individual experiences with others seeking help. Alcoholics joining AA get a person-to-person service or “sponsorship” from the members.  

The Alcoholics Anonymous program comprises of twelve steps. It offers the patients a way of developing sobriety and achieving satisfaction without alcohol. The AA group meetings discuss this program.  

Anyone can join the open sessions of AA. Generally, these are “speaker meetings” where AA members tell their stories. They talk about what their life was as an alcoholic, how it changed, and what they feel now after achieving sobriety.

Most of the AA meetings are closed ones, however, and only members can join.  

As mentioned earlier, AA works with a 12-step recovery program.

While we have seen some adaptation in the original 12-step procedure over time, the essence of these steps remains the same for all programs working with a 12-step model.

Let’s explore these steps in detail and find out how you can achieve sobriety with AA’s program. 

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1. Honest Admission: 

Having denied your addiction for years, the recovery process begins simply by admitting that you have no control over alcohol use. Your family and friends can also be a part of this step by admitting that their loved one is addicted to alcohol. 

2. Faith: 

Before any spiritual powers could intervene, you should have faith that they can, and they will. The addicts need to believe that there’s a higher power that will come to their rescue. 

3. Surrender:

You’ve been self-destructive throughout your alcoholism journey and must surrender to stop this destruction. It is important that you recognize you can’t recover alone but with the help of that higher power. 

4. Soul searching:

During your recovery with the AA's program, it’s important that you identify your problems to clearly understand how your behaviour has been affecting you and those who are around. 

5. Integrity:

Developing integrity gives you a big opportunity to grow. It is important that you admit the wrongs you have done in front of somebody else or the higher power you have surrendered to. 

6. Acceptance:

Acceptance is a very important part of letting your addiction go. You must accept the defects in your character exactly the way they are and be willing to get rid of them. 

7. Humility: 

Humility is the spiritual focus of this step as it requires you to ask a spiritual power to help you with something that you can’t achieve with mere determination or self-will. 

Willingness:  In this step, you should make a list of everyone you might have harmed before starting this recovery process. 

8. Making Amends:

It may be challenging to make amends to everything you have done wrong. However, if you take your recovery seriously, it can help you a lot in healing the relationships you have damaged along the way. 

9. Maintenance:

You may not like it to admit all the wrongs you may have done, but it’s very important for maintaining your spiritual progress towards recovery. 

10. Making Contact:

This step involves discovering what the higher power may have planned for you in life moving forward. 

11. Service: 

Lastly, during your recovery, it is important that you carry the program’s message to others. Also, try to ensure that they practice these principles in all areas of their lives. 

Where does AA fit in with private alcohol rehab? 

AA can fit in with private alcohol rehab as a therapeutic part of the process.

Addiction treatment requires resolving and removing not only the physical cravings but also their psychological causes to change the lives of the patients for good.

When the psychological reasons behind alcohol abuse are dealt with, the patient is prepared well for a drinking-free, healthier, and happier life.  

Psychotherapy is an important phase in any rehabilitation and recovery program. It provides patients with the base for their future sobriety and has a major impact on their lives.

In this phase, the addict works with a counsellor who addresses their current emotional and mental condition.

private alcohol rehab or aa

They try to understand the underlying cause of those emotions that trigger substance abuse to avoid relapse after they recover.

Obviously, the patients can stay sober in the long run if they are mentally strong enough to fight temptations.  

Similarly, AA meetings help addicts open and get inspired by others who have successfully quit taking the substance to kick start their recovery process.

This practice helps them start making attitudinal and behavioural changes and try to remain sober, preventing relapse.  

Even rehab also connects you with such supportive social services in the last step of the recovery program.

This is to empower the patient and help them maintain abstinence and stay away from substance use.

The new supportive network has its influence in the life of the patient, and they make sure the patient doesn’t return to alcohol abuse.

As a result, their disease is permanently cured, and they don't take any drug after recovery.  

So, both AA and alcohol rehab can be used effectively as an addiction treatment to quit alcohol or drug abuse.

Each program may be different and may even have a different approach to achieve sobriety, but they can help you quit alcoholism successfully and allow you to stay sober in the long run.

Even AA treatment program can fit in with private rehab to a certain extent and help you with your drinking problem and drug use.  

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About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.