Talking Oneself Sober: The Discourse of Alcoholics Anonymous

by Seán O’Halloran


This book is the first to deal comprehensively with the spoken discourse of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), particularly within AA meetings. These meetings are generally not easily accessible to researchers, but they are AA’s central defining activity and provide the forum through which it operates. To understand what happens in AA meetings is to begin to understand AA.

This study also examines AA written texts, including Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book) and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Without a thorough knowledge of these one can only have a limited understanding of AA.

The discussion draws heavily on authentic recorded material of unsolicited interaction between members in AA meetings. This is used to illustrate that:
• there is a degree of discursive symmetry in AA meeting which is perhaps unique • it is through sharing that the individual voice of recovery is developed and gains ascendancy, creating a new alignment to the world and others
• through viewing their compulsive drinking as a ‘disease’ of body, mind and spirit, AA members develop a coherent version of their lives, freeing them from self-blame and the impulse to blame other people, places and things. However, they acknowledge responsible for their sobriety through being in a fit state mentally and spiritually to resist the physical trigger––the first alcoholic drink
• in their accounts of everyday life, AA members learn to accept life on life’s terms as well as work the AA programme. This results in a new spiritual realignment which challenges the alcoholic tendency to set oneself at odds with other people and society at large.


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