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Helping, Spirituality and Alcoholics Anonymous in Recovery

Sarah E. Zemore, Lee Ann Kaskutas

Objective: The purpose of this study is to examine how helping activities and spirituality—perhaps key influences on sobriety— change over recovery. The study also explores interrelations among Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), helping and spirituality. Method: Questionnaires were administered to recovering alcoholics (118 men, 80 women) recruited at AA and Women for Sobriety meetings, treatment programs and through personal connections. A helping scale measured Recovery Helping (8-item ? = 0.78), Life Helping (12-item ? = 0.62), and Community Helping (6-item ? = 0.60). The Daily Spiritual Experiences scale assessed two components of spirituality identified by factor analysis: Theism and Self-Transcendence. Two components of an AA scale, Involvement and Achievement, were also treated separately on the basis of factor analysis. Results: Structural equation modeling revealed that longer sobriety predicted significantly more time spent on Community Helping, less time spent on Recovery Helping and higher levels of Theism, Self-Transcendence and AA Achievement. Model covariances revealed that both AA components were related to more Recovery Helping and higher Theism. Both spirituality components related to all forms of helping, with one exception. Conclusions: The findings highlight important changes in helping with length of sobriety. As their sobriety accumulates, recovering alcoholics seem to devote less time to informal helping and more time to organized community projects—perhaps indicating evolving needs and abilities. The results also suggest roles for AA and spirituality in encouraging helping, and they indicate that some forms of spirituality relate to AA affiliation. Future work might establish whether and when helping in different domains contributes to the maintenance of abstinence and to other drinking-related outcomes. (J. Stud. Alcohol 65: 383-391, 2004)