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Alcohol Treat Q. 2009 Jan 1;27(1):38-50.

Helping Others and Long-term Sobriety: Who Should I Help to Stay Sober?

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  • 1Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio.


Examination of the change strategies associated with successful long-term sobriety remains an understudied area in addiction research. The following study recruited individuals with long-term sobriety (range 16-25 years continuous abstinence). Subjects (n = 11 were surveyed on demographic information, problem history, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) affiliation, and helping behaviors within several life domains over the course of sobriety. General helping behaviors increased from lower levels in the month prior to getting sober, to moderate levels at 1 year of sobriety, but did not continue to increase with additional years of sobriety. Levels of general help to others at home, work, and 12-step programs were similar at varying lengths of sobriety. Whereas overall levels of general help given to others were similar across settings, helping other alcoholics, as opposed to helping others at home or work, was rated as contributing the most to staying sober. Across time, alcoholics increased participation in helping behaviors specific to 12-step programs. The utility of helping others as a behavioral strategy to maintain successful addictive behavioral change is discussed.

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