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12th Step, Helping Others, Helps Alcoholics Stay Sober

The 12th and final step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program reads:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

It requests that recovering alcoholics help others in their quest for sobriety. Well, a new study found that helping others also helps the people stay sober themselves.

Maria Pagano of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland said in addition to continued sobriety, the mental and physical effects of helping others may also benefit other long-term conditions like depression and chronic pain.

"These studies indicate that among alcoholics, Alcoholics Anonymous-related helping and giving general help to others has positive effects on drinking outcomes and mental health variables," Pagano says in a statement. "When humans help others regardless of a shared condition, they appear to live longer and happier lives."

Pagano said there is a lack of consensus on what defines "helping others." She said additional research is needed to indicate which specific "helping" behaviors should be encouraged, and what forms of service should be recommended for people in early and ongoing recovery.

The findings are published in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly.

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