Author: Cassandra Wagenaar 

Interviewee: Declan

What is the mission of Alcoholics Anonymous the Netherlands?

“The highest I can get is sober.”  

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of men and women who meet on a regular basis to discuss and share their struggles with alcohol addiction in order to give each other hope, advice and support that can hopefully aid them in overcoming their struggle. The only requirement for membership at the AA is the desire to stop drinking.  

What do you do?

The AA is a non-profit making organization, that is currently present in 180 nations around the globe, with about 2 million members. AA started in 1945 by a New York stockbroker named Billy. During this time, he was struggling from severe alcohol addiction, and eventually came across Bob, who was struggling from the same. Through their shared trouble they connected, and they attempted to help each other stay sober. The centre of their discussions revolved around spirituality, as they ultimately believed that the solution to their struggle lay in their belief system, even though they were spiritual in different ways. Upon realizing that their support for one another was effective in helping them overcome alcohol addiction, they set out to look for a third individual that they could help. They found him in a hospital bed, at the brink of death. This individual became known as Alcoholic Number 3, and he too was able to overcome his struggle through the power of discussion revolving around spirituality. The fellowship began from there in America. Today there are more than 118,000 AA meeting groups, with 11 in the Hague that offer 10 meeting times a week. There are sessions held in both English and Dutch, since there are quite a few expat members in its demographic, such as Americans, Scots and British.  

How do you work?

The AA operates through financial contributions made from their members as well as volunteer work such as doing shifts on the helpline, becoming a part of the public information provision and more. The recovery process itself is structured as a 12-step program. This involves first recognizing that the members are powerless over alcohol, then a series of other steps ensues that can help them regain control of their lives and make them more manageable. The discussions held at the meetings also integrate material from the AA textbook, also known as “The Big Book”. This textbook provides a variety of material on personal recovery stories, as well as chapters that focus on how to mend relationships with various individuals such as family members and employers. During the 1-hour meetings, members are also encouraged to share their own experiences based on the literature that is discussed.  

What do you think has been your greatest achievement? 

“The AA is a real community. Not only do we help each other overcome our struggles, we also socialize over other events. We organize conventions, Christmas parties, and we also go out together on various occasions. Some AA members even fall in love with each other and get married. There is a stigma out there that we are just a bunch of alcoholics that sit under bridges, but this idea is totally wrong.”  

What do you think is your biggest challenge?

“The greatest challenge is retaining members. I would say that is easier for people to realize that they have a struggle, than committing to recovery programs like AA. We try to implement a buddy system, where we pair new members with older ones, so that they can be encouraged to keep coming to the meetings. However, this is not always successful.” 

Where can people find more information on your services?

You can find more on Alcoholics Anonymous online at

Alcoholics Anonymous the Netherlands

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