Most empirical studies of the conversion process have focused on individuals who have come to espouse the world view of a deviant religious denomination or sect. Using observational data our research analyzes the conversion process by which individuals come to identify with the ideology propounded by Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). A.A. provides prospective "alcoholics" with both a solution to drinking problems and an overarching world view with which to reinterpret their past experience. The A.A. conversion process can be divided into six phases: hitting bottom, first stepping, making a commitment, accepting your problem, telling your story, and doing Twelfth Step work. Each of these phases is described in detail. Similarities and differences are noted between the observed A.A. conversion process and the model generally described in the sociological literature on religious conversion. Our analysis indicates certain weaknesses in the process-model explanation of conversion and points to the necessity of taking into account organizational context and situational variables.
Qualitative Sociology, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1983, 5-28.