AA Is To Shame As A Hot Knife Is To Butter

  1. What is Alcoholics Anonymous?
  2. Understanding Alcoholism
  3. Submission
  4. Discipline
  5. Some Cool Things To Know About AA:

The Reason for This Post

While on the www.mentalhelp.net forums recently I came across advice posted from one person to another regarding what she could expect from a visit to an Intensive Outpatient Program - a program of intensive psychotherapy that is useful for persons struggling with substance abuse problems (alcohol and/or drugs).
The Reason for This Post

Specifically - the one person was saying to the other that "If you're going to IOP for alcoholism, you can expect one thing... indoctrination into Alcoholics Anonymous".

The writer went on to describe her negative experience with a substance abuse IOP program:

"I've been to both types of treatments, and they are worlds apart. The psych units will try to empower you.. "you have the right to say "no" and make your own decisions".. the chemical dependency unit will tell you you are filth and never had a decent thought in your life and are a devious person".

As a Clinical Psychologist who used to work on an IOP and Partial Hospital dual-diagnosis unit with alcoholics and drug abusers with coexisting mental disorders, I had a reaction to this posting.

I got to thinking how differently my own impression of AA was from this writer's impression. I also got to thinking about how much shame seemed to be coloring the picture of AA and substance abuse treatment for this writer and for so many other persons out there currently struggling with addiction. I got to thinking that it would be a good thing to write a little bit about how the 12 step program that AA delivers addresses the problem of shame in addiction.

By the way - This is by no means the first time I've come across a negative view of AA. My own impression of AA, before I had any practical experience with it, was similarly very negative. "AA", I thought, "is an organization not unlike the Moonies - essentially about mind control and making you over in their image". Something to that effect. Concrete experience has shown me that I was wrong. As far as I can tell, AA is really about making you free to act effectively.

What is Alcoholics Anonymous?

For those of you who don't know - AA is a fellowship of alcoholics who come together regularly for the purpose of helping themselves and other alcoholics who desire help to stop drinking.

Empty chairs

  • AA is a volunteer organization that exists to heal and serve those struggling with alcohol addiction free of charge.
  • As I understand AA's organization, they are completely self-funded - existing off internal donations and not seeking monies from external organizations.
  • They insist on anonymity within their meetings.
    • An effect of this and similar policies is that people's social status tends to fall away at an AA meeting. An AA meeting is a place where normally unequal people (in terms of wealth, status, etc.) are more equal.

Perhaps the most famous thing the world at large knows about AA is the Twelve Step program that forms its heart. For my discussion here I want to focus on the first three steps and how they relate to the problem of shame. For me at least, it is in these first steps that the Genius of AA is most clearly illuminated.

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
    2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Curious woman

Think about these phrases for a minute. Consider with me how powerful they are. And how paradoxical. The first three steps of AA are saying in no uncertain terms that the way to restore control is through submission to a "higher power": God as we understand him. A lot of people get hung up on the part about God and never come back. That is a shame because although AA is spiritually based and was founded by religious men the message of AA that makes it powerful is not essentially a religious one.

To AA participants, God can just as well be an acronym for "Good Orderly Direction" as it can refer to (insert deity of your choice here). It doesn't really matter. Good orderly direction can also be sought through treatment and rehabilitation.

Understanding Alcoholism

Another way to get at what AA is saying is that - if we want to stop drinking - we must trade in a dysfunctional and shame-producing way of thinking about our alcoholism for one that is less conducive to shame. We have to fundamentally change the way we understand our alcoholism and ourselves.

The dysfunctional way of thinking about alcoholism we probably hold comes from our tendency to think of ourselves as minds that stand outside of and are independent from the world and the objects within it (including our own body!).

We tend to draw a strong distinction between what is me (my thoughts) and what is not me (everything else). We tend to think that while we can control the objects in the world, we are somehow different from those objects.

The problem of control

Depressed man
Insofar as things exist in the world that can be manipulated (like tables and chairs and cars and money) this way of thinking about things works well enough. Where we get into trouble is when we start trying to control, manipulate or dominate our feelings and hungers as though they were objects like tables, chairs, cars, and money.

  • In short--we get into trouble when we start applying our notions of control that work perfectly well for actual objects like tables and money to ourselves--to our feelings--which are NOT objects and which CANNOT be controlled in the manner that objects can be controlled.
  • It simply does not work to try and dominate, control and manipulate our feelings in the way we would control a table or chairs.

We cannot dominate our feelings and win because by dominating them we dominate ourselves. When anyone else tries to dominate us - we tend to get pissed at them and resist their control. It is no different if we try to dominate ourselves. We still get pissed - at ourselves! and assert our independence from control. The harder we try to control our feelings and hungers-- the stronger they come back at us and bite us on the butt.


This is where shame enters the picture.

Shame is an emotion that we only feel when we are comparing ourselves to some standard and find ourselves wanting - failing to meet the standard.

In the case of the person struggling with alcoholism the standard is some variation on the theme of "I'm able to maintain control over my drinking".

  • The individual struggling with alcoholism typically wants and desires very much to remain in control--his or her whole sense of self-esteem is often bound up with this struggle. And yet--for the alcoholic--loss of control over drinking is inevitable--it is simply not reasonable or accurate for an alcoholic to believe that he or she can control his or her drinking.
  • When this failure to maintain control does occur, it becomes evidence (in the mind of the alcoholic person) of the lack of worth of the alcoholic person.
  • And when you are an alcoholic, there is always one good way to feel less like a worthless person and that is to take another drink. and so on. The vicious circle continues.

  • When an alcoholic finally gets it that he or she simply cannot expect to drink in a controlled way (just as he or she cannot expect to flap his or her arms and fly) then the expectation of being able to remain in control is also dropped.
  • When the expectation of being able to control ones' self is dropped there is less of an occasion for shame when uncontrolled drinking does occur. There becomes possible a greater openness to alternative ways to stay sober besides willpower.
  • Stripped of associated shame, an analysis of the event of a relapse to alcohol can now point the way to doing things in a different, safer way in the future. You may not be able to stop drinking - but you can avoid it in the first place!


It is through a shift in thinking that freedom from addiction becomes possible. This 'freedom' can be articulated in different ways, like:

  • Submission to a higher power.
  • Acceptance of reality as it is (you are not able to control your drinking) and not how you want it to be.
  • Acceptance of social responsibility.

When you really understand that you are not able to beat back your hungers by willpower alone you can then begin to master your hungers through other more effective means that help you to not get so hungry in the first place - such as:

  • Committing to no-compromises sobriety.
  • Seeking social support, avoiding alcohol, bars, drinking 'friends', etc., and
  • Finding self-worth in your recognition of the higher purpose of fellowship. AA has all sorts of practical advice on this theme.


A person is trapped within addiction and most of the time has no idea how to get out of the trap. The ways out of addiction necessarily involve far-reaching psychological and lifestyle changes. To implement these changes the addict needs to find discipline as well as endurance, acceptance, and structure. It is just plain hard to do this sort of work consistently without first making the fundamental shifts in thinking and feeling discussed above.

AA facilitates these shifts in thinking away from control and domination and towards acceptance of limitations and inter-dependence by making it the central and crucial point of their program.

Some Cool Things To Know About AA:

Group therapy

  • AA is free.
  • AA is available near your home. Maybe even within walking distance!
  • AA is available every day - several times per day in most cities.
  • AA wants to support you and sponsor you.
  • AA will be there for you if you are there for AA.
  • AA sponsors have been there and know exactly where you are at.
  • AA works for many people (if you give it half a chance and don't fight it too much).
  • AA points to the way out of a life of shame by insisting that you accept yourself in increasingly deeper ways.

I'm not the originator of these ideas - Just a messenger. To the extent that I've managed to do them justice, I am grateful. These ideas are due to a (now dead) Ph.D. type by the name of Gregory Bateson who wrote them down some 30 years ago in an article called "The Cybernetics of Self: A Theory of Alcoholism". This article remains the clearest secular translation of AA's ideas I've ever seen. It is a difficult read as it is aimed at an intellectual audience - but I recommend reading heartily to any interested parties. The article is available within a book of Dr. Bateson's collected works titled "Steps to an Ecology of Mind" which can be found in most libraries (or purchased for under $15 USD). I have not found the article to be available on the web.

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Dombeck, M.J. (Feb 2000). AA is to Shame as a Hot Knife is to Butter [Online].

  • Anonymous-1

    AA is a cult, that bent my head. Its now unbending again. Research suggests you can quite anyway you like AA says you have to get humble before God, destroy your ego, and loose your reasoning skills. AA is for tragic cases in which people are really, really messed up through drinking. For mild cases it is a violation of human rights.

  • James G

    The previous poster summed it up pretty well. AA - The war on self. I think it's a shame more 'outsiders' can't see this. What is the fear? It is the very fear AA instills in all of us to drink is to die. If we believe that then no one wants to challenge AA because it claims to be the only solution to a problem it created powerlessness. If AA is so bent on God, where is their notion of the free will He gave us at birth? AA says you have a choice, but if you don't do it their way they are quick to remind you, you will drink and if you drink you will die. My fundamental objection is not with the AA program, but rather with its belief that it is the only way in which to recover.

  • Anonymous-2

    This author of the article does not mention how aa professes that if you leave you will die drunk or go insane (seriously - i went there for 4 years and worked the 12 steps), that you cannot trust your own thinking and you are morally deficient without AA, and how it instills phobias in people. Treating people with 1930's quack medicine is ridiculous given the advances that clinical psycholgy has nmmade in the past 30 years - AA is a dangerous organisation that has the potential to kill more than it cures. there are many healthier empowering and rational alternatives

    Author's Response: AA has many individual chapters, an emphasis on peer support (where peers themselves may have problematic judgement issues) and only weak central authority to keep each chapter on track. Some chapters are going to be more useful to their participants than others, under the circumstances. Despite the flaws that AA programs will inevitably possess, it is still a highly useful and more importantly - easily accessable and free - program for alcoholics looking for good recovery options.

  • Anonymous-3

    My experience with AA spans six years. Originally I was coerced via inpatient treatment for dual diagnosis(alcohol and depression). I do not use the term coerced lightly, as you well know there are virtually no inpatient alternatives and the absolute reality was I needed inpatient. Prior to even attending my first meeting, I had read most of the negative literature and I truly believe that is what saved me inside AA. Theories are wonderful and what you have outlined sounds particularly rosey and enlightening. but your theories are not practised in AA. Abuse and exploitation are truly the norm. Whether it is subtle or blatant ..it is certainly widespread. I have had this conversation with several addiction professionals who are either 12 steppers themselves or theorists. To the former there is really nothing I can say, if it worked for them it must work for me, to the later... I simply say "You need to go to more meetings."

  • Adam

    Wow, this site is great for drawing out people who hate AA! If only they would focus their anger on something truly dangerous, maybe the world would become a safer place. Every person at an AA meeting is entitled to express their opinion exactly as they see it, no matter how short-sighted, dull-witted, or brilliant it may be. Those with very good sobriety can cut right through the obfuscation of those who lack it, and the latter don't like it. In particular, those who don't perceive themselves to have a drinking problem--typically those who have been forced to attend AA by the courts, a la the respondents below--probably feel that these opinions sometimes seem pointed right at them. I heard just such a statement made just last night, directed at a guy in the meeting who smelled like a brewery: "These newbies think they can fool us about their programs, but the only ones they fool are themselves." But instead of building up such a big resentment toward AA, how 'bout going to a different meeting? Or finding a different sponsor? Or really working the steps? These are pretty easy ways to develop a sense of ease and comfort in the Program of Recovery. On the other hand, if you just cannot accept the notion of personal surrender, then perhaps you can fix all your problems yourself, so you don't need AA. Then move on! Get a life! Stop bashing a program that you obviously don't understand at all!

  • Anonymous-4

    Where to start? I am sorry to the writers who had such bad experiences with AA. I hope you have found something that truly works for you . My first impulse is to respond to the cult designation. Just as I was going to start, I thought I should check the definition of a cult. I knew what I thought a cult was, but I actually didn't know the definition of a cult. After reading the six definitions of a cult from the American Heritage Dictionary I found out to my surprise that AA is indeed a cult. So are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and pretty much every religion. The list also includes Atheism, Agnosticism, sports fans, celebrity fans, political parties, fishermen, hunters, vegetarianism, etc. If you are a human being, you are part of many cults. The definition of cult is so broad that almost any form of group or belief can be seen as being a cult. However, I think (actually I am assuming) that the writer was using cult as in People’s Temple, Heaven’s Gate, the Moonies, etc. All I have to say is that you are lucky that someone rescued you from AA and deprogrammed you. Or perhaps you just decided to stop going. If you did, did AA members come to try to drag you back? No? Well I think that for most of us, that could be seen as very non-cultish. I congratulate you on staying sober on your own or by taking advantage of a program that actually works for you. The thing about AA is that people are free to come and go as they please. If they don’t like what they hear they can leave and not come back. I am sorry that one writer was coerced to attend. AA as an organization actually opposes mandated attendance by any outside organization (including the court system). That principle is stated in our sixth tradition “An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.” It is also stated in a more direct way in our preamble that is read at the beginning of AA meetings: “AA is not allied with any sect, politics, organization, or institution:….”. So for those who are court mandated, or required by an outside treatment program to attend, I am sorry but it is not AA’s fault. We really don’t want you in AA if you don’t want to be in AA. If you find another way to not drink, great! Good luck and have a happy life. I agree that the assumption that AA is the only way to get sober and stay sober is a prevalent belief of many AA members. The truth is that it is the only way we got sober. The problem stems from the fact that people who get sober by other means more than likely won’t be attending AA meetings, so we don’t know who they are or how they got sober. What we do see is that some people who show up have tried other methods to no success so they try AA. As for the whole fear thing i.e. “to drink is to die”. If people did not die from alcohol consumption, there would not be any fear. The probability of death from alcohol goes up with greater consumption and most alcoholics are defined by their high rate of consumption. So I think it is reasonable to connect drinking and dying for alcoholics. Besides a healthy fear of something dangerous is good. Most people do not drive at 100 mph simply because they know that “speed kills” and they really don’t want to take the chance of dying. So for those who don’t like the “to drink is to die” fear and you believe that AA is just blowing it out of proportion, ignore it. Drink as much as you want, safe in the knowledge that it really won’t kill you. If you do believe it, heed the warning. By now, anyone reading this will have surmised that I am a member of AA. I have a little over 10 years sobriety. I attend because it works for me. Also, for the sake of clarity, the above comments, remarks, etc. are my own. I have tried to represent AA principles and beliefs as I see them. That last bit is important, As I See Them. Like it, don’t like it. Believe it don’t believe it. Agree with me, don’t agree with me. It is your choice. Live your life the way you want. Just don’t complain about the consequences.

  • Brian

    Very good explanation of AA and its approach to shame. I would add that many of us alcoholics (recovering or not) tend to see ourselves at times as very special people, and at other times as worms. AA gave me the tools I needed to live in the middle of those two extremes, where I belong. I am astounded at some of the writings I see that accuse AA of inducing shame. If we work the steps, we will have to face our character defects square in the face, and that can be uncomfortable or even terrifying. The other side of this coin is that we learn to forgive ourselves and make amends for any damage we have wrought. This first part was difficult for me. Who am I to forgive myself for the things I've done to others and myself? As some friends in AA bluntly asked me early in my sobriety, "Who are you NOT to forgive yourself?" That question set me back on my heels. Part of my problem was that I had a tendency to see myself as lord of my own little universe. When the world behaved in accordance with my desires, I could see what a great manager of people I was. When events went against me, likewise I thought that I was mainly to blame for not being smart enough, fast enough, handsome enough, gracious enough.... The truth was, and is, that I have much less control over my life than I had thought. I had read and tried to practice the principles of some of the most famous self-help gurus - Napolean Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Dale Carnegie, and others. It never gave me what I really wanted - peace of mind. Learning to forgive myself and to understand that I am not the Alpha and Omega was an essential beginning. I would suggest that those who think AA induces self-deprecation and shame have misunderstood or been misled. One correction to the article should be made. Alcoholics Anonymous does not insist that members remain anonymous at meetings, but only at the level of press, radio and film. On the contrary, Dr. Bob, one of the founders, used to say that it was just as wrong to keep your anonymity at the local level as it was to break it at the level of press, radio and film. If our immediate community doesn't know who we are and how we got well, others may be deprived of the opportunity to learn more. The level of anonymity remains a personal choice, but the habit of keeping anonymity at meetings is something that I see as an unfortunate interior cultural development. Hope this was helpful.

  • mel

    i live with an alcoholic and he is at rehab at the moment, he is in rehab because the alcohol is killing him and so yes if you are an alcoholic then you will eventually die. weather it be from drink driving, alcohol itself suiside, and so it goes on, and what you leave behind will be heart ache and pain for your family members.

  • Anonymous-5

    those in fellowships of the twelve step kind need to be carefull with your fourth and fith step giving to much info to the wrong person will put you in prison also there are a large number of police informers in the fellowships.

  • L.N.S.

    The worst experience of my entire life was attending A.A. , I thought I had found a fellowship of like minded people who were interested in being sober and helping one another . Boy, was I wrong !!! This may sound fantastic but before God in heaven every word is true . First on pretense of attending meetings I was lured out of my apartment , which was entered without permission and a camera and mic were hidden in my living room and bed room . I eventually found them and they are in my possession . Second I was leary of showing my 4th step to certain people in the program and said so . Unknown members entered my home , again without permission and STOLE my 4th step journal and made it PUBLIC ! My neighbors , church and parents were given copies . What I found in A.A. were the most sad , low down , underhanded , pathetic group of losers I'v ever encountered . Criminals pure and simple . I would'nt go to an A.A. meeting now for a one hundred dollar bill. Here, 2 years later I'm still suffering from my brief encounter with this program . My advice ? Run , run like Satan himself is after you and don't look back ! Try PROFESSIONAL help , they are held to certain standards of conduct by law. DON'T TRUST A.A. !!!!!!!

  • martin k. kelly

    A.A. is full of people who, like me, solved their drinking problem...many of these people are very good and are willing and able to help someone who also wants to stop drinking...unfortunately A.A. is also full of non-alcoholic drug addicts, just plain criminals, psychopaths, etc.s who have been sent to meetings by courts or mental health programs...many of these 'involuntary attendees (wow! i just created a mental health label!!) do not want to be there and the only changes they want to make are to dollar bills or their clothing...so naturally A.A. is going to appear to be an ineffective waste of time if you blunder into a meeting full of people like that...all i can say is that A.A. has a concentration of very troubled people in its meetings...if you go, go to stop drinking and use every other tool at your disposal (priests, mental health experts, etc.) to round out your program

  • michael walton

    I have been abstinent for over 5 years and attended A.A. regularly for over 4 years.
    However, after two years in A.A. i grew increasingly uncomfortable with the views which are prevelant in the A.A. programme. These views also contradict many of the basic approaches to working with individuals, in the psychotherapuetic framework.
    My training and work in the counselling field and my own experience within A.A. has motivated me to become more active in challenging the views which are expressed in the above article.
    Mr Dombeck opines that alcoholics can 'find self-worth in your recognition of the higher purpose of fellowship"When I read this comment I felt quite angry, because I have left A.A in order to become a fully-functioning human being, not afriad to use MY WILLPOWER in my life....
    I want Mr Dombeck to know that I do not find my self-worth in submitting to a programme which seeks that the individual hands over their 'will and life' on a daily basis to a higher power.
    I am now recovering from treatment for bone cancer. I was determined to start University in Septmeber, and I used my willpower and determination to do this, yet to express determination at exerting control over ones own life is mostly viewd negatively in AA.
    It was following my diagnosis of bone cancer that I became more determined to live my life in the way in which I see fit, rather than complying to the A.A. 12 step way of life, which I feel segregates me from the world at large.
    THis goes very much against the grain of the A.A fellowship which suggests that our WHOLE LIVES are handed over either to the Higher Power or the Group, that we are powerless over 'people, places and things'.
    Mr Dombeck speaks of the  first three steps, but there are 12 steps to alcoholics anonymous, which the programme strongly suggests should adhered to.
    THese include step 11- 'Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowldege of his will for us and the power to carry that out.'
    It seems to me then, that I may come into A.A for help with alcoholism, yet am being involved in an intensely spiritual (I would say religious) programme.
    It is very difficult to adhere to a programme which was formed from a religious organisation (The Oxford Group), if one has a distain towards religous or spiritual matters.
    Yet, the A,A. member is asked to repress their own beliefs and values in order to conform to a set of beliefs which are represented in the A.A. programme.
    This is confirmed by the fact that the majority of meetings in the U.S.A. close with the 'Lords Prayer', the Utopic Christian Prayer!ANd its not religious.....! 
    Thankfully, at least, here in London, this is not the case....Another major area of concern for me is the absence of the therapeutic  notion of 'containment' involved in the step work, especially step 4.
    Having experienced a severely abusive childhood, I felt re-traumatised whilst undergoing the step work, findling little appreciation and acceptance in A.A. for the way I truly felt about the perpetrators of the abuse.
    THe 'big book' continually refers to the alcoholic as being the one who is at fault, despite evidence to the contrary.
    For example, the alchoholic is not allowed to present themselves as people who were innocent in cases of abuse... and a good person, in general...'Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? ' (big book p61) and 'So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making,' (big book P63)
    Many people who become alcoholic have a history of sexual abuse, and have experienced traumatic childhoods, and already carry within themselves the unconscious (or conscious) belief that they were at fault even though they were not.
    Even in cases where severe abuse is prevelant, the A.A. member is asked to find their fault,,e.g. big book page 67- "Putting aside the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishones, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame?the inventory was ours, not the other man's'
    This goes very much against the grain of most counselling, psychotherapeutic principles, in which the therapist tries to create the conditions necessary whereby the client can express their true feelings and experiences in the broadest possible sense, and these are accepted without judgment, 'fed' back to the client in more 'digestible forms' .
    A.A instead seeks a very one -sided acknowlegment if the alcoholics life, and an expression of being innocent, and not at fault, or somehow not playing a vital role in the abuse which they suffered in a situation is a position which is very frowned upon.
    And all this helps the alcoholic find 'self-worth'?!!
    I could further express my concerns regarding the A.A programme, but it has already taken up too much of my life, and since my recovery from cancer, I have decided to take life back into my own hands and live my truth rather than a warped philosphy as presented within A.A.
    It is not uncommon for the alcoholic to internalise these self-negating views on themselves, because this, paradoxically has the effect of creating an acceptance within the A.A. group as a whole.
    THis relates to the Rogerian principles of "conditions of worth', whereby a person will introject the beliefs of those around them in order to gain acceptance and approval.
    This paradox continues with the process which involves the newcomer, in A.A, finding that although their beliefs about themselves were really true- they were at fault, and they are not able to control their lives and are not really 'like other poeple' these admissions are celebrated, and they are then welcomed with open arms into the fellowship, finally having realised that they can not do it alone, and must forever dependon A.A and the 12 steps... 

  • June R.

    My gratitude for my AA fellowship grows as I read more negative experiences. And this is helping me better describe my own "step work" as I have been guided by other AAs (with whom I choose to associate.) This helps me understand what mistakes are being made so that I do not make the same when I sincerely try to help another person get and stay sober.

    My 4th step work started with a list of people in my life, now and in the past. I wrote out any resentments that I
    had against them AND what they had done (exactly as in the Big Book on page 65). Then I identified what I felt and
    why I felt it. I did notice many items in my own inventory prior to my "age of accountability". And I also noticed
    that many of the items were explicit wrongs done TO me, without any provocation or deserving on my part. The part I played was "nothing".

    But I had to ask myself, "If I had no part in it, why did it still impact my life and emotions?" My part in the matter was that I was not working toward letting go of the resentment - be it fear-based or ego-based or whatever.

    The Big Book of AA addresses this very distinctly beginning at the bottom of page 65: "The first thing apparent was
    that this world and its people were often quite wrong." (...even people in AA.) Ya'll can read the rest for yourselves. It very much disproves practically all arguments that AA encourages only self fault-finding. But self-examination (the same as practiced in the medical/professional counseling) helps us first identify what "it" is and how "it" got there... NOT how we can change the past or keep others from wronging us in the future (over that, we are powerless).

    My sponsor also had me include positive character traits in my inventory. And we discussed how a positive trait can
    turn "negative" when taken to an extreme... the same as a "negative" trait can be turned positive by my using it
    beneficially. For examples, I am very responsible... that's a good thing. However, I often take on too much and I
    have had to learn to say "no" more often because some things are not my responsibility (a positive turns into a
    negative by misuse - intincts run rampant.) In the same vein, anger is frowned upon as a "negative", so is "pain". But when I use both of these "negative" emotions to drive positive change, a "negative" turns into a "positive".

    None of us are perfect. And many of us are less "imperfect" that those we mention in our AA 4th step, but we're not
    responsible for them, only ourselves. I kept most of my 4th step details to myself although I told my sponsor examples when I needed help getting clarification. Because in the 5th step, it says "(We admitted...) the exact NATURE of our wrongs." The nature of my wrongs were the categories that repeatedly affected my emotional state. And if I am to heal from those things I've done (or have been done to me), it helps me to know why I do some of the things I do and why I hold onto some of the things that I really want to heal from. And as I encounter more and more people in AA who are also in counseling, I turn them to that resource for additional help above and beyond that which I can give... My only job when I hear someone's fifth step is to listen and be ultimately trust-worthy. On page 74 in the BBoAA, it specifically talks about "who" should we disclose our 5th step to. It includes:

    "Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be the person."

    I can not emphasize enough (for those open to AA) to read the Big Book of Alchololics Anonymous for yourself. It is not until Steps 8 and 9 that we start looking at our list with an eye to what amends that we owe. Sometimes our only amends to someone is to forgive them and heal ourselves.

    I also admit that the wordings in AA literature sound very exclusive to Christian beliefs. But I have witnessed many
    people adjust the wording to suit their own beliefs. I've heard a single voice pray their own "Lord's Prayer" in
    unison with the group starting with their own words, "Our Mother/Father, Who are everywhere..." and have recently found a Wicca-flavored AA 12-step for a young woman in our group (http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=uswa&c=words&id=8498). I'm sorry that I have no direct knowledge of how an Atheist may approach sprirituality except that I am a very practical person... that my manner of living is the most effective way I express what I call sprirituality. When I treat others the way I would like to be treated, then I feel connected with what I CAN directly experience... and that works for me especially at those times when I can not feel my faith in God.

    I'm not really trying to sway anyone back to AA, nor am I convinced that everyone who goes to AA will find what I
    have found. But I hope that anyone having had a negative experience in AA can find some gentleness and encouragement in my responses to rewrite your negative AA experience into positive growth for your future healing. And know that the experience you've shared has not fallen on deaf ears (...or eyes as the case may be).

  • michael walton

    'June R' I read your response with interest...
    It seems to point to some of the positive experiences that some people can have with the programme, yet it does not address the main aspects of my concern regarding A.A.
    A.A. does not say that sometimes your will power is good/bad, sometimes self-belief is good/bad.. it 'suggests' that you must NOT run your life on self-will alone.(I wonder what/who else takes chrage then since I doubt in the existsnce of a higher being??)
    A.A. states clearly that one must hand over their will and life to a 'higher power' on a daily basis, most people say the alcoholic needs to get on their needs to do this.
    I must ask, since I believe that I am responsible for my actions, and I alone, then I do not consider it either sensible or good for my self-growth to turn my will over to anything. 
    I take full responsibility for my actions, and I actually take pride in getting up in the morning and affirming that I CAN live responsibly and exercise my will power in doing so.
    Am I not to be afforded the same luxury as other people who do not have alcohol related problems?Can I not chose to live with the BASIC human right to run my life in the way I see fit,using my own inner resources, to know that I am a human being who sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds?
    A.A. teaches me that my whole LIFE has to be handed over to a higher power, and that I am not fit to live like other people, because I am diseased and will forever be diseased...
    I once horrified people in an A.A. meeting by talking about my determination to NOT ask for Gods will in my life and to recover from cancer and start university regardless .. and I was succesfull at doing so... I take pride in my achievements in my life... they were achieved from hard work and determination.
    The majority of people in A.A. would attribute their success either to A.A. or to the higher power.I at least have the comfort of knowing that my successes and failings are mostly of my own creation...
    I realised that if I was to become a self-reliant and evolvoing person, in my own right with my own values and beliefs then A.A was not the place for me... 

  • cade dubois

    I hear all this garbage about "aa" teaches me responsibility but I disagree. I left the program 10 years ago after being told my psychiatric medicine was truly drugs and that in order to be sober I had to get off of them. At the time I was a people pleaser and did just that. I lost my wife, landed in jail, and than went to a psychiatic hospital where they tried to place me in a group home while AA - the advise giver had to take 0% of the responsibility for the advise they gave. AA told my biological mother to have nothing to do with me because of the manipulation they do on your self esteem like the program was the mooneys or something. When I was eighteen I was going around with the wrong diagnoses and that is why I was having problems not because I was into pot and alcohol. I took charge for the first time after I saw the lie that AA really was......I got a good doctor and a good psycholigist who said that AA was pseudoscience. I was rediagnosed and now I take the right medicines I am happily married to another mentally ill person and I have allot of friends

    My ending comment is I think AA should have to deal with law suits for such advise and it is a dangrous program if you have psychological programs.

    on my medicines I also finished a bacholors and masters degree..........if you are mentally ill stear clear of AA

  • sawk

    With positive or negative comments given of A.A. there must be some experience with the program and thus troubles in our emotional lives. Honesty with myself is key now and I hope all posters truely feel honest with their comments for the benefit of the future readers.

  • Mary

    A.A. destroyed my relationship with my fiance. He had been in A.A. for 17 years when I met him. I am not an alcoholic and had very little dealings with A.A. I falsely believed it was a good group that helped people get clean and sober. I didn't realize it was a cult that took over people's lives and souls. As our relationship got more and more serious I realized there was absolutely nothing about this man that wasn't intricately tied to A.A. He went to meetings almost every single day. Nothing I said mattered. If we had a fight, instead of discussing our issue with me he would discuss it in his A.A. meeting. If we had to do something, anything, he'd have to discuss it with his sponsor and would actually do what his sponsor suggested rather than what we agreed on together. (I didn't even know his sponsor, but somehow his sponsor was able to give him advice on our relationship!) He destroyed his relationship with his children and then was told he had to "detach with love". The man had never learned how to attached WITH love. He was constantly the "main attraction" at A.A. meetings talking about his life. Everyone thought he was Mr. Super A.A. Man. He tried to get me to go to Al-Anon meetings, I tried a few but had no interest in joining the alcoholic mind-set and culture, particularly when people at al-anon started to refer to their spouse as "my alcoholic" NOT my spouse who is an alcoholic. People in A.A. have to be alcoholics. Their identities becomes so wrapped up in A.A. they cannot be a person inflicted with alcholism they must be an alcoholic. He couldn't be my fiance who was an alcoholic, he had to be an alcoholic who was my fiance. Being an alcoholic is all consuming. All his friends were people involved in A.A. All his social events were directly tied to A.A. They have no idea who they are or what they feel if they couldn't identify themselves as alcoholics. He thought all our problems were from the fact that I did not want to "work the steps". I think it is sad an abnormal that a person thinks that allowing A.A. to consume his life is a rich and fulfilling life rather than living a life with a person who loves him and wants to build a relationship, independent of A.A. I had two choice: I had to join al-anon, get a sponsor and become part of the A.A. culture or we had to split. I'm sure he is at an A.A. meeting right now. Maybe he'll meet a woman there. Then they can be alcholics together, tell each other how great they are to be alcoholics, go to A.A. meetings, go to A.A. parties, voluteer for positions in the A.A. meetings, go to A.A. retreats...and guess where they will vacation? To the Wilson House in Vermont, of course! Heck, I just wanted to go to Florida for a change.

  • Al

    I have been attending AA meetings since my release from an inpatient treatment center for alcohol I still attend an outpatient program Monday - Thursday. According to the counselors at the treatment center, I was in a denial about my alcoholism. They gave me an array of worksheets to fill out. I did my work as instructed. Upon finishing all the work I began to believe that I too was an alcoholic. Not a person that was abusing the drug with bad cooping skills. I began to believe that I was in complete denial about my problem. I also started to believe that alcohol is a disease. The first day out of inpatient I attended three AA meetings- 'The Fellowship'. On the surface it seemed like a good concept: People sharing their strength, hope, and experience. I am considered what the Fellowship defines as a 'Newbie'. Newbie participants are shunned when they speak, must show that they 'earned' a seat in the program, and must purchase a copy of the 'Big Book'. While attending the inpatient treatment I read a few chapters of the 'Big Book', especially chapter four. I am a religious person. I am a devote Roman Catholic, and I sometimes attend Mass four-five times a week. I don't share that aspect of my life with many people: To each their own. I got a copy of the 'Big Book', a sponsor, and a home group as instructed by the members of the organization. I've done my 90-in-90 [90 meetings in 90 days] probably in these two months since my release date. Over the past week I am experiencing a hard time falling for the fellowship. I was instructed today that I must unlearn my God, and accept my spirituality. Spirituality is supposedly within, and religion is out there. As to where, I don't know... When I rebutted to the woman that stated the comment to me she attempted to make us seem equal by stating that one time in her life she was Catholic. Most people don't like to feel different than their fellow man: I have a high self-esteem and I don't have to feel like I need to belong. I stated that I believe that AA is brainwashing people. The rebuttal: "Perhaps your mind does need a washing then." Rubbish! Every part of the process seems cult-like to me. I know plenty of things in life are considered a cult- good and bad however, I think that AA takes on the roll of bad. They strip away your individuality with the common phrase: "Hi, my name is [insert name here] and I'm an alcoholic." They tell you to not get involved with relationships, to change people, places, and things. You are to follow what your sponsor tells you to do. Oh, and my favorite line, "read it, it's in the Big Book on page so-and-so." I feel that the Big Book is attempting to replace the Good Book. I stated in a meeting that I had a hard time with the religious aspect of the program. Once again the elders of the tribe told me that it was a spiritual program. If it was such a spiritual program, why then do we open and close the meeting with a prayer? Why can't we just say Gooble D. Gook? I tested this at the end of one meeting by reciting the Lord's Prayer in Latin. Many of the participants looked at me as if the devil stands amongst them. I am also told that I can make AA my 'Higher Power'. That the 'Higher Power' concept can be anything. Good luck on finding someone that has a 'Higher Power' other than God.

    Since being out of the inpatient I will continue to keep up appearances because of the outpatient treatment I currently attend on the other hand, I feel that there are better methods of treatment out there for individuals to each their own. I don't think that I need the program. I am content with being a 'dry drunk'. I am only sharing with 'We' my strength, hope, and experience!

  • Anonymous-6

    Thank you Dr. Brombeck for reminding me what's really going on when SHAME rears its ugly head. I've been sober and attending AA meetings for 4 years now, and of course, I often "get mad" at AA and blame the entire organization for feelings that I'm feeing. It's so much easier than realizing that the shame game is one I've been playing since childhood, not since my association with AA. It's just that now I'm not able to hide behind the numbing affect of alcohol. It's natural and normal for a person with history of hating all powers greater than myself (which is anyone not "me" when one is living a shame-based life) to lash out at AA or any institution when feelings get difficult to feel. AA has really helped through my journey into self-love. I feel I should remind those who attend meeings and claim to have been harmed by the advice from others no one attending meetings represents AA. People despensing specific unsolicited advice are simply doing what humans do, making assumptions, and possibly invading the personal space of others inappropriately. It happens all of the time. Ironically, AA has helped my realize what is happening when that happens and to regard "advice" as simply that. No one is making you do anything but you.

  • AAmic

    Interesting, note the tone of the letters from the "AA is bad" posts and the posts from people who got sober in AA and have stayed that way. One is full of anger and resentment and the other, pro AA, are full of understanding, are content, and even happy the AA haters have found a program that will keep them sober and clean. Notice that some of these anti AA posts do not say they are actually clean and sober, just that they are out of rehab or quit AA.

    To the shrink that quite AA. Many, many people have had BAD experiences with therapists. The two I worked with were arrogant, prideful, inconsiderate, judgmental, and money grubbing. One girl I know fire her shrink because he made a pass at her. To the person that survived cancer and went back to school. Good for you! You should thank the doctors and nurses that treated you. Thank the research scientists that invented the treatments, and friends and family that prayed for your recovery. Dont thank your monumental EGO. By the way plenty of AAs have retuned to school or finished their schooling after getting sober in AA. You are not unique.

  • JR

    AA may well be beneficial for people who are capable of taking the "Step" of accepting submission to a particular type of quasi-religious programme (based primarily on the old "Oxford Groups/Moral Rearmament" model), and the concepts of "God" and "Sin" contained therein. AA - at least in the form of "AA Light" (i.e. less Buchmanite groups) may provide useful social support for people suffering from a complaint that is generally viewed by those not suffering from it as shameful and, indeed, as a source of fear (to this extent I agree with the head article). AA (even "AA Light" may be unhelpful or even dangerous for people coming into it with religious or moral principles that are in conflict with those claiming a direct line to Bill Wilson's "God of the Preachers".

    In view of the peculiar tenets of the bargain-basement Buchmanism espoused by Bill and Dr. Bob, this latter group would appear to include most conventional Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, (arguably) Hindus, and other faiths besides, as well as agnostics and atheists. The problem with the presentation of "God as we understand Him" and "Higher Power" that appears to be accepted in the head article is that it must either be mistaken, uninformed, or disingenuous - I cannot say which. My own understanding, based on close reading of the "Big Book" and other AA "approved" literature, as well as attendance at many meetings, is that this "Higher Power" business is clearly a trick, designed to allow the "newbee" to be led towards acceptance of a "God as we understand Him" who is actually capable of removing one's defects of character, among other things. This must be a particular type of supernatural being doorknobs, Harleys, "Groups of Drunks" and other deluded expressions of a "Higher Power" are presented to AA newbees as acceptable are simply not capable of bringing off the magic tricks required. These are merely "steps", drawing the confused, doubting newbee along the road to what is described in the Big Book as "One who has all power, that One is [Bill Wilson's] God. May you find Him now!" Does this sound like a doorknob? Or a "Group of Drunks"? I think not.

    I do not believe that it is too extreme to describe the AA approach (particularly in the "True Believer" form) as dangerous to many people. There is a danger that encouraging, or forcing sick (or at least unwell) people to swim against their principles in the direction of Bill's God may in some cases succeed but, equally, can and clearly often does result at a later stage in a collision between deeply held beliefs (or non-beliefs) and the peculiar AA quasi-religious (well, really religious) view of the world. Even with the help of "approved literature", sponsors et cetera, it may not be possible for a person to bury their true convictions in favour of the AA version of reality. In this case, should the postulant's faith in the AA approach collapse, there must be a real danger of a further lapse into despair, depression and drinking. I say "must" because I know. I was very much there. But I got over it. Thank God, but not as Bill understood Him.

    And all that, of course, leaves aside the question of just how moral it is to subvert the religious (or indeed irreligious) convictions of sick and confused people under the cover of a purported programme to address their alcoholism.

    I am not going to say to anybody who can accept the particular quasi-religious (well, really, just plain religious) approach of AA, and who think they find it helpful, that they should reject AA. However, the question of personal AA acceptance should always be approached thoughtfully, with an open mind. Nobody should allow themselves to be drawn further along the "Stepping Stones" (Steps, sponsors, practices) than is consistent with their own religious and/or ethical and/or moral convictions or, indeed, their instinct for self-preservation - little good can be expected from this.

    Finally, it remains a disappointment that so many mental health clinicians and auxiliary therapists and practitioners (aside from those "counsellors" whose only qualification is to be an alcoholic allegedly recovering with AA) can continue to boost AA as a "one size fits all" formula to address alcoholism, given the heterogeneous range of the convictions of the target group. And this, before we even get to the complete absence of hard statistical (as distinct from hazy observational and anecdotal) evidence that the AA approach actually delivers on its alleged promise to relieve alcoholism.

  • michael walton

    This is a comment that was posted by AAmick on November 30th and to which I now respond-

    To the person that survived cancer and went back to school. Good for you! You should thank the doctors and nurses that treated you. Thank the research scientists that invented the treatments, and friends and family that prayed for your recovery. Dont thank your monumental EGO. By the way plenty of AAs have retuned to school or finished their schooling after getting sober in AA. You are not unique.

    This was in response to an earlier post made by myself in which I quite clearly stated that I had decided that if I was to survive the cancer I had, that I was going to have to tap into my strength and determination - my willpower to overcome the obstacles which stood in my way.

    I wanted to contrast this with the philosophy which seemed to me, to underpin the A.A view that we must never look to ourselves to find our resources, that this is only found outside of ourselves, e.g in the '12 steps', in sponsors, in meetings and in AA approved literature.

    The comment which AAmick posted that I should not thank my 'monumental ego' further consolidates my argument that people who are compliant with AA ideology attack those who talk of finding inner strength and independence.

    As I read his post, I felt that I was attacked for having said that I had to 'find my own resources'- for anyone whos interested please see my post - May 2007.

    It was actually friends and family who continually reminded me that I had to be determined and positive to get through the very difficult time which I endured.

    I simply stated how my time in AA was experienced as focused only on finding strength outside of myself rather than within.

    The comment by AAmick is typical of the AA mentality.

    His further comment -telling me that I should thank the doctors is a bit 'below the belt' - I think and I do consider this as a very ignorant comment, and one which is particularly poignant considering the extremities of hardship which I endured during this time and the very grateful thanks which I gave to ALL of the people involved in my treatment during this time.

    There were 17 people, who I knew by name, who were involved in my cancer treatment.

    I was in hospital for 57 days. I had the whole of my upper pallet, and all the teeth, and gums in the upper jaw, and four lumph glands removed to treat a tumour of the bone- 'chondrosarcoma'.

    Bone and tissue was taken from my leg to construct a new pallet.

    I was physically unable to walk , or to eat or drink anything for around 2 months, during which time I was fed through a tube in my stomach and for around 3 three weeks was wired to a morphine drip.

    In all of this, despite the wonderful help which I gratefully received, It was a task for me in self-determination. I was not going to let go of my goals . I had to leave behind what, for AA represented to me- which was the philosophy of not using ones will power in ones life.

    When I was able, I went back to the hospital and hand delivered a letter to each individual who I was aware that had helped me during this time.

    It is interesting to note how AAmick assumed that one cannot have a healthly pride in oneself and also an appreciation in others.

    When I read his post, the lack of understanding and the hostility which seemed to permeate it reminded me of why I have left AA.

    AA is not a place to challenge, and to question, to have individual thought.

    The person who has posted this has made some quite cutting comments about me, even to the point of criticising me and how I have responded to those who have helped me during my cancer treatment.Yet I find it difficult to by equally hostile in return.

    Perhaps this is because I know a little about the dysfunctional mentality and conformity which motivated those comments.

  • Ray Smith

    People in AA claim that the program is spiritual not religious and that people can use whatever god or even "Good Old Drunks" (as the doctor suggests) to work the program of AA. As an atheist who attempted to work the program several times over a 20 year period, I firmly disagree.

    Unless you are an atheist, do not presume to tell me how atheists are treated. Would you tell a woman or a black person who has experienced hatred and bigotry that what they have experienced did not happen, that it was all in their head, that they must be mistaken, or to try a different meeting?

    AA broke off from the Oxford Group, a Christian sect how could it not be religious? God or Higher Power are mention throughout the Steps, the Big Book, and the meetings. They open and close with religious prayers. How can you pretend that this is not religious?

    Every time the question of AA has come before a higher court, the result has been the same: With the recent ruling in the Ninth Federal Court District, there are now 16 states where AA has been deemed at least "religious in nature", where mandated attendance is seen as a violation of the Establish Clause.

    Maybe, just maybe, I could let go of the religious nature of AA if they hadn't been so cruel and judgmental or maybe I'd let it go if AA actually worked or its supporters didn't lie about its success rate. But I don't like how AA treats new members, how it treats folks on medication and/or in therapy, those of different or no religion, or how it offers faith healing as the most advanced method of arresting alcoholism.

    Some will dismiss this as angry, as if angry is something to be ashamed of. It is only those in the program that aren't allowed to have strong, healthy emotions, and the proper emotion after abuse is anger. If it were just me, I'd let it go. But I can't. I'm a mental health care worker, there's about a 50% overlap in treatment I don't want to see the kind of abuse I managed being given to my clients.

  • meredith

    i agree w/ ray's views about aa being more religious oriented than spiritual having had parallel experiences attending aa meetings. I'm one of those new comers he's referring to who have been intimidated by the overwhelming numbers of aa members who not only are religiously fanatical but quite dogmatic about their beliefs. The whole" god of your understanding" , the "you can choose your coat hanger as your higher power", and this is a spiritual program are smoke and mirrors to the new comer so that they can eventually reel you in before unmasking their true colors.

    I've been to several aa meetings where a member has made a point of commenting on agnostics and how unfortunate they are. I took real offense to this, not because i'm agnostic but because truly spiritual people would never utter such things. I'm not opposed to the religious flavor of the program as much as i am opposed to their small mindedness and discriminatory mentality which to me is the antithesis of true spirituality. I came to observe that aa members have a certain plasticity to them, an overt fakeness if you will that emanates from people who don't really believe in what they think they're supposed to believe. They're full of self-doubt and it shows clearly in the way they interact w/one another and w/relations to themselves. (just an observation). There comments are all recyled....a great variety of people w/identical comments. Very rarely did i hear original thought...right from the gut. It's as if they were robots or had all recieved lobotomys. When i heard that repetitive "addiction diction" at every single meeting i couldn't help to think that this was simply brainwashing. I didn't buy it for a minute. And as far as the abuse....I witnessed it at every meeting. Young boys would come in and all say"my sponsor told me i know nothin, and w/ that i'll keep coming back". I thought to myself how is that supposed to keep them sober? Their self-esteem is already at an all time low, and their sponsors will continue to chip away at it some more by telling them "they know nothin". I can go on and on but I'll leave that for another time.

  • Stepped ON Tim

    I have lost the Love of my life, not to alcohol, but to the social sex triangles of the operations of AA.

    I can't be alone in the losing of my entire life because of the ways senior sober alcoholics play on newcomers. In this case I think it is particularly egregious because the offender is the current Chairman of the Club and my love has only been sober for 6 mos and he has 20 years. There has to be more people like me out there.

    I discovered this when he first made passes at her when she was still being honest with me. He forced his phone number into her hand. She has been hit on by several of the main speakers, even other women. What is amazing to find out is everyone of any long standing is well aware of this behavior and this completely unsupervised situation is like eating your own. They even have a name for it, 13 Stepping. A way of pouncing on the easy prey of people looking for trusting faces.

    I can only tell you that as a 42 year old man with what I thought was the better half of my life yet to come, this seems to me to be a systemic problem that harms families far beyond the disease.

    Please ask your chapters if they have tight policies on dating inside AA.

  • JR

    I have only heard the term "thirteenth step" used once in an AA meeting - and, to be fair, it was by someone describing how, in another AA group, he had been told by responsible "old timers" that this practice was not tolerated in that group. Also to be fair, I think that this would be the attitude of very, very many decent, responsible individuals in AA at all "levels of Sobriety". That, of course, is the problem - "very many individuals". Confronted by the issue, Group Conscience meetings may decide what they will, but there is no effective collective sanction in AA against this practice where it occurs, and the format of AA meetings, whether "open" or "closed", makes the topic virtually unmentionable in that context. When the term was used in the meeting I mentioned above, the reaction could have been described as a collective shudder.

    Without having seen too much of it relating to the relatively "AA Lite" groupss that I have been associated with personally, it still seems to me that where "thirteenth stepping" occurs, it is often unstoppable. In terms of the Fellowship as a whole, it is probably ineradicable.

    In this context, it is worth noting that the "thirteenth step" was a feature of AA in its very early stages - Bill Wilson, principal founder of the Fellowship, has a good claim to having invented it. It is hardly a consolation, but a Google on the "Orange Papers" will lead to a great deal of information (albeit in a rather extreme form) on this, and on other abuses that may occur in AA.

    Very best regards,


  • Ray Smith

    In the Sep/Oct '94 issue of Psychology Today, there was an article entitled "Back From the Drink" (available online).

    It states:

    "About 25 percent of marriages break up within a year of one partner's joining AA, says Barbara McCrady, Ph.D., clinical director of the Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies."

    I was surprised it was that low. Most Friday or Saturday night meetings seemed to me to be pick-up spots, barrooms with no booze. Relationships and gossip about relationships seemed to be stuck at about high school level.

    Last year's revelations about the Midtown Group out of Washington DC should have alerted everyone to 13th stepping, but I guess some people missed it.

  • H

    AA cultivates shame as an integral part of its' "treatment protocol". It would be difficult for AA to swear using shame as a tool to help others.

    Many of the people coming to AA are made to order for this treatment. Many have behaved badly and done harm to others and themselves. The bad behavior reflected poorly on their self respect and self confidence. Many are already ashamed.

    All this speaks to ego deflation. If one is a narcissisist, as Bill Wilson was, one may "need" ego deflation. But, it may not work that way. It is not impossible that the narcissist in AA has found a home it may be the narcissist who does the deflating of egos. I can easily recognize the emotional gratification that a malignant narcissist may obtain in AA by deflating egos.

    All, of course, in the name of love and service to a suffering alcoholic.

  • Steve

    If a person wants help, it is available. If a person wants help on their own terms, they may not want help all that badly because they have not seen that their own thinking might just maybe be part of their problem. What they may actually want is for people to start doing things their way....this is not the same as wanting help. Thus, as has been stated, AA does tend to be most beneficial to "desperate" people. "Desperate" can describe a very wide range of life/mental conditions....could be: under the bridge, or living in a million-dollar home, rich, good-looking, and suicidal. AA is a spiritual program (of action) so it's about God folks....OK? Some in AA are imposters, as you will find in every other human institution...most are just imperfect. If you can't tolerate imperfect people, if your life is their fault if you want help but it has to be your way, I suspect you will find AA (and just about everything else in life) not up to your standards, maybe even threatening. If you want help with a drinking problem, you can ask for help in a variety of ways....God (even if you don't believe) and AA (even with it's imperfect people), in combination, have worked great for me...22 years sober and living the life of my dreams. Could I have achieved this change utilizing just my own will power and intellectual prowess (I was one of those 99th percentile kids in school)? I think not....I could be wrong....but I don't spend any time thinking about that because life is so sweet today and I got here how I got here. It's your life...it's your call.

  • ImSoberToday

    I have been going to AA since 1991 as a result of an intervention by my X-wife and some of my family. I have had little success in the last 16 years in maintaining abstinence just through AA alone. After many, many treatment programs (rehabs, outpatient) that the only model is 12 step recovery, I have always “relapsed” after small chunks of sobriety. I have been told over and over that this is the only way to get sober and to stay sober. I had started to believe that because of the repetitious teachings of the treatment centers, the AA groups and individual members of 12 step groups.

    All that was accomplished was feelings of guilt, fear and failure. Through all this I was binging and still regularly attending meetings. I was taking suggestions and “working” the program and still no results. Am I constitutionally incapable, am I not being honest? Well, I think not. What I have discovered is that I am not alone.

    Through my tenure in AA, I have made contact with a great number of individuals that share my experience. Statistics are talked about and what is shown is that there is at least a 5 % success rate that people stay in AA for at least a year. After that it drops even lower. What the common factor is that I have noticed are most new people coming into AA and a lot of the people on the fringes that have been around AA and are not sober is the fact of the strong christian nature and cultish flavor of the program causes non-compliance. Also what I am observing that all the people that have “got it” are those who have a background in, or a receptive nature to the religiosity of the program. The chapter to the agnostic would have been more credible if a true agnostic had written it.

    We are not unfortunate we seem to be born with a sense of logic.

    AA has become old school, primitive at least. It is not the only program of recovery, just the oldest. The progression of the disease continues and so does the progression of recovery.

    What AA does in a long, drawn out round about way concurs with most of the newer alternative programs like SOS, Rational Recovery, and Secular Organization for Sobriety. Using Cognitive Behavioral type therapies without the superstition and hocus-pocus of twelve step programs, we learn that when we change the way we think and react, we change the way we feel and relate to those around us. Our behavior changes for the better And remember, don’t drink or use no matter what. Keep a real open mind and give yourself a break. Alcoholics Anonymous is a religion in denial. Don’t get caught in the guilt of your beliefs.

    It is ok to be a real agnostic in AA. I take what I need and leave the rest.

    I have been sober since November 2005, when I have found my true belief

  • Lexy

    I am sorry but AA is filfth! I have been battling substance abuse issues for most of my life, alcoholism to be exact. I had a horrible childhood, no excuse but it was. I went off to college and I drank two bottle of vodka a day. I could stop at first. I stopped when I went to visit my parents on holidays, I stopped plenty of times. Then one day---something powerful happened. I could no longer stop. It was not just the addiction, I do know the Gaba-A was addicted and thus so was my body physiologically. What it was is something that the monopoly of AA has disguised for years---I have a REAL disease. A real disease requires medeical help. NOT just detox then being thrown into a program where 5 whole percent of the people make it after a few years. I did not need old men 13th stepping me, or old women warning me constantly to take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth. I needed to talk, to share my shame, guilt and fear. I loved how they turned on each other so easily. A "long timer" would go out and the love was gone. The mantras began---"you weren't working your program". How the heck do they know that? They are a religious group, albeit based on agnostic beliefs more than religion. They are the most judgemental people I know. Great when you get there, the hugs, the numbers they so readily give you and the words of encouragement. But do not dare question their doctrine. If you do, you are being an anti-cultist.

    I had a year and a half sober through AA, then decided I wanted to drink. At just 19 who would not? My drinking was ok, not bad and I did get drunk when I was out, but it was not so bad as it was before. I accepted I had a problem. I drank more than my friends when I drank. No doubt! I have had my ups and downs with periods of abstinence and then periods of occassional drinking. Never good but it is how I drink.

    Miraculously after a horrible bender this year and a few very bad consequences to my drinking due to depression from the break up of an 8 year relationship, I did my own research. I came up with some amazing theories of my own as well as more disdain for AA. How dare I be diagnosed with an illness and the solution modern medicine offers me is an establishment endorsed cult with one of the worst medical outcomes of any illness?

    The establishment failed. They now offer Naltrexone---but do it wrongly so. Naltrexone blocks opiods. In theory, as I learned via the Sinclair Method, as an alcoholic my body gets a rush of opiods when I drink. And I can vouche for that. Naltrexone should be used WHILE drinking, not to stop cravings. Again medicine has failed. How can AA be such a strong force so as to push the concept of abstinence only, something only 5% of their members achieve, on the entire medical establishment so much so that even an available medicine is not allowed to be used the way it was meant to be.

    I took 3 months off drinking and I researched all I could. I read many books and read many alternate true medical methods. I found one thing that was very sure, I had to try it as nothing else had worked. I tried Naltrexone and shock to me, I got a headache and nausea after two drinks. I believe that is what most people feel after a few drinks.

    I would not knock anything that truly worked, but this AA is just a cult that has hijacked medical progress. I will never be fine. That is for sure because in this lifetime medical progress on alcoholism will stay where it is with little exception. What I will do though is never be a drone. I will never have to admit to believing in a god I do not believe in. I will never chant mantras with a group of people who will love me one day and hate me the next if I make a mistake. I hate when they say something to the effect that "those who cannot make it seem to have been born that way, they are constitutionally incapable of grasping and developing a way of life that requires complete honesty".

    Explain how audacious that is? If I fail I am flawed? What about this, many of them are not alcoholics, they are abusers and found a group dynamic they like. How can 95% of us be flawed?

    Just by the way I am not big fan of moderation or any other group either. I think this is a disease and I am sick. BUT a disease needs medical attention, not a psych ward or chemical dependency unit and a cult. It needs real research, it needs medical belief and in the absence of that, go back to the old days and throw us all in sanitariums and tell us we are crazy. But do not call this a disease and give us a social cult as the cure, especially one with such a truly pathetic success rate.

  • tokolosh

    I went to aa on 28/01/1982. i have not had a drink or taken any drugs since then. havent needed to. i became dissatisfied with what i was hearing after about a year. i started exploring other ways. this caused an uproar in some of the groups. i just told people that if they didnt like what i was doing, i did not expect them to participate.after some years people waited for me to drink,but i dint't. continued exploring and started getting more answers.

    i eventally realised that whilst my substance abuse problems were no longer problems, cause i did not want to use, i realised that early childhood stuff which made me drink was going to be an issue i wiould have to continue dealing with for the rest of my life, and therapy played an important part in that. after becoming a buddhist, six years ago, i was able to finally deal with a forty year depression.

    do i thikn that aa is fitlh etc? no not at all. im glad they were there when i needes some support. i just happened to outgrow them.


  • Anonymous-7

    One of my exes wasn't winning any awards for being a nice guy, badboy would be an accurate description, in or out of AA he was a despicable character as far as women were concerned. What has bothered me in the long run, was not what a jerk he was/is, but how absolutely everything about the cult inflamed the situation, made me feel worse about it than a relationship gone wrong in the real world, how the other women were a) jealous he liked me and b) lined up to bed him whether they liked him or not strictly to compete, and one of my so-called friends was pushing her 19 year old daughter at him. And the guys in the progarm? They just loved it when a fellow cult member treated a woman like a disposable object, becuase most of them are a) gay and b) have nothing at all to offer a woman. Garbage. AA is garbage. It's a filthy little cult and it should be outlawed.

  • Micky

    These twelve steps come from Satan (via Bill Wilson), who is the master deceiver (Revelation 12:9). Remember, SATAN used Scripture to tempt Christ (Matthew 4:6), and Balaam spoke much truth (Numbers 23-24) but he was a false prophet (2 Peter 2:15-16/Numbers 22). In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus warned, Enter by the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Jesus likewise warned in Luke 13:24, Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

  • Kevin E. Gaghan

    A A has and will continue to be a front-line vessel monitoring the catalysts of codependency and believing in ones self. This monitoring is the strict practice of care and concern for all humans in a way that helps organize and facilitate healthy decision making. It just so happens that the creator was an alcoholic. (Hence the placement of working with other alcoholics.)

    It is the Golden Rule, sprinkled with discipline, on select groups of "willing" individuals, all related on "one" premiss of self-diagnosis (alcoholism) who may have complete loss toward further ability of healthy scientific method of self.

    It is important to have a positive view of AA's existence no matter who's finger is on it, cause the message is to overcome.

  • Adam Page

    its is amazing to many that disputes exist. the method of correction will always be sought. "correction" in itself is "opinion" in the form of how "alignment" is deemed. This can be interpreted as taste. we all want something that tastes good. taste/human race. how are we going to survive if we did not dispute means of majority rule on what tasted better? in order to progress, evolve, transition into a more capable and convenient "being", wouldn't it be great if alcohol didn't exist at all along with the defects that come from it whether an "alcoholic" or not? It would be great if "support groups" were consistent with support for positive means. And I don't mean positively negative, I mean ways of healthy construction. Under the principles that "healthy" means something you wouldn't regret later, healthy being something that had nutrients that either kept you energized, happy, content, balanced,helpful, caring, and all lovey dovey basically. If someone wanted to put pleasure before survival....let them do it,,but i ain't gonna try to push them too much toward conforming.....even though they really should conform. This wet rock in space is filled with do's/don'ts. its too bad the don'ts get ya all excited and "fucked up." its too bad the do's are easily forgotten and deemed as boring since the first instance of "fuck-up" came along. WHAT DID I DO? SHOULD I HAVE DONE THAT? I NEED SOME DRUGS OR BOOZE TO HELP ME FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH I CAN LIVE OUT "Fun" or "Comfort" or "Ways to save money while spending it on some substance." GET PAID AND HELP OTHERS GET HEALTHY. OR JUST HELP OTHERS GET HEALTHY.

    Once upon a time there was a rule. This rule was considered tarnished due to the rule's support. The support shook and trembled. The rule remained. The time before it was written will never return. In theory it will.

  • Anonymous-8

    I fail to see that shame is an effective tool in geeting people to quit drinking destructively. It appears to provide those dispensing shame with emotional gratification.

  • Mickey

    I have to disagree with the author's following response: AA has many individual chapters, an emphasis on peer support (where peers themselves may have problematic judgment issues) and only weak central authority to keep each chapter on track. Some chapters are going to be more useful to their participants than others, under the circumstances. Despite the flaws that AA programs will inevitably possess, it is still a highly useful and more importantly - easily accessible and free - program for alcoholics looking for good recovery options.

    To start with, A.A. has thousands of individual chapter and over a period of twenty-eight years and numerous attempts at trying to recover from my poor drinking habits I have never found an A.A. group that has a central authority to keep their group on track. As a construction worker who has done extensive travel with my trade, I have accessed well over 50 groups from British Columbia to Ontario. Furthermore, I have never found any chapter that was anymore useful to their participants than other.

    You also make mention that peers themselves may have problematic judgment issues. Personally, I feel that you have understated this point. The reason behind my view here is this “It is estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” (1) It should also be noted here that the DSMR IV (2) classifies alcoholism as a mental disorder. With that in mind, I have also taken into consideration Stanton Peele’s overview of: The Changing Tides of Drinking in the United States. “We are told that there are from 15 to 22 million alcoholic Americans and that the families of such people are as disturbed as the alcoholic himself or herself, leading to estimates that as many as one in three Americans suffers as a result of alcoholism and requires treatment for this malady.” (3) And finally, there is the age old argument that alcoholism is a disease. The fact is that the disease concept was disproved in the 1890s and provided evidence that alcoholics not only have a conduct problem but they are also subject to magic thinking. This may sound ludicrous, but in his book “Slaying the Dragon,” William L. White noted that the Keeley Institutes helped many thousands of alcoholics to achieve long-term abstinence in the 1890s and later. They offered a miracle cure and provided clients with injections of a secret formula allegedly based on chlorides of gold, which supposedly took away all desire to drink or use drugs or tobacco. The injections were nothing more than a placebo. The secret formula says the author, was "a gimmick that engaged addicts' propensity for magical thinking and helped them through the early weeks and months of recovery." (4) Obviously if a simple token action can arrest alcoholism, then it is definitely not a disease.

    There is also the matter of your statement: “Despite the flaws that AA programs will inevitably possess, it is still a highly useful and more importantly - easily accessible and free - program for alcoholics looking for good recovery options.” As a Clinical Psychologist who has worked with alcoholics and drug abusers with coexisting mental disorders, how can you honestly say that doing nothing more than quitting drinking is a good recovery option? A.A. members never talk about their unresolved issues that are associated with poor parenting styles of the dysfunctional homes that many of the members grew up in. Obviously not all alcoholics grew up in alcoholic homes. However, Dr. Janet Kizziar characterizes four types of "troubled family systems" The Alcoholic or Chemically Dependent Family, The Emotionally or Psychologically Disturbed Family, The Physically or Sexually Abusing Family and The Religious Fundamentalist or Rigidly Dogmatic Family System.” (5) All of these family systems to some extent revolve around shame, blame, guilt and fear. Furthermore, all of the members that come from these various dysfunctional family systems bring their dysfunctions with them, but never deal with them. In fact, if they even tried to discuss them, they would be told that they are outside issues, all A.A. deals with is your drinking problem.

    As far as saying that it is easily accessible and free, doesn’t make it a “good recovery option.” In your article you compared feelings with tables and chairs. Consider this, if the car wash down the street is easily accessible and free, is it a good option to wash your car there if you know the water is laced with caustic acid? I hardly think so. So how can A.A. be a good recovery option if it is laced with caustic dysfunctional members? Encouraging people to use A.A. simply because it is free and easily accessible, especially people that have been sexually abused, goes against all the ethics of your profession. Even Alcoholics Anonymous World Services is concerned with the sexually deviant behaviours that are festering throughout a large number of their groups. In fact, they are scrambling to devise ways to bring it under control, because they fear it is going to collapse their organization and put an end to Alcoholics Anonymous. (6)

    One final note, you stated: Some chapters are going to be more useful to their participants than others, under the circumstances. You totally lost me. What are the circumstances?

    Anyway, thanks for your time.

    (1) Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun 62(6):617-27. Retrieved July 7, 2009 from The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#KesslerPrevalence

    (2) [DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, ed. 4. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association (AMA). 1994.] Retrieved from the Mentalhealth Channel, July 16, 2009, Alcohol Abuse, Alcohol abuse diagnosis.

    (3) In: Peele, S. (1989, 1995), Diseasing of America: How we allowed recovery zealots and the treatment industry to convince us we are out of control. Lexington, MA/San Francisco: Lexington Books/Jossey-Bass. Overview: The Changing Tides of Drinking in the United States, extracted July 8, 2009 from The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, http://www.peele.net/lib/diseasing2.html

    (4) Slaying the Dragon, by William L. White ISBN 0-938475-07-X. Reviewed by Marty N. extracted July 8, 2009 from BOOK TALK RECOVERY BOOKS, REVIEWED BY PEOPLE IN RECOVERY http://www.unhooked.com/booktalk/slaying_the_dragon.htm

    (5) Material from Dr. Janet Kizziar's class, "Counseling Survivors of Dysfunctional Families," presented at the University of California, Riverside, 1/21/89. Extracted July 13, 2009 from When You Grow Up in a Dysfunctional Family by George A. Boyd © 1992, http://www.mudrashram.com/dysfunctionalfamily2.html

    (6) Guardian Unlimited, Drink advice service confronts sex abuse, AA acts on rising reports of attacks by volunteers Gerard Seenan, Guardian Wednesday July 5, 2000 http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4036900,00.html

  • John

    I find all of the above interesting…

    “A.A. destroyed my relationship with my fiance. He had been in A.A. for 17 years when I met him. I am not an alcoholic and had very little dealings with A.A. I falsely believed it was a good group that helped people get clean and sober.”

    I have been dating a girl that well no longer wants to “date” and yes she goes to AA and I would be or am a distraction. I guess being happy (before) was not a good thing.

    I find this paradox interesting because so many other people have experienced an end to a relationship when one person is going to AA and not the other (the other not even an alcoholic at all and doesn’t even smoke (e.g. me).

    “There are several "unwritten rules" in AA, one of which is that people should not be in relationships during their first year of sobriety. The idea is that newly sober people have enough to worry about without the distraction of a new romance, and that they might form an unhealthy attachment to a person.”


    Why would happiness be a distraction? Many others go through a substance abuse program and the relationships survive just fine.

    “There's also an unfortunate tendency to expand and/or twist this rule. I've known of people being told that they can't change anything in their lives for a year....that they can't have relationships with non-AA members but that it's ok to have them with other AA members....that married AA newcomers shouldn't have sex with their spouses for a year....the permutations are endless.”


    “The bottom line is that AA isn't always a healthy place, nor is what you hear there always good advice. Lots of what goes on there is really quite insane.”

    Fix the underlying issues that cause a person to drink not just the symptoms, I say.

    “A.A. members never talk about their unresolved issues that are associated with poor parenting styles of the dysfunctional homes that many of the members grew up in. Obviously not all alcoholics grew up in alcoholic homes. However, Dr. Janet Kizziar characterizes four types of "troubled family systems" The Alcoholic or Chemically Dependent Family, The Emotionally or Psychologically Disturbed Family, The Physically or Sexually Abusing Family and The Religious Fundamentalist or Rigidly Dogmatic Family System.” (5) All of these family systems to some extent revolve around shame, blame, guilt and fear. Furthermore, all of the members that come from these various dysfunctional family systems bring their dysfunctions with them, but never deal with them. In fact, if they even tried to discuss them, they would be told that they are outside issues, all A.A. deals with is your drinking problem.”

    Exactly, you need to do more than just quit drinking………… You have to resolve what is the cause of the drinking.

    “i eventally realised that whilst my substance abuse problems were no longer problems, cause i did not want to use, i realised that early childhood stuff which made me drink was going to be an issue i wiould have to continue dealing with for the rest of my life, and therapy played an important part in that.”

    Exactly, you dealt with the underlying issues…

    “"About 25 percent of marriages break up within a year of one partner's joining AA, says Barbara McCrady, Ph.D., clinical director of the Rutgers Center for Alcohol Studies."”

    “I have lost the Love of my life, not to alcohol, but to the social sex triangles of the operations of AA.”

    I hear ya and feel ya… I do.

    “I can't be alone in the losing of my entire life because of the ways senior sober alcoholics play on newcomers.”

    It’s kind odd that others I am discovering while googling this subject have lost their relationships, good one’s, and granted bad one’s (which is probably good).. to these “Distractions”… as AA calls them. That is the buzz word……

    “AA is not a place to challenge, and to question, to have individual thought.”

    God for bid, a place that !

    “To the shrink that quite AA. Many, many people have had BAD experiences with therapists.”


    “A.A. destroyed my relationship with my fiance. He had been in A.A. for 17 years when I met him. I am not an alcoholic and had very little dealings with A.A. I falsely believed it was a good group that helped people get clean and sober.”

    SO DID I . .. … So did I….

    “He thought all our problems were from the fact that I did not want to "work the steps". I think it is sad an abnormal that a person thinks that allowing A.A. to consume his life is a rich and fulfilling life rather than living a life with a person who loves him and wants to build a relationship, independent of A.A.”



  • John

    THIS raises ONE OTHER question Why would an organization who promotes God and love etc. not want people to be in a relationship? CONTROL. So one addiction is replaced by another (AA) and keeps AA's coffers full?? All the while the AA member is "distracted" from drinking because they "have to" keep working the program" and not being in a real relationship or one that is only at arms length....and filling AA's coffers without really addressing the underlying issues.

    17 years???



    Editor's Note: Can people please comment on the structure of donations within AA? How reasonable is John's implied claim that some people are enriching themselves at the expense of membership?

  • Anonymous-9

    There is, I think, little chance of enrichment. Each attendee donates $1. That is the standard amount. There is a treasurer for each group. The region - the 'intergroup' has a treasurer. We are not dealing with big sums of money. The office in New York City gets a contribution. Most of their money comes from the sale of the 'Big Book'. There may be a small amount, in dollars and frequency of pilfering, taken from AA. But, I think that is very unlikely that serious embezzlement is occuring.

  • Ray Smit

    AA doesn't get rich on the dollars that go into the basket. Many AA groups never even pass that money on the the GSO.

    The majority of AA's money comes from the sale of literature and the largest buyers of AA literature are the rehabs and treatment centers.

    Few people get paid, but for a handful of people in World Services and the General Service Board, this translates into six figure salaries for part-time work.

    Their tax returns for 2005 can be found at:


  • Anonymous-10

    I was sent to an alanon meeting by a priest who insisted that the problems in my marriage were my fault. Soon, despite the fact that I had no issues with alcohol whatsoever, the people in alanon were insisting that I was an alcoholic in denial. How could this be? First, many of the people in alanon started in aa. Alcoholics find new and vulnerable sponsors in alanon, then predatory alcoholic projects their bad behaviors onto sponsees who seem vulnerable. And, I was very vulnerable: Alone, in a new city with my marriage breaking up and an health problems that I was unaware of at the time. I was told over and over that I wanted to drink and my problems were associated with a "desire to drink."

    Eventually, I started to believe the lie that others told me about myself. It is called cognitive dissonance, and it works. It was a waste of my time, my life, and I am still in therapy trying to recover from the brainwashing and people telling me bad, untrue things about myself. It has been several years, but I went to meetings every day, and sometimes I still feel bad about myself. But, not so bad that I am afraid to tell the truth in an attempt to prevent others from having to undergo the same experience. Alanon and aa are full of people with narcisistic personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mental disorders that feed off of vulnerable people. Of course someone who has a personality disorder will think alanon and aa are great. In fact, 12-step groups are great places for predators. If you are a decent person, stay away. The brain washing starts at the first meeting. The people in these meetings brush their teeth and comb their hair, just like you and I, but they are child molestors, financial swindlers, prostitutes, drug dealers, and the average-looking mom next door who gets a charge out of playing mind games with vulnerable people.

  • Anonymous-11

    Shame has no therapeutic value.

    It is a tool for social control of deviance.

  • Surferguy

    A friend of mine recently went to see her therapist at the rehab center she was a patient at 3 years ago. The therapist (who is in AA) asked her if she had a sponser and she said No, not for over a year now., but im doing good, got a job that im happy with and have been working steady for over 2 years. The therapist says how many meeetings do you attend? and my friend told her about 1-2 a week. The therapist told her that she was in the dry-drunk stage of her recovery.

    So I had to look it up and to my suprise there is a medical definition for it. I for one think it is an imaginary condition but here is what the "experts say" ----

    Here are some destructive patterns and actions that can result from dry drunk thinking:

    1. We become restless and irritable and discontent.

    2. We become bored, dissatisfied, and easily distracted from productive tasks.

    3. Our emotions and feelings get listless and dull, nothing excites us anymore.

    4. We start to the engage in the euphoric recall that is yearning for the good old days of active using and for getting the pain and shame of use.

    5. We start to engage in magical thinking we get on realistic and fanciful expectations and dreams.

    6. The last thing we want you is engaged in introspection to improve ourselves.

    7. We start to become unfulfilled and have the feeling that nothing will ever satisfy our yearning or fill the hole in the sole.

    Looking back at the list of attitudes and thought distortions listed above, it is easy to see how the dry drunk syndrome is simply nothing more then reverting back to the way it was when we were active in our use. If you are starting to notice some of the attitudes discussed creeping back into your life, is target time to start paying attention to the possibility of relapse and start turning your life in sobriety and recovery around. The dry drunk syndrome is a bright red flashing warning sign for relapse

    Please tell me what you guys think about the Dry-Drunk

  • cheryl

    I've been researching an "Alternative Recovery Method" for the mental illness & substance abuse issue.

    Here are my ideas:

    1. Integrate mental health awareness into the "Big Book" - *note: all alcoholics suffer from anxiety and/or depression to some degree & it can make our lives unmanageable, so education can heal.

    2. Educate on dual diagnosis & the treatment options available. Face the reality of the staggering statistics!

    3. Add: Coping Stategies for the Recession

    4. Focus on survival solutions & self-esteem building

    5. Because A.A. is established throughout the globe, it's a great way to mass educate within an existing structure that's anonymous and therefore eliminating stigma.

    These are my ideas. What do you all think? and can we make this work for the individual's who still suffer around the world?

    Isn't that what A.A./Alonon is all about? Healing? Mental Well-ness?


  • Anonymous-12

    "Dry drunk" - that term sounds like a calculated insult to me.

  • Perry

    The FACT of the matter is AA has treated and helped more alcoholics successfully than anything else. AA is not a cult and is about god or religion only if you want it to be. AA members are all around you every day and in all walks of life. Nobody knows how well AA works because we dont advertise. Is Alcoholism a disease ? Personally, I dont know. What I do know is that I drank too much. I was ruining my life and trying to bring everyone I knew with me. AA is about living life on life's terms. Alcohol is addressed in the 1st step. The other 11 steps are about life without it. AA is a simple program that is not always simple to do. Nothing in the world will work if you truly don't want it for you and you alone. When you are truly sick and tired of being sick and tired,, go where the coffee is free ! I am living sober proof !

  • Mona Lisa

    "The FACT of the matter is AA has treated and helped more alcoholics successfully than anything else."

    "Nobody knows how well AA works because we dont advertise."

    How can those two statements possibly appear in the same paragraph?


  • Anonymous-12

    AA has no success rate. A success rate has never been calculated by AA. Nor, has an independent auditor calculated a success rate. The evidence that exists are individual descriptions of personal experience. Each person should decide for themselves whether such reports are significant to them.

  • Cade DuBois

    It is 2010 and I have not seen jails, institutions or death. I have no guilt for my past because I see it for what it is. I have a masters degree from Clayton College of Natural Health and and a Bachelors as well. I have been in a good marriage for seven years. Has it been easy ? No I have a life that no drug addict could experience in relapse but that is the chaos of peoples life outside my control. that is the point - there is a song on You tube called, "your not shaken" and as I read the stuff said about my posts I thought my only mistake was giving them an opinion because all you really get in that five minutes you get to speak in AA Speak about the facts. that is how you impress people and show them AA is just one more man made program. If I wanted a chair to be my higher power I would go to the DAV and buy one and place it in my house and decorate it so I could bow down and worship it. I think AA just takes out the alcohol but doesn't deal with the real issues of addiction. I quit smoking, slowed down on pop, quit coffee, been out of the hospital for 10 years - mental illness. I am a Reiki master and beyond. I have a certificate in Ayurveda and that was how I began to find stuff 10 years into my interest in herbalism that really helps with the problems I have. I have had the same doctor for almost 10 years. I began to look into the Messianic Jewish movement, and above all I have my pride which is something I lost in AA. You see when you truly are honest and truly want to get better and you do bear your soul you do really see the other side of AA thank God for Jesus Christ - He has more mercy than a self help program any day. I may not be perfect but I am getting all I deserve for how faithful I sought recovery when I did go to 12 step meetings and they failed me. so those who feel they are getting crapped on know - keep doing all I said I did and when it gets to hard to deal with the people who don't really want to recover- the bible says G-d will give you a way out and a different way to find recovery. I may have my troubles but I have my self worth now- and that is something I never found in a self help group that beats you......and all I did was what I was told. I just didn't notice no one else was doing the same......until i began to see my life change as it has for over a period of time. Now is this responsibility ?

  • Anonymous-13

    When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic. — Dresden James

    AA is that well-packaged web of lies.

    Only one person mentioned the Oxford Group on this forum. My "suggestion" is to look up the origins of AA before running off at the mouth about what other people should and should not do with their OWN lives. Heinrich Himmler was a member of the Oxford Group and the psychopath Bill Willson borrowed heavily from their dogma. Try the orange papers for starters...for those that can't fathom that AA got it's start from sick f**cks that supported Hitler. Another person on here had it right - use professionals that are held to a higher standard to get to the root of the problem. When a problem no longer runs a person life the desire to self-medicate is history - why the f**ck is that so hard to accept? People should be happy knowing that they don't have to go night after night to public confessionals to relive their bad behaviour over and over and over ad nauseum. Twisted logic, that's all AA, NA, Alanon, and the like is based on.

  • John

    First I want to say to any one who does not like AA, or harbors a grudge twords it, don't go, free will, do what you want, but for me it works, and well!!!

    To start, A man fell into a large hole, a Doctor came by and told the man the risks of hypothermia, and the other risks of him being in the hole presented, upon witch the doctor left to investagate farther healht problems the hole presented.

    Next a lawyer came by and wanted to know who is liable for digging the hole,, and and how many laws were broken, than he went upon his way trying to figure how many lawsuits could come from this hole

    Next a Engineer came by and said he wanted to check if permits were pull on this hole, and if not what kind were needed to start any work, and went to investigate the next thing to do was

    Than a man jumped into the hole with the man, startled the man said to his would be helper, what the matter, you could have gone for help or done some thing to help my problem down here, are you crazy, the man who jumped in said to the man in the hole I been in this hole, and I know the way out, come with me and I will show you.

    No one can feal the suffering of an alcoholic than some one that has been through it and came out the other side, Plan and simple AA WORKS, it has for me for over 21years, thanks John C

  • Grateful recovering alcoholic

    Mostof the comments that I read here against AA shows that they have not realy invested much time into knowing what AA truly is. Since becoming a member of AA, I have not had a drink in almost two years, I live a life of choices today - and I chose God as my higher power, and I have overcome many other problems in my life that years of counseling did not help. No one forces me to go to AA, not even my sponsor. Sometimes I don't even talk to her for days or weeks. I only have to contribute money if I want to. At least that is how it is at my group. Oh, and as far as shame, that's not what I have learned. Humility maybe, but not shame. Today I hold my head high. God has blessed me and I have much to be grateful for. And next year I will graduate with a Bachelors in Science.

  • Abby

    There is an excellent article on the Washington Post that addresses that discusses how the Concept of Powerlessness leads to more and more severe relapses.

    Bankole Johnson "we are addicted to rehab and it doesn't work. Washington Post

    The set up for failure in AA is the strict adherence to Abstinence. Alan Marlatt has done some great work with his harm reduction approach.

    I have read the Oxford Group literature,and in my opinion the AA Big Book it is little more than a knock off of it.

    AA , in my opinioon, is little more than a repackaging of the Oxford Group and sold to people with drinking problems.

    When one gets a clear understanding of the Oxford Group, a rigid evanglistic cult, one gains a better understanding of AA, even Wilson acknowledged that AA got it concepts from the Group and nowhere else.

    AA is simply a religion without a clear definition of a God, they assume without complete surrender there is no relief from drinking, the concept of complete surrender was Oxford.

    Alcoholism is not a disease, it is a wide range of factors and writing moral inevetories, public confession, surrendering to god have little to do with addiciton.

    AA claims success but the reality is, those who wish to stay sober do so .

    They also hold the view that if one does stop drinking without a program he is white knuckling it, another AA fabrication. People do quick drinking on their own , in fact studies show a greater percentage quick on their own without treatment.


  • Anonymous-14


    Those who would profit the most from being ashamed, are incapable of experiencing shame.

  • Jan

    I'm a Buddhist... and AA works for me. AA IS different from the Oxford group - we are not affiliated, and people are encouraged to chose a spiritual path of their own understanding. I've heard all of the protests / claims you make before. Quite frankly, the drinking/addicition is just a sympton of larger issues - primarily self-absorption, not taking the larger perspective, and considering anothers point of view. You might be right, then again, I'm sober - not just dry, but sober. Good luck.

  • beth

    I love how people who have no experience with AA or have failed the program have such negative comments about it. It NEVER says in the Big Book of AA that you are morally deficient or that you will die drunk if you leave AA. It says that we are not saying that this program is the end all on the subject of sobriety, it is just what worked for the first one hundred that wrote the book. It is not a cult, you do not even have to share in a meeting, you can just listen.. You people are a trip..You have opinions about something you have no idea about. Oh, I am sorry, those of you who state you have been to AA, you are an idiot because you do not pay attention. It says in the Big Book, "Rarely have we seen a person fail that has THOROUGHLY followed our path", and something tells me you did not even come close to ANYTHING like thorough. Oh, and to the dumba#@ that stated that no one has ever measured AA's success rate ALSO is clueless and talking out your a@#. It states in the forwards to the second, third, and fourth edition of the Big Book what the success rates were at the time of publication...Get a clue, and don't pretend to know something you have no idea about..That is called "contempt prior to investigation" . Look it up, it is not a hard concept to get...in fact, I think you ignorant people have mastered it.

  • Angelcakes

    Hmmm, I think not. More like, "aggressive, aggressive". Words like "idiot" and "ignorant"? Really? Oh dear...Probably not the 'best' approach in inspiring others to embrace your perspective regarding recovery. Let me guess. You signed up for drama class instead of the debate team in high school.

    Equally amusing? "We will not publish inappropriate or hostile comments". lol....????

    Now, to the serious side: Peer support helps. One size won't, not, never fit ever’body 0). There are multiple paths to recovery. The most important thing is to keep trying everything (in hope).

    Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) is based on evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy/motivational interviewing. It’s compatible with 12 Steps…It works without. It compatible with your higher power... It works without. Try it...with or without.

    Recovery Discovery -Whatever gets you there. It’s not blaspheme. Besides, God helps those who help themselves 0)

  • Anonymous-15

    Please do not send your children or teens to AA or NA. The coourts are mandating sexually violent predators to AA/NA on a regular basis along with many other felons. Please protect the children!


  • MaryJ

    AA and NA are programs that will only work if you are desperate enough to listen and humble enough to learn.

    We respect all people nobody is discouraged from leaving, we just know from experience what will happen if you don't socialize with like-minded people. If you want to go out and do some more research, we will gladly refund your misery.

    It took me two years to find out that outside of AA, I am at risk of using again. I made friends when I was in the rooms, and I was sad when I came back and found out one of my best friends had passed away. Nobody called me to tell me he had passed, because it is NOT a program of manipulation and control. I left freely, they knew that...many wondered where I was and how I was, but they hoped I would be back. Jails, institutions, and death...those are the other options for addicts and alcoholics.

    As they say in NA: get busy living, or get busy dying.

  • Chris

    I have read some harsh words regarding this topic. All I know is that AA has worked for me. I don't question why it does. If you want proof of the realities of AA, then just ask my son who has received his dad back. I came in to the program justifying my behavior and playing a victim. My thought process was, "You would drink too if you went through what I did". The simple reality of the situation is that many people have gone through what I did and did not become alcoholic. Luckily today, there are many avenues that one can take in order to recovery. Problem drinking is viewed differently today and not accepted welll by some societies. This is why there is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence according to the DSM-IV. Someone who is abusing alcohol may benefit from harm reduction. Someone dependent on alcohol may need to remain abstinent if they experience withdrawal symtoms when removed from it or have a history of relapsing.

    One thing I have not read yet in these posts is the only requirement for membership in AA which is "A desire to stop drinking". No where does it say that you have to be abstinent to be in AA, only have a desire to stop drinking. Bill W. did take the pricinples of AA from the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group took the same pricinciples from a higher Book. Most of the ones I have seen make it in AA are the ones who want it, not need it. I have also seen exceptions where someone will get it when they need it.

    Say what you will about AA and you have that right, this is what the program has taught me. I am a better person today because of the program. I not only attend meetings but I also attempt to live the principles in my life everyday. What is wrong with prayer, daily inteventory of my actions and admends when I do someone wrong. One saying in AA is "Live and Let Live".

  • Dick B.

    When you hear talk of "higher powers" and the like, you are not hearing about early A.A. Its program came from the Bible. It is summarized in DR, BOB and the Good Oldtimers at page 131. For an understanding see Stick with the Winners!

  • Jack

    I have been in a state of complete confusion for the past 3 weeks. My wife, who has been in AA for 18 months came home and told me she wanted a" separation". I had just lost my job, so I asked her if that was it, she said no. In the months she had been in AA we had also refrained from having sex, she had some other issues going on and I told her I loved her and the most important thing was having her in my life.

    It is clear from reading many of the comments that the "reason" for this is the environment she has found in AA. She has traded her addiction to alcohol for her addicition to this cult.

    She asked in passing if I had been to an alanon meeting to find out what she was going through. I told her I had not, things got immediately worse. I did go, the next week to a couple of meeting and found them to be exactly as I had assumed. A place for narcissists who hold the "Big Book" and the 12 steps as their bible and 10 commandments. Maybe it is because we are in Georgia, but it appears that this group goes over the edge on their uber religiosity, she even accused me of being an athiest.

    It is really too bad, that a group that could offer so much in building up the addicts (not dieased) members and their families, is instead, a replacement for the addiction of alcohol and a destroyer of families.

  • Jerry

    Today I was fired by my sponsor because I did not highlight the book the way he wanted. I had been going to meetings daily, praying, writing, and calling him every day. Yet, he told me to just go out and get drunk (that he would pay for my drink even!) because I was not

  • Melody

    Every AA group and the people in it are different. I am lucky enough to have found a group not full of egomaniacs and people that are actually working the steps in their lives on a daily basis. What I have found is flawed people (as we all are) that greatly desire not to drink. This common ground binds us in an effort to support each other and continuously serve to give back what has been so freely given to us. I guess I am very fortunate to have found such a group and for those that walk out of the rooms and find a solution on your own, "Kudos, to you". However, for those that are unablet quite on your own and everything you have ever tried comes up bust, remember that humility does bring growth. To admit we are powerless makes some people cringe, but that is what makes the steps so entirely powerful to me. Admitting and accepting. I certainly hope sobriety finds each person that desires it.

  • Phil49

    Jerry...if a "sponsor" fires you for something as pitiful as that then you're better off without him...run a mile mate!!...Control freaks like that are thankfully few and far between but they do exist in som eof the more religious "cult" style groups...keep away..look for someone who you empathise with but if i were allowed to offer any advice it would be make sure thye're art least 5 years sober...but that they are kind!!...you interview them not the other way around..it's YOUR recovery!!...follow thier suggestions of course but if they become silly rules move on...follow your gut instinct!!....day at a time...Good luck

  • Anonymous-16

    The author has very little experience with AA and very little knowledge of what helps people. AA is no more usefull than doing nothing. The studies back me up on this. Something the studies one of which was conducted by AA itself shown a higher mortality rate and higher rates of binge drinking to people who have been exposed to AA. You can color AA whatever color you want but it is what it is and thats a religious organization whose steps are nothing more than a religious conversion process. Any so called doctor that recomends religion for bonafide mental health issues should have their license revoked.

  • Anonymous-17

    AA has been a wonderful place for my husband of 36 years to find help and support for his acholishism of some 40 years of his life. Sober now for 5 years, he has decided to leave our marriage and has committed himself to his AA family. Wow......he has not just bought it all, he has sold it all! I believe that the program is helpful. I don't believe that it is smart enough to regonize the signs of a transferring of additions from one to another. An addictive personality is just that, additive. If it isn't one thing, it's another. Say what you will about the AA program and its benefits. But also say what is true in the percentage of relationships that are affected and eventually compromised because of the 1st priority that becomes AA and not relationships and families that have stood by and cared for and loved those they lose to this system. Get smart AA er's and do something about the cultish community you are creating! You are all in this together.....figure it out and help people to transition BACK to their loved ones!

  • Lora

    While my husband will also say that AA is working for him, he has decided to leave the marriage and family behind. His addiction has transferred and has now become involved with another AA'er in his home group. His sponsor has not one time suggested to him that maybe he should seek professional counseling or maybe find another meeting since hooking up with another groupie while still married isn't exactly the best idea for someone trying to maintain sobriety. When a working man (40 hours wk) goes to 6 meetings a week and stays afterwards for 2-3 hours, shooting the breeze with these groupies, your marriage is BOUND to suffer. You are not spending the time or taking the effort to work your steps and work on staying married. My husband left the marriage the day he walked out of rehab. He's been absent for almost 3 years. This is REAL, and this is WRONG. The volunteer sponsors are doing a great disservice to the sponsees by not advising them to seek professional counseling as well as attending meetings. Any time I criticize this, he shuts down and refuses to talk about it. Sounds a little like a cult to me.