Alcohol And Substance Abuse 12 Step Programs (AA/NA/CA/MA) And Other Peer Support Groups

What is a Twelve Step Group?

Twelve Step groups are entirely composed of recovering addicts; no professional leadership is allowed. The oldest and best known of all the twelve step groups is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). However, many communities also offer chapters of Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), and even Marijuana Anonymous (MA).
What is a Twelve Step Group?

Membership

Recovering addicts with long periods of sobriety lead the groups, but any drug or alcohol dependent person with a sincere desire to recover is welcome to attend.

  • Because addiction knows no class boundaries, members in any given twelve step group are drawn from all walks of society including rich and poor (In fact, twelve step groups may be one of the most democratic institutions in the entire world).
  • Membership in twelve step groups is free and no fees need ever be donated to the group in exchange for participation. However, as in the case of collection in a church setting, donations are encouraged.
  • Meetings are common (occurring multiple times per day in most communities! - there are a lot of drug and alcohol dependent people in the world).


Meeting Format

Twelve Step group formats vary.

  • Testimonial meetings are popular (wherein persons present at the meeting are invited to talk about their experiences with addiction).
  • Reading meetings are also common (wherein readings that illustrate the twelve steps are performed).

As the word "anonymous" in their names implies, these groups are concerned about keeping their members' identities and what they have to say anonymous. The rule is "what is said in the rooms, stays in the rooms".


The Twelve Steps

Here are the Twelve Steps in the original form from Alcoholics Anonymous. Groups that are focused on drugs reword them a bit but retain their essential meanings.

The ideal of a Twelve-step group is that each of it's members grows to believe and then live through deeds each of the twelve steps.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol in 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
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when doing so would injure them or others
  10. Continued to take moral inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Submission to a Higher Power

As is readily apparent with even a quick glance, the steps are based firmly in principles of submission to a higher power, the asking of forgiveness for wrongdoings, and efforts to make amends for wrongdoing. The men who founded AA were Christians, and the message of their twelve steps is steeped in Christian concepts of sin and repentance.

Find a Meeting Hear from others on their journey through addiction and recovery

While this message is eagerly received by many drug and alcohol dependent persons, (and rightly so - because it is practical; it works to help sustain abstinence and to promote healing and recovery), there are many other people who rebel against the idea of submission to authority in any form and who come to resent the 'preachy' quality of some AA group members. Some use their disenchantment and discomfort with twelve step groups as an excuse to avoid attending. This is a shame.

The twelve steps require submission to a power higher and greater than ones' self. This power need not be God - it can instead be submission to 'Good Orderly Direction': the idea that it is literally impossible for ones' self to stop drinking or drugging, so long as one clings to the idea that they can ever again take a drink or drug, and must now change the way one lives to avoid alcohol and drugs.

Preachy AA members aside, AA offers a deep and valuable method to remain drug and alcohol-free, regardless of your beliefs in God or your position about authority. The best clinical advice possible is to attend AA or a related group frequently, (Daily is not too much!) and work the steps as best you can. If preachy members get in your way, find a different meeting that isn't so preachy.

For those who truly cannot tolerate the religious basis of AA and like-minded groups, there are alternative organizations to the twelve step groups in existence (such as Rational Recovery and SMART Recovery) that are founded on more humanistic principles. Unfortunately, such groups are much less common than AA-style groups and usually are only present in major metropolitan areas.


Sponsors

Twelve step participants are helped in learning and acting out the steps by a sponsor, who is a same-sex recovering person with sober time under his or her belt.

group therapy

  • New members to a twelve step group are strongly encouraged to find a sponsor as soon as possible, as the one-on-one attention that the sponsor can provide is thought necessary to the working of the steps.
  • To get a sponsor, new members to a group must ask someone present to act as one for them, and that person must agree to act as a sponsor.
  • Sponsors typically encourage their members to call them while they are craving but before they act on those cravings so that the sponsor can help the member to not relapse.
  • Sponsors also often give their members twelve step homework to complete and guide the members in when it is time to move from step to step.
Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    I think that is a very helpful explanation. I`ve been in 12 step recovery for 18 years and I like the tone of your article. It should encourage a lot of people to seek help,bacause it`s encouraging and realistic.

  • Ray Smith

    How can you title this "12 Step Programs (AA/NA/CA/MA) and other Peer Support Groups" if you don't talk about anything other than 12step groups? One slight nod to Rational Recovery, which is a recovery method, not a peer support group, doesn't change your article from being nothing more than an ad for 12step. For those looking for peer support alternatives to AA there are SOS, SMART, Women for Sobriety, and many others. The vast majority of people who get sober DO SO ON THEIR OWN. This method may only claim a 5% success rate, but so does AA, and AA has a MORTALITY rate that is six times higher according to studies run by AA Board of Trustees George Vaillant. AA's 5% success rate is lower for those with co-morbid diagnoses according to Kathleen Sciacca ( http://users.erols.com/ksciacca/ ), a pioneer in the treatment of dual diagnosis. Motivational Enhancement has a much higher success rate, but especially for those with a dual diagnosis AA ranks at the bottom. I too once thought of AA as a benign organization that existed to help people quit drinking, but after years of bouncing in and out of the program, I realized that AA nothing more than a religious cult designed solely to perpituate itself. AA programmed me for failure with all of its talk of powerlessness and demands that I accept their God. (I am an atheist.) When I refused, they became hostile, which is not my idea of a support group. It wasn't until I turned my back on AA that I was able to achieve sobriety.

  • Jane

    What about those who need psychiatric help? There's no provisions in the 12 step program for these people. In fact they discourage it. Based on a pretty broad personal experience. I'd be dead if I'd attended a 12 step program. See this month's Ladies Home Journal for a gambling addict story who also didn't align with 12 stepping. I'm also agnostic, which 12 steppers fight to the bitter end. I'm not helpless, sorry you think you are.

  • sally Hicks

    I have several agnostic friends in AA, one atheist friend, several Buddists, several christians, and I don't know or care about my other friends. We just love, support and live life together, while staying sober in AA. You complain about AA and the people who judge you for wanting to stay sober differently, or you disagree with the beliefs of the program, but aren't you doing the same thing by slamming the author of this article. Doesn't he or me or you or anyone deserve our own opinion. I guess it's the anger and intolerance that gets to me. I wish you well and am glad you found a way that works for you but don't knock my miracle...because that is exactly what AA is to me.

  • Ray Smith

    Sally and the pro-AA people here, Nobody wants to keep you from AA if that is your choice "freedom of religion" afterall. Yes, there are TOKEN atheists, agnostics, and of other religions in the rooms but my experiences as an atheist in the rooms only added to my depression. I walked in injured and came out crippled. For the past two years, I've been working as a peer advocate for the dually diagnosed through an ACT team. Almost every one of the clients has their own AA horror story. I believe it is irresponsible and a violation of rights for courts, EAPs, or Social Services to coerce anyone, let alone someone struggling with mental health issues, to a RELIGIOUS program with a sizable anti-medication, anti-therapy faction. But it's cheap and it's easy to send someone to AA and wash their hands of it while giving the appearance of doing something. And if it doesn't work for the person, it is always the fault of alcoholic for not "working a good program". I'm glad you were able to get help there, but the testimonials of you or I don't much matter. The statistics show that only 5% of the people who walk into the rooms will still be there in one year. People who decide to quit on their own have a 5% success rate (lower for people with mental health issues). Yet AA is touted as the "only method" for recovery. AA also has the highest MORTALITY rate of any recovery program or no program at all. AA would not enjoy its large membership if it were not for coercion. If AA stuck to self-proclaimed tradition of "attraction, rather than promotion", I'd have no problem with it beyond the same problem I have with Scientologists, Hari Krishnas, or any other religious sect, but AA actively recruits new members through the courts: http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/en_pdfs/mg-05_coopwithcourt.pdf .

  • David

    I imagine the people in 12 Step programmes have sold their souls to the devil. Fortunately, I was saved through the power of Jesus Christ, but for many years had been exposed to the evil "satanic cult" (Alcoholics Anonymous) Wilson (AA) has prostituted himself & deluded many thousands (12 Step Groups) by worshipping the god Moloch (Ba'al the Sacred Bull). It all started with his (Wilson) "drug induced hallucination".... Wilson's "original mystical experience" was his alleged "conversion" --a classic occult encounter: "Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy...it burst upon me that I was a free man...a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, 'So this is the God of the preachers! ' A great peace stole over me...."(25) This was not the "God of the preachers" but the one who transforms himself "into an angel of light" (2 Cor 1l:l4)-a light that often transforms those involved in the occult. The experience was so profound that Wilson never touched alcohol again. Satan would he more than willing to deliver a man from alcoholism in this life if thereby he could ensnare him for eternity and inspire him to lead millions to the same destruction! Wilson joined the Oxford Group and regularly attended its meetings at Calvary Church (NY), pastored by Episcopalian Sam Shoemaker. Shoemaker urged his hearers to "accept God however they might conceive of him...."(26) Here was the origin of Step 3's "God as we understood him." God does not respond to those who call upon false gods. Jesus said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (Jn 17:3). God's judgment comes upon them "that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thes 1:8). Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people. Don't go a whoring with Molech, wizards, or people with "familiar spirits". And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20: 5, 6) [KJB] I will set my face against that man & his family & will cut off from their people both him & all who follow him in prostituting themselves to MolechI will set my face against the person who turns to mediums & spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, & I will cut him off from his people. (Leviticus 20: 5, 6) [NIV] Moloch Moloch the God Ba'al, the Sacred Bull, was widely worshipped in the ancient Near East and wherever Carthaginian culture extended. Baal Moloch was conceived under the form of a calf or an ox or depicted as a man with the head of a bull. Hadad, Baal or simply the King identified the god within his cult. The name Moloch is not the name he was known by among his worshippers, but a HebrewMoloch (in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament), or Molech (Hebrew), is no different than the word Melech or king, transformed by interposing the vowels of bosheth or 'shameful thing'. translation. The written form He is sometimes also called Milcom in the Old Testament. I beg you people in (12 Step Programmes) "get out" or end up as ""bull headed" Steppers!! David

  • sally

    David I too am a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the one and only savior. That said, I will have to say that I would not be in that position without AA. I hated religion and Christians before AA. I knew if I stepped into church I would be struck dead. I did not buy into the concept that God forgives or even cares about me. I was a bad person and I felt I deserved a lighting bolt through the heart. Through the process of getting sober and working the steps and believing in the golden calf (not literally) I was led to the truth, by God. Maybe I would have made it there anyway, I don't know. I believe God works in AA just like anywhere else, and I believe that Jesus works there too. I stay and continue to work the steps along with reading and studying the bible, because I want to be a light to those that suffer. I want to be the best example of a recovering alcoholic, Christian, woman, friend, employee, wife I can be. Anyway that a person arrives at the truth is okay by me. Jesus said we are to not have any other gods before Him and he followed that with love our neigbors as ourselves. Jesus walked among the sinners and the hurt people of the world, for me where else would I find people hurting more than in AA. I try never to dismiss another persons journey. I want to always remember that when I'm judging others there is usually something I need to look at concerning my own life. God is not through with me yet so I believe that pertains to others also. AA saved my life. God bless you.

  • David

    Mercy Let everyone show Mercy one to another. Will you have Love, compassion, forgiveness, and tenderness, toward everyone? Or do you only love your own family, friends, and country, or only those who share your values and ideas? There are two kinds of love, one is a selfish love, the other is unselfish. Selfish love is like the embers of a dying campfire. Unselfish Love is a glowing love, like the campfire in full blaze. Let your Love radiate to all, to everyone, giving warmth and light to all. Do not judge others as being unworthy of compassion, or forgiveness. Especially, do not think that "law breakers" are unworthy of compassion and forgiveness. All are "lawbreakers", would you condemn everyone, including yourself? Those who are the sickest need the most medicine. The only medicine that can help is- Unselfish Love. Hell is selfish love. Have you been ordained to condemn? The greatest spirit, is the one who gives unselfish love. The most miserable spirit, is a selfish, condemning spirit. So My message continues, from generation to generation, always the same, "Love one another, as I have Loved You". "Have Love one to another". The Spirit that "Hears", shall be saved.

  • Paul C

    How do you get rid of a bad habit? Replace it with a good habit. 12 step groups by design teach an individual to trade dependancies. Codependancy is not a disorder in this case but a valuable tool used in early recovery, given time most people will have some balance restored in their lives and start to make healthier choices. Others however will focus on the negitive aspects inherent in codependant lifestlye, and fall back to their original dependancy. Although this is an oversimplfication, that is the division in the 12th step, some hear the message, others will not.

  • chelseasman

    What a fantastic forum I stumbled across. I am a psychiatrist, a Christian and a recovering addict. I struggled for many years trying to cure myself of my addiction, and finally ended up in a treatment program(a very expensive one) which highly endorsed AA, and as a condition of maintaining my license had me attend meetings. Early going was rough and I relapsed a couple of times but eventually was able to acheive sobriety, almost seven years now. The two articles of most interest to me were the one which claimed AA was a cult, started by Bill Wilson and described Bills experience using biblical quotes ,about the genesis of the program. He claimed that it sounded like the devil was using Wilson to recruit people into a cult and away from Jesus Christ.Thats hard to swallow, as the whole AA thinng really began from the Oxford group a Christian organization. Yes AA says a lot about God, but also says a lot about a God of your own understanding. I have personally experienced that Jesus Christ is the only way. Note I said I personally experienced, not read or was preached to or was coerced. I do agree that the devil, crafty as he is could and would let millions of people be free of addictrion/alcoholism if this was a way to recruit a large following of non Christians. But wahat about those of us in AA who are truly born again Christians and believe in Jesus Christ, and that he died for our sins? I know a lot of groups are anti -God and so on, but I always believed that this was just an indication of individual preference and usually was related to their life experiences. Remember that AA or any group consists of humans, and we are all imperfect and very eager to share our opinions. What I do know is that I did not get sober until I went to AA. Granted I did not try many other methods. I think I read the rational recovery book, but I really kept trying to fix myself, especially since I am a doctor. And I failed miserably. I went to church and many times knelt at the altar asking him to relieve me of the addiction but it did not happen.I believe I got sober through God but I had to take action. Faith without works is dead, and I was looking for a quick fix. For God to dramatically take it out of me and all would be well right away. Anyway will research those verses in the bible and read the book (I think its called Dr Bob and thegood old timers) to see how Bill Wiloson described his initial freedom from alcohol. I still attend AA and believe it is a spiritual program inspired by God to free people of this illness.

    The second article that interested me was the one which mentioned other methods of recovery, and yes I do believe AA is not the only way. However I have always been under the impression that AA has the highest success rates worldwide. What you claim sounds very much unlike that is the case. I will check out the websites you mentioned and read more on that.

    Finally I have to say that being a Christian, I have experienced oppression by various spirits. I am convinced that there is a spirit of addiction and that if you put yourself at Gods mercy and claim protection by the blood of Jesus Christ the spirit of addiction can be removed, especially if you are praying with someone experienced in these matters. Imagine all this coming from a psychistrist. Lol! But I know it to be the truth! I have experienced various spirits which have oppressed me and have been fortunate to find a man who is knowledgable about this. He has prayed with me and removed various spirits that I did not know even existedin me, that are agents of satan and had been oppressing me for years.You can find information on his website at www.asoneministries.org

    Anyway thank you for all that shared. I love this forum and am fired up by it. Please keep it going, and anyone please feel free to email me at gokesemail@yahoo.com.

    PS Addiction does have a medical basis and I have treated hundreds of people with dual diagnosis i.e psychiatric illness and addiction/alcoholism. This is a very exciting time because many new medicines are now available that are very helpful for addiction. My website is still under construction but it is AAMHR.COM or AAMHR.ORG Im not even sure which one it is yet, Lol! But its one of the above.

    God peace to all of you.

  • Daniel Cox

    AA is definitely a cult that treats individuals who speak opposingly at meetings with much disdain. The old-timers are the guardians of the decades old style of meetings. Members sober up but still have all the attributes of being very dysfunctional because of the anti-professional, anti-intellectual approach. I believe one cannot change without reading many books and freeing your mind from the prison of mental illness and substance abuse.

  • Anonymous-2

    Chelseasman,

    Thank you for your encouraging comments on 12 step programs. I am also a christian and in the medical profession. I have tried several self help aids on my own with varying success but have never sought professional help or participated in a program. Although I realize that I cannot do this with shear determination and faith alone, I am afraid to seek help because of confidentiality and my license. Lately I feel as if I am loosing faith, not only in myself but also in God. Any advise you could give on what a person in the medical profession's options might be would be a blessing.

  • Michael Walton

    I have experience of being a regular member of AA for over 4 years. I left because I grew increasingly uncomfortable with the overtly religious doctrine therein.
    A defense against this is often that "AA says we can choose a God of our own understanding"
    Yet this does not make sense because the 12 steps states is very emphatic on creating a particular relationship with God. For example step 11-"...pray ONLY for Knowledge of Gods will for you and the power to carry that out".
    The 12 step approach encourages a very specifit relationship with God. If the God of my understanding does not answer prayers or does not even exist, or if my understanding is that I do not want to ONLY pray to God in this way, then there is a serious conflict.
    Whilst defenders of AA state that an atheist can be an AA member, I find this absurd as the whole AA programme is expressed as a 'spritual programme'.
    Since leaving AA, I have found that I can now turn inwards, to the strength and resources within me, instead of waking up every morning and admitting asking for knowlegde of Gods will.
    I can now admit, without fear, to myself that I cant live in the way that the AA programme suggests.
    In my view, AA asserts itself as a spiritual doctrine which is 'the only way'. There are several warnings in the 'big book' that 'jails institutions and death' await those who leave.
    I have survived, among other things, a very abusive childhood and prolonged treatment for bone cancer. 
    I am now a practising integrative (psychodynamic/person centered ) therapist and there is no place for me in AA now that I know that I can rely on my own will and self-direction in life.
    I would encourage anyone who wants to address issues relating to addiction or substance abuse to look wider than the 12 step field, and to read books written by critics of the 12 step approach, in order to make an informed decision about  your choices.

  • Angela Chestnut

    As of 7/26/07 I have 2 yrs. of continuous sobriety and am so grateful to A A, my higher power whom I choose to call God, the twelve steps and awesome sponsorship. I am happier today than i've ever been and owe it all to the 12 steps. I came into the program through the court system and am also grateful to the Judge who sent me. When I got here I was hopeless, desperate and honestly wanted to die. Today I apply the principles of the steps into all situations of my life and find peace and serenity in them all, even in turmoil and stress,greif and loss there is a solution today. I have wonderful relationships with myself, God, my family and others. I encourage everyone to give A A a chance and pray that their suffering come to an end as did mine. I too have found that during this journey the Christian way of life and A A go hand in hand, I currently attend a Christian Church and each time I go I get encouragement and affirmation that the God of my understanding is the same as the God in that church and I can honestly say that I am free and finally at HOME. Praise God and A A for the restoration in this once hopeless and miserable drunk.

  • michael Walton

    If anyone is in doubt about the religious nature of the 12 step approach then just read the previous post by Ms Chestnut.
    It will clarify things for you...

  • Anon

    While AA does emphasize a spiritual path to recovery, it's by no means a Christian religious organization. I'm a recovering alcoholic with 21 years of continous abstinence from booze. I was a daily binge drinker and suffered most of the catastrophic consquences of excessive drinking for over 20 years. I'm not a Christian and do not belong to any church. I was raised as a catholic but left the church in my early teens and never went back. I have no specific belief of God, I don't know anything about heaven, hell or purgatory and I don't have any reason to believe in any of those things. I'm open to many paths to spirituality. The 12 step program of AA and the other recovering alcoholics I've met and shared with have helped me to stop drinking and stay sober for over 21 years. True, I've had to examine my motives, behavior, fears, etc. Over the years, with the moral support of other AA members I've managed to kick the booze and drugs habits which were ruining (and did ruin) my life. I've experienced a wonderful recovery from the adicction and slavery to alcohol and drugs. My life is much better as a result of my sobriety. My family, friends, and society at large are better off. I'm happier and suffer no more from the hellish consequences of alcoholic drinking and drugging. If anyone has a problem with alcohol and/or drugs, AA can be a salvation. All one needs is an open mind and a desire to stop drinking. AA is free and has no opinions, doctrines, religions, politics or any other agenda than to help alcoholics to stop drinking.

    Peace,

    Anon

  • matt m.

    I've been an atheist for over 20 years, and when I sought help for recovery from my sexual addiction, I was fortunate to find a therapist who not only recommends Sexaholics Anonymous, but also recommends reading as much literature as you can and getting individual therapy. As a sex addict himself and a member of SA, he certainly found benefit in the 12 steps, and is helping me work through them from a secular perspective.

    I'd imagine it would be difficult in some places, especially the deep south where religion is so ingrained, but it is possible to work the 12 steps without religion being involved. Others in group may be religious, but that doesn't mean that I have to be. My "higher power" is the group and the process. Giving it up to my higher power doesn't mean praying to me-it means acknowledging that I can't do this alone, and I need to reach out for help.

  • Gene

    If the result of treatment depends on my believes or relatively disbelieves, it is not a treatment -- it's shamanism. In my understanding clinical psychology is a science, and science should depend on empirical data, not a an agitations and propaganda of "believers".

    Editor's Note: AA/NA/CA, etc. are surely not scientific programs and have little to do with psychological theory or evidence based anything. Their value (which some people find to be tremendous and others do not find valuable at all) is largely in their ability to provide support and motivation (and hopefully guidance) for sobriety. Scientific evidence does support the idea that both of these elements are important, even critical, for helping addicts and alcoholics in sustained recovery. To the extent that the addict/alcoholic cannot identify with the other group members, there will be little support or motivation happening. Which is a shame as it is easier to find a twelve step group than other forms of support for addiction. Psychologically based programs, using techniques such as motivational interviewing and relapse prevention, but they tend to either be only in larger cities, or relatively expensive to access.

  • Jim H.

    If you can stay sober through other methods other than, or in additon to, the 12 Steps suggested in the text of Alcoholics Anonymous, more Power to you. Alcoholics tread inumerable paths on the road to recovery. AA is an effective means to recover for many people, for whom other traditional methods have been ineffective. What ever works. For me, AA has met all of my needs for the past 24 years and allowed me to find a loving God of my understanding. Grateful and Happy. Jim H. SoCal

  • Ray Smith

    SOS, SMART, WFS, LifeRing all have face to face meetings that may or may not be available in any given area, but they all have decent websites and online support. The idea that people NEED face to face groups in order to quit drinking is an AA invention and untrue. I did use online support, repeated exposure to AA convinced/brainwashed me into believing I couldn't do it on my own.

    "...at least 50% of alcoholics eventually free themselves although only 10% are ever treated. One recent study found that 80% of all alcoholics who recover for a year or more do so on their own, some after being unsuccessfully treated. When a group of these self-treated alcoholics was interviewed, 57% said they simply decided that alcohol was bad for them. Twenty-nine percent said health problems, frightening experiences, accidents, or blackouts persuaded them to quit. Others used such phrases as "Things were building up" or "I was sick and tired of it." Support from a husband or wife was important in sustaining the resolution."
    Treatment of Drug Abuse and Addiction -- Part III, The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Volume 12, Number 4, October 1995.

  • JR

    Happy Holidays to all my fellow sufferers in AA - remember to enjoy Sobriety sensibly ! As for the folks in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (that one looks really odd from this side of the Atlantic) - well, maybe you should just enjoy it for once ...

    Best regards from the Emerald Isle,

    JR

  • William

    Hi

    I think that AA could be a lot of help to Atheists and Secular people if the AA theme was more like Higher Power is one of many paths to Sobriety instead of the only way, which 12 Step Ideology does reinforce often.

    I also think that Atheists would be more comfortable in AA if the Literature was not constantly telling the reader what terrible human beings Secular people are by using words like Savage, belligerent and cynical to describe Atheists.

    William

  • Oliver

    Thank you for an excellent summary of the Twelve Step Program of AA. Here are a few comments from an AA member and PhD chemist:

    1. There is no sharp boundary between the mentally ill and the mentally healthy.

    2. Most of us exhibit signs of mental illness at times. For example, any person in a rage is mentally ill.

    3. Alcohol and substance abuse are symptoms of an underlying problem - we do not know how to live life - selfishness, self-centeredness is the root of the problem.

    4. Most religions teach that we must be rid of selfishness - break out of the ego cage - if we are live joyous and free.

    5. The Second Step states that we "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." That certainly implies that the AA Program reduces mental illness in all of us.

    6. Psychiatrists do NOT measure a chemical imbalance in the brain before prescribing mind-altering drugs to treat mental illness. They would probably have about equal success, but generate less profits for drug companies, if they selected to treat mental illness from an assortment of common street drugs - heroin, crack, marijuana, etc.

    7. Other medical fields measure chemical imbalances, e.g., the rate of production of insulin before treating diabetes, but psychiatrists cannot and do not measure chemical imbalance in the brain before inducing one with psychotropic drugs.

    - Oliver

  • Ray Smith

    I work for an ACT program, I previously volunteered with an Act program in another state where all the clients, rather than some, were dually diagnosed.

    Almost all of the clients I have been in contact with got worse in 12step programs. Very few were actually alcoholics or addicts but had been forced into 12step treatment where they were told they were alcoholic/addicts and how alcoholic/addicts act.

    Many were shunned by all but the most unhealthy members. I would not suggest a 12step meeting of any kind if a person has a primary diagnosis of mental illness, but if for some reason it seems appropriate, only a DRA, DTR, DDA, or some other group specifically for the dually diagnosed. AA and NA both have an anti-medication, anti-therapy faction. Presenting themselves as recovery experts, they undermine, or at least interfere with mental health treatment. The powerlessness concept is in direct opposition to empowering the client in order to make positive changes in their lives, which is a starting point for Motivational Interviewing.

    http://www.treatment.org/Topics/pdf/SciaccaRemovingBarriers.pdf

  • Anonymous-3

    Shamanism is what 12 step amounts to. AA has: rituals, incantations, a sacred book, amulets, and shaman. The sponsor is a shaman. The first shaman was Bill Wilson. AA has imprecations for heretics and apostates. And special words for those outside -- earth people or normies.

    This is what the medical profession has come to. Magical thinking.

    I do not expect this to change. No one is much concerned with drunkards, addicts and crazy people. So, the medical profession practices triage and sends the goners to a AA. At, least, we are shut of them.

    A black comedy, beyond doubt.

  • JR

    I do not like to be negative but, with all due respect to Oliver, his recent contribution consists of a series of unsupported premises and partial arguments that add up to very little in support of the utility or safety of the AA/12 Step approach to addressing addiction. To address the points made would be tedious. One, however, particularly struck me - "(the) Second Step states that we "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." That certainly implies that the AA Program reduces mental illness in all of us." That is to say, Bill W's "belief" in the proposition in question "certainly implies" that the AA program "reduces mental illness in all of us". Really? This achievement in the art of non sequitur (for the preceding comments on mental illness are equally lacking in support) constitutes a truly splendid example of "AAthink". I would say that it is worthy of Bill himself - except that he tended to cloak such flaws in logic with somewhat greater skill. This sort of thing may persuade many desparate people who are all too willing to practice wishful thinking in the face of a life-threatening condition. Others will require more solid argument to be convinced that the AA program amounts to the reasonable, effective, generally applicable approach to addiction recovery it would have us believe it to be.

    Yours in Sobriety,

    JR

  • Rose

    As a grad student taking a substance abuse and treatment class my professor asked the group to write a paper pertaining to this comment she made: "AA takes a strong stand about the use of meds in recovery. They have been outspoken about Suboxone, Campral, Naltrexone, Benzos, and Opioid meds stating folks who use them are not really in recovery. react!"

    First of all BRAVO to all out there who even mentions the words Jesus Christ or God. We all struggle with our own demons daily. We will learn things until we take our final breathe in this life, then...and only then, when we pass away from our bodies and this earth will any of us really know the REAL truth about what is on the other side, or who it really is that holds all power and allows mankind to do their thing and this is called, "free will"--unfortunately, religion over the centuries has tainted truth about how we ought to behave, and how we ought to treat each other. If we didn't suffer from something, we would all be in utopia, but---our life walk is unique to each person, and we must find the truth in experiencing goodness and bad...this is the balance in this world...Now---if anyone would like to comment on this professors comment (she is an expert in the field of substance abuse and treatment in Massachusetts) I would love to hear the pros and cons of people like yourselfs who are exceptionally engaging, highly intelligent, warm, angry, caring, troubled, all of it...this is part of our human condition be it good or ill. I am amazed that I have gotten this far in grad school against every odd imaginable to mankind. Incidentally, you would be helping me out a whole lot throughout the course of my studies because I will be able to read your comments (pro or con) and be able to become more knowledgeable about what it means to have hope, faith, or lack of it--to be resilient, and faithful. Also, for anyone who would like to know something about God, Creator, or light---Jesus Christ was manifested on earth many thousands of years ago to let all who would hear His message before He left earth that "God, is LOVE" at the purest point of this message...Jesus did not come as a rich man, or a know-it-all...He came to deliver hope to a dark and hopeless earth...We can decide for ourselves if we believe we are more than our bodies and organs, or that when we die there is nothing else...no, my friends---just look at some of the bible stories and talk to people who have been touched personally by the Living Father---God doesn't want money, or need anything from anyone---He just wants to Love us unconditionally...however, that doesn't mean we can take our lives for granted. We are all equipped before we arrive at birth with a purpose, and we are challenged daily..our individual decisions make us who we are, or who we think we ought to be...if you have any real love, it doesn't hurt on purpose, it doesn't wish to destroy on purpose. We, however are not perfect---we are mere human--we make mistakes because we are learning from them...some times you have to go straight to hell before you get to heaven---Jesus Christ did too---but, one thing to remember---He is RISEN, and ya--He's coming back again to set things right. Peace and Love to all and especially to all the Aethiests...maybe you don't believe in Him, but---brother and sister---He surely believes and loves you....chow...

  • Anonymous-4

    "Alcoholics Anonymous is not the effective "Wonder Cure" society has been taught to believe that it is. What AA does do, however, is to introduce those who are exposed to it, "to seek after other gods, whom they have not known..." Those who attend their meetings or read their literature, or receive their counseling are told that any god at all will do. AA teaches people to worship "god as they understand him" - or would like him to be, a god of their own making, a god created in their own image, or even the particular AA group of people with whom they meet, they are told, may serve as their "god.""

    "The major concern that we have with AA (and other such recovery groups) is that contrary to their denial, they constitute a religious system. For example, they believe and talk about God, they pray, they have a creed, AA is their bible, and they fellowship in a church-like setting. However, just like all religions, save true Christianity, Twelve-Step recovery groups cannot bring a person into a right relationship with God -- for their god is not the God of Scripture, their prayers are to whatever power(s) they choose, their bible is not God's Word, and their salvation is from "addiction," not sin. The devil is more than happy to provide sobriety in the place of salvation. AA and recovery movements are false religions with false religious systems, attempting to lead mankind to a better and happier life, yet bypass the cross of Christ"

    The most frightening aspect of seeking a "lesser god," is the possibility that they will find him, or that indeed they will welcome him in, for Jesus called Satan the "god of this world," and the "ruler of this present age" in the world's "system," and Satan desires worship in any deceitful form he can receive it."

    (For more information about AA, see the book 12 Steps to Destruction by Martin and Deidre Bobgan. The PsychoHeresy Awareness web site is located at http://www.psychoheresy-aware.org/mainpage.html)

    Editor's Note: An ongoing theme of commentary concerning AA and 12-Steps is that it is religious in its essence (e.g., that it is based on practices taken from Frank Buchman's Oxford Group , popular in 1930s USA). Generally, this criticism is made by someone of a secular pursuasion who is offended by the religiosity implicit in AA. What's interesting to me is that the same alleged religious basis of AA that some secular folks find offensive is also offensive to people of a different, more "born again" protestant pursuasion such as the present comment's author.

  • JR

    Dear Editor - at the risk of raising further hackles, it should not be very surprising that both "secular" people and Christians may find the religious core of AA problematic. I am neither "secular" or "Christian", and have no hangups about the Bible one way or the other (the Dhammapada perhaps ... but then one does not tend to get so sensitive about the Dhammapada).

    Joking aside, and to put it simply, the "religious" practice of AA, with its reliance on "surrender", on "let go and let God", and on obedience to all God's commands as conveyed in "meditation" (what Buchman would, as I recall, have called "Guidance") interpreted where necessary by Group Elders (in AA, "sponsors") is seriously at odds with the doctrine of Free Will that is shared by most mainstream Christian denominations - from fundamentalist Calvinists to those in the Roman Catholic tradition (the one, I should say, in which I was raised). Also, "meditation", or "Guidance" as understood by Wilson/Buchman is at odds with the idea of Redemption based on scriptural Revelation along with (for Catholics at least) on Tradition (a problem for Muslims too, I should think). This is not to mention the almost total lack of scriptural reference in AA's own (alternative ?) "scriptures", the idolatry of the "God-as-Doorknob" business, and the nature of "God as we understand Him" (that is, as Bill W. understood Him), who comes across, if anything, as something of a simplified Old Testament Jesus-free Zone. Whether you are the Reverend Ian Paisley, the Archbishop of Canterbury or Pope Benedict, this adds up to more heresies than you can shake a stick (or crozier) at. If Bill W and Dr. Bob had been bringing their message to 12th century Rousillon, they would very likely have had an unfortunate encounter with some very bad-tempered Dominicans, followed by an extremely warm departure from this Vale of Tears.

    So - "seculars" and "Christians" can both have serious problems with AA, albeit for very different reasons. Just because AA is "religious", it does not follow that for Believers in general, any old religion will do.

    A more surprising matter is that Christian religious institutions have generally overlooked (or contrived to ignore) the problems that should arise on their side in respect of AA's religious practice. Indeed, as we all know, they generally support the Fellowship through the provision of facilities for meetings, referrals from religious-controlled medical institutions, and so on. This, perhaps, results from the best of motives (if AA helps anyone, then it is good). Also, it is probable that religious communities share the uninformed attitude of the public at large to AA - it is viewed as a convenient miracle cure (or at least containment zone) for a problem for which they have no ready answer, and which they really do not want to face up to, or have any more to do with than is necessary.

    Should this attitude on the part of religious communities ever change, AA might end up having to find a lot of alternative Rooms. Such change is not impossible. Frank Buchman's "Oxford Groups"/Moral Rearmament cult ("sect" would not be an appropriate description, since it is/was not a "sect" of anything) was eventually widely condemned by Christian leaders, both Catholic and Protestant. And, as Bill Wilson himself put it,

    "Early AA got its ideas of self-examination, acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for harm done, and working with others straight from the Oxford Groups and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their former leader in America, and nowhere else."

    (Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age)

    Dominus Vobiscum,

    JR

  • CW

    It has been fascinating and somewhat disheartening to read some of the almost virulent diatribes against AA posted here. I spoke this morning at a lively and vigorous AA group, and was once again struck by the harmony, self-deprecating good humor, and tolerance that AA has always exhibited to me during my 32 years of sobriety. I have attended literally thousands of AA meetings, gone on hundreds of 12 step calls, and currently attend a once-a-month meeting of AAs who have been sober more than 30 years.

    That does not mean that I think AA is perfect or is for everyone. There is indeed a (thankfully) shrinking faction within AA that is anti-therapy and anti-medication, and I have seen terrible things happen to individuals as a result of this woefully mistaken interpretation of AA's message. I know specifically of one man who stopped taking his anti-depressant because his sponsor told him it would interfere with his sobriety, and within two weeks he shot and killed himself. Most right-thinking AA's, and particularly those who are familiar with AA's history and its literature, know that AA does not condemn nor forbid the taking of any medication that is prescribed by a doctor for a specific condition, so long as the doctor is aware that the patient is also an alcoholic.

    Bill Wilson himself gained notoriety by trying a number of chemical "cures" for alcoholism, including Niacin therapy and LSD. Many say that if Prozac had appeared when Wilson was alive, he would have been the first to take it for his chronic depression. No, AA does not "play doctor" with its members, and "hard line" AAs who say otherwise are not only wrong, but dangerously wrong.

    As to the religious nature of AA -- again and again AA reminds us that it is not a religion any more than the Lions' Club or the Rotary Club or the U.S. Senate. all of which have their totems, their symbols and their rituals. AA is a group of people with a common problem who meet to solve that problem through a series of quite simple steps of self-regeneration. Members have wide latitude as to how to approach the steps and integrate them into their lives. And if a group appears to be rigid or judgmental, there is another group a short distance away, or dissenting members can start their own. No one is coerced, or browbeaten or subjected to sinister forces.

    There is nothing cult-like about AA. It is based on ordinary principles that are common to most religions, but it is also welcoming to atheists and agnostics. I have known many atheists who thrive in AA in spite of the constant references to God, knowing that AA's God is shorthand for whatever power an AA member can enlist that makes sense to him or her. That can be one's own group, a Jungian collective consciousness, the power of the unconditional love AAs have for each other, a non-religious Spirit of the Universe concept, or any other broad concept (but certainly not a door knob or a tree, as some critics suggest).

    The idea of the Higher Power is to convince the alcoholic that it is unlikely he can recover on his own resources alone, and that ego-deflation is a key to his recovery. This was hardly a revolutionary idea even back when the Big Book was written, and it certainly is not today. AAs are warned to look out for "selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear" -- things not likely to be considered as foolish or cultish by any thinking person.

    I will admit that many members believe AA is the "only way," but AA literature reminds us often that AA is not for everyone and that there are other roads to sobriety. AA readily admits that "we know only a little." The "insanity" that AA literature refers to (in the second step in particular) clearly refers not to a mental illness in the accepted sense (depression, schizophrenia or manic depression) but the "insanity" of the first drink, in which the alcoholic, knowing the dire consequences of drinking, picks up that first drink time after time.

    Finally, statistics are tricky things. Studies that show, for example that AAs have a higher mortality rate than non-AAs leaves out a host of identifying information about the two groups being studied, and is the product of an old and now discredited study to begin with. To suggest that 50% of alcoholics "recover on their own" relies on the researchers' identification of who is and who is not a true alcoholic. Many people who drink to excess -- and who are often mistaken for alcoholics -- find that they can stop when they find it necessary the true alcoholic cannot. There are many heavy drinkers by far than alcoholics, but the misidentification of these is quite common.

    Finally, AA doesn't keep very good records of its success rate and never has. But those of us who have been part of the AA community for many years have observed its growth by the simple means of seeing the growth in the number of groups in a given geographical location, as well as its growth worldwide. On any given morning in a major city, thousands of people are attending an AA meeting at any one of a hundred AA groups. They are truly people from all walks of life -- doctors have their own AA groups so do lawyers (and they attend regular groups as well). People with high IQs and Phds are found in great numbers, as are factory workers, medical technicians, day laborers, housewives, career women, CEOs of companies. These are not people deluded by the Svengali Bill Wilson, they are independent-minded people who simply have found a program that has not only ended their addiction to alcohol, but has made their lives immeasurable more productive and of far greater use to their fellow man.

    Many people apparently are suspicious of AA simply due to ignorance of its history or its means of recovery. Others have agendas, perhaps, that only they can tell us about. AA is at least benign -- take it from a former atheist and non-joiner -- and at best it is one of the most successful social experiements of the past 100 years. And I can tell you I have had more sheer fun around my fellow AAs than I ever had when I drank in bars and saloons and at fancy parties. And I can remember it, too.

  • Julian Peron

    "The idea of the Higher Power is to convince the alcoholic that it is unlikely he can recover on his own resources alone".

    The above quote from original post is an erroneous and inaccurate statement, since millions do and have throughout history, prior and subsequent to AA's existence, quit their addiction on their own. People who do quit on their own are assumed by aa's to have not been a "true alcoholic" to begin with - a position held by those who are somehow threatened by someone embracing a solution which contradicts their own. For me, the very strength and self-confidence and awareness which held my solution to addiction is the same thing 12/steppers and aa's were demanding that I abandon if I intend to "follow the program" People often confuse ego with confidence and in aa/12 step, confidence often becomes that which is deflated as well as one's inherent strength, which exists in everybody, addicted or otherwise. I personally never had a problem with the "God thing" or the Higher Power, but rather I had a problem with AA/12 step imposing short sighted dogma and principles, which in my eyes, reduces the impeccability of God and the universal truths that exceedingly transcend the concepts of aa/12 step.

  • Angel

    The article is very good. It Provides helpful explanation. it`s really encouraging, realistic and energising. Keep it up.

    _____________________________________________________

    Angel


  • Ray Smith

    CW,

    "Studies that show, for example that AAs have a higher mortality rate than non-AAs leaves out a host of identifying information about the two groups being studied, and is the product of an old and now discredited study to begin with."

    When exactly was the Vaillant study discredited? George Vaillant, Harvard professor and researcher, as well as being a member of AA's Board of Trustees, set out to prove that AA works. He had this to say of his findings:

    "Not only had we failed to alter the natural history of alcoholism, but our death rate of three percent a year was appalling."

  • Anonymous-5

    AA cannot be mandated by courts in 17 states. This due to rulungs in federal courts that AA/NA is religious in nature. The courts did not accept the notion that AA is spiritual not religious. It is those rulings that matter.

    People can do better than AA. People should investigate their options. They are there.

  • JR

    Just a query on the previous post -

    "AA cannot be mandated by courts in 17 states. This due to rulungs in federal courts that AA/NA is religious in nature."

    Only 17 States ? Is this because these 17 States are those that fall within the geographically limited jurisdiction of the particular Federal Circuits that have found against mandated AA attendance on constitutional grounds in particular cases ? Or are applicable Federal rulings simply being ignored in some States and counties ?

    Assuming that either of these represents the actual situation, it seems highly unsatisfactory either way. The matter cries out for clarification at national level.

    Best regards,

    JR (a lawyer, I must admit, but a European one)

  • Anonymous-5

    The US Supreme Court has refused to hear the arguments. Which the court may do. Thus, the rulings of several Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal stand. These courts cover specific geographic areas of the USA.

  • JR

    Thanks for the response. The situation is much as I thought (I am familiar with the concept of limited and local jurisdiction). The fact that the Supreme Court is entitled to refuse to hear arguments on this and chooses to do so is interesting. However, this attitude appears to perpetuate a very unsatisfactory situation, in which equal citizens are treated unequally in a matter of constitutional significance, depending on circumstances of mere geography.

    Thanks again,

    JR

  • herica

    i would like to know where i can find those a.a. saying for example easy does it - one day at a time- and so on. if some one can please help me

  • Anonymous-6

    A.A. promotes growth of a spiritual nature .spiritual growth ,along with not drinking , is the only way I have been able to stay stopped.Buy living through spiritual princaples I can live with great confidence . Angel your perspective is ascew this isn't in any way an insult .Its just that I persued ablivion with such vigor that only A Phenomenon of the spiritual nature could have saved me from my seemingly hopeless state of end stage alcoholism& heroin addiction..... the old will power couldn't cut it . I had to turn my life over to God & his Will

    Everyone in my life now,once again, love me many burned bridges have been rebuiltI now have a relationship with the Creator of the Cosmos & all within !!!!!!!!!!boy I feel unstopable !!!!!!!!!like God has my back big time ! I want for nothing ....I now have many trappings -house,cars,pets but you can't put a price on peace of mind ---its like the I can be in the middle of Chaos & calmly find my way outAll props to The Man Upstairs

  • JR

    Just saw your question. There is, as far as I know, no "approved" list of AA slogans - although there are certainly plenty of them. Some are common in AA more or less everywhere, and some have a more local provenance. "Unofficial" lists on AA-friendly websites I have come across tend to be a bit limp. If you want a (very) unofficial list from an AA-hostile source, the Orange Papers list (in total) close to 480 AA slogans and sayings at http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-cult_a4.html#ca_thought_stop . Be warned that the Orange Papers is a very AA-hostile website, but this is probably the best list of slogans that I know of.

    Best regards,

    JR

  • Anonymous-7

    My way wasn't working. I tried the 12-steps last and now I am free to recover in any way I so wish. I have been given the ability to design my own recovery and it has been working for over 18 years.

    No Controversy!!

  • Anonymous-8

    I understand and respect that some people not only need , but require a replacement for the addiction that they may have regardless weather it is alcohol or other drugs to take the place of that addiction. However, I for one do not need not see the need for it to be a religious one. Who are you or anyone to decided that a higher power or spiritual need is the answer to my problems.. Maybe I am just depressed and maybe need some support and therapy for those things.

    Anyway, not saying that I am not open to spiritual therapy , but not forced anything.

  • AB

    Does a religious approach (AA) to Addiction require a negative stance toward Secular People and Lifestyles? What good does this type of Ideology do?

  • Seth

    AB,

    There are many people in this world who use religion as something to avoid life or hide behind, much like people who use alcohol, drugs, among many other substances, habits, activities, viewpoints, etc. Some compulsions, such as religion, are "prettier" to the outside world or more socially acceptable, yet equally negative in relation to how it impacts himself and those around him.

    I personally question the genuineness, validity or integrity of a person's beliefs - religious or otherwise - if within those beliefs - he dismisses the value of individuals who don't share his beliefs. Positive, humble, genuine, and accurate beliefs embrace the goodness of humanity as a whole, rather than places an individual in a position to condemn, judge, ridicule or dismiss the goodness within portion of humanity who don't follow his beliefs, rules, and so on.

    That is my 2 cents.

  • kieshea

    This 12 step program is not a religeous approach AT ALL, it is about discovering youself to the deepest extent to discover the core of where your faults and addictions come from. They teach that god inside all of us, and no matter what you want to call it, god, or a higher being, it is about knowing who you are and healing yourself to follow the right path. My sister is doing the 12 step program right now, she is a recovering crystal meth addict via injection and was using for 10 years. I have been clean from crystal meth myself for 1and a half years after using for 7 years, and i only wish i knew of the 12 step program. My sister is on a path to healing when i really believed her life will just about be over. Never loose faith in anybody, and 12 step program is a TOP RANKING of rehibilitation!!!!!!!

  • Kerry

    It's patently false and disingenuous to claim that the 12 step programs are "not religious" when in fact the U.S. Supreme Court, along with many lower courts, have found it to be. A cursory reading of the steps show clearly just how religious it is--one must believe in a "higher power" which one is told initially can be "anything" but this is a bait/switch tactic--later on in the steps we see that the "power" must be a deity capable of hearing prayers, caring about us and responding to those prayers with the miraculous relief of our compulsions, and obviously this is not something a rock is capable of, or a doorknob, or "the AA group", or "good orderly direction", etc.

    In the Big Book it states in many places, quite clearly, the higher power IS "God". There is a chapter written to "we agnostics" (they could not even fathom atheists, apparently) that is extremely condescending and chastises the non believer as someone clinging to his cold, intellectual beliefs instead of stepping into the warm glow of religion, and tells how to carefully lure the recalcitrant agnostic into belief. Dr Bob, the co-founder of AA, states quite plainly that he "feels sorry for" anyone who is too "intellectual" to accept God. He read frequently from his Bible at AA meetings, which remains today on the podium at his AA home group.

    The rest of the steps carry on in the same fashion, instructing us to turn our lives and will over to god (or, a rock), to seek to know God (or the rock's) will for us, to confess our sins to God (or the rock), and to try to remain in constant contact with god (or the rock) through prayer. But come on now....that's not religious, is it?

    Many AA groups close by circling up, joining hands, and praying The Lord's Prayer. But that's certainly not religious.

    AA came directly from The Oxford Group, now known as Moral Rearmament--a christian sect led by Frank Buchman, and from which Bill Wilson, a member, drew the material for the 12 steps directly. There is nothing whatsoever in the 12 steps that has anything to do, medically speaking, with ceasing to use drugs or alcohol. These are medical disorders, not "character defects" or "spiritual maladies", and they need to be treated medically, not with some mumbo jumbo from a cult-like sect from nearly 100 years ago.

    Although widely practiced and accepted, the 12 step success rate is abysmal--a fact most people don't know or won't accept. If we tried to cure diabetes, schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder by having those patients go to meetings to talk about their disease, confess their wrongdoings that must surely have caused their disease in the first place, and beg a "higher power" (aka God) to eliminate those "shortcomings" so their disease would relent, people would be outraged--yet we accept it as a legitimate treatment for addiction, even though it does not work, even though it has not been revised or updated in ANY WAY since it was written in the 1930's, even though it is religious and seeks a treatment not through medicine and science, but from "God".

    The book itself is SO outdated that none of the colloquialisms and references and turns of a phrase make sense to a generation many times removed from that of the authors, and assumes that all alcoholics are middle class white males with long-suffering "little women" at home, and advises the wife not to be a "nag" or a "wet blanket", lest he stray with another woman. There is a chapter entitled "to the wives" to address all this, and another similar one called "The Family Afterwards" which tells wife and kiddies not to be jealous if Daddy suddenly spends every waking moment at meetings or bringing home drunks to sober up, lest he drink again.

    The fact that NONE OF THIS has been updated--not to mention the medical statement by a doctor that alcoholism is "an allergy" which has been thoroughly disproven--is quite mind boggling--good grief, even the famous Dr Spock updated his "Baby and Child Care" classic every few years--until one stops to realize that the Big Book has not been updated because it is viewed by the members as scripture--holy writ, if you will, from the Mind of God to Bill Wilson's pen. Many members do actually believe this, and carry their books around in leather Bible carrying cases, thoroughly underlined, highlighted and noted. The only thing missing is verse notations.

  • amy

    Many people attempt to break down and direguard anything that they don't understand. I can attest that until you are a suffering chemically dependant person- and use the 12 step philosophy and steps in your life- you only spin theory and bogus thought. I could sit here and bullshit an array of possible assumptions for different life experiences but until i go through the experience- assumptions, theory and opinions are all they are.

    I am not one who believes in the white bearded man in the sky- i understand that humans anthropomorphize a higher power to relate to it- but i am one who recognizes a force that works for what we call positive- and i don't ever have to pray to this force/energy if i don't believe in that fashion. The 12 step program doesn't insist on everyone needing to pray- only that they rely on a higher power- typically loving, caring, supporting and outside ourself (i.e. sponsor, literature, someone sharing the AA/NA way, spiritual priciples, music etc)

    Until you are a suffering addict and receive a 12 step program as a solution- you have no room to talk and your words have no power because they aren't based in true experience. Had you worked a 12 step program- your testimony would be like the other millions around the world- that it saved their lives.

    for those of us who know....keep coming back.

  • sk

    I'm with Amy on this - you don't get it, until you get it......

    I'm 27 years clean and sober - not any religion - or maybe all religions.... I just don't pick up and I learn how to grow up through the step - which are not all about sin and what I did wrong (if you have a good sponsor) - I find out my part and I find out what is not my part (just as important) -

    going through the steps ultimately teaches us how to be adults in an adult world

  • JL

    I have not found a fellowship quite like AA. Its beliefs are simple and easy to follow. The secret is simply to follow them. There are other things over which some humans have seemingly no control and need help to overcome. AA and other type programs are predominately Christian in nature but without the complications that later followed the first century. It was simply my return to God in the sense that this spiritual approach to my life and purpose were rekindled. Most are aware of the pitfalls of some religions that are negative but AA endorses God .