"I Have Benefited From AA And The 12 Steps... Very Much So!"

Comments continue to roll in on my essay Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a Cult ?, first published about two years ago. I didn't realize it at the time, but the essay topic struck a nerve or fracture point, and as people have contributed to discussion, two positions have more or less become clear. On the one side are people who have experienced AA as a helpful positive force, and who have difficulty understanding others criticism and cries of abuse. On the other side are people who are disenchanted with AA and the 12 steps either because they have felt themselves to have been victimized within the rooms, and/or because they have philosophical and religious issues with the nature of the 12 steps. People embedded in either of these positions tend not to understand why people coming from the other, position talk the way they do. Each side tends to dismiss the concerns and the strengths of the other as a sign of sickness or at least as something alien, in a manner most reminicient of Robert Kegan's Institutional self-concept stage.

I'm not immune to this sort of embedded perspective and prejudice. I personally used to dismiss complaints about the philosophical and religious issues as excuses people were making to continue drinking, but now, two years on, I'm thinking that these issues are quite real and can easily become a serious problem for people of a secular persuasion as they engage AA culture. While AA is plenty fine for many people and all in need should be invited to explore it, it is also not a "one-size-fits-all" enterprise, and IMHO, alternative programs based on different philosophical principles ought to become more built out, and more needs to be done to educate people as to their existence. Subject matter for a future essay, I think.

Today, an essay-length comment, very much defending what is good and useful in AA and 12 steps was submitted by a reader calling himself Harrison. I thought it a reasonable experiment to publish it, in its entirety, as a free standing essay on which people can comment directly. I have modified the text only slightly to enhance readability:

(Mark, I recognize this is pretty long. Perhaps you'll find it interesting. I do believe that the preponderance of one-sided comments about AA deserves to be rebutted.)

I have benefited from AA and the 12 Steps... Very much so!

What I have learned in AA over the last 3 1/2 years has become the basis of a quality of life and a sense of personal well-being that I would not have thought myself capable of experiencing before I "embraced the Program". So it has been somewhat painful to read the comments of so many people who have had what appear to be overwhelmingly negative experiences with AA. Painful and sad. And alarming if these comments might turn away someone who could benefit from AA.

I was especially surprised to encounter comments from individuals who considered themselves AA members for several years, but have decided to leave the fellowship behind due to the unhealthy and unattractive behaviors of other members. These individuals mentioned that AA had helped them, but they have since tired of the nonsense (and worse), and so are going their own way. All well and good. But I wish those individuals had stopped to recall the shape they were in (mentally, emotionally and socially) when they first got to AA, and perhaps had something more encouraging to say about the aspects of AA they had found beneficial.

And then there are the large number of comments that are vitriolic in their criticism, suffuse with blame, scorn, anger, fear and wild generalization -- like the comment quoted in the main post. I believe these comments reveal more about the state of mind and inner being of the person making them than shed any light on what they presume to judge. If you were sick and/or dysfunctional enough to find yourself going to AA in the first place, and then had a very bad experience, there is a high degree of likelihood that your experiences in AA were deeply distorted or otherwise primarily reflected your own damaged psyche.

This is not to say that there are not some (or even many) people in AA doing some very "bad" things. But before we indulge in unconstrained criticism about AA, let's be sure we understand what AA is.

First, there is no single AA. There are many, many AA meetings and many AA groups, and many, many, many individuals who attend AA meetings who may consider themselves "members" of AA. At the group and meeting level, there is no access to a "central authority" that serves as any kind of mediator or arbiter what constitutes "good AA". So yes, it is unregulated and there are any number of pretty sick people who will present themselves as some kind of authority -- if you let them.

However, and this goes to the question of "the process", the idea of "submission", and the potential for "abuse": no one in AA can or does force you do to anything. There are no prison guards or parole officers. No principals or hall monitors. No one with the least coercive authority whatsoever. There is not, to my knowledge, a pervasive pattern of kidnapping, forced drugging, or torture. There is no Kool-Aid. The only thing that happens to you in AA is what you allow to happen to you. And yes, it's probably a good idea that you have the wherewithal to be able to identify certain individuals that you shouldn't trust and otherwise be able to tell those people to "get lost" if they are bothering you. Of course, this is a useful capacity to possess if you're an alter boy, on the NYC subway, or have a creepy uncle. There is at least a proportionately tiny number of human beings who are damaged beyond repair and behave in sociopathic ways. They make their way into schools, churches, hospitals, government agencies, the military, and every other type of organization and institution. AA is not immune to this.

To those who would rant on about the horrors of AA and the truly horrific experiences they have had therein, I do question your wild generalizations and your dramatic, self-pitying accounts of what you claim to have experienced. While you ask other to accept at face value what you have to say, and while you attempt to present "testimony" to the awful and unhealthy ways of AA, it is far more likely that you are simply and sadly sick and damaged individuals who have little or no capacity to see things clearly for what they are. Least of all yourselves. Your sourness is ample evidence of your continued illness, your dis-ease. This is something one would ordinarily refrain from stating. It is generally not "good form" to point to someone and say, "You're sick, so shut up." But sometimes, such as in the present case, when in your existential delirium you threaten to do damage to the potential for something like AA to do the good it does, it seems somewhat warranted to just be blunt.

From what I can tell and from what I have directly experienced, it is the overwhelming experience of people coming to AA that you encounter something wonderful and remarkable. If your drinking has reached the point where you are making yourself physically and emotionally sick, if you have tried to stop drinking on your own and despite every rational reason to not take that next drink, you do so anyway, you may conclude that you need help with what has become your problem with alcohol. And while the path to AA is almost always tortured (a self-inflicted torturing, to be sure), and while one's arrival at the AA portal is never at the time a cause for celebration, what many millions of people will simply and unpretentiously report if you ask them is that in AA they found people just like themselves who once could not live with alcohol and yet could not live without it. People who once they stopped drinking for a day, a week, or longer discovered they didn't know how to live. People who had to learn to live, indeed learn how to be, as if starting completely from scratch. People who needed to learn how to think, feel and act from the ground up, because the only way they knew how to think, feel and act had made them miserably unhappy.

The most constant and universal theme in human history and in the human condition is that of suffering, and the people in AA are deep in their humanity because they suffered deeply. What they found in AA is a way to overcome the crippling hopelessness, despair, dishonesty, self-centeredness, loneliness, anger, resentment, fear, impatience, arrogance, intolerance, and deeply misguided sense of self-sufficiency that gave rise to that suffering. And once they were able to overcome that condition, they were grateful and privileged to help someone else do the same if asked to do so. There are so many warm, helpful, healthy, decent, kind, thoughtful, fun, inspiring, good people in AA that to see none of that and to see only something dark and twisted and frightful is in itself truly and frightfully sick.

Yes, we come to AA as very sick people. And yes, newcomers to AA can involve themselves with individuals who have not benefited from the program, who do not possess good mental or emotional health, and who will act in unhealthy and dysfunctional ways toward and with them. However, nobody forces that newcomer to interact with that person or persons. When you come into AA, you choose who you spend time with. If your internal radar is so damaged that you choose to hang around really sick people, and behave in really sick ways, unfortunately no one can stop you. But to later turn around and blame all of AA as if AA itself endorsed your choices and encouraged your behavior is to maintain a pattern of not assuming responsibility for your own behavior, i.e., it is a way of remaining sick. There is nothing inherent to the AA "process" that lends itself to being blamed by people who "feel abused". AA is not responsible for anyone's really bad judgment.

AA cannot and will not protect people from their own weaknesses or failings. For people who recognize that their problems with alcohol and life stem from their own weaknesses and failings, AA offers a way of changing who you are. But AA as an organization does not and cannot act to stop anyone from behaving in a self-destructive way or submitting to the unhealthy attentions of certain nominal members. People who are healthy enough respond to abusive attitudes and individuals by ignoring them. I personally do not interact in any way with anyone who is abusive, and of the several hundred people I have met in AA, I can't think of anyone I would label as abusive. I personally cannot be abused because I would never allow anything abusive to happen to me. And that is the experience of everyone I happen to know in AA.

As to the question of there being submission to a higher power without abuse taking place – what a strange question! I am not familiar with any "AA directive" that mandates "submission" to a "higher power". Yes, we talk about "surrender". Yes, we talk about "powerlessness". Yes, we talk about "turning our will over" to a "Power greater than ourselves". And OK, maybe there is some nuance here, but that's not submission. Described analytically, I am "disengaging" one aspect of my being. I am learning to quiet and relax what is denominated as my "ego" or "self-will". I do so only in a way that helps me experience significantly less fear, anger, resentment, and other highly corrosive and, to an alcoholic, dangerous feelings and states of mind. The primary way to do this is to seek guidance from some conception of a power great than myself. Basically, I'm asking for help from whatever conception of a personal god I choose to fashion. That's it.

So, we're talking about a type of subordination in one's thinking process to a Concept here, not an actual power relation. The "power greater than myself" that I seek to access and utilize is an IDEA or set of ideas….not another person, group, or controlling authority. Nobody in AA has any power over me whatsoever. The idea that I might in any way be coerced or pressured by anyone to believe or do anything is completely alien to a healthy experience in AA.

What AA does, what AA is, what AA offers, what AA provides is this: a resource and opportunity for very sick people to take themselves through a process that amounts to a wholesale cognitive restructuring. The Twelve Steps are that process. It doesn't succeed in every individual, and where there is success it is in varying degrees. But by initially doing the Steps, you are simply taking yourself through a new way of thinking, feeling, seeing and acting for the first time. For many of us, doing so opens up aspects of our (existential) selves that are so much more healthy and vital than what we had hitherto known. The process at its best creates something similar to what William James describes in his The Varieties of Religious Experience, what he calls "the religion of healthy-mindedness". We learn to access, develop and maintain certain innate healthy, nurturing, sustaining ways of thinking, feeling and acting. And in doing so, adhering to a program of spiritual development, we follow in the footsteps of many people long before the advent of AA.

In all this, we are doing what ultimately feels good, for what we want and what we seek is a good measure of comfort in our own skin.

It feels good (First Step) to get honest about your condition as an alcoholic, to admit to yourself what has been objectively totally obvious for a long time to anyone and everyone but yourself: that you can't control your drinking and your life is a mess. Yes, it feels better to finally acknowledge that, rather than to keep on pretending otherwise.

And then (Second Step) it feels good, by fiat and out thin air, to start telling yourself that by reaching out and asking for help and by availing yourself of resources (call them powers, or even a Higher Power if you will) outside of yourself, you might actually get to the point where you have a decent life and stop hating who you are and learn to appreciate being alive.

And then, what the hell, it feels pretty darn good to (Third Step, and the one that few of us truly figure out how to do) abandon all your fears and worries, and for no good reason simply begin to trust that everything is going to be alright because that is the total opposite of what you've been doing for as long as you can remember and look where that got you. So you search inside yourself for some basis of feeling that things are going to be OK, and you begin to let go of your chronic and acute anxiety. You learn to trust. And to that end, you fashion some conception, any conception, of a "Higher Power" you can trust in and seek guidance from (which for purposes of convenience and because ultimately it feels silly to do otherwise you end up calling "God").

Getting back to that honesty thing again, even though it is enormously frightening and difficult to do so, it ultimately feels truly fantastic to (in the Fourth and Fifth Steps) take a long hard look at what you are as a human being, and to identify the many aspects of your personality and mentality that have played a causative role in producing so much of your unhappiness, and seeing how you could begin to respond to the situations you find yourself in in a different way, a way that is consistent with taking responsibility for who you are and how you are going to experience life, and to go through all this with another person.

And then (in the Sixth and Seventh Steps) there's humility, and recognizing that as much as you want and need to change and grow out of and away from the very unhealthy propensities of personality you've identified, you're never going to be able to completely do so and certainly not on the basis of your own individual resources.

Followed by (in the Eighth and Ninth Steps) facing up to the harm you've caused others, and acknowledging those wrongs to the people you've harmed.

And then (Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Steps) maintaining that honesty, hope, trust, responsibility, humility, and reliance on a "power" other than yourself while seeking to be helpful, kind, loving and tolerant of others for the rest of your life.

I don't know of any better alternative.

Comments
  • Harrison

    Thank you for the opportunity to be heard.

    Having had my say about what's good about AA, I feel obligated to acknowledge that there is a tremendous amount of confusion and dysfunction in AA. Sick people are (mis)guided by other sick people, and of course people do come away feeling "abused", some tragically so. You have to be very selective about who you trust in AA, and many alcoholics and addicts are too sick to make good choices in that regard.

    Healthy AA groups insist that with respect to newcomers, women stick with women and men with men. If you go to AA, and anyone behaves towards you in a dominating or coercive fashion, stop interacting with them. However, you may not have the capacity to identify and place your trust in a healthy AA member and follow their suggestions. In which case your chances for success in AA are very poor.

    AA is like a combination emergency room/intensive care unit in which the patients, who are obviously unqualified, decide on their own course of treatment, relying on other patients for guidance on how that treatment in administered. It's no wonder that there are a lot of bad outcomes. Perhaps what is surprising is that there are so many good outcomes.

    AA clearly does not work for everyone, just as everyone is not willing, ready or able to "work AA". Most long term AA members spent years coming to meetings, not "getting it", going back out to drink and drug, and returning to AA before something clicked. My first AA meeting was in 1986. My sobriety date is late 2004. What clicked was finally recognizing that I was the problem, that the solution had to be sought outside myself, that I had to give myself over to something I didn't create or control, and that I could learn from others how to change and become the kind of person that could live comfortably with himself without drinking or drugging. In a society that has itself erected a cult based on the illusion of personal autonomy and control, the principles and mechanisms of action of AA are as alien as can be.

    AA, despite being a rather direct path to mental and emotional well-being that could theoretically be beneficially followed by anyone, is instead a program of last resort that sadly cannot be grasped by most of the people who need it the most. As such, AA does "fail". But only if you expect from AA something more than it is capable of achieving.

    As for the religious and philisophical aspects that present a barrier to recovery for many individuals, that is a subject that merits its own essay. However, AA can and does work for those of us who don't subscribe to any conventional ideas of the divine, or even to any notion of divinity at all.

  • Anon

    Regarding men with men, women with women, my male sponsor and I had sex not long after I admitted to him some past homosexual behavior and he admitted to me his homosexuality. I will not lay all the blame on him..I actually initiated the encounter. But he was almost 20 years older and had about 15 years sobriety. I had to struggle with the shame of that encounter for years, as well as break off contact with him after he incessantly called me for many months afterwards. Looking back on it many years later, I realize that he sponsored a lot of younger, good looking guys - guys who shared intimate 4th steps with him. And he was not open about his sexuality publicly until I did my 4th with him. This was borderline predatory behavior on his part. Oh, and he was a big book guru and well respected in the fellowship. THIS KIND OF STUFF HAPPENS OFTEN IN AA.

  • Susan

    Thanks for giving the other side, Harrison...as for the previous poster who was 'preyed' upon by his sponsor, (at his initiation) I am sorry for your pain but you clearly had a large part to play - we attract what we want and you did initiate it (!) It's not fair to say that it often happens in AA because it doesn't - not to anyone I know or myself - and I'm probably the youngest and pretty attractive aa member in my area, with a male sponsor...as I said sorry for your pain but face up to your part and realise that was one bad man amidst a group of wonderful human beings.

  • Mike

    Sue, I'm glad you feel safe in your group, but have you heard of the Midtown group in DC? The so-called 'elders' there seemed to have traded young women amongst themselves like a pack of trading cards. I wonder how many of those young ladies were court ordered to attend? Also, considering all the sex offenders I have come across in the program, I also wonder if people should be allowed to bring children to meetings. The fellowship is a haven for predators who use the good intentions of others to take advantage of the vulnerable. Sooner or later the churches and other facilities that host the meetings will be exposed to a huge lawsuit and that will be the beginning of the end of AA's welcome in many places.

  • Eric Schmidt

    I agree, mostly AA helps the INDIVIDUAL!! What about the spouses and children? There is nothing for us.

    Since joining AA almost eight years ago, she may have sworn off alcohol but for me and the kids it has turned into a private hell. Seems to be a compulsive behavior aimed at alienating all those who love her.

    I have tried to attend AA meetings to understand her. I was labelled an alcoholic by them. I have tried Alateen but there are no resources and AA certainly does not care about us the victims of their brain-washing.

    I don't doubt the effectiveness of AA but I am scheduled to visit with a mental health provider to find some way to save 19 years of marriage and two very wonderful, talented teens. I pray to my "higher power" for "courage to change what I can, understanding for those things I cannot change and wisdom to know the difference!"

  • Di

    Family members of alcoholics may attend Al Anon Family Groups. You will find there the support you are looking for. Al Anon saved my life, my sanity, and my family relationships.

  • JR

    AA participation may benefit those to whom the program is personally suited it is less clear that its effects on the families of such persons will always be beneficial, depending of course on the attitude of the individual member.

    The core attitude of the Fellowship to relations with spouses and families can be read from "Alcoholics Anonymous" (the "Big Book"), in particular, in chapters 8 and 9 ("To Wives" and "The Family Afterward"). The Big Book (4th Edition) is available online - enter Big Book online in your search engine. These chapters - including "To Wives", which is supposedly written by an "AA wife" - were both actually written by William Griffith Wilson (Bill W), the principal founder of AA, some 70 years ago. They seem to reflect Bill's own somewhat dysfunctional relationships and personality, and it seems doubtful whether applying "principles" drawn from this background is likely to do one's family life much good. However, I find it hard to believe that very many AA members actually do it Bill's way as described in these chapters - but then, some certainly do. I know I would never have gotten away with it, even if I had been inclined to try!

    As for Al-Anon (of which, I understand, Alateen is effectively a subsidiary organisation), this may, again, prove beneficial in some cases, either on its own terms or just as a social group for family and friends of problem drinkers. Watch the bit about "its own terms", however. Al-Anon is a fully-fledged 12-Step recovery fellowship and, as such, carries - for good or for ill - almost all the baggage carried by AA itself. Whether all family members and friends will find an acceptable answer to the problems raised by their loved one's participation drinking, or indeed in AA, in themselves engaging in the practice of an auxiliary 12 Step program seems less than likely. Mind you, 12 Stepping for all the family was effectively what Bill W "suggested" - you may make of that what you will.

    I have to say that, even at the time during which I was striving to turn myself into a 12 Step True Believer, I became very wary of Al-Anon. It is, for example, vigorous in its recruiting even by AA standards and this recruiting is, necessarily, directed at people who are not themselves concerned with a substance abuse problem of their own. When my sister (occasionally depressed, but sober) telephoned Al-Anon just to get information on how she could help me with my "problem", the immediate response of this Fellowship was to make a strong attempt to induct her into its ranks. At the time, I was merely shocked only later did I come to realise that from Al-Anon's viewpoint, this sort of contact is an opportunity to engage with another person to whom the whole 12 Step message might be brought, and that this was not untypical of that Fellowship's attitude to just about anybody coming, however vaguely, within their sphere of activity. After all, everybody in reach of the alcoholic is suffering from the secondary "spiritual disease" of "co-dependency" - no ?

    Again, being aware of the situation, Al-Anon may help some families in dealing with the consequences of their loved one's problem - but others may find it less than helpful.

    May I wish you all the best in your struggle to overcome your family's difficulties.

    Best regards,

    JR

  • Anonymous-1

    Underlying the author's arguements, is the usual excuse of AA: it is the fault of the individual AA itself is flawless. In AA it is usually stated in some quaint fashion such as: need to do more step work, he wasn't ready, you are in denial, etc. AA never offers any meaningful description of why the program fails.

    And the author also uses the typical excuse that meetings are not part of AA he makes the claim that meetings are on their own. And thus AA cannot be blamed for what happens at meetings. So are they part of AA or not? If individual meetings are not part of AA, please somebody tell me where to find AA!

    What is really the fatal flaw of AA is that for some reason AA is stuck in the 1930s, and refuses to accept any advancements in the treatment of alcohol abuse.

    If you read carefully you'll see many illogical statements in the author's discussion. One huge example is he admits that people come to AA as newcomers in a state of being completely broken, yet the author expects these people to be able to take care of themselves and avoid the damaging parts of AA -- Huh?

    Again, happy that the author likes AA. But there is something wrong with a program that blames the individual for the failures of the program.

  • screaminguitars

    I went to AA for help with alcohol problems. I was told do it or die it was the only way listen to those with sober time my thinking was no good but they were wise teachers who could do my thinking for me--get a sponsor work the steps go to meetings do service. I did all these things i got ill in terrable pysical pain 11 days into it the doctor put me on morphine based tablets i started to abuse them then started smokeing pot then drank. I went back to AA my sponor said why did you drink i said i wanted to she pointed her finger at me while stood with all the other women and shouted your no Fxn good. No one spoke to me after that ( AA has a leaflet that states on it "WE STAND BACK FROM RELAPSERS) -except for one man he said you have to call me he was 5 yrs sober -i will help you keep sober. i did not call him - he pulled me at meeting said you are supposed to phone me that is what we do here in the meetings everyone was saying you have to use the phone-i called him however i found he became too friendly wanting to hug me all the time go to his home all the time phoneing me constantly and i wasnt to talk same as when i phoned sponsor or was in meetings i was told you are to shut up we are to talk. I had a couple of womens numbers one of i called she asked me if i fancied this man i said no she said but there is no harm in being friendly she said she had slept with him when she had first came in i said i did not want to that i did not fancy any of the men in AA she said that just to be friends then -when he hugged me i said please dont do that he said he fancied me i said i dont want this. i phoned a woman she was 3 years sober it was hard to talk to her as the women were not friendly in the meetings but i had got 2 of there numbers from my first 11 days.-i told her she said you are takeing this too seriouse he does that with everyone you have to stay friends with him. he kept doing this asking me i kept saying no then i said i dont want you to phone me i dont want to go to your house. In meetings while this was happening the women and others were cold shouldering me i had no one had been told to get rid of the people in my life. I told him to leave me alone he phoned me he said i am haveing a -i cant say this on internet ( mastrubation) right now right now as we talk do you mastrubate B does the woman in wednesday meeting she does that i put phone down i had a massive panic attack my youngest child found me on floor shakeing all over that is how bad my panic attacks can get. i told my pycologist what was going on and i swapped sponsors. my pycologist said phone your sponsor tell her what has happend and that you cant go to meetings at present but may come back later. i did this and spoke respectfully and to the point the facts - my sponsor who was 30 years sober said the same thing happend to me when i came in but i kept my mouth shut about it who do you think you are your not nothing your nothing fx special. i put phone down.......What was my part in it. this is not a distortion i know exactly what happend what was said. This is not the rantings of a revengfull mind -i did work on these things not only step work but also in therapy -i have had lots of therapy and this stuff i let go of i let go of my anger around these particular incidents of sexual emotional pycological and verbal abuse. i went on in AA and then on to NA. because i belived i had to had no other choice..i was around 12step organisations for 8 years..the abuse's did not stop. the week i left my sponsor told me that when i was well enough the group would be finding the right man for me to have a relationship with..i did not ask anyone to do that nor did i want that..

    You say you are alarmed that comments about abuse going on in AA may put someone off going there who may benefit from AA.

    Don't you think it could be that the sober members of AA are putting people off.

    Don't you think that people who have been to AA and been badly damaged by it have any rights to talk about those abuses in a safe and non judgemental place in order to heal from such things.

    Don't you think the general public have a right to know when an organisation is abuseing vunrable people.

    No one tells me to SHUT UP THESE DAYS. I am off the vunrable peoples list and no longer a victim.

  • Claire

    I could have written this essay myself...when I had 3 1/2 years sober. It was over the long haul that the deficiences of AA became more clear.

    In the early days, when I was happy just to be sober, when I didn't even know what mental health was, I thought AA was the greatest thing in the world. It never even occurred to me that the things I found attractive about AA--social support and better tools than the one (booze) I'd been using--were possible without being bound up in the doctrine of powerlessness and endless "recovery". I'm quite sure that had I been offered a program like Smart Recovery in my early days, I'd be just as sober as I am today and possibly quite a bit further along in my emotional growth.

    I understood this only after many years of fitting my thinking inside the AA box, in the mistaken belief (constantly reinforced by meetings) that this was the way to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    I did not begin to question the depth of my involvement in the program until its deficiences became impossible to ignore. I refer to deficiences not only in the behavior of fellow members (13th stepping, hidden relapses among alleged longtimers, overly controlling sponsors, etc.) but in program ideology itself. For example, the prohibition against anger and focus on "serenity" all too often resulted in rage-filled members hiding behind a facade of calm wisdom. It took years of really knowing these people--and years of my own personal growth outside the rooms, in therapy--before I began to grasp the level of pretense.

    But it was my own reaction to my own questioning that ultimately convinced me that the program might actually be harmful. I had been taught that the program was perfect ("a perfect program for flawed human beings") therefore to question it was impermissible. Oh, one could question this or that for purposes of understanding the mysteries of the program...but to question the program's essential perfection was simply not done.

    Yet I was doing it. This may sound odd, but it was as if my brain was torn in two, one part thinking "you aren't allowed to challenge the program" and the other thinking "my God, if you aren't allowed to think for yourself, you've been brainwashed!"

    It actually took a while, six months or so, before I finally left AA. The reason it took so long for me was that the stakes were quite high, and I knew it. I had been in AA for nine years at that time. I had a sponsor and four sponsees. I was GSR of my home group and treasurer of my district. My social life was focused around AA. I was not naive: I knew I would lose most of my friends if I left, and that it would be assumed I was drinking again.

    So, before I did it, I had to be convinced that it was truly the best thing for me to do. I discussed the decision at length with my family, with my therapist, even with my sponsor (who of course was against the idea). I did a lot of research. Were there others like me, people who had left AA after many years of membership and sobriety? Were there alternate support groups if I needed one? Was I likely to relapse if I quit going to meetings, as I'd been warned about for so long? Once I was convinced I'd be safe, I notified everyone who needed to know and simply quit going to meetings.

    I could never have predicted the outcome of leaving, which is that I actually feel healthier emotionally than I have in years. My life is so much richer and intellectually stimulating than it was when I spent large amounts of time "studying" the Big Book. I have no desire to drink. I feel free to be who I am, now that I am not in the pigeonhole of AA.

    Sometimes I am torn over whether it is appropriate for me to speak out against AA, where I did go for help in my early days. I do so not because I think AA should be done away with, but because I think it is critical that it be evaluated for what it truly is. It is not a perfect program and the results of long membership are, at least in my view, more harmful than helpful.

  • Anonymous-2

    I am a member of AA and I credit AA with saving my life. For anyone who is suffering because of alcohol, I believe AA is the place to go for help.

    However, I have a concern. A few years ago, my daughter, who is bipolar, was not taking her medication and getting into some trouble. She was ordered by a judge to see a drug and rehab counselor for testing. She tested negative for any drugs however, that drug and rehab counselor, who admitted to us he was a member of AA, took it upon himself to tell her to "stop taking any bi-polar medication or [she] will want to kill herself." Pre-medication, my daughter was stealing, easily angered, hearing voices and suicidal--things that are common for bi-polars. Now, she is back taking medication and going to counseling. She is doing well, has many friends, is happy, and has none of those other symptoms or problems.

    I know of another bipolar who was a member of AA and was told to stop taking her medicine by some of her fellow AA's. She committed suicide.

    Unfortunatly, It has been my experience these are not isolated cases. Many alcoholics, who take psychiatric medicines, such as antidepressants, have been advised by their sponsors or other AA's not to take their medication. There seems to be a sentiment in AA that no medication is o.k. to take when your a recovering alcoholic. Ofcourse, it is probably a good idea for a recovering alcoholic or recovering addict to avoid taking any potentially addictive medication such as oxycodone, unless absolutely necessary. But what about the rest? Do we really have a right to tell a sponsee or other AA what medication they may or may not take? I don't think so. Most of us are not physicians and it can be dangerous for us to act as one. Dangerous not only to the individual who should be taking the medication, but also to AA itself. What would happen to the organization AA if there was a class action suit based on this issue? It could be mean the end of court ordered AA. Thousands that could be helped would not be.

    I guess my point is sometimes there are legitimate reasons to question AA that do not mean the person questioning them wants to go out and drink or use. For me personally, this is a big one.

  • Claire

    I was interested to read the comment from the woman whose daughter has bipolar disorder and was advised by her "drug and alcohol counselor"--an AA member--to stop taking the medications that were prescribed for her condition.

    I saw a lot of this sort of thing in AA as well. In fact, for several years, I sponsored a young woman who, during my sponsorship, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began treatment. One of my biggest challenges as her sponsor was to protect her from AA members (typically long-timers) who insisted that she should recover from her condition by working her AA program rather than by taking her prescribed medications. She was told that taking meds was "the easier, softer way" and that she wasn't "really sober" if she took them.

    Meanwhile, the poor young woman was in constant anguish. She cycled very rapidly in the morning she could be manic and maxing out her credit cards and by evening she'd be too depressed to move. After having taken my sponsee to the psychiatric hospital in a suicidal state prior to her initial diagnosis, I knew all too well the risks involved in her condition. For a time, I took to accompanying her meetings simply to protect her from the "AA doctors" whose "advice" could literally kill her.

    Fortunately, after a good deal of trial and error, working with an excellent psychiatrist, my sponsee hit upon a combination of medications and behavioral methods that have kept her reasonably healthy for some time.

    Others have not been so lucky. Mental illness is common among AA members, and so, unfortunately, is the practice of telling dually diagnosed people to stop taking their medications. Two people I knew quite well committed suicide as a direct result of going off their meds, and I suspect this was the reason behind a number of other suicides that happened during my nine years in the program.

    Like the writer of the previous comment, I am horrified by this common practice in AA. Unlike her, however, I am not at all dismayed at the idea of AA being challenged in this regard or any other (especially the practice of court-ordered attendance, which clearly violates the constitutional principle of separation of church and state). Many things that happen in AA genuinely hurt people...it truly breaks my heart when I think of all the pain I witnessed in others and experienced myself before I finally summoned the courage to leave.

  • Ray Smith

    "...it is far more likely that you are simply and sadly sick and damaged individuals who have little or no capacity to see things clearly for what they are. Least of all yourselves. Your sourness is ample evidence of your continued illness, your dis-ease. This is something one would ordinarily refrain from stating. It is generally not "good form" to point to someone and say, "You’re sick, so shut up." (About the only point I agree with on.) But sometimes, such as in the present case, when in your existential delirium you threaten to do damage to the potential for something like AA to do the good it does, it seems somewhat warranted to just be blunt."

    I'm not going to throw around stats and studies, you'll just ignore them. You're a true believer, certain that your beliefs trump silly facts & figures.

    But for you to claim that AA critics (backed with those stats and studies) are "sick and damaged individuals" and that we threaten to "damage to the potential for something like AA" (a slightly more polite charge than 'killing alcoholics') is absurd.

    OK, one statistic, one from AA's own Triennial Surveys: 95% of people who join AA leave within the first year. Now why do you think that is?

    The AA critics that have been posting here gave AA a shot. Or several. And came away with a bad feeling about the time they spent there. The horror stories we have of being told to throw away medication, financial and sexual abuses aren't isolated cases or wild generalizations, if they were, there wouldn't be so many people leaving.

    I worked for a program for people that had cooccuring mental health and substance abuse disorders. Every one of them had been through 12step treatment and meetings, every one of them had their own AA horror story. I work for a different mental health program now, but I work primarily with dually diagnosed clients. AA/NA rarely works for these people, other methods have proved to have better outcomes, but they are routinely shuffled off to 12step treatment. Perhaps you don't know of any better alternative, but there are plenty. Backed up by those pesky statistics and studies.

    It pains me to see this kind of AA rant on a mental health website.

  • speedy0314

    yes -- the web, the print media, television, film is all just strewn with the great, monolithic message of "Anti AA", isn't it? i mean, Senator Jim Ramstadt's very public quip about how if 'congress were run more like an AA meeting, the country would be a far better place' certainly needs lengthy, anecdotal, elastic, & non-too-short on personal insult 'rebuttal' from Harrison.

    and of course, dr. dombeck, there's no need to offer space for a lengthy countering argument because ... well, Harrison says there's a deluge of bad, untrue things being said about AA & you tacitly agree.

    as i stated on dr. schwartz's forum: there is no organized "Anti AA". "Anti AA" is a marginalizing & insulting myth 12 step adherents love to invoke so as to paint their cause as one of glorious martyrdom.

    ray is right on when he raises the question of why so many people walk away from such a wonderous, life-altering positive experience once they've taken it in at some length. for every starry-eyed, spiritually-potentiated Harrison (who with 3.5 years of 'sobriety' is just a hair's breadth away from that ever-embarassing 5-year 'dead zone' that shows up in every AAWS estimate), there's 8-9 Joe Blows who took it on the hoof.

    maybe half of that number return to drinking self-destructively, convinced that they are 'condemned' to failure in the eyes of god & man -- all thanks to the loving, caring 'spiritual' overtures of bill wilson, et al. maybe the other half just recognizes the windbags for what they are & just gets it together of his or her own accord.

    one thing's for sure, AA/12X12 is no 'solution' for them. more to the point, AA has yet to demonstrably prove in any scientifically verifiable & replicable manner that is any solution at all.

    so thanks for the harrangue, Harrison, but i'll pass. six years of trying to square the circle in AA as an atheist & genuinely open-minded person was more than enough for me.

    as to the "there is no single AA" canard, bulls**t on that. it's analogous to stating "there is no single United States". yeah, there are individuals, municipalities, counties, states, & various branches of the federal government, but there's still one sovereign country. just ask anybody petitioning for citizenship.

    same goes with AA. the 'no single AA' rhetoric is a just a dodge to avoid responsibility, transparency, & change at the institutional level (AAWS, GSO, regional governance groups, etc.) -- which would certainly trickle down to the level of individual meetings.

    i don't go to AA meetings & raise my criticisms there. i respect their right to congregate & 'share' in a safe place. i'd appreciate it, though, if in the guise of "mental help" AA meetings & their tired, anecdotal rhetoric weren't brought to me.

  • Julian Peron

    "Your sourness is ample evidence of your continued illness, your dis-ease."

    Is that not a variation of the standard response to any remark made by those of us who do not share your perspective about aa/12 step? There are many, many healthy minded, non-disease people who simply do not embrace aa/12 step principles. For you to compulsively insist that if someone thinks differently than you or has had a different experience than you with aa/12 step, that it must be their "disease talking", speaks volumes about the solidity of your recovery and self-awareness. It is as if you simply cannot even cope with the thought that there are beliefs outside of aa/12 step. That sounds like the continuation of what you call, your "disease". You merely refocused your attention from drinking/drugging to meetings. Where once alcohol or drugs was responsible for your life and actions, now aa and meetings are. The "addiction" lives on.

    There are many more people who successfully and permanently quit drinking on their own - through their own support resources - family, church, friends, therapy, etc., than people who successfully and permanently quit through aa/12step. It is statistically proven that the chances of someone quitting on their own are far greater than those who seek treatment. I often wonder if aa is the only way, which is often espoused at meetings, what happened prior to the almighty bill w's gift of aa to humanity? I guess for thousands of years all those who struggled died, right?

    I personally am not diseased or ill, yet I have no doubt whatsoever that aa/12 step does far more damage than good. I even think that the acceptance of it by people like you, who claim to love it and be so grateful for it are damaged by it to the extent that you can't even think straight or make sense of yourself. Since it is so very contradictory to basic life principles and principles of logic, it can be no other way. The inaccurate and self-mutilating principles of aa/12 step completely contradict what people inherently know to be true about life, unless of course they are obstructed by alcohol, drugs, aa/12 step or are addicted to one of many other quack theories.

    While you say, "your sourness is ample evidence of your continued illness, your disease", I say right back at ya. Your blind, false and misplaced loyalty to aa combined with your intolerance of people who do not agree with you is a sure sign of a shaky "recovery" void of any solidity and self-confidence. Although there are exceptions in AA, like the wise ones who go for a bit in the beginning of their sobriety and end up moving on to focus on creating fulfilling lives for themselves rather than focusing on what they don't even do anymore - drink or drug, old timers and those of you who are so fiercely loyal to aa/12 step are a collection of those stuck in that "dis-ease" that you have conveniently decided to have. It is easier to latch onto a disease, making excuses, never truly being responsible for your life or your actions, than to face things head on, recognize your choices and responsibility in all of it, embrace your inherent ability to change it and then move passed what you don't do anymore (drink/drug) and have a life that you are responsible for and can take credit for and be proud of.

    You also mentioned in your post that it is not polite to point such things out in others, after you made a negative statement and judgement about another. It was actually simultaneously sad and comical. It is classic aa. Hide in the halls and behind the principles - yet sneak out the back door and be as irresponsible as you want - as you were in your post - then blame it on the disease. Classic!

    Also, just for the record, I do not wish to be misidentified as one who does not believe in God. My belief in God runs deep and powerful. My belief in God is also part of why I could never accept aa/12 step. God as I know Him is far too expansive and would have to be enormously reduced in order to fit into such small minded principles as are layed out in aa/12 step.

    JP

  • Laura

    "...no one in AA can or does force you do to anything. There are no prison guards or parole officers. No principals or hall monitors. No one with the least coercive authority whatsoever."

    AA is being dishonest and sleazy here. It claims to operate by "attraction rather than promotion", and claims that the traditions do not allow AA to coerce people to join.

    So what does AA do? AA gets the courts to do the dirty work for them. Read the guidelines:

    http://www.aa.org/lang/en/en_pdfs/mg-05_coopwithcourt.pdf

    How convenient! Look innocent and victimized while the courts take care of business for you.

    In this same pamphlet, AA groups are told to go to the courts and ask the court officials to send coercees to their meetings.

    If coercion were to stop, there'd be far fewer AA attendees. In some places, the majority of members are coercees.

    In some places, sponsors have the power to have the person put in prison if the person doesn't obey and please them by making an unfavorable report to a parole officer.

    Of course there's coercion, and AA is in collusion with it.

  • Vincent

    “I believe these comments reveal more about the state of mind and inner being of the person making them than shed any light on what they presume to judge. If you were sick and/or dysfunctional enough to find yourself going to AA in the first place, and then had a very bad experience, there is a high degree of likelihood that your experiences in AA were deeply distorted or otherwise primarily reflected your own damaged psyche.”

    So because a person was sick or dysfunctional enough to attend AA they must therefore be distorting, confusing, or hallucinating their experiences in AA? Talk about gross generalizations! This is typical AA rhetoric, blaming the victim because the program fails. There is a preponderance of evidence that shows that AA is extremely ineffective and may even be dangerous for some individuals. Yet ardent AA members continue to defend AA against a mountain of evidence, ignoring statistics, facts, and testimony of ex-members. Who is really being unreasonable?

    I quoted Dr. Dombeck in my article, “How Alcoholics Anonymous Damages People's Lives” that is published on Associated Content, with regard to the lack of understanding that many physicians have with regard to the detrimental effects of AA treatment. "My experience with AA was never very much first hand. I have been to exactly two AA meetings in my life. Both were observational in nature, a "field trip" if you will, so that I could see what I was recommending to my patients (Dombeck, 2006)."

    In light of the fact that many physicians only have a cursory view of the AA program the evidence presented through testimony of ex and current members is substantive and relevant. Although this evidence is not empirical in nature it should be significant to healthcare professionals and laypersons as it is suggestive of a deeper problem in AA.

    AA members should also take notice of this testimony and quit passing the responsibility on to the victims. If for no other reason, AA members should take notice of these stories as there might be a growing problem within the AA community. I for one would wish to know if an organization which I cared deeply for and was committed to serving was ethically sound and effective.

  • Vincent

    “I am not familiar with any "AA directive" that mandates "submission" to a "higher power". Yes, we talk about "surrender". Yes, we talk about "powerlessness". Yes, we talk about "turning our will over" to a "Power greater than ourselves". And OK, maybe there is some nuance here, but that’s not submission. Described analytically, I am "disengaging" one aspect of my being. I am learning to quiet and relax what is denominated as my "ego" or "self-will". I do so only in a way that helps me experience significantly less fear, anger, resentment, and other highly corrosive and, to an alcoholic, dangerous feelings and states of mind. The primary way to do this is to seek guidance from some conception of a power great than myself. Basically, I'm asking for help from whatever conception of a personal god I choose to fashion. That's it”.

    This is typical AA rhetoric in which AA members speak out both sides of their head. This AA member states that he is unfamiliar with any AA directive that mandates “submission” to a “higher power”. In the very next sentences the writer admits that AA as group speaks of powerlessness and turning our will over to a power greater than ourselves, but this is not submission. This is a great example of how people in AA split hairs and redefine words in order to prove their points. The act of surrendering ones will to higher power is definitively the same as saying submitting ones will to a higher power (Dictionary, 2009).

    Now in the sixth sentence the writer redefines powerlessness and surrender and turning ones will over to a power greater than themselves as meaning “Described analytically, I am “disengaging” one aspect of my being.”

    What on earth does that mean? What a bunch of hogwash! This writer is defining powerlessness as detaching a part of his nature or persona? But this definition gets better

    ” I am learning to quiet and relax what is denominated as my "ego" or "self-will". I do so only in a way that helps me experience significantly less fear, anger, resentment, and other highly corrosive and, to an alcoholic, dangerous feelings and states of mind.”

    Needless to say that this is not anywhere close to the meaning of the words powerlessness, surrender, or turning one’s will over to the care of a higher power. What this person is describing is the supposed result of the action of surrender. The writer also appeals to the fears and emotions of the audience by stating that “to an alcoholic, dangerous feelings and states of mind.” This is more AA nonsense, fear, anger, and, resentment are naturally occurring emotions. The idea that these emotions cause people to drink alcoholically is ridiculous. The only place one will see this idea expressed is in AA literature or by those who prescribe to AA beliefs. There is no scientific evidence to support a claim that these emotions cause anyone to drink.

    But the writer continues to redefine powerlessness and surrender to a higher power, “Basically, I'm asking for help from whatever conception of a personal god I choose to fashion. That's it”.

    This statement by the author means that the act of surrendering to a higher power is really the asking of help from whatever conception of god he chose to fashion. Again this is not the meaning of the words surrender, powerlessness, or turning ones will over to the care of higher power. As far as there being no directive in AA that mandates submission to a higher power, here are some examples of what we will call strong suggestions:

    · “Being convinced we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that and just what do we do? The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success.”

    · “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid.”

    · “First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our director. He is the principal we are His agents.”

    AA members constantly redefine words to prove their points. They have learned to do this through consistent reading of the big book. Bill Wilson constantly redefined words to further his points. Sadly, many people are suckered by this rhetoric and fallacy.

  • John

    I love this article. 12 Step programs have helped me too. I suffered from terrible social anxiety and OCD too. I have overcome most of my social by attending Social Anxiety support groups: http://www.healsocialanxiety.com/

    And I have been equally helped with my OCD by attending Obsessive Compulsive Anonymous 12 Step groups: http://obsessivecompulsiveanonymous.org/

  • Anonymous-3

    I am glad that the authorbenefited from AA and the 12 steps. He, it seems, was one of those who did. Those are those who did not. It is reasonable that there are people who benefit and, those who do not. I chose not to use AA. I checked out my options - on line - and I found a method that was compatible with me. That method was not AA. I chose SMART after I quit drinking.

    There are those who fit into AA. There are those who do not. I amone of those who do not. Check out your options and make your best call.

  • Vincent

    According to AA's own statistics the number of individuals who remain in AA after a year is only 5% or less. I am dubious of those who claim that AA has helped them because the data shows that the vast majority of alcoholics leave the program within the first year. The question is “how long have these individuals been in the program?” and “how long will they stay involved?” What about all of the individuals who leave the program and never drink again or become moderate drinkers. From the data that is known there is very little benefit derived from the use of AA. Furthermore, I am extremely wary of suggesting the use of AA on the off chance that it might help one or two individuals recover. I believe that many physicians and counselors are fooled by AA because they have been taught that the program is beneficial. However, since there is no research available that studies the long-term exposure to twelve step treatment, these physicians do not realize that they may be prescribing a treatment that is ultimately harmful.

    As a concerned person I would implore professionals and the APA to begin questioning the data and claims of Alcoholics Anonymous. From a purely critical thought standpoint, most people (like me) who have been impacted negatively by twelve step involvement, ask only that the professionals in healthcare begin to assess our claims with seriousness. Unlike what AA would have most believe, we are not a small percentage of individuals who are simply disgruntled with twelve step treatment. We are not resentment filled alcoholics who have a bone to pick with AA. We are real people who have been emotionally, financially, psychologically, sexually, and physically abused.

    I have written many articles on the dysfunction that is caused by involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous. These stories are taken from individual accounts of AA involvement. It is my hope that professionals will take notice of these stories and begin to question the claims and efficacy of the AA program.

  • Anonymous-4

    AA is like a combination emergency room/intensive care unit in which the patients, who are obviously unqualified, decide on their own course of treatment, relying on other patients for guidance on how that treatment in administered. It's no wonder that there are a lot of bad outcomes. Perhaps what is surprising is that there are so many good outcomes. - Harrison

    I have felt this for many years. Having grown up in a home with mental illness, religious cultism and alcoholism, AA/NA eventually seemed too familiar for me. At first, the Fellowships helped me find my feet. But after a few years, I had to get out. I went by way of Alanon, which is a beautiful 12 Step Fellowship. Many of the sane old-timers of AA end up there.

    I have found that the old-timers who stay in the other fellowships tend to be mentally ill. Why else would they stay and wallow in a kind of "Famous in an Anonymous Program". It's a bit weird.

    The sane members eventually leave and live beautiful sober lives. They are grateful but, like me, they just had to be live a normal sober life.

    Nobody lives in the ER. We heal and move on. The scary aspect of AA and NA is the self-promotion of fear. They constantly promote the idea that one could relapse at any time if one stops going to meetings. That is not true. People relapse even when they are attending the meetings regularly. Using fear to keep people in the Fellowships rings of cultism. I used to believe that a certain religion was the ONLY religion and that all people outside of it were going to hell. I was raised in a cult.

    Addiction is a nasty disease, no doubt about it. But it is one from which we can recover. The 12 Steps are amazing tools for that recovery. But, I'm sure there are many people who have recovered without them.

    It is sad that the Fellowships don't encourage people to find their individual path. Instead, they shame people for leaving. That is not healthy.

    I also believe that many of the people who stay for years in the Fellowships tend to have other disorders that do well in "the rooms" - either as a an aspect of their illness that enjoys power or dependence or as a guiding factor for staying sane with all of their disorders, especially disorders that cannot be address phamaceutically. For them, the rooms may very well serve as a kind of Group Therapy that keeps them stable.

    As a recovering addict who is also recovering from family mental illness (sociopathy) and a religious cult, I had to find my way eventually. I work in the Addictions industry and I do believe that 12 Step Fellowships work for many, many people, especially in the early years of recovery. But I no longer practice the fear tactic with newly sober or maintaining sober people. I am an example of a sober, happy and free person. I love my life. When I share with others it is about the moracle of Life, the great Beauty with which we have been blessed and the wonder that they, as an individual, are.

    Namaste

  • John K

    I ve been sober now for 20 months, AA has been my guide. I take what I need and can relate to. I also try to show new folks, who are usually in a dark spot, that group therapy can promote a healthy sober life.

    It is easy to see the faults in most things, yet AA has been & continues to be, a lifesaver for those who selfishly take advantage from it.

    There are some who are sicker than others, & I can see myself relyng less and less on meetings, and staying sober.

    It is not a panacea - without real self awareness and reflection, my sponsor helped me with that, you wont get healthy.

    I am not aware of any other approach with the history of particpants getting & keeping sober / safe for decades.

    Good luck to all us "non normals", and god bless !!

    John K -- Rhode Island

  • John C

    I am embarrassed to say I read all of the pros and cons of AA what a waste of time but now I have to comment. AA is free and completely voluntary. If you dont like it stop going. It you like it keep going. I have been sober 3 years attending AA. I lied it is not free. It costs me a dollar if I have one on me. It asks me to start praying and trusting God how awful is that. Then it tells me to clean house and get all this crap off my chest once and for all and grow up. It tells me to go tell people you are sorry and mean it for all the crap I pulled on them. And then the worst thing of all AA then tells me to go out and be a good person, help others, and if you meet someone who can not stop drinkning on their own and WANTS HELP tell them what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now. My advice is if you like AA keep going if you do not stop going, pretty simple.

  • Anonymous-5

    AA is clearly a cult, regardless of whether or not you can 'leave' at any time. AA is embroiled in the Judeo-Christian God, regardless of its claim to the contrary. I am a Christian myself and have no problem with God, but AA is dishonest about it. Just read the Big Book. The most disturbing aspect of AA, apart from its founders, is the basic concept that alcoholics are degenerates, morally bankrupt, sick in the head. Just read the Big Book. This is hardly a therapeutic tactic, convincing people who drink to much that they are, literally, perverted. Read AA's Step 5, (the exact nature of our wrongs...define that for me), which engenders you to hook up with other people in a most 'mentally' intimate way. I guess if you are gay, Step 5 is not a problem. If you are heterosexual, once again, AA is not for you. AA is also a 'click'. If you disagree with the controlling members, and there are always controlling members in any group, then you might as well get out. I'll end my comment with a quote from one of the egostistic, self-aggrandizing co-founders of AA. Big Book, p171 'the Doctor's Nightmare' (and I can't believe I blew 20 bucks on this book):"My father was a professional man of recognized ability...Both father and mother were considerably above the average in intelligence." Well, what would any modern reader say to such a self absorbed, egotistical and smarter than 'the average' person? I guess the 'Doctor' had administered an intelligence test to his parents and found that they scored considerably above average' on whatever standardized IQ test they had. It is a sick cult, and beware to any of you who enter into it.

  • John

    I am not an alcoholic, however I am doing a research project. After reading through all of the comments I have to wonder why so many of you are hostile towards Alcoholics Anonymous and why you even care? With an estimated 2 million members worldwide, they must be doing something positive. Medical opinions on many members seem to float towards anti social personality disorders, however from what I gather, a good majority of members move towards productive, healthy lives. I admit, though, I haven't been able to find statistics on long term recovery rates for other medical options, such as Naltrexone and Acamprosate. It seems, though, that many addicts lead emotionally unstable lives, which Alcoholics Anonymous helps them sort through. My opinion is would lean towards it is a viable option evidenced by what I've read, interviews I've conducted, and medical opinion that seemingly hopeless cases have done an about face. If Lithium wasn't affective as a mood stabilizer for a percentage of bi-polar patients, I don't believe psychiatrists would deem it completetly inaffective. They would move on to other options.

  • Eric

    The following excerpt from the article is a good example of the verbal abuse that happens at A.A. meetings. The tone is demeaning and condescending, dismissing the pain of others as irrelevent, and worse portraying the abuse someone experiences as a product of a "sickened" individual who doesnt deserve the full recognition of their humanity let alone any rights as a victom of sexual or emotional harrassment.

    "To those who would rant on about the horrors of AA and the truly horrific experiences they have had therein, I do question your wild generalizations and your dramatic, self-pitying accounts of what you claim to have experienced. While you ask other to accept at face value what you have to say, and while you attempt to present "testimony" to the awful and unhealthy ways of AA, it is far more likely that you are simply and sadly sick and damaged individuals who have little or no capacity to see things clearly for what they are."

    This reminds me of the pre-amble to many meetings that quotes the big book and says that people fail the program because they somehow lack the capacity for honesty and we should have pity on them, they can't help themselves. This is a very backwards way to view relapse and co-occuring disorders and is another example of how A.A. really is no longer on th cutting edge of treatment science and respect for the full range of recovery interventions for addicts. I am studying to be an addiction and mental health counselor and if anyone in a group setting used the kind of language in the previous quote they would be asked to leave the group and addressed as an emotional predator for their behavior.

  • Todd

    I will admit I did not read far, but I book marked this to come back in the morning when my head is more ready to think. But let us be clear when many say "Victimized" they are talking sexual harasment, and rape. Among many other crimes. It should be no secret that AA enlists members from prisons, while at the same time, enlisting teens.

    Some of those prisoners are sex offenders, child molesters....etc. Right?

    That other "happy go lucky AA is all great and nothing bad happens here ever.... we save lives" crowd knows this too. And not only do not try to stop it. They help cover it up by lying about the reality of this phenomena. It is criminal. And AA will do nothing to warn people of the dangers within the rooms. Because to do so basically would hurt the bottom line, book sales to new members. cha-ching.

  • oddnes

    That you are an AApologist. This is a common stance. But you should state your bias right out the gate, as I feel is is fairly intelectually disonest.

    I hear this what AA is and What AA is not argument a lot. Here is the reality. What someone says it is, is far different than how it functions in reality. If you could get the membership of AA to act appropriately, I would grant you what you claim AA is. But the reality is it is a dangerous group, that recruits both from prisons, and encourages teenagers to attend.

    There are sex offenders in there, and nobody knows who is who, due to the fact that anonimity is a brilliant way to shield preditors. It is not a good place to meet people. For that reason I do not think it would be a good place to find a support group.

    Not to mention, the average member thumbs its nose at scientific advancement, and instead pushes the unchanging Big book bible of AA.

    What you claim AA is, is what AA wishes it was. Do you get my point?

    What AA is, is a totally anarchistic group, where cults form within groups. People commit suicide. Women are frequently sexually harassed. Where they claim they are not "religous" (contrary to what the courts in most states have said.), and instead claim "Spirituallity" which is pretty much the same thing as being in a religon.

    AA is the albatros hanging arround the neck of the recovery industry. Its monopoly does immesurable harm to many, ie: the 95% or so who do not want it.