Sorry, AA; Alcoholics Aren’t Spiritually Diseased

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“I’m just a selfish alcoholic,” someone will say from the podium at an AA meeting. I heard this line countless times during my eight years of involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous, and the sad truth is that I said it myself during various shares. “I’m selfish, self-centered, and full of self-pity. I have a spiritual disease.” I really meant it, too, and I felt so happy to be certain about something. This planet is confusing and unpredictable and frightening, and I myself can be confusing and unpredictable and (sometimes) frightening, so it was super comforting to reduce all of my problems, my drinking, my emotional distress, and my existential angst down to “I’m just a jerk.”

Today, I find this idea hugely problematic. Before I go further, I’d like to say that I am not out to argue that AA does not help people; to do so would be not only fallacious but also disrespectful and to some degree cruel. My own journey in sobriety, however, has taken me away from 12-step culture. I began nursing misgivings about the program a year or so before I left, and I did some research about efficacy and alternatives—in addition to contacting people who had left AA and remained sober—before walking the plank.

One of my chief complaints was the continual assertion, in both the literature and at the meetings, that people with drinking problems have a unique spiritual malady, one not that does not plague the normal drinkers among us. Alcoholics, according to AA, are especially selfish, self-centered, and full of character flaws. On page 123 of the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions, Bill Wilson writes that some doctors of his time (who are not named) deemed alcoholics “childish, emotionally sensitive, and grandiose.”

To claim that those struggling with alcohol are morally (or even mentally, as the literature dubs alcoholics “insane”) inferior to the rest of the world is at best untrue and at worst very dangerous. The world is full of people without alcohol use disorder who suffer from childish and maladaptive behaviors and thoughts. (Many might argue that the current President of the United States is an example of such an individual.) After I began attending AA and learned a bit about AA’s prototypical alcoholic (no one is “unique,” according to AA lore), I remember being perplexed. I knew plenty of people in the program, some who just rolled up to their first meeting a few days earlier, who bore no resemblance to the “actor” described in pages 60-62 of the Big Book, the drunk who will go to any length to get her or his way, even if it means manipulating people or going on tirades.

The assertion that the alcoholic has greater stores of fear, selfishness, self-pity, anger, depression, pride, or any other liability cannot be backed by any kind of empirical study. Still, if you hit a meeting you’re liable to hear a speakers go on and on about their selfishness, about how flawed they were or are to this day and why that affects their life in a negative way.

One time, in the middle of my own self-deprecating share, it dawned on me that I had some good qualities that might be worth noting. I voiced them out loud. “Well, I’m also a really sensitive and empathetic person with a lot of compassion,” I said. As it came out of my mouth, I realized I had always been this way, even during my drinking days. Sure, I’d tear it up and get into a lot of trouble, but I’d listen to my friends and family when they were hurting and give advice and give rides to friends who didn’t have cars, among other generous acts. I did charitable volunteering throughout my youth and into adulthood. Was I truly a jerk? Was being a spiritually sick person truly the root of my drinking?

Many specialists in the addiction field argue that addiction often has its roots in trauma, but this concept goes against the AA conclusion that alcoholics and addicts are spiritually sick. A victim of parental abuse or neglect who’s convinced her problem hinges on an extreme case of selfishness or spiritual sickness isn’t in fact going to find a solution to her problem until she deals with that trauma, and the selfish or spiritually sick label stands a chance to make things worse. I know that when my first sponsor told me that the pain I experienced as an eight-year-old after my parents’ divorce was “selfish” during a fifth step inventory, it didn’t help me stay sober.

Unfortunately, AA uses a one-size-fits-all formula for treatment when in reality people use and abuse alcohol or drugs for many different reasons. Dissecting someone’s character isn’t going to help everyone put down the drink or the drug.

Since leaving AA, I’ve begun attending many workshops on Buddhism, a philosophy I consider nontheistic. One of the central teachings of the Buddha is that all of the character defects mentioned in AA literature are simply the result of being human; they are part of the human condition. I’ve seen poor choices and bouts of indulgence plague my non-problem-drinking friends and family in life-destroying ways, and in my 38 years on this planet I’ve noted that even the most ostensibly well-adjusted people have their own sets of demons and vices and shortcomings. Over-simplifying the plight of the alcoholic into a matter of character might be comforting at first, but after some time this concept begs a closer look.

If we see all of our problems and pitfalls through a narrow lens of selfishness and self-centeredness, we stunt our growth. We cannot explore the real roots of our suffering, nor can we grow legs to get out there and participate as fully realized people, if we walk through the world as though we’re badly-behaved children in need constant need of moral calibration. A moderate and measured degree of self-reflection is, of course, extremely beneficial, but to put our lives under a moral microscope every single day is a recipe for both neuroticism and discouragement.

I don’t know about you but neither of those states have ever kept me from picking up a drink.

[DO YOU DISAGREE WITH TRACY? PLEASE SHARE YOUR OPINION IN THE COMMENTS. AND LOOK OUR FOR OUR REBUTTAL NEXT WEEK.]

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Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Masters in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.

83 COMMENTS

  1. Having been sober for 29 years and and walking the Dharma Path for about the same amount of time, I am overly familiar with the complaint that Sober folks are too hard on themselves. Using this an as excuse to leave AA is also routine. Please if you’re going to bring the Dharma into it then I ask you What are you giving back? That is…other than your own limited experiance? There is so much more to AA. Perhaps you’ll go back some day and help ease the suffering of others and thus increase your own understanding. Your Call.

    • Great reply. This woman is just another in a long line of grifters….yes, grifters, who come to AA, receive help for FREE, and repay that kindness with publicly criticizing it, all while getting paid to do so. It’s ironic that the very selfishness and selfcenteredness she denies having is showcased right here, lol.

      I realize trying to reason with these types is like trying to fight a wave …..there’s money to be made in both the “Treatment” industry and the bash-AA industry, so who am I to stand in their way?

      I am sober 15 years, am active in sponsorship and keep doing it because I care about whether or not these alkies live or die. Sometimes it feels pointless, when you see the levels of ingratitude displayed by types like Tracy, those who were given so much, but the good still outweighs the bad for me.

      I wish you another 29 🙂

  2. You’re going to get a LOT of hate and excuses from 12 step cult religion disciples.

    The truth threatens their brainwashing.

    They are not “diseased” at all! This should come as great news to them but their cognitive dissonance is too ingrained for them to accept the truth.

    Great work Tracy!

    • Not brainwashed at all. It worked for you when you were in 12 step and you had 7 years of quality sobriety until you decided to let it go.

    • If you don’t think that alcoholics and drug addicts have a true illness or disease of the mind at least, you should not be a therapist to alcoholics. You will kill someone. Please tread lightly in this realm of clinical support. Your opinions on addiction truly has the power to kill someone.
      If you don’t want to support AA, that’s fine, but please be careful about how you address this topic. Too many people are dying to want to “be right” and win arguements here.

  3. Tracy! I sooooo love reading your work and I value your experience. What I’ve seen and felt through working the steps (I’m on my third go-round with it), is that my perception continually shifts. I agree that through drinking and drugging, I could never attain a spiritual peace; as a sober person, I am granted the freedom to have just that.

    I see the evolution of thinking when it comes to addiction is that alcoholism is not a moral failing, which the BB states. It also states, on page 74, “The rule is we must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.” As a woman alcoholic, I am almost always too hard on myself. So I pull from it what is at the root o f the message: I need to practice setting aside my insecurities to receive another person’s perspective.

    I am in total agreement that what we experience as addicts and/or alcoholics is a warped sense of ourselves as humans in the world. I don’t feel that I need a babysitter, but I often feel lost and misdirected without the help of my sponsor and other women in the program.

    Thank you for your thoughtful article! And kudos to you and Anna being the dream team, once again!

    Love,
    Lucy

    • Lucy – if you had a recovered Big Book sponsor you would know our book does NOT call it moral failing. To some, like anyone else they may qualify as moral failures, but that is not ever to say we pronounce ourselves as all moral failures. It is a Spiritual Illness which without being alcoholic, I would have never known or realized. Unfortunately for most, trying to explain something to one like this is like trying to explain an ocean to a frog at the bottom of a well – He/she has no clue as to what Infinity is. I am alcoholic because I am allergic to alcohol. Not because of a moral failing.

  4. I love this. A One size fits all whether you like it or not is a cult.
    I don’t think I like cults. I’m ok with you being in a cult.

    Been sober a long time and I read the literature regularly. More troubled by the AA mantra- as I hear it – now than by day to day life. 1939 isn’t 2017.

    So, the steps and traditions, I feel, are to be relied on. And my intuition isn’t broken but does benefit from other’s experience.

    Thanks for taking the time to write and publish.

  5. Love the post : )
    AA didnt work for me, after few meetings stopped to visit, carried on drinking. I was searching for a way out from addiction and found help else where. Although AA wasnt for me, I am sure it might be helpful for many people who resonate with it.
    Main thing is not to give up and give in – where is a will there is a way : )
    Love,

    Katrin

  6. Whatever keeps us sober works! AA has kept me sober for almost 4 years. I do not have a desire to drink today. Granted, it does not work for everyone who tries it, but only they can answer to whether they have done the 12 Steps. I did the 12 Steps, I got relief from the seeming necessity of drinking. If one program does not work for you, try another. AA has worked for millions, for more than 80 years. It does not work for everyone the first time. Some give up, some go out, some come back and try again until they do get it . It must be shared with another alcoholic in order to work. May all who suffer from alcoholism find the relief they seek. I love you all!

  7. I too left my 12 step program after 3 years. While it did help me get “sober” ( mine was a behavioral addiction) I too struggled with the guilt part of it as well as the early transition in the steps from a ” higher power” to “god”. I found that with my first sponsee I had trouble going over the fourth and above steps as I didn’t truly believe them.
    My path also wound up being in Eastern traditions and feels more right for me.
    Even though 12 steps offers one of the best chances of recovery, success rate for all comers is only 5%. The participants that stayed were very nice and committed to the program, but the self hate engendered by the program I believe made their recovery more challenging than it needed to be.

  8. I suppose that I am a ‘typical’ alcoholic’ that thought only of deferring my pain through any means necessary. I took people for granted, held my wants (needs) before my children’s, and I lied consistently to hide-obtain drinks. I also raised 2 boys and got through a 4year college program with close to a 4.0 average. I tutored others and babysat friend’s children. Not all of me was ‘sick’, but it began melting away as my ETOH need increased. I have never been a selfish person towards others and getting sober was the least selfish thing i ever did. I believe that I was spiritually bankrupt/vacant when alcohol was my goal. I forgot others feelings and everyday that it was no longer in my reach. Yes, I was neglected, ignored, not loved enough. My father was a n addict and shot himself. Great harm was done to my psyche- and it increased my fear of connection to people and mistrust of human kind. What I received through AA is a sense of belonging and a forgiveness of my sins. I was able to forgive the ones that hurt me, but was never told that my feelings as a child were my fault. My feelings about that now are- I can forgive, help others afflicted and be free- spiritually fit. I hope others find their own peace in their own way, Marsha

  9. No empirical evidence? It is well established in the literature that high anxiety sensitivity (AS) has been associated with greater alcohol consumption. You have every right to your opinions but don’t claim facts not in evidence.

  10. It’s a horrifying fact that only 5% of addicts get clean through the 12 step method. When I first got clean for good (15 months so we now), I tried going to CMA for support. I was told I am not considered clean because I medicate with cannabis. I walked out and never went back. Getting clean is possible. I asked God for a reason, and He gave me a baby. All you have to so is ask with the littlest amount of faith you have left.
    Thank you very much for this. I love knowing there are people out there who proactively try to get the word out that getting clean IS possible, you just have to find what works for you!

    • Kaitlin, 12 steps is not a method, and never claims to be anywhere I know. The Steps are one third of a program that is only “suggested”, the other parts are Unity.12 traditions and Service 12 concepts. AA’s original “success rate” was 50%. But that was a small sample and way before modern psychology got a hold in AA meetings, diluting the original message. NA is plagued by the sad fact that drug dealers go to meetings to ply their trade and find customers, it makes me feel very lucky alcohol is legal. We don’t have all the answers and have never claimed we do, hope you had a great day.

  11. I enjoyed the article and found some points valid. I sobered up through therapy when I was 24 (I’m 65 now). Didn’t start going to A.A. on a regular basis until I was 4 years sober so my pull towards A.A. isn’t as strong as someone coming off the streets and sobering up through it. In ‘How It Works’ there is one word that is rarely talked about but is very important to me. It’s a ‘wink and nod’ word because a good portion of members believe otherwise what the founders wrote. It’s the word ‘suggested’ and it means exactly that for me. It frees me up to interpret and adapt anything in any written A.A. document to my needs for staying sober. Here is just one example, I had worked in a warehouse and every year we did an inventory, on everything. When I read The Big Book and it mainly concentrated on defects I believed that to not work for me because I knew inventories were about assets also. I wasn’t a morally deficient person I was just a drunk trying to get better and live my life without alcohol living it. I’ve changed some of the wording in the steps and added a few commas. Still go to meetings, help when I can, sometimes listen, sometimes share, ignore the dogma that some members like to share, read conference and non conference approved literature (Hazelden is not a swear word, lol) sometimes believe in God and sometimes not, don’t chant when ‘How It Works’ or ‘The Promises’ are read. This has worked for 41 years, I’m not about to fix something that ain’t broken.

    • It’s very strange. AA apologists, when cornered, seem to love falling back on the stance that their dogma are mere “suggestions.” Yet, always close behind this disingenuous, forked-tongue position is the following statement from their vaunted Big Book: “Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2010, p. 174).

  12. After losing both my sister and mother to this program, I know more than I want about this supposed help.

    Why is it “cruel” to counter all the dangerous assertions by this insane group? It’s not. It should be public knowledge that this program destroys people by making them believe they are forever broken. But you can’t just say this without getting the “you’re killing alcoholics” guilt trip.

    People are free to join whatever group they choose but they should be well informed before they do.

    These people act as if their 12 step program is the one and only way when it absolutely is not and should not be presented that way. “Rarely have we seen” the “promises” and all the other “daily reprieve” type mantras do, without a doubt, make members dependent on the program as their only saving grace. No matter what AA people say, they do make people believe that AA is the only way. If only you follow this “simple program” which is anything but simple. If you don’t, and it doesn’t work for you, you are always to blame, never this perfect program. How sick.

    I think you know that this program destroys people but you want to be published, and you do not want the members to hate you. That’s understandable with how defensive they are but the truth is more important than whether these insane people hate you for writing the truth. By them being so defensive, they only prove how sick they really are and what their program does to them. They can’t even consider any deviance from their “perfect” program. It’s just so sick.

    The idea that you would possibly be turning someone away from the program by telling the truth is just the scare tactics of the steps and the book they call their big book bible. That’s why so many (most people) leave and never look back. They are far better off without this horrible program but they are too afraid to speak their power. They have also been made powerless so they have no energy to fight back. It’s so horrible!

    The crime against humanity that people are forced into this horrible program every day should overrule any fears of turning a person away. No one in their right mind when they first heard it called a “spiritual disease” believed it if they were paying attention to their instincts. They had to be beaten down to believe that. So horrible!

    The rest of your article is right-on. Thank you for writing it.

      • Just like a cult member to make such a sick statement! Good for you. Now leave me alone. When your mother and sister have killed themselves because of garbage like that, I’ll take your opinion seriously. Until then, go with “god.”

      • And this I presume, is your God: “Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake” (Alcoholics Anonymous 2001, p. 417); A God who asks you to stand around with your thumb up your butt in the face of gross social injustice and accept things as they are, since it is all a part of HIS “plan.” I suppose the immediate reaction is to counter back the Serenity Prayer. But, please, spare me and also the author of this prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr. He did not have admiration or patience for the bourgeois and “self-centered” theology which AA borrowed from the Oxford Group.

    • Lauren – Real Alcoholics find the Solution through dependence upon God – not on AA. You are confusing the social AA with the Spiritual Solution. AA is a mere vehicle to carry the Real Solution with…

  13. I am also sober just 29 years, not 41, but I think the spiritual malady is real. As a matter of fact, I think AA might have been called something else if it were discovered today, as alcoholism seems to be related to substance and process addictions on the level of self. There is much that can be said about the daily reprieve that I get from operating on the basis of guidance from the unsuspected inner resource that some call God.

  14. I’m 30 years sober this year and AA opened my heart and mind to therapy and healing my traumatic childhood. I don’t use AA literally. I need the connections I have in AA though as it is a fellowship first according to the preamble. There are entire branches of Neuroscience and psychology that weren’t around in the 1930s when the book was written. So AA works for me but I don’t take it literally.

  15. Well, I am a happy AA customer, but it has taken some time. The article is very subjective and makes quite a few spurious claims. The idea that alcoholism involves an allergic type reaction did not come from AA. It came from the leading specialist in alcoholism in NYC, in early 1930’s William D Silkworth. You can read this in “The DoctorsOpinion” in AA Big Book. Secondly a lot of what you hear in AA meetings is not AA, meaning it contradicts ideas presented in our Book published in 1939. We don’t claim there or anywhere else to be more spiritually sick that the rest of the population, only that we find the program restores us to sanity and usefulness. To call AA just a 12 step program ignores 2 other equally important tools, which are 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts. There is a lot more to AA than meetings, but people who walk away before using these other tools simply conclude AA “”didn’t work”. Well if you put your car in for service and they did a third of the work required, what do you think the result would be? If AA is a cult, who benefits financially? We don’t accept outside donations and limit the amount members can donate, even in their Will. How many cults do that? I have tried Eastern Religion, it felt pretty good for a while until the junior guru slept with some girls under 16 and landed in the clink. He got out 3 years later, married and had 2 kids, then drank himself to death before he was 40. We all have our own experience, AA never claims it will work for everybody only that it has worked for some when they do what the program suggests. It has helped people in prison get free, way before their release date. I have met many people I would never normally meet, I have good days and not so good like everyone else. If you want to find a group that might be able to help, look around, all groups are not the same, you may find there is one that suits you, or maybe not. But I know AA works, because it works for me.

    • Doctors’ opinions and medical science have changed greatly since the 1930s! Wilson wrote “we” know only a little.

  16. AA and Alanon did not work for our family. We found another way through acceptance, love, compassion, firmness, perseverance, and primarily quality medical care (not all are fortunate enough to have that). We feel blessed but do not expect others to have the same spiritual feeling.

  17. Wow! Well stated.
    I wish those who lead the meetings would Nice that their process is not always for everyone. But instead many of them conclude that the person who is not interested in attending their meeting, is running from themselves and rejecting help. Not true. Yes Tracy and so well stated above. AA is not for everybody. This is also why we have so many different denominational churches. Different messages reach different people. Let’s just hope the instructors take notice and don’t judge previous attenders or come to false conclusions when people decide To disengage from their groups. NA meeting leaders as well. I’m hoping that someone with a vision to approach edits differently rise to the top where they are visible to all so that I don’t have an alternative. Thank you Tracy

  18. I went through rehabilitation three times, all three of them were twelve step orientated to some degree or another. The third, final time was the most intense but afterward I realized after being force fed GOD, Higher Power and AA for 5 months, that there is another path. A Spiritual Path, one that comes from within. I have been Sober for eight years now and cannot see myself going back to how I used to be.

  19. It is a mistake for people to think that AA feels it is the only solution out there. That has never been true. It does, however, define itself as a spiritual solution and if you want something other, go for it! I have heard people say it was the only thing that worked for them despite myriad methods. Others say it did nothing for them. I am sure there is truth to just about everything that gets said.

    But what is also true is that while there are many other alternatives to AA, those benefitting from them don’t seem to make any effort to help them become more available. That just seems to be left up to others yet the first bitch I ever see on articles about recovery is that AA is the biggest, best known, most available opportunity out there so it gets the most press. In stead of sitting on blogs complaining about that, why not help something that worked for you or that you like better gain a bigger foothold? Alternatives to AA have existed almost since the beginning with Alcoholics Victorious starting in the 1940’s. Some of the alternatives are at least 40 years old. They are even peer led. AA grew in part because people for whom it worked gave back by creating more meetings, increasing the availablilty. This could have happened for any number of the alternatives. I have been sober for 10 years and found my answer in AA. While I don’t go to meetings anymore, I went for a long time after reaching sobriety in order to give back and make it available to others. People benefitting from the alternatives can do the same thing. I wish they would.

  20. As Viktor Frankl noted, English is the one language that couples spirituality with religion. Too bad, as the closes some minds to the idea of spiritually-based recovery. What AA says is that we are self-centered and that self-centeredness is driven by a hundred forms of fear. I take exception to the comment that there is no empirical evidence for this condition being at the root of addiction. Simply search on narcissism and anxiety (the clinical terms for self-centeredness and fear) and you will find many studies like “Addiction and “Generation Me:” Narcissistic and Prosocial Behaviors of Adolescents with Substance Dependency Disorder in Comparison to Normative Adolescents” (Carter, R., et. al) and studies associating anxiety sensitivity (AS) with greater alcohol consumption.
    AA is not for everyone. Other methods work. I, for example, supplement my 12-step practice with a daily hot yoga practice. But the key to AA’s efficacy isn’t about wallowing around beating ourselves up for being “spiritually sick” it’s about getting into action and serving others. CBT suggests we use Positive Distraction in the form of volunteerism to combat anxiety. That is empirically supported so why the beef with a program whose who point is getting people out of self and in to service?

    I tried pharmacology, TM and every self-help book imaginable during a 14-year effort to get sober. Finally I got ok with the idea of a “spiritual” solution. It’s not about religion, it’s about doing things that are good for my spirit, like service. It has worked for a very long time and I have no qualms about suggesting it to others.

  21. Thank you Tracy. I still attend AA after many years of sobriety, but I agree with everything you wrote. I do not attend to “fix my soul”, to find spirituality or to do anything other than be in a community of people who, like myself, do not want to drink today. I do not participate in a lot of the AA rituals, do not recite the prayers, do not even introduce myself as an alcoholic, preferring to say that I am gratefully sober.
    I am in total agreement that the recognition of trauma, not from a perspective of “character defects” but from the perspective of really looking at what happened to us and validating need to heal is essential to recovery. 12 step programs, by and large, have not evolved beyond the somewhat narrow black/white attitude that the founders created back when the science of addiction was not even in its infancy. Far too much emphasis is placed on the subjective rather than the objective and that is one of the reasons for the statistically abysmal “success” rate 12 step programs have.

  22. If you feel you are being force-fed a diet of God as the remedy to a spiritual malady may I suggest that you find another meeting? AA is united around 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, but application of them is entirely up to you. You really can take what you need and leave the rest and you are welcome to return at any time.

  23. The one line I absolutely love in the Big Book that most AA folks wish wasn’t there, but it has served me well in keeping sober. “Take what you need and leave the rest.” There are valuable parts to AA, just as there are valuable parts of SMART and HAMS and seeing my private therapist and finding a path of my own. I got what I needed from AA and I got the rest from a wide range of other places as well. In the end, it doesn’t matter where I get it from so long as I’m sober, living my life in a loving, compassionate and giving manner, helping others and above all, staying sober.

    Just remember, the program is what is in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. The rest is not the program. Just take what you need and leave the rest.

    • i hear folks say that “take what you need and leave the rest” is in the Big Book of AA, but i’ve never found anyone who can show me exactly where it is in those “first 164 pages” … can you?

  24. My “character defects” were not the cause of my alcohol use disorder. I am a combat veteran of OIF and did not realize I had PTSD. Before going to the VA, I went to a civilian rehab that was merely a 12-step facilitation center. They did not screen me for trauma even though I said my drinking became increasingly problematic after returning from Iraq! Nope, I’m just selfish and self-centered and think I am the center of the universe. That’s ridiculous. I’ve heard countless stories in “the rooms” from people who found relief in substance abuse after experiencing trauma. People need appropriate therapy and improved self esteem, not a lifetime of ego bashing. Very few people are Bill Wilson level narcissists.

    • So incredibly true Sophie. Good for you! You are also not full of “personality shortcomings” that prove your “best thinking” is your forever enemy.

      You and your highly intelligent truths here are more helpful than any disempowering BillShit forced “in the roomz.” You could not be more correct… this dangerous “programme” creates narcissistic wilsonites, but very few are that way before they get brainwashed with a “head full of AA.”

      The thought-stopping dogma of “take what you need and leave the rest” is impossible in this cult. That’s like suggesting someone pull their parachute rip cord after jumping from a plane. There is the semblance of choice couched in “suggestions” without any real choice.

      And the very idea that one meeting is somehow better than another is yet another way of shutting down the truth. The EXACT same BillShit is chanted at every 12 step cult meeting. They will disempower you no matter what disgusting church basement you may find yourself.

      Your trauma will only be made worse if you subject yourself to this Oxford Group plagiarized nonsense. Thank you for the truth among the insanity.

      You may really enjoy this book (link below). I wish you well, you certainly sound like you are thriving!

      https://12stepcultreligionexposed.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/aa-how-aa-steals-your-soul-by-robert-warner-a-book-review/

  25. My biggest concern about 12-step these days is the way it’s being used in Britain as an alternative to treatment. The only reason for this is because it’s free! Somehow the NHS and commissioners seem to believe that they can send their clients off to meetings and therefore absolve themselves of having to do anything for their clients other than complete the required paperwork. 12-step should be there as an extra support framework which addicts can engage with if they so wish. I remember being told by a friend who attended the very first AA meetings in New Zealand that the banner that was laid out in every meeting said ” A Bridge To Normal Living”. Now there’s no doubt a good debate to be had about the idea of “Normal Living” but I want to focus on the first words: “A Bridge” this is something I feel has been lost across the whole 12-step spectrum. This is not meant to be part of your life forever. This is not a replacement to use up the time that you used to use/ drink in. This is a bridge, some support to help you get back on the right track. There’s nothing that scares me more than hearing from someone who’s 20+ years clean and sober and they still attend 3 meetings a week! That is not healthy and neither is any sort of organisation that supports that sort of behaviour.

    There are many good things in 12-step. There are some people who feel truly saved by 12-step and others who feel it set them back massively. One of their best little soundbites is “take what you need and leave the rest”. I feel that if people went in with that mindset there would be a healthier outcome. It’s not normal for one set of ideas to rigidly apply to so many people.

    I hope that here in Britain the NHS and government realise that they can’t run their drug treatment strategy in the way it’s set out in the new document unless they firstly train their staff to a higher standard. They need to stop using substitute prescribing as a punitive measure. They need to invest in some community treatment programmes so that people can get help before they’re abstinent. Once individuals are stable on substitute medication is it not a good time to start working with them? I have found that there is a big gap in help for the thousands in this country who are in this state and are being offered no support at all. They can’t access 12-step because they’re not abstinent and there are no alternatives.
    Shame on you Britain. There needs to be other options than 12-step.

  26. Thank goodness someone has come out and said it! Addiction is a “primary disease” as defined by the Surgeon General (11/16) Other primary diseases include diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Do folks that suffer from any of these maladies have “life-style” choices? Absolutely. Is everyone who suffers from one of these diseases morally, spiritually bankrupt? I doubt it.

  27. Your article is spot on. For those commenting in defence of AA, GoodOnYa if it’s working for you.

    After over 20 years of (what AA members sometimes call) “research”, I believe “Chasing the Scream” author Johann Hari’s conclusion to be profound and also explains why AA works for the few it does: “The opposite of addiction is not recovery. The opposite of addiction is connection. “

  28. I came to the same conclusion and really do not agree with much of the philosophy of AA anymore but I kind of wish I did because I was happier when I did. when I was in early sobriety and never questioned anything or tried to find out the truth. Now after 17 years of sobriety of continuing to seek the truth about everything like psychology, philosophy, religion, health and nutrition I am far less happy and have far less certainty about anything. My religion today is “I dont know” but I still see value a lot of value in AA for the fellowship so still go to meetings sometimes. In my opinion most people are better of with their belief systems they have it gives them comfort and belonging to something. Once you really know the truth about the world things like faith, love and purpose are not as easy.

    IGNORANCE IS BLISS

  29. I believe everyone has an opinion and a right to have an opinion. I do not know everything as i don’t believe you do either. What i do know is even while drinking i had a good heart and i enjoyed helping others but once i took a drink i was no longer that caring, helping wonderful woman. I became all about me. SELFFISH AND YES SELF CENTERED. Yes people outside of AA who are not alcoholics have many character defects. As you know they handle their problems different. We drink!!! We hurt people, at least i did. God saved my life taking me to AA and AA brought me closer to God. Trauma, spiritual malady, call it what you wish but yes it all is a part of this. Funny how things have changed since i have come to know and understand my God. Im not. I said NOT selfish today. I think of others more, truly reach out to help others and yes give back. AA helps me to be aware if these character defects and guess what? I no longer desire to drink. Imagine that. The woman who use timo blame others for her problems now sees the positive in the world. When we have no higher power, nothing spiritual then we tend to think we are right or it is an excuse to do as we please. Yes spiritual malady. Disease. So grateful for God and the program of AA. Coming up on 8 yrs now.

  30. Some things should just be left unsaid. There was absolutely not reason for the person to state their opinion publicly and completely irresponsible for this newsletter to publish it. Twelve Step programs have tradition that require them to be autonomous at the level of press, radio, television and print, therefore they cannot defend such a controversial article. The name of this newsletter is “Inrecovery,” and this article was anything but! It should have never been published in a newsletter that lures addicts in by the name “Inrecovery.” Who isn’t looking for an easier softer way to address their core issues. If I was new to the 12 step program I would definitely be looking for a way out of doing such a thorough soul cleansing like the 12 steps. This “Buddhist wannabe,” just gave it to me.

  31. Same old argument, just a newer package. What has been lost in the ongoing debate is two important truths, which, BTW are different than “facts” First, going to AA is not the goal–it is the means. In 1935 Bill W and Dr Bob founded AA, they were shunned and stigmatized to a degree that most post modernist and the millennial generation cannot fathom. So they met, much like the 1st century Christian Church, in obscure places after hours such as church basements, older warehouses etc…fearing persecution. It stayed that way through the 1970′ s when research and medicine began to see a predictable progression and disease sequelae. AA was not the goal, it was, and always has been, the means to developing a relationship with God or, if you like, a higher power, and to hear your truth and your reality from the mouth of others. How affirming and liberating this was for so many. The second reason is the basic science–and the emergence of epigenetics, which influence gene coding and gene transcription resulting in heritible changes, with increased risk for passing along this vulnerability to ones children. The other important characteristic of the Millennial’s is their “selective adherence” to belief systems. Remember, they grew up in a “drop down, menu driven” world. Pick a few items from column 1, and few others from columns 2& 3 and pieces together a set of beliefs that are uniquely yours–sort of. Regrettably this is catching on. AA and its 12 Step cousins adhere to a distinct set of traditions that “feel” to rigid for many. The other oft quoted AA slogan is: Half Measures will avail us nothing”

  32. That was as painful to read as “letters to the editor” written by Conservatives in our Cape Cod Times ever dat! Multi variable causes and recovery options, progress at different rates (or no progress), way too literal an analysis of what was heard at meetings versus the speakers lack os ability to correctly express his ongoing journey to becoming “better”. What a waste of her talent and our time and energy! Jesus H. Christ—–I need a meeting after that! Gerry McKenna, LMHC sober since 1/74

  33. I was definitely surprised by many of the claims this author makes, especially given the claim that she was involved in AA for 7 years. I don’t doubt that, but my experience has been very different.

    I should by stating I have only been in AA for about 6 months, have an incredible sponsor whom I love and respect greatly, and have been working the steps (currently on Step 8, so I am not nearly an expert on the program). My goal is to speak to my experience and address the points made by Tracy that have not been my experience of AA.

    I will also mention I am Clinical Psychology Doctoral student and PhD candidate (5th year) with coursework in substance use completed and additionally I have clinical experience as a therapist with individuals struggling with a variety of substance use disorders.

    Perhaps there are regional differences at play here and given the nature of sponsor-sponsee relationship, many people have different experiences of AA. The “one size fits all” claim in this article has not been my experience nor the experiences I have heard of from my sober friends and sponsor. How I did each step has variations from those I’ve spoken with. Either the sponsor passes down how they did each step or adjusts based on the unique characteristics of their sponsee. I know this has been the case for me.

    My understanding of the “spiritual disease” or “spiritual malady” is also different. For me, how I understand the spiritual malady is as a disconnect from my spiritual self, my higher power and my purpose. Morality is something all humans struggle with and I would not say drinking is amoral, but sometimes the things we do while engaged in our disease can be considered amoral. I have good qualities in addition to qualities that are harmful either to myself or others and these are things I would like to change.

    I don’t experience AA as saying only alcoholics struggle with character defects and actions that can be amoral. The way my sponsor and others in AA have discussed it with me, and how I understand it, is that these are things that can greatly lead to and contribute to our drinking. Whereas with non-alcoholics, they may have these same character defects, but address them in other ways (acting out in other ways, ignoring them, or healing through therapy).

    Further, the interpretation of what is written in the big book or spoken of at meetings referring to alcohlics as insane is not my experience or understanding. I have never once heard it spoken that alcoholics are morally inferior. In fact, my experience of both being in meetings and reading the big book is that it is spoken of as medical disease (the word “allergy” is often used) and this is actually a way of taking the moral inferiority belief away from alcoholism. Talking about alcoholism as a disease, similar to diabetes or an allergy is actually saying the opposite of being morally inferior if you are an alcohol. Also, research on alcoholism to date would agree with this (I’ll write more about that in a moment).

    My experience of the fourth and fifth step is also different than the authors experience. The process for me was about saying it all out loud to another another human being and, then, letting it go! It’s not about obsessing about our character defects, seeing them as the only part of us, and seeing ourselves as bad. For me, it’s about admitting I struggle with these things (i.e. trying to control other people, which is not unique to being an alcoholic, but has contributed to my alcoholism) and then asking for help. I should also note that for me, I list both my character defects AND my assets, which include compassion, generosity, etc.

    I don’t relate to all descriptions in the big book, especially the one mentioned on pages 60-62, but the way I was taught to read the big book and listen to shares in meetings was to listen for the similarities, to try and see how I can relate to the shares. I have also learned this “technique” in non-AA communities and found it useful. What can I learn from this?

    Being trained as a psychology research, I have to critique the interpretation of the article linked in Tracy’s essay about trauma and alcohol or drug addition. First of all, correlation is NOT causation. What this means is that when a study states that X is associated with more Y (i.e. alcoholics report higher rates of trauma), does not mean trauma causes alcoholism or is, as the author states, at the “root” of alcoholism. It means what it says, people who struggle with alcohol or drug addiction have more of a history with abuse than the general population.

    Now, I am going to science-y 🙂 From my studies and classes that place HIGH emphasis in scientific evidence, there are MANY factors that contribute to alcoholism including genetics, pre-disposition to certain characteristics (i.e. thrill seeking, different thresholds for dopamine and seratonin responses, so it takes more to feel pleasure and enjoyment), additionally, there is evidence of how people process and metabolize alcohol in the body that may point to alcoholism AND environmental factors that may or may not include trauma (note that in the linked article, the report is not that 100% of those with alcoholism and drug addiction have experienced trauma-it was between 12% and 49%). Additionally, researchers do not really know the “why’s” of alcoholism because there are so many factors at play (think many combinations of nature and nurture), which is why there are more than a few theories (“theory” being the operative word, not “evidence”) about why people become alcoholics. These theorize range from purely biological to genetic to purely behavioral to personality and many combinations thereof.

    And, finally, there is a ton of research on treatments for alcoholism and drug abuse and very few treatments are considered effective. The American Psychological Associations’s Division 12-The Society of Clinical Psychology-is considered THE BEST resource for therapists for evidence-based treatments for all psychological disorders. Under the section for Alcohol Use Disorder, there are only 3 treatments listed and one is couple’s therapy based. The other two have “modest support”-which is not great. We are taught to look for treatments that have “good support” (which means there had to have been many studies showing it to be effective): http://www.div12.org/psychological-treatments/disorders/alcohol/

    There is limited research on AA. Some studies show it to be effective for those who go in voluntarily (rather than court-ordered, forced). Some studies show that those who are made to participate involuntarily can actually be harmed by attending AA. Other studies show AA to be more effective the more engaged you are with a sponsor and the more meetings you attend. None of these studies are great, sadly. It’s actually very challenging to study AA because there are a lot of variations, as a I mentioned earlier (as opposed to the claim of “one size fits all”), with respect to working the steps, sponsorship, regional differences in meetings, etc. Many meetings I’ve gone to, people speak about the need for therapy in conjunction with AA. I have heard there are those in AA who speak out against therapy or medications to treat depression, trauma, etc. If it’s not apparent from the degree I am pursuing and those I treat in therapy, I am a believer in therapy and in some cases medication in conjunction with AA IF that works for you. I don’t recommend AA to all my clients. I only do so where it seems appropriate and I always offer other options, including Refuge Recovery, which is a self-help alternative to AA with Buddhist philosophy at it’s core.

    If it works for you, it works for you. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It is as simple as that. Right now, it works for me. I can only speak from my experience and my understanding.

  34. Oh gosh, there are so many posts in here that really pain me to read. #1 AA works dang near 100% of the time for the people that do it and follow through. Myself and countless others have EMPIRICAL data as to this FACT.

    Im pained by people that say ‘AA didnt work for me, I went to some meetings, and stopped’ HELLOOOO!!! It’s a twelve step program- and #12 (10, 11, 12, really) takes you back to the start. It’s about giving back. So to the author -you stopped doing AA.

    IT IS A DISEASE!!! Not for all people, but for many. The challenge is the distinction.

    I TOTALLY agree there is wayyyy too much self-deprication in meetings, for sure!! And one of my main points of my pitch is always that ‘WE ARE RAD AMAZING HUMANS’ -So I’m with you there. But to say we aren’t selfish to a fault because others are too, is just not true. I work with countless newcomers, and people with time. We OBSESS on thought of self, worrying about past, future, selfish fear, anxieties, and that can lead us to drink, which is deadly. When we learn by action to not focus on self so much, we find peace, serenity, joy, and for many/most that comes from service work (with others).

    To reference it’s not 39 anymore. Oh mannnn!! Look I have watched countless people sniff around AA try it their way fail, or fail and die, and then try AA an have the most amazing success. Is it for everyone?!?!? No, even AA doesn’t say it is. But there are MILLIONS and MILLIONS that ONLY were able to beat the disease with AA. Im one of them. SO the year doesnt matter- this thing is still working DAILY to save lives.

    People need to be careful and not throw around opinions that drive people OUT of AA. Noone WANTS to go to AA. We have to be totally mangled before we give it a try.

    Are these philosophies elsewhere? Yes. AA didnt make up any of this stuff. But they did neatly package it in a way that works for the alkie, likening it to THEIR experiences which are all so similar at their core.

    AA wrote that book in ’39 saying, humbly ‘we know only a little’ and so certainly there could be improvements. The dont touch on trauma. I wish they did. So many things we might change. BUT, IT WORKS MIRACLES.

    We share that we recovered AA’s are no longer insane. The author really did a poor out of context job in addressing that. The program of AA ‘restores us to sanity!!!!!’ The insanity is drinking day after day. When we stop, and get our heads right thru recovery we are no longer insane. AA’s that say they are, maybe need more work. And that’s OK.

    Finally, the scary part you didn’t not mention is the number of people who ‘leave AA, and are still sober.’ I did, for years, then I went insane, (dry) and drank. So we must highlight that many people stay dry for years, and might seem okay for a while (I’ve watched many a friend do this) and of the dozens who have, only 1-2 I can think of are actually ok. Happy. Contect. The others (90%) used again, and many died.

    The more AA I do, the better I feel about me, life, etc. And that is the experience of all my RAD AA friends. We live incredible lives. We dont self loath. We help others thru this magic program. It works EVERY TIME, when they do the work.

  35. Ugh, these comments. Look, everybody: AA works for some people. AA *does not* work for others, and not because they “don’t work it” — but the only direction the shame is flowing in is from the AA people to the no-longer-AA / tried something else people.

    What is so hard about saying, “I don’t know what works for you, but AA works for me?” I used to sound like so many of the people posting here, and I’m infinitely grateful that I’ve gotten out of AA and learned out to pursue healing in other ways.

    I wish everyone the best on their respective journeys.

  36. Further reading (one of a zillion things I could post here):

    “There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate, and the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 percent. Most people don’t seem to know that because it’s not widely publicized. … There are some studies that have claimed to show scientifically that AA is useful. These studies are riddled with scientific errors and they say no more than what we knew to begin with, which is that AA has probably the worst success rate in all of medicine.

    It’s not only that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate; if it was successful and was neutral the rest of the time, we’d say OK. But it’s harmful to the 90 percent who don’t do well. And it’s harmful for several important reasons. One of them is that everyone believes that AA is the right treatment. AA is never wrong, according to AA. If you fail in AA, it’s you that’s failed.”

    http://www.npr.org/2014/03/23/291405829/with-sobering-science-doctor-debunks-12-step-recovery

  37. these ideas are ones that at times felt right to me !!! but not now….AA gave me the space to learn about my trauma and issues along with their correct size and importance…if the concept of spiritual illness had not come into my life there would still only be my self-destructive thinking..Looking for an answer is possible because faith was an option..

  38. I drank “alcoholically” for 25+ years. I tried many times to “put the plug in the jug” without any success. My dad was a protestant minister and I had a good foundation in religious indoctrination. I tried the church & reading the Bible along with other methods, all of which didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I admitted that I couldn’t do it alone and reached out for help that I was able to put the plug in the jug. I was a daily blackout drinker. I was medically detoxed, on the advice of my doctor, and went to my first A.A. meeting because I wanted to go. That was May 10, 1997 and I haven’t had a drink since then, one day at a time.

    Quoting from the book “Alcoholics Anonymous,” it states in the first paragraph of chapter five:

    “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.”

    The word “rarely” is of importance to note here. It didn’t say “never.” Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t claim that everyone who tries their approach will recover. Many have though because they were not able to stop drinking on their own and they were willing to try something different that had worked for others.

    Considering the times when the first book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was printed (1939) there was a negative social stigma that went along with drinking. Our country had recently come out of prohibition and most people who drank alcohol had to obtain it illegally or make it themselves (bathtub gin). The victims of alcoholism wanted a way out for varying reasons. When Alcoholics Anonymous was written about by Jack Alexander in the Saturday Evening Post (March 1, 1941) there was a massive request by people to know more about Alcoholics Anonymous and how to get in touch with them. People were desperate to find relief from their plight.

    The foreword to the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous states:

    “We, OF Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW WE HAVE RECOVERED is the main purpose of this book.”

    Never has Alcoholics Anonymous claimed to be the only remedy. The book is a testament of how the first one hundred men and women found relief from their condition. I can only speak for my experience. Alcoholics Anonymous has given me a design for living where I don’t need to drink alcohol in order to face life on life’s terms. I’m what some people refer to as a “one chip wonder.” I haven’t found it necessary to pick up a drink since coming to A.A. and practicing the 12 Steps to best of my ability. What I have found is a fellowship of people who understand me and share their experience, strength and hope with me.

    Yes, I still attend A.A. meetings daily, sometimes one meeting a day, sometimes as many as three meetings a day. I say that not to brag, but I attend meetings for the newcomer. I am very grateful for what A.A. has given me and I want to show that gratitude by giving it away to others.

    Dr. Bob (one of A.A.’s co-founders) summed up my thoughts and feelings in his story:
    “I spend a great deal of time passing on what I learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons:
    1. Sense of duty.
    2. It is a pleasure.
    3. Because in so doing I am paying my debt to the man who took time to pass it on to me.
    4. Because every time I do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.”

    I’m very thankful for the “gift of desperation” that I had when I came to Alcoholics Anonymous. My desire to stay sober is greater than any desire to drink.

  39. Today’s society embraces the consumption of alcohol. It’s advertised practically everywhere. When I walk into Walmart there’s a big display of Budweiser in the center aisle. People make big money off of alcohol. The court systems (dui’s) and treatment centers. For me it’s a life or death situation. For me to drink would be to die. And that’s the good news. The bad news is it might take a miserable long time for it to happen.

    So I’ll continue enjoying the A.A. way of life. It’s worked this long for me and I see no need in giving it up now. It’s been a life saver for me. My doctor had told me that if I continued to drink like I was drinking that my liver would stop functioning in about six months. He offered to put me in a 28 day treatment program and I declined his offer by saying I couldn’t afford to take that much time off from work. He advised me not to stop cold turkey as I could go into seizures and die from them. That’s why I chose to be medically detoxed.

    I’m not putting down other methods to stop drinking, but Alcoholics Anonymous is the only way that has worked for me. I would say to anyone that’s seeking relief, don’t knock it until you’ve earnestly tried it.

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” —Herbert Spencer.

  40. While there is PLENTY to dispute about AA, publicly trashing it is just not okay for me. Questions for the author: Have you discussed these concerns with others in the program? Have you been to business meetings? Do you know AA from other areas or just your local meetings? Do you speak with other women besides your sponsor? So many questions for this author who is well written from her own experience strength and hope and quite adeptly describes her resentment with AA. I get it. I’ve had the same resentment, but I am not going to bash the fellowship that saved my life. If you think, as one commented, that makes me a brainwashed member of a cult, then you are entitled to your opinion. But your perception of AA does not speak for AA as a whole, or this member. (tee hee, I said a whole). That being said, I do not think that I would be able to grow without utilizing other sources available to me outside the fellowship, and I encourage others to do so. I believe the program is a groundwork (this is my personal opinion) and one of many ways I choose to grow, give back and show gratitude.

    • The writing wasn’t a resentment. It is an article.
      Classifying everything as a “fear” or “resentment ” is a great tool for “recovered” people to typecast opinions that make them/you feel superior or “safe.

      Justifying a position trumps listening.

      Best-

  41. I feel there is a deep misunderstanding about the spiritual message of AA in this article. I don’t believe the literature tells us that we have always been spiritually sick but, instead, that the deeper we got into our addiction the sicker we became. Active addicts are selfish and self-centred. These are symptoms of addiction. The 12 step programs are about helping individuals find the true person that has become twisted and distorted by addiction and to let the good qualities of that person to shine through. The AA literature talks about human failings that become amplified by addiction – not about failings that are unique to alcoholics or addicts. And, personally, I think the underlying philosophy of AA is very similar to Buddhism – each seeks self-awareness and spiritual progress. I am not surprised that someone with AA experience would find Buddhism resonates with them.

  42. Hi there, I found your blog by means of Google even as searching for a related topic, your site came up, it appears to be like good. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  43. Tracy:

    If you are truly, the real deal, then you are selfish and self-centered. But, that is not my business. If you are an alcoholic, like me, you are selfish and self centered. I can’t truly be addicted to alcohol and not be self-centered. For me, this does not mean that I am an a-hole and a jerk a little or alot. However, I make decisions based on self, that later put me in a position to be hurt. The reality is that most people are selfish and self centered…and it is going to get much worse before it gets better.

    I have read a lot of these comments and this is a good cross section of the standard AA meeting. Have you ever heard the expression that “the rooms of AA are filled with sick people.” Inaccurate information in AA meetings leads to far more deaths than long term sobriety. The biggest reason AA does not have a better success rate, it because of the miss information in the meeting rooms. So, you go to another meeting or you start your own meeting or you go down to the state hospital and you ask to talk to someone suffering and alone.

    The 5% number being thrown out…Folks who work in recovery for a long time believe it is actually much lower than that. Today’s estimates are less than 1% –

    Just like churches, some people in the church judge others and have some traits and behaviors that drive old and new church members alike to leave, get angry, etc. etc. Church leaders have sex with multiple people while married to another, steel, use profanity, (insert something you believe is wrong), etc.

    I have been in AA since 2008 and the longest period of sobriety I have had, I went to the least number of meetings, and now I don’t go at all unless I am helping another person who thinks they have a problem, I desire to, or it is birth.

    My belief is that AA meetings are about me “carrying the message,” which sounds cult – ish…but not for 1937 or 39. My point is that my job at an aa meeting is for me to figure out what I can bring, not what I can take away. I never found it to be a cult, but there are folks at every meeting in this country and the world that behave like cult members. But, then there are Tupperware parties where people are getting weird. Most of us, probably can’t name a bunch of quality protestant preachers, but we can name a lot of bad ones. Make Sense?

    I don’t know what book you guys are reading buy mine says on the title page that the book is “The Story of How Thousands of Men and Women Have RECOVERED from Alcoholism.” – NOT Recovering!!
    This is a great example of how many meetings and many people are not practicing the deal correctly, but it is not my place to chastise them or the program; and that is just me. Now, one would argue that I should share my correct understanding in the meeting, but one must make damn sure they are right – and this is the problem with AA today. Milton also said that the book is “but a suggestion,” that worked for Bill Wilson and 100 others. This is because the program is not about morality. It is a spiritual program of action. Spiritual meaning that there is something inside of you, that you can’t see or touch that is causing a malady (a problem). Many times in my presence–the “just a suggestion” gets forgotten. This is true with the tenants of any group. Look at our country, how we treat each other… However, missed here, is that this is a 3 part disease. Body, Mind, and Spirit — Body (No Choice) Mind (No Control) Spirit (No Power) — The spiritual piece is discussed most often because, I hear, that it causes the most issues among the afflicted. And the solution lies in the spirit portion of the program or idea. This was true for me and I do immoral things all the time. Why is it true. Take away the alcohol from the real real drunk. Relieve the person of the physical dependence (which is by the way is the most dangerous of them all), clear up their mind and let them get 3 months of sleep (Body and Mind) – Maybe they spent 40-100K to do so and 3 months,6 months, (insert number) months, later they are drunk. If I didn’t have a spiritual problem then I would not have started drinking again after my 4th ICU for 15 days and my second induced coma. Once detoxed, I would just stop and that would be the end of it.

    Insane…doing the same thing over and over again…..and expecting…got it? — This alcoholic drinks until he vomits in the bed with his child sleeping next to him. And then drinks again, and does it again – and I could go on and on – So yes, my definition of a real alcoholic is insane. He drinks until he dies, kills another person, or goes to jail. One of these three things happens, he stops, and then he does it again, until he doesn’t.

    One thing that always shocks me, and I will leave it at that. THE 3RD LEADING CAUSE OF PREVENTABLE DEATH IN THE WORLD IS ALCOHOLISM. It kills more people each year than all drugs legal, non-legal, RX, no RX – combined – If you or me find a solution in AA, or anywhere else that allows me to help those that are going through what I did and it keeps me sober, I am going to do it.

    Maybe you are not an alcoholic. Maybe you are just a heavy drinker. Take a break, try it again, see if bad shit happens. If doesn’t, don’t go to AA. AA is for alcoholics.

    One comment I read reminded me of the following: A lot of people in AA, before they speak, introduce themselves, as “grateful alcoholics.” And I never got that. I am not grateful to be an alcoholic in remission. I hate it, I think it sucks! – And if they come up with a pill that ends the consequences that I have suffered, then I am going to take it. I miss it all the time or I miss the experience I had around it. But I can’t do it. It will kill me, and I won’t ever have to leave the house for that to happen. However, if that guy over there wants to get up and say that, then my job is to do nothing and be friendly and not be judgmental because that gets me in trouble.

    The word morality does not appear in the BB of AA. It is found a couple of times in the 12 and 12. Moral, appears, 28 times. I would encourage anybody to find a BB index online and see if the word moral in this context is really that bothersome. It is a different word today. 80 years ago, most folks actually wanted to be moral people. Boy Scouts desire to be morally straight (no pun) Does it not just mean that you have a set of standards that you follow or try to and if you are an alcoholic like me, then sometimes and then more often, you don’t follow them.

    I have lost the power of choice. Acting on my own, without spiritual help, I will drink again. If you can stop on your own, go do it; I, and most of us, think that is great and we wish we could have too. But if you find, that when you drink, that you drink more than you should or you can’t stop when you want to…then you might be one of us.

    That I am this bad person forever, is not true. I get better and I stay better. To stay better, I practice a few of these things or I practice all of them; who cares? – The point is that to stay cured, I must change my thinking and my behavior and actions must be looked at daily, so I can make sure that I am not staring to show action or desires or behavior that reminds me of how I was when I was drunk.

    It is like Cancer in remission – your cured, but you have to do a few things to stay cured. I hope this can help somebody, I know it helped me.

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  47. Excentellent article. AA helps a lot of people. But I don’t agree that I have a spiritual malady or that my problem is selfishness and I have a huge ego. This is rubish. I left aa a few years ago because of the narrowmindeness.

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