Oh boy

Last week I googled ism alcoholism and found myself in several oddly hostile sites hellbent on denouncing AA. Maybe it’s the God angle that ruffles so many feathers. Maybe the naysayers went to a handful of meetings with a chip on their shoulder. Maybe they didn’t go to any meetings at all. Maybe, like the above angry-looking fella, they’re pitching an option that costs money and doesn’t give it away like AA.

There will always be detractors, but somehow it shocked me that people would go so far as to set up web sites and cite puzzling examples of the wily, underhanded ways AA undermines and steals from its members.

If you told me you stay sober by standing on your head for only five minutes a day, I would think you odd but keep it to myself. If you told me you tried AA and it didn’t sit well so you read some books and developed a personal program that kept you from drinking, I’d say swell…terrific and genuinely mean it.

The same detractors that call AA a controlling cult are, not surprisingly, close-minded that it actually works beautifully for some.

12 thoughts on “Oh boy

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  1. Yeah, I find this all somewhat – I want to say amusing, but it’s really pretty sad. By the video speakers definition, all religions, the military, and actually any frigging organization like a fraternity, the Lions Club or anyone else is a cult. In this regard, anyone who says the Pledge of Allegiance in the U.S. is adhering to a cult – but, don’t get me started.

    So, in 1984 I walked into an AA clubhouse in Cincinnati Ohio, quite desperate. I sat at a table and someone said something about a “Higher Power” and I left cause I was not going to hangout with a bunch of Jesus freaks. Six months later I was back and it really did not matter – now I was really “sick and tired of being sick and tired” whether that involved a higher power or what.

    And I have stayed sober ever since. I have gone several year periods without attending AA meetings – not because it was a cult, but because my sobriety was being fed in other ways, or I was more-or-less just existing and not growing in recovery – but I stayed sober, or at least alcohol and drug free throughout. Today I attend one meeting per week and am the literature person for my home group.

    My thought has always been – if you can find a different way of staying sober and your life is going the way you want or think it should – have at it. All of the horror stories I have heard attributed to AA, I simply have not experienced. As the Preamble says “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.” The Big Book talks about “suggested steps” and “take what you like and leave the rest” and so on. Folks like in the video just get into a big he said/she said story. I like the line in the back of the Big Book attributed to Herbert Spencer:

    “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.”

    Is everyone in AA a perfect adherent to the AA principles – of course not – no more than the members of any other organization are. So it goes . . .

    PS – I really enjoyed your comments on the Bubble Hour podcast


    1. I was revising some old posts and must have had this one in draft form and moved it over to ‘published’. How embarassing. That being said, what I wrote then very much still stands. AA works beautifully for so many. I haven’t been to a meeting in a really long time, but I like that you have taken breaks and found your way back. I hope to get back some day, even if now isn’t the right time. Thank you so much for your comment!


  2. Yes it would be sad for someone desparately trying to find help and instead find hate. I don’t follow AA but I do enjoy some of the literature from the Big Book and I do find staying in line with my HP (God, The Universe) as very helpful. I like to read other self-help books and use what I can in any way to further along my sobriety, learn about myself, and to be of service to others….Some people don’t know the saying don’t promote what you hate but what you love……


    1. Right, exactly. Most of the wisdom I’ve read in blogs is interchangeable with what I heard in meetings or read in AA literature. I think that’s great that you’ve been helped by key aspects of the program without the meetings. That’s what my recovery program looks like now too.


  3. I get worried that I offend some people when I complain about AA. But like any disease, there are different treatments. I go to meetings to look for support but I am finding blogging and reading blogs to be more useful. I always feel guilty when I do go to meetings for not following all the suggestions. Some members think the suggestions are strict rules and AA is the only way. I keep shopping around to find meetings I like. But I am not gonna worry that I don’t go to a daily meeting. Daily blogging is helping me manage.
    I would still always suggest AA to someone that wants help. But also suggest books, blogs, and websites.


    1. Oh this is me to a t. I got a lot out of AA in the early days. It didn’t occur to me that there was another way that actually worked. I didn’t read blogs until about 6 months in? Then I got fed up about a couple things and I stopped going to meetings and by that time was finding so much support in blogging and other sources. But, you know I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend AA to anyone. It offers so much structure and support that is great for early sobriety. I always feel like I need to warn them to keep an open mind, but that’s my baggage. There are so many ways to get and stay sober. It’s really a beautiful thing. Thanks for your comment!


  4. Anything like this gets detractors, and there are different flavours of AA – if you want one where the sharing is time limited and encouraged only to those that have done a fifth step, where almost slavish following of a sponsor is what you want no matter what they say or what aspect of your life they will advise on – I can point you to those groups and meetings (that ain’t my kind of AA btw). And I know plenty across the spectrum from that. It is all AA.

    Like you say – if doesn’t work for some, it won’t, it can’t. It does however work for millions and therefore cannot be considered bad or evil – indeed it has the least amount of membership credentials imaginable – Do you have a desire to stop drinking? You’re in! That is it! You only have to put a paltry sum of money in the pot if you can afford it – there is no student, affiliate, exec membership fee structure. Do you want to run the group? Tough, no-one does – the group is led by its collective conscience… now there is where I think some of these folks leave, they need to be in control they want power they want prestige they want acknowledgement – AA is not a place for egos and in my local groups it is often beaten down if you display it in a light hearted manner. I have several friends who are sober who tried AA and it didn’t work for them – fine. They maintain their sobriety in a way that works for them, but do they shout and scream AA is a cult and a bad place? No they get on with their bit on their own and leave it to those it works for – the fact someone has to shout about something that doesn’t work for them supposedly is interesting for me in what it potentially says about them..

    So I hear these accusations and I don’t get it because I don’t see it – maybe it is there and I am blind to it, I don’t think I am. One of the big things the AA programme has taught me is Live and Let Live – we discussed this topic/chapter at a local Living Sober meeting only last week. So do I rail against a political view I disagree with? Or a religion I feel is brainwashing its members? No I Live and Let Live. Those that argue against AA like this could do well from learning this message too…


    1. I think a lot of people get turned off because they never find a meeting that is a good fit for them. It’s unlikely that anyone stumbles into the perfect one the first time. I remember hearing “try a bunch of different meetings…don’t just go to the same one” and that makes a lot more sense now. Thanks for your input, G. I respect your views.


      1. That is what I tell newcomers for that reason. I love some meetings they totally click with me and my recovery others are ok and some in all honestly I don’t like.


  5. Well I for one am glad you accidentally hit publish! I have never seen or read anything like it, so it was very interesting to me. As a regular attendee of 12-step meetings, and as a self-proclaimed member, I found a great deal of error in the information that man is disseminating. And what a shame that is… I truly hope he is not reaching a wide audience!

    Great topic, and I am in awe that you have a library of drafts… I need to get writing!


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