Spiritual Abuse and Spiritual Bullies in Alcoholics Anonymous?

Using religious doctrine to enslave, ensnarl, and emotionally control others is spiritual abuse.  This happens in Alcoholics Anonymous, which has embedded itself into our mental health industry for the treatment of substance abuse, addiction, and alcoholism.  Last week, I spoke with Darlene G. Smith, the Intellectual Property Administrator with Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., who was insistent I could not call AA a religious organization because it is a “spiritual program.”  If I did not comply, AA would request that Facebook permanently shut down my Facebook page.  This is a perfect example of Alcoholics Anonymous controlling public information and opinions regarding their fellowship.

Try being an AA critic and see what happens to you.

Try being an AA critic and see what happens to you.

Imposing consequences for not accepting AA’s beliefs proves that AA is not a “spiritual program,” but an abusive, mind-controlling, enterprise that silences dissenters.  Spiritual abuse also includes “submission to spiritual authority without any right to disagree” and intimidation.  AA’s 6th step, the one that suggests a person makes a list of their character defects, and their 4th step which suggests a person blames themselves for others hurting them, is an example of humiliating and shaming the AA member.  Insisting that those outside AA “don’t understand AA” and therefore one should cut off contact with non-AA and drinking friends and family creates isolation from the outside world—Non-AA literature is banned from meetings to foster allegiance only to AA’s beliefs.  Oppressing criticism citing the critic cannot understand AA and therefore their opinions are invalid is another mind-control technique of spiritual abuse.  Instructing a person to obey AA’s belief system in order to reach a “spiritual awakening” as the 12th Step indicates forms the basis of claiming AA is the only way to some Godly level of enlightenment only the 12 Steps can provide.

This is nothing short than spiritual bullying, or using the fear of God to make people fall in line and obey the AA way of life.

Therefore, I have to disagree with Ms. Smith because AA is at least a religious program with qualities resembling a cult more than a church.  “Spiritual Abuse” was reportedly first used in the late 20th century, or earlier, as using religion to enslave the masses.  Characteristics include psychological manipulation and using doctrine to harm someone, usually children and vulnerable adults.  Sounds like an AA meeting to me, where children as young as 15 are told to find God or else, or where women are expected to accept sexual harassment because acceptance means if God didn’t want the situation to be the way it is right now then God would change it.  And acceptance is the key to everything, it is a lack of acceptance of the present that creates psychological discord and therefore may lead to resentment, even death.

Resentment is one of many pathways to death according to Alcoholics Anonymous.  Here is a short list of other death threats AA makes to its members:

  1. Resentment Causes Death: Never forget that resentment is a deadly hazard to an alcoholic. (Big Book, To Wives, page 117.)
  2. Believe in AA or Die: To those now in its fold, Alcoholics Anonymous has made the difference between misery and sobriety, and often the difference between life and death. (Big Book, Appendix I, The A.A. Tradition, page 561.)
  3. Recruit AA Members or Else They’ll Die: He should realize that we are engaged upon a life-and-death errand. (Big Book, Into Action, page 75.)
  4. Find God or Die: To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face. (Big Book, We Agnostics, page 44.)
  5. Work the 12 Steps or Die: 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. (12×12, Tradition Nine, page 174.
  6. Getting Angry will Kill You: If we were to live, we had to free of anger. (Big Book, How It Works, page 66.)
If you don't accept AA's definition of spirituality you will be spiritually bullied.

If you don’t accept AA’s definition of spirituality you will be spiritually bullied.

As you can see, AA states you must submit to AA and its teachings or your consequence is death.  If that’s not spiritual abuse I don’t know what is!  For the victim of 12 Step spiritual abuse, they can develop phobias about the topic of alcoholism and symptoms of depression.  If they are supposed to follow their sponsor’s advice or else be shamed into believing they are unwilling to go to any lengths to be sober, they may avoid taking medications or seeking medical or psychological help.  Even if the intent was not malicious, rather, the sponsor believes God saves the alcoholic and all psychological problems are rooted in alcoholism, it is still using a religious doctrine to convince a vulnerable person that the 12 Steps and prayer solve all of their problems.  This is criminally negligent because the sponsor is giving medical advice without a license.  They must not have read “The AA Member- Medications and Other Drugs,” a pamphlet implicitly directing AA members not to play doctor.  I’m going out on the proverbial limb here and saying this pamphlet only exists to spare AA some serious lawsuits.  However, since each local AA meeting can pick and choose which pamphlets to read, not every AA member knows this information.  Also, some in AA refuse to read anything beyond the Big Book (1935) and/or the Big Book and the 12×12 (1952).  These old timers think AA muddied the message with new literature and the original books are the “real AA.”

Children are especially vulnerable when religious doctrine is used to control them with fear and other support groups are not offered to them, like SMART Recovery or SOS.  Honestly, anyone under 18 should not be in AA and even 18 might be too young to label yourself an alcoholic for life.  Considering that AA has no safety rules or rules against sexual harassment, the young people of AA are the most vulnerable and have been victims of rape and molestation.  Shockingly, AA members have voted down protecting members from predators.  I consider it absolute child abuse to send any minor to a 12 Step meeting where the strangers they meet may be pedophiles hiding under the cloak of anonymity. (According to AA, anonymity is a spiritual principle!)  What’s worse is these AA members insist the child in the meeting has the same sickness they do and are as sick as they are.  This manipulates a still-developing brain for life.  When the child grows into adulthood, they believe they are damaged, defective, and doomed an alcoholic death before they even reach the legal drinking age of 21.  AA definitely uses fear to brainwash children while offering absolutely no protection to our sons and daughters.

Recently, the Word of Life Christian Church has been in the news because parishioners were abused, shamed, and one of them was beaten to death.  Although this is an extreme example of spiritual abuse, it reminds me of the 12 Step residential rehab I attended in 2011.  Members of the church had to clean the floors, do maintenance work, and suffer from sleep deprivation.  At rehab, we had to do chores often after 10 p.m. at night because that was the time we’d arrive back from the AA meetings we were permitted to attend off site with our sponsors.  Only after our assigned chores were done were we allowed some downtime to do homework and turn it in sometime around 11 p.m.  After that, we were supposed to wait sometimes until past midnight for the “evening” group.  By the time we could go to bed, it could be nearly 1 a.m., and our wakeup call was 7 a.m.  If we didn’t fall asleep right away, we were running on little to no sleep.

The idea was chores taught us to be responsible, even though as adults in their twenties up to our sixties we learned about chores as early as kindergarten or before that.  As for the lack of sleep, the church new story mentions the pastor purposely imposed sleep deprivation as “part of a plan to control them.”

  • “They sleep-deprive you because you become open to suggestions, usually what they’re teaching you,” Mr. Handville said. “They’re breaking you down so they can build you up the way they want to.” Benjamin Mueller, reporter from the New York Times, 10/15/15 “Congregants Were Abused and Shamed, Ex-Member Says”

Tragically, 19-year old Lucas Leonard was beaten to death.  His brother, Christopher, 17, survived yet has been hospitalized due to his severe injuries.  Bruce T. and Deborah Leonard, their parents, as well as 5 others, are charged with assault in the beating.  Imagine if this happened in an AA meeting.  Not only would AA not be held responsible or shut down, AA would never comment per their traditions to stay anonymous or else draw controversy.  With websites like NADaytona.org existing, publishing thousands of news articles and links about crimes in AA and Narcotics Anonymous, the fact is 12 Step programs are already controversial yet they live in a perpetual state of denial and members insist these are isolated incidents.   The emotionless comeback is: “What do you expect when you go to a meeting full of drunks and addicts?”  Victim blaming is the scapegoat to clear AA of any accountability to keep members safe.

How unsafe are 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous?  Here’s a short list of criminal activity at their meetings:

  • Mesa, Arizona: Man accused of stabbing a woman after an AA meeting. They were not prior acquaintances. This was a random act. October 2015. (See whole story here.)
  • Anchorage, Alaska: 18 year old male shot and killed at the Alano Club. July 2015. In 2009, at the same sober club, an 18 year old was shot and critically injured. (Read here.)
  • Los Angeles, California: Man sentenced for killing and dismembering a man he sponsored for AA/NA meetings in 2010. June 2015. (See more here.)

These three recent news reports should cause public outrage, instead, have you heard of any of them?  Why does the media ignore the common link where people are murdered because they were attending 12 Step groups?  Why isn’t the general public crying out for safety in these support groups?  It is one thing to be sickened by the Word of Life church news, but in that case it was an isolated incident.  With 12 Step meetings, with nearly 2 million reported members, and 90-95% of American rehab centers sending patients to meetings, there should be even more public outrage.  There should be a Presidential address confronting the abuse and crimes happening in what is purported to be a network of meetings claiming to be a spiritual fellowships rehabilitating alcoholics and addicts but instead has caused great harm due to the lack of safety.  Not to mention, the mind control techniques implemented to keep members from ever leaving their AA and NA meetings.

The AA president of murder in SC, Reagan

The AA president of murder in SC, Reagan

In August 2015, South Carolina’s The Post and Courier  reporter Christina Elmore covered the story of David Mark Reagan, 57, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison because he strangled Kathy Hawkins, 52, to death after a domestic dispute.  Her lifeless body was found on August 20th, 2013.  She was killed on her daughter’s 10th birthday.  Taking further advantage of his dead girlfriend, Reagan was caught on surveillance using her credit card to buy booze after he killed her.  According to his attorney, Luke Malloy, Reagan was “an amazing man” when he was sober.  He met Hawkins at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting even though he had a history domestic violence arrests.  In September 2006, Regan had “punched, kicked and kneed a live-in girlfriend.”  My only guess is, according to AA mythology, even if Reagan admitted while sober to being abusive his membership in AA would still make him a reformed and well-respected member.  All he would have to do is claim he turned over his character defects to God and God removed all of his defects of character.  However, clearly asking God to fix your abusive tendencies is not a foolproof plan and one can always lie about believing in God or wanting to change their ways.  It must bring Hawkins family some peace of mind to know, according to the 9th Step of AA, Reagan has apologized for what he has done.

Hawkins was murdered by Reagan, the man she met in AA who claimed she was the love of his life.

Hawkins was murdered by Reagan, the man she met in AA who claimed she was the love of his life.

The best known headline for murder in Alcoholics Anonymous is the case of Eric Earle who murdered Karla Brada in 2011.  In October, 2014, Earle was sentenced to 26 years in prison for first-degree murder.  Karla, 31, was assaulted multiple times by Earle, yet both of them were AA members.  They met in AA.  It is highly likely Karla was reluctant to blame Earle for his attacks because she was looking for “her part in it,” as the 4th Step requires a victim hurt by others to do.  It’s possible, as the 4th step also suggests, that Karla was blaming herself and, as the 6th step requires, was blaming her character defects for how Earle treated her.  After all, according to the Big Book of AA: Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt. (Big Book, How It Works, page 62.)  Even if other women in AA warned Karla not to date anyone in her first year of solid sobriety, it is a common fact AA has no rules.  According to the AA document “A.A. Fact File,” as well as other AA sources: Alcoholics Anonymous is not organized in the formal or political sense.  There are no governing officers, no rules or regulations, no fees or dues.

A classic AA response would be

A classic AA response would be “What was her part in it?”

Since there are no rules in AA, only suggestions, it is fair to assume less-than-savory individuals can use this against their potential targets.  One can imagine hearing a predatory person saying his victim, “There are no rules in AA, babe.  I’ve been in the program for years and everyone dates.  There’s no rule against it.  That’s just something someone made up for themselves, it doesn’t apply to everyone.  We’re different.  We’re in love.  Why would God bring us together if this wasn’t meant to be.”  Then, BAM!  The predator has explained his case and he has manipulated a woman into believing they are in love.  Was this what happened with Earle and Karla?  Is this another example of spiritual abuse?

Let’s be rigorously and vigorously honest and state for a fact that Alcoholics Anonymous insults God and religion by claiming it knows God more than the churches or the Bible does.  I’m saying this even though I’m an atheist.  I was raised in the Catholic Church and no longer practice that faith.  However, how many AA meetings are held in church basements?  Countless.  It is our duty to contact churches that hold AA meetings and inform them that AA goes against Christianity.  AA has no problem coercing non-believers to pray the Lord’s Prayer even though technically these non-believers are falsely testifying— they are blasphemers.  If that doesn’t bother you, consider that your United States taxes are going towards court mandated and Medicare funded treatment that collects money to instruct clients to attend *FREE* AA meetings.  It’s not ok to force religion unto others just because they are addicts/alcoholics and they “don’t matter.”  Think about how faulty that thought process is and how it reflects on your own morals.  It’s ok to infringe on someone’s right to worship or not worship as they choose so long as they are addicted to drugs and alcohol?  This is how we as a culture have stigmatized  addicts.  We are lackadaisical when it comes to treating people with substance abuse and do not care if we are harming them spiritually or otherwise.  Hey, as long as they stay off the sauce whatever works right?  Wrong.

I haven’t seen such an eagerness to attack or harm others since the famous Stanford Prison Experiment.  No matter how horrible an addict can treat their friends, loved ones, or themselves, have you ever had a group of organized addicts force you to pray the Our Father if you are Jewish, Muslim, or atheist?  I think never.

Maybe we should heed the words of Pastor Chad Prigmore, whose website’s mission is to clarify to Christians how blasphemous Alcoholics Anonymous is.  Chris has rightly pointed out the ways in which AA and the 12 Steps are insulting to Jesus Christ.  If you are a Christian, listen up, because this is important.  Co-founder of AA, and main author of the Big Book, Bill Wilson, said he was “completing the works that Christ didn’t finish” and even claimed he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, according to a 1952 letter by Wilson’s pal

Henrietta Seiberling.

Goodyear Tire money helped get Bill and Bob together, next came Rockefeller.

Goodyear Tire money helped get Bill and Bob together, next came Rockefeller.

What mystifies me is why back in 2004 I willingly went on a field trip with the women from my Saturday morning AA meeting to Akron, Ohio where we visited the Seiberling mansion.  Seiberling was the wife of Frank Augustus Seiberling, the co-founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (1898) and the Seiberling Rubber Company (1921) who also built Stan Hywet Hall— Today this mansion is a mecca for AA pilgrimages and, ironically, wine tastings.  The importance of Stan Hywet Hall is this is where Bill Wilson first met Dr. Bob Smith, the other co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Prigmore goes on to point out that in the 12×12 (a.k.a. the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions book first published in 1952 by Alcoholics Anonymous) it is declared a moral inventory would convince people to forgive others who they feel have harmed them.  Yet, Jesus teaches in Matthew 26:28: … for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  If you’re not a Christian, this is not a problem, but if you are, Prigmore also points out that Corinthians forbids non-believers for claiming false witness to Christ; the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the end of AA meetings means non-Christians are lying by making a false proclamation.  The greatest infringement is when Jesus is insulted in the 12×12 where the book claims that only thru action in AA a person can gain entry to God or their Higher Power.  I am not a biblical scholar by any means, but if you want to learn more, please visit the Recovery Reformation website and the article I’m paraphrasing in THIS LINK.

For the Christians reading this, let me paraphrase a bit more from Pastor Prigmore’s works:  The 12 Steps are not Christian despite whatever some uneducated AA member insists.   As Prigmore writes: The 12 Steps are not Christian in any way and are in fact apostasy, spiritualistic, pagan, and anti-Biblical. 

Now, to drive home the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a spiritual program, nor a Christian one, and has elements of abuse similar if not exclusive to cults, I want to mention the seminal book that explained cults to me like no other:  You Might Be A Zombie and Other Bad NewsThis New York Times Bestseller, published in 2011, from the editors of Cracked.com (please Cracked.com editors, give me credit for this plug!) breaks down cults in a section titled, “Four Brainwashint Techniques They’re Using On You Right Now.”  *Side note:  Years ago I pitched them an idea on 6 Ways AA Lies and it was rejected because some Cracked.com staff were either in AA or knew of others in AA and they felt it was disrespectful.*

You might be in a cult if you're in AA

You might be in a cult if you’re in AA

According to this book, here are four ways cults operate.  You tell me if this reminds of you Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and literature:

  1. Brainwashing: Getting people to OBEY by chanting slogans. Live and Let Live? One Day At a Time? It Works if You Work It? Let Go and Let God? Apparently changing works because chanting forces your brain into repetitive-task mode so you can’t think rationally. For instance, try solving a complex logic puzzle while screaming the chorus to that “I get knocked down” song over and over again. (page 192) Chanting slogans works because it shuts down “nagging” doubting voices who need to be convinced your cult works.
  2. Slipping Bullshit Into Your Subconscious: This technique attacks the way your brain stores information and memories. It’s source amnesia. Quote: “you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t’ remember how you learned it.” Because of the Internet and the rapid succession of headlines announcing this or that as being fact, the brain just stores the headlines and not the details. Therefore, a factual account that ‘Do the 12 Steps Work?’ (question mark!) turns into ‘The 12 Steps Work Every Time’ in your brain. ‘AA Members Question Critics’ can become ‘Critics of AA and their Flawed Opinons.’ Before you know it, critics of AA are flawed and AA works every time. Nice huh?
  3. Controlling What You Watch and Read: This is evident the minute you hear the phrase ‘AA conference approved literature.’ The fact that materials about alcoholism from non-AA sources are virtually completely ignored, if not banned, in your local AA meetings means AA is restricting your access to outside information.
  4. Keeping You In Line With Shame: Or what the book refers to as the appeal to ridicule fallacy. The key is the listener is unlikely to examine or investigate if the ridicule has any merit. Oh you want to go to a SMART meeting? How many SMART meetings are out there compared to AA? That’s because it doesn’t work. How ‘smart’  is that?!! Here’s a book quote: There are primitive, lower parts of your brain called amygdalae that control base, emotional reactions. That’s where things like contempt and shame come from. (page 196)

Mockery developed as a conformity enforcer, to keep people in line, states the Zombie book.  It can keep an AA member in line by shutting down critical thinking.  “Billy Bob hasn’t been in a meeting lately, he must have fallen off the wagon!”  Haha! Of course he did, because without AA you will surely DIE.  “Sandy Sue sure seems cranky today, she must be a dry drunk!”  Of course she is, because mocking others enforces a sense of intellectual pride in those who believe the mockery.

So, dear readers, is Alcoholics Anonymous a cult?  Are the crimes happening in AA part of the culture of AA?  Are people spiritually abused by the 12 Steps and the AA program?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!

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25 thoughts on “Spiritual Abuse and Spiritual Bullies in Alcoholics Anonymous?

  1. Thank you for this article. It is so time to stop AA from being the be-all and end-all of addiction treatment.

    • I’m hoping people take the “spiritual” component of AA more seriously, and how it can be abused against others. Thanks for your comment! I agree, there are so many other options!

    • Wow blaming A A for ones self-hatred and narcissism is a sure way never to grow up, like blaming ones parents.

      • I understand you didn’t have a NPD parent and cannot relate. Good for you, because it’s a horrendous experience and it takes a lot of work to overcome that kind of abuse. As for your comment, it sounds as if you have no compassion or empathy for people with different life experiences than yours— Did you know developing compassion and empathy for others who are not like you is part of becoming an adult? I wish you luck growing out of a childish mindset where the world revolves around you. Usually, this occurs around the age of nine or ten. At the latest, 12 years old. A course in child psychology and knowing how environment and parents play a role in shaping a child’s mind would help you a lot. Sounds like your growth was stunted, I am sorry to hear that. Maybe you’ll stop blaming me or others for our experiences and start to grow out of your myopia of self.

  2. Pingback: Spiritual Abuse and Spiritual Bullies in Alcoholics Anonymous? | Not Powerless

  3. I realized AA was a cult and it is being used by the rehab industry to make big money when I realized my therapist was trying to force me into AA and I had been discouraged from several other approaches. I realized I was trying to tell her I wasn’t mad about it (I was still brainwashed to think that would make me die of alcoholism), and that I understood she was just trying to keep her job. She said ‘Maybe you should be mad at me’. And then I realized that she was also frustrated with having to tell me to go to AA for a full year while listening to me try to make sense of why AA works for seemingly everybody but me.

    So I did get mad, and I wrote a complaint about it, which the interventionist called “Axis 2” and although the Interventionist knew about other approaches, he discouraged me from telling my therapist about them and encouraged her to keep ‘strong boundaries’. Which I have come to realize is the social shunning and suppression of information typical of cults. At first, I thought I had ruined their practice, because I thought they had gone from open-minded to seeing AA as the only way as they watched me nearly die. Now I realize that they and my interventionist were always an AA/12-step coercive organization and were simply hiding that information up front (suppression of informed consent). You have to gain people’s trust first, right? “Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion.” – Bill W’s bait and switch

    • Yes, “Working with Others,” is a step by step guide on how-to misrepresent AA and then bait & switch the new recruit. Basically, lie to people when you want them to join AA. Tell them AA is not religious. Don’t even mention spirituality yet. Just tell them you’re one drunk talking to another. This is not an honest program!

  4. It would seem that you got more of a response from AAWS than most, even if it was in the form of a threat. It would also seem that the Vail of secrecy regarding reprisals and censorship procedures may have been pierced. This may be of interest to the attorney for the Brada’s. Now it’s established that Ms. Smith speaks for AA and they must have a lot of questions concerning the internal workings of this “benevolent” organization. Your writing grows stronger with each article. I look forward to each one.

    • Thanks Ra Jur-el. I will keep this in consideration about how anyone able to contact AA directly can benefit much-needed change in this monopoly AA has over our country. Thanks for commenting, I hope to keep writing and discovering new paths to create change in recovery services.

  5. In an article for RecoveryExperts.com, I make the following distinction between religion and spirituality:
    Religion: The modes of behavior associated with worshipping an absolute deity or idea.
    Spirituality: That which relates with the sacred.
    AA does appear to be a religion, at times, and I can understand your concerns over its “cult-like” approach to recovery. However, it does appear that your position is one-sided; I’d like to know more about what alternatives to AA (and other 12-step programs) you’ve studied and also what “good” comes of AA. Your article is a good place to begin discussion….

    • I see hardly any good coming from AA other than good outcomes based on illusion; for example- 5% will succeed in AA and they credit AA for this success. However, 5% succeed without AA so it’s a placebo effect. AA is the only treatment studied by their own class A trustee, George Vaillant, to cause 3% higher death rates in participants. SMART Recovery, SOS, Women for Sobriety are of many other support group options. Bill Miller’s own analysis of successful treatment for addiction places AA and the 12-Steps at 37 and 38th place behind the number 1 method of Motivational Interviewing. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also in the top 5 of the approaches. Whereas AA teaches you are “powerless” all other support groups teach empowerment. AA is religious because members worship in a group, they worship the AA literature, they pray together The Lord’s Prayer/Our Father and the Serenity Prayer which both address God and the one addresses God as the Father of Jesus Christ. The word games of “spiritual” vs “religious” is one of many cult-like aspects in AA which are very disturbing to me. AA says one thing, but does another, which is inherently dishonest and confusing to anyone using at least half their brain. Look no further than step 3 where the AA member has to turn their will and life over to the care of God as they understand Him. If that’s not a religious belief than what is it? The step doesn’t say find a personal spiritual belief system which you hold sacred. It just doesn’t say that and doesn’t say that anywhere in the AA literature which speaks often of prayer to God and how to pray, why one must pray not to drink again. Under threat of losing sobriety, AA members must work the 12-Steps religiously.

  6. AA is abusive, the 12 steppers live to mock anyone who doesn’t regularly attend meetings which means daily. Physically sick? who cares go to a meeting. Physically exhausted from working a double shift? who cares you haven’t been to meeting you’ll get drunk! Someone showed you some disrespect? then you talk with a fellow AA’er ? Who cares you’ll get mocked with the sarcastic question “So Are You Going To Go Out & Then get drunk? Those folks are really out to lunch.

    • I think its far more sick to continue to believe one is sick for life and must attend meeting for life. There is something good about giving back and sharing your story, but limiting that to meetings gets old. I can’t agree more that they egg on relapses with those self-defeating ill-wishing comments like “don’t go back out over this.” How about giving MORE advice, some non-AA advice, tell them to see a therapist or look into SMART? No, they can’t do that, so the only alternative to AA meetings is getting drunk. Either/Or. Black/White thinking. It’s damaging the things they say and they have no sensitivity training at all! You’d think the states would evaluate what really goes on in those rooms!

  7. Absolutely! My sobriety date 4-2006 I got sober Easter weekend. Truly a blessing. AA helped me start a new life I needed a platform for sobriety and I met the right people, yes AA along with other things kept me sober, but it was therapy that helped heal me and gave me the tools to cure my emotional constipation. It was therapy that helped me understand why I became an addict. However the benefits of my own fourth step were also very helpful. Ultimately it was my Higher power the Grace of God that got and keeps me sober. Really, yes hell yes my eyes are open I am so tired of the cult B.S. at my own home-group. I quit meetings about a year ago other than a few random times I have gone to remember why I no longer go. For instance I went to one tonight. The two old timers who don’t miss a meeting were sharing in a meeting just how sick they are even after nearly 30 years of meetings. Well obviously they have not had the benefit of working on core issues. And idk maybe their fourth steps were not thorough I don’t know but I am going to write an article today about “When is enough enough?” What ingredient is it that the old timer needs from AA after 30 years to keep them sober (other than giving it back if in fact they are giving anything good) Primarily the old timer gains ego boosting kudos. He knows that his drinking quit working so a long continual stream of false comparison has quenched his desire to drink and change the way he feels. If they are sober by “The Grace of God” is the old timers god a repentant-giver who gave with strings attached? Is Grace not actually Grace?

  8. Please allow me to clarify what helped me in AA primarily it was the meditation, deep, ongoing years of meditation transcendental in nature not just picking up a book reading it and thinking about the passage. So I don’t know why but I fervently sought God through prayer and meditation. Second it was getting right into chairing meetings, bringing meetings to jail, and to rehabs telling my story which built self esteem and confidence. Honestly the club I went to meeting at didn’t talk about the step eleven I was the only who ever brought it up except in book studies. I knew two other people that meditated like that maybe three one of them I married lol! Thanks guys. He had seven years sobriety when I got sober, ya the dreaded thirteenth step, one of the best men I have ever met we have been together almost as long as I have been sober. He would not take on my responsibilities or try to control me or ever tell me what to do. He did however answer many of my important early sobriety questions and did give me a push into service right away at 30 days. Lol every time I brag on him like this he ends up pissing me off lol some kind of weird karma thing. Lol!

  9. It’s not cult, there is no leader. I think it could become a cult, however the 12 Traditions (which are read at virtually every meeting I attend) deliberately hedge against this. A lot of abuse can and will occur by individuals. Because each group is autonomous taking the primary literature, steps and traditions as their guideline, groups can be radically different in nature, and yes some can be sick. What I found however, was by and large an open door with people willing to help me. Moreover the spiritual journey I was encouraged to take was extremely personal and done at my own pace. There was no bullying. I could walk away at any time. I have walked away from some people and groups, I have walked towards others. The thing is, I have a clearer vision into who I am now. AA encouraged me to find that. For myself. I’m sober now 3 and 1/2 years. I do useful things. I look to see what my part is in a problem instead of blaming others. And yes, you are right, sometimes we have no role in an issue. In those cases our role is to react correctly. I had 2 coping mechanisms when I came in the door – add more alcohol and add more women. I lived in my head caught between fantasy and resentment. AA helped me find a better way and live a sober useful life on life’s terms. They didn’t do that by bullying or threatening. They did it by example.

    • Cults can have more than one leader- in AA it’s kind of as though Bill Wilson/Dr.Bob/Big Book are the “leaders” followed by “sponsors” who “lead” newcomers into the cult. That’s the analogy. The Traditions also discourage members to look into outside ideas (ideas outside AA)… However, look at treatment centers that send people to AA. Look at courts. The AA literature encourages AA members to form special committees. These groups go into treatment centers, jails, etc. I hear some say there was no bullying (that they saw) or that they felt free to come to go (at their meetings)… but that means you’re not willing to others who had different experiences than yourself. It’s important to be believed, is it not? When person X actually hurts person Y then, it’s not blaming, it’s called telling the truth. Many do not report things as horrible as rape by people who found them at a meeting because they fear “taking the rapist’s inventory.” Of course, that sounds horribly wrong, but that has happened. I am hoping everyone can have a voice and be heard. AA is not Utopia and compliments as well as criticisms should be heard— even Bill Wilson said AA should take its own inventory. Unfortunately, people don’t know what meetings are the better ones, and maybe there should be an Angie’s List of meetings where real criticisms- even anonymous ones- can be heard by AA.

  10. Wow what an article and the comments. First and foremost please understand that I am not hear to say nay or hay re AA. Some clarification thou is needed. Step 3 does say to turn your will and care over to God AS YOU UNDERSTAND HIM. Now it is written like this to make it simple. people in AA believe in their higher power as Nature the ocean anything really.that is no lie. The program encourages compassion and love. To look at our patterns and really dig deep to why we continue to do things that cause so much grief and anguish. alcohol or any drug is but a symptom of inner turmoil. There are no rules or regulations. People come to AA broken in despair. Desperate to get a life a life better than WHaT they have been living. It’s supportive and caring and yes their are Dicks bitches and assholes in AA as well as every other place. It has been therapeutic for some and others not so much. If it works for some good and if not for others then it’s good that there are other options. Being kind is good being accountable for things in our life is important to not continue to make the same fuckin mistake over and over again. I have been in AA AND I also have been in CBT PTSD group therapy psychologist psychiatrist. You name it I’ve explored it. One thing for sure I am sober and clean. With wonderful friends. Who waLk with me no matter what I have been assaulted by this guy I was dating recently because he is fucked up doesn’t do anything for anyone is selfish and disputable. He comes from abuse and has continued a pattern people like him are psychiatrically sick and no amount of meetings in AA counselling will help. It’s like pedophiles no cure. Oh and I believe he is that too. A little to late when I found this out. My part…..NONE. other than not listening to my gut t months ago so I learned to listen to my gut more clearly. And not to trust fuckin crazy people. I have had shit in my life wh8ch has caused me not to hear my good inner heart to doubt myself. The fellowship of AA HAS helped me immensely. I’m sober and working on letting go of people places and things that have dominated my life for years. So what works for some doesn’t necessarily works for others that’s why there are alternatives. Find what works for you and run with it with Love and compassion

    • Today, AA still uses GOD AS WE UNDERSTAND HIM in Step 3 and all of its literature. 12 Steps can be written any way a person wishes but I have yet to hear of AA approved meetings (one’s listed in the meetings books) permitted to use alternative steps. [The idea is to not confuse newcomers as to what AA really is, and keeping meetings as similar as possible.]
      Encouraging compassion and love is a tricky one since the language is seeped in a lot of self-blame. I continue to site the terms powerless and character defects. I continue to site the problem of 164 pages of a program’s main text used anywhere from meetings to treatment centers, to those training to help with clients, which ignores women’s voices. I continue to site the Serenity prayer not being applied to changing the program to suit all of its members today instead of staying in the past. The good, kind thing to do is put kindness into action. It was not until December of 2016 AA published any policy against sexual harassment. These are unregulated meetings operating a very large umbrella— from those being court ordered, those referred by doctors and therapists, treatment centers, and word-of-mouth. There are crimes at some meetings that could have been prevented if rules and structure were in place. As a parent, I give my kids rules and structure because that is caring and loving. That said, I have read every word you have written. I hope you have taken the above that I’ve written and simply hear out my feelings on the subject. I’m not telling anyone to leave AA, hate AA, or attack AA. Certainly, everyone has an opinion. Most people entering AA are told explicitly under no uncertain terms they have Stinking Thinking and not to trust their gut. To leave everyone in the past behind and trust AA and the people there are your new family. In this respect, every meeting may be different, but I’ve heard this from people in places thousands of miles apart so it is a problem. Think about what you wrote— pedophiles have no cure. Then why are they court ordered and having access to AA members under 18 or AA members’ children? That is a huge problem. AA is a non-profit organization held to the same standards and laws as anywhere else. The alternatives are very important, but currently I pull towards programs being an outdated model. The new addiction is “I need a meeting.” Thanks for your comment, though. Appreciate all who read my blog.

    • It took me 4 months to formulate a polite response, but patience is a virtue. Please explain 2 of your points. 1.) How is this article “fake news” and 2.) How do I have no idea what I am talking about? (2 simple questions, should not be hard to answer.)

      I have yet to find one fact/reference/source in the AA Big Book close to being “scientifically proven,” yet I’ve met many members who fail to ask, “Is this true because it was tested to be true, or is it true because I want to believe it is?” If you believe in it, that is your choice. Yet, it is a choice, and does not make the AA “belief system” true nor does it make AA the only proven method to quit drinking. If we were perfect, maybe we’d all be like DJT and never drink at all. Heck, George W. Bush quit drinking and cocaine without a 12 Step program— yet, perhaps, he wasn’t a “real alcoholic.”

  11. I agree with a lot of this article. I was sexually assaulted by three men in AA, one of whom was a sex offender who was sentenced to go to AA. I was also in relationships with these men and two were part of domestic violence. I have 11 years of sobriety now. I have been going to counseling for years to work on myself and find that the idea that alcoholics are sick people and always will be is too bad and perpetuates that idea. Also, I have found that much of the behaviors that early sponsors told me were alcoholic behaviors were really tied to early childhood abuse. A lot of the time people in AA attribute these types of behaviors to alcoholism. I’m glad that I am untangling that web. What I do believe though is that situations like mine (domestic violence, etc) are perpetuated in AA due to the culture. When I’ve shared about what I’ve gone through and that I have gotten out of domestic violence within AA I’ve been openly shamed in AA meetings.

    • Thanks Meryl for your comment, and I’m glad you were able to maintain your sobriety after all that. I find it absolutely insane AA doesn’t proactively address these issues other than a flimsy acknowledgement that sexual harassment is wrong. Members are still not warned and this is a crime, not a mistake, on AA’s part. Counseling is usually the only sane way to combat the problems we have gone thru inside or outside of AA. If we have experienced child abuse, we can be stuck in picking out the same kind of sick people we are comfortable with, and we do get hurt again. So glad you are working that out in counseling. AA should not attribute abusive behavior to alcoholism. Abusing other people is not a symptom of alcoholism. Either a person is chooses to be abusive or are abusive by nature, or whatever else caused them to think abusing others is ok, those are not traits of being an alcoholic. Let alone, there is no “alcoholic personality.” I’ve had to unlearn a lot after AA and it’s amazing how much they can brainwash us without us knowing at the time.

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