Tell Us Your Story

One common theme I have seen with former AAs is that there is often a moment of clarity when they finally agree with that voice in their head that something was amiss, and that the program that they had signed up for – a quit drinking fellowship – was indeed much more. Sometimes it is a single incident, like the actions of a sponsor, or something said by another member that was particularly absurd, that gave their head a shake. With others, it was simply the totality of it all, and they knew that if they were subjected to one more aphorism, or one more trite slogan, they felt like their heads might explode.

What was your moment? When did you finally have enough? Was it a particular event, or was it a process. I would be interested to hear from those who have left AA. A reverse drunkalog, if you will. What caused you leave, and what difference has it made for you.

  • murray

    I like this post and I think it raises a good question.

    At present Im in that weird limbo where I still have the aa doctrine in my head saying im "playing with fire" to quote my sponser.
    Then on the other hand Im looking objectively and asking the question is this doing anything for me apart from sobriety.
    Well I have not been to a meeting for three months and the idea of a drink still repulses me.
    I guess for me after doing steps 1-10 (to the best of my ability,service, sponser)
    I started to get more of the charlie brown teacher syndrome "blah blah blah, blah, blah blah,blah"
    I just dont know if I can go back to that.
    My faith is not what it was but I guess I still realise the importance of relating to another alcoholic. So will try and maintane this in some capacity.

    Peace

    • Murray,

      Coming off a relapse two weeks ago after a year of sobriety, I can tell that right up until the point that I took that first drink I could say that I was "repulsed" by the thought of alcohol.

      What I'm saying is don't get complacent. No, I'm not talking about Bill Wilson's "strange mental blank spots" (SMBS)because the decision is always volitional. You just have to listen to that needy little lizard brain that's going to talk you into it. For fun. To punish yourself. Just for shits and giggles.

      To sort of touch on the topic, there were many points at which I was in AA and realized I wasn't playing with the normal kids. Mostly based on reading the mean-spirited and incoherent canonical texts of AA. However, in the rooms, it was always when someone described a relapse.

      The proper form for this sort of drunkalogue was this: The victim of a SMBS would find themselves in their car. Suddenly and inexorably, like their steering wheel was attached to the rudder on the Titanic, their car would turn into a parking lot. They would find themselves walking into a liquor store, money already in hand, and walking out with a bottle of vodka. Next thing they knew, they were drunk.

      With no idea how it happened.

      Oh, what utter bullshit.

      I don't know if they actually believed this, the memory was fogged in anterio-grade amnesia from a black out or it was just subsumed by the fact that we often don't remember well-traveled paths (like driving to work) even though each action at the time was conscious.

      Mostly though it was just the continual process of shoe-horning everything into the pigeon-holes of AA expectations, as part of the larger process of the alcoholic having to become, in hindsight, the kind of drunk (and asshole in sobriety) that Bill Wilson was for the "program" to make sense.

      I've heard dozens and dozens of the same "powerless" drunkaloque and never, not once, was I convinced that it was anything but a purely volitional act.

      • murray

        Thats very true mate,

        Its why I made the point of keeping in contact with fellow alkies aa or otherwise(we do have short memories after all).

        Really glad your off your bender, how long were you on the sauce for this time round?

        • Oh, I started on a Saturday and checked myself in the following Friday.

          However, the way I do it, that was pretty much 24/7 without eating and not much sleeping.

          The real killer for me now, with alcohol, is the inevitable and paralyzing insomnia.

          That Friday morning I put on my pants and shoes, stuff some stuff in a sports bag and called a cab to the hospital because I knew the only way to break the cycle was a banana bag, some medication to lower my blood pressure and enough Ativan to stagger a moose.

          Good times people, good times.

          • murray

            oh yeah that wonderful insomnia.

            At my worst I used to chug back some vodka to knock myself back out.
            Worked everytime:)

          • raysny

            I started drinking only after I discovered speed relieved my depression. After I quit the speed, I was left with a mighty alcohol habit, I drank every night to pass out. My natural sleep patterns never came back.

  • SeeYa!

    OMG! Where do I start? There is no logic in AA, very little makes sense in the Big Book, the rooms are full of predators, drug dealers (dealing in the actual rooms!), rapists, child molesters, swindlers, cheats, thieves, extortionists, and these are supposedly sober people. Some have been sober for several years! Really? Do I really want to be around people like that? I'm trying to leave behind several years of drinking and using, not sit around and talk about it for the rest of my life. There is a great big world outside of AA, and I want to be a part of it!

    • SeeYa!

      Side note: my last sponsor finally did me in. She wanted so badly for me to hang out with her friends and think like her. I snapped. I totally snapped, and after 7 years of AA my brain (which thinks very well on its own, thank you very much) and I packed our shit and split. I will NOT drink the Kool-Aid!

    • M A

      Hi, SeeYa! Welcome back to the real world!

    • Disgusted

      Hear, hear!

  • Bokata

    AA Types

    I’ve noticed three types of people in AA. There are those who seem to be honest brokers, many of whom are indeed wonderful people trying to work the program or mentor others constructively.

    Then there are those whose identities seem to have been subsumed and encapsulated entirely by the program. My favorite example of this type is a thirty year veteran from Wisconsin who wears a flashy gold AA medallion around his neck and still attends two meetings a day as a matter of routine. He usually speaks at every opportunity, has little to say, and takes forever to do so on a repetitive basis. Others in this category have AA tattoos or custom license plates. I’ve even heard of one group where all the male members have the same AA tattoo in the same location, and the women sport identical haircuts! For these people, AA is not a healthy lifestyle supplement or social support network. It’s something they channel constantly. AA is to them is their life’s blood and the very element which they breathe.

    Finally, there are the bullies. These are the Big Book thumpers and proponents of tough love. Their approach to sobriety is of the two fisted, take no prisoners variety. For them, phrases like ‘take what you want and leave the rest’ are so much fairy dust sprinkled on a wino whose only hope rests on being curb stomped to his senses and being pressure washed with the program from the nozzle of the fire hose. In this case, the hypothetical wino is the newcomer. He or she may be driving a BMW now, but sooner or later the person stops becoming a visitor and either winds up on the street or becomes a full fledged member of the group. Anything less is a half measure destined to fail.

    My favorite example of this type is yet another guy with thirty years in the program. His six foot frame is encumbered by 350 pounds plus of gratuitous insulation. Unabashedly outspoken about everything, he lets the visitors from a local rehab center know that their chances of recovery are slim to none. Only the true followers of the AA way stand anything like a chance of experiencing a life outside the shadow of certain doom. Needless to say, the newcomers’ salvation rests in part or in the main in coming to meetings and hearing the likes of this Java the Hut say the same thing ad tedium to other newcomers. If there is anything continent — much less spiritual — about a fat, loudmouth jackass of this sort, it’s certainly well concealed from anyone with an eye for the obvious. In AA jargon, however, a guy like this is just a real character who tells it like it is.

    In summary, there are members with good hearts, brains and lives. There are also those with good hearts along with brains and lives—sort of. Then there are counterproductive eyesores whose sole purpose in life is to give offense while exploiting others. Of the three distinct types, guess which ones usually wind up representing the local membership at the AA conferences on the national level?

    • SeeYa!

      Beautifully said.

    • M A

      In summary, there are members with good hearts, brains and lives.

      This was a really good summary, Bakota. I wanted to highlight this one sentence, and I'm glad you pointed these folks out, because I realize that AA has these types of of members, as well. Many actually are readers of this blog, and we have had some thoughtful feedback from them, both in the comments section and via email. Those are the current members we are really speaking to here, which is one of the purposes we created this blog. It is sad to watch these people being manipulated, when all they really want is sobriety, and to help others along the way.

      • groovecat

        it doesn't matter how well-intentioned, lovingly and graceflly you dispense the kook-aid. it is still kool-aid.

    • jeffeff

      "In summary, there are members with good hearts, brains and lives. There are also those with good hearts along with brains and lives—sort of. Then there are counterproductive eyesores whose sole purpose in life is to give offense while exploiting others."

      …pretty much like every other area of life?

      • M A

        …pretty much like every other area of life?

        Not really, Jeff. In other areas of life, people are held accountable, and are not free to continue exploiting people; and in AA there is high percentage of exploiters, not just a trivial percentage like in the real world.

        • jeffeff

          Trivial percentage? Man, I should move to your town.

          We once banned a guy outright from coming to the meeting because he kept bringing weapons into the room and intimidating and threatening people. So, he was, in away, held accountable. Although he wasn't so munch an "exploiter" as he was just a creep, potentially dangerous.

    • "In summary, there are members with good hearts, brains and lives. There are also those with good hearts along with brains and lives—sort of. "

      Exactly.

      The good-hearted people are the ones who just can't see the mean-spiritedness of the Big Book, summed up in the opening paragraph of "How It Works". Like cafeteria Christians who don't, say, stone their children for back-talk, they are people who are better, more ethical and generally nicer than the sacred texts they profess to believe in.

      • raysny

        The goodhearted ones give the program credibility and usually turn a blind eye to the abuses.

        • Well, unfortunately that's true that they are "enablers".

          THen again, I've been shocked by the people I thought were "nice" would would say something like "Better him than me" on hearing about some other nice person's relapse.

          Very often it is hard to discern between "nice" people and those who use the supposed purging of anger and resentments in AA to practice a pernicious form of passive-aggression.

    • joedrywall

      Yeah it makes about as much sense to speak to a big book thumper as it does to a true believer of Jehovas Witness. You can't do it because they already have all the answers.
      These are folks who honestly believe that AA was so successful when it originated. Here is the thing with that; those early members who did the steps finished them all in about a month and were considered "recovered". No follow up, no comments on the fact that many of the early stories were removed because they relapsed. Come to think of it I don't even know what Bill W.'s sobriety date is. Does anyone know? You think that would be some big deal in the program.
      But ultimately I will say that I have met a lot of genuine and decent folks in AA, along with a few total scumbags.
      My brain has never been that analytical to see "bait and switch" tactics, but oh man them slogans and braindead cliches have always got on my nerves.
      I think the final nail is the fact that the 12 traditions aren't really worth anything to the organization, because GSO don't follow them, Same thing for NA for what I have been told. To try and explain this situation to an AA old timer is like trying tell a five year old there is no Santa on Christmas eve. They just don't want to hear it.

  • Weird things are Happening man!..I am from London ,drinking since i was 16. I was in a real bad way 18 months ago at the age of 39, stuck in a room in a shared house in the shitty part of london, lost my girlfriend, in debt, just about to lose my job, with a bottle of Jack, 2 grams of coke and surfing the internet trying to learn how to make a hangmans noose…so i thought: "Fuck this shit, i gotta do something….so i got on a plane a flew to Florida and stayed in Fort Lauderdale. After 2 days, decided to clean up and get to a meeting ( the longest i stopped drinking since 16 was 5 days)..anyway, first meeting, got love bombed, lots of numbers etc…I liked it and enjoyed talking to the old timers and going to meetings..some on the beach at 8 in the morning, how cool's that?
    Did 30 in 30, stayed another 5 weeks in Florida and still went to meetings.
    Then I came back to London…I knew it was going to be difficult,with friends, old drinking haunts, but started going to meetings here…bounced around a few rooms and finally found what i thought would be a good home group..went for a few weeks and volounteered to be the greeter.
    I have never done the whole god thing and don't even recite the serenity prayer, in one share i said that i was getting through it by reading, playing basketball and listening to Miles davis…I told them i don't do the god thing, but keep coming back and am finally "Getting it"…I haven't done the steps and have no sponsor.
    Anyway, since this share, weird things are happening..the chair always forgets my name when saying "thanks to the greeters", certain members are a little distant, whereas we had great conversation before, one of the old timers was looking me dead in the eye as he was telling the room about people not working the steps and "stick with the winners"…and last week, a guy was leaning back on his chair sitting in front of me and he knew i was there, as i was the only one sitting on the back row..I know i'm not a textbook AA member, but c,mon, this is subtle hostility…I know they are trying to push me out, as they are a close group that have known each other for years…I just thought they may warm to me after a few more weeks.
    Then I read the orange papers…BAM!!, there it was, in black and white, all my suspicions about the behaviour, re-affirmed, then i found this site and likeminded people with similar stories…AA is cult like behaviour ( my girlfriend thinks i'm overreacting) they do push away newcomers if they don't wan't a sponsor or do the steps, they are weary of me and haven't tried to push the steps, as they know i've been around the rooms for a while and that i'm a big reader and a free thinking artist..if they see me talking to a newcomer, they cut in and pounce on them and whisk them away..i'm the greeter ffs!
    Think i'm gonna leave AA this week, I won't die, sure i won't relapse, but will have more time to paint, read and listen to Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix….now to me, that is much better that sitting in a room with small minded serial relapsers that tell me "It only works if you do the steps"…Well, it's done no favours for them..Fuck that, sitting and wallowing in a pool of guilt and shame..I'm 40, i want my life to go forward.

    • friendthegirl

      Then I read the orange papers…BAM!!, there it was, in black and white, all my suspicions about the behaviour, re-affirmed, then i found this site and likeminded people with similar stories…

      Well, there you go! As they say in AA, there's no such thing as coincidence.

      Gary, I really think that you're doing the right thing by focusing on the things that are making your life rich. I also think AA is as much packing peanuts for the "void" as is alcohol. It's so funny how "getting real" for some people means complete abdication.

      Congratulations on all this evolution.

      • groovecat

        rock on brother man!

        another artist in arms,

        groovecat

    • murray

      Cheers for that Gary.

      Although we question alot of things about AA I do believe that sharing with other alkies is good for the soul and does remind us where we came from.

      I dunno if you know any cool cats in aa but if you do and they respect your decision to leave I think it would still be good to touch base.
      I stress only if they are cool cats. Ya dig.

      • friendthegirl

        I agree with that, too. I don't think I could have done it alone. Building community was so so important for me.

    • "I know they are trying to push me out, as they are a close group that have known each other for years…"

      Dude, what is with the British AA groups? From reading the horror stories on More Revealed it seems that AA UK is even more insular, nutty and vindictive than here in the US.

      I was in London a couple years ago. I really should have checked out an AA meeting in London and Cornwall, with Farah Damji in tow…how special would that have been?

      One word of advice from your American brethren: If you want to stay in the rooms, there's nothing wrong with pushing back a bit against the bullies. A lot of people seem to take their grateful sobriety as an opportunity to spread passive-aggressive misery. Nothing this type of miserable-without-a-drink true "dry drunk" loves more than seeing someone else fail.

      Don't let the bastards grind you down.

  • true believer

    What caused you leave, and what difference has it made for you?

    I used to sponsor people with the impression that I was helping them. One day a sponsee of mine went off his medication and attacked me, I refuse to accept responsibility for another or project my solution any more. After that incident, my sponsor (the local guru) said that I could no longer speak to his opposite sex sponsee because I was making her uncomfortable. She wasn’t too uncomfortable to ask me for money, just too uncomfortable to talk to me herself. Now that I am away from AA and working the harm reduction program, I feel much more rounded. I enjoy my new reality, have returned to school, secured a great new job, and just generally feel better. Still abstinent, recovered, and dry. Didn't drink, didn't die, didn't go to jail, and won't, ever.
    Thanks Stinkin Thinkin!

    • true believer

      Out of AA now for 6 months.

      14 years abstinent.

  • Michael T. McComb

    I owe an apology to Friendthegirl, Mike and M.A. I am sorry if I offended you in any way. It will not happen again. This blog is extremely important, even if there are a few aspects of it I do not agree with. I look forward to contributing in a respectful way in the near future.

    Sincerely,

    Michael T. McComb

    • true believer

      Sorry to but in on your apology but I think I have some experience with this. In AA I found license to act immaturely and insane. I could act any way that I wanted to and in the end blame alcoholism or my disease. Now that I have given this old habit up, doors are really opening for me. My old way was to be a successful artist in AA, insane and deranged like all the greats, what a delusion. I think it better to make an honest contribution to whatever service I am in and my family.

    • friendthegirl

      MTM, I really appreciate that olive branch, and look forward to the do-over. Thanks.

      (Also, I'll try not to respond to you in iambic pentameter next time.)

      • MeMay

        Ok. After three trips to the dictionary, two to Wikipedia, a conversation with a professor on Greek history and one trip to the local library, I finally came to the conclusion that you were trying to tell me that you've accepted my apology. Whew!!!!!!! Thanks 🙂

  • raysny

    My first ah-ha! moment was when I saw how members talked about someone who had just committed suicide. Nobody had anything to say about the person, no one seemed to be surprised or sorry about it. They just spun it so that it was all about AA.

    “Oh, he just couldn’t get this simple program.” “At least he died sober.”

    Died sober!? The man died, that should be more important then whether he had a last drink or not! Why was he so depressed that he took his own life? Why didn’t any of his AA buddies notice what was going on with him?

    I was going through a major depressive episode and told to “Get off the pity pot”; I could see the next one being me and I didn’t want those people talking about me that way, making me some kind of cautionary tale to scare newcomers into believing.

    • groovecat

      hmmm…let's see. i suffered horrible physical and psychological abuse as a child/teen, used booze to ease my pain, and yet i'm to seek my part in it in step 5 of aa. i have to get off the pity pot and stop feeling sorry for myself, instead of trying to avenge my self and seek justice from those who wronged me.

      i refused to commit suicide because i knew that somehow, someway i was right…and that this madness of "blame the victim" was wrong. i did nothing to warrant the abuse. i was victimized, not only once by my parents, but then again by the system, and then again by aa.

      i have been avenged by my own power. no one speaks for me unless i allow it. no one does anything to my person unless i allow it. no one chooses to put booze into my body but me, if i choose to. no one. i am responsible for me. no one else is. i am a fully functioning adult and responsible for my own actions. i do not suffer from strange mental blank spots as described by bill w. in his book of bullshit (he was just giving himself an out, in my opinion). last time i checked, i needed to put on my shoes, grab my wallet, check to make sure i had the cash/money, step away from my desk, leave my house, walk to the liquor store 3 blocks, select the booze off the shelf, walk to the counter, pull out my wallet, pay for it, walk back home, get a glass, crack some ice, pour the booze in the glass, hold the glass, lift it up to my mouth, and drink it.

      and bill sez he's in a mental blank spot? what, is he nuts? oh, yeah, he is. duh devil made 'em do it, guvnor…'e can't 'elp 'imself…mental, you know….

      fuck 'em.

      fuck 'em all.

  • Susan

    Great topic, I'll just say a bit as I'm on holiday, waiting for the shower 🙂
    The short version is, my sponsor and I were doing a bb study, I read "we agnostics", told my sponsor my opinion of it. She said that she thought it was poorly written rubbish as well. So I asked why she believed the rest of the bb, but discard chapter 4…. Mostly got the answer of, "because it works", which in the end would not work for me.
    This was on top of a lot of other small things and little bits of insanity.

  • Andrew

    I am a Christian (wasn't much of one when I came into the rooms, but never mind) and drew the line at AA, which I had thought was all about staying off the hooch, making dogmatic statements about God and spirituality. Sorry, but no – I leave that sort of thing to the church and anything else where people choose to worship Big G.

    The real crunch was when my sponsor, who had always claimed poverty and got me to pay for (usually pricey) meals etc, asked me to lend her a thousand pounds. I had the money but wasn't going to lend it to someone who was bad with moolah and wasn't likely to pay it back. When I refused, she sacked me.

    I phoned a close female friend and the rooms about this, and she agreed that this just wasn't on. However, when I started sharing about this (and about the fact that I hadn't drunk on it) in meetings and in chairs (I was a GSR at the time) absolutely nobody had anything to say on the subject. Nobody seemed to think this sort of behaviour remotely odd. More to the point, people who used to phone me up stopped doing so, and others started avoiding me.

    So when I got a new job in a new location I decided to leave AA, and haven't been back for three years. I'm not particularly happy, but that's life. I'm occasionally tempted to go back (to one meeting in London in particular) but sites like yours remind me why that would be counter-productive. Thank you for that.

  • Bokata

    I felt more like a ‘dry drunk’ in the program than on my own. I suppose one reason for this has to do with the fact that AA types still have a very real relationship with alcohol, albeit a phobic one. I’ve found that alcohol was something that rarely showed up on my radar screen during my first ten years of sobriety. That is to say, I rarely gave it a second thought.

    In the rooms, on the other hand, where the drunkalogues are non-stop, booze is still front and foremost in everyone’s mind. I suppose an analogous situation would be a support group for the recently divorced where they work through the emotional fallout from a partnership gone bad. Instead of picking up the pieces after a while and moving on to a new and better life, however, the members are told that they can never leave. They are bound to the group where the memories of the betrayals and so forth are kept alive, well and fully charged as part of a never ending recovery process. There is no getting over it, according to the party line. So it is in AA. Alcohol still plays a central role in the lives of the members whether they want it to or not.

    Anyhow, I’m glad I stumbled across this blog. It confirms many of my own reservations and thoughts about AA and the recovery industry as it now stands. Keep up the excellent work!

  • quietdrunk

    I went to AA meetings every day for a year, and fell for it hook, line and sinker. The beginning of the end when one of the *more* imbalanced people in the group started stalking me. People in the group told me to "pray for him" and not contact the police. When I finally got a restraining order against him, people criticized me for violating the 12th tradition.

    However, it still took me several months after that to leave AA. I felt too guilty at first because of the constant manipulation to attend meetings (even if the meetings put me in harm's way!) The kicker was that this guy had harassed another woman in the group two years ago, and no one had ever done anything about it.

    P.S. I suspect the stalker has serious mental health issues besides alcoholism, but he will never seek treatment because everyone in AA just tells him to "work the program" and everything will be fine.

  • JJR

    I recovered via Rational Recovery, which also gave fair warning about what to expect in AA.

    However, I had to put on a public demonstration to my family that I was "doing something" about my alcohol addiction, so I dutifully attended AA once a week at a church within walking distance of my folk's home where I was living. I listened to the human stories as cautionary tales, blew off the "god talk" (I'm an atheist) and when I got a new job in another town north of here, I blew off AA altogether. Still sober, I've since moved back here after 2 years, but feel no need to re-visit the local AA group. I've rebuilt my family's trust and no longer need AA as a prop. RR's methodology keeps me in check and off the beer; Plus I'm trying to lose weight with Weight Watchers, which is NOT a 12 step program and is in fact scientific and rational. Beer intake would sabotage my weight loss goals as well.

    I've no doubt that people regarded me as a "one stepper" in AA, but I didn't care. I participated at a bare minimum, even "led" a meeting or two. What was hard to watch were the new people who tried to take AA seriously but were really struggling with the forced theism…I wanted to take them aside and tell them "there are other ways besides AA" but I didn't want anyone else to jump my shit either.

    I also steered clear of any sponsors my whole time in AA, which irked some people, but others would come to my defense and say that everyone was different and that my time would come (yeah, right; how about Never? would never work for you?–but thanks for getting my back anyway).

    It wasn't wholly worthless…some of the stories did scare the crap out of me, and provoke my empathy…but the meetings centered on the steps and the traditions and god-talk were utterly useless.

    • joedrywall

      JJR

      I like your take on this in your youtube video. Why don't you put up the link here?

  • Bokata

    Schadenfreude

    I’ve noticed that certain people in the rooms take a smug approach when they learn that someone else with a track record of attendance has gone back out. ‘So and so is back on…’ Statements like this are often followed by a Mona Lisa smile.

    • Mona Lisa

      I have a Mona Lisa smile too–when I run across a stepper who thinks I must be drinking because I left the program. They always do this "so how ARE you" snarky BS thing and I say "if you mean am I drinking, no. Are you?" [smile]

      11.5 years abstinent, 2.5 since I left AA.

      • this has happened to me a lot , too. funny though, i did go to my last meeting about three months? ago. and people said, are you ok? i said yes. and they believed me. i only allowed people i liked near me though. and it was like i was supposed to have an ok good-bye in my mind. i mean, i have had enough trauma! there are some good, innocent people there., interestingly, these good, innocent (and pretty new) people are the ones who could see that i looked good. i am just realizing this as i write. i am so happy this site is here.

        • friendthegirl

          Hi violet. I've been reading through your story and comments, and just wanted to let you know that we're happy to have you here, too! Welcome 🙂

  • groovecat

    What caused you leave, and what difference has it made for you?

    i was reading a message board at sobercity.com (now defunct?). i read some woman complaining about orange papers, i visited the site, and BAM! it all came together.

    the difference is that i no longer believe i am powerless and insane, and i am no longer superstitious.

  • Bokata

    AA Diary

    God and spirituality was yesterday’s topic at the local afternoon get-together. The group played ping-pong with the time honored AA truisms on the subject (e.g., God only gives you what you can handle). However, not all the comments were so cliché ridden and anodyne. One long term member politely said that he had no idea what God thought, with the implication being any attributions of this sort were presumptuous by definition. Unfortunately, his voice was just one of many in a room where bland utterances about the AA approved version of God get aired repeatedly.

    Then up spoke my favorite old time Big Book thumper and self appointed high priest of the AA way. This is the one who looks like a cross between Fat Bastard and a feral hog. He’s the same one who usually reads the riot act to newcomers without mincing words and lays down the law in no uncertain terms. On meal days, he’s also the one who carts all the leftover platters of pizza and sandwiches to his car. At any rate, on this occasion he shared his experience in another AA meeting where some women proclaimed him to be the most spiritual person they had ever encountered — just in case there was any doubt in he home group.

    Imagine hearing Mr. T proclaim himself to be Marilyn Monroe in drag, and you’ll come close to understanding my overall take on this statement. I’ve always wanted to kick this guy in the balls for some reason anyway. Maybe that’s why I keep coming back. I’m just waiting an opportunity to do so. Hey, got to vent somewhere.

  • Sarah

    I'm sorry this is so long. I guess 10 years in AA makes for a long story. 🙂

    Leaving was a long process for me. I was in AA for about 10 years. I moved to a new town in 2002 (I joined AA in 1998). I went to AA desperate, a felon, and hadn't been clean more than a couple hours since I was 17. It took me a few months to get clean, and I assumed that I must be the horrible person the steppers told me I was because I didn't just get struck sober.

    I never got the "welcome home" I heard about for so many years after. I'm an atheist and ultra left winger and AA in Cincinnati was (and I'm sure still is) hysterically xian and predominantly republican. I got clean purely out of spite. I was going to prove to these sanctimonious fecks that I could do it, even if they told me every day I couldn't.

    Unfortunately, I tried so hard that I got brainwashed to such an extent I never thought possible. I became a BB Thumper and I'm pretty sure this was more about wanting approval more than anything.

    When I left Cincinnati in order to attend university for my B.A. the AA I knew and had been so engrossed by ceased to exist in my life. I only moved an hour away, but everything changed. I couldn't find a meeting I liked and listening to the horrifically asinine tripe that passed for "sharing" made me sick.

    I was no longer an "AA Nazi" but I attended BB meetings because I got sick of hearing quotes from various Xian religions or New Age drivel. At least I could block out the BB Thumpers. I began to realize that I hated hearing all of it because I had been lying about my feelings and true experience for several years because I had to sound good. True experience is not something you can share in AA if you want anyone to actually speak to you. I realized that everyone said the same crap every time they spoke, and that most people did not dare utter the truth about their thoughts, feelings, or experiences.
    I finally came clean about being atheist, and this made me very unpopular. Not because I insisted anyone share my view (I'm not quite that arrogant), but because I said something that was real.

    To back up a minute: About 2 years clean, I fell into a serious depression. I had to quit my job, I couldn't get out of bed for months. I went to my "home group" on a Monday night, and told my so-called friend that I was thinking about going to see a psychiatrist. After the meeting, four people took me for coffee at a nearby diner, and begged me not to take any sort of medication because they would, "hate to see me go back out."
    I went to the doctor anyway. After I was doing better, I realized I wanted to have a real life, and go to college.

    Skipping forward again: About 4 years ago, I hit another depression. This one did not let up. I've had 29 ECT treatments and am now looking at Deep Brain Stimulation later this year. To say that AAs were not supportive of my mental health problems would be an understatement. I was told that my atheism was the cause of my depression and that "god" was trying to get my attention and making me suffer to tear down my "facade of intellectual something or other." I stopped listening.

    I realized I was not allowed to be myself, and this just wasn't acceptable anymore. Especially because I really had changed, and most people talked crap then went home and beat their wives. One day I realized, I am not that person that did those things anymore. Everyone in AA said I was that person, and that it would creep back out as soon as I "rested on my laurels." Well, I'm not a sociopath, I really do care about others and myself, and I really do want to give back to the world.

    I had been in therapy since 2002 and my therapist was very supportive of my leaving AA. It took me about a year to leave because I was terrified. Finally I fired all the people I sponsored and fired my sponsor.

    You know what's most interesting? The people that claimed to be my "family" and "true friends" have NEVER called me. It's been 4 years.

    I was profoundly angry for about a year. But, it faded as I began replacing the slogans that were meant to stop real thought and learned that I CAN trust myself and my mind. I have done a serious amount of work on myself, and I'm not the same person I was when I got the felony on my record and acted in ways I can't fathom now. So much so that the felony has been expunged.

    I finally found my place in the world as a researcher. I'm starting graduate school next year to get my Ph.D. in biological anthropology and no one wants me to spout platitudes or stop individual thoughts. They actually WANT me to think for myself. Whew, what a relief.

    I still feel guilt at times for pushing the dogma on my old sponsees. I have gone to them and tried to set things straight, but it is still difficult, at times, to think about just how brainwashed I got.

    Final thought: With the help of a great therapist, I have resolved the issues that made me drink and drug the way I did. I have been socially drinking now for a couple of years. I rarely drink more than one or two drinks, and I go months without anything at all because I'm just not interested. Now, I'm not saying everyone can or should do this, but I am saying there is more than one right answer.

    Thank you for all you've shared on this site, it has been most helpful.

    -Sarah

  • MeMay

    As short as possible,

    Was a stable child. Parents divorced at nine years old. It was a violent divorce. I wanted out of life. Anything to escape. I was found drunk by my parents sometime through the divorce, took to counseling, labeled an alcoholic and sent to meetings. I remember my very first meeting. I was eleven years old. Can you imagine an eleven year old child sitting at a table with a bunch of older men talking about dying if they don't do certain things?

    In-between this time till the time I sobered up, a lot had happened. I was put into institutions for years at a time. It was unfortunate that people couldn't see the pain I was in. Instead I was labeled this and that, and told to do this and that by people suffering from "ignorant arrogance" that got fed their whole life experiences from a text book. Moving on……..

    Meetings, meetings, God, meetings, sponsors, meetings, steps, God, meetings, meetings, meetingsmeetingsmeetingseetingsetings!!!!!!!!!! This was most of my life. Back and forth till I was almost dead. Was always told I wasn't working the program. I just never could get it right. Maybe God wanted me to suffer and die young? Death was near a couple times. I was scared…………

    January 15th 2006: I was sitting in a bar. I just got released from the hospital after a near overdose a week before. I never planned on picking up a drink while at the bar, I just wanted to hear some music and be around some people and maybe strike up a conversation with a young lady. But, for some reason I ordered a beer. "Bartender, Budlight please!" I nervously took a few sips from the bottle, shaking like a leaf the whole time. And then, a thought came to me. It said, " Are you fucking crazy!?!?." I pushed the half beer back towards the bar, turned around and listened to a few more tunes coming out of the club speakers and went home. This was my last drink.

    As far as working on thinking for myself and becoming my own individual, it has been a tough road. When you hear things like, "You're thinking is messed up", or "You will die a miserable and lonely death if you don't do this", or "You are selfish, self-centered, lustful, angry, dishonest, arrogant, and just plain fucked up", or you know the rest, it tends to have an ill effect on you. I almost have had to cut off communication with ALL people in the program at certain times when my self-esteem was not the greatest. These are the times that I keep my distance with AA'ers. But, the more and more I work on myself, I can clearly see that it wasn't me that was fucked up. It really was these people who were truly insane. I now realize that the reason I fought it so much was because I never wanted to become that or have a life like they had. And that is fine. Is it wrong for others to want what some AA people have? No. If they can get past all their fears and ask their-self that question. Is there a lot of shallow people in AA? Yes. There are a lot of scared people in the program. It is fear based, why wouldn't these type of people be there?

    I no longer go to too many meetings anymore. I went for about 3 years and spoke honestly in the meetings. This didn't blow over too well. Now, I am starting to chill on all that. I am not in the business of rescuing people. There really is no reason for me to be at the meetings anymore. I actually get depressed when I am around them. Being informed is but one mouse-click away.

    One last thing. When I sobered up four years ago I started to read the http://www.orange-papers.org. I really believe that this had a huge impact on my sobriety. I do not know what I would have done if I'd not found the letter section on his site. I really needed to find people that were going through problems with the AA dogma just like me. And that is why I think sites like this (Stinkin Thinkin) are extremely important.

    MeMay

    • Mona Lisa

      The orange papers were a lifesaver for me.

  • joedrywall

    I think sites like this are important because it will help people "deprogram" and get all the BS that they feel that they have experienced within the step groups/treatment. Also, it serves as a liason in which to refer folks to other types of groups, that is alternatives to the step groups. I am of the opinion that when folks are involved with other organizaions, ie SMART,SOS,WFS etc. then their AA/12 step bashing should be over and done with by the time they get there. Hence the purpose of this blog, and similar discussion groups. Again thats my opinion.

    • Mona Lisa

      Well, I doubt that a person who leaves AA and goes looking for another program will find that his or her anger at 12 step abuse (aka "AA bashing") is done by that time. The deprogramming process takes a while. However, I agree with SMART Recovery's stance that criticism of AA is not part of their program. If people who go to SMART need to deprogram from AA, SMART facilitators will refer them to sources to help them do so.

      • i wanted to ask mona a question, when you left, were you scared. did you find these sites at first, or were you alone? the thing i like about aa is that it feels like somebody will always be there. however, i noted that the sponsors who were the most available were the craziest, most controlling ones.

        • Mona Lisa

          I was scared, because I had been taught to be. And I was rather lonely too, because when I backed away from the program, I lost my AA "family". But fortunately, I also had a supportive, sane husband who assured me that I was not crazy or relapse bound, and I found online sources of support pretty quickly.

          You're right about AA: someone will always be there. Unfortunately, there is a great risk that the "someone" will be nutjob.

    • MeMay

      Well, you may be right, but, just having a site like this up on the internet is what is most important. Isn't it true that at one time or another while in the program, most of us felt like we were the only ones questioning the AA dogma? Speaking for myself, until I found the orange-papers.org I really believed that I was flawed and could not grasp the program as a result of my defects. Like Mona Lisa said, adjusting your way of thinking to fit reality takes a long time. The best place to start is finding proof that there are other people that went through the same thing, thus the importance of this site.

      MeMay

      • Mona Lisa

        Oh, I totally agree that sites like this one are important–for deprogramming. But deprogramming from AA is a different thing from finding a path to recovery that works for the individual in question.

        If I go to a SMART Recovery meeting, I want to learn how to utilize their program–I don't want to rehash my experience with AA, horrible though it was. That's what sites like this one are for.

  • Mona Lisa

    My decision to leave AA came about slowly. I decided to quit drinking in 1998, immediately joined AA, was indoctrinated in short order and was a true believer for a time–until reality began to overtake what I wanted to believe. At first my doubts were mild. I noticed the antimedication zealots and controlling sponsors, but my own sponsor was a decent person so I shoved those doubts to the side. I noticed the 13th stepping but decided that was none of my business. So it went.

    But then I started to notice that my leads were getting shorter. Weird, eh? But yes, and what was happening was: (1) the program told me to be honest, but (2) the program told me what things were ok to think and say, and what things were not, so (3) I had to edit what I said to include only the things I could be honest about without running afoul of the thought police. After a year of sobriety I could easily give an hour long, entertaining lead, but I wasn't yet in therapy and hadn't figured anything out. At five years of sobriety my leads were 20 minutes long, because there was just too much I couldn't say. I couldn't say I drank because my parents were abusive and my mother was mentally ill, even though that was true. I couldn't say I didn't really think I was powerless over alcohol. I couldn't say that I didn't believe in the AA God. I couldn't say a lot of things, because they didn't "fit the message"!

    I hung in there, though, until the news about the Midtown Group hit the media. I was appalled, at what happened, of course, but even more so at the reaction of my AA friends. They were concerned, not about the abused minor females, not about how to resolve the problem, not about how to redress the wrong that had been done, but about the fact that the news might "give people the wrong idea about AA." And when the NY office refused to so much as comment on the situation, I was mortified and appalled. Because I knew that Midtown-type things–basically sexual exploitation and anti-med stuff–were happening everywhere, not just in the Midtown group.

    I was really done at that point. I was sickened, really, but I was also confused, because at that point AA was at the center of my life, and I knew that if I left I would lose all my friends and all my time-based status. Then, in rapid succession, I witnessed: an incident where a notorious predator 13th stepped a friend of mine before she even got inside the building for the meeting; and an incident where another friend of mine was ordered off her bipolar meds and relapsed.

    One day, after all this had happened, I was sitting in my home group meeting. Noon, Friday. A day like any other. But then, as I sat, the light dawned. I realized that I was wasting my time and my life in a group that was organized around dishonesty, confusion and fear. I knew I was done. After the meeting was over, I literally ran to my car and sped off. I went to one more meeting after that, several months later, and it was interesting how much more clearly I could think now that I had been gone for a while. I realized that every person who shared at that meeting was lying. I knew them all, and I knew that they were totally full of shit with every word they said. Yet several of them came up to me after the meeting, and treated me as though I had the plague. They were sure I must be drinking–and seemed even more afraid when they realized I was not. It was like, I swear, like a scene from the Stepford Wives.

    That last meeting was in 2007.

    • Littlebuddy

      Mona Lisa,
      I had the same problems you had with giving leads. I could easily kill time telling war stories, but always felt lousy afterward. Those things were factually true, but had nothing to do with how my drinking problems developed in the first place, and I wasn’t about to give AA credit for saving my life. I also had the family history of abuse and mental illness, and I learned early on that there is little tolerance for discussion of such things in AA, no matter how relevant. I became very adept at framing most everything I said in a way that would ‘fit in’ without triggering disapproval. Basically repeating the same tactics that had served me well in a dysfunctional childhood environment.
      By the time I left, I couldn’t even open my mouth at a discussion meeting, and I sure wasn’t going to try to talk with the few members I once thought I could trust.
      I also went back to a couple of meetings after I had ‘officially’ left. It was as if I had landed on another planet or something, absolutely nothing made any sense.
      It’s a sickening feeling when that light comes on to stay, but there’s no turning back once it happens.

      • i noticed that whenever i told the truth, people were pretty nasty to me. i even questioned this whole dynamic out loud while sharing a few times. for some reason i thought people would get honest and identify. but no. the truth is just too scary to those guys. once sober in aa, it is like it is not ok to feel anything real anymore. just tout the part line. why bother? i liked that mona lisa has not been to a meeting in two years. gives me hope.

        • Mona Lisa

          No meetings in 2 1/2 years, abstinent from alcohol for 11 1/2. Got a great family, great marriage, great job, and am healthy, happy and sane…not exactly a dry drunk though that is what they call me.

  • I had been going to AA for almost 2 years. I finally had had enough of AA. I’m surprised I lasted that long. The thing that finally drove me away is as follows:

    I was sitting with my home group which is totally controlled by an old timer. He has about 35 years in AA. I wasn’t paying to much attention to what he was on a rant about that night. He directed a statement towards me and I didn’t hear what he said. All hell broke lose. He said that the words he was saying came directly from God through him. That he was speaking the words of God. That I had better start listening to the words of God coming from his mouth or surely I would die an alcoholic death. I got up and walked out while he was still ranting away. I guess when he asked to have all his character defects removed his higher power must not have really cleaned his house.

    The man must be totally nuts. As far as I know God doesn’t even speak to the Pope.

  • JPR

    It's interesting to read these stories of AA. Certainly these things also go on in the UK but there are, of course, lots of different meetings and styles. I have a similar person to Kander Bluff's old timer in the meeting I chair. Why he choses to come I don't know. Well, actually I have a suspicion he has been thrown out of quite a few for the kind of behaviour you mention and we have not yet quite resorted to it yet. However, he can't deal with me, because I just laugh at him and use a few phrases like "your AA …..bridge to normal living eh..?" and this seems to work everytime. It's usually very apparent virtually instantly who has a good recovery and who doesn't irrespective of whether they do the steps or not. The kind of performance you have experienced is just evidence of someone who hasn't got a clue and is still trying to control everyone else through fear. I think you;ll find once you stand up to these people, call a group conscience, they shut up and then find another group to try and dominate. I shouldn't say this, but I enjoy the "battle" between the traditional big book thumpers and those, like me, who go to AA for support in the continuing desire to stop drinking. It's sad people leave AA because of a few pricks who chose to bully others. Luckily, it doesn't work everwhere and there are still good meetings where you talk about real life issues, share hope and experience without being told you're going to die.

  • Bokata

    Why did I leave AA?

    I left because there seemed to be violations taking place on many levels, both personal and social, having to do with precious sanity and all that the term implies. In the time that I have been directly involved in the program, or little over a year off and on since 1998, I’ve witnessed just about every form of perverse behavior that can fall just short of the out and out criminal. I’ve also seen acts of unconscionable stupidity that would only go unchallenged outside the rooms in a dysfunctional universe where lunacy is the norm. For these reasons, I found the program to be fervently offensive to both reason and ethics as they are commonly understood. So, where shall I start in providing examples?

    Most tales do this sort of thing at the beginning. Unfortunately, a chronology along this line would take a long, painstaking effort at putting of the pieces together in my memory. Therefore, I’ll just jot things down as they come to mind in no particular order. Before I do so, however, I will give a brief overview of my drinking career.

    I imbibed heavily and took prescription Xanax for what amounts to a year (to the very day) from May 1997 to May 1998. Major life stress having to do with a divorce and pending retirement from the military seemed to be the efficient cause for this period of prolonged substance abuse. Once I checked into a local rehab center in June 1998, I learned that the formal cause for this year long binge was alcoholism, pure and simple — at least according to ‘expert’ opinion. Therefore, I began attending AA meetings for a six week period after I completed the recovery program starting in July of that year. My enthusiasm for the program ebbed, waned and eventually disappeared over this period of time. Once a problem with anti-depressant medication got straightened out, I began to feel fine and dropped the meetings altogether.

    From September 1998 to May 2008, I was clean and sober without attending a single AA meeting. Life in the main was good during the intervening years. Whether I was a ‘dry drunk’ or not seems academic. I was certainly anything other than powerless, at any rate. Then, two years ago, I started drinking two or three glasses of wine daily when major life stress became an issue once more. This time it had to do with a problem teenager (drugs) and his therapist – who turned out to be messianic advocate of the Twelve Steps. In May of last year, with major financial worries added to the mix, the two-three glasses of wine per day became a full liter. After ten years of sobriety and one year of moderate drinking, I relapsed big time.

    Once again, I checked into the local spin-dry facility, and began attending AA meetings routinely after finishing the program in July of last year. After the relapse, I didn’t want to test any theories about the efficient and formal causes of alcoholic behavior. I merely followed the guidelines and plied the meetings for about six months or so. Sooner or later, however, my patience with the program and its members began to wear thin. After all, a person can only keep his or her critical capacity at bay for so long; much less ignore the BS signs spelled out in large neon letters over the meeting room doors. So, for what its worth, I would like to pass on a few observations that I’ve made about AA over a brief, yet extended period of time.

    – A girl was put on suicide watch at rehab after the senior counselor shamed her before the entire community for various infractions of the bylaws. She also happened to be pregnant at the time. Being suicidal in this case was presumably just another ‘party on the pity pot,’ as the saying goes. Aside from that, there is a Jewish proverb stating that to humiliate someone in public is tantamount to murder. Even in the military we were taught to praise in public and criticize or punish in private. I just wonder why the major domo of counselors found this sort of thing necessary.

    – Nevertheless, public shaming seemed to be part of the therapeutic regimen at rehab. If one of the patients decided to leave early for a pressing family matter, the counselor would have the other patients bring pressure to bear on the dissenter. That is each and every person in the class was given a turn to berate the sinner into recanting. Mobbing of this sort also took place in group therapy. The counselor would post some kind of label (written in psychobabble) on the person in the hot seat. The other patients willing to support this sort of thing would then take turns yea-saying the diagnosis. Those who objected to this practice were silenced with the injunction to ‘stop rescuing’ whoever it was being targeted by counselor. If these methods proved to be unsuccessful, the staff always had the option of putting the patient on suicide watch and thereby covering themselves.

    – Another girl in rehab with a history of sexual trauma complained about a male staff members doing bed checks after hours in the women’s’ dorm. The counselor told her that the management knew best about how to do bed checks, and her time was best spent working on recovery. This was, by the way, the standard reply to all grievances. Why they even bothered to receive complaints in the first place is a mystery to me.

    – The mayor of the rehab center or the counselors’ hand picked favorite (a Big Book thumper extraordinaire) talked one of the woman patients into pulling a train — with him and a few buddies being the coaches and caboose. Later, on the way back from a meeting in the local area, the bus stopped at a fast food place so the folks in rehab could have their evening meal. The woman herself didn’t have money for a burger & fries combo, so her erstwhile suitors enjoyed their meal under her watchful eyes.

    – I had a prescription for Zoloft from the doctor in residence while at rehab (1998). Since I took this along with the vitamin pills and so forth in the med line, I gave it little thought. Upon leaving, I didn’t know that I was supposed to continue taking the medication, so I stopped. After all, no one told me it was necessary, and there was no warning on the label. I thought the prescription was for rehab only. Little did I know, and soon did I find out (the hard way) that this was not the case. The symptoms of a major depression set in no too long after I left the facility. After spending a week or so of banging off the sides of the bozosphere that had me cut-off and surrounded, I went to a follow-up appointment with the rehab doctor in question. There he told me I had relapse syndrome because I wasn’t working the program (I was too whack at the time to attend meetings). He also called the skills of my family therapist into question and suggested that I seek the services of an AA affiliate on his staff. The subject of medication only came up as an afterthought. When he learned I wasn’t taking the Zoloft, he gave me an admonishment about being flippant with the aftercare routine. Presumably, these medications require no instructions beyond the dosage information on the label. At any rate, I foreswore future visits to this quack and scheduled an appointment with the family physician. He promptly explained the problem and remedied it with a prescription.

    – After an uneventful four months or so of AA attendance, my teenager’s therapist began stalking me at the local Noontime roundup in late November (2009). To wit, she was: parking next or near to my bike, trying to intercept me going and coming to and from the building, telling me to speak up in the meeting, pushing what she knows to be my emotional hot buttons with seemingly innocent remarks, and otherwise making certain that she’s a track of interest on my radar screen in a variety of ways — including resting her dog next to my feet. In addition to being an arch-deaconess of the AA way, it seems that she’s a randy old dowager to boot. This is the same bitch that triggered my return to the bottle in April ’08! At this time she told my ex that I was an unfit parent, in the main because I was only lukewarm at best in supporting my wayward teen’s participation in Twelve Step recovery groups. The solution here was that I schedule separate appointments with her ($$) to reconcile a family situation that she created in the first place. I’ve also seen her announce her services as an adolescent substance abuse counselor at the meetings. Ay carumba!

    – The breath expended on recovery jargon, truisms and botched formulas by way of rotten chestnuts that I’ve heard over the last six months could power a wind turbine large enough to supply the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas with electricity on a full time basis.

    – When good people relapse, the general response of the group is one of cheerful, wide eyed indifference — something eerily reminiscent of the Manchurian Candidate.

    – A guy with twenty years sobriety and Sponge Bob characters tattooed on all four limbs along with the letters F=MA (Force = Mass * Acceleration) on his knuckles threatened to kick my son’s ass to my very face!

    – I’ve witnessed a long term member of AA with a gold, thirty year medallion around his neck try a 13th step maneuver on a newcomer under the nose of his spouse at a meeting here recently.

    – Finally, when the Big Book thumper and all around AA bully of the group – an egregiously fat, typically loud, and relentlessly obnoxious slob — described his spirituality in superlative terms with the muted inflection of Marshall Applewhite’s voice as he bid the planet adieu for a ride on Hale Bop, I decided that enough was enough.

    Instead restoring me to sanity, it seems that by working the program I wound up double parked somewhere in a parallel universe where up was really down. Many of these people are sick and downright weird. I think when Samuel Johnson said that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’ he forgot to mention sanctimony. It seems scoundrels of all stripes use pious affiliations to deceive both others and themselves. Whew!

  • My sober, AA, out of AA, relapse, into AA, and now out of AA story is a long one. So, I will highlight. I got into AA because I needed therapy for what I now realize was PTSD. Unfortunately, I had "program" therapists who felt AA and The Caron Foundation was what I needed. And my mother was a part of this. My mother, btw, has an ABD in Education, but probably has the intellect of an ant. I knew from the beginning that AA was for people that WERE NOT ME. I was not even "Really" an alcoholic when I started going. I just needed to support to help with not drinking anymore. I was 21. I met a heroin addict there. I had almost four years. We had a baby together. I really had scary abandonment issues with my parents and some scary issues with "the heroin addict" and tried dealing with all of this in AA. I was told I was selfish. I was told to work the steps. I picked up again. Eight years later, I went back to AA after rehab. I got on some very helpful medication in rehab, and I was smart enough to keep this from people in AA. Actually my doctor advised that I not tell people in AA that I was on it. I had a relationship with a married man in AA at this time. This was becauseI was in the middle of divorcing the heroin addict and was so messed up emotionally that I could not see straight. The married man was well-loved at these meetings. His wife was a well-known alanon speaker AS I write this, it still feels like this was a joke or something, but it is all true. The break up from the married man was met with zero support and much judgement. The meeting sided with the sixty year old married man. I felt dirty, ashamed, you name it… There were unattractive, unemployable middle aged women who sided with him. They wanted me to feel badly. They need their own kind. At first, I thought I would DIE without AA. It became very clear to me that I will die WITH AA. It is a predatory, thought-stopping cult that feeds off of the new comer. /IT sets up a sick, sick cycle in which you cannot escape. I did learn some good stuff there. I am not going to dismiss the stuffI learned there like,"This to shall pass." I mean, this is not really an AA quote right? If I ignored everything I learned in AA, then I would have A HUGE hole in me, as I spent a lot of my life there. But I believe I would have learned these useful things elsewhere. I just did not because I was spending so much time in "the halls. I believe if I go back to "visit" I will not be safe. They will convince me that I will use or "DIE" if I do not go every week, day, whatever. I do not want to associate with lowlives for another year of my life. This will be the year that I leave AA. I have not been in a few months. I just knew I was losing faith, and it felt GOOD not going. There really are no people I will miss. There is some fear, like, hmmm is this my "disease" talking, but I know this is FEAR and it is FEAR that has been instilled in me , it is not true. Also, I believe that had I not gone to AA in the first place, I never would have "relapsed" in my early twenties. Not a great place to go for young women, not at all. It is abusive to send people to AA. I believe that whole-heartedly.

  • btw, i am reading the comment above mine about the sponge bob tattooed guy. and though i am reallyreally sorry that he was abusive to your son, your post made me laugh out loud for the first time all day, only because I HAVE SEEN THESE GUYS, EVERYWHERE in AA. It is like, people like them, are the only people there. It's like, F—! I was going to die from my "killer disease" and then this guy with sponge bob tattoos was going to kick my son's ass. Wow, I AM FINISHED. Feels scary, but mostly, it feels good. I remember I was a little messed up before I went to AA, but it was not due to drinking. And I got to AA and I feel like my soul was ripped off. I want it back.

  • one last thing!!! after i confronted a particular meeting one noon, about the married heroin addict (he was also a heroin addict, as is my ex) with the wife who was the famous alonon speaker, i got a lot of glares, not a lot of support. i was not mean. i just said, i needed help, and i feel like what i got was an attack on my vulnerability. i felt like the group could, i do not know, evolve, get better. something. the married guy started CRYING and leaned into his car in a fetal position in the parking lot after the meeting. People went running over. One woman said to me, "I thought, well, what would Jesus do?" Ummm? one person who DID support me was a bald guy who shaves his legs and cleans houses like ten hours a week. he needs to spend the rest of the time recovering. he was like, "were you molested when you were little?" i was like, Ummm? he was like, "a lot of us were. my mother exposed herself to me," he continued, "when i was five for the first time. it was in the bathroom. she pulled her pants down to pee." dude, your mom had to pee. good-bye, aa.

  • Still hurts

    Predators in the rooms.  Often men (I was a cute, eager to belong 20 something when I came in), sometimes women.  Often sexual, sometimes just parasitic.  Being surrounded by people with personality disorders and severe illnesses like bipolar who would fly into weird or paranoid rages if they thought I was "staring at them" or "trying to steal their boyfriend" or "thinking I was so much better than everyone else."  A fat miserable gossipy sponsor who told everyone's business to everyone else to feel superior.  The final straw was the 40-50 year old men (old timers!) harassing and in some cases, assaulting 20-something women who trusted them like uncles.  I feel like I could use group therapy with other women who have been through all this!  The whole time, I felt like my kindness was something people could smell on me like blood in the water, and I was often the only person trying to follow the principles and "do the next right thing"….which branded me a sucker and an easy mark.

  • Still hurts

    Oh yes….and all the girl-on-girl crime if you were halfway decent looking and under the age of 30. 

  • Susan

    I didn't have much of a problem with predators directly, mostly blew off the few skeezy guys that tried to talk to me after meetings.  There was a lot of things that put up red flags, when all added together convinced me to leave.

     

    Such as, people telling me in all seriousness that they wanted to be brainwashed. A person telling me in all seriousness that she "never has bad days" since finding the Real True AA (after being in the Fake AA for 3 years, working the steps with a sponsor and then trying to kill herself). The same person advising her sponsee to pull some random college kid off the street to give the "I have a resentment" speech for her resentment against uni kids.

    Generally not trusting my sponsor after finding out she is into several particular kinds of pseudo-science, aka "woo".

     

    A lot of little things… seeing other people getting 13th stepped and the Fellowship not really giving a damn.  Everyone knowing who it was without names being mentioned.

    All of those things taken together with a BB study that I had started suddenly turned a light on in my head.  I realised I could not be a rational, skepkic, feminist, and be in AA.  So AA had to go.   So far the sky has not fallen. I just feel a bit embarrassed that I even bought into it at all.

  • tintop

    Susan — it takes a while sometimes to put it all together; then, to decide to leave.   That sort of thing happens elsewher as well:  a bad job; a bad marriage; a bad shurch or denomination.  The analogy is far from perfect; but, I think there is a similarity.  I m glad that you are gone.  AA is not a safe place.

  • HB

    My 'moment of clarity' came when after a decade without choosing to engage in drinking and a few years of AA nonsense, that I was feeling pretty bad.  If I play the game where the ball sits, I had my moment when at one point I had become extremely busy in my career.  I was actually feeling good.  I hadn't had time to waste listening to the story telling that goes on at the meetings.  I had noticed that my sponsor was beginning to get rather shrill.  I wasn't sure at first, as I at my sponsor's nagging me to do took some time one morning to live up to what my sponsor might have called "responsibility" and ended up late for my job!!!!  Apparently this didn't matter to my sponsor and this was beginning to show it's rediculousness.   Still uncertain, I continued happily to work one day when I recieved a message asking me basically if I was going to meetings and if I wanted to get together and whine and then go say sorry to the people who had ever done or said anything offensive to me.  Nah.  That's OK.  I'm quite fine where I am and I politely declined my sponsor's invitation to misery explaining that I am extremely busy at work.  Next comes the line "Oh, I see.  Money was the problem and not YOU?"  Well, I became a little irritated at this blatant rudeness.  I mean, where do grown adults get off talking to other grown adults this way?  I found that in AA, a person could become anything great, live up to their full potential, have great status and their will still be some numbnuts to say that there's something gravely wrong with them.  NO THANK YOU AA!  Money helps and I'm glad to make it when I can.  I don't drink.  I don't do anything.  I am quite content without nonsense like the signs I've seen on mirrors of AA members that say "You're looking at the problem"  ect…  I don't need to put myself down, nor listen to others put themselves and each other down which is basically how it goes.  I feel much better without having to be there and especially learning that many other people do too.  When you don't see someone at a stupid meeting, the common consensus is that they're out on some bender.  That's because the logic is completely and totally, albiet 100% wrong!  They're not out on a bender unless they've baught into being programmed that that's their only choice.  Well I'm here to say that  it's not!  I learned that alot of the people that suddenly they don't see at their meetings are happy and sober and much better off since parting ways with this organization.

  • JA

    Thanks for putting together a great site. I agree with the posters above that a discussion such as this both aids in deprogramming from meetings and provides a therapeutic segue between AA and any subsequent alternative forum for recovery.

    My last bender was quite serious. I was graduating professional school into a terrifying economy and was simultaneously dumped by my porno fantasy girl. I drank harder than ever, but the alcohol stopped working and the lethal amounts made me shaky, depressed and even suicidal.

    I was sober for 4 months before I began to attend AA regularly. I had just moved to a new city and needed to meet some people to "get out of my head." A dear friend of mine who had two years under his belt and is still doing quite well (he ironically no longer "works a program"), thought that going to meetings and getting a sponsor would be good for my depression and overall contempt for life. So I got a sponsor, who is actually cool dude, and went to meetings everyday. At first I was all about it. After seeing people with solid time and reading the success stories in the back of the Big Book, I thought I had found something that could provide me happiness without booze.

    I do not believe in deities, but was able at first to bend my concept of spirituality almost enough to continue on even though the word "God" permeated everything in the "program" (however, I NEVER liked the fact that Bill W's God has a penis). However, as I went through the step work, I found myself constantly rewording the language so that I could make an honest attempt at getting through it all. But even the rewriting was futile, as there is no denying that the God concept gets narrower and becomes Bill Wilson's God as one progresses. Ultimately, the "God of my understanding" staple is an outright lie, and the Chapter to the Agnostic is just self-contradicting gibberish.

    Also, I waited and waited to hear suggestions on how to live sober, wanting to know what these "tools" were, but all I ever heard – save maybe two useful meetings about cultivating present-moment awareness – was promotion of the program. It seems a successful program heavily involves sharing in meetings about how great the program is! On a few rare occasions I tried to drop some relevant neuroscience-related ideas I had read. The oldtimers looked at me like I wasn't "getting it." However, many of those 35 and under told me that they appreciated it.

    I only attended for 5 months and did not witness anything nefarious – mainly just a lot of self-loathing and white-knuckling by most, including the oldtimers. The self-sustaining AA dogma has definitely got them by the balls. I did notice that some of the perpetual relapsers recited the lingo like second-nature and were clearly there for the ladies.

    Most importantly, for the large chunk of the time I was in AA, I was depressed, especially at first when I was desperate and willing to believe all the nonsense. I viewed being stuck in "the rooms" with all of these boring, delusional folks for the rest of my life as a death sentence. The powerlessness/disease concept was quite damaging to my well-being, as my father is a bad drunk and always has been. I was the most emotionally unstable I had ever been the first 3 months of AA and I believe it was due to buying into the proffered theory of chronic negative thinking coupled with knowing that a lifelong program of meetings and magic would never work for me. After awhile I just went to remind myself not to drink and hang out with a couple of my friends.

    I stopped going a month ago and have felt great. I tried going to a meeting a couple of weeks ago and felt like an outsider while watching a bunch of young people trying to smile while spouting gospel of which I highly doubt they truly believe. I still hang with two of my buddies who attend but are independent enough to see the shortcomings, especially belief in a puppet master as treatment for alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, I do not hear from my sponsor much – that guy is too cool and too smart for this shit, but he has 7 years and swears by the program.

    Luckily, the separate mediation practice I had been struggling with for several months began to work, after I decided to finally take my concentration into the discomfort rather than away from it. My depression is gone and sobriety finally feels like it is paying off. (Although AA would probably take credit here and say I was "relieved of my obsession.") And best of all, there is no dogma or superstition attached – just the me, the cushion, and my inner-workings. I know now, that with diligence and time, I can alter my conditioning and do not have to face AA's life sentence of doomed thinking and program dependence.

    I am fine with being labeled a "dry drunk" or having my struggle downgraded because I am not a "real alcoholic," because I finally feel like taking a few years to get to know myself was an excellent decision.

    All in all, AA just felt "rough," like getting off on the wrong freeway exit for gas.

    Thanks again and best,

    J

  • Ben Franklin

    It seems a successful program heavily involves sharing in meetings about how great the program is! That is perfect. That is all a meeting is but platitudes about how great the nebulous  "program" is and grateful they are the program exists. The last meeting I attended,under coercion myself, three people under strict court order to not use any substance announced that they had relapsed. The rest of the meeting people babbled on about how great the program was, that it worked and wasn't it great that these people that relapsed had a place to go. The logicometer in the back of my head was screaming "BULLSHIT" and pointing out obvious breakdowns such as the fact that three people had relapsed so the program had NOT worked for them and they had a place to go because they had no choice. I never went back and will never go back.

  • i had a bad day yesterday.  there was a little sick voice in my head that longed for the days when i called my sponsor so she could tell me i was going through life in an imaginary wheelchair.  i was feeling bad, she would say, cuz i had a DISSS- ease. she says, being an alcoholic is like going through life without skin.  she makes a point only in that, i am pretty sensitive. i do feel skinless. and often.  but this does not necessarily mean i feel this way because i have the "disease."  many people on this planet are super sensitive. they are not diseased.  when i remember drinking and *using* (i am way more of an addict than an alcoholic), i remember felt pretty bad.  like i was going to be trapped in that wrong exit land forever.  i remember having to go to aa, being that desperate. it was not so much the withdrawal, physical and psychological, it i was the reentry into aa world.  the world that does not fix me, it breaks me even more. it is like taking a wingless song bird and demanding that it not sing.  i never want to feel like i have to go to aa again.  this alone can keep me sober.  though i had that "voice" in my head the other day, the voice that wanted to be told i was sick, the sane me thought my way outta this.  talking to my sponsor, having somebody tell me i am "sick" is a way of not taking responsibility. it is a way to numb my mind.  slipping back into the aaland is slipping into a communal fantasy world where i remain an abused, unloved, awkward  teenager forever.

  • Thanks Violet,

    You are not alone.

    It's funny how they use our basic human instincts to convince us that we are somehow defective.

    I've gone back to AA in the past. I thought that maybe I could "take what I needed, and leave the rest." I was lonely… feeling depressed and hoping that the more healthy members might be able to help me out.

    I've experimented with AA enough to know that it's not right for me. I used to believe that adopting their isms and committing their slogans to memory would someday open a mystical door into a new world where the "promises" were fulfilled. Now I know better.

    I stay away from the mind-trap now because I know how much damage AA does. My life is not perfect, but I'm sober and able to work on those issues that I have without having a self-defeating world view foisted on me by a bunch of misfits who refuse to move forward.

    Sometimes it's difficult.

    I used to drink alone… even since way back in high school I've dealt with insecurities that led me to isolate.

    AA seemed like a place where I could fit in, find new friends, and overcome these social obstacles that had hurt me so much. I thought, "Where else can I go and be surroundeed by people who understand me." I thought it was good to have a sponsor to call… someone to bounce my feelings off… someone to help guide me when I was lonely and confused.

    The problem with this was that I wound up calling with questions like "I had a feeling. What should I do with it?" or "What is the right way to think for us alcoholics?" After years of dependece on these people, I found that I was caught is a whirlwind of confusion and self doubt… I was still relapsing, and what was once a problem with alcohol had grown into a problem with life that could never be overcome. I was a broken down defective piece of shit according to AA, and that was not helping me to reach the goals that I wanted to achieve.

    My advice to anyone who has decided to leave AA is…

    Cut all ties.

    Erase those numbers from your phone.

    Call those people on their bullshit when you run into them on the street and they try to convince you that you are sick.

  • Susan

    Violet- what you said reminded me of something.  In the rooms, people always used to give their drunkalogue with a beginning talking about how they always felt different, didn't fit in, had trouble being understood, socializing, etc.  Everyone would always nod and identify with this, further proof that there is a special kind of person that is an alcoholic and has a special disease that only AA can cure.

     

    Except this is not true.  This special disease is called being human, and everyone feels this way.  It is not limited to the alcoholic, however you define them. It's rough out there, and yes, some people are more thin-skinned than others.  But you can get through it, and the more you succeed without AA, the more confidence you will build and the stronger you will become.

     

  • tintop

    It is called being human.   You really do not have to 'fit in' all that well.  You can be your own person, and 'fit in'.  Not all organizations are as insecure and fearful as aa is.   In the 'real world' you have a lot of space to be yourself.

  • it was helpful to read these responses. means a lot.  you guys are right.  it is being human.  it is not about having the "disease," or being "sick."  it is rough out there, but it is a lot rougher with the self defeating pov that aa teaches us.  i *am* going to stay away.

  • ricky

    This is my story, I'll try to keep it short as possible…Married in the early 90's, husband was drinking, we had 2 children. He would stay out all night drinking, come home vomiting, I was up all night waiting, taking care of 2 babies, and having to work the next day. After 6 years of this, it had progressed to a pint of cheap whiskey a day..(that I knew of)..and I finally got to the point where I had enough.  His cheeks were already turning yellow, his liver already damaged, (he was 34 years old).  ME…suggesting AA because there was one around the corner, and hearing that it was the best way…talked him into going.   He got into it…was sponsoring people..going to Grapevine meetings, prisons, trusted servant..on and on…never home,  but hey!  He wasn't drinking!   Seven years, all was going great!  Finally, after seven years, I trusted him!  All hell broke loose, he was sponsoring a woman. I had no problems with it. He was doing everything right because he was "SOBER".  Then he would be going out for coffee with the whole gang of freaks, then he let  it slip that he was out alone with her having coffee and talking.  4 months before my stupid ass realized what was going on, but he convinced me nothing was happening…until he was busted.  Got caught…she was also married.  He broke off contact, she started stalking him, harassing him at work, me and the kids, she tried to kill herself and ended up in a mental hospital for a while.   NOW, my eyes were open to this place,,,my husband stopped going, they would call him with threats that he would be drinking again, they were really angry that he had quit going.  They told him that without the program, he would die…  So, now it's been 4 years since he stopped going to meetings….and guess what?  He's still sober, has not had even one drink, he is happy, we have worked through the horrible problems that place caused.    He says that he screwed up more sober than he ever did drunk.   Sure, he should not have gotten involved with that person and he takes the blame, but they had encouraged him to put service work before anything, including family…..They would cover for him, he would cover for them.     Those people are sicker than they were before they stepped foot in that place.    There are other places to get help if you think you can't control your drinking…one fact I do know is that "you do have control".   AA teaches that you have no control over anything…that was my husband's first words when he was busted.   He now knows that he is in control, he no longer walks around with a fake smile and soft spoken voice claiming to have found "serenity"!    He now knows that he is human, it's okay to get angry, its okay to be human.    As for me… Thank God he stopped going to that ….( I didn't want to use bad language…but..)  fucked up freak show of sick mother fuckers!

  • Hi ricky,

    Wow. I'm so glad that you guys worked through that… Thanks for telling your story here.

  • murray

    Its great that you guys weathered the tough times and stuck by each other.

  • ricky

    The main part I left out is….It's okay to think for yourself!   Never let a group of crazy people or a blue book tell you how to think.   You can stay sober AND in charge of your own mind!

  • poetwomyn

    Thank you to all of you who have recorded your stories here.

    Mine won't take long.  I started my AA career in 1984–when I was fifteen years old.  I was told by a decent oldtimer, "Well people do not come here."  I had sensed that, even at that tender age, but I learned from the larger group not to trust my own instincts–they will just get me drunk.  I had an on-off love affair with AA that has spanned over 20 years, and I thought, in my naivete, the only way out of the AA cult was to drink. 

    The logic was, "OK, this not-drinking thing is a cult.  I will get out by drinking."  And so it went:  in and out, in and out, ad infinitum.  On a self-esteem level, AA nearly destroyed me.  On a creative level, I kept thinking, "What if I won't" to all of the "suggestions" people gave me so the cult wouldn't eat my brain and leave me messed up for life, which I now know it almost has.  I lost a lot of years to the PROGRAM, which I've had to read the orange papers over and over to regain my sanity.

    Thank you for this website, and that I found this community in time before going for another round of brainwashing.

  • Hi Poet, Thank you for adding your story. Just how did you end up in AA at 15 years old? I am sick (but not surprised) to hear that no one objected to having someone so young in The Rooms. What a nightmare trip to send a kid on… I'm glad you landed here too. Check out some of the resources in our sidebar, too.

  • poetwomyn

    Thanks, ftg.  I went to my guidance counselor in high school, and she suggested that AA may be right for me.  My folks didn't even know the extent of my drinking because I was so secretive about it–plus the denial factor.  No one seemed to mind a young girl being in the rooms–I am quite sure the creepy men didn't mind one bit.  There were almost no young people there at the time at this particular club.  Luckily, I was never 13-stepped, but came close to being a couple of times.  I was very impressionable, and the indoctrination set in immediately.  After all, here were all of these parent-figures telling me how to think.  Or, I should say, not think.  Nevertheless, I did what I had to do when it came down to protecting myself from others' creepiness.  I had a few good people looking out for me.  But the cult-speak/think has taken a LONG time to get out of my head.  I would sit there like a zombie and say things I couldn't believe were coming out of my mouth.  I just want a sober lifestyle that doesn't involve going to meetings for the rest of my life and working those ridiculous steps over and over until I die, either by my own hand or by binge-drinking myself out every six years.

  • xty

    As for an event…I will recount the theme but no need to go into gory detail. 1) it hit me that doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insane, and I have been bangin my head against the program for a total of 20 years – neither I nor it is going to change. 2) being told I am self-centered and judgmental, and that I have no idea what's good for me is not supportive nor is it treatment for alcoholism. And, finally, I thought 3 )It's possible I am right. What if I'm right?

    I posted this in reply to a thread on the home page then came here to add a comment as I'd been planning to do. I already said it so I am re-posting below:

    I have recently been suffering through a major, lonely detox from AA. I kind of turned my blood to ice this morning when I was washed over with the realization that spirituality and God probably still works even if I am not scribbling, for the 3rd time, my list of reasons my brother hurt my feelings when we were kids. Yes, not drinking without following the AA program is ok. It still counts. People in AA often say “God speaks to me through other people.” It was a sucker punch to understand that God might be making it STAGGERINGLY clear, through other people, that I needed to move on in my life, A series of classic, dumbfoundingly perfect painful AA experiences hit me over the head. There is no way I could keep deceiving myself – and over and over, I am embarrassed to see I have been trying to make something work that clearly can’t or won’t – embarrassed I’ve let it go on, such a waste of life. I am saddened and amused at how exactly this experience emotionally parallels coming to terms with alcoholism, accepting the “jig is up,” and deciding to quit, fear, pain, and all. And, similarly, I feel weirdly naked but also better every day.

    In the interest of rigorous honesty, I will admit to trying controlled use by continuing relationships with a few Real People in the Program, and going to a meeting here and there. I did have to walk out of one yesterday after the topic was announced to be Tradition Five. No way was I going to listen to that moonshine.

  • Hi xty, I missed seeing you around! I'm glad to see you here. I'm sorry it took all night to get your posts approved, but the new blog didn't recognize your IP. (It does now.)

    I am embarrassed to see I have been trying to make something work that clearly can’t or won’t – embarrassed I’ve let it go on, such a waste of life. I am saddened and amused at how exactly this experience emotionally parallels coming to terms with alcoholism

    I wanted to let you know that you are not alone with those feelings around here. I wish nobody felt that way, but mostly everyone does. Also, there are a few other people who participate here still attending AA meetings, so you're not alone there, either.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you around!

    ftg

  • tintop

    xty, you are not by yourself. Yes, you are correct.

    Your points 1) and 2) are patently false. Both are an insult to fact and logic.

    Your point 3) is correct.

    I think that it is important for you to understand that you are correct.

  • xty

    tintop your reply confused me.

  • xty, I think he means that 1. you are not crazy, 2. you are not self-centered and judgmental and 3. Yes, you are right. 🙂

  • xty

    that's what I thought 🙂

  • tintop

    xty, you thought correctly.

    AA is crazy. You are not.

  • Z

    This idea that one is wrong by definition if one has ever had a family member who drank or drank oneself is truly pernicious. When I quit ACOA this was my question: could I perhaps be right? And ACOA did huge damage to me generally because it taught that I could not trust my perceptions or my judgment (on the basis of what, I'd like to know? when had I ever shown myself not to have a good grip on reality and good judgment? but that didn't matter).

    What 12 stepping does is: scold you, teach you to scold yourself, tell you not to use your judgment, and try to destroy the person who would actually be able to make an independent judgment or have a perception of their own (before asking their sponsor what happened). It is abusive and nobody should do it. If anyone needs any aspect of it, they should ideally be able to get that without having to deal with the rest of the whole toxic package.

  • dickb

    Here's one from the Dick B. whom the moderator seems to want "treat."

    Christian A.A. Days and the Absolute Essentials

    Dick B.

    © 2010 Anonymous. All rights reserved

    Let's look at the original program of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded on June 10, 1935; successfully developed in the next two and a half years; summarized in A.A.'s own General Service Conference-approved book DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers at page 131; and documented as to its 75% success rate.

    Add to that summary the fourteen practices of the A.A. pioneers, which included qualifying the newcomer, hospitalization, belief in God, acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, obedience to God's will, old fashioned prayer meetings, Bible studies, daily Quiet Time, reading of Christian literature, use of Christian devotionals, "real surrenders" where AAs confirmed their acceptance of Jesus Christ and asked God to take alcohol out of their lives and guide them to proper Christian living, spending each morning with Dr. Bob's wife at the Smith Home in her morning quiet time, attending one "regular" meeting a week, holding daily Christian fellowships, living in the homes of the winners, and helping others to do likewise.

    In the center of it all–all this healthy Christian Endeavor–were three segments of the Holy Bible that were considered "absolutely essential" to the success of one's program.

    The first was the Book of James. It was filled with practical concepts AAs embraced–avoidance of temptation, seeking God's guidance, being "doers" of God's Word and not hearers only, obeying the royal law (love thy neighbor as thyself), confirming that faith without works is useless, guarding their tongues, eliminating grudges, eliminating envy and jealousy, submitting themselves to God and resisting the devil, confessing their faults one to another, and praying for one another that they would be healed. The book was so popular the oldtimers wanted to call their Society the "James Club." See Dick B., "The James Club and the Original A.A. Program's Absolute Essentials"

    The second was Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Both Dr. Bob and Bill stated that Jesus' sermon contained the underlying philosophy of A.A. This sermon covered such important A.A. concepts as reconciling with one's brother, masking amends, forgiving, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, taking the position of "Thy will be done," closing their meetings with the Lord's Prayer, taking one's own inventory and looking for one's own part in wrongdoing, living the "golden rule," and doing the will of Jesus' Heavenly Father. See Dick B. and Ken B., "The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010.

    The third was the famous "love" chapter (1 Corinthians 13). The most popular book discussing it was Henry Drummond's "The Greatest Thing in the World." The parallels are set forth in The James Club

    Why not inform every Twelve Step adherent of these essential roots before he becomes enmeshed in the "wisdom of the rooms." God Bless, Dick B.

  • SoberPJ

    Is he trying to save us or something? Or, just make money? This is getting downright bizarre ….

  • ez

    "enmeshed in the wisom of the rooms'?

    I believe ensnared is a better word choice.

  • DeConstructor

    "Why not inform every Twelve Step adherent of these essential roots before he becomes enmeshed in the “wisdom of the rooms.”

    That is how it should be. Unfortunately since many (actually most) people are forced and coerced to the AA faith by courts, employers, social services deciding child custody issues, and the command of organ transplant teams, people are forced to participate and convert to the AA faith.

    The overused and false claim by the AA faith that it is "spiritual not religious" is an obvious deception when one is hijacked into the rooms. This becomes more evident when one reads pg 77 of the big book when William Griffith Wilson proclaims AA's "REAL PURPOSE is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God"

    Certainly you can see the rub here, as you are an attorney.

    There are some of us that truly believe that religion causes people to steal planes and ram them into buildings, and to have US courts order people to participate in this faith is wrong on so many levels.

    This does not incluse the huge collateral damage that is caused by the faith including innocent people dying in drunk driving incidents, people being told by person with allleged authority to stop taking medication, the astronomical suicide rate, and the organized rape (13th stepping) of vey vulnerable persons in dire need of actual help.

    There is no doubt in my mind that you truly believe in the AA program. However, times have changed since you started to enter the rooms. The recovery industry has exploited the AA program, and turned it into a 17 billion dollar industry.

    The AA faith belongs in the church basement. It does not belong in the accounts payable department of my health insurance policy, and it certainly does not belong in the courts. It should also be honest about its flip flopping on the promotion of the faulty disease model of addiction that Mr. Bill Wilson was outspoken against, until the recovery industry found out how lucrative it was, and Senator Harold Hughes required health insurance compaines to pay for it.

    Dick you faith has caused untold numbers of deaths, adn untold mental anguish to a nation.

    The recovery industry cartel, the lucrative business arm of the AA faith, is the worst healthcare disaster in the history of modern American medicine.

    It should more rightly be called the "American Holocaust" because of the number of people it has killed. The AA faith is inexcusable.

  • SoberPJ

    Is this humor?

    "Dick B.

    © 2010 Anonymous. All rights reserved"

    In the United States, a copyright notice consists of three elements:

    1. the © symbol (in some cases (c) is substituted), the word "Copyright" or abbreviation "Copr.";

    2. the first year of publication; and

    3. the owner of the copyright, either by name, abbreviation, or other designation.

    So, "Anonymous" is the owner of the text that follows the use of the symbol? Then why bother with the notice and symbol at all? Must be humor..haha..I get it now.

  • I've been in and out of rehab and the halls of AA since I was 18 years old, with various lengths of sobriety. Five years, two years, one year. Every minute I spent in meetings was a BORE and the people I met where mostly phony, controlling and dishonest I've ever come into contact with. I let these people control my thinking, decisions and ultimately my life for YEARS. The last time I got sober was in Ocean Beach, California, a small town on the coast in San Diego, CA. I had been through hell and was totally crazy when I walked into the club house there. The men were pigs and one by one tried to take advantage of me, but that is NOTHING compared to the women there who are mostly gossipy bitches who talk smack about people and form cliques. The first two and a half years of my sobriety there where the most lonely I have ever experienced because everyone, except the MEN snubbed me. I had no support. All I ever heard when I tried to make friends was how crazy everyone thought I was. Finally, after I "went out" once a month for three months one of the Matriarch's (16 years of sobriety and a constant group of minions at her beck and call) of OB AA called me and offered to work the steps w/ me. Desperate, I accepted. Suddenly, I was in the popular clique and I had a support group. My phone rang all the time and I had things to do.

    Everything was great until my sponsor's new brother in law committed suicide in May after she had kicked him out of her new husband's house. He went to Shanghai and threw himself off a balcony to his death. They found tons of empty bottles in his room. It is a tragedy that happens too often when people go out…but that is another story.

    Anyway. I was at my Mom's in Vegas when I got the call from her husband about his brother, and I got in my car at 5pm and rushed to be supportive. I got there late and the place was full of people. I slept on the couch and the next day my sponsor had her husband speak to me about the fact that I had not done the dishes from the gathering they had the night before.

    I spoke to her about her problem and explained that I had not even entered the kitchen and did not eat, so I had no idea about the dishes. I even apologized to her for not doing the dishes (bc I knew she was upset). And I let her know that she did not have to have her husband speak to me about things. Two hours later, they returned from shopping and she pulled me to the side again to talk to me about how I did not "make the couch look pretty." Exasperated, I asked her what her problem was. She told me that "this isn't working." I asked her what she was talking about and after a bit of back and forth, she asked me to leave her house. THERE IS NO HISTORY OF ANY PROBLEMS, mind you!

    I couldn't believe it, but I was like whatever. When I did not leave fast enough for her, she grabbed me by the throat and tried to drag me out of her house. It took for guys to pull her off me.

    Then, all of new "support group" turned on me and one of them even put an im conversation on her public blog that I thought was in confidence, with a friend, about the incident. She copied it WORD FOR WORD with my FULL NAME.

    I haven't been back to AA since and these have been the happiest days of my life. I surround myself with good, positive people who tell me to my face what they think and feel. Fuck AA. What a waste of time.

    Since I have been away, I have found out that half of the people who say they are sober are on some type of substance or another, especially pot and one person who claims to be "sober" five years smokes meth on a regular basis.

    It is a scam. I am so happy I know now and it is my intention to spread the word. Thank you for this site. I am thrilled that I found you! I will be posting a link to your page on my own blog: gogorach.com

    Sincerely,

    Rachel G.

  • Primrose

    Hello there Rachel. Every time I hear a person leaving this madness behind, my heart lightens. Posting Rachel's full name on a public blog is a new low.

    So many people say that they were always uncomfortable in the rooms. I think that this is why there are so many suicides, or 'alcoholic suicides'; the dissonance and the pretence becomes too much to keep up.

    Rachel, your story sounds unbelieveable. But I believe it, because the rooms have the logic of Alice through the Looking Glass.

  • Hi There Primrose! Thanks so much for your support! I came over here this morning to let you guys know that I have posted a blog about what happened to me in the halls of AA on my blog: http://gogorach.blogspot.com/2010/11/someone-put-…. I hope it is okay for me to post my link here.

    Your site has empowered me to the point where I have cut all of those weak, suck, phony pukes out of my life and I used my old facebook page to do it. I collectively told every single person that is left on that page to F$%^ off. My next post is going to be about this. My TRUE hope is that all those f#$%#$@ will leave, aside from my friend who committed suicide…I was in love with him, but never told him so because I was brainwashed and too weak to stand up to my sponsor's opinion about him. I will go to my grave regretting all of the things I never said or did bc of that cult. I spent 21 years trying to "get it" all the while wondering why I have no career, in spite of an $120k BA from a very good school. Now that I have extricated myself from the CULT, I see that I was wasting my time hanging out with cowards who hide in AA. UGH!

    I am writing a book, have over 1k followers on twitter and I AM GOING TO GET PUBLISHED AND MAKE A MOVIE. When I make my money, I am going to dedicate my life to spreading the news that AA SUCKS.

    One other thing. I copied a few of the definitions of AA terms on my old facebook page, including "anonymity." Also, I made this comment a note. ALL THE AA's are flipping out. One even accused me of desecrating my friend's death AND USED HIS REAL NAME! HA! I re-posted the definition right under her comment with the added: EVEN AFTER DEATH, WE ARE NOT SAFE. *Great job on that one* DOUBLE, QUADRUPLE SHAME ON U!

    YOU GUYS ROCK. STAY THE COURSE, MY NEW FRIENDS!

  • SoberPJ

    Hi Rachel, yep, lots of folks hide in AA and I was one of them. AA is not a place that really supports you to live up to your true potential, and most folks live down towards the lowest common denominator. As a previous powerless, broken-brained spreader of the AA faith, I can tell you it is much better to strive towards personal empowerment and critical thinking.

    Good luck with the book and movie thing. Sounds interesting.

  • Welcome, Go-Go Rach! Congratulations on… everything! Book, movie, escape, awesome blog, etc.

    Who's going to play you in the movie?

  • tintop

    Good on you rach. AA needs to be called out.

    Those people were not, and are not, your friends. You, basically, were sitting in the bus station waiting room at the same time they were. You got on your bus; they are still sitting there waiting for their bus.

  • JPR

    Rach….good story!

    I'm happy to play you in your movie, naturally I'm good in a skirt and used to acting having been in the rooms for 2 years afew years ago! Do I need to shave as in my experience most female AA'ers have beards?

  • Primrose

    Rachel, I look forward to hearing more from you. I have considered leafleting the cars outside an AA meeting but I am too cowardly. Everytime I think of one of those multi year twats with multi years of 'sobriety, I remember their own motto. Some Must Die So that Others May Live. How many must die, and why do you boast about such a thing?

  • Primrose

    Ftg, why does Orange not have a link to this site?

  • Prim, I think he might have a link buried in there somewhere, perhaps in a posted letter? We get a couple hits from his website every day — 2 or 3 — so people are clicking on something.

  • AllyB

    I'm pretty sure I found this site from Orange.

    I started attending al-anon just over two years ago at a point where the fact that my husband's drinking was a problem became hard to ignore. And believe me I'd had a good run at avoiding it, only months before we had decided to start a family, I got pregnant and then miscarried. At that point I stopped having the energy to pretend his drinking wasn't a problem and I'm pretty sure his drinking worsened at the same time. I went to al-anon which was my way of taking a step I couldn't turn back from, once I went through those doors I could no longer pretend things were ok.

    Initially it wasn't a bad place for me. The people were generally lovely and most turned out to be agnostics/atheists, which was a relief to me. Some of the advice wasn't too bad. I stopped covering up what was going on to friends and my family and stopped helping him hide from his drinking by putting him to bed and cleaning his clothes, etc. Some of it was terrible, apparently protecting our finances was controlling behaviour and waking him in the morning for work or setting his alarm was enabling. This resulted in him eventually, in stages getting to the point where he could acknowledge there was a problem.

    He went to his GP who told him to go to AA. He did not want to do that. I found him a SMART group which he went to a few times but it was just too far away from our house and his work for him to be able to attend regularly. Around this time I got bored of al-anon and felt it had yielded whatever benefit it had. After 11 months of waiting he finally got his place on a Community Alcohol Team which is a psychology based treatment which does not use the 12 steps but for some unexplainable reason does recommend AA attendance sometimes. Before he could start this treatment he experienced acute liver and kidney failure and very nearly died, in fact for about 44 hours he was touch and go. Luckily he is expected to make a full recovery.

    After he was released from hospital he started his community group, he had a great psychiatrist who could have proved very, very helpful given the full chance. But my husband was offered a job closer to home so we decided to move. He went to a two week inpatient medical detox while I moved us. During this detox he attended non-compulsory but recommended AA meetings. When he moved home he decided to keep going to AA, deciding he could "take what he wanted and leave the rest" and "fake it til he would make it."

    This was one of the worst periods of our lives, his drinking ramped up to unprecedented levels. He would become incredibly upset and angry when either drunk or sober. He would often pass out on the street, the neighbourhood kids took to telling me when he was wondering about drunk as they were frightened he'd get run over. At the same time he became a self-righteous douche repeating crap from meetings and telling me I was to blame for not being in al-anon. he also had an awful counsellor who turned out to be a stepper.

    This eventually led me here on the weirdest path ever. I joined the sober recovery site on recommendation of someone who told me it was not AA. I hung out for a while in the friends and family section. This was last summer and one week there was a lot of excitement about the Hallmark movie "When Love is Not Enough" about Lois Wilson and the establishment of al-anon. I watched it and wondered if I had seen the same movie as everyone else, this "inspiring" story was more tragic than Hamlet. L. Wilson was clearly a victim of long-term psychological abuse who's life work with al-anon was a poor substitute for a life.

    I started researching Lois and found Orange. Turns out that compared to her life, that movie WAS very uplifting after all. I read more and more Orange and eventually ended up here. I posted a few times on the old message board and then it changed and I went away for a while. Tbh, my husband was still in AA and my anger at the organisation wasn't helping.

    Eventually one day he "confessed" he didn't feel AA was helping and would like to stop. He seemed worried that I'd take this as a bad sign even though I'd been suggesting he might want to quit for a while. (I think he'd assumed that was a test 🙂 ) So he quit and he finished seeing his counsellor and his drinking got a little better, but was still awful and he was still very frightened.

    I used to lurk here occasionally and saw a post on Naltrexone. I decided to research that further and eventually found the medications section of MyWayOut. There alcoholics were using Naltrexone(TSM), Topamax, campral and baclofen to varying success. Baclofen looked the most positive, followed by TSM. So one night when my husband came home sober I outlined how both drugs worked and he decided he'd like to try baclofen. The hope of that alone had a positive effect and once he started the drug the effect was almost immediate. Bit by bit I got my husband back. It's hard to believe as it's only been a very short time but everything is very positive. Maybe I'm wrong but I'm about 85% certain that this part of our lives is close to over. When I get to 100% I don't know what I'm going to do because I can't believe so, so many people are still in hell while there are many very real options to help all sort of addicts and yet faith healing is still the method that dominates.

  • tintop

    AllyB, I am very glad that it is starting to work out. You are very determined, a trait which I admire.

  • Gunthar2000

    @AllyB…

    Naltrexone helped me to quit drinking.

    I was scared to death I might relapse so I decided to back it up with some cognitive therapy.

    The stages of change can sometimes come gradually… Just don't give up on him.

    Thanks for sharing your story. You're an inspiration to all of us.

  • FTG,

    Thanks so much for your warm welcome and congratulations! I just noticed your question about who is gonna play me in the movie! IDK! I guess I will cross that bridge when I get there.

    I hope you had a wonderful turkey day. I've had tons of fun clicking around here tonight/this morning.

    XXX

    Go-Go Rach

  • Mike

    @Jaded:

    Why are you continuing in the program after all you have experienced? It doesn't make sense to me.

  • tintop

    Yes, there are good people in AA. Most of the people in AA are well meaning people with good intentions. Meaning well and doing well are two separate things.

    So, jaded, if you f ind AA useful to you, by all means, go ahead with it. If you are like most people, AA will no longer be useful to you, and you will go do something else.

  • Hiya all. Howsit? I missed yous! *GROUP HUG!*

    Hi Jaded…Welcome! I have been uber busy and have been away for a few days. I am so sorry for all you have experienced at the hands of the cult. I truly hope you find your happiness.

    Please know, you are not alone, or crazy, and definitely NOT POWERLESS. Please let me know if you need to talk, or if I can help you in any way. I am never to busy to lend an ear, or support.

    XXX

    GGR

  • John Doe

    Today is officially my last meeting. I went to a NA meeting and I went so crazy that I drove to the beer store after and got myself a tall can. Was I powerless? No. I felt like having this beer. Am I chugging it right now and thinking about smoking some crack? No.

    I started reading about the history of AA, which NA also came from. Bill Wilson couldn’t even apply the 12 steps to his addiction to smoking. He couldn’t even stop smoking after he found out he had emphysema. He was an asshole who sexually preyed on young women coming for recovery. He also didn’t have a “spiritual experience”… He was on a lot of drugs while going through DTs from alcohol. That could make anyone see God lol.

    I’m sick of calling myself an addict or alcoholic, I do believe I have problems with depression and anxiety though, which I used alcohol and weed to self medicate. I’m at a point where I wanted to be treated for this stuff and instead drink and smoke weed on occasion.

    12 step program stemmed from the Oxford group, which believed that ALL humans are sinners and the only way to be relieved from sin was to follow the path of God.

    Psssst…

  • SoberPJ

    Dear Mr Doe … you got it. Best of luck.

  • stephanie melton

    I am glad to see that there are others “out there” as dismayed as I am about AA, and what that fellowship has become in the last three decades. My 7 year old daughter just read this over my shoulder and said, “Because you don’t need it, but you want to say it in bigger words”.
    My journey in recovery started November 13, 1981. I had just turned 16 and I was doing some rebelling and some partying. The guy I was dating broke up with me very suddenly and told me it was because he was sleeping with someone else. I fell apart. A few of the girls I hung out with at school had been to treatment for addiction. They seemed happier and so I told my mother I needed to go to treatment. The nun who had just suspended me was an al-anon, with a brother who was a 12 stepper. I found the answer! Thus, ending all my problems with my life, and starting the wonderful odyssey that has been my life so far.
    The detox kept me for several days trying to get me to do a better drunk-a-log. There was no way I was in treatment for the small amount that I used and I must be lying. I wasn’t. I now realize that I was from a family with money and I had great insurance! After completing the treatment for 3 months at the treatment center, I was sent to a Hazelton half way house for 9 months, in the middle of BFE on the tundra that is Minnesota. I remember the AA meetings in church basements, thick with cigarette smoke (a habit I picked up there, and still have not managed to quit). There were mainly speaker meetings at that time and I remember looking at all those old people and not seeing what I had in common with them. (I still do that too!). I can still see the 12 steps hanging on the wall. Powerless, hmmm. Upon completing my time there I went home to a family that was at war. My father went to treatment while I was in Minnesota. For some reason his counselors forgot the part in the amends process about not hurting others to save our skin, and told my mother about every indescression he could remember. Over the next few years my family was immersed in the program. At the same time my parents divorced and my brothers and I separated when they moved with my father to Canada. I quickly learned how to walk like a duck and talk like a duck. I was such a great duck I quacked (spoke) all over the south for the next couple of years. Then came the day when I discovered my dear sober boyfriend and my dear sober pigeon were using together and she was pregnant by him! All the young people in the program in our town knew thru the grapevine (not the magazine) but just as effective. I didn’t go to a meeting or speak of AA for at least 5 years. A funny thing happened, I graduated from cosmetology school, began a lucrative and fun career that lasted for the next 27 years. During this time in my life I met a man, a hairdresser also and got married. We lived and worked together and had much success. The only problem was that he was drinking more and more and was growing very depressed. When he came to me one night and said that he could not go on that way, I called my father (still sober and a 12 stepper to the bone) he told us to go to meetings. 90 meetings in 90 days. We did. He detoxed in the rooms on tiny bits of bourbon, measured out by me. I picked up a white chip the same day he did because I knew he would fail at staying sober if I was doing the marijuana maintenance program while he got sober. So we did that for a year or so, we both got sponcors and worked thru the steps. I got pregnant this time and had my son who is 19 now. Eventually I began fighting with his sponsor because he was also a Southern Baptist minister and practiced the brand of AA that says that if you don’t name your higher power Jesus, you can’t stay sober. That bastard drove me crazy! That was the second time I left AA.
    The next decade passed in the usual ways that life progresses. My husband and I got a divorce, I remarried for a few years, and I took up a few hobbies and started a new salon. Life was pretty darn good. I went thru phases of drinking too much, doing lots of illegal drugs and dancing and loving and living. In 2003 I had a little girl. Her father was more interested in meth (I didn’t even know he did meth) than in having a family so I was beaten up by him both physically and emotionally. I remember being pregnant with her and crying in the night for God to give me her father back. I dressed her every day for the first year of her life thinking that maybe just maybe she would meet her father. How things change with time and intention! Just as my daughter was starting to walk, my son’s father fell in a drugged haze and broke his thumb. He died about a month later. The death certificate said chronic alcoholism. I got so depressed I could no longer work; I was so angry I chased people away. I went to therapy, I went to psychics, and with much prompting from my (still sober) father I decided move back home to Louisiana. I closed my business and within the week we were planning my daughter’s 3rd birthday party. My son was pushing her in the grocery cart coming out of the store when he jumped on the back of it to give her a ride down a hill. He stumbled and flipped the cart, falling on her. I rushed her to the hospital her femur was broken in half about an inch and a half from her hip. They put a cast on her that covered her completely to her underarms with her unbroken leg free to the knee. There was a bar between her legs that made her look like the letter K. I remember someone telling me to drink my way thru it; I tried. My father came to me while I was at the hospital with my daughter and told me that first and foremost I was a drunk and as long as I was not “working a program” my life would continue to be hell. Almost a year later I was drinking the way I read in the “big book” for the first time in my life. 24/7. Miserable! Physically addicted I called my father and yep, you guessed it went back to AA for a third time. Now I would think that a wiser woman would have reentered those rooms. Nope! Within 6 weeks I had invited the local AA guru to lunch in my home and he just didn’t leave for months he just stayed and thumped the book and me until I got a clue and threatened to call the police. I caught him using inhalants (paint thinner) and just knew he would get better in the rooms. He was, the last time I went to a meeting, still pontificating on how to stay sober. He claims to have 12 years now. HA. I got tired of meetings there at the local Alano club so I struck out to other meetings. I went for a while to big book studies that were ok until I began to realize that my new sponsor and her boyfriend were having sex with the newcomers I would bring to the meetings. Damn it!!! Every one of these woman I brought to that meeting is using hard drugs and believe themselves to be powerless over it. I continue to be friends with these women helping in whatever way I can with their children and their lives. So there you have it that is why I left AA for the third time. Bitter, not so much. Wiser, yes finally but a bit lonely so I am glad I found your blog.

  • Dang, Stephanie, that is an amazing story. Thanks for taking the time to post it here. I know that a lot of people will relate. There are a few other people here who started AA much the way you did — way, way too young, unnecessarily — and spent a lifetime in the rooms. At the very least, this practice should end.

    Welcome.

  • BusBozo

    Thanks for the message Stephanie, I had often seen or heard young people at meetings, and the ones that had the party line down pat often saddened me. Most did seem out of place, yet by grabbing hold of the so-called AA program, many had found some kind of niche that filled a need, Hey, it still saddens me to think about.

  • stephanie melton

    Thanks for the welcome. I was looking on the wrong thread for my post. or i would have responded faster. there is plenty to read here and i am enjoying the company! My ex sponsor is giving a “workshop” this weekend. I told all my AA friends i was leaving AA and not looking at life from that perspective right now. This is taking place at a good friend’s condo at the beach. When asked when i wanted to join her at the beach for spring break i told them i would show up when the crowds leave, perhaps Monday. I have to go because i committed months ago and my daughter and her sons are counting on it. I just hate to join my friend right after a “workshop” because well you know how we get… more to come

  • @WA; what a horrific experience and sadly it is not unique. I think you have a good insight into the whole situation. I am so sorry that you went through all that. 19?
    I hope that as you read some of the stories on this site (Why I left AA….) you will appreciate that you played NO part. You were involved in a dangerous and completely useless (as a substance abuse program) AA is. Predators thrive there, as you have found out.

    Your therapist sounds very sound. There is a list of substance abuse programs that might actually be of some help, if you need them.

    Have you read the orange papers? Have you listened to Massive Attack’s blog radio show? Have you seen her site? (stop13stepinaa)

    So sorry you went through all of that. You have made the right decision to walk (run) away.

    All the best to you, Primrosex

  • MikeAugustine

    @WA,

    You have explained in detail the 12 step movement for what it is: an assembly point for perverts, control freaks, neurotics, and emotionally backwards people of all stripes. At best it’s the 8th grade cafeteria without the supervision. At worst it’s a repugnant penal colony where the inmates run the asylum and feed on one another.

    I truly hope that Internet search engines are hitting this site even for mundane 12 step-related searches. People have got to know about the dangers that lurk in the halls. Heck, as we see with JD/Mondotuna/God-knows-who-else the online dangers are as real as the FTF ones.

    The BS has got to end, and I have a feeling this site is helping. Thank God for the Internet and the First Amendment.

  • causeandeffect

    HI Wanting Accountability!
    I’m so sorry to hear about what’s happened to you in AA but am not surprised in the least. I feel that if you are wanting accountability from anyone in AA, you’ll be waiting your whole lifetime. It’s a bizarre world where the victims are blamed, and for all their claims of powerlessness over people, places and things, they claim it’s the victim who has the power to bring these things on themselves. I’m glad you have a good therapist. Unfortunately many counselors are also steppers and would only serve to reinforce the insane AA blame game. Just know it’s not your fault and do what you need to in order to heal. I hope to see you around.

  • Jonny Quest

    @Wanting Accountability:

    Sorry to hear of your troubles. I can understand your feeling like a “piece of meat” in the rooms. I went to a few meetings where I saw this. I was at one were there were middle aged men and three college-age ladies, sure two of them couldn’t have been older than 20.

    Can’t really blame them for looking, but many of the old men spent the entire meeting staring at them. I stared back at a few of those fuckers whose tongues were obviously on the floor, and they got the message.

    That said, it seemed one of them was very into AA, and knew of events, etc, so I didn’t talk to them. It was obvious, though, that one was introducing the other two to AA.

    I’ve also seen this in GLBT AA meetings – same shit. They saw “fresh meat” and where all on it. It didn’t bother me directly – I just told them to move along or else, but there were 16 year olds in the rooms, and they didn’t look particularly “hardened” by life (YET).

    I’m going to post this here for others who are forced/coerced into AA. I should have brought this up during Monica’s show last night when Jack Trimpey came on, but forgot to do so.

    Part of the work that Rational Recovery, Inc does it to help people resist coercion if you want to go that route.

    See this on their web site:

    Have you been forced into AA?

    http://rational.org/index.php?id=48

    We do not urge or incite people to resist AA, but we are the resistance. Our general position is, “You draw the line, and we’ll step up to it.” We know that you are closer to the problem and know best what risks you are willing to make for your own interests and others’. If you want to fight, we are spoiling for a fight, because we view AA as the collective Beast, organized to preserve tentative abstinence in a society that has always been intolerant of inebriety.

    Also, some other material for others if they do have to attend recovery groups:

    Some Suggested Do’s and Don’ts

    http://web.archive.org/web/20040211165302/http://www.rational.org/Donts.html

    PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: Addiction Recovery Groups (RG’s) are Hazardous to your Life, Your Health, Your Mental Health, Your Liberty, Your Civil Rights, Your Safety, Your Dignity, and Your Pursuit of Happiness!

    http://web.archive.org/web/20040210202448/http://www.rational.org/Reasons.cancel.html

  • Wanting accountability; go over to the other threads, eg neverending, or others current. This is a backwater and I would not know how to find it if were not in active convos.

    Have you read the ‘Why I left AA… ‘ thread. You are not alone at all. It was such a relief to me to find this site. 🙂

  • Ex-Cultmember

    Hi everyone,

    I’ve been reading through the stories and comments of this site for the past few days and felt compelled to share my experience with all of you. I certainly commend the courage of those that are not afraid to speak out and share their feelings and experiences. Although my personal experiences with AA are not nearly as painful and horrid as some of yours, I have still witnessed things that have rubbed me the wrong way so to speak.

    In 2008, I went through a painful breakdown of my marriage and subsequently, began to abuse alcohol. I always loved drinking and partying but not understanding how to cope with the emotional trauma, I became very abusive.

    I knew I had crossed the line into physical dependence, when I realized I needed to drink just to feel normal. In desperation, I went to AA of my own free will. Right from the start, I had certain feelings about the program that just didn’t seem right. I never bought into the whole powerlessness idea. If not me, than who has the power to decide whether or not I choose to drink? God? Please. That turned me off from the start.

    I went to AA for 30 days, then I drank for 30 days. I went back feeling ashamed and guilty. This time I went for 7 months and then slipped for four. I went back again, this time determined to “get it right.” I got a sponsor to “guide me through the steps,” and began to “work the program” according to the “suggestions” and even attended 90 in 90.

    I made it through the first year and began to realize that every meeting I attended was more of the same reciting of very dated, overtly religious ideas with no deviation from those criteria tolerated. Any question for clarity was usually met with a slogan. I remember at one meeting, in the beginning when I was struggling, asking at a meeting how people dealt with the psychological aspect of recovery and the response was “don’t drink and go to meetings.” Wow, how’s that for instant clarity?

    Of my roughly three years of membership with AA, there was only one meeting I ever attended where ideas were discussed outside of AA protocol. A very sharp, intelligent woman and I were discussing the idea of repeated abuse changing the neurotransmitter responses in the brain. The subject was changed immediately, and I’ve seen this happen time and again. I never saw that lady again at any meetings.

    In that 3-year time span, I also noticed that it always seemed to be the same old faces at every meeting. The amount of newcomers that actually stayed was appalling. I can count on one hand the newcomers that came in when I did and still go to the meetings. I also find those meetings to be terribly boring. It’s the same old diatribe recycled over and over again with no deviation from the century-old dogma.

    The “friendship” with AA attendees is totally conditional and is based on attendance. The less meetings you attend, the less you are accepted by the crowd. When my attendance started to drop off, I noticed that I always seemed to be on the periphery of the program, shunned by others who were nice as pie when I was there every day.

    I remember in the beginning, I had a particularly rough night; I broke up with my girlfriend, got fired from a job over the phone and was struggling with some other issues as well. I got through the night without a drink and my first sponsor seemed annoyed that I didn’t go to a meeting and even threatened me with: “you’ll drink again.” The suggestion is that without meetings you are a helpless piece of shit that will just spend a life in addiction.

    I did what was suggested; I kept an “open mind” to the program, which is very difficult to do when amongst such abject closed-mindedness. Most members seem to believe that the Big Book is an infallible, God-inspired gospel, delivered on the mount similar to the way Jesus delivered his sermon, and they zealously protect their doctrines with really nothing more than recitation of slogans. The program is overtly Christian and a rudimentary study of AA’s origins and foundations clearly points that out.

    Wilson designed his program purely on the principals of the Oxford Group, a Christian, religious cult, founded by Nazi sympathizer, Frank Buchman. Although many Aaer’s view Wilson as the second incarnation of Christ himself, he didn’t exactly live up to the same standards. There’s plenty of research available, so I wont get into a long winded rant on that man’s character.

    Although I’ve never seen any sexual predators in action at a meeting, I can say that many of the men seem to have some very serious sexual problems. Well sure, when you’re dealing with an organization that seems to shun psychology and simply relies on outdated, faith-based and dogmatic religious healing, it’s a sure bet that those that buy into it will probably never undergo any true psychological transformation.

    What works is not blind faith in a nebulous “higher power,” but actually doing the deep psychological work required to facilitate real change. The meetings simply don’t revolve around such topics and damn you if you bring them up. Blind reliance on the 12-step method is the only way, or you will drink and you will die. I actually fell into that horse shit for a while myself and I believe it’s because I entered into the program in a vulnerable state and was desperate to stop consuming alcohol, the perfect criteria to break someone down and then rebuild them in the image of the cult.

    Well it only worked for a little while and since I am not mandated by any court, I choose not to attend meetings, and I haven’t had a drink for almost two years. I think I saw the true nature of this program when last year, I lost someone very close to me and got through it without drinking and without meetings. I believe that people shunned me for not rushing right to a meeting to deal with this tragedy. Of course it was subtle. Only two of my so called friends even called to see how I was doing. I lost a lot of respect after that and really got a glimpse of how superficial so many of the groupies really are. A few months later, I was diagnosed with an incurable, serious illness and one knucklehead member actually said to me: “now you have a disease like alcoholism!” Try not to laugh too hard. Nobody even bothered to call me to see how I was feeling. I believe this is when I stopped buying into the disease model of addiction. I had and have absolutely no choice over this actual, medical condition, I just have to deal with it as best as I can, with alcohol, I do have a choice, and I am not powerless to decide whether or not I choose to drink today, or ever.

    Another thing I noticed is that many of the groupies try to apply the steps and principals to every aspect of their powerless lives. I heard one lady say she was a having a hard time with something in life and rather that face it, she “turned it over to God because she is powerless in life.” What ever happened to: “God helps those that help themselves?”

    Yes, I am powerless and insane and only God can help me. If you don’t believe that, you are doomed to die an alcoholic death. Some people are so into it, that they will travel to Wilson’s house to see where ole’ Bill hid his liquor bottles from his wife at their house, or to gush over the telephone he used to call Dr. Bob.

    There’s only two people I met in my three years of attendance that I would actually call my friends. You know, people who actually care about you despite your attendance or lack of zeal. If a person’s level of love or concern for me is proportional to the amount of meetings I attend, then they are not my friends.

    I’m immediately suspicious of any hierarchical establishment that demands of someone to abandon their selfhood. I’ve heard groupies say things like: “I gotta stay out of my head, it’s a bad neighborhood.” To me that’s simply avoiding where the problem lies in the first place. I got what I could get from AA, but because I no longer attend, or spread the message with a cult-like zeal, I must be a “dry drunk,” and doomed to a life of hell.

    To the groupies, AA is the only way and all alternative treatments for alcohol abuse are non-existent. I have a very, very radical theory, and am probably totally insane for suggesting it but here goes: do you know what causes alcoholism? Drinking alcohol! I’m sure booze has far more to do with it than being a broken, genetically deficient, spiritually sick, diseased person with no power.

    I’ve also noticed quite a lot of arrogance amongst many of the groupies. So many seem to feel that they are special simply because they severed their addiction. And most of the arrogant ones seem to possess nothing much of character or virtue. Character and virtue? No, no, no the 12 steps is all you need!

    You know what helped me more than anything with regards to quitting drinking? Believing that I do have the power to overcome and to persevere. But so many of them feel that they have an incurable disease, like MS or Cancer. A Cancer patient cannot choose to not put something into his body that will exacerbate his situation, an alcoholic can! Disease? I don’t think so.

    They tell you to “take what works and leave the rest.” Well that’s what I did, a few of the approaches seemed to work for me in the beginning, but I am leaving the rest, including going to those painfully boring meetings. I was told I should go for the social aspect. Why? Why do I need to constantly subject myself to boring, shallow thinking, powerless, non-inspiring cult members? I have friends that drink. I still hang out with them. They are far much more fun. And when we hang out together their drinking does not bother me, nor does my choice not to drink, bother them.

    The look of misery on so many long sober people’s faces has always astounded me. Well if you are constantly told that you have a serious, lifelong, incurable disease over which you have no power to do anything about, I can see how that might make a person miserable. No, they’re just “dry drunks.”

    I think I’m going through a deprogramming phase and I appreciate others who have gone through the same thing. I also appreciate being able to rant and share my feelings here. Thank you for those who have shared their experience and have read this.

    Sincerely,
    Ex Cultmember

  • @Ex cultmember; thank you for that. I think that something saved you from (what they and me and therefore us) call ‘Drinking the Koolaid’. I don’t mean a divine thing. I would urge you to research every single claim you read on this site. I wonder what gave you that rational attitude from the start. Welcome to this site; no worship or nonsense required. (Have you read the orange papers?; link on the right). Primrose.

  • bubbaloo

    Hi all!

    Very interesting site. I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve heard anything negative being said about AA.
    I stopped drinking and doping, 18 years ago. I wish I could give AA some credit pertaining to my staying sober all these years, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t come up with any reason why I should.
    I made my living as a musician, working in bars – I never hit the big time. My first job came when I just turned 17 years old. And so, being a kid living in an “adult” world, it didn’t take me very long to copy what all these people were doing. I also discovered that being in a band had some perks. People would give me dope – smoke a joint or do some lines or buy me booze – in an effort to gain my friendship.
    Long story short… I went on for almost 25 years living like this.
    I woke up one day with the worst hangover I ever had. In fact, I was sick for almost a week. I couldn’t remember where I had been for the past two days. It was during this time that I started realizing that I had a problem – a bad problem – and knew that I should get some help.
    I looked up AA in the phone book to find out where the nearest meeting was. I was at one the same afternoon.
    At first I felt really out of place. I was scared and even embarrassed to be there. Needless to say I spoke not a word at this first meeting.
    As time went on I was attending three meetings a week and I have to admit that I came out feeling better and better after each session. I was feeling like I was on cloud nine.
    I started going to meetings in late August. My problems with them started in mid-November. People who may have been sober for a couple of years started coming in with tales of having a slip as the Christmas season approached. The closer it got to the holidays the worse it got. People would cry, the stories got worse and worse. I was now leaving the meetings feeling depressed and even guilty. You see, I wasn’t having a problem staying sober. In fact, it was very easy for me and still is. I really started wondering why I would keep going to the meetings only to come out feeling bad for these people as well as about myself. I knew in my heart that I really didn’t need to subject myself to this. I also knew that I would stay sober even without AA. And so I stopped going.
    I do have to admit that I agree with a lot of the things that are being said here. I noticed while I was going that there were “cliques” in the group. They would get together in little groups once the meeting was over. Or they would head out for coffee somewhere without inviting anyone outside of their group.
    I even got hit on by this girl – more than once. It started to feel like a social club. And so aside from getting down and depressed, I also started feeling like I wasn’t really welcome within their little groups.
    And so I quit going and have not been back since. I’m not going to totally knock AA because some people swear by it. And so if it works for them then so be it. Who am I to tell somebody else what to do if they want to get sober? That being said, I do feel that AA might be a little overrated.
    It stands to reason that when a core group of people get together every night, it will almost certainly turn into a bit of a social event. It’s human nature. I know through my own experience that there is a lot of talking and whispering about other people behind their backs. I’m just glad that I got away from this situation before it started affecting me even more negatively.
    Bubbaloo

  • Bubbaloo, I think your story is probably the most common… You realized you wanted something different for your life, and headed in that direction after making a little detour through AA thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do. You give it a go, think “Meh” and move on with your life… I’m so happy that’s how it turned out for you! It’s the best possible outcome, I think.

    Now we just have to get that pesky detour into crazytown out of the process… 🙂

  • BusBozo

    Ex Cultmember:
    Very well written piece. I can see in your words, the same AA I came to know (although at a much slower pace). Good luck in your endeavors.

  • Jonny Quest

    FTG: You realized you wanted something different for your life, and headed in that direction after making a little detour through AA thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do. You give it a go, think “Meh” and move on with your life… I’m so happy that’s how it turned out for you! It’s the best possible outcome, I think.

    Now we just have to get that pesky detour into crazytown out of the process…

    I resisted going to AA tooth and nail, but the problem is that EVERYONE ELSE thought I should go to AA, and eventually, they just wore me down.

    I remember my mother screaming “GO TO AA !!! GO TO AA !!! GO TO AA !!!”

    Finally, I caved into a “tactical retreat” by agreeing to go to a “counselor” – what does he say?

    Why, “GO TO AA !!!” (or rehab) of course!

    You tell them “AA is a religious cult”, and your own family says “well, Joe and Jane from work got sober in AA, and they say it is great, that it saved their lives!”

    You tell them “It is religious! quack religion at that, not even a real religion!”

    They say “We called the AA number, and guess what, when we asked them, they told us that it is not religious – but we knew you were pulling a fast one on us.”

    etc, etc…

  • Ex-Cultmember

    Hey Primrose, thank you. Yes, I discovered the O Papers about a month ago and find them fascinating and eye opening. I was skeptical with aa from the start but I went along and muddled through the god thing. I just gradually stopped identifying with the same old rhetoric.

  • @ex-cult-member; I just re-read your account. YOU are right. THEY are wrong. In a generation they will barely exist. You simply must read this little tale of one AA oldtimer gone badly wrong.
    http://stinkin-thinkin.com/2011/05/29/####-other-gig/comment-page-6/#comment-59481

    Thank goodness for your own sake that you realised the YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS.

    Hello Bub!

    @wantingaccountability: GogoRach’s blog is on the blogroll on the right and you can contact her there.

  • I bad never read some of these posts
    Omg ! Such horror stories I’m so forty this stuff is helps ing all over
    I’m on the roAd no computer
    I’ll write more when I get home
    See my blog stop13 step AA
    FYI I left so don’t worry if your new here . That’s just the name of the blog

  • Jaded J

    I truly convienced my ex sponsor is a cult memeber who is throughly conveienced i am going to die –NO i am free now. I ddint even respons to this cult letter..

    So glad you are still sober. I have had my concerns for you. Yes, clarity is a good thing. I understand your regrouping in your thoughts. As a sponsor, I feel I must move on and feel this is BEST for you. Just please remember as alcoholics when we feel better the extreme self will comes to play. WE feel WE can do this on our own without AA. I feel you have done this before and without avail it has failed for you. Soon you will be starting a job and really have few days for mtgs. Understand that AA is my life, for without I am nothing because it keeps me right with GOD. Otherwise on my own I am nothing. As a sponsor I do believe in working with others who want the AA way of life. I have a full life today, Thanks to AA. I have had 2 women approach me for help the last 3 days and will not take too much as my plate is full. So please understand I am here for you, but as a sponsor I feel I am not the right one for you. I have tried my best and it helps keep me sober but I must work with someone who wants to take the suggestions that has been passed to me…it only works for me and countless others. I pray for you daily and want you to know I will always be your friend. I pray you find your way and find a sponsor who will work with you and work it! Much Love!

  • When one conceives the issue at hand, i have to agree with your conclusions. You distinctly show knowledge about this topic and i have much to find out after reading your article.Much salutations and i will come back for any further updates.

  • Grateful to be sober

    Yikes, a lot of you folks are soooo angry at AA. I’ve been there for 11 months. And I can’t figure out quite where this anger comes from. I’m powerless over alcohol…I mean, if I start drinking, I can’t stop. I have a compulsion to drink and the inability to control it once I start. And I’ve wasted years of my life doing it. I ran out of hope that I could stop with my willpower alone…I knew I was licked. I had what they call the “gift of desperation.” In other words, after years of drinking I hit bottom and my ego let go of the idea that I could fix this mess on my own. And so I went to an outpatient rehab that requires concurrent attendance at AA. I learned a lot of facts about the physiology of alcoholism, and how alcoholic/addict brains react differently from non-alcoholics/addicts. I know it is a disease, and that I’ve got it, and that it is can be put into remission. And in AA, I’ve been treated kindly and heard lots of stories of hope. I have never heard anyone tell me I’m worthless or broken. I meet lots of people, with many years sober, who go there not so much to keep their own sobriety but to be there to reach out to help newcomers who are struggling. It’s good moral support. Yeah, the God thing is kinda weird, but I’ve found resources for reinterpreting some of the stuff in the big book for buddhists and atheists so that it makes sense for me, and I encourage anyone who is unhappy with the God references to check them out. I was told up front that God can stand for anything, including Group Of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction. For me, the “higher power” is the positive energy of the other people in AA, and my friends and family. And that is NOT incompatible with AA. And just as Christians choose to ignore some of the wackier parts of the bible, people in AA can choose to ignore the parts of the Big Book that seem overtly archaic or irrelevant. I haven’t had a single conversation where I was told what I MUST or MUST NOT do in AA. I don’t think AA requires you to check your common sense at the door…I think you have to exercise your own judgment about what you hear, and you’re a damn fool if you don’t. Bottom line…it helps to talk to other alcoholics who are staying sober, and that’s basically what AA is all about. It helps to “clean house” by owning up to past bad behavior, and recognizing how much or how little your own attitude is responsible for things that you resent. It helps to work on your character defects. It’s good to work at becoming a better human being and to give back to the community. These are the good things to focus on in AA, not about its inability to solve every problem for every alcoholic, or the fact that not everyone in AA is perfect, or that sometimes you hear things that aren’t helpful or that are downright dotty. AA simply is not about fixing every problem you have, nor does it claim to be. It doesn’t claim that you won’t have any mental health problems if you stop drinking. It doesn’t claim to be the only way to get sober, or that you don’t need other kinds of help. AA groups are volunteer run, with positions that rotate regularly, and there’s no central authority dictating how they operate, or paid goons who come to enforce some secret set of rules, or a desire to recruit new members for the sake of having new members, or an agenda to fill up paid rehab facilities. The guideline for speakers at meetings is simply to share their experience, strength, and hope. If you’ve heard something wacky or creepy, well, guess what? People are imperfect. Alcoholics have problems…everybody’s got problems, and there are idiots and dumbos and evil scumbags everywhere in this world…even in AA. To demonize AA is simply to demonize the human race. I have to agree with those who say you should use what you can and ignore the rest.

    • Serena

      I’m having a pretty good time in the program too, but then I’m around more than in. what I keep running into is signs that people start to see worse sides of the story after their first year. If the group you are in — and the one I’m in — are free of the problems after our first years, cool beans. Otherwise, I think I’m going to be active in the reform movement, and if that is suppressed, I’m doing a different program.

      • Serena

        I just realized that you posted two years ago, so, if you happen to read this, I guess I should rephrase that in the past tense: Did your group still meet your needs after your first year?

  • LifePulse22

    Learning to Be You

    The purpose of this essay is not to
    encourage you to leave AA if you genuinely enjoy it, but rather to give you
    hope if you are starting to question what you’ve been told in the rooms or if
    you feel like it’s not working for you anymore. Oftentimes people believe that
    even though AA does not work anymore for them, they still cannot leave because they
    think it means they have to or will leave their spiritual beliefs. This does
    not have to be the case. Leaving AA doesn’t mean you have to leave
    spirituality, it just means you become strong enough to enjoy your life fully
    and individually without the reminders of being a hopeless addict hanging over
    your head daily. It is truly liberating.

    For the first year or so in AA I
    think I did learn a lot about myself, had some very fun times, met some good
    people and got some ideas and insight that got me looking in the right
    direction. While I do appreciate that, I also acquired a lot of ideas that were
    very harmful to me and are taking some serious time to get over and work
    through. I had some very serious anger come out months after leaving and it took
    time and effort to work through it in a healthy way. I discovered that things
    in life are a very mixed bag. I have learned to take the bad with the good and
    appreciate the good things I gained, and work through and let go of the
    unnecessary and irrational stuff we all inevitably encounter. It turns out it
    really is about learning to think on one’s own and being true to oneself like
    it says on all their little coins.

    Here’s a little background. One of
    the things that inspired me while I was in AA was to try Insight Meditation. When
    I looked up at the wall and saw their big ol’ steps, I saw the word meditation
    and went right to the nearest place to learn. During my time in AA, I continued
    to learn it at a Buddhist temple while still going to meetings all the time and
    doing a TON of “service work.” I spent more time at meetings and being constantly
    involved.

    Unfortunately, despite the good
    intentions the program does advocate, it had many bad ideas that were terrible
    for not only my mental state, but I believe it is severely damaging for any
    emotionally traumatized person to hear. It gets really drilled into your head
    during the meetings how stupid you are and how you’re much better off just
    listening and doing what you’re told. For me, being told this fit perfectly
    because that’s what my mind was telling me all the time before I came in there,
    due to my poor self-esteem and self-hatred. So I did as instructed and I gave
    my all to the program and decided a life of “service work” was for me.

    Luckily, I attended the meditation
    classes just enough to get some of what they taught there too, and eventually
    got very into the meditation and what the monks had to say. I remember one
    night after meditation class the monk said to us, “You have to love yourself
    first or you will give all your love away to the other people and then when
    they leave, you will feel very empty and hurt.” I remember being so shocked at
    hearing someone say “love yourself first” that it felt like it couldn’t even be
    true! I immediately thought that monk must be selfish and self-centered and I
    could not let myself go along with his thinking. That’s certain death for an
    alcoholic like me! How differently I think today.

    Over time I continued to meditate
    more and gradually began to feel more and more burnt out on AA and all the
    never-ending “service work” and meetings. I put “service work” in parenthesis
    because now I do not think volunteer work should ever be a requirement. In AA,
    “service work” is encouraged in order to fill the void created by poor
    self-esteem. In this way, members feel they can replace it with approval from others
    instead of facing one’s own emotions to deal with the root of the problems
    caused by self-hatred. I believe, and the monks have taught me this as well,
    that volunteering is something that comes from the heart and something you will
    naturally want to do at certain times of your life when you feel it is
    appropriate not obligated.

    I think only twice in the two years
    I went to the meetings did I hear anyone share about loving yourself and I think
    I rarely saw those few people at meetings. And to me that is just devastating
    to know that we, as former addicts, rarely hear that message. In contrast, this
    is the most important message we could ever hear. The last thing a bunch of
    addicts need to hear repeatedly is how worthless we all are. No one should be told that they are
    irredeemable and destined to be that way for the rest of their lives. Perhaps worse than this, is the idea that even
    with a Higher Power that we must serve to save ourselves, we’ll never be good
    enough. Nothing is more damaging than the phrase, once an addict always an
    addict.

    Since studying Buddhism and other
    various forms of therapies and scientific studies, I have finally heard both
    good psychologies and evidence that everything is impermanent and we CAN always
    change. We have the power to move on and not BE the disease, and there is no
    reason to be forced to be a drug counselor for the rest of our lives just
    because we used to have drug problems. If you eat Chinese food consistently, you
    shouldn’t be compelled to be a cook at a Chinese restaurant for the rest of
    your life. Now after leaving, I don’t even consider myself an alcoholic, just
    someone who is much happier without putting that type of stuff in me.

    For me, I think learning Insight Meditation
    and having something outside of AA as well (for you, it may be sports, school,
    whatever) has helped me come to my own conclusions and outgrow AA much quicker.
    There was a time when I felt very at home there, but it eventually and I
    believe very naturally, became a hindrance to my personal growth rather than a
    necessary component of it. The mere thought of having to talk about alcoholism
    every day for the rest of my life sounded to me like my addiction had won the
    battle over my freedom and individuality. I would be still afraid of living
    fully if I didn’t leave AA, because my fear of my “hopeless” addictive nature would
    still dictate all my actions just like before.

    Despite all of this, it was terrifying
    to leave because the other members threatened me with failure by telling me, “you’re
    going to die,” and “you need to be in the triangle if you want to live!”
    However, I have found out and am still finding out that life goes on outside of
    AA and you CAN move on and be the person you always wanted to be.

    I see now that it was always me and
    MY choice to stop drinking and live in a different way that caused change in me.
    I am not at the mercy of some external entity, hoping it doesn’t get mad and
    take my sobriety away. The choice has always been mine whether I drink or not, and
    no matter how many meetings I attend, “service work” I complete, and no matter
    how much I believe in a Higher Power to save me, none of these things will
    actually release me my the mental prison of addiction without me making the
    decision to do so. Alternatively, no amount of being selfish, or having
    so-called “defective” emotions such as anger and greed, or not being able to
    instantly forgive will land me back drunk or in jail, institutions or death.
    These things might make me unhappy, but they do not equal a so-called
    inevitable relapse without me actually drinking. Regardless of what I was told
    and what you were told, I have the power to change my life for the better, and
    only I have that power.

    You are not a bad, defective person and
    you are not out of touch with the universe if you have anger or can’t forgive
    someone immediately. Part of living a healthy life is loving yourself first and
    going through ALL the emotions that we all possess. You are not alone because
    you have anger, you’re not doing anything wrong; it’s just part of being alive.
    I have learned to let these emotions develop so that I can learn to show love
    and kindness to myself and to others through empathy. If I feel anger towards
    someone, I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge my feelings. I try to
    be kind to my own feelings of hatred until they pass. Once the feelings have
    faded away, only then forgiveness becomes possible. I have learned that pushing
    emotions back or pretending they don’t exist only make them stronger over time,
    and does nothing to help you develop emotional maturity.

    By learning to love myself in the
    proper way, I can engage in life without hurting myself or others and not just
    give all my love away to others without taking myself into consideration. I drank
    because I didn’t understand myself and I didn’t like the way I thought I was. By
    working towards loving myself, I now feel like an equal instead of being less
    than or superior to other people. Like Eleanor Roosevelt says, “No one can make
    you feel inferior without your consent.”

    I sometimes still volunteer now, but
    at places where I feel like I can contribute with my own skills and interests
    and when I feel moved to do so. I don’t ever volunteer now out of a sense of
    obligation or of being less than others. I still practice Insight Meditation
    and found that it has been a very powerful tool to help me take care of my
    emotional and spiritual wellbeing without having to be in a “program.” Find out
    what meets your individual and personal needs and pursue them. Don’t let other people tell you what should
    make you happy: only YOU know that!

    I feel so much happier now that I can think
    for myself and be creative again. I picked up some of the good hobbies I used
    to have, like working out and making music. I even have a wonderful girlfriend,
    and we are planning to get married next year! I have no doubt that this full
    recovery back into society was what they were going for when it started so long
    ago, but people have turned it into something else other than it was intended.
    AA did get me looking in the right direction so it’s not all bad; to me it just
    isn’t supposed to be for the rest of my life. Take care and good luck, listen
    to your own heart and trust it, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do for your
    life and everyone you come in contact with!

  • Disgusted

    If you want to see what AA’s are really like, hang out with them after a meeting. I have seen some of them actually make the waitress cry with their ugly comments, and then was told by others I had to treat the big-mouth with love and tolerance. There is no right and no wrong in AA, only what happens, and that is supposed to be the will of God.

  • Jon S

    I have been sober in AA for almost 14 years. AA saved my life. I am a low bottom alcoholic, so as an AA member I quickly became a confirmed big book adherent and an enthusiastic AA historian. I had a hard-hearted sponsor who encouraged to ALWAYS shared for the newcomer. That, after all, is what AA meetings are for … an opportunity to practice Step 12.

    I’ve met Clancy I. three or four times and been to his Pacific Group meeting in LA. I visited Stepping Stones and Dr Bob’s home. I even have a piece of floorboard from the house in Brooklyn where Bill Wilson found recovery after Ebby Thatcher’s visit. (I was there shortly after the building was purchased by a private owner in 2012. He was renovating the house – I don’t think he knew about the building’s significance – so I rescued the wood from the rubble outside.)

    I’ve attended well over 1,200 AA meetings and at shared at hundreds of hundreds of them – always for the newcomer. I helped numerous sponsees, at least two of whom have over a decade’s sobriety. I was active in service and in my local Intergroup. I know much of the first 124 pages of the book by heart. I prayed every day of my recovery and wrote a full and detailed Step 10 on many Saturday mornings, reflecting on the week just past. AA saved my life, and I wanted to give back.

    Then, in December 2013, AA stopped working. Despite my best attempts to keep active in the fellowship and keep busy on the programme I became very ill. The “threefold” cause was a financial problem, a failed relationship with someone in the fellowship (something that I hadn’t asked for and something I said I’d never do) and the terminal illness of my father.

    AA and the 12 Steps didn’t help with any of these things. In fact it made each of them worse. Much worse. The flaws of what I had thought to be a perfect programme and a life saving fellowship became clear, even to me, Mr. AA.

    I didn’t drink, but I had to eventually accept that while AA had effectively separated me from alcohol it had not provided any real solutions. I loved my sober and content life, but while the fellowship is a useful means to separate the alcoholic from their alcohol … in truth it simply replaces one mode of denial and insanity with another.

    Truth is my new higher power. Understanding truth is my programme.

    Little in AA is true. Most of it is out of date. Conversely, much of the CBT is true, because it’s based not on faith or intuition but on scientific principles that – unlike the 12 Steps – can grow and change with the experience of its practitioners. Most importantly, CBT offers self empowerment. It doesn’t depend on any God or spirituality.

    This sounds horrendous to a Big Book basher like me, but the truth here is (unfortunately) there is no God. I’m sorry to break the bad news but your higher power or sense of spirituality is no more meaningful than mine was; it is entirely a human construct and has no basis in reality.

    It might have been possible for a sceptic like me to suspend their judgement on this when I got sober in 2000, but in the thirteen years that have passed since our advances in neuroscience, physics and evolutionary psychology have almost entirely explained away ANY form of higher power or ANY sense of spirituality. If you don’t believe me read Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins and any of the other hundred books on the subject. Then get yourself into CBT – or whatever else works for you.

    The best part of leaving AA has been my new sense of freedom from the dogma, my new self empowerment, and my gratitude that at last I know truth and have been brave enough to accept it and to truly live life on life’s terms. It also helped for me to realise that, after the first few years, AA just keeps you sick. It doesn’t get you well. That most AAs are still sick (even the “well” ones) is obvious when you think about it. I was one of them, I know.

    It’s nice to see my friends in the fellowship, and I bear no ill will. However if you’ve been in AA for a while and are starting to wonder why you bother, my experience over the last seven months is best summarised as “better out than in” – and I never ever imagined I’d write something like that.

  • Guest

    I posted a whole,pace do kdmdmx

  • The German

    I just noticed that it´s now been 2 years that I left AA with the help of this website and other sources which means that I have now been out of the rooms for as long as I was in there. I think, I posted here then, dead scared to lose my entire social circle when I leave AA. 2 years later life is good 🙂 There is one AA guy I talk to like once every 3-4 months but apart from that none of “my people” cared to contact me after I left.
    At that time I used to collect quotes I could relate to from this and other websites and read them over and over again. I just reread some of them and simply cannot believe I didn´t run from that place earlier.
    Anyway, thanks for the work you´re doing from a reader in Europe 🙂

  • Birdy

    I’m was in a bit of an AA nightmare recently and left after insanely RETURNING after a nasty relapse that landed me in detox. I was scared and didn’t know what to do.

    I originally left the rooms over 6 years ago to some weird goings on, and what seemed like sponsor abuse and culty behavior. I was really shaken up as I was involved with a group in my town that used the old school method of Christian recovery.

    After my major relapse last year, and what seemed to me like a Christian conversion, I contacted my old sponsor from that group hoping he could help after I had experienced what seemed like a divine communication during detox. I was really vulnerable, scared, and thought he could help. According to my sponsor, I was finally ‘humble’ as my ‘pride had been smashed.”

    Things were going really well for a while, and I did the steps, and then something took a turn for the worst. I started to see people in these meetings rewarded for talking about how horrible they were as sinners and sociopaths. So I went with the flow and took that tone as well. Started talking about how I was a horrible, arrogant, fake hypocrite that was finally saved by God. I was so desperate for acceptance; I figured this type of ‘rigorous honesty’ would be valued. After some time, it started to make me feel like shit. Because in actuality, I’m only human and not really any of the things described above. So near the end my shares were called out as not being proper or honest. Ridiculous.

    Furthermore, I was asked by my sponsor to talk to his other sponsees to tell them what I thought was wrong with them. He said it would be good for them to help them pray away character defects. I found this to be out-of-line and abusive, so I refused. Plus I’ve been told not to offer advice to people, and if I interrupt the group leader during one of his ‘fellowship discussions’, I got reprimanded with a death stare and passive aggressively attacked through “cross talk.”

    I regretted going back after experiencing crippling anxiety due to congnitive dissonance. It’s like my heart and chest were seizing up on me. This usually happened before and after meetings and before I called my sponsor. Whenever I mentioned my anxiety to my sponsor, he said it was because I was not being honest enough and that my Pride has reared its ugly head. I attributed it more to my body telling me something was seriously wrong. He told me to do another 4th step (I’m 6 months sober) and that the demonic will take over my life unless I get honest.

    What a nightmare this organization can become. Especially the more culty-fundamentalist side. So scary to think this is the only help people think they can receive.

  • eliza

    The last time I shared my story at the local 12 step no-medical-pros-gets-all-clientele-from-court rehab, I noticed that the guy who called me to ask if I’d do it didn’t even ask nicely. He kind of yelled, “when’s the last time you shared at Stepper Hell Rehab”, into the phone, guilt tripping from the door. I agreed and did my share, but told a chronological outline of alcohol and drug use, blamed my childhood and my parents early deaths, just told it like it was and did not give NA credit for anything except some fun parties and picnics. The guy who oversaw the meeting was pissed and said we can’t blame our parents for our disease and blablabla. It was great because I did not care.

  • DrShok

    Hello. I recently had a run-in with a stepper. I studied the whole AA thing. I’m out for good. Please enjoy my essay here. I will never go back to those rooms! I hope it generates some conversation …

    LAST LOVE LETTER TO A STEPPER!
    http://www.orange-papers.org/forum/node/6713

  • Laura

    I’n not in AA, nor have I ever been, but three friends of mine have, and I see very similar patterns among them that have been hurtful to our friendships. All three came from dysfunctional families with members suffering from addiction and two of my friends were sexually molested as children. In their young adult lives they made terrible choices in boyfriends and husbands, put up with abusive treatment from lots of people in their lives, and in general had no boundaries. Not surprising given their childhoods. But after AA their boundaries with friends and family were rock hard–and covered in barbed wire. They became highly judgmental of everyone’s behavior, thought most people were fooling themselves and needed to work on themselves, didn’t believe that anyone could take a drink and not be an alcoholic. I have seen this pattern where they jump in enthusiastically with a person or group, but ultimately end up saying that person or group wasn’t doing something right, or said something that hurt them. Rather than trying to fix things or talk it out, or just see the group as a casual social opportunity to mingle rather than treating them as your substitute family, my friends would just cut ties completely and walk away.
    Almost every time I’d talk to them, they’d be fighting with a friend or colleague, had just cut them off–or we’re about to. They are easily hurt and nurture those hurts carefully. And they were very unwilling to recognize their role in any disagreement. Since they had the insights of AA, how could they possibly be wrong? I sometimes felt they were judging me because I wasn’t in AA–even though I don’t have an addiction problem.

  • Laura

    And I felt it was only a matter of time before I did something that they saw as unforgivable, and I was cut off, too. What about the whole amends process in AA? If you’re asking people to forgive you, why can’t you forgive them? Is an apology only valid if it comes as part of the 12 steps?

  • Scout

    Thank you to the individuals who started this website and this thread. This is my first time on here and my first time engaging with other individuals who have left the twelve step lifestyle and AA, specifically. I left AA four years ago and find that I am still very much haunted by my own self-doubts and fears. To be clear, these fears are not fears about life so much as fears about what will happen to me when I am not going to AA.

    I grew up in AA and spent 12 years of my life there. I went to a meeting almost daily, sponsored women, did the steps, did service work, etc. I really studied the steps and the traditions and I deified the founders. I sat in meetings and shared the solution. I went to conventions, AA functions, took service positions. I was unhappy and felt, deep down, like I was living a lie the whole time. I also felt like I was unraveling. In AA, I was told that I did not know up from down, that I was, at my core, a selfish, self-centered, good for nothing alcoholic, and that I would never get better. I was told that I cannot trust myself, that my instincts are always wrong, that I must always rely on the guidance of others. I was encouraged to trash talk myself, I was encouraged to insult myself, I was encouraged to play small. Anything good that happened was credited to my higher power or the program or, even worse, to my “getting out of my own way.” The harsher and more cutting my self-flagellating, the more approval I received from others in AA. I was told that I would never be normal, that I was qualitatively different than everyone else who was not in AA and that I was diseased. I was told that I was hopeless in every regard except one. My only hope was to go to AA meetings for the rest of my life and to follow exactly what other AA members directed me to do. And I did go and I did follow – almost daily for a fairly long time.

    Ironically, the result of following this program for living is that I felt like I was and wanted to die. I hated the self-deprecation that was promoted and venerated in AA meetings. I hated the fact that AA communities drew this stark distinction between individuals in AA and everyone else on the planet. I hated having to say how “crazy” I was and how “sick” I was all the time. I could not live like that anymore and, four years ago, after 12 years in the program, I escaped.

    I am so glad I did. But, after a while of being programmed to so strongly believe such negative destructive things, my head is still spinning. I am haunted by the doomsday prophecies I heard in the rooms regarding what happens when you no longer are faithful to the doctrine and ideology of AA. I am afraid that what they said is true. I am afraid that I am just running around being horrible and not even knowing it. That’s the horrible thing about AA. They tell you what your reality is and insist that you, left to your own devices, are a cost and liability to yourself and society. I cannot live a life where I willingly show up to a location and have people tell me that about myself. But, I also am struggling to get those messages out of my head. It is like a purgatory leaving AA. I cannot go back – it is not a safe or healthy place AT ALL. But, I feel like I’ve been brainwashed and I do not know how to deprogram.

    • Breb

      I know JUST what you mean! I had the same deep level of involvement as you did in AA, and I was there for 10 years. I’ve been gone for 2 years now, and it’s fantastic–but it took months and months for me to realize–truly, truly, internalize–that I wasn’t going to die. I purposely withdrew from AA very slowly, over the course of a couple years, or I think it would have been worse. Every day that I DIDN’T do what AA told me to, and still lived, was proof that I was going to be just fine. That’s what did it for me: I realized I hadn’t believed in that crap for years, and I was still sober. The only difference between THEN and NOW is that I’m not pretending to believe in it anymore. Also–yes yes yes on the distinction drawn between AA and everyone else. It’s bull. My drinking and using was different from a non-alcoholic’s, and I behaved like a selfish bastard. That’s it. That’s where the distinction ends. Turns out, I don’t think differently than most other people, everyone has problems and quirks (some are just more obviously displayed), and I’m not particularly “sick.” I’m living in the world, doing my best like everyone else. I don’t drink and use anymore, and I do my best to be an honest person. That’s it.

    • massive

      HI I think growing up in it makes it even worse. Do you feel you need deprogramming? Have you gone to a NON 12 step therapist for help to do this? We have a group on FACEBOOK for this kind of support. We have suggestions of books you can read that will help as well. I left after decades in it and ABS. ALL that time. I made a radio show to help me when I was leaving AA called blog talk radio Safe RECOVERY. Take a listen to the shows back in 2011.

  • Kooky

    Wow I’m very glad this thread is still active. I’m struggling with actually leaving. Over the years I have witnessed so many sexist things the room of Na and AA that I have finally come to a point where I do feel brainwashed. That I am unable to make healthy decisions without the haunting thoughts of “ur going to relapse because your an idiot”. I’m done with all the negativity and it feel so pius to me. I know for a fact men in the rooms who go to Thailand on the regular to victimize women little girls. I know men who have prostituted other women in the rooms who were young and naive. I was preyed upon when I was new and am still hugged too long. I’m tired of the Trump ways!!!! I think the election is what has made me more aware of how people have just blindly gone along with the books. No real research. If I was going to college they would never hand me a book dated 1930 to do research from. You always get the latest and greatest. But with AA or Na that is not the case. I’m tired of feeling more Shame then when I came in. One day after I’m more levelheaded and can think straight and I can write objectively I will write more. Right now I feel dazed and confused. I have almost 8 years clean and have been around the rooms for over 11 years. I’m very grateful that I stopped taking my daughters with me years ago. I’m lost I don’t want to do go through this by myself. The thing that sucks is now I feel very isolated and alone. Even though that is how I have been feeling for years it’s just different not having anyone to talk to about all the horrific things I know go on.
    If anyone can give any resources to a San Diego person and help them do something different while being drug free that would be awesome.