Are You a ‘Real’ Alcoholic?

It’s time to put down those comic books, sharpen those pencils, and take the “Am I a REAL alcoholic?” test! First, we have to step into our magic AA time machine, and head back seventy-five years, when addictions were treated with lobotomies and bloodletting — but as my grandpa, who was fond of telling me about life without television and indoor plumbing, it may not have been good, but it was good enough. Much like AA, he did not need any of the modern niceties, like that fancy smancy air conditioning and medical technology; and like AA, he was stuck in 1936.

What a year that was! Hitler was just starting his quest for world domination (with support from Oxford Group leader, Frank Buchman), FDR was about to start his third term in office, Alfafa and Buckwheat were entertaining movie goers everywhere with their crazy antics, and a group of religious zealots were putting pen to paper on a book called Alcoholics Anonymous. It is in the pages of that book, penned with the divine help of God, where the definition of a ‘real alcoholic’ can be found.

A lot has happened in medical technology since that time. We have found cures for diseases like polio, created flu vaccines, MRIs, laser techniques, kidney dialysis, and the list goes on. In the field of addiction, our understanding is light years from what is was when Bill W was treating his addiction with belladonna and faith healing, all to which AA has said, “Nonsense! Science? We don’t need no stinkin’ science!”

The nutjobs over at Big Book Sponsorship have taken the time to create this test, taken directly from the words of the ‘Big Book’, to help people determine the quality of their alcoholism. Included on this page is recording of Chris Raymer, an up and coming AA celebrity, who makes his way around AA lecture circuit spewing fundamentalist dogma, and claiming a 75% rate of recovery for those who follow the ‘big book’ scripture. A fun game to play while taking this test, is to listen to this lecture while drinking a glass of milk, and see how long you can go before breaking into laughter and having it spew out your nose (my personal record is slightly under two minutes).

**Edit to add this link of another Chris Raymer rant that Mike posted in the comment section.

Are you a ‘Real’ Alcoholic? –

Moderate drinkers (users) have little trouble in giving up liquor (drugs, obsessive-compulsive behaviors) entirely if they have good reason for it. Do you have a good reason for giving up your drinking, using or acting-out behaviour?

Yes. Yes I do! So far, so good!

Then we have a certain type of hard drinkers (users). They may have the habit badly enough to gradually impair them physically and mentally. It may cause them to die a few years before their time. If a sufficiently strong reason becomes operative–ill health, falling in love, change of environment, or the warning of a doctor becomes operative, this person can also stop or moderate (yes/no), although they may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention. This person (a hard drinker or user) can also stop or moderate, although they may find it difficult and troublesome and may even need medical attention. Have you found a sufficient reason to quit and has that reason kept you sober or clean? *Note: If you can answer “YES” to this question, you are NOT an alcoholic or addict!

This another question formed as a double bind, which I wrote about a couple of months ago. There really is not a good answer here. It also excludes any person who has quit without AA as being an alcoholic, even if to quit, they had to lock themselves up in their home, were chained to their bedposts by their spouse, or checked into a hospital detox for any duration. Regardless of the duration of their drinking, or the amount, or the degree of agonizing withdrawal, they are not alcoholics. Anyone who can quit without the help of AA is not an alcoholic.

Of course, since anyone taking this inane test is most likely in the throes of addiction, their current answer is “no”, whether they are on their first, or their on-hundredth attempt at quitting drinking. The mindset of any person taking this is, “I need help”, or they would not be taking this test in the first place. Since they know they are an alcoholic, and they have not yet been able to quit on their own, they are passed through to the next question. Fast forward to a future date, and that person will have either quit while working the steps (real alcoholic), left AA and quit on their own (not really an alcoholic, so the program did not fail) or worked the steps and continued to drink or relapsed (did not work the steps honestly, so the program did not fail).

But what about the real alcoholic. (addict)? They may start off as a moderate drinker (user); they may or may not become a continuous hard drinker (user); but at some stage of their drinking (or using) career they begin to lose all control of their liquor consumption, once they start to drink (use or act-out). Does this describe you?

Yes! Yes it does!

Here is a person who has been puzzling you, especially in their lack of control. Is this you?

The only thing puzzling here is the question itself. If by “lack of control”, they mean an inability to control my drinking, then yes. If by “lack of control” they mean that I might throw a tantrum and punch somebody in the mouth, then, no. I’m an alcoholic, not a school bully.

They do absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking (using or acting-out). Is this you?

This is the beginning of a pattern of similar questions. It isn’t enough that a person drink bottle of whiskey a day, but they must also do ridiculous things while they drink. Sitting in a stool and wallowing in their own drool is not enough.

They are a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Do you experience a personality change when drinking or using?

My guess is that 90% of the population changes their personality when drinking, not just alcoholics. It might as well ask, “do you slur your words while drinking?” Of course.

They are seldom mildly intoxicated. They are always more or less insanely drunk (high or acting-out). Is this you?

This is arbitrary. Is someone who gets pissed drunk to the point of passing out twice a week, but only gets mildly intoxicated the other five nights of the week, not an alcoholic? What if they can hold their liquor better than the average person?

Their disposition while drinking (using, acting-out) resembles their normal nature but little. Is this you?

Virtually every person experiences a personality change while drinking. Some are more withdrawn, others loosen up a little or a lot. Every person’s judgment is impaired to a degree, regardless of whether or not they are alcoholic.

They may be one of the finest people in the world. Yet let them drink (use, act-out) for a day, and they frequently becomes disgustingly, and even dangerously anti-social. Is this you?

So only a mean drunk can be an alcoholic?

They have a positive genius for getting tight (high or acting out) at exactly the wrong moment particularly when some important decision must be made or engagement kept. Is this you?

Sure. Also at other times. That is the nature of a drinking addiction. People drink in opportune and inopportune times.

They are often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor (drugs, acting-out), but in that respect they are incredibly dishonest and selfish. Is this you?

This describes most people with a drinking addiction. People, by their very nature, wish to keep their problem a secret. What makes this question ironic is, for anyone answering yes to this question, and who then go on to work AA and work the steps, they will be taught that they are inherently selfish and dishonest, and this is a cause of, not consequence of, their drinking problem. They will be taught they are not sensible (your best thinking got you here), and they are not well balanced (you are angry), even while sober.

They often possess special abilities, skills, and aptitudes, and have a promising career ahead of them. They use their gifts to build up a bright outlook for their family and them self, and then pull the structure down on their head by a senseless series of sprees. Is this you?

Alcoholics do often possess special abilities, skills and aptitudes. So do non-alcoholics. The idea that alcoholics are different, by either being smarter, or more often having some generalized pejorative applied to them, is a myth perpetuated by AA. This question implies that an alcoholic has to be an irresponsible failure who missed out on his potential, in which case the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Betty Ford, Boris Yeltson and Stephen King can be excluded as alcoholics.

Here is the person who goes to bed so intoxicated they ought to sleep the clock around. Yet early next morning they search madly for the bottle (drugs or start acting out) they misplace the night before. Is this you?

A person who begins drinking at five o’clock every day and passes out drunk can still answer “no” to this question.

If they can afford it, they may have liquor (drugs) concealed all over their house to be certain no one gets their entire supply away from them to throw down the waste pipe. Is this you?

Drinking from a hidden bottle of vodka is just as addictive as drinking from one out of a fully stocked liquor cabinet.

As matters grow worse, they begin to use a combination of high-powered sedative and liquor to quiet their nerves so they can go to work. Is this you?

Is not necessary to drugs in combination with alcohol in order to have a drinking problem.

Then comes the day when they simply cannot make it and get drunk (high) all over again. Is this you?

Yes, which is why I am taking this fucking test.

Perhaps they go to a doctor who gives them morphine or some sedative with which to taper off. Is this you?

Only if I can take a time machine back to 1936. Who the hell prescribes morphine nowadays?

Then they begin to appear at hospitals and sanitariums. (detox/withdrawl management, treatment centres). Is this you?

Not yet, although I might wind up in the nuthouse if I keep taking this test.

The fact is that most alcoholics (addicts), for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink (obsessive-compulsive acts). Is this you?

The reasons are only obscure for those who wallow in the ‘Big Book’, and rely on a doctor’s opinion that was written in the 1930s. And yes, it is a choice. Just not an easy one.

Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. Is this you?

At this point in the test, yes. I don’t know if I can restrain myself from offing myself now.

We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. Is this you?

A week ago? Isn’t that when I started this test? God help me!

We are without defense against the first drink (drug, obsessive-compulsive act). Is this you?

Not if you keep asking the same question in a different manner. This test is making me want to drink!

Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real alcoholics (addicts). No person likes to think they are bodily and mentally different from other people. Therefore, it is not surprising that our drinking (using) careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove we could drink (use) like other people. Is this you?

Admitting we are alcoholics seems to not be enough. Apparently, we have to join a cult to get you to believe us.

The idea that somehow, someday we will control and enjoy our drinking (using) is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker (user). Is this you?

I’m not obsessed with this idea. What if I just felt it to be attractive? Does that exclude me from the alcoholic club?

We alcoholics (addicts) are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking (using). We know that no real alcoholic (addict) ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals usually brief were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. Has this been your experience?

Again, yes. That’s the third time you asked this question. Are you trying to shame me? Wait…I know that answer.

We are convinced to a person that alcoholics (addicts) of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better. Has this been your experience?

My first drinking experience was not a shot of tequila with a beer chaser, if that is what you mean. You know what keeps getting worse? This test.

This is by no means a comprehensive picture of the true alcoholic (addict), as our behavior patterns vary. But this description should identify them roughly. Is this you?

My understanding is that a true alcoholic goes to meetings and speaks in aphorisms.

  • JPR

    Yep, I forgot how I read this chapter the first time and felt totally confused. I have been told on numerous occasions I'm not a "real" alcoholic, which actually sits quite well with me, given the company I'm sharing. I usually reply that "I'm only pretending and fully intend to go and do some controlled drinking, because it's all down to willpower and fortunately my legs grew back as I walked to the meeting."

  • Mona Lisa

    Well, that's obviously it!  Sure, I drank daily for 25 years and screwed up everything I held dear, but according to this, I was never a "real" alcoholic.  That must  be why I am able to remain abstinent without AA.  But wait!  How can I also be a "dry drunk" then, too?  Because I've been told both things, that I am not a "real" alcoholic and that I am a "dry drunk".  Oh well, perhaps God will reveal more about this mystery to us.

    • MA

      But wait! How can I also be a “dry drunk” then, too?

      Oh, yes. The dry drunk. That term serves a couple of purposes. It is great as a shut down accusation toward anyone who questions the program. It is also useful as an excuse for those AAs who are able to quit for a period of time, and then return to swallow the dogma: "Sure, I wasn't drinking, but I was simply being a dry drunk." Did you ever notice that trying to pin an AA down on anything is like playing whack-a-mole?

  • tintop

    "real alcoholic" has no actual meaning in english.  It is in steppish.

    Only those those who speak steppish are able to define it correctly.

  • DeConstructor


    I guess the steptards in their multiple daily meetings run out of cliches to say to other and work on mind numbing garbage like this.

    I am appalled that ANYONE in the academic world could ever put their name in support of this twisted organization.

    I cannot help but think of the overused cliches about my drinking buddies not being real "friends" (although I went to their weddings, funerals, etc) and realize that yes they were and are my real friends, and this is really a sick and twisted cult masquarading as a self help group.

  • tintop

     The term is akin to 'real alcoholic'.   Both are abstractions; abstractions that have no connection to anything outside AA/12 step.

    • MA

      HERE is a post we made last year about the 'dry drunk'.

  • Ben Franklin

    S o, if you are truly not a real alcoholic( You know the kind-those people who don't finish their drinks, only have one,never lost a job or relationship due to drinking,etc.) you are  dry drunk. Therefore by assumption that if you are not a real alcoholic according to the sacred texts, you are a dry drunk, then the equation is:


  • Susan

    ok, wait. Maybe I never thought of this the right way.  So, if you are an alcoholic, stopped drinking but are not working the steps or in AA, then you are a dry drunk.  But I thought that alcoholics could not quit without AA, so how could you both be a quit alcoholic not in AA (dry drunk) and an alcoholic quit on your own (not possible and therefore you aren't a real alcoholic)?


    I'm confused…

  • "They are often perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor (drugs, acting-out), but in that respect they are incredibly dishonest and selfish. Is this you?"

    According to this, no one in AA is an alcoholic. AA requires that you surrender to the idea that you are inherently unstable and unable to think for yourself. Alcoholics are never "perfectly sensible and well balanced concerning everything except liquor"… The longer you hang around AA… The more of this is revealed to you.

    I guess I'm just an alcoholic, dry drunk, who is in denial, unable to get honest, who quit drinking, and was never a real alcoholic to begin with.

  • Sarah

    I wish I could have gotten through Chris Raymer's rant and laughed. Instead, I was filled with terror, just as I was when I hung out with people who regularly spewed such insanity. Is anyone else here traumatized, at all, by what is accepted as normal behavior in AA?

    It's been almost four years since I left the cult, and I'm going through my third episode of Holy Shit! What fucked up belief about myself and the world did these people not instill in me? The self doubt, the terror, the inability to believe anything good about myself are back in such force it sometimes feels as though I never left.

    Thank you for this post. It is incredibly helpful to see and hear such statements with a clear mind and my bullshit detector working.

  • Sarah,

                  It's not easy to get the self doubt, the terror, the inability to believe anything good about myself out of my head. It's been almost four years, and I often catch myself slipping back into the self-defeatism and insanity.

    I don't know how many nights I spent in tears wondering why I couldn't get the steps right. When I brought these problems to AA members they always sent me back to the same well to drink the same dirty water. This happened over and over again. The only solution seemed to be to hate and doubt myself even more… I thought that maybe I'd get it right if I could just learn not to be so selfish and self centered. My entire life revolved around smacking myself down so that maybe one day God would relieve me of my awful self.

    I still use the word "alcoholic" to describe certain things about my past. These days I like to think that I am not an alcoholic. The definition of alcoholic has largely been influenced by the rants of AA and it's lunitic humility briggade. I am not one of those people that AA describes as alcoholic. My life is worth much more than that.

    When it comes right down to it… my self is all I really have… It was my self that helped me stop drinking, and no matter how self-centered those AA freaks say I am… my self is the thing that is most important to me now.

    Visiting this blog is a pissa way to filter out all of that AA groupspeak that floods back in from time to time. As time goes on… little by little… that AA part of me dies, while my true self grows stronger.

  • JPR

    here here. i just wish i had had the courage to say this in a packed full meeting. imagine the reaction. it's even worth contemplating doing just to reinforce one's own beliefs and make a stand………..the mind boggles?

  • Sarah


    Thank you so much for your response. I understand the feeling of working the steps again and again hoping this time they'll work to make me into whatever I'm supposed to be. I worked them, fully, twelve times and did written work and prayer (even though I'm atheist – how weird is that?) every day. I was convinced (and told) that my depression, for which I've had 38 ECT treatments, was the result of not doing it right.

    I don't consider myself alcoholic anymore either. I did for the first couple years after I left, but my therapist introduced me to the idea of drinking socially (not "controlling and enjoying), and that was all she wrote. I've been drunk a couple times, like New Year's or whatever, but I don't use it to cope anymore. My sister-in-law joined AA as I left, and she has to define me every time we speak because she can't resolve in her head, the idea that I was once like her, and now I'm not. Instead, she has to explain to herself that I was never like her.

    Visiting this blog helps me as well, and so do people like you when they reach out. Thank you again and I hope to get to know all of you better. I am so thankful for this blog and others like it.

  • Sarah


    I'm with you. I wish I could make the stand, but I don't have the confidence quite yet. I look forward to the day though.

  • Mikeblamedenial

    Here is a sample of Chris Raymer. No, Sarah, definitely nothing to laugh about.

  • speedy0314


    read that NY Times article linked to by ftg in her 'belladonna' post — paying close attention to the last few paragraphs & then re-read this post.

    then consider that the author of the Times article takes special care to insure that his M.D. credentials are in his byline.

    then think about the kind of medical doctor who might seriously consider using the above as a manner for coming to a clinical diagnosis for 'disease' or would happily endorse this kind of claptrap as that extra special "something more needed" for treating alcoholism.

    let that sink in.  an MD in the 'paper of record' on the one hand thoroughly debunking the "spiritual experience" nonsense while wholeheartedly echoing the 'millions saved' palaver without citing a shred of evidence.

    the nonsense quoted above (& tons more just like it) is the "something more needed" for an alcoholic to truly find 'recovery'.  straight from the doctor's mouth.


    then fire off a letter to the editors of the NY Times.


    serene as hell,



    real live literate human being

  • (Hey! MA wrote the post… But I'll still take credit for it. I take credit for everything he does, anyway, because I am an alcoholic, and, well, you know how we are!)

    Anyway, I see this so often… No one — even really smarty smartpantses — dares deny that millions have been saved, even if they secretly think it. I suspect it would generate a response akin to the one that Bill Donohue brings whenever someone criticizes the Catholic church.

  • I went to the link and took the test… I'm a type 3 alcoholic!

    That means I can not quit drinking without the help of a higher power… 'cept I did.

    Chris Raymer is a total ego maniac. Listen to him sream and rant.  How could anyone even take this shit seriously?

  • Stella O'Shea

    Whether you're a 'real' alcoholic or not is kind of  irrelevant. The 12-Step program won't help you and will do its best to screw you up whether you are or not.  It's probably much worse for the 'real' alcoholics, who need 'real' help rather than be subjected to this insidious nonsense.  Don't forget they try to recruit even partners of alcoholics, or anyone associated with them, into their pseudo-religion, so the steppers themselves don't really worry about your individual level of substance abuse, nor will they help you overcome any of it or help you to get back to any kind of normal happy existence in the real world.

    Sarah: My heart goes out to you.  Hang on in there, girl! Tackling addiction and depression is hard enough, and the fact that these people pile so much more shit on people who have had such a hard time and have genuinely sought help makes me sick.

    The thing we all have to keep reminding ourselves of is that the 12-Step program has nothing whatsoever to do with helping alcoholics or addicts, and is everything to do with a cult religion preying on vulnerable people.

  • Warren

    To think I at one time I had this part of the "big book" ( what a stupid name for a little book) memorized and I  believed it. No wonder I have such a low opinion of myself after spending years believing and promoting that crap – who wouldn't?


    I to, like Sara , am very happy that this blog exists.

  • JPR

    Stella. I agree totally with what you say and particularly the last sentance. The funny thing is, I did actually quit drinking whilst attending AA. I never did the steps and only half of step one in admitting my life had become unmanageable. I think I was very lucky in that I had some common sense left and basically the facts were plain in that drinking had lost me almost everything. As one gathers pace in recovery it's very easy, especially now, to see the absolute absurdity of the programme. I remember one meeting where I was particularly stressed about money and being told to "let it go" and "what'll be will be etc." I think I replied "letting it go" was not going to help me pay my mortgage or stop the bank taking posession of my house and that only my actions and yes, my self will……..would do the job. Shock horror!

    The one point I would make about AA is if you are lucky enough to get out intact, you have a very good chance of living a healthy and happy life having rediscovered all the skills and judgement you were lead to believe you'd lost. I just adopt an "i'll show you attitude" as I cruise past a few meetings in my Porsche. I shouldn't feel like that but it's a perfect way to say "up yours and your cranky, brainwashing cult" because look where you are now. Yes that is a resentment for the time I wasted and I do regret the past and want to shut the door on it! Hopefully some people will stand up and take notice, as I did, when my life was just not going forward and see there are many other ways to acieve sobriety. But of course, I'm not a real alcoholic.  

  • I think that us XAA people should develop a survey of our own.

    "Is Alcoholics Anonymous Right For You?"

  • tintop

    Well, AA does fit some people.  That is why they stay.  They have found a home.  It would be interesting to discern why they stay.

  • joedrywall

    I must say that 75% success rate in the book is pretty absurd.

    Anyway When Love is not Enough is coming on Sunday.

    Here is the link from Buddy T's about Alcoholism blog.

  • Anyway When Love is not Enough is coming on Sunday.


    Someone else will have to review that one for us. I hate chickflicks. I'm going to have to watch Hellboy just as an antidote to the very title of that movie.

  • Murray


    Why is it that they stay?

    Id say the main reason is that people join AA when they are at rockbottom.

    From day one members are then subjected to a 100% single viewpoint.  A viewpoint that quickly sets about to program the member with a set of beliefs that stress how different you are that you have an incurable disease, that non compliance is not an option and then plants the seeds of fear eg jail, institution or death.  Also the distant promise of salvation and a happy destiny.

    In my naivity I took everything as gospel  for nearly four year before I became a blasphemer.

    Now I spend a bit of time planting seeds of dissension with my still close AA friends.  If anything I can at least offer another viewpoint that was given to me freely here.

  • Yeah, Murray, and also because the conventional wisdom is that AA is where they should be. So they get pressure from family and media and doctors and… everyone, really…

  • tintop

    Murray, that explains why they show up.  And, stay for a time.  That is quite understandable.  But, if something does not make sense, that ought to register eventually. Of course, next to nothing is known of people who leave.

  • Murray

    Thats exactly it.

    Next to nothing is known about people that leave(except here of course)

    The AA viewpoint  led us to believe the old classic scary stories of dry drunks , institutions and death.

    The Iron Curtain of AA.

  • tintop

    Murray, my experience with AA tells me that most attendees hardly notice who is there.   They may get used to "John" sitting there, but there is no real interest or concern.  Too self absorbed for anything like that.  The 'real world' is full of people who are not that way at all.

    That may be one reason people stay in AA:  they can live in their head and stay cut off from other people.

  • Mona Lisa

    I  can't get over this business of me not being a real alcoholic.   When I went to rehab, they did an assessment and assured me that I was (ya THINK? 25 years of daily, blackout drinking???????), that I had a deadly disease and would die of it unless I got sober in AA.  So I went to AA and golly, I did all the steps and gave my lead at least 100 times…nobody there ever suggested that I wasn't a real alcoholic, either.  It's funny how they redefine people after the fact, to suit their dogma, so that they never have to think or challenge or question.

  • Mona Lisa

    Murray, my experience with AA tells me that most attendees hardly notice who is there.   They may get used to “John” sitting there, but there is no real interest or concern.  Too self absorbed for anything like that.

    Yep.  This week, I received an email asking me to lead.  I have not been to a meeting since 2007.  This person did not know or care that I was gone.  He sees me around town and simply assumes that I must still be in the program–he hasn't noticed that he hasn't seen me in a meeting for over 2 years.  At least he was nice about it when I politely declined on the grounds that I was no longer an AA member.

  • Mona Lisa

    Okay, I took the test again, based on my current situation.  I answered all of the questions "no." And guess what.  Now they tell me …this is just priceless…that I am a heavy drinker.  Yes!  Me!  I have been sober for nearly 12 years, but according to them, I am a heavy drinker.  They are barking mad.



  • Here's the Moebius Strip Logic that I bought into: "If you have to ask, then you're an alcoholic. Normal people don't wonder whether they have a problem."

    And while I'm at it, here are a couple of other ideas that fucked with my head, until I realized that they didn't mean anything:

    "You're only as sick as your secrets."

    "If you have one drink 20 years from now, you will start drinking as if you had been drinking for 20 years straight, because alcoholism is progressive." (And — unspoken, but understood — it has nothing to do with the actual alcohol.)

    I bought into a few other ideas, but these are the ones that really made me feel defective.

    Ideas like this can really hold you captive.

  • Murray

    I think for alot of people the program can actually make you more neurotic with all the crap you have to try and live up to and process.  Instead of helping you become joyous and free it perpetuates over analytical thinking. Totally agree with you friend.

    If anything Im not so bogged down with trying to meet guidelines written by some relic drunk from the 30's

    My moral compass is sound I dont need 12 steps to tell me how to be a productive human being.

    Just like post stroke anthony hopkins in legends of the fall "SCCREEW EM!"

  • AndyM

    I'm not an alcoholic at all. I used to drink too much at one time, but I got over it.

  • Stella O'Shea

    Murray – I agree absolutely. Freeing yourself of a destructive addiction should it itself make you feel great, physically and emotionally. And yes, you have the right to feel proud of yourself too, because you’re now back in control. But the 12-steppers tell you that stopping drinking, drugging, etc. isn't enough (even though it is, actually. It won't solve all your problems immediately, but will make you a damn sight better at coping with them and you’ll know that you’ve managed to overcome at least on big problem in your life.) But AA’s 12-Steppers won’t allow you even the slightest moment of feeling good about yourself.


    People who have managed to overcome any addiction – and we all know how hard that can be – should not then be obliged to twist their minds to accommodate some very weird and dubious religious cultish thinking as soon as they get on the road to recovery. Those who are fortunate enough never to get addicted to anything don’t have to buy into this crap, so why should anyone else?


    JPR I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the advice you were given about your money problems. Laugh, maybe, because you saw through it all. And because I’d love to be able to tell my bank that I was late in my mortgage repayments because God had decreed it should be that way and that his chosen prophets in AA have guaranteed that’s what he’s thinking. Or cry, because some poor souls who have been duped into all this crap might actually believe it and think it will in some way help them.


    Friendthegirl – Thanks as always for your sound common sense. The idea that you must be an alcoholic if you’ve ever asked yourself if you are one is patently ludicrous. It’s like saying that if you’ve ever wondered you might be gay means you automatically must be (vice versa if you’re gay and have ever wondered if you’re straight). I’ve known people who have worried about their drinking if they enjoy a couple of glasses of wine occasionally (usually women). I’ve also known people who regularly drink seven pints of beer every night and it wouldn’t occur to them that they might have any problem and they wouldn’t ask that question (usually men).


    And what on earth is this ridiculous proposition, ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets’? What is that supposed to mean? That anyone with a drink problem has some awful desperate ‘secret’ buried inside them? And that telling someone in AA will make it all better? If someone has an awful secret, such as being a victim of child abuse, it doesn’t make them ‘sick’, but it does mean they should seek some proper professional help and counselling. And they should avoid 12-Step nutters like the plague.

  • Stella O'Shea

    Techie people – what's with all the noise at the beginning of my post?

  • Hi there. I have no clue, but I'll get rid of it for you. Happens time and again…

  • Stella, I think that "sick as your secrets" hooey is designed to be shaming… and demeaning.

    Well, obviously… right? Just like most things. The idea of spilling my guts to some serenity-addled voyeur really makes me feel sicker than any deep dark dirty secret I might have.

  • tintop

    easy to say, hard to do sometimes; but, if if does not make sense, do not believe it. If you cannot get a sensible answer to a sensible question — that is a red flag. There is something seriously off kilter. Look around: is there anyone there who has their act together: thinks, talks and acts sensibly; has good honest relationships; shows real respect for others. Are the people there on good terms with each other? or, just sitting in the same room at the same time? or, making disrepectful/demeaning remarks about thenselves and others? Is there anyone there that looks like they will be OK? Do you want what they have? These questions can indicate a red flag.

    Sure, AA may be OK as a stop gap; a place to get a bit of support or provide company for a bit of time. But, AA has a sell by date.

    none of the people there really have a care for the other guy — too self absorbed for that. Not selfish; few of them are that.

  • Stella O'Shea

    friendthegirl The more I think about this the more yucky it gets.  I think any human being has things in their memory they might feel ashamed of – this is possibly part of the human condition (hope that doesn't sound too pretentious!). But as far as I'm concerned, it's any person's right to keep whatever secrets they like and there's no obligation to tell them to anyone, let alone, as you say, some creepy self-appointed voyeur  from AA.

    A bigger question is, why do they want to know? I guess for a catholic priest it's part of the job description, but some random AA member . . .?



  • Rick045

    I came to see that "sick as our secrets" crap as a way of breaking down boundaries and creating a false sense of intimacy with the group (or sponsor).  I think it also contributes to the us versus them (alkies versus normies) mentality in that it's a way of saying, "you can trust us, we understand like normies can't"…   Kind of like a fifth step confession, it's another way of duping people into  giving their power to the sponsor or the group.

  • Murray

    One of my gripes is I did do exactly that told all my deep dark secrets and the net gain was hardly worth it. This is indeed one of my AA resentments much was promised but little delivered.  Would have been better off consulting a haitian witch doctor.



  • Stella O'Shea

    Rik045 Yes, knowing someone's intimate secrets and vulnerabilities is a sure way of gaining power over them. This is why legitimate counselors  and therapists are governed by a strict code of professional ethics, which AA people are exempted from.

    The one 12-step rehab centre I was unfortunate enough to encounter allowed people to go out on their own only after they had completed their 5th step – the confessional one. One beautiful intelligent girl went straight out, downed a bottle of vodka, and attempted suicide.  The other got seriously drunk on a train on the way to visit her grandchildren. Confessing their faults to 'another human being' was obviously not working for these people as a treatment for addiction.  But somehow this treatment center is allowed to continue and has not been shut down by the authorities for providing a worse than useless program (I'm in the UK).


  • Stella O'Shea

    Murray " Would have been better off consulting a haitian witch doctor."

    Yes,  you would.

  • Stella, That is heartbreaking… A whole industry — a worldwide industry — is suffering from a mass delusion, and the rest of the world is supporting it. People are dying because of it, and we are accused of murdering alcoholics. I'm really sorry to hear about those two women.

  • Stella O’Shea

    friendthegirl Thank you. It is absolutely heartbreaking. What makes me so spitting mad is that the only solution offered to these women was to spend even longer in the rehab center working the 12 steps (and paying even more thousands of pounds) when they clearly needed real help. How did this appalling program ever manage to gain any kind of legitimacy in supposedly advanced and rational countries? And what can we do about it?

  • Stella,

                 "How did this appalling program ever manage to gain any kind of legitimacy in supposedly advanced and rational countries?"

    They lobbied the hell out of everyone, and used every available communication resource to spread their message… We should do the same.

  • Rick045

    Stella,  It may not seem like much, but I think simply participating in sites like this can be very helpful.  Until fairly recently, people who left really had no place to air their gripes, and at least we can do that now.  Simply debunking the myths and letting people know that it really is okay to leave and not feel guilty about it means a lot.


  • Jcal

    Jcal says Re:

    friendthegirl says <!–.vcard–>

    Here’s the Moebius Strip Logic that I bought into: “If you have to ask, then you’re an alcoholic. Normal people don’t wonder whether they have a problem.”

    And while I’m at it, here are a couple of other ideas that fucked with my head, until I realized that they didn’t mean anything:

    You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

    “If you have one drink 20 years from now, you will start drinking as if you had been drinking for 20 years straight, because alcoholism is progressive.” (And — unspoken, but understood — it has nothing to do with the actual alcohol.)

    I bought into a few other ideas, but these are the ones that really made me feel defective.

    Ideas like this can really hold you captive.

    Jcal says: I really bought into that garbage too. When I Came back to the rooms after having a relapse after being clean for over 3 years, I told the group (like a good little brainwashed parrot)  that "its true about your disease doing pushups and getting stronger while abstinent cause when I went out I drank like I had never stopped and my disease had progressed). Looking back I still feel a little embarrased to have said  that crap. When in reality I was just drinking like before (to get drunk). When I used to speak I wanted to "sound good' to the group so they would approve of me. Being out of AA now for only a little while, I cant believe that I even cared what programmmed people thought of me. The 1 thing that I hated the most in the rooms was the smugness of the true-believers who wore their time like a badge of honor. Towards the end of my AA attendance, 2 oldtimers (who thought their crap didnt stink) were giving me a hard time about not cleaning up the coffee table after the mtg. I told them I got there every sunday 1 hour early to make the coffee, set up the chairs, and get the cookies and milk from the grocery store for  over 6 months and if they didnt approve why dont they make the coffee. Then I told them that they have been in AA for a long time and have used the rooms and drank alot more coffee than most people so by that reason they Should be making the coffee. They both were at a complete loss for words. Needless to say I wasnt on their OK list anymore. The next week I turned in my keys to the church. It didnt matter because they just found some newcomer that was more than happy to take the commitment right away. Its funny how proud you feel when a person with time hands over the keys to the room to you. You feel like 'somebody trusts me' . All I can say is wow!

  • Rick045

    Jcal wrote,   "Its funny how proud you feel when a person with time hands over the keys to the room to you. You feel like ’somebody trusts me’ . All I can say is wow!"

    I did a lot of service work during my years in AA, including a lot of stuff that nobody else wanted to do.  I felt obligated to do stuff like that to make up for not working a 'good program' in other ways.  My desire to 'fit in' drove most everything I ever did in AA.  Within a short time, I had the keys to the building and my name on the group bank account.

    One of the best books I've read since leaving was "Combatting Cult Mind Control" by Steve Hassan.  He describes how the Moonies give new people certain jobs deliberately to stroke their egos.  He's a well educated guy, so they put him on a fast track to leadership, and he fell right into it.  That kind of stuff may not be as deliberate or organized in AA, but it happens, and the effects are the same.  It isn't hard for the old timers to tell who's serious about staying sober and also most desperate to fit in, and they will take advantage of it.

  • joedrywall

    Well I did watch that movie last night. Basically along the same lines of My Name is Bill W. that stared James Woods and James Gardner. Same author of both books. I never knew much about Lois so I never knew of her miscarriages or the Wilson's inability to adopt. This film however leaves out Bill's womanizing. There isn't even any reference to it. There is no reference to the 'bailout" from the Rockerfellers, and there is basically no acknowledgment of the Oxford Group. Ebby Thatcher does visit and tells Lois that he has sobered up through OG, but Bill shrugs it off. So no credit is given to Buchmanism. No mention of Dr. Silkworth, or his medications when he saw God either.

    All and all, not a bad made for TV movie, just seems to leave out a few things.

  • JPR

    I'm enjoying the "feed" here immensly. But, it makes me so angry at the same time to realise what a fool I was. I think most of us here have  people pleasing tendancies and we went along with the suggested ideas and listened to the rubbish because we were afraid to offend others. There is something burning in me to go the biggest meeting around here, which usually has around 300 traditionalists and share how I've seen the light. I would suspect there would be plenty of support to hear an alcoholic in recovery without AA? Has anyone ever seen this happen before and witnessed the reaction? Were they invited back to share again and made welcome? 

  • tintop

    JPR — you did what you thought was right at the time. I doubt that 'fool' applies.  As for sharing how you have seen the light, you would be talking to a wall.  Especially with traditionalists.  I walked away and never looked back; but, I think that the reaction would be negative.

    The best revenge is to live well.  That is how I view the matter.

  • JPR,

    I did what you said at several meetings. Be careful! They get really angry when you speak out against AA at meetings.

    It's also illegal, in many states, to disrupt a religious service. 🙂

  • JPR

    I understand……..but i'm sure there are other alcoholics wanting a choice and who have not seen this site yet. It's rather like helping another drinker with his problem, you may just have an answer.

    I wish I had met other ex drinkers earlier, but of course, on the whole you only meet the trditionalists in the rooms. 

    If you read the "mission statement" of this site, I thought this is exactly what we should be doing………casting doubt over AA and 12 step programmes and where better place to do it. As for being illegal, I wouldn't consider this disruption to question what are afterall, only suggestions. 

  • Murray


    I wouldnt worry about disrupting a religious service.  We all know its spiritual not religious.  In essence AA could not pull out the religious card as by its own admission it aint.

    We got em there:)

  • i have spoken out against groups, against the rampant 13 stepping, about the "group think," about my doubts… when i lived in an area with more opne-minded thinkers (i usta live near the state u), this was in some ways supported (though peeps did say the dreaded, "keep coming.") in the area where i live now, there is more by the book christianity outside of aa.  there are more republicans per square foot.  and the education level of each person is generally not so impressive..  their tolerance is pretty low for any questioning.  i do not mean to imply that if you are uneducated, then you are a republican and stupid.  i get that i just made it sound like this.  But, in my opinion when people are more liberal, more interested in different ideology, when people are readers (um not of that bid book), then there is more tolerance.  if anybody reads my comment, keep on NOT coming back, put yourself first, and have faith in yourself. you are not your real or fucking fantasy "disease."  you have a right to be here, on this planted, without having this ridiculous cult and its sayings going through your mind..

  • JPR

    I've never heard much common sense used to aid alcololism in the rooms. My own personal recovery comes from having a healthy mind, which I have developed through a good diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep.  All of these things give me the real feel good factor I used to find in alcohol. I can't see how anybody could possibly ever disagree with this whether they're a real alcoholic or not.  

  • tintop

    JPR — I think that common sense goes a long way.  Whay you suggested goes a long way.  Further, I suggest having a plan to improve life.  Everyone will have their own personal plan; but, it is important, I think, to have a set of goals and to set about accomplishing those goals.   If need be, to find a good therapist.

  • joedrywall

    Love this song by Tom Waits.

    And it suits the "snake oil" concept.

  • joedrywall

    Wow listening to that Chris R. on the big book sponsorship site!! What a total nutjob! The failure of people like him to understand why AA became watered down is the fact that AA in its original format could not be all things to all people. Perhaps they may have had a "well documented success rate of 75-93%" of selected people who really tried. I guess those folks who really tried and failed were constitutionally incapable of being honest.

    I said it before and will say it again, if early rates were so successful, why change a thing? Why not make it institutionalized? Why not send everyone to it, why not force people into it, place it in the schools? If it worked so well, why is addiction at an epidemic level?

  • If it worked so well, why is addiction at an epidemic level?

    That is the question that eats at me!

    It's impossible that the "still suffering alcoholics" out there… the ones I pass on the side of the road every single day… don't already know the steps by heart. It's impossible they haven't been in AA — either tried it or were sentenced to it.

    It is epidemic, and all we have is AA — and we're all pretty content with that — righteous, in fact, as if we have an answer. (Yet we're waging a "war on drugs" — not on addiction, but on drugs…)

    It's mass lunacy.

  • brian

    I am a member of AA…. i wasnt able to stop drinking or shooting dope… and i did the 12 steps and something happened… soooo…. i mean whats it matter.. i think there are plenty of ways to get sober outside of AA… the steps worked for this junkie… doesnt mean its "right" or "wrong"… something happened for me going throught that process… got a life today… happy about it.. family in my life.. back in school… all the good stuff… It seems to me that arguing for or against something that seems to work for SOME people is kinda pety… I mean WHO GIVES A SHIT… if you have an alcohol or drug problem i believe the main concern is that you GET A HANDLE ON IT!! ? Right?   🙂

  • Ben Franklin

    Hey Brian it spelled petty. I GIVE A SHIT ( what is it with steppers and all caps). 1) coercion- people should not be forced to practice religion ( and a shitty one at that. 2) It fucking doesn't work-please brush up on statistics. 3) the whole program is nonsense. These are the main ones there are many other reasons like being powerless and genetically diseased your whole life.

  • William Casey

    I must admit that I don't understand the virulence directed at AA in most of the posts above.  I am a member of  AA but considered a "heretic" by some members because I bring up contradictions in the program from time-to-time.  For example, I've often heard the "phrase:  "your own best thinking brought you here."  I've always winced at this.  For me, it was my WORST thinking that brought me here.  My best thinking usually produced better results.  However, nothing bad has happened to me because of my heresies.  No ostracism.  A few "old-timers" admonished me to spend more time reading the big book.  So what.  I still don't get the anti-AA vibe and criticisms of its success.  If I drank 365 days a year before AA (which I did for 9 years) and now get drunk one day a year (I don't but what if I did), would you consider my AA experience a failure?  To paraphrase a Meatloaf song, "364 out of 365 Ain't Bad."  Besides, it's free and nobody makes you go!  Doesn't seem like Nazi Germany to me.

    • MA

      If I drank 365 days a year before AA (which I did for 9 years) and now get drunk one day a year (I don’t but what if I did), would you consider my AA experience a failure? To paraphrase a Meatloaf song, “364 out of 365 Ain’t Bad.” Besides, it’s free and nobody makes you go!

      Hi, William.

      I would not consider that a failure in your sobriety, but I would credit you, not AA, with your own success. I'm glad you got off the sauce and your life got better.

      If by "free", you mean it costs you no money to go, then you are right. It does cost you, however. It costs you in a lot of ways, and it costs us all. One thing you can save on now is your time. Get out of the rooms and enjoy your sober life.

      If you don't understand the animosity towards AA, I suggest you read the "essential stinkin thinkin" on the tap at the top of the page. Those just some of the reasons why we started this blog.

  • Ben Franklin

    Uh, William, people are forced to go. Courts send you there. EAPs send you there. That is an issue Okay? It may be minor in your book but in mine it is a major issue, enough so that I will hate on AA forever. That and its true lack of success. You can look it up in the "Orange Papers" or Cochrane reviews.

    A few “old-timers” admonished me to spend more time reading the big book.  So what. I still don’t get the anti-AA vibe and criticisms of its success.

    William this is a muckraking blog. We muck rake here. We don't say So What? Otherwise we wouldn't be muckrakers. Capiche? This is an AA critical blog and there is no criticism of its "success" because it doesn't have any. We criticize its lack of demonstratable success and its harmful aspects. I have said before I don't care about any "time" you have and if you drank on only one day out of the year. AA cares and it considers you a failure and you have to start all over. Nobody said anything about Nazi's.


  • Rick045

    @William Casey, sounds like maybe you've found a decent group. IMO, some really are better than others. I found a pretty decent one too, but my opinions about that changed over time. I encountered a great deal of ostracism because of my heresy, but I took me a while to figure that out. Part of the problem was that I didn't see what I was doing as heresy. All I was doing was simply suggesting openly that people consider giving professional help a try. I did that on several occasions, only to have other members go behind my back and tell the person that I was full of shit. It took me a while to figure it out precisely because it was all behind my back.

    I simply got tired of watching sick people beat themselves up continuously for their inability to "get" the program, while being told over and over that all they needed to do "try another meeting, get another sponsor, work the steps again" etc, etc.  I was in those rooms for several years, plenty long enough to see this routine repeated many times. I'm well aware of AA's official positions on such matters, but that has nothing to do with the reality that I experienced.

    I knew plenty of Nazi-like characters in the program, and I avoided them like the plaque. I was pretty good at taking what I needed and leaving the rest. I turned a blind eye to a whole lot of bullshit during my time there. Part of the problem with "taking what I needed", was that it never quite made "the rest" disappear, I simply learned to ignore it.

    I hope you don't relapse on that 365th day, but if you do, you can simply follow the example of many of those old-timers, lie, cover up, and carry on, just like they do after their periodic relapse breaks…

  • Well you guys have your fun and games here mentally masturbating each other.

  • Bart

    Why do you have such issues, MA? In other words, I’ve been a chronic user for half my life, sober the other half, in or out of AA. The sober half has been mostly productive and purposeful with personal growth. The using half mostly self-indulgent and somewhat unstable and ineffective. I’m honest with myself about that. I think I’m highly intelligent, interested in biotech, a successful entrepreneur in renewable energy. Surely, AA has some questionable misinformation floating around. And, it also includes some very powerful and useful information. I’ve analyzed my own use from a deeper perspective than AA offers in a biological and spiritual sense, agnostic sense. I’m enjoying life very much. I can’t seem to grasp any logic from your (rant) above. I don’t see the value in it beyond some anger at your own behavior or existence.

    • MA

      I don’t see the value in it beyond some anger at your own behavior or existence.

      I see you pulled the, “you must be angry” out of the AA playbook; but you failed to remind me of my resentments. I’ll give you a score of 50% on this comment.

  • tintop

    It is a free country Bart. If you see the value in it, fine. If you do see the value in it, fine.

  • tintop

    If you do not see the value in it, fine.

  • speedy0314

    reader’s digest of Bart’s commentary:

    blah blah blah, AA bad. blah, blah, blah AA really good. blah blah blah you publicly express difference with AA then you are angry & hate your life.

    oh yeah — i’m “highly intelligent”, too.

    stand by for more ‘paint-by-numbers’ AA apologia.

    your humble editor,


  • Gunthar2000

    Bart is displeased with MA and cannot see the value in MA’s rant.

    It was however a much better read than Bart’s mushy squishy testimonial.

    Don’t have a cow Bart! Live and let Live!

  • AnnaZed

    I think Francis’ comment was far more interesting. Really Bart just whipped out the AA stencil kit and spray-painted his comment, but isn’t Francis supposed to be some sort of wig and two hats wearing addiction professional? That comment reads like something from a badly behaved teen aged boy. Really, conversations about masturbation are just not lady-like. What must life be like for the people caught in her hall of mirrors forum here (?):

    Talk about mental masturbation!

    I thought about registering and kicking a little ass, but that puddle is so small and toxic I was worried that later I’d have trouble getting the scum off of my rubber wading boots.

    ***note*** This bizarre disjointed response to a member reporting that the board was the source of a Trojan attack on her computer is priceless though

    Francis M. ~ Feb 5, 2011 – 4:44PM
    emotionally intoxicated to percieve [sic] the least

    Is that even English?

    Looks like prescription med. abuse typing to me, but I’m not a professional like Francis so I can’t claim to actually know.

  • speedy0314

    @ Annazed:

    “… isn’t Francis supposed to be some sort of wig and two hats wearing addiction professional?”

    whoa … if those quotes and her website’s any indication, the “professional” credo must have come straight out of a cereal box.


  • sugomom

    From Belt Buckles with AA Slogans to accusations of trojan downloads to Have another drink Miss Behaving? OMG Annazed, I cannot even wrap my head around any of those threads. But it did give me a chuckle! Do you really have rubber boots?

  • Speaking of mental masturbation (scroll down to Anonymous Pursuit):

  • MA

    Anonymous Pursuit: the only board game where everyone playing is a loser.

    I like those “Bob and Bill Coffee Shop” hats. They’re great for hiding the lobotomy scar.

  • altrecovery

    Hi MA,

    What does it mean if you drink again and find not only did your ‘disease’ not progress, but that all of your ‘acting out’ behaviors are explained in one easy sentence?

    Recommended course of action?

  • causeandeffect

    Why do they insist on calling everything a “rant”?

  • AnnaZed

    Owwww, I really want that Anonymous Pursuit Card Game. Seriously, I do. I am absolutely certain that I could win that game hands down against any comers. I could then use this winning of the game to demonstrate my serenity.

    …you motherfuckers…

  • tintop

    a real rant!!

  • Martha

    Okay as long as we are speaking of rants here is the one by Alanis;