Why I DO & DON’T support AA:

First let me go through what I support about AA and why I think you should at least look into it.

If you are serious about living sober – and especially if you’re new at this – you should research, learn and understand the many sobriety techniques that are available to you. This includes going to some AA meetings. You may discover that you like AA. Or you might find a group that’s perfect for you. I think it’s unfair to criticize something until you’ve performed due diligence and have educated yourself about it.

Besides, I’m sure that you invested a fair amount of time in your drinking hobby. Now that you don’t drink, you probably don’t know what to do with all that newfound time. In the early stages of sobriety, AA meetings can serve as a good way to consume a lot of what was once your drinking time.

There is a comforting element to learning that you are not the only person on earth that overuses (overused) alcohol. At AA meetings, you will hear from others who are worse off than you and others who are nowhere near as bad as you. You will likely feel some sense of fellowship, even if you don’t become close friends with other people in your group.

When you are newly sober, it can be beneficial to follow a structured activity list: The 12 Steps. Your mind will be confused on how to live sober (this is a new way of life for you), so following a structured plan of steps may get you moving in a direction that’s right for you. It’s good to spend some early sober time being introspective. There’s nothing wrong with taking an accounting of your life and your behaviors. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to follow a system with pure intention to become a better person. There’s nothing wrong with considering spirituality or God as part of your life (but this does not guarantee your sobriety).

If you go to meetings, go with an open mind and an open heart. If you are going to work the steps (even if you decide to not work every one of them), work them with pure intent. This means really try.

But as you evolve in your sobriety, you may not need, or want, to attend as many meetings. I further believe that people should graduate out of AA after one year. Learn what you need to learn and then take your skills out into the real world. You can always go back to meetings periodically for a refresher course or for continued education.

Here is where I will add my own words of caution about becoming too invested in the program.

  • Meetings become the new social and mental addiction.
  • You can easily fall into the group mindset. You do what the group tells you to do.
  • You can easily find yourself living in an insulated world; surrounded only by the group.
  • Your regular daily life responsibilities, family and friends are forsaken so that you can attend nightly meetings.
  • Family and friends “just don’t understand” and you become distant or detached from them.
  • You can become intolerant of those who don’t follow the program but are still sober. i.e. “They’ll never make it without the program.”
  • You are constantly reminded and told that you are weak and flawed. THAT is not positive reinforcement.
  • Do not use AA as a sober pick up joint.
  • You go to AA with the sole intent of meeting new sober friends because your social skills have been influenced to hang out with only other AA members.

Now I will discuss what I personally don’t like about AA:

There should be no hiding of the fact that this is a religious based organization. AA claims that they are not religious based, but just read over the steps.

  • I must accept a greater power than myself.
  • I must turn my will over to a God of my choosing.
  • I must ask this God of my choosing to rid me of my flaws and guide me.
  • I must share all of my private details with this God and another human being (and anyone else who is in attendance at these meetings).

If you believe in any of the recognized or traditional religions, then you won’t have a problem with this. But you will still be suggested upon (I’ll refrain from using terms like; persuaded, cajoled, coerced, pressured, bullied, pushed, intimidated), to have your God guide you, give you answers and do your thinking for you.

“Take what you want and leave the rest.” But then I would be told, “You have to follow the steps or it won’t work.” Well which is it? Which statement can I believe? Or which statement do I HAVE to believe to be accepted by the group? And when I say “accepted” I realize that all are welcome, but only those who ardently support the group think will be accepted in as part of the group.

There are also the bully tactics, scare tactics and not so veiled threats of failure if you don’t follow the herd. Then there’s the insinuation that your family and friends just don’t understand you the same way the group understands you. This can undermine YOUR home life. If you show up at a meeting and relay any examples of difficulty at home, you will be told, “Your spouse (partner or children), need to join a 12-step program too. This is a family problem.”

There may be family problems in your home, but they were most likely caused by YOU and your drinking. Your family members don’t have to be subjected to bullying and brainwashing – work steps, give their mind and spirit over to the group because YOU couldn’t control YOUR OWN hands and not raise the bottle to your lips. You need to stay sober and fix your own problems at home.

Speaking of family, I want to pose a question here. What’s the difference between being gone every night, sitting in a bar or being gone every night sitting in a meeting? You are still absent from your family – you’re not at home with them. You may respond, “Well I’m not out drinking and ruining my family’s future.” That’s true, but you are still absent and you aren’t at home with the people you should be spending time with and practicing those steps of apologizing and making amends. (What? You apologize once, ask to make amends and then it’s done?) You should be living your amends with the people you love and that love and rely on you.

If you feel that you must go to meetings, then go on your lunch hour or get up extra early and go before work. (Sounds kind of inconvenient doesn’t it?) If you’re going to live sober, why not live sober at home, with the people you love and care about? Be with them and LIVE your amends with them and go to meetings on your own time.

In all of my years of sobriety, I have never wanted to drink more than after an AA meeting. The constant stories of one-upmanship were not only laughable, but made me feel like drinking again. “You peed yourself; well I was so bad I pooped myself.” “I slept with so many guys I can’t even keep track.” “I was so bad that I stole money from my kids.” “I was worse, I drankā€¦.” On and on. And then there are the same people with the same story or problem, night after night, week after week. They are clean and sober, but they are never making any headway or progress. (Gee, this seems to be working for you.) “But I’ll keep coming back.”

Every time I questioned something or disagreed, I was told that I was causing problems. I was told (and read) that the program is more important than the people themselves. We must NEVER question the program or we will be destined for failure and death. (Based on my understanding of biology, I’m destined to die at some point in time.) I was repeatedly told that if I continue to question and don’t follow the program’s way of thinking that I would fail. Well, I haven’t failed in over 6 years and I will not fail in the future. I think for myself. I am responsible and accountable for myself.

I have also met members who purposefully attend meetings to prey on the weak and vulnerable. I have been told, “Dude, you gotta come to more meetings. A guy like you could get laid here every night. I get laid all the time working the newbies.” I’ve also witnessed outright racism and sexual preference prejudice. I have watched drug deals take place and parties being planned. This is perpetrated by the people involved, NOT due to the organization itself.

I’m not making these things up about AA or the meetings. I attended about 100 meetings during my first year of sobriety. I didn’t keep track of the number of meetings because I could care less about gaining someone’s approval by the number of meetings I attended and I wanted nothing to do with earning a chip. It made no difference to me how many chips, medallions, trophies or plaques I had on my dresser. All that mattered to ME was MY sobriety, because that’s all that counted.

This may sound confusing, almost contradictory to what I have just written, but out of my respect for the program and my respect of those people who truly believe in the system, I felt that I should no longer attend.

I then embarked on organizing my own thoughts and beliefs about alcoholism. I studied, read and did research on psychology and physiology (I continue to do so). I write my books, my website and this blog as an alternative to the traditional 12-step system. I have no desire to persuade anyone in or out of AA. I actually support AA and feel it is an important tool/stage in the evolution of an individual’s Re-Invention. However, I believe that you should eventually graduate out of AA and take your sobriety skills into the real world.

Ultimately, whether you’re a 12-stepper or a non-stepper, “We both have the mutual goal of staying sober regardless of what system or technique we follow.” On that I hope we can both agree.

2 Responses to “Why I DO & DON’T support AA:”

  1. timm1957 says:

    Great post, very balanced approach to the analysis. I first went to aa because i was drinking everyday, most days to excess. Divorce etc ensued. My deal was i no longer wanted drinking to be the first thing planned/scheduled for. I needed the initial 30 day 24/7 approach. As you said, it wasnt aa it was me who said no more of this way of living. As time went on i began to see the very same things you mentioned. I like the comment about being present in your life as opposed to absent in aa. As each month went by i began to taper off the meetings, this was due to what you were mentioning, live became good and needed to be present in it. Then you start getting the cold shoulder at the meetings you attend,but you go on to have 9 years of sober and then i fell off the wagon all by myself. I am working on moderation at this point. I support what aa does in the beginning because i think most of us need the jolt to get going. After the first 30 i think they should concentrate on preparing you for graduation. There has to be a goal of flying with your own wings.

  2. Cherylarn says:

    I have more experience with Al Anon’s principles than AA itself and even at that did not attend meetings. Al Anon’s guidance related to co-dependency is helpful. I understand your points about all of the pros & cons related to AA. I have read before that women may be better off at, “all women,” AA groups. Women in particular traditionally are asked to give up power in our culture so programs which ask a woman to declare herself powerless over her own behaviors may not be best in that perhaps the reason the drinking became out of hand was related to powerlessness to begin with.

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