During my twenties, I managed to stay sober for two years with the help of AA, so it might sound unfair for me to claim here that it did not work for me. I can also see how my contact with this program allowed me to pick up some useful tools that have been an asset in my life. The reason I say here that it did not work for me is that this program did not take me where I needed to go to build the best possible life away from addiction. It helped me escape the prison of the alcoholic but then replaced this with the prison of the recovering alcoholic.
My Experiences with Alcoholics Anonymous
I have many fond memories of my time in Alcoholics Anonymous. There were many meetings where it felt as if there was real magic in the air. I haven’t actually sat down and done the maths, but I know that I’ve been to well over a thousand meetings. I also spent hundreds of hours as a member of online AA communities. I developed deep connections with many people through the fellowship, and I had far more friends as a member than I do now.
I was an atheist when I joined Alcoholics Anonymous, but I didn’t have any issues with it being a spiritual programme. I actually took to it like a duck to water because my atheism was based on a spiritual hunger – I desperately wanted to believe but my naturally skeptical mind made this impossible. I loved the idea of a higher power because it allowed me to sidestep religion and go directly to the source. Spiritual ideas like ‘letting go’ and ‘acceptance’ continue to be key components in my approach to life. I still don’t have a god, but I work on the assumption that there is some purpose to the universe. I know that dislike of the spiritual approach is what turns many people off AA, but this wasn’t the case with me.
The Reasons Alcoholics Anonymous Did Not Work for Me
It is now almost seven years since I ended my addiction at a temple here in Thailand. I know that I’ll never drink again, and I never miss it. Alcohol stopped being my problem when I gave it up, and there is nothing that I need to do in order to remain sober. My problems are all life related and have nothing to do with my former bad habits. I still like to write about addiction and make YouTube videos about it, but this is just something that I feel compelled to do – I do it because I want to and not because I need to in order to stay sober. I am free of alcohol.
During all my time in Alcoholics Anonymous, I never felt free of alcohol. It was like this cloud that was always there waiting to piss down on me. My friends in AA constantly reminded me that it was ‘just for today’, and that my continued recovery would be dependent on ‘doing the right things’ – going to meetings and following the programme. If I had ideas that did not fit in with the party line, the old timers would warn me that my recovery was in jeopardy. Basically, my future success in life became dependent on my ability to fit in with a programme that a few drunks had created decades before I was born. If I had a problem, I was expected to find the answer in the Big Book. If I began to question the programme, I was advised to go to more meetings (and of course read more of the Big Book). It is easy to understand why some people view Alcoholics Anonymous as a cult.
Another reason for why AA did not work for me was that I felt uncomfortable with living the rest of my life as a victim. That’s what I saw when I looked at many of the old-timers. I got fed up listening to people who had been sober for years who still talked as if they were just one angry word away from relapse. I couldn’t trust their praise of the programme when it was obvious that they were so obsessed by it – they seemed proud of the fact that they would go a little nuts if they missed a couple of meetings. They would use their alcoholism as an excuse for all types of bad behaviour and they seemed to believe that their ‘disease’ gave them special privileges in life (my wife shouldn’t speak to me like that because I’m a recovering alcoholic). I was grateful to be sober, but I just did not want to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder and feeling like fragile crystal.
Stop Being Critical of Alcoholics Anonymous
I’ve posted a few times on this blog about my views on Alcoholics Anonymous. It could be fairly argued that what goes on in this group is none of my business because I’m no longer a member. I understand this argument, but if the people like me do not discuss their reservations about the AA program, where are the criticisms going to come from – should they only come from practising AA members? Sorry, I don’t trust AA to promote its own limitations. Or is it that AA should be above criticism?
I’m not being critical of AA out of any desire to harm the group. I just believe that this information needs to be out there so that other people can make informed choices. I’m also not on any crusade to change the group. I believe that it is fine the way it is, but it may be of value to people looking for addiction help to know the possible cons as well as the pros of AA membership.
Alcoholics Anonymous Didn’t Work For Me But It Might Work For You
AA does work for many people who are trying to build a life away from addiction. Some of us will do better in an environment where there is a set programme for recovery and lots of support. There are also people like me who will fail to thrive in this type of environment – we need to find our own way.
Latest posts by Paul Garrigan (see all)
- The Mindful Path from Addiction to Serenity - December 16, 2014
- Mindfulness for the Emotional Rollercoaster of Early Recovery - December 11, 2014
- Find Meaning with Mindfulness After you Quit Drinking or Taking Drugs - December 7, 2014