Why All the Hatred for Alcoholics Anonymous?

Alcoholics Anonymous is almost always portrayed in the media in a positive way. The popular view is that this is a hugely successful organization that has helped countless former drunks escape from misery by living one day at a time – the thousands of scenes used in TV shows and movies add to this image of the group. This positive opinion is not universal though – in fact there seems to be an increasingly negative view of Alcoholics Anonymous developing in recent years. A vocal minority of individuals are willing to go so far as to say they hate AA and accuse the organization of all types of wrongdoing. It is bit sad really. Why have things ended up this way? How can one drunk trying to help another be a wicked thing?

Unity, Service, Recovery

My Experience with Alcoholics Anonymous

I need to admit right here that I was once a member of AA. This means that my views here are not going to be impartial. I first started attending in my teens and once managed to go to a meeting every day for two whole years. There were times that I disliked the organization, but it never reached the stage where I started to hate AA. I could see that it worked for some people – a lot of reformed drunks would likely be dead if it wasn’t for this twelve step program. Despite whatever criticism of AA exists there is no doubting that it has brought benefit to people’s lives.

The Reasons Why People Might Hate AA

I think that AA has been a victim of its own success. It is the most well-know treatment option in the world. In some parts of the world it seems to be almost the only recovery path on offer. I remember the first treatment center that I attended insisted that we go to these meetings every day during our stay. I don’t doubt that those running these treatment facilities mean well, but I also feel sure that the early founders of AA never meant it to have members who were coerced into attending. It would be nice to contact a hotline for alcoholism and not have people insist that AA is the best option.

I think another reason why people hate AA is that some members of the groups are quite loud in their opinion that the meetings are the only solution for drunks. They seem to be against any type of further research into addiction and believe that AA should be the only option on the table. If you say that you are doing fine without the meetings they will either accuse you of being a ‘dry-drunk’ on the verge of drinking again. They might even say that you were never were an alcoholic to begin with. This sort of closed-minded attitude puts people off.

Good Reasons Not to Hate Alcoholics Anonymous

Despite all its flaws though, I believe that the twelve-steppers offer a real treatment option for some drunks. The group can provide a lot more than just a way of staying off the drink. Some people really blossom in the program and go on to live fantastic lives that benefit themselves and everyone around them. Those of us who do not belong to AA can likewise live amazingly happy and productive lives. It doesn’t have to be that one way is right and the other wrong – it is what works for the person.

I think a problem for organization like AA is that many of us have an all or nothing attitude. We view things as either good or bad. This means that if we find out that there are flaws evident in some members of the group then this must mean that it is all bad. The criticisms of AA also seem to be contradictions. On one hand people accuse it of being a cult while on the other hand they say that it can’t hold onto members. It can’t really be much of a cult if it is unable to hold onto members – can it?

As I say, I no longer use AA but this does not mean that there is a need for me to dislike it. Alcoholics Anonymous helps a lot of people and I’m grateful that it is there for them. This group does not work for everyone but that alone is not a reason to hate them – no treatment option is perfect.

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68 thoughts on “Why All the Hatred for Alcoholics Anonymous?

  1. I haven’t heard the recent criticism of the Program but do understand them after reading your post. I don’t attend AA, but go to Al-Anon meetings regularly. They have helped me to become a happy person, I find peace in those rooms. That said, you’re right, it’s not for everyone and that’s just fine too.

    The Program principles say that it can’t be forced on anyone, it is a program of choice, a strictly voluntary one. The slogan “Live and Let Live” speaks to not doing others inventories, minding your own business. They’re problem is just that, they’re problem. You made that point well.

    I live in a rural area where the majority of the people attending the meetings are only going to meet the conditions of their probation. Because of this I drive to a city 35 miles away to attend meetings. It’s been worth to me to go at least twice a week, meetings center me. I can only speak for myself and would never presume to judge what path other people choose.

    So I agree meetings can’t be mandatory to be effective. It’s also as you say about others in meetings forcing their views of sobriety and recovery on others. I guess it could be said that maybe the critics aren’t working the Steps themselves and need to to back to Step One. In Al-Anon we say the three C’s “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and can’t cure it.” Tha

    I know that I will be a lifetime member of Al-Anon, it is where I belong. I knew that the minute I walked on to my first meeting. I am glad you took the time to point out why the dislike of AA and other 12 Step Programs is really unfounded and comes from people who don’t really understand it. People like you and I can be the voices of reason and reality. Thanks for doing that. So like they say at the end of every meeting “Take what you like and leave the rest.”

    1. Thank you Vivian, I have no doubt that all the twelve step programs have a lot of good in them. I don’t believe that it was ever the intention of the founders of AA to force it on people. I think the problem with the criticisms of AA is that I know that when I was an active drunk I was suspicious of everything. Just reading about criticisims of AA would be enough to turn me off them. These days the internet is full of criticisms of everything; including groups like Al-Anon and AA. I think that we need to realise this and accept that a group doesn’t need to be perfect for it to work; it just has to work. I think it would also be unreasonable to expect too much from a group created by former addicts; after all, our flaws don’t fall away when we stop drinking or doing whatever else it is that is making us unhappy. I think groups like AA need to be given credit for at least trying to improve as humans; many of the detractors don’t seem to be wanting to improve anything. There are now so many people in the world who are focused on how other people are getting it wrong – a bit sad really.

      1. “… our book is suggestive only…” Last page of the main bit of the big book. I don’t find it ever rammed down my throat but the offer of it was there, and it worked for me, it works for a lot of people, from massively different backgrounds and lives, and we all follow the programme in our own individual manner. I’ve found AA to be the one place where the is little dogma or ritualism in terms of how I get and remain sober.

        I look to people with decades of continuous sobriety about me in AA and mostly they are people who only inspire me to stay sober.

        Maybe I’m lucky to have many meetings close to me and can choose those that fit best to me.

  2. The fact that AA does oppose more effective treatments is the problem though. Moreover, their success rate is often listed at 3-7 percent, not very high.

    1. Hi Moke, that you for posting. I always wonder about those success rate figures. I’m not sure how they can be obtained; after all I don’t think the groups have attendance records. Even if it is only a tiny percentage that it works for then something is better than nothing – I suppose. I think that the reason AA does get promoted as the ‘only show in town’ is misguided. I’m not sure that this is all AA’s fault though. I think those in charge of funding just want a ‘quick fix solution’ and it is easy for them to just send everyone to a twelve step group.

      1. how are success rates,in AA calculated do they have a counter at every church hall,
        who counts all the members coming back ??

  3. a fair number of the mebers i have met seem to have a “born again” attitude that some people find a bit arrogant.
    It might just be the appearance of arrogance but it can be grating.
    Personally I find all forms of born againess a bit difficcult to take to include born again buddhists or born again i quit smokers if you get my drift

  4. Regarding the “hatred” toward AA – I agree with the reasons already stated. Being coerced to attend AA meetings does not make for a good start. Likewise, being preached to by “born-agains” is a huge turn off. I remember reading a forum post on a popular recovery board where someone with 10+ years of sobriety happened to mention he was not in AA. Unfortunately, he got lambasted by certain forum members (with significantly less sober time) who stated it was only a matter of time before he relapsed as there was *no way* he could successfully recover without AA. Talk about a turn off!

    I personally don’t hate AA – it just wasn’t for me. I actually wrote a term paper in an addictions class about alternatives to AA. Unfortunately, many people aren’t even aware that other recovery groups exist.

    I’ve also read about the low success rates (which AA does not deny) although as you stated, quantifying true success/relapse rates is difficult. If I remember correctly, the results were based on blind surveys of people who willingly chose to participate, as well as the observations of professionals administering treatment programs.

    I say if AA is your way then go for it. If not, that’s ok too. Do whatever works – as long as it does!

    1. I feel about the same way as you do RG. I’ve met some really decent AA members but there are some who are not so helpful. I’ve had people tell me in the past that it would be better if I relapsed and that way I’d be ready for the AA message – this type of attitude gives the group a bad name.

  5. Hi Paul,

    My name is Tim, I am a recovered alcoholic 🙂

    I think your post is great.

    I think a lot of people hate AA because…

    a. They come to AA, and have a bad experience.

    b. They are talking about an experience they have never had. (hating for the sake of it maybe?)

    In my view, AA needs to be held accountable for it’s actions. I think criticism is good when it is constructive and provides an alternative.

    AA is essentially a big group of humans. I have never met a perfect human!

    The book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, the fellowship’s ‘basic text’, say’s on page 95 “;we merely have an approach that worked with us.”

    and “If he thinks he can do the job in some other way, or prefers some other spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience.”

    Many people in AA dont read the book.

    Many people just get told “Go to meetings” ( personally,I relapsed and nearly died but I was just “going to meetings” ) the book does not say “Just go to meetings”

    The book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ says to work the steps have a spiritual experience then go and help someone who wants help.

    Success rates are apparently a lot lower now than they used to be. http://dickb-blog.com/aahistorysources3.html

    I dont beleive that AA is the only way.

    Even Bill W’s grandfather had a spiritual experience and never drank again years before AA existed.

    But of all the things I tried personally (counselling, medication, different drugs!, getting fit, diets, making a decision to abstain )

    Working the steps as layed out in the ‘Big Book’ ,with the help of a sponsor and then helping others is the only thing that has worked for me.

    I love being sober. AA saved my life. I just celebrated 5 years sobriety yesterday 🙂

    AA does not kill alocoholics. Alcoholism does.

    But AA does have a big responsibilty to help those that want it – after all, alcoholism is a fatal illness.

    “Just got to meetings” does not come from AA – it comes from treatment centers and criminal sentencing type situations.

    That’s my experience anyway!

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    1. Thank you Tim for your wonderful reply. I didn’t know about Bill W’s grandfather – interesting stuff. I agree that the twelve steps are an effective method to not only escape from addiction but to a life we could never have dreamed of having. There is no doubt in my mind that the programme has helped some very sick people find a peace that they could never have imagined as an addict. The thing that some people fail to see is that AA does not have a monopoly on spiritual experiences for drunks, and that there are equally good ways of achieving the same results. For me it is different paths to the same destination and this is why I’ve got a lot of respect for AA even though I’m not a member. Thanks again Tim.

      1. good for you tony but alcoholism is not a fatal illness ,but only a habit that has got out of control . nor is it a non existent disease that is why i left AA but good luck that you like AA and it has helped you in your habit

  6. Paul,

    I’ve been sober for almost 27 years and I went to AA for a year. It left me very bitter, angry and resentful of the whole organization. I did learn some things that have helped me stay sober and address other problems. However, the net result is that I truly believe I should have quit on my own and I would have been MUCH better off. What royally jerked a knot in my tush were the table pounding hypocrites. They would say all the right things. Then be drunk as a coot that night. Why should I listen to some broken down weakling tell me how to stay sober when they couldn’t do it themselves ? I rest my case.

    1. Hi Tony, I can appreciate what you say about AA; there are a lot of unwell people who like to preach the message. I do feel though that AA works well for some people, and it seems to do more than just keep them off the booze.

      1. Paul,

        It may work for some people and not others. I verily despise
        AA and all the hypovrites that I endured before I came to the light. On my own I might add. I conced it does work for some people, but it’s not perfect and frankly had other programs been available (I got sober in 1984) I would have pursued them rather than AA. After I sobered up I was emotionally vulernable. AA didn’t prepare me for that and many people took advantage of me. They caught me feeling guilty. I admit that I was a bastard when I drank. But Paul, let’s be honest, guilt, however manifested is a nacissistic, selfish emotion. Get over it and let it get on with it.


        1. Hi Tony, I agree with you about guilt, and this is something that work to avoid. Of course I do feel remorse for any bad I’ve caused to people in the past, but guilt is of no benefit to man nor beast. I guess some people have good reason to be bitter against AA – I’ve heard that there are some groups that are very dysfunctional.

        2. August of 2012 I felt betrayed at my home group and decided to leave AA. I got tired of listening to the same stories for eleven years. When I tried to do something positive I was mocked. I do drink beers now but I am careful not to get drunk. There is nothing wrong with celebrating life. I never lost a job until I joined AA. Since then I lost three. The problem with AA is the ego minded elders who must have total control. AA members don’t respect the church, they walk bare footed in the church and swear like they could care less. It is very sad that AA insists that a person can not live a normal life without AA. If you disagree with the groups leadership, you will be shunned. Their are good people in AA , it just a shame they may never know what freedom of choice means. I listened to a speaker celebrate a sizable amount of sobriety and He told of his total amazing life because of AA. After he spoke I asked why he was so blessed and other people in the group were not. His reaction was none Like he was a zombie. I felt unworthy after that. In my eleven years I chaired many meetings. I felt a true sense of happiness and fulfillment in my years. There is one tradition I totally disagree with and that is AA should remain unprofessional. I believe the reason is AA does not want any responsibility for someone who is in desperate need of professional help. This is where AA really falls short. I was even told that I don’t know God in a meeting. It became too demeaning for me. Thank you for letting me express my opinion on the subject of AA. Sincerely, Tom

          1. You’re welcome Tom. I agree that there are some people in the meetings who act badly. I think you would agree that while there are definitely some bad aspects to AA, that this is something that does work for at least some people?

  7. Paul,

    I appreciate your responses and opinions. AA has worked for you and that’s good. Yes, there are many dysfunctional groups and that’s just the way it is. One thing I have noticed is that MOST substance abusers, of whatever poison are very smart. I believe that’s because our minds are moving at WARP 80 trying to take in everything, that we just don’t know how to relax. I don’t believe alcholisim is a disease. I never have and never will. As much as I hate, loathe and despise AA, I’ll fight to the death to preserve someone’s right to go if they choose to. Paul, it wasn’t for me and I don’t apologize for my feeling or statements about it. But one thing it does prove, in my opinion, help is out there for most anything. All one has to do is ask.

    1. Hi Tony, AA helped me at on stage in my life, but it wasn’t to be my path. I’m not convinced by the disease model, but I see no harm in believing in it. I agree totally that it is good to have all these different types of help available. Some people have more reason to dislike AA, but I genuinely feel that overall it is a good thing. It could be argued that it is a flawed organisation, but what isn’t?

  8. Paul,

    I agree with you about the disease model being somewhat ambigous. I don’t but it. Having said that, many people
    who are addicted to whatever desparately need help. Furthermore, there are those people who will drink, drug, etc themselves to death regardless of what they do or don’t do. A very real and sad example we are currently seeing is Lindsey Lohan. The endgame won’t be pretty. Can you say Marilyn Monroe ? I truly believe that will be her end. So much talent and so tragic.

    1. Hi Tony, it does seem that some people just can’t get it. I thought that I was one of these hopeless cases because of my many relapses over the years. We can’t get other people sober, but I think we can put the right resources in their path. One of the most important things for my final recovery was time spent at a meditation retreat. During this month I experienced what it was like to have a clear mind, and so when I returned to alcohol it was unbearable. The seed for going on this meditation retreat was planted during my early teens when I first started experimenting with the practice; it didn’t stop me falling into addiction but it was always there in the back of my mind as an alternative.

  9. Paul,

    March 17 was 27 years of sobriety. WHen that day rolls around I always reflect back to what I was pre-sobriety. I have railed against AA and will continue doing that. But I am grateful that I’ve been able to stay sober and clean. I worked out that day and had a ball.

  10. Paul-
    Found your blog and wanted to leave a comment regarding my experience with AA/ Al-Anon. My father was a high flying company executive type drunk. Drank alone in the evenings every night until he passed out. We did a family intervention on him in 1990. He has not had a drink since and has really become the Grand Marshal of AA. While we are grateful for this I think one can take the program to an extreme. Between my mom and dad, they go to 14 – 18 meetings per week- and have done this for 20 years. When they are not in meeting, there are on the phone talking to newcommers about their problems, recovery, ect. I feel that my parents are pretty much out of touch with reality. The program comsumes their entire life. The net result is that when you talk about problems every waking minute of the day, it takes a toll on your soul. I seriously think they are expereince “diminishing returns” from the program at this point in their lives. It is as if they are trying to squeeze in family, grandkids, graduations and such between meetings and constent phone chatting. They would rather go to a meeting than one of life’s happy events……There is no doubt that they are addicited to the program like a cult or one of those crazy religions. They are so close minded regarding the program too. When you attempt to address this issue, they throw some BS like I need to go to AA/ Al-Anon/ CODA ect ect.

    When I was 22 my longtime girlfriend dumped me and left me broken-hearted. My dad’s response was…..Son, Im going to take you to your 1st AA meeting so that you can begin recovery……WTH?

    I think that overall, the program is good for some people, but, like anything else in life there needs to be balance. Neither of my parents have been gainfully employed since my dad picked up his one and only white chip in 1990. Throngs of AA members have come and gone (of whom my parents considered top priority) but the family has always been here. My regret is that they have missed so much because of the lack of moderation in meeting and AA involvement.

    1. Hi Joe, I think addicts find it hard to do anything in moderation. Even in recovery we can be pulled towards extremes. Some would say that it is better to be addicted to something like AA than alcohol or drugs – neither is good though.

  11. There are those people who are as addicted to AA as they were to alcohol and drugs. I’d say these people way overdid it. I still say AA is a cult and I can’t abide or tolerate the hypocritical wealkings I encountered when I attended AA. Let’s see,5% with AA and 5% without. Either way, terrible odds.

  12. Paul,

    I saw the post by Joe Milner. His parents have defintely gone off the deep end. Making him join AA because his girlfriend put him out ? Maybe they were afraid this would trigger destructibe behavior. It can as we know. But I still say I could have gotten sober on my own and been much better off.


  13. Paul,

    Sobriety is achieved in different ways by different people. AA doesn’t work for everyone. My real sobriety IMHO began and got better after I left AA. If I had been in another group, I might not be as resentful. I hear that problem drinkers can learn to drink responsibly. That maybe so, I am not going to find out. I’m arrogant and obnoxious enough as it is. I don’t need any help ! HA !

    Be safe,

  14. So is this why we have children in wheelchairs, blind people, people being raped and tortured every second of every day on this planet, god is so busy keeping drunks sober he has no time to do these less important things, what a crock of shit. This is why so many peolple hate A.A, enough said.

  15. Paul,

    I think there are many good reasons for people to dislike AA, and not just due to “bad experiences” or “dysfunctional groups”. I was in AA for six years, committed to service and the steps. I have always been a thinker and a questioner, but for most of my time in AA this was discouraged, and labelled “controlling” or “the disease”. It was disappointing to me that questioning the steps was discouraged, and that Step Study groups did little more than read the Big Book.

    I saw so many people take on a genric “sprirituality” that seemed to obliterate their individuality. If i learnt anything in AA, it was to accept myself for who i am. I eventually decided that it was not healthy to constantly look at my “defects”, and that i actually like myself, analytical nature and all. If i stayed in AA, i would need to become someone i couldn’t respect. Teh alternative was to be sidelined. It therefore became necessary for me to leave AA to get well.

    After leaving many things became clearer to me. I saw teh hypocrisy of claims that those who stay sober without meetings/the Steps/God, were either “dry drunks” or “not a real alcoholic”. One of my best friends in AA said this about someone we knew! When i said that AA was not the only way, she went all “sheepish” and didn’t know what to say. The problem with this is, when these “false alcoholics” comply, they are considered “alcoholic”, and told that without meetings/steps/God they will inevitably drink or die. AA tries to have it both ways.

    Other issues i had were how AA claims credit for success stories, but says that failures are due to the individual. The program is perfect, it is individuals who fail. Trying to have it both ways again.

    And on the God/HP subject, the only possible conclusion re: atheists is that they are either dry drunks, destined to drink, or they are not really alcoholics. This is incredibly disrespectful and condescending.

    I also think it is condescending that members are told a HP can be anything. It is not possible for a doorknob to relieve someone of alcoholism. It has no will, and can’t remove defects. And those who consider “the group” their HP do not follow through on it by admitting their defects to the group, or asking the group re: its will for them on a daily basis. These types of teachings are condescending and patronising, and do not stand up to questioning. They either reduce God to little more than a psychological construct, or they are designed to “soften-up” the atheist to eventually accept a theistic God.

    I would like to reiterate that i did not have “negative experiences” in AA. But it is fundamentally a faith-healing program that discourages questioning on the part of its members, and as such it is logical that people might have a problem with it. What i experienced was not “fringe AA”. It was core AA, which i was a part of for a good 4.5 years.

    When i told my friends i was not attending meetings any more, they saw it as farewell. They no longer call – just like the fair-weather friends from the bar. The “fellowhip” of AA is highly conditional. Since i left, i have never felt better. But i suspect they would not want to hear that.

    1. Hi Kate, thanks a million for your thoughtful post.

      I must admit that the circular reasoning of many AA members does bug me. If you are an alcoholic the only option is AA; if you recovery from alcoholism without AA you weren’t an alcoholic to begin with. This type of thinking is self serving. There are good reasons why this program does not suit some of us, but there is ample evidence that it does suit many people. This is why I would never say that I hate AA.

      I agree that groups like AA are overzealous in their attempts to promote spirituality, but to be fair it does claim to be a spiritual program. It is also a reality that this type of behavior is not only confined to AA. I’ve been involved with secular recovery groups where any mention of spirituality is ridiculed and dismissively referred to as ‘woo’. Just like in AA there can be a great deal of pressure in these groups to follow the herd. I’ve had people completely dismiss my experience of recovering at a Thai temple because it doesn’t fit in with their scientific/atheistic worldview. I don’t hate them for it for the same reason that I don’t hate AA.

      I agree that the 12 Steps may not be a good fit for atheists, but there are plenty of secular options for them. I don’t feel it is AA’s fault that their program doesn’t work for atheists. Of course in the US they can legally oblige people to attend these meeting, but an atheist won a legal battle against such forced attendance so that shouldn’t be a problem in the future.

      The program is based on ideas that are not going to be comfortable to many of us, but I don’t believe that this necessarily means they are wrong. We all choose to put our faith in something, and the litmus test is whether doing so makes our life better or worse. Thankfully AA is not the only path in recovery and we can all find something to suit our personal comfort levels. I’m glad that AA is there for the people who need it, but I don’t need it.

      1. Unfortunately your statement that: “an atheist won a legal battle against such forced attendance so that shouldn’t be a problem in the future” is a bit naive. In fact, though most courts to consider the issue have indeed concluded that forced attendance is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause, the practice continues unabated in many areas. This is because often, the available treatment programs are all 12 step based, and also because folks with addictions tend not to have the resources to enforce their legal rights. So, forced attendance is a huge problem.

        Also, it is not as though the only people who find AA distasteful are atheists. I personally am not, but I found the notion that my recovery was in the hands of God–a God who could be a doorknob or a breadbox!–bizarre and unhelpful. Yet no other path to recovery was even suggested to me when I presented for treatment. EVERY treatment center in my area is 12 step based. They will literally throw you out of treatment if you do not like the 12 step pathway.

        And why is it this way? Why is it that in so many areas, 12 step is all there is, even though 12 step has never been shown to be helpful, and certainly not BETTER than other approaches? It is because AA and other 12 step programs, in the name of “outreach”, actively promote their program, in direct violation of their own 11th tradition: Attraction, rather than promotion.

        So in reality, AA has what amounts to a near monopoly on recovery, and in many areas, if it isn’t a good fit for you, you are SOL.

        Now, I don’t “hate” AA, but I think this is wrong. And since it is a situation that AA has created and actively encourages, I have become rather outspoken against AA.

        Oh, by the way. I was a member of AA for 9 years. Sober now for 14, although I guess I am a “dry drunk” since I no longer go to meetings.

        1. Hi Mona Lisa, I would never suggest that people are ‘dry drunks’ because they do not go to AA – I don’t use AA. I also don’t believe that it is only atheists who find AA distasteful. I’m not an atheist and I do not use AA – although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I find them ‘distasteful’ but rather not to my taste.

          If people are still being forced to attend AA meetings despite it been deemed unconstitutional then surely this is a problem with the legal system. I can understand that in some parts of the world there may be only 12 step program rehabs, and this is a worry. I don’t know much about the US but I guess those who are depending on state funded rehab will have to go where they are sent. If people can afford to go private they will have more choice. My experience has been that the private rehabs industry is just like any other business – if they believe there is sufficient demand for something they will provide it. It would seem more effective to me that people who want to change things would focus their attention on proving that there is a need for alternative treatments rather than attacking AA.

          I don’t use AA but I’m not outspoken against it. This is because it is important for me to focus on what works rather than getting caught up in rejectionism. Maybe the actions of people like you who are outspoken against AA will turn out to be a positive force, but it is not an approach that appeals to me. Perhaps I have been naive in asking “why all the hatred for Alcoholics Anonymous”.

        2. It is because the people complaining that they hate AA don’t bother to start alternative meetings, such as SMART, MM, SOS or anything else. They’d rather complain and blog than to get out there and be the change they want to see. Perhaps they also don’t believe in the support model at all, but I often ask people what they are personally doing to provide the options they think should exist, or even should have existed for them. I probably hear at least once a day that “SMART would have been so much better for me, but there weren’t any meetings around…” but they are unwilling to become a facilitator so that the option could be available for someone else.

  16. I am a long term member of AA. I am 9 years and 5 months sober. It has worked for me and million of us over the decades it has been around and it will continue working for those who want it.

    2 points I really want to respond too is AA works on a basis of pass it on, giving away what was freely given to us, it is free. People are all at different stages of sobriety and the message they have however long sober will be different. People are human, people mess up and make mistakes. There are no dues or fees for AA membership. It is a rolling program you can attend or not attend, go in or out of. If you sign up for therapy or any other types there is a waiting list. this does not occur with AA.

    For those of you who dislike AA so much, that’s fine however remember this is a service carried by fallible human beings and is free.
    It works on identity and empathy and is a whole package.

    As fort he person who says it’s a cult I suggest you look up the word cult as what you are saying does not fit what a cult is, or AA.

    No one is made to do anything, sign up for anything, stay there, etc, etc.

    Judges and courts assign people to AA not the other way round.

    For me the people who slag AA off don’t want it. AA isn’t for people who need it, it’s for people who want it.

    If anyone wants to go and find recovery another way that is up to them. it is none of my business however I will stand up for the fellowship that means today I have a life, my youngsters have a Mom and I am can be a sober living person, Mom, wife and Granna in this world and so on.

    It’s s bit like reading oh chemotherapy is no good cos it didn’t work for xyz and now they are dead. That doesn’t mean chemotherapy doesn’t work for others.

    I have had bad experiences in AA also. I didn’t leave cos I released I needed AA more than AA needed me. AA didn’t need me. The bridge to normal living means I have learnt to deal with the things that happen in the rooms to beable to take those learning’s into real life.

    Where you get people whether it be work, the knitting circle, church wherever there will be problems as people are people.

    For me I will carry on going to AA. The rest of you it is none of my bussiness

    1. AA-lover: I’d like to address some of your points.

      1. You make the following claim: “It has worked for me and million of us over the decades it has been around and it will continue working for those who want it.”

      This is a big claim to make. How do you define the process of AA working? Is it finding a God, or is it staying sober? How many months/years must someone stay sober before it can be claimed to have worked? Does relapse mean it didn’t work?

      2. “There are no dues or fees for AA membership.”

      Sounds a bit like preamble-talk to me. Careful, starting to appear cultish…

      3. You state that “AA works on a basis of pass it on”. That is not how AA claims to work. AA and its steps claim to work by puttnig the member in touch with God, who relieves the alcoholic of their obsession to drink.

      4. You claim: “For those of you who dislike AA so much, that’s fine however remember this is a service carried by fallible human beings and is free.”

      Does its freeness negate the harms caused by fallible human beings?

      5. You claim: “It works on identity and empathy and is a whole package.”

      Are you defining AA as the fellowship or the 12 Steps? The fellowship may work on identity and empathy, but not the Steps. It is the Steps which are offered as a solution.

      6. “Judges and courts assign people to AA not the other way round.”
      AA is complicit in this.

      7. “I will stand up for the fellowship …”

      You seem to be discussing the fellowship and not much else. AA is not just a fellowship. And much of the criticism is directed at the Steps/Big Book. Are you also standing up for the Steps?

      8. “It’s s bit like reading oh chemotherapy is no good cos it didn’t work for xyz and now they are dead. That doesn’t mean chemotherapy doesn’t work for others.”

      It’s not like that at all. Chemotherapy is a scientifically tested procedure. It works to kill the cells it is designed to kill. That is its purpose. What exactly is AA (fellowship or 12 Steps?) trying to achieve? How is success measures? And where is the scientific evidence that AA works? Once AA has asnwered those questions to the satisfaction of the broader scientific community, you can compare it to chemotherapy.

      Finally, after 9 years, one would think you have learned enough that you no longer need to stay in the rooms (whatever they are). If not, then i question the efficacy of AA as an educator too.

      1. Hey, Carol, if it is working for you and you like your life in AA, more power to you! There are many that didn’t find relief for their alcoholism in AA, and they come out in droves to complain about the time they invested. Maybe they could have done it themselves, perhaps not. They’ll never really know.

        In any case, AA has been a good fit for me, and I really enjoy it. Thank you for your post.

  17. I think there is criticism because it doesn’t work for some people, and doesn’t promise that it will. I participate on a number of blogs and I see people that spent years in the fellowship, and then suddenly they hate it with a passion and spend hours on end in bogs, screaming about how bad AA is…

    Some are mandated, so they aren’t happy about having to be there. Useless to telll them that AA is for those that want it, not those that were forced to go for whatever reason. I’ve seen people complain that it doesn’t work for everything that causes pain in their life despite the fact that AA specificailly says it deals with alcohol. I’ve had people dispute me that AA says there are other ways even when I point out page 95. Incredibly, they’ve even wanted to know why AA doesn’t suggest the other options available despite the fact that most weren’t even around when our literature was written. Some even complained that when told there were options to AA, that some AA didn’t drive them around to find that option. After all, if the alcoholic is just in it to help another one, why wouldn’t he do it? Granted, these are some of the more absurd lamentations from some pretty angry people, many that aren’t even sober anyway… but they always want to point to AA as the problem. Somehow, I think it is deeper than that. Much…

    Why spend time literally hating AA? Find something else that works for you, but don’t hate. The ony person that hurts is you, not AA.

    1. Hi Clara, I appreciate what you are saying here, and I agree that hating AA is a complete waste of time. I have to say though, that most of the criticisms made against the fellowship have at least some merit. There does seem to be unwillingness by advocates of the group to take responsibility for the problems that are there. I don’t believe that it is AA’s fault that people are mandated to attend meetings, but it is their fault that more is not done to prevent this from happening? I also feel that members of the fellowship have to take responsibility for what goes on in the meetings. It is not good enough to just point to the ‘Big Book’ and say that this is what is meant to happen with the program. Members do try to sell the 12 Steps as the only option and somebody needs to take responsibility for this. Near the end of my addiction I was told by at least 5 different members on an AA web forum that it was better for me to keep drinking until I became ready to accept the 12 step solution – luckily I did not listen to them because it would have killed me.

      1. I agree with you. In our meetings, we had good group conscience that were followed. But that is in regard to the meetings themselves. Sponsorship is another ball of wax altogether. I wasn’t told the 12 steps were the only thing that worked. I was told by members that it was the only thing that worked for THEM, and they talked about the numerous other spproaches they took. I was also reminded that it might be different for me. Inour clubhouse, if someone discovered that AA wasn’t for them, people didn’t try to convince them to stay. There is no reason to, and we would wish them well on the vine of life. It was our experience that people either find another way or they come back. Either way is fine.

        1. Thanks Clara, I think one of the difficulties is that most members will report that their meeting is functioning well, and claim that they have not met the ‘fanatical members’ that the critics bang on about. I don’t think anyone is being dishonest with their observations here, but there is also no doubt that people continue to have bad experiences at the meetings. It seems to me that the majority of AA proponents either don’t see or don’t understand the basis for these criticisms. Their love of the group makes it harder for them to see the faults. Those who have the experience of the meetings functioning well will stay, and those who are less content will leave- the experience of both of these groups are valid.

          I appreciate that people have the choice to use or not use AA – except perhaps for people who have been ordered to go there by a court. It is also true that it is a free program. Despite this I think that the group still has at least a moral obligation to do the best for the people who arrive at their door. It is too simplistic to say that it us up to them to take it or leave it – these are vulnerable individuals who do not have the ability to make good decisions. If AA promotes itself as a fellowship with a responsibility to help the struggling alcoholic then surely this means that they have a duty to care? This means acknowledging valid criticisms and making a serious attempt to improve things. I understand why people love AA, but surely these people want it to be the best it can possibly be. Hating AA is a waste of time but an open discussion focusing on both the good and bad with this approach is needed.

          1. It is interesting that you make the point about mandated persons. On another blog, my group was criticized for not wanting to participate in that, feeling that AA is a program for those that WANT it. As a result, some meetings had certain protocols (i.e. ontime or no signature) and others wouldn’t sign them at all. Mandated people will find groups that are more than willing to sign their slips or cards. But even that harshly criticised by people that otherwise have no use for AA at all.

            I have conceded to that blog there there had been some issues that came up. People would bring their children that would play in a nearby room with parents sitting by the doors to keep a watch. Only people that had kids in the room went in there. But it just seems that the more you try to point out what a group did to address this or that issue, it isn’t enough for some because they would prefer to see AA abolished altogether. It isn’t enough to decide it isn’t for you and go on about your life. AA then becomes a vehicle for their hatred and frustration. It’s very sad.

            I went to AA to learn to stay sober. I had gotten a dui andwrecked my car. I had stopped for three weeks before going to a meeting. For some, this is enough to suggest that I didn’t need AA at all, but what it provided for me was access to a lot of people that successfully lived their lives without booze. I then did some stepwork that cleaned up some ickiness in my life, and that paved the way for some lovely things to happen for me.

            As for fanatics, I never realy saw people I thought were necessarily wrong in what they would say. They may have been very enthusiastic, but not in a harmful way I hear described.

            As I have said elsewhere, if people want to be sober, I just hope htey get it!

            Thank you, Paul.

  18. Alcoholics Anonymous and the techniques it uses, are detrimental to a lot of people’s mental health.

    I did meet the ‘fanatics’ as well as the ’13th steppers’, 12-Step bullies, bigots and zealots, as well as the people who exploited other members. It took me a long time to realise exactly where AA is at ! I got it in the end ! Don’t believe what people say in the rooms about how “well” they are, as that is relative and usually based on their own concept of wellness.

    When you go to AA you are stepping into an environment of dysfunctional people. Don’t expect a healthy environment.

  19. Dear Paul,
    Congratulations. I dont really want to talk about the topic you mentioned,apart from the fact that I can see you are happy and have brought closure to apart of your life and moved on remarkably well. Whatever anyone remarks about you certainly show no signs of bitterness.Paul you should be commended for that.
    Someone was telling me about your marvellous book regarding Thai martial art.
    Peace be with you mate. Keep up the training.
    Mushin (無心)

  20. I don’t hate AA, I have been back and forth on my feelings towards AA though. The thing that critics who blast AA need to understand is that the obnoxious arrogant attitudes that some AA members obsessively live by, the “born again” attitude, they claim AA as the “only way” but don’t even practice the AA program. If they took AA seriously as they lie about, they would know that no where in the Big Book or any other conference approved literature does it tout AA as the ONLY way. It is ONE way. If a person is beyond human aid which only THAT person can diagnose, no one else ANYWHERE can diagnose that person as an alcoholic as far as the literature is concerned, then and ONLY then do all the “musts” even apply. Those highly obnoxious AA members who don’t even follow their own book play god in newcomers lives all the time-you must go to X number of meetings per week, you must get a sponsor, you must do a fifth step with a sponsor, ad nauseum. Last I read in my book, it said flat out not to do that, we had to quit playing god because it didn’t work. I would tell any newcomer who would ask me what they should do to go and do the opposite of what most of them demand in line with the book. They demand you go to seven meetings a week, go to six or maybe five. They demand you get a sponsor, don’t get one and just follow the book. They demand you do a fourth step on white paper in black ink, do it on yellow construction paper in blue ink. That way the person will know that it is a higher power keeping them sober, they will also learn really quick that the person making the demands is a liar as they say that is the ONLY way it works. Once I started working the program like that I fell in love with AA again. Anyone who would ask me if they should leave, I would encourage them to leave given that they think there is a better answer outside of AA for their issues-either they will find a better way for them or they will prove themselves to be outside of human aid. Chapter six of the Big Book said “If he thinks he can do the job some other way or prefers a different spiritual approach, encourage him to follow his own conscience, we have no monopoly on God.” So these people who lie about following the book conveniently ignore many parts of it such as that or perhaps they never read it-those ideas are all throughout the literature. That is why I would encourage many people to not bother with a sponsor as it forces people to actually read the book very carefully.

    1. Hi Alex, I think the problem with AA is that it is full of people – I think all groups tend to magnify our fralities as humans. I’m sure the program is very effective for lots of people who follow the instructions of the Big Book – I’m glad that it is working fro you.

  21. Paul,
    Your confusion is a no brainer. You like aa & think it is beneficial, however others do not share your opinion. Why does this confuse or bewilder you? Surely you are aware of the facts regarding aa: it has & always has had a miserable failure rate, less than 3% & of course it fails, it has nothing to do with quitting an addictive substance. What more does one need to know it doesn’t work than the fact that the founder of aa Bill Wilson died from smoking himself to death? aa factually & truthfully is nothing but a religious cult initiated by an unemployed & uneducated mooch Wilson. As we all know Wilson copied Buchman’s religious cult Oxford Group & its six steps which were all about POWERLESSNESS & submitting one’s will. One of the reasons aa is rejected by a overwhelming majority is because one must turn in their brain, mind, reasoning, rationale & critical & logical thinking & submit to listening to a small group of brain washed not very bright folks parrot Wilson’s absurd, unqualified & lunatic psycho babble. Paul as you & every other stepper is aware the majority of folks exposed to aa reject & flee, although they are vulnerable & fragile due to addiction. Although downtrodden one has the ability to recognized snake oil being presented & faith healing being absurd. Paul as you are well award the majority of folks exposed to aa leave with a real bad taste in their mouths & then reveal & expose the dangerous shit show & stench of aa via the internet. So again, its a no brainer Paul, others, the majority of others have had a more enlightening & different aa experience & believe it or not have truths to expose regarding aa that are actually different than yours. Again, why any confusion Paul that any one @ any time has a different opinion, thought, feeling, being or action from yours? Big old world out here Paul that does not think, feel or act like YOU! No brainer.

    1. Hi Laureen, you say:

      “Paul as you & every other stepper is aware the majority of folks exposed to aa reject & flee”

      If you bothered to read my post you would see that I’m not a member of AA

    2. and also there is a lot of truth to what laureen is saying but if these people are brainwashed into being sober then let it be at least aa isn’t gonna kill em like the drugs and alcohol did but its really not for MASS majority of ppl I’d rather not have to brainwash myself into sobriety but for some it works at least they’re still alive.

  22. Paul,
    If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck & quacks like a duck, its a DUCK! Come on, this entire blog is typical of an unhealthy stepper. The manipulation is obvious & childish. You are passively aggressively promoting aa. This is one of the many reasons the majority of people exposed to aa over 95% reject & flee aa. Unhealthy, untruthful & warped behaviors, words & actions of steppers & the group are consistent & chronic. You pretending you just & can’t get why so many people hate aaZ The confusion & bewilderment is posturing & unhealthy. Ex aa members clearly & articulately clarify why they hate aa & why they have left. Ex aa members clearly expose & reveal the warped, weird & unhealthy little cult of aa. AA is an unhealthy & warped religious cult that has preyed upon the voiceless & disenfranchised addict since 1935. Who better to prey upon & exploit than vulnerable & downtrodden addicts? The truth is Wilson was an unemployed, uneducated bum, mooch, pathological liar, narcissist, adulterer & piece of garbage. Anyone who follows this wing nut is following a warped & full of shit narcissist. Wilson benefitted from aa & died a millionaire, still unemployed & living off of the funds from aa & its members. Presently a handful of aa employees have replaced Wilson & earn substantial wages & benefits. The president Phyllis earns over 300,000. per year. Due to the internet former aa members are no longer voiceless & they clearly communicate the dangerous shit show of aa & al anon. When reading the big book it is blatantly obvious that one is reading the psycho babblings & lies of a warped mind & lunatic narcissist. Truthfully who cares if addicts are exposed to this lunatic & his lunatic cult? Not much of anyone, except for former members who are telling the truth about aa. Why wouldn’t any one hate a con & cult like aa? You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. aa is fooling less than 5% exposed to it, the majority over 95% aren’t fooled & hate aa for the nefarious & reprehensible cult & warped weird little cesspool that it factually is & always has been. Again a no brainer: people feel & think differently than you Paul.

  23. I’m not an aa basher nor am I an aa lover I was in the for 3 months. I had good and bad expiriences and I must say a LOT more bad than good. to be honest I don’t think it had anything to do with the program rather than certain people in the program that caused the bad expiriences. think about it. u put a bunch of recovering drug addicts and alchoholics in the same room and there’s going to be friction. I believe that motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, fear facing and most importantly good ole positive thinking are the only way to really recover. I drank cuz I was miserable not because I didn’t believe in god. in fact I still don’t believe in god and I’m much more content now that I’m out of the rooms and i’v overcome hating myself and beating myself up and having a lack of confidence. I hang out with what aa tends to call “normies” which believe it or not they do understand and make excellent supports. I have no fear of relapse which unfortunately many in aa have an extreme fear and combat any way of thinking by saying that and that and that will lead to relapse causing many ppl to buy into the dogma and lose hope. I’m sober and my obsession has been lifted because I really don’t want to live in the unhappy confusing chaotic miserable way I was living. u can be sober but still miserable but i’v been able to combat that. to be honest I don’t think i need a “program” of any kind just a new way of dealing with my problems or a new way of thinking which I’v been able to achieve I believe a person just has to want it. I don’t hate aa I just think aa isn’t for the mass majority of ppl. life experience I believe is the only way to sober someone up.

  24. the first AA meeting i went to i got talking to a so called recovering alcoholic who seemed really ok and asked me to his house next day to play a guitaer song i wanted to learn , when i got there he asked me would i mind nipping to the shops to get him some codiene tablets as he said he had a cold, i was so naive then i went and got him some ,i learned later that he was also addicted to painkillers,he was off the booze but i could tell he wasnt really happy living . 2 months after i left AA as it wasnt for me, i read in the local paper he had commited suicide

  25. AA basically blackmails you to belive you are powerless and have a disease called alcoholism that does’nt exist, to promote there cult of an ancient religion , 90 meetings in 90 days sounds good at first ,an ideal time to get indoctrinated into this wierd cult called AA , there is no such thing as an alcoholic nor is there a thing that AA calls a disease ,Basically AA doenst really work

    1. Hi Ronnie, I think AA works if your goal is to become a recovering alcoholic which is better than being an alcoholic. It is less useful if your goal is to stop being an alcoholic.

  26. Paul,

    March 17th of this year marked 30 years of sobriety. I’m very proud of
    that. Having said that, my feelings and bitterness toward AA are probably
    stronger now than ever. They are a cult that weak willed people gravitate
    toward. For the first five years of sobriety I was very vulnerable emotionally
    and the merry band of cult followers didn’t prepare me for this. I lost a certain
    meanness and toughness that left me wide open. This is one of the things that tore it with me and AA. I think they are the absolute worst thing that can happen to an
    addict and I’ll tell anyone that. As far as I’m concerned those hypocritical weakling
    can shove the whole GODDAMN program up their ass sideways with tabasco sauce on it ! I hate AA that much.

    1. Hi Tony – I do think it is important to warn people about the potential dangers of AA. I know it doesn’t work for me, and it obviously didn’t work for you, but it does seem to work for some people. I don’t see AA in black and white terms, and this is why I don’t hate it. I could say the same about other things like religion or politics.

  27. I think all the hate towards AA that is coming out has probably always been going on in AA. What makes it seem like it just coming out now is the advent of the internet has given a voice for people to express their negative experiences there.

  28. I am a secular humanist. I have attended AA meetings for 23 years and abstained. I am “welcome” to attend meeting because of AA’s 3rd tradition. Most AA meetings end with the Christian “Lord’s Prayer.” At the same time members say AA is not religious. From Dr. Bob’s story “If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic or a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting this book, I feel sorry for you.” That registers in my mind as a rather arrogant and condescending statement.

    At conclusion of the normal reading of “How it Works” Bill wrote “Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas (a) that we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives (b) that probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism (c) that god could and would if he were sought.” I’m not sure how the chapter to the agnostic leads to a belief in god as a solution. Basically, Bill W tells us we’re stupid if we don’t believe. The US Supreme Court has affirmed AA is a religious organization because of the encouraged practices and dogma.

    “How it Works” starts with a paragraph denigrating people who don’t recover. The whole AA “program” is based on the idea alcoholism is a physical disease with god being the only antidote.

    I go to meetings as a group therapy session. I learned some ways to stay sober and learned some new perspectives on life. However, every time I hear “How it Works” and other elements of the AA dogma I am put off. There are no atheist meetings near me. I’ve seen many people leave AA because of the god issue. AA proselytize and it is offensive. People end up in AA because they have a drinking problem not a sinning problem and AA conflates the two. I look at AA as an exclusive not inclusive organization because it is religious.

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