The Alcoholics Anonymous Alternative

AA NA meetingIs there an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous? Do the 12 steps really work? These are questions that most alcoholics will ask when they decide that they want to change.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) originated in Akron, Ohio in the 1930’s from religious individuals grouping together to solve their alcoholism. The 12 steps soon emerged as a formula for all addicts to follow if they were to stay sober.

From the very beginning, complete abstinence was seen as the only answer. Of course this does work for some people, but clearly not for everyone.

Figures for how effective the 12 step recovery process is are impossible to find. Estimates suggest only about 5% of people who attend meetings regularly stay sober for more than a year. Not much more than the placebo effect really.

However, AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) do develop networks of community support, which is undoubtedly very positive. The support given is from other addicts or alcoholics of course, not trained professionals. And by their very nature the meetings are public access, anyone can attend.

The main objection many people have to the philosophy is its rigidity, so anyone who hasn’t seen them before must be wondering, what are these 12 steps then? Here you are –

  1. “We… admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
  2. “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
  3. “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
  4. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”
  5. “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
  6. “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”
  7. “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”
  8. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”
  9. “Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
  10. “Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
  11. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
  12. “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles.”

Any of you who are not particularly religious might be squirming a little right now.

The Higher Power issue is the biggest problem that people seem to have with Alcoholics Anonymous or NA.

Handing over responsibility for your problems and the solution of them, it doesn’t sit well with modern approaches to psychological self-help does it? SELF responsibility and empowerment are essential to good mental health.

“One of the things they (AA) tell you is you are powerless – you must submit, that’s stupid. Once you become sober, you realize you do have the power to quit.”

Strangely there’s not many references to alcohol in those 12 steps. Or indeed how to prevent yourself giving in to cravings. It seems like will-power, determination and faith are supposed to get you sober. That and some apologies of course.

Of course, there are different interpretations of these 12 steps, and many AA groups do advocate a more liberal approach, with the meetings themselves being seen as the higher power.

In my experience, people appreciate a more personalised view of their addiction and recovery, one in which each person’s background and personality are taken into account. The cognitive approach to addiction encourages the person to look at themselves and discover what they need to change, then helps them to make those changes in any sequence they choose. It provides strategies to understand the psychological mechanisms of your addiction.

The AA idea is to work through each of the steps with various written tasks. Should anyone relapse or have a drink at any point, they have to go back to step one and start again.

The alternative view suggests that abstinence is not the only option, for many people a healthier level of consumption is possible. We can help you to become the expert, so you are not dependent on either a group, or on your counsellor. You learn the skills to take control of your alcoholism.

The AA view is there is no cure for alcoholism or addiction, it is seen as a disease, which again slightly removes any personal responsibility from the equation – “I can’t help it, I’ve got a disease”. We view it more as a set of habitual patterns, cognitive and emotional automatic behaviours that can easily be un-learnt and replaced with something healthier.

So maybe there are alternatives to AA for alcoholics, ones with more flexibility and a more personal approach.

198 Comments

  1. Andy F. 26 October, 2014 at 1:24 am - Reply

    I had my last drink of alcohol in 1982 aged 23. Which was considered unusually young in those days. For several years I went almost daily and made some good friends in AA. After 12 years of continuous sobriety I chose to leave AA. I was by then, happy not to drink, but unhappy with my life or myself. I did not believe it was necessary to believe in God to get or stay sober and this essential core premise had no credibility with me. I had managed to get and stay sober partially by being honest with myself and it was time again to be honest and say AA was not for me. I did not know what was for me, what the solutions to my emotional symptoms were, but it did not lay with God and the 12 steps. I needed to leave AA so as not to be distracted by the false ideology. I did go back for a couple of years when I was 20 years sober as I wanted to be among my own kind, but really couldn’t stomach meeting after meeting of so much false idealogy and arguing with the few zealots all the time.

    There are some good people in AA. There is nothing wrong with being supported by an untrained, but non-judgemental, listening sober alcoholic who can identify with some of your own nonsense. There is something wrong with power mad, sponser mad, AA extremists who coerce or push people into the 12 irrational steps and live in an AA cocoon separate to the rest of society. It is this illogical insistence upon the 12 steps as a progrram and its authoritarian stance that causes me to say that AA kills at least as many as it might save.

    The 12 traditions and support system provided by healthy people really works and with my own willingness enabled me to be sober. If AA had a different non religious program and maybe separate male and female fellowships, then expensive equally false rehabs and their counsellors would be out of business very quickly.

    Oddly I met and had coffee with an AA friend of 30 years last month. I had not seen him for around 15 years. One of the AA zealots had told him he’d heard I’d had a drink.

    Going to AA is better than drinking. But take the advice of the rebels and reject the pressures of the zealots. You may be a nutter (or not), but trust your honest judgement (honest being the key word), if your a woman, stay away from men (or women that want to sponsor you or take charge of your life) and hang out with healthy women. Lots of people stay sober without God and the 12 steps in AA. Stay away from those you are uncomfortable with or who want to run your life or sobriety. Don’t jump into exchanging phone numbers and having coffee with lots of people. Initially go to lots of meeting and observe, look for the people you may trust and seem credible – this takes time. When your ready commit to a home group and go there every week. You don’t have to go to meetings every night. A non-AA counsellor can also be a good support, I say non-AA because we live in a wider world. Peace (but not on the zealots).

    • Mona Lisa 5 June, 2015 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      I could have written this comment myself: I had the identical experience with AA!

    • carl greenwood 25 March, 2016 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      Andy … I echo everything you said i became angry with the AA principles and the people who were getting sucked into its 12 step programme..some left there marriages and gave up good jobs because they had to live the AA way of life.. I have been sober for over 3 years I love life I’m happy and don’t think of picking up a drink anymore…

  2. dirk 22 September, 2014 at 2:04 am - Reply

    Hi!

    For ten years, i drank thirty beers a day, sitting on my own, at home. Slowly but certainly my life was going down the tubes.

    At least fifty times, i tried to stop on my own. i got incredibly motivated, stopped, and typically after four days i did something i thought I earnt a reward for – a beer. three days later I would be at thirty beers again.

    I had my moment of confrontation with the situation, that I really had to stop!!! or go down the tubes. I had no choice but to act.

    I contacted AA with an Email on Saturday eve. Sunday morning I was contacted by someone. On Thursday I went to my first meeting.

    The miracle was, that my motivation not to drink just kept on burning in me. I’m sober for four years now, I ‘m sure I can stay sober without AA. But I have a responsibility to the other members and new people. I now am responsible for my group. This doesn’t mean at all I’m a group leader: i just took on responsibility.

    Higher power? I stayed motivated day after day, month after month, year after year, while I failed fifty times on my own; I ‘m not a biblical person but this i call a higher power.

    AA wasn’t started as a religious group: it was started by two desperate alcoholics who discovered that by mutual support they could stay sober, and it grew.

    AA has no leadership, all responsible functions rotate with a max function time of two to four years.

    We refuse all financial sponsorship.

    We refuse to get in the media.

    we respect anonimity. id Jeff says in the meetings he’s called josh, that’s fine. We have people in our group we know nothing bout but their first name for a few years, we don’t know where they live, don’t have a phone number,… That’s completely ok.

    I never had a sponsor and no one ever gave the slightest hint i should get one, but I gave intense support to two people; I wouldn’t call myself their sponsor.

    You have to really want to get off drinks; many people aren’t ready for that big step. Only you can decide that you’re an alcoholic and decide to stop drinking. AA can’t stop drinking for you. AA can support you in difficult moments, 7/7, 24/24, however. You’ll get phone numbers of other alcoholics. All you need to do is call before you drink. alas, very few people do that: if you want to drink, you drink.

    The twelve step program gives you a way, if you choose to follow it, to get your life on track again and fill in the time you were drinking with something meaningful.

    An addiction is for a lifetime; I know for sure, that if I drink just one beer, in two days I’ll drink thirty a day again. I know that myself, AA didn’t indoctrinate that into me. Why am I so sure about that? Because I’m an alcoholic.

    dirk.

  3. Alex Adieu 30 December, 2013 at 1:24 am - Reply

    I simply do the opposite in meetings. For instance, people demand I get a sponsor, I refuse and simply work the steps. They say the steps WILL NOT work without having a sponsor, I stay sober, they are lying. They say I MUST do a fourth step on white paper and black ink, I do it on yellow construction paper and blue ink, I stay sober, they are lying. They say I MUST do a fifth step with a sponsor, I go out of my way to NEVER do it with an AA member, I stay sober, they are lying. They lied because they claimed to follow the book, but these three points (and there are so many more)-“MUST” that isn’t in the book proves they don’t know what they are talking about. They claim to KNOW that if I work the steps and don’t follow their rules I WILL drink again despite doing the work, that is what they lied about. Claiming to KNOW what you don’t know is fundamentally dishonest. For instance, someone says “keep it simple STUPID” and I point out in a meeting how given that my alcoholism is OUTSIDE of my intelligence, I am powerless over my IQ as it was an accident of birth, I insult my intelligence to combat my pride to deflate my ego, but according to the book if I’m following a spiritual solution it is up to my higher power to fix my pride because I am POWERLESS over my pride-is my life unmanageable or is it not? That is merely masturbatory ego stroking. So many can’t handle that level of rigorous honesty. They cherry pick. They say that I’m taking things too far, but I’m not the one speaking in gibberish and half truths. They accuse me of wanting an easier softer way, but I’m not the one mindlessly following the herd going baaaaahhhhhh and spreading the same lies they do. The AA program is beautiful-if people follow the traditions/literature. When people start lying left and right, playing god making summands(demanded suggestions that are ALWAYS rooted in lies and half truths-you MUST get a sponsor for instance which implies the steps WILL NOT work without one and yet if I am outside of human aid, it is the steps-NOT having a sponsor-as the steps work with or without a sponsor). The irony is that the anti-AA movement upholds the Big Book more often than many AA members despite slandering it left and right. That is truly pathetic. Let’s all play the opposite game to take back AA from nonsensical fundamentalist religion where the book was handed down from Mount Killamenjaro in the land of Summandaria, Bill W was Jesus, Ebby Thatcher was John the Baptist, Dr. Bob was Simon Peter, Jack Trimpey was Judas Iscariot, and the Little Book of Rational Recovery was the Satanic Bible. If everyone simply plays the opposite game, all pushy arrogant people in AA lose their power to manipulate the rest of us as we see through the fog of lies and truly get back to rigorous honesty in deed AND word. The same people claim that we should take these principles into ALL of our affairs, yet would they make a summand at work? Somehow their la la land of AAism, rules of decent respectful social conduct don’t apply. Person acts pushy and obnoxious as “this is tough love” believing that they will be able to impact the newcomer as they WILL have an impact on said newcomer, then if the newcomer leaves the newcomer simply didn’t want it bad enough, they wash their hands of all responsibility for their arrogant attitude thereby contradicting themselves as there is no way their attitude chased the newcomer out. I could learn better rigorous honesty out of a cracker jack box or from a ouija board than someone that deluded. I believe there was something in the Big Book about that-Pg. 95 the top paragraph maybe? “Never talk down to an alcoholic from any moral or spiritual hilltop; simply lay out the kit of spiritual tools for his inspection.” So much for people who claim to know the book yet ignore so much of it because this type of thing is all over the place in the book. I still love AA none the less.

    • Graham T Harvey 27 September, 2014 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Alex, you are right in your assumption of power crazy types in AA. Please remember “they” as you mention so many times, have the sickness too. I pray for those who seek power over others and have put them on my step 10. I found complete release from all human endeavours by being taken through the scriptures by wonderfulkl mature Christians. Nowadays I still have a home group in AA but I am safe and protected by seeing where it all originated from. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us “when we were still powerless” which he meant before Christ. He details alcohol amongst many other demonics that mess up our heads. The Bible frees up all those who persu the truth. See everything form a universal stand point and all will be well. God bless you

  4. british female 10 December, 2013 at 10:44 am - Reply

    i have been trying to kick the bottle since i was 21 now 34 i was in detox at 21 whilst heavily pregnant with my first child drinking while pregnant disgusts me looking back but was so much hurt turmaoil in my life my parents at that point had washed there hands of me i was totally alone .the uk doesnt support people with alcohol issues i ve been called evrything from mentally unstable to a criminal social workers have commented i was not the biggest piss head they d ever met one took me out for lunch and bought me alcohol saying dont tell anyone my best friend reported her if your alcoholic you are societys rejects in my experience .aa will be my last hope first meeting this fri i cannot get medication of my gp the community alcohol team will only give me 5 sessions of therpy i ve even considered going to poland for the ant abuse implant as noy aval yet in uk i wish id never taken that first drink at 15 worst mistake of my life

  5. Davio 20 October, 2013 at 10:12 am - Reply

    After attending AA for years, I decided it was no longer for me. I experienced too much hypocracy about people saying how they now love and help others so much but the truth was that was very rare in my opinion. As an introvert yet having strong opinions, I was never included in the “fellowship” and always felt that I must be a carbon copy of a sponsor. I have not met very many mentally healthy people in AA yet there is the common belief that they are the nicest, healthiest people on the planet. So I left and it was tough at first because the AA circle was my life. But I learned many people who don’t drink have exciting lives and don’t go to AA. The thought of going to a meeting everynight like so many others was disturbing because there is so much out there to experience other than AA. Also – they are the most arrogant group of people I know masquerading in false humility.

  6. Presey 1 September, 2013 at 6:08 am - Reply

    Hi all, I just want to let you all know, I met an alcoholic woman years ago at RTC in Stockton,Ca, I saw her with my own eyes, dance off the floor at an AA dance we gathered at. There is a god, I am absolute in this, and I was and am quite sober, carry the message, peacexx

    • Anonymous 16 January, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

      You talk nonsense and the propaganda like the rest of them in the herd

  7. Kevin D 22 August, 2013 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    AA has worked for me, but I con’t think it is the be-all and end-all. I don’t claim to have done the steps properly, but I have not had a drink in just over 12 years. I go to meetings mainly for the identification, and to remind myself of two important facts about myself:

    1. For me, there is no cutting down. If I start drinking, then sooner or later I will ramp up to being a drunk again.
    2. If I go out for a meal on my own, and I have a single beer with it, I will not get home until about 4 in the morning, and I will have spent a lot of money on champagne in night clubs.

    As for the higher power stuff, everyone is free to choose their own. Let me tell you about mine: destiny. (Take it or leave it.) I believe that if I don’t drink, then I am destined to stay sober. By having destiny as my higher power, I am not trying to absolve myself of responsability. My own actions can be part of my destiny. I can do actions, but I cannot do outcomes. But my action of not drinking today does nudge destiny in the direction of staying sober.

  8. Alex Delarge 26 May, 2013 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I haven’t had a drink in 13 years. My life was a train wreck and I absolutely needed help to stop drinking. AA helped me because I wanted help. I found meetings which were not religiously based as the “higher power” was of one’s choosing. It could be God, a lampshade or whatever you needed to help you maintain your sobriety. I stopped going to meetings after about two years. This doesn’t mean that working on my life stopped. I disagreed with some of the philosophies regarding my life choices and who I would or would not maintain as friends, but I needed to be around people who I could share experiences and feelings regarding my exhaustive boozing. So I get really aggravated with anti-AA garbage.
    If you don’t want or need help regarding alcohol abuse than keep on drinking if you prefer. Drink yourself into the grave, but don’t carry others with you. I can no longer count the people I’ve watched screw themselves up while taking their family for the ride as well. Regardless of whether one goes to AA or finds some alternative, if you really want help you can find help. If you’re missing work, school, family events, etc. because you got wasted or you are getting wasted then something is amiss. Booze hounds are booze hounds and they tend destroy things around themselves with no exception.

  9. Sarah 12 April, 2013 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    I need some help, I need questions answered by I feel foolish, I just want to get in with life without this feeling. I feel I’m a functioning alcoholic I just get in with life, but I certainly ain’t living if anyone can help I would be grateful, I don’t know where to go.

    • Paul McLaughlin 16 October, 2013 at 6:08 am - Reply

      How did you get on Sarah?
      Am curious because I looked for help a long time ago and the NHS did not work for me since I had a job. I cannot buy into the self-flagellation of AA.
      Tried it a few times and alas it does not work for me.
      Am struggling, but know I do not want to be like this. Am not a bad or horrible person, I just want to wake up sober.

    • bea 24 January, 2014 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      Sarah!
      you have an addiction – simple as -you cannot take it or leave it – give up alcohol the same way as smoking -you don’t need it!! it is harmful , please do NOT go to AA – they say alcoholism is a disease!! an “illness” if that were so, anyone who ever drank alcolhol would be ill – and the meetings are full of old red faced soaks who hate their mothers and play the “victim”

      Tobacco, sugar, alcohol and drugs are used by people who cannot handle or face difficult emotions in life – give up and grow up!!!

  10. Christina 1 February, 2013 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    I am living with Cirrhosis of the liver but I have abstained for about 7 years now without using AA as a formulation for recovery. I do believe that there are many ways to stop drinking or to limit the amount you drink. There are always alternatives instead of a one treatment only scenario. Some people are socially inept to be around others, while some people blatantly cover up the real reason or actually don’t know the reason why they drink or do drugs. My conclusion is that not everyone is alike and some individuals need a stringent pattern of maintaining their sobriety, while others need to dig deep into themselves to find out where the drinking stemmed from. I also believe that one one one therapy is just as good as group AA therapy. It’s all in your own belief system…maybe not GOD but maybe within your own inner strength. There are also online AA meetings if you are not personable with people but can get the same benefit. Please look up different alternatives to your lifestyles and TRY it. You’ll never know whats right until you go different paths. It’s just like finding a friend…you have to go through many until you find the right one that meshes with you…

  11. John 26 December, 2012 at 11:42 am - Reply

    I wanted to add my 2 cents. I have a big problem with how AA and the government seem to be hand in hand. Many years ago I got a drunk driving ticket and told I had to go to AA meetings in court. I said before going and after that I was not an alcoholic. It did not matter to the court. At the first group meeting I was told I had to say my name and that I m an alcoholic, I refused. I was going to say something I did not believe to be true. I was given some days in county jail for failure to cooperate.
    This was back in the late 70’s and I never understood the connection that government bodies decide that you require treatment because you got caught drinking. Now days I think this has become a source of income and jobs for states, these programs that you are required to go to. My opinion is the connection is wrong and has the person labeled as something regardless of anything else.
    I have not been drunk for many years and on some very rare moments during these years I have had a drink or two and stop after this. Has been working very well for me.
    I got caught doing something against the law, being drunk and driving. I acknowledged that and I had to face the penalties for it. To me, this is no different than someone going to court for eating and drinking food while driving and causing a accident, reckless driving. Why does the court label these type of people and send them to a program.
    I m at a big fan of AA and not a fan of the connection that the law has the power to label people and put them into programs that are not for everyone.

  12. david 2 December, 2012 at 12:19 am - Reply

    JON-A P.S If you havent yet, check out
    The Orange Papers.org website. It blewmy mind right out of my socks
    David

  13. Jon 15 November, 2012 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    i was interested to read your article; no one should say that more information is a bad thing.

    I am an alcoholic, and whenever i’ve taken a drink over the past several years it has almost always taken me to some very dark places; i behave in such a way that utterly violates my moral sense (which is strong, and i believe is strong in most people with this problem).

    I have great respect for anyone who can find any relief from this horrifying condition, however it’s done -if aa is involved or not. I went to aa for several years.

    However i no longer go to aa for 2 reasons: 1) that i have to believe in something that i just dont believe in. aaers, please dont say that it’s spiritual not religious, because it certainly is religion. and 2) that i know, and have seen with my own eyes, just how sick people can get after they’ve been a member of aa for any appreciable time.

    both the points above scare me, and that was why i left aa. I have been sober now for 2 years, and life has improved immeasurably.

    Absolute best of luck to anyone getting through this problem -using whatever means, aa or otherwise- I would not wish that type of pain on anyone.

    • david 2 December, 2012 at 12:16 am - Reply

      Right on, Jon. Ive been in AA 26 years sober, and I see all the faults, newcomers DO NOT stay. Am starting a secular,rational, knowledge based, sobriety coaching program in Jamaica. Enough of the “powerless” falsehood ( I quit 4 weeks before going to AA) Never bought the Higher Power deal. This is 2012, not 1935. There is no alternative to AA in Jamaica YET!!

      David

  14. Amy 18 October, 2012 at 1:12 am - Reply

    Ok here’s the thing. I haven’t had a drink since 3/20/2012 and I have NEVER attended an aa meeting. Basically, I got myself in a little trouble and the lightbulb went on. I put myself into a 4 week outpatient program that met 3 days a week for 3 hours. After that I stepped down to once a week for 8 weeks. I did this because I wanted to avoid aa and knew I needed help. Most of the people in my sessions were in aa or na, but none of them preached about it. I openly said not for me and was respected to feel that way. What I needed was to dig down inside myself and find the cause of my drinking, just stopping wasn’t enough. You see for me alcohol was only the surface of a problem that needed to be addressed head-on. Simply abstaining from alcohol didn’t make my bad situation end. It made it more manageable and easier to see it clearly, but it was still there. All I’m saying is what works for one person won’t work for another. I am NOT powerless over anything except God. I love my life now and know in my heart I will never revert to my old ways. I learned the proper tools for my situation and my triggers that I needed in order to stay away from alcohol. Today I don’t feel like I gave up anything except shame, guilt, hangovers and empty calories. Good luck to anyone who needs help with addiction. Find the power in yourself to get help. It doesn’t matter if it’s aa or an alternative to aa. Take that first step – make tracks and don’t look back.

    • Jan 27 December, 2012 at 1:37 pm - Reply

      I made the biggest mistake of my life walking into the rooms, a couple of nice people and a glory seeking sponser. I lost me and my identity and a bigger drinking problem than when I went in.

      • bea 24 January, 2014 at 7:38 pm - Reply

        I am amazed at us humans to spot “fakes” and manipulation, even in our dark times. I drink, attended AA = full of red faced cigarette smoking old soaks blaming their mothers for everything””” then going on to say alcohol was a “disease, an illness””!!!! if this was the case why is everyone who drinks not ill~ alcohol is an addiction just like smoking, drugs and food – used to cover painful feelings and emotions

  15. Rob Turner 11 October, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

    To PENELOPE….A bottle of wine a day?Are you joking?That would not get rid of the ratling in the morning…not a bleeding clue

    • Teazy 30 October, 2012 at 8:24 am - Reply

      Rob, to some a bottle of wine a day is a heck of a lot, it is enough to cause permanent damage and can progress. Please dont condescend to ppl because your alcoholism has progressed to extremes. You dont say how much you drink but im guessing its quite a lot if you are ‘rattling’, get some help.

      • Clio 6 November, 2012 at 3:36 pm - Reply

        I have to agree with Teazy. I am a binge drinker when I am at my worst. Ordinarily, I may not drink for a few nights, but then I could put away anything from 1 bottle of wine to 2 bottles of wine plus a bottle of whiskey or vodka. I am quite sure that there are others who drink much less or much more. The bottom line is that we each know when we have a problem with alcohol and that is what we have to address. OUR problem.

  16. David 22 September, 2012 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    I also think there are no real alternatives to AA. It is a tool, nothing more. I am buddhist and agnostic, but I was able to define a higher power that doesn’t limit me or point me back to a judeo-christian faith that I no longer believe in. AA helps because of the fellowship of people that have the same problem as you. Of course, some people may judge and not be perfect people, that’s just the way people are… inherently flawed, but good. Most of the people I meet believe in god in the traditional sense, but i’ve never felt pressure to accept their way as the only way that works. There is a ton of wisdom and folk psychology in the program too. When they say it is a spiritual program, it means more spiritual than religious. And I think we need more spirituality in this world than religion.

    • Mona Lisa 5 June, 2015 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      Not true: there are many alternatives, including SMART Recovery.

  17. James 22 September, 2012 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Having attended hundreds if not a few thousand meetings I can attest to AA’s dismal sucess rate. The biggest mistake most people make when entering the halls of AA is making it an endall to their abuse problem. They turn it into a religion which it was not intended. They turn it into rigid dogma with no deviation from the path set out in the 12 Steps. And many would ask, “Why do I attend meetings then?” The answers are varied. First of all, about 5 percent do manage to maintain sobriety, and that 5 percent has something valid to share, as do the other 95 percent. I can learn from the sucesses of those it has helped, as well as from the failures from those it has not. I tend to listen more than speak, because listening is a rare commodity and totally undervalued. What I’ve found it is a healthy formula for living, but not a cure for something that isn’t a disease to begin with. It is merely a tool. The whole treatment industry and AA are both guilty of not opening their eyes to the reality of the failure rate. I can’t propose an answer and I can certainly see the truth. To me, it comes down to personal choices I make in my life. Maybe the higher power works, maybe it doesn’t but closing our minds to alternative methods to a problem that has plagued society since the dawn of mankind, is foolish. Let me put it this way, AA is filled with those that still believe the world is flat, and those who believe it is round. To label it with a sweeping condemnation is foolhearty, as is it to believe it is the only solution to the problem. This comes from someone who has maintained 8 years of sobriety without doing the 12 steps and attaining a sponsor. But I do attend meetings and keep the best and throw away the rest. Keep your minds open and realize it ultimately comes down to what YOU decide.

  18. fintan michael 21 September, 2012 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    not another alcoholic with a problem with the “god thing”. listen first of all it is a god of your understanding, and secondly if you are an atheist so be it believe in the power of the group, and have sufficient tolerance for those who do believe in a god. intolerance is a symptom of the disease and learning to accept that others have the right to believe in a god of their understanding is part of ones rehabilitation. now that seemed to be good enough for the former vice president of the american atheist society and he died sober.

    • bea 24 January, 2014 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      alcoholism is an addiction, not a disease

  19. George 20 September, 2012 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    I seems that most of the proponents of AA as a solution to alcoholism keep missing the most important piece of information which is verified by AA itself. The real, verified and published fact is that teh recovery rate for alcoholics using AA is only 5% of all who join and participate in AA.

    This was originally published from an internal survey by a Dr. Vaillant who was and maybe still is a member of AA highest board. It was verified by the Harvard School of Medicine who compared those results to the spontaneoud recovery rate of alcoholics in the general population using no other help but themselves. This rate is also 5%. So in actual fact you can say that the recovery rate of alcoholics using AA is in reality 0% once taking the spontaneous recovery rate into account.

    Claiming anything else is misleading. It would be like a pharmaceutical company claiming its medication has a cure rate of 50% for a particular disorder in which the spontaneous cure rate is also 50%. You can’t have it both ways.

    I have used both AA and CBT to deal with my alcohol addiction. I got so depressed in AA after being told that unless I followed the program 100% I was doomed to fail. I tried my best and to the best of my ability I finished all 12 steps, had a sponsor and attended meeting regularly. I absolutely did everything asked of me except accepting God into my life. I had a higher power represented by my support group and family but after 3 years I relapsed.

    I was told that I didn’t follow the program 100% obviously or I wouldn’t have relapsed. Thats very faulty and dangerous reasoning as it means that following this logic that AA can actually claim a recovery rate of 100% for those who fit into the class of those who follow the program 100% if the proof of this is that you remain sober for the rest of your life. “Living happy, joyous and free!”

    I now belong to a secular recovery peer support group called LifeRing and it is keeping me sober and I feel normal, natural and my real self without pretending to be something I am not.

  20. Jack 7 September, 2012 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    To all of us that have addictions;

    AA and NA has helped a lot of us to quit for a while. It has helped some for a very long time. What it has not taught many is that their higher power is them. We created our addictions, in the end we are the only one’s that can end them. We are the only one’s that can find our own internal strength and love so that we can bring happiness and love to ourselves and all people we meet even if it’s just for a moment sometimes for those we meet. I have been to many AA and NA meetings in the past and the one common emotion I have noticed was sadness and a belief that their higher power was going to not save them.
    It is totally up to you to quit drinking by discovering your problems and greatness and moving on in a positive manner in your great life ahead.

  21. Cara 14 June, 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Bernard, on the flip side, would you tell a sex addict that they can never have sex again?

    • alan 5 September, 2012 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Well cara i guess if sex is destroying someones life like alcoholism destroyed mine it would probanly be a good idea to stop!

    • Isla 4 October, 2012 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      I can appreciate a little bit of what each person has posted. It is Cara’s comment that prompted me to post. You need to better understand what sex addiction is. Healthy intimate relationships are not to be avoided, it’s the unhealthy actions that have contributed to the addict’s demise that need to stop. I agree that some people must stop alcohol completely yet others can decrease their use once they have taken steps to identify their underlying issues that caused them to seek refuge in alcohol. Insert “chocolate, food, nicotine, caffeine, sex, exercise, food avoidance, intimacy avoidance” and such-in place of alcohol. Each of these may be used by people who have the balance (metabolic/emotional etc…) to handle them. Other people are genetically unable to use substances due to their chemistry/genetics etc… Alcohol isn’t necessary for a balanced life with greater chances of happiness per se. Healthy intimacy and physical contact are medically proven to survive (infants) and thrive. Sex is good. Sex addiction is not.

      • bea 24 January, 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

        you mean everthing is neither good or bad but any addiction is a problem ?

  22. Nitesh Ghaley 5 May, 2012 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Hey Frens Recovering Poly Nitesh
    Just Finished My treatment and going back to my home town but i m afraid to face the main stream so any of my recovering fellowships would like to help me please leave your message in my facebook user name is nitesh manger ghaley swearly need yours help

  23. bernard armagh aa 2 April, 2012 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    im have to apologize from the start,because im am in stitches laughing at your aa alternative article,are you interested in helping people with alcohol problems,im a member of aa,why would you put down a fellowship that has saved many a persons life and is trying to help people who have a drink problem or even people who think they have a problem.i would not put down your method of trying to help people in this area,i definitely would not use lies against you and alot of information on statistics that cant be true because surveys cant be taken on aa,firstly you say AA was formed in the 1930 by religious individuals grouping together,im sorry my good friend,it was formed by one drunk sharing with another,which then became a group of drunks staying off drink one day at a time, sharing with another that formed AA,note i havent mentioned religious,the 12 steps you called a formula is yet another lie,the 12 steps are but 12 suggestions,plus they are only to deal with alcohol although other groups have taken them and use them,i ask you why would any other group take them if some good wasnt obvious,next how does a im sure im dealing with someone with a higher education than myself,i havent a thing in education to my name,how do you get an estimate if you dont do a survey or something to that effect which cant be done on AA,another untruth,next in line is addiction,you would not agree for the person that is addicted to totally stay away from what they are addicted to,example would you tell a smoker take a couple in the morning and your cured,or the heroin addict take 3 shots a week and we will make that do you,and then we have in your article you state how could AA be anonymous,when they mention there names,i would say that you know as well as i do that you only state your first name,are you claiming that people are psychic in AA that they automatically know there surname,abit childish of you there i think,then we have the cheap slogans remark,go to any psychologist/psychairtrist/doctor/and ask them about the slogans,i would say you live by some of them yourself,if you cant agree with me that 90 percent of the slogans are used by most people in life you are just clearly telling more lies to promote your article,lets take a few,first things first,is it not right to deal with things that are of importance first than things like washing the car second,simple isnt it,take it easy,you wont get much done or solved with your head in a mess,simple again slow down take it easy,another think,think,think,is it not better taking a wee step back and think before jumping in head first,simple isnt it,i could go on,men and women through the ages have been using these slogans to good effect,you call it cheap,next we have the word powerless,are you saying that a person has power over his addiction,i could go on for hours on that one,AA you say has a view that there is no cure for the disease of alcoholism,yes i said disease,but total abstinence,i can only speak on alcohol,that is not just the view of AA,that view is also supported by the WHO and the AHO,im sure you know who these organisations are,just in caes some readers dont,if this is published in your site,which i dont think it will,WHO is the World Health Organisation and AHO is American Health Organisation,who both now recognise alcoholism as a disease,and finally nobody in AA is compelled to do or believe in anything,there are no rules,if a person wants to become a member of AA it is the person themselves say they are a member when ever they wish,is all they want is a desire to stop drinking and they call themselves a member,AA is not for everyone but AA doesnt tell you that you do yourself,many come and go,many stay,it is not a religious cult as you seem to portray,there is many an atheist and agnostic in AA and are happy being off alcohol,one more thing,and one i would be sure you know very well that all addictions are in and around 5-10% physical addiction and the other 90% or so mental addiction,that would obviously explain why alcohol is mentioned only once in the 12 steps,thank you for letting me have my say,i wouldnt think it will appear on your site,but i hope it does,please if your trying to help people with addictions dont be knocking other people like AA for doing the same work,i can only say from my own experience it saved my life and put smiles back on my kids faces,i tried everything else and found that AA for me,plus i have seen others taken from the hell of alcoholism to living a happy fufilling life,i truly hope that yours works too.i will finish on this, it is the person themselvesthat decide if AA is for them,no one else……bernard c armagh

    • Paul 21 July, 2012 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Bernard I ask you one thing, when you get out of bed in the morning do you choose to do get out or does your higher power do it for you you?
      Because if you do then life is down to you to choose and have the power to change your own life.
      If however your higher power chooses then your higher power also chose for you to drink for the amount of time you drank also!
      Aa saved my mothers life because she needed faith in something other that herself because she stopped beliving in herself and never regained that!
      I am an alcoholic of your sort Bernard however I have regained the belief that I can and wi ll continue to be sober!
      I believe aa WILL help some people, I cannot argue the information in aa is good however the way in which it is taught needs an overhaul. 2 + 2 Will always be four but it was beaten into children in the 1930’s! We teach children differently today even than ten years ago. Someone in aa once said to me if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, would you put a cartwheel on a Ferrari?
      The original article mentioned a more “personal” approach, we have more individuals today than the 1930’s I would love to see that aa considers that maybe if it where to ever look at the possibility of “updating” (by no means changing) that maybe just maybe it could hit way way more of a % of people!
      Also have a look at an nlp approach, it’s just another idea, the more irons in the fire the better one is no better or worse than another, just different.
      Anyone who has found this site is clearly aware they have a problem now you have to find ANY WAY POSSIBLE AT ALL TO STAY SOBER! Aa will help some of you so try it, try nlp try cbt try anything at all!

      • Penelope 19 August, 2012 at 1:37 pm - Reply

        Paul,
        I agree an overhaul is needed.
        I stopped drinking 50 days ago.
        My drinking was a bottle of wine a day for years and I drank on my own.
        Anxiety and panic kicked in last September and in was severe.
        Drinking stopped being fun and much of my drinking was to take the edge of my memories from hard core childhood memories and stress.
        I went an AA meeting on the 11th of June 2012 after my doc provided me with an alcohol worker who kept cancelling appointments.
        I feel good and love being sober = no hangovers.
        Greatest thing is I am living my life fully and it is exciting.
        I am being told I must do the steps or I will fail/relapse – I am not in that head space.
        Guess I may be annoying in AA as am positive and having fun.
        I went to a meeting last Monday and heard one guy say my name is and I am an alcoholic = overhaul needed = he has not had a drink for four years and claimed he was born an alcoholic and will die an alcoholic = guess if that works for him to not drink then fine. Doom and gloom in AA but some laughter also and have met a couple of positive people being two = same as life I say.
        I do not agree with repeating I Am An Alcoholic so if I have ever spoke I just say my Name Is!!! I do beleive if we affirm something then it is true. So I have a good one I am a money magnet!!!
        I know it is possible to make a choice in life and go with it and have brought this up in AA.
        I also believe in giving one self a choice then we can get our heads around things.
        If I want to buy a bottle of wine and have a hangover I can however I do not wish to so I remain powerful within myself.
        I think an AA overhaul would bring more people in but gald I went as it got me to this point today listening made me know that not dealing with my consumption was gonna lead to one unhappy lady in the coming months and years.
        Enjoying being alcohol free x

  24. Andy Davies 23 March, 2012 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Whether people like it or not, AA works for me. I couldn’t give two hoots what works for others. I was on the grim reapers things to do list, I shook hands with the devil. I don’t believe in some distant deity in the sky, i’m more inclined to subscribe to Lennons, “No hell below us, above us only sky” sentiments. But I do believe in a power greater than me, I have found an inner strength that I was previously unaware of, so have many of my friends. The only difference is attributing the source. So, do what you must…..but don’t put off others, AA works………..end of story

    Keep the faith

  25. Dave 20 March, 2012 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    There is some comfort in the fact that some AA bashers seem to get really angry with the fellowship as it seems to me that at the least Alcoholics Anonymous raises a debate and has helped to put the confusing plight of alcoholics on the agenda .
    There are no reliable statistics stating the recovery successes in AA and as such there is no need for any . The general feeling within the fellowship is that if the program of recovery doesn’t suit someone seeking help then so be it.
    AA does not recruit but will offer help and support for those that ask for it.

    The issue of God is debated within the fellowship as well as outside it and this is a microcosm of society in general . There are many atheists and agnostics in AA who have stayed sober and led meaningful lives for 30 years or more . An AA traditions states that ” The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking ” . The twelve step program are suggestions and not “musts” . Recent reliable statistics state that 70% of people believe that there is a possibility of a God or Higher Power overseeing our activities . If you are not one of these it prompts me to ask why you get so angry at something you do not believe in . This is totally illogical.
    There are those in AA that are over zealous when passing the message of AA to the outside world and God is often given as the reason for their ” Miracle “.
    This is not such an outlandish claim when you consider what some of them have been delivered from.
    I am a member of AA and have been sober since 1978 and have witnessed both failures and successes , deaths on the one hand and completely restored homes and families on the other .
    From a totally selfish perspective my main objective in life is to keep myself sober and whoever falls by the wayside has done so by choice . The AA fellowship gives me the support and understanding that is unique to my illness and would ask that it is not condemned through ignorance .

  26. jo hardy 2 February, 2012 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I took my last drink the first week in July 1984. I was 36 female and my life was in bits. I was alone having lost family friends etc and AA saved my life. Bill W.- one of the cofounders of AA -said ‘alcoholics of our type’ would benefit from the programme. I have met lots of other types of drinkers in my life but when I joined AA I knew I had found my tribe. no-one is forcing you to go to AA -in fact the Traditions say we should attract rather than promote-you are a free spirit -if you want to kill yourself and leave broken hearts scattered to the 4 winds thats your choice. but don’t knock it if you aint tried it. I tried it and am sober today. I have a new home, a new husband, a new life, a new serenity, a new peace et al.- thanks to AA and a Higher Power/God of my own understanding. jo hardy [mrs] liverpool uk

  27. Pandora 2 January, 2012 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Dear All,

    For this alcoholic 18 years sober, AA worked for me as I listened, found humility and was willing to be helped

    Anyone who can do controlled drinking , and stick with normal drinking is not an alcoholic

    An Alcoholic has no physical capacity to put on the breaks so the first drink gets them drunk because we never know where it will lead us (and I tried controlled drinking and everything I possibly could not to stop )

    When I was first introduced to AA i could and did find a million reasons to kick against it. Alckys are negative by their nature

    It came down to this
    Did I want to feel free from the compulsion to drink?
    Yes
    I am a Buddhist , if I am anything , and Buddhists do not believe in a God outside of ourselves.

    I believe in love, tolerance,compassion , taking responsibility for my behaviour and forgiving other people theirs

    But if you want my support because you want to stop drinking walk into any AA and I will be there to show you the way.

    18 years with out a drink, without acting out sex addiction highs, without gambling , without smoking, without acting out shop-aholic behaviour. IT IS A MIRACLE

    Thank you all AA’s who have helped me do this without you I would be dead, My God, my higher power ,is a Group of Drunks in a church hall , who I love with my heart and thank for my life

  28. Sandor 25 December, 2011 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    I have read all the comments on this site with great interest. My partner is in detox at the moment and she has also started going to AA meetings recently. She detoxed earlier this summer at a clinic in France where we were living at the time. The clinic was big on physical detox (lots of drugs) but offered no real psychological help or treatment, she left the clinic after four weeks of treatment and did not drink for six months. She is now getting psychological help at the UK clinic where she is, they use the AA twelve steps as part of their program in addition to the physical detox treatment. What caused her relapse? she went to an AA meeting and and the next day went back on the booze, she told me that she found the attitude of of a lot of the people there arrogant. She told me of her other negative feelings about the meeting many of which I have seen expressed in this forum. What really caused her relapse? I’m not sure, I think it was already coming and the AA meeting touched a raw nerve. She does not have strong religious beliefs and feels that some of the references to ‘God’ at AA are not necessary but she can live with that. I can see a difference in her attitude to her drink problem now that wasn’t there after the detox in France, I believe that along with the greater emphasis on psychological help at her present clinic, the AA meetings have helped her to understand her problem a little better. Also the knowledge that she is not alone and that she can talk to people who will not judge her has helped a lot. My experience of living with an alcoholic for a number of years (and having two friends die from booze) has made me believe that you can’t beat it on your own. I would say to alcoholic reading this GET SOME HELP, AA or otherwise as you are very, very unlikely to kick it on you own. Forget Sean’s big ‘I’ theory (posted 28th Sept 2010) you won’t do it alone no matter how how much ‘back bone you get’. I know a guy who has been in Afghanistan and I’m sure he’s got more back bone than the self opinionated Sean but he can’t beat the booze on his own. And finally in his own words. Why don’t you kiss your own pie hole Sean.

  29. Clayton Fitzgerald 19 December, 2011 at 3:35 am - Reply

    I’ve been attending A.A. for two months now and have remained continuously sober for as long. My own experience has been very positive. I’ve only attended the same group, so I don’t know what other groups are like. Having read the experience of others, it looks like I found a very good group.

    What I am personally getting out of attending the meetings is fellowship with other alcoholics, who are continuously surrendering their own will to the will of their “Higher Power”.

    I never thought I would find myself in A.A. I thought it was for the weak. I thought that if I was going to quit I’d just have to be strong willed enough, but I’m not. I’m weak , I’m sober and I’ve got a lot more peace of mind than I have had for the past 15 years.

    Thanks for letting me share,
    Clayton

  30. slange 16 November, 2011 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    After all is said and done, where are the groups of people that we can call upon or meet with if we are struggling with alcohol/drug abuse? We can trash AA all day but when I search for a network of people in my area in North Carolina, there is nothing. I have no money to spend, my bank account is negative and no numbers to call. I am lucky to have family helping me out but they either don’t understand my specific issues, or they are alcoholics themselves. I am afraid to reach out to certain women in my community because I have been burned before by gossip. AA is certainly not an option since my husband attended many years ago and ended up hooking up and sleeping with/ using with a couple of the members. Of course I found out about this AFTER he committed suicide in 2002. Up until that point I was the “normie”, who was a normal drinker or abstainer. In the past few years I have developed a binge drinking habit that has left me hopeless and lost

  31. Colin 10 October, 2011 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    New user, gonna jump straight in – lot of talk, but what is the alternative to AA?
    I cant abide it myself.. submitting yourself to another power; the power is within you…
    But WE need an alternative… Is one out there? What does one do if one wants to be TRULY free?

    • Ken 13 November, 2011 at 8:21 am - Reply

      I also had trouble with the concept of ‘submitting myself to another power’ when I first came to AA. Then (as the clouds began to clear from my fuddled brain) I realised that I had been ‘submitting myself’ to the power of alcohol for many, many years! So what I had to realise was that I was not properly in charge of myself, and that I needed to find a new pathway; new pathways need new maps, and the maps were (and still are, for me) provided by AA.

      I also hated AA when I first joined; after all, they were telling me that I was kess than perfect (difficult for this Alky to accept that), that I couldn’t drink at all, that I had to do things I didn’t want to do… so I only managed to stay on because I had a real desire to stop drinking and get well again. But things got better as I stuck at their suggestions, and eventually I began to take AA for what it was – a Fellowship of mutual assistance, not a fascist bunch of killjoys! AA has allowed me to find the power to be a better person, to think better of myself, to stop judging others and to move towards contentment with my abstinent status – a happy sobriety.

      What am I saying? Give it a chance (whether it is AA or any other programme) and stop fighting if you want to win!

      Ken

  32. Kitsune 5 October, 2011 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Having clicked a few links I think this could well be a good resource for me to supplement the steps I’m already taking – I’m no big fan of the ideas of the AA although I accept a group setting can help a lot for some people. For me I’m not convinced it’s worth it, my higher power would likely be ‘my own mind’ so a lot of the AA steps annoy me, plus I’m quite the introvert and find group sessions exhausting.

    I’m curious though, has anyone reading this tried the Allen Carr Easyway book on controlling alcohol? Only just got it through the local library at the moment but what I’ve read so far seems to be quite in tune with my particular mentality, as does this page.

    • Teresa 6 October, 2011 at 11:28 am - Reply

      I too have found aa to be too intrusive and somewhat bullying in their tactics, although I do appreciate they mean the best. Each time I have been unable to attend a meeting due to real life matters, i have been told I am making excuses etc, put aa first or lose everything. I think its time AA updated their thinking and attitudes, not all alcoholics are a the bottom and some will never sink, telling someone with a moderate problem that I will die withouth AA is simply not going to work.
      Like you Kate i have found Allen Carrs book on this matter, a lot more sensible and trustworthy.

    • Colin 10 October, 2011 at 11:50 pm - Reply

      Kitsune, being a bloke I would of course refuse to read anything by Alan Carr… but i will counter recommend Crossroads by Eric Clapton

  33. janie 29 September, 2011 at 7:11 am - Reply

    that was “in particular the JEALOUSY of other women” was definately disturbing to say the very least!

  34. janie 29 September, 2011 at 7:09 am - Reply

    I have been attending AA for 13 years and have not drank or abused prescription pills for that length of time. Recently after moving to the city I had been overwhelmed with the selfishness of other women, their anger too was evident in all they carried on; in particular the jeaously and competitive actions to gain the men’s attention totally turned me off as well as the insistence on NOT talking or speaking about God or any experiences there of…sharing is to be kept to a minimum depending on the group..I love the people who have supported me but to perfectly honest they rarely went to AA meetings maybe once a week at the very most but living in rural communities they live their lives and most that I know do attend a church or something in the community for support where as in AA here in the city they seem to make crude jokes about churches quite a lot ie: I am a recovered catholic…and so on ……..(though most meetings are held in the churches as well as they seem to think its ok to do 5th steps with ministers and have churches conduct marriages and funerals ) so I am not attending anymore.. I found that narcotics anonymous is much more progressive open to any sharing of any backgroud or religion or color or sexual orientation and so on..and even there I won’t attach myself like a barnacle on a ship to any group… cheers..life is awesome God is great and the Universe is always becoming and evolving..I am still 13 years abstinent and so are all my mormon friends and other friends who have never attended 12 step meetings detox or anything of the kind not knocking it just saying the truth…my truth

  35. lilly 14 August, 2011 at 9:54 am - Reply

    Hello,

    Being new to this forum means I am finding the comments very interesting! It is a complex problem…drinking. There seem to be many alternatives out there but the best way to determine what works and what doesn’t would be some long term stats. Also finding the reasons we drink or have other addictions.
    If anxiety causes us to drink then what about the people who suffer from anxiety but don’t drink or drug! The same with depression and other mental disorders. Not all people with these disorders drink in fact a lot don’t drink at all. So there are clear indicators that drinking is fuelled by an inherant gene or some kind of gentic recpetor may be or rather some other physical irregularity which then transpires into a psychological and psyiological need to become dependant on alcohol.
    I have been going to AA for almost 5 months now. I too was in denial about my drinking that I could stop whenever I had 1 drink! but somehow my brain convinced me after that 1 drink that it was ‘ok’ to have another and so on. An amazing phenomena that for some reason does not happen to everyone.
    At this point I am still not certain if AA is right or wrong or works or doesn’t work. I know I have meet people infact many who have been living a healthy and sober life for many years since being in AA and I have met many who haven’t! so like everything in life we have to let judgement go and do what is right for us.
    There have been times in AA that I have wanted to leave and sigh with the thought of having to sit and listen to more drunk stories. Not sure if this helps ‘me’ or not it does keep me networked with other alcoholics. That is a good thing!

  36. Clare 6 August, 2011 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    Kate, I had a similar experience. I am afraid that it is fairly common. It is worse than straight 13 stepping.

  37. Clare 6 August, 2011 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    Hello, I have just found this site and I am very pleased that people are exploring alternatives to AA. Have you read theorangepapers.org? Or looked at ‘stinkin-thinkin.com’? I think that anything but AA is a step in the right direction. The American Supreme Court has ruled that AA is religious, although AA continues to deny this.

  38. Droopy10 1 August, 2011 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Hello everyone, I am new to this forum and have been reading through alot of peoples notes which have been helpful and interesting. I have not been to AA for a while,I have mixed feelings about it but then if I don’t go then I start to drink again . The longest I have been sober for is 6 months but that was two years ago. I did drink yesterday whilst my family were out and very much regret it today as my husband was fuming as I promised him I would not drink. He is sympathetic though but has made it clear that this really is the last time other wise its over. I am going to make an appointment with my doctor and have some more couselling.
    I have taken my antabuse from today and will continue,I need to !! I will be back to write some more soon, just need to do some more reading on this website and gather my thoughts. Thanks, Droopy10

  39. kate 14 June, 2011 at 11:33 am - Reply

    My experience of AA, was a load of lecherous old timers, trying to get my phone number ! Plus, they were trying to convince me I drank more than I do.
    I said to one guy ‘ I won’t be drinking at all this week ‘ and he winked at me and said ‘ There are always ways to get money for booze ‘ – I left sharpish and never went back !!

  40. the irish woman 13 June, 2011 at 7:10 am - Reply

    I went to AA meetings in Paris (English-speaking) for a few months the last time I tried to stop drinking.It was intimidating:all those people (mostly American ex-pats or passers-through) who didn’t look as if they’d ever had a problem with booze in their lives!It figures ; most of them have been sober for about 20 years already!
    I stuck it out with the meetings for a couple of months and it really did do me good,especialy since there was a lot of good humour and some really eye-opening,hairy stories.However,I never really identified with any of the people there,and I always felt a bit of a fraud,so I agree with a lot of what Hugo says.The AA people listen politely,but deep down they don’t give a damn.I find this site more helpful since it really is anonymous and after only a couple of visits I have found more people I identify with than in all my AA meetings.As a fellow loner,I sympathize,Hugo.

  41. Hugo 1 June, 2011 at 6:17 am - Reply

    Ken, I look through the web every day to see if I can find an answer to my problem which shows up in alcoholic drinking. I have little money now, so the medics, and clinics, and therapists are no longer available. I have been to AA for many years and once stayed sober for a year – and then very nearly killed myself. I have always been a loner and now I am alone. I am a loner because I have no self esteem and I am scared of people – even though I can pretend otherwise for short periods so that nobody will know. I have a well ingrained insanity which tells me that “you all” hate me, so I put up barriers. I think the AA description of the alcoholic is a good one. But I am unconvinced that the “disease” is anything other than a catch-all for psycholigal issues that show up in drinking. I currently have big problems with the god angle. BUt I try to go to AA because there is nowhere else to go. Building human relationships could help my underlying problem. But despite the words, I am still left feeling like an outsider. Nobody makes any meaningful conversation, listens, or shows any real interest. The social types backslap with the social types and, like elsewhere, the rest of us can go to hell. The talk of “the love,fellowship, and support” in the rooms is so upsetting to an alien like me. I feel so desperate that there is actually nowhere to go.

    • Ken 7 September, 2011 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      I am so sorry that so many seem to have such bad experiences with AA. I suppose the problem is that everyone who attends an AA meeting is human – and I certainly have human failings! I am also a ‘loner’ who finds it difficult to strike up meaningful conversations with people I hardly know. When I first started with AA I retained that isolation, and although I could identify with what others were saying, I kept pretty quiet. Then I started sharing (complete rubbish at first, and mainly about my drinking, not my recovery) and slowly I began to develop an ability to talk ‘meaningfully’ to others who I needed to talk to for my recovery.

      I did feel, in my early years, that there were little cliques of AA people who seemed to give me the cold shoulder – but now I realise that it was my distorted thought that was the real culprit. My own arrogance told me that I should be instantly accepted just because I was such a super guy. The truth was that I was just another old drunk in early sobriety.

      I have often been told that if I don’t like a particular AA meeting, I don’t need to go to it – there are plenty of others I can choose from! Indeed, I abandoned my original home group because it had become alien to me – or at least I thought it had (my warped thoughts again). Tonight, I am going back to it after a year during which I have attended many other meetings – but not the one which did so much for me in my early years. What I am trying to say is that even after 10 years of sobriety I still have delusions that every AA group should be as I want it, rather than as it actually is!

      I do feel for those who feel intimidated by others, whether that because of perceptions that they are stand-offish, or because they are lecherous. All I can say about the lechery is (once again) that we are all human. I can also say that I have actually been groped by a woman during the Serenity Prayer at an AA Meeting – so presumably she was being lecherous too – it’s not just the men! By the way, I didn’t stop going to that meeting – nor did I thirteenth step the lady despite the welcome mat being in place!

      But for me, luckily, all these feelings came a poor second to my ardent desire to stop drinking. I could have used my feeling of isolation, my feeling that I was not ‘good enough for the group’, my feeling that I was being ‘got at’ by those who had more sober time than me or my feeling that nobody in the group was really prepared to help me as excuses to stop coming to meetings and start drinking again. But I didn’t. I kept coming back. I did what was suggested. I came to understand that it was my alcoholism telling me all these negative things and was able to tell my illness to f*** off and let me get sober! So far so good, a day at a time!

      Ken

  42. Holly 2 May, 2011 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    This is truly a very interesting debate. I can see the merit on both sides but atleast both focuses on the fact that with the help of the AA or not people do take control of their lives and get better. My question is how do you make some one see the damage that has been caused when any one that has this problem is so deeply swathed in denial? Even to the point when the family has split due to sickening recorded events and that person still thinks it is every one elses fault and not the alcohol?
    I know that alcoholics have little or no emotion/empathy because of the numbing effect of the drinking, so how therefore can any one get through to them? If they feel nothing why do they care about the damage they cause or the lives they have ruined? Or even how much better their excistence could be with out it?

    • Ken 11 May, 2011 at 6:59 am - Reply

      I can only speak for myself, of course. I was in denial for many, many years; despite knowing that I was an alcoholic, I did nothing about it. I lost my marriage and almost certainly emotionally damaged my children. My career came to a shuddering halt against the glass ceiling of the bottles I relied on. My emotions and empathy were not absent – but my abuse of, and reliance on, alcohol, added to my continuing need to justify my drinking, made me misuse these emotions to give me the necessary victim status.

      Many (including my ex-wife, many friends and work colleagues) had told me I should do something about my drinking, but I was scared to stop (I thought it was the glue that held me together, when in fact it was the solvent which was breaking me apart), I was arrogant enough to disregard the evidence and thought ‘this time it’ll be OK’ (when my own bitter experience told me it wouldn’t be), and I always convinced myself that ‘I wasn’t as bad as others’ (I am not sure how bad I wanted it to get!).

      I had to reach the right conclusion myself – to hit my own ‘rock bottom’ which allowed me to surrender, and admit that in the battle between alcohol and me, alcohol was the outright winner. When I reached that conclusion, I could stop fighting alcohol. I then could develop a genuine desire to stop drinking – and stay stopped. Not to cut down, to stop for a while or any of the other non-surrenders – but not to drink at all, a day at a time. I had to do this for me, not for others – but of course the others benefited from my decision too.

      So, Holly, you ask how anyone can get through to an alcoholic. I suppose my suggestion is that you can only help them to get through to themselves. Not all will, but they still need that encouragement from friends, family and so on. One thing that helped me was one of my daughter’s friends coming up to me in a pub and telling me that my daughter was really worried about my drinking – sounds silly, maybe, but the timing of that comment was the start of my self-realisation that my alcoholism just could not be managed by me – that I needed help.

      That help was freely given to me by AA, and I remain abstinent today thanks to them. So far, a day at a time, I have been abstinent for nearly 10 years; my attitudes and outlooks have changed so I don’t feel the same entitlement or victimhood. All I need to do is not take that first drink, work the 12 step programme and keep being reminded (by going to AA meetings) that if I want to return to Hell, all I need to do is drink again!

  43. ian davie 3 April, 2011 at 11:32 am - Reply

    i can identify with alot of these comments and know alcohol is damaging my relationship i don`t drink every day and when i do drink i don`t always drink excessivly but often i do and this is never upsetting at the time for i`m quiet when drunk but has other upsetting affects in the morning which reminds me of my child hood and my low self esteem i suffered then i`m at the stage where a little support could go a long way as i have little in this area from my current partener a little unfair but true remember the stern head misstress you get the idea.my job leaves me with few windows to visit aa meetings ideas welcome
    also on a different note can anyone point me in the direction of a anger management group as my partener suffers from this not just towards me but everyone

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