AA-How Alcoholics Anonymous Steals Your Soul
AA certainly divides opinion, which I suppose is why the one size fits all solution, which it claims will work for everyone, does not achieve great results. Most AA members will leave or relapse. I was suspicious of AA from the start and even asked about alternatives at my second meeting, which did not go down too well! I had already stopped by the time I arrived at AA, but was having a struggle staying stopped. Because of this I have never given AA all the credit for my recovery and I feel it gave me a different perspective to many who are sent by the courts (such as the author of this book) and those who are introduced to AA via a treatment center, as many of these people give AA complete credit for their recovery, in front of new comers.
I viewed AA as religious from the start, even though many of the AA members, deny this as strongly as they can. The author of this book was successful, at getting forced attendance at AA, ruled unconstitutional as a violation of the first amendment of the US constitution. He views AA, as religious indoctrination into a faith healing Christian sect. I think much of what he says is valid, as so many meetings have been taken over by “steppers” and the dogma is the main focus, rather than fellowship and recovery. For many members, AA is their religion, and they become slogan spouters, that reminded me of Mormons or members of cults such as Scientology. I did not take many of them seriously, for very long but many do get sucked in.
He describes the roots of AA, from the Oxford movement after Bill Wilson had claimed to have had a spiritual experience while hallucinating on belladonna in a hospital. He followed the path of the very religious Oxford group, which suffered a PR disaster after supporting Adolf Hitler before the Second World War. AA based the steps on the traditions of the Oxford group, but twisted the language so that more people would join and re-ordered them.
The book does a good job of pointing out contradictions and also exposes the reality of the message that people really get from the steps. He also talks about the the condescending chapter to the agnostic, and other issues such a self defence primer for the types of arguments that 12 steppers will give you about the program. I wish I could have had that part photocopied, when I was going to AA! He takes apart the steps, with a chapter on each and describes how they attempt to lead you to a religious conversion rather than long term sobriety.
He is very critical of the AA view of God, the claimed direct line to God and the fact that the program never fails according to zealous 12 steppers, who have bought into the faith healing method of Bill Wilson. I used to sit in meetings looking at people as if they were idiots, when they were going on about higher powers and the miracle of prayer. In spite of that, I found it hard to leave, as I was so desperate to remain alcohol free, and it it quite hard to go against the rest of the group when they say things such as’ “you will die if you stop going to meetings”. The reality was rather different, once I had received decent treatment away, from AA. I think this book would have really helped me, make the decision to leave the steppers to it, much earlier than I did, if it had been available then.
The only thing I got from AA that was worth having, was some fellowship and a place to go in my early days of recovery. I do not think the 12 steps were any use to most people. Things like making amends are common sense and I did not need a religious indoctrination to learn that. In fact the book points out that these steps are the only ones that are not religious in nature (in my opinion – the only useful ones!).
Other people feel they have been in a cult when the come to their senses after a time in the rooms, and are furious that they have not left AA earlier, (I only wasted about 18 months there). This book would have helped them to see that they were being told a lie by AA. I do not want to see AA destroyed, simply because some people clearly like it and the religion helps them stay sober, but I do not like the fact that it attempts to push a faith healing solution on people who will not benefit at all from it. AA knows that it would have trouble recruiting new members if it were honest about the religious side, and did not have the courts sending people to its “treatment”. This should stop, and AA should be seen for what it is – a simple support group, that uses the Christian religion, and not a proper treatment.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has doubts about AA, as it may save them many wasted years in a pretty dysfunctional religious group, claiming they are serene and that they are being protected by a higher power. Something I did learn from AA, is that zealous religious types are often the biggest liars and the most untrustworthy people, I have ever met. The sad part about AA is that it could really help a lot more people, if it dropped the steps and worked on fellowship, but as most sensible people leave after a short period, I doubt this will happen. Books such as this and all the websites and blogs that are starting up will help to change opinion, when they are presented well rather than the irrational arguments that take place on a couple of forums. Hopefully people will be able to find more suitable solutions for recovery than the crazy spiritual solution that AA attempts to con people into, for the sake of religious conversion.
There is more about the book on the author’s site http://noforcedaa.weebly.com/chapter-1-of-aa–how-alcoholics-anonymous-steals-your-soul.html
Here is a link to some of my post on this site about leaving AA http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/leave-aa/ . There are also other sites that are relevant on my links page.