AA-How Alcoholics Anonymous Steals Your Soul

AA-How Alcoholics Anonymous Steals Your Soul

Indoctrinating America in 12 Easy Steps Robert Warner 


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 https://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/leave-aa/ . There are also other sites that are relevant on my links page.




Commenting area

  1. I came across your blog while looking for something else, but I was tempted to read it to see another point of view. While I appreciate your honesty, I think it is important to remember that AA has literally millions of members worldwide. To make a blanket judgement on a large number of people based on your experience in one small pocket is similar to racism. While it does seem that you were surrounded by some deluded people – your experience no more indicates the reality of the AA institution than a terrorist would indicate the reality of Islam. I, for one, have had a vastly different experience. In about 5 years, I have achieved a strong and healthy mental balance, been extremely successful in business, creative efforts and personal relationships. I attend my home-group weekly and help out when I can. I am not “ruled by the grip of AA”, the idea to me sounds comical. I have also been surrounded by many successful people in AA, and have no opinion on those who leave. Their lives are simply none of my business and I wish well to all. It is also important to point out that you are claiming that AA says that the steps are the only way to get sober, while some individuals may believe what they want – the literature itself says that AA has “NO monopoly on sobriety”, the steps are a “suggested program of recovery” and “yet knows but little”.
    One area which I agree whole heartedly with you is in the area of courts sending people to AA. It is ridiculous, and in the state where I live they do not do that. I was sent for mandatory treatment through the courts, and when that did not work I elected to try AA on my own. God is clearly in AA’s 12 steps, and the state should be more responsible steering clear of an affiliation like that.
    Lastly I will say that I may not prefer your way of staying sober for myself, but I certainly won’t invest my time into publicly discouraging others from trying what you do if it may help them. That would make me a self proclaimed pundit on addiction recovery, which I am not. People are all different – and I do have faith that there is a force out there who will lead each person to their own truth and happiness. If that makes me an indoctrinated freak, at the very least I am a peaceful & successful one. Although you have a discouraging and negative view on what works for me, I have my own experience to draw from, and that experience leads me to extend to you nothing more than well wishes and positive encouragement in your continued sobriety, however you accomplish that.

    • What you don’t realize is how you are being brainwashed. Just one example; when you are told to take a “moral inventory” you are actually being tricked into examining yoursef for how you have committed the “Seven Deadly Sins” of ancient Christian mythology? You have fallen victim to AA’s deliberate deceit of using “everyday language to discuss spiritual principals”. None of that is my words; that is straight from AA’s own published writings

  2. Perhaps you ought to read the book as it does a good job of describing the steps and the AA God as this is what my post is about. I do not agree on your Racist or Taliban analogy, especially having experienced terrorism first hand for many years as a result of the actions of the “Christian” IRA. I did actually attend a wide range of meetings and always found that the steps and traditions were clearly displayed at the front of the room and a large amount of sharing would be about the steps or higher power.
    I am glad that you think that AA has worked for you, but many have had problems as a result of attending. I do not feel AA is a safe place particularly in cities where a large number of the group may not be regular members, and AA has not done anything about changing, which could help deal with some of the problems.
    Criticism of AA is not only done by ex members,but many in AA itself, are also concerned. There is a website that talks about many of the cult type meetings and other problems in the fellowship by members of AA, who would like to see more fellowship and less fundamentalism. http://www.aacultwatch.co.uk/ are very critical of many of the mainly “step based” groups such as Visions, joys or Midtown.
    Apart from your Taliban analogy, (which is a typical AA type, passive aggressive comment) you appear to claim you are a more moderate member concerned with helping. It is sad that many moderate members tend to leave the fellowship, as they become tired of the devout 12 steppers which tends to make meetings unbalanced. I am glad AA exists for people to want to go there, but I do not think the methods practised by AA are in any way a treatment for alcoholism and I feel it is important for those who have moved on to other methods that work, make people aware of them as it can help save lives.
    I have heard from many members who have left AA after many years of membership, who felt that the program has harmed them, is religious and that they are glad they have moved on. Many AA members refuse to see that the program is based on religion and is simply faith healing. This is what is covered in the book and as this site is aimed at people who have moved on from AA I feel it is relevant and useful. Of course I am happy that a few do manage a long alcohol free existence after following the steps but I feel very sorry for the people that suffer, especially those sensitive individuals who are caused great distress by step 5 etc.

  3. Joseph banks May 3, 2014 at 6:06 am · · Reply

    What is a cult tho, and are they bad? /They shield us from the outside world and all it’s problems I guess. Aren’t the Jesuits a very helpful cult? So when people say AA is a cult like that is a bad thing, like a cult is a terrible thing, they aren’t being very analytical. Does anyone do well in a cult? The cult of birdwatching can be a very negative thing. The most important feature of a negative cult is if it makes the people unhappy and angry, if they are in it. If you read the posts of the pro AAers, they are cutting and sarcastic and intolerant. I have read only one balanced post by a 12 stepper, the rest seem angry and unable to communicate successfully with people who disagree with them. I guess they are the cult of sobriety. They love sobriety. Is sobriety a holy state? No, the holiest state? They live and breathe total abstinence. It is a holy state for them. I know, I experienced it. But I became obnoxious and looked down on, felt sorry for, people who could not achieve this holy state. So my cultism wasn’t helpful, like a Jesuit’s, . ‘

    • I don’t think people are dealing with reality when they are in a cult, and it is a form of escapism. In recovery terms it does lead to a strange view of what recovery is in some groups. Some AA groups are cult like, others less so. I certainly think AA promotes some strange out of date ideas.

  4. @Joseph: I’m not sure if we’re allowed to post links here or not, but this is one of my old ones:

    Also, you mentioned “birdwatching,” “Jesuits,” etc.- if a person becomes involved in one of those, the person isn’t likely to be harmed by other members, forced to participate in things they disagree with or don’t want, and leave/stay is basically a matter of personal choice.

  5. Xt!nA! did you mean to say your state does not mandate 12 step programs? I do not know of any states that do not. Which state were you referring to? The problem is not only the courts mandating people to AA and NA, but the fact that AA works with the courts and they have no safety guidelines. I have found when I complain to 12 members about the mandating they deflect it by saying go complain ti the courts and deny that AA or NA have any involvement in it.

    http://www.nadaytona.org Criminals in AA and NA

  6. The point is that AA lies about it’s religious nature. This lie is used to force people into AA’s faith-healing religion under threat of imprisonment, loss of livelihood and incarceration in a mental institution. Just a quick example of AA lies; AA at first tells you that you need to take a “moral inventory” and then, after you have been working that step, they inform you that AA really means the Seven Deadly Sins of ancient christian theology. These are not me words but, rather, are the words of AA itself in the 12x 12 book. AA is full of bull. Deal with it. have actually been searching

    • This may be an odd request, but I am currently in a similar situation as far as the court mandated 12 step attendance and my objections and refusal to participate have cost me my freedom on more than one occasion and caused great turmoil in my life. I have been attending a non-theistic treatment for over a year, but they do not recognize this as a sufficient alternative. I have recently hired a lawyer and now the court is very nervous and will not bring up the mandatory 12 step attendance in front of him and has actually openly denied ever having such a mandate. Being that you have experience in this situation, I was wondering if you could lend me some advice.

  7. Thanks for dropping by, I thought your book was pretty good. I do agree AA is religious even though members will go to great lengths to deny that. I was actually pretty shocked by the whole thing when I joined and feel it is the fellowship side rather than the steps that is the only thing that really has a positive effect on people. It is sad that those who remain in AA for the long term are generally fans of the religious parts of the Big Book and this is the side they tend to push on people. I am very glad that there are now many alternatives to AA in the recovery field for those who do not feel it is useful.

  8. I did not drink for 27 years after being in aa the whole time. Before AA and sobriety I did not have the strength to build solid relationships on my own, and was turning to drinking with ‘friends’ which wasn’t working well, only more emptiness. I went to AA and it gave me a moral foundation that I hadn’t found elsewhere, and I was so grateful that I didn’t question it, but now I can see that damage was done. It is somewhat like being taken into a unhealthy family after you were found starving on the street. It was better than nothing!

    But I had to stop AA because I didn’t believe I was powerless; I never did believe it. Also, I have found now that AA was interfering with my relationship with God, that I was relying on my sponsor for answers, or that I was expected to turn to the Big Book for everything. And there was just a feeling that sitting in the rooms talking about how great your life was because of AA was pointless and boring, frankly. Twenty seven years was enough for me. Since I left I’ve had a few sips of wine, just to see, but found I no longer like the feeling of alcohol in my system. My life didn’t turn into an instant wreck, as AA tells me. I’m not saying that this isn’t true for others, mind you, it just wasn’t true for me. My years of drinking are far behind me, and I have no desire to have them back.

    The only trouble now is the loneliness but it inspires me to work harder at developing my own interests and non-AA life. I feel my soul actually, and truly blossoming. It’s a beautiful thing. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if there really is such a thing as alcoholism. Maybe it’s PTSD from something else, and the pain just becomes too much and we drink to feel better.

  9. Lovinglife52 August 26, 2014 at 9:58 am · · Reply

    I think alcohol abuse affects many of us differently and that we drink for different reasons. AA tells us to look at the similarities and this can actually make us believe that we are full of character flaws and are the same as other’s in the rooms, when in reality these are just problems that everyone faces and may not be having agreat effect on us. I found techniques that improve self esteem help me the most and also spending time with people outside recovery.

  10. I’m now not sure the place you’re getting your information, however good topic.

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  11. Does anyone on this thread know the success rate of AA? It is less than 2% the 2% is remarkable, however something should be done to increase the success!

  12. Love_Lies_Bleeding13 January 8, 2019 at 12:49 am · · Reply

    AA is not a Christian sect! If I hear this foolish statement one more time I am going to vomit and scream! One of the biggest problems that I had with AA is that it is Pagan and occult! Real Christianity says that there is one true God the Father Son and Holy Spirit! If AA were a Christian group it wouldn’t be telling people that they could worship a light bulb or a styrofoam cup or makeup some kind of deity with their alcohol saturated delusional brain and it would actually exist! Please stop spitting on Christ by seeing this evil satanic toxic pagan demon worshipping cult is Christian! Thank you very much

  13. Love_Lies_Bleeding13 January 8, 2019 at 1:28 am · · Reply

    One of the things about which I am extremely angry with AA is the LIE that the steps work. Bill W was held up practically as a god and the epitome of an example of how the steps work. They totally lie! He was practicing so many addictions in his life it’s ridiculous! He took all kinds of acid and it was not just in controlled settings under a doctors auspices as AAA tries to claim. He was addicted to sex and gambling and died from emphysema caused from a cigarette addiction! He was begging for whiskey on his Deathbed! These Psychopaths were mentally and emotionally abusing me because I couldn’t stay sober! They were telling me that I wasn’t working the program the way it was laid out! I was doing the steps wrong! The reason the steps didn’t work for me is because the steps don’t work! Anyone who stays sober in AA doesn’t stay sober because the steps work! Anyone who stays sober in AA stay sober because he or she is accidentally doing the things that help someone for real to stay sober like CBT or DBT or some other kind of therapy. Or is just using willpower or something but it isn’t because if it works it’s because that person works!

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