Criticism of AA is nothing new

Criticism of AA or Alcoholics Anonymous is nothing new! AA ignores the doctor’s opinion!

I recently read “The Sober Truth” which is an excellent book by Lance Dodes. It questions the methods used by Alcoholics anonymous such as the steps, and shows how AA grew from a fundamentalist religious organisation called the Oxford group. I was aware of many of the things in the book, such as the very poor recovery rate in AA, which is somewhere between 5% and 10% and the fact that AA impedes progress in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction. I spent a lot of time in my first two years of recovery, researching different methods to beat alcoholism, and realised that continued membership of AA was causing me more problems than it was solving and that it was sensible to move away from it and some of its members, who have very unhealthy outlooks. One of the pieces I found was by Arthur Cain from 1963 in Harpers Magazine. Much of what he said then, seemed to be relevant to my experience. I was very lucky to read this when I did! Leaving AA was the best move for me.

early AA meeting

The book has generally been well received by the press who have written good reviews, but this has provoked a large about of irrational responses from the AA community, who are outraged that a Doctor could question their approach. They treat AA as a religion and respond in the same way as members of a religious faith do when their beliefs which are central to their way of life is questioned.

The book makes the point that any other group setting up to provide fellowship for those suffering from addiction, would do well to steer clear of religion! As I have said many times on this site, I do feel having some fellowship really helped me in my early days, and it was important to see that alcoholism could be beaten. I think many see this as the part of AA that does work, but this side is played down by many in the organisation, who wish to push the steps, which moralise recovery on anyone who will listen. They then blame the individual if they do not at succeed 100%  abstinence, judge them as a failure and humiliate them with a loss of all sober time in front of the group. They believe that prayer and moral inventories, are the solution for alcoholism that they claim is an incurable disease. I do not agree with this.

I think AA probably did have a better success rate in the early days, although Bill Wilson declined to print any stories of failure in his “Big Book” which has become the AA bible, which would help accurate assessment. I am sure the term fellowship, would describe early AA meetings and the few people who I met in UK meetings who had really long-term sobriety also said that AA had changed over the years from one alcoholic supporting another through hard times. It has become more religious as time goes on, with the steps displayed in a prominent position at the front of meetings. Members are not encouraged to share anything other than AA type recovery, and medical advancements are often looked down on. There is a deep distrust of any progress in the field and many in AA wrongly claim that only an alcoholic can help and understand another alcoholic. This has led to a lot of criticism by many in the medical field, but AA has many supporters who have risen to the top of the recovery industry who seem intent on pushing AA on everyone. For AA members, sobriety means following the AA solution of subjugation to a higher power and the learnt belief of powerlessness.

If you do criticise AA for any reason, you will be met by irrational arguments such as the claim you are “killing alcoholics” by putting people off attending. I think the opposite is true, you are saving people from a method that is no more than faith healing. Many doctors have said as much over the years, but AA is still regarded as a great institution by many people, generally because it is all they have heard of in the press, which tends not to talk about the religious side.

Below is a piece from Harper’s Magazine, February 1963 by Arthur H. Cain, who has a Ph.D. from Columbia and is a graduate of Yale (now Rutgers) School of Alcohol Studies . He talks about how AA is becoming a religion and that it was holding back medical progress. In my opinion, after attending many AA meetings in different places, the shift is even more extreme these days. Arthur Cain explores the idea of AA as a cult, and many people who have had bad experiences in AA as result of following its methods will agree with this idea. I tend to view it as a religion myself, and feel that much of its focus is on getting unfortunate, damaged people to pray. Like most religions, AA has little time for scientific progress and pushes irrational, superstitious ideas.

It is wrong to simply view alcoholism as a disease which simply needs a one size fits all “spiritual solution” . This approach has caused a huge number of people misery and has also meant that those who feel helpless after failing at this ineffective program, have walked away from recovery. Over the years, much critisism of the 12 step world has been suppressed and ignored. I do not think that this will be able to happen in the future, because the internet, is educating people about superior approaches. This causes an even greater reaction by those who are members of AA, who disregard the traditions of AA about outside issues and spring to the defence of its faith based solution. The whole world can see their irrational outlook and will judge accordingly.

Here is the piece by Arthur Cain, which I was fortunate to find when I was struggling with the teachings of AA.


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?
by Arthur H. Cain

A useful idea has turned into a religious movement—and a hindrance to research, psychiatry, and to many alcoholics who need a different kind of help.

In the beginning “They” created Alcoholics Anonymous. (“They” have not yet been credited with the creation of the heavens and earth, but, if present trends continue, they will be.) “They are “W.W.” and “Dr. Bob”–cofounders of a movement which is becoming one of America’s most fanatical religious cults: “AA”

To be sure, the late Dr. Bob and the very current W.W. did not want to be deified. They joined forces in 1935 simply to help each other stop drinking. Today the fellowship they started claims a membership of over 300,000 “arrested” alcoholics in 85 countries. The A.A. idea was based on psychological and spiritual concepts very similar to those of Frank Buchman’s then-famous Oxford Group. Conceived in Akron, Ohio, the first AA. Group was formed in New York City. In A.A.’s first five years no more than a few hundred people joined.

Then, in 1941, an article about A.A. by Jack Alexander appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and gave the movement an overnight boost. Membership leaped to over eight thousand by the end of the year.

A.A.’s basic tenet is that only an alcoholic can help another alcoholic; that psychiatric and other treatment is usually unsuccessful; but that alcoholics can, by banding together in a spirit of mutual help and understanding (and “by turning their lives over to God as they understand Him”), manage to lead relatively normal lives. Above all, they must face the fact that they must never again taken even one drink of alcohol.

As long as it restricted itself to informal organization and group “therapy,” A.A. enjoyed–and deserved–universal respect. But a disquieting change has developed over the past fifteen years. A.A. is now highly formalized. The meetings, believed to be absolutely necessary, are ritualistic. And any suggestion to members that The Program is less than divine revelation evokes an irrational outcry.

I have no personal axe to grind. As a practicing psychologist who specializes in alcohol problems, I have been active since 1947 in both therapy and research. I have worked closely with Alcoholics Anonymous. I have also worked for the National Council onAlcoholism and for the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, a charitable organization whose major interests are alcoholism and cancer.

I am disturbed by the fact that, for many members, A.A. is not as effective as it once was.

Moreover, I feel that much-needed scientific research is being diverted to other fields because of A.A.’s omniscient attitude. And I am not alone in my concern. Frequently in my practice, disillusioned men and women appeal to me: “Doctor, I’ve tried AA. over and over and I still can’t stay sober. There must be something else dreadfully wrong with me! What is it?”

My friends in psychiatry, psychology, and pastoral counseling often ask me in discreet tones, “What’s happening to AA?” Then, embarrassed at sounding critical, they add hastily, “It is a wonderful organization.” Dr. E. M. Jellinek, dean of researchers in alcohol studies, pleaded at a workshop on alcoholism -held at Columbia University in June 1959 that A.A. leave science alone–so that scientists might get along with the business of objective research into the problem.

While serving as public-relations counsel to the National Council on Alcoholism in 1959, I attended A.A. meetings in a dozen major cities. This personal survey of AA. groups convinced me that there is a widening breach not only between A.A. and scientists, but also between practicing A.A.s and other alcoholics.

`What has happened to the excellent program that once helped alcoholics stop drinking when medicine and psychology failed? Why has A.A. become a cult that many men and women reverentially call “the greatest movement since the birth of Christianity”?

“UTILIZE–DON’T ANALYZE”

I attended my first A.A. meeting in 1947 and was enormously impressed by the sincerity of the members. They were not professional do-gooders. The speakers seemed genuinely “humble,” not piously proud of their humility. The “A.A. Personality”–identifiable by a studied air of serenity and steadfast smile (which I have come to think of, uncharitably, as the “A.A. Smirk”)–had not yet come into existence. It is a product of “AA.: the Cult” as opposed to “A.A.: the Fellowship.”

But one remark disturbed me even then. One man arose–a forerunner of the seer-and-pundit type now prevalent in A.A.–and declared, “There’s an aggregate of two thousand years of drinking experience in this meeting room. If we don’t understand alcoholismthen nobody does.” My own reaction was that nobody understood alcoholism (no one does now, either) and it was ludicrous for a group which admittedly had lost control of its drinking to claim superior knowledge of the subject.

As I began to attend meetings regularly, other aphorisms troubled me. One favorite cliche appeared to be of special importance and still is: “Utilize–don’t analyze.”

For some members this was fine. They were weary of trying to figure out how to drink normally; or how to endure sobriety now that it was achieved; or why they had become alcoholic in the first place. They were ready to accept blindly anything that would end the agonies of compulsive drinking.

But for others, such faith was impossible.

Some people simply must analyze–it is their most characteristic personality trait. Perhaps, during the early, frightening days of their newly found sobriety they take comfort in letting others think for them. But as their heads clear and their nerves stop quivering, the need to comprehend ideas intellectually is reasserted and they find themselves examining their own behavior with healthy curiosity. As one relapsed member mournfully described his “slip”: “I had been dry for over a year and, like thewindow washer, stepped back to appraise my handiwork. I woke up two weeks later on the Flight Deck [the violent ward at Kings County Hospital] wondering what had happened.”

Relapses occur frequently among such alcoholics trying to stay sober in A.A. Many A.A. members are unsympathetic to these less fortunate brothers, whom they regard as “hopeless psychotics” or “nuts who aren’t ‘real’ alcoholics at all.” Thus, we see in A.A. two disturbing tendencies: (1) to define an alcoholic as a person who stays sober in AA.; and (2) to relegate all other problem drinkers to the limbo of psychosis.

AAs are fond of quoting such “statistics” as: “Fifty per cent of all alcoholics coming into AA get sober and remain sober; 25 per cent have one or two slips, then ‘get the program’ and maintain sobriety; the other 25 per cent are either psychotic or not alcoholic at all.”

A question arises: how do A.A. members garner these figures.? Because A.A. considers itself a deliberately permissive fellowship made up of autonomous groups which do not keep exact records, no real statistics exist. Nevertheless, individual members advance these generalizations as incontrovertible truths.

This kind of misinterpretation has narrowed A.A.’s once flexible philosophy into exclusive dogma. One undesirable effect is that those alcoholics who are not able to make A.A. work for them lose all hope; they fear that nothing is left for them except insanity (Korsakoffs Syndrome or the dreaded “wet brain”) or death. This is not so. Many alcoholics achieve a sobriety made happy and creative through medical, psychiatric, psychological, and pastoral techniques. The sometimes-tragic misunderstanding–that only AA can help–is fostered by A.A.’s growing rigidity.

If A.A.’s intolerance were confined to its own community, we could “live and let live,” as it exhorts its members to do. But A.A.s are indefatigable crusaders who greatly influence the national crusade against alcoholism—a malady which today afflicts five million Americans and costs taxpayers and industry over a billion dollars annually, according the National Council on Alcoholism. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has called alcoholism the nation’s fourth most serious public-health problem, ranking in importance with heart disease, cancer, and mental illness.

AAs hold key positions in city, state, and private agencies dealing with alcoholism. Many executive directors of local committees and information centers are members of AA. This means that public education on alcoholism is almost entirely in the hands of AAs. Furthermore, nearly all information about research, treatment, and community action is disseminated by public-relations directors who adhere to the A.A. party line. Thus, almost everything we read on alcoholism in newspapers and magazines is A.A. propaganda.

Zealous members spread this propag- anda, not for personal gain, but to “flush out” alcoholics and help them share their own dubious serenity. I have had the unnerving experience of hearing a spontaneous remark made by an AA speaker in New York on a Monday repeated as gospel in Chicago on the following Friday. Much worse, I have heard a federal department chief publicly parrot a “statistic” I knew had been invented by an A.A. the week before. It is perhaps no coincidence that the A.A. publication is known as “The Grapevine.”

Alcoholics Anonymous is hostile to criticism from any source. “All we ask is to be left alone,” they cry. But they do not leave the American public alone. They influence public-health officials; they write extensively; they take positions on medical subjects such as diet and drugs (tranquilizers, sedatives, and stimulants all fall under the rubric of “goof-balls” to AA), and hold themselves up as final arbiters on any matter pertaining to alcoholism.

One result of this authoritarianism is that well-meaning laymen organize committees and -sponsor “research’‘–which leads qualified professionals to assume that the job of fighting alcoholism is getting done. But it isn’t—largely because of a basic fallacy in A.A. thinking: that it takes an alcoholic to understand an alcoholic. The trouble lies in defining the word “understanding.” Scientists agree that alcoholics are more empathetic to other alcoholics than anyone else; but when they venture the opinion that trained specialists might be better equipped to conduct formal treatment and research than untrained alcoholics, they run into a storm of protest. AAs seem almost afraid that science will come up with a “cure” (an absolutely taboo word in the A.A. lexicon) and render A.A. unnecessary.

“What will we do if someone discovers a pill that cures alcoholism? It’s our dedication that’s keeping us sober and serene!” the executive -director of an influential agency on alcoholism recently said to me. Needless to say, this person and most of this agency’s staff are practicing members of AA. All are dedicated to combating alcoholism. But just as sobriety is a vocation for many A.A.s, for many agency people it is a career.

SOBRIETY . . . NOT SLAVERY

Another dangerous aspect of A.A. as a religious cult is the concept of sobriety as the ultimate goal of life. The very word “sobriety” has taken on a religious flavor and is uttered with hushed awe, rather than spoken of as a condition necessary to health and happiness. Practically all members who have passed the pigeon, or novice, stage speak of the quality of so-and-so’s sobriety, as if evaluating degrees of spirituality.

Sobriety has, indeed, become the A.A.’s end which justifies any means. I know men whose wives work and support them so that they may devote their full time to “A.A. Work.” I have talked with these women at Al-Anon meetings (groups formed especially for the spouses of alcoholics). Most are not complaining about their lot as A.A. wives; they insist that anything is better than living with a practicing alcoholic. But other women confess that eating, sleeping, and talking A.A. twenty-four hours a day is almost worse than having an alcoholic husband. The masculine point of view was summed up by a legendary souse at a bar who indignantly denied that he was an alcoholic. “I’m no blankety-blank alcoholic,” he shouted, “I’m a drunk!” When asked about the difference he retorted, “Alcoholics have to go to those blankety-blank meetings all the time!”

I have heard husbands of alcoholics complain that A.A. has become a network of women’s auxiliaries devoted to gossip and the “chanting of A.A. litanies such as, There but for the Grace of God.. . ‘; ‘Easy does it’; and ‘Living one day at a time.“’

A.A. dogmatism has prevented many people from seeking a more moderate solution: sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous without slavery to it.

And there are still other possibilities such as psychotherapy or pastoral counseling. But AAs would probably retort, justifiably, that they’ll stick to what they’ve got until something better comes along. Many alcoholics who come to A.A. have had unhappy experiences with psychologists or psychiatrists. Some therapists follow their own party lines, usually Freudian, too strictly and write off alcoholism as “just a symptom of some underlying emotional disorder”–implying that once the disorder is uncovered the problem of alcoholism will automatically be solved. Too many alcoholics are worsened by this oversimplified approach. Many others instinctively know better, especially when psychoanalysts begin probing their Oedipal Situations. However, most psychotherapists now understand that alcoholism is a complex, distinct illness and must be treated accordingly.

“ARRESTED” OR “RECOVERED”

But AAs veer to the other extreme. They assert vehemently that there’s nothing wrong with alcoholics except alcohol, and all the alcoholic has to do is to stay away from that first drink. (There is a standard gag in A.A. about the alcoholic who always orders two drinks and only drinks the second one.) The facts are: (1) the alcoholic obviously wouldn’t be an alcoholic if it weren’t for alcohol (what would he be?) and he certainly must abstain from it if he is to get well; but (2) he undoubtedly is suffering from some sort of psychological disorder: emotional, mental, or social. Unfortunately, “psychology” is a synonym for “psychosis” to most A.A.s. When a recent Ph.D. dissertation on alcoholism was published in popular book form (Sever Sinners, by Arthur King, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1961), A.A.s immediately took the author to task for suggesting that alcoholics could be placed in categories of psychopathology like any other victims of a behavior disorder: the manic-depressive or compulsive-obsessive cases, for example, complicated by uncontrolled drinking. What was the big idea of saying alcoholics were a bunch of nuts, A.A.s demanded. Yet, they insist that “alcoholism is a disease.” The President of the National Council of Alcoholism, an exceptional executive with a scientific mind, goes further, calling alcoholism a respectable disease. It can happen to anyone, he implies, and should not have social or moral stigma attached to it. I couldn’t agree more heartily.

But AAs prefer to regard alcoholism as a purely physical disease: organic, glandular, metabolic, dietary–anything but mental. The only time this dread word is used is in an AA. definition of alcoholism: “A physical allergy, coupled with a mental compulsion.”

According to the American Medical Association (Journal of the American Medical Association, May 25, 1957), “alcoholism can be classified into (1) primary alcoholism, which includes (a) those patients who from the very first drink of an alcoholic beverage are unable to control their desire for it and (b) those who through use over a great many years have developed an inability to take a drink or leave it alone and have become like group (a); and (2) secondary alcoholism, which includes those who use alcohol for its sedative action as a means of escape from reality and, in particular, from their personal problems. . . . This secondary group comprises by far the majority of patients suffering from alcoholism; however, most alcoholic patients prefer to be in the primary group.” (Emphasis mine.)

By refusing to take into account problems of mental confusion, emotional immaturity, and social maladjustment, A.A.s are seriously hindering not only their own recovery, but scientific research as well.

If AAs are to be rescued from fanaticism, they must thoroughly understand two crucial words–“arrested” and “recovered.” These are terms used to describe alcoholics who do not drink any more. Most members of A.A. fall into the former category; that is, they have arrested the development of their disease and have learned to live with it. To these men and women, alcoholism is something real in itself, like an incurable cancer. “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic” is one of A.A.’s most holy doctrines. They mean that once a person has lost control of his drinking he will never again be able to drink normally, even to the extent of one glass of beer. He must work regularly at the business of not taking that first drink.

This means he must practice A.A. in all his affairs; attend meetings without fail; do “Twelfth Step Work” (the analogy between A.A.’s “Twelve Steps” and the Ten Commandments is unmistakable); and proselyte other alcoholics into Alcoholics Anonymous. If he doesn’t live AA., he’s sunk. He gets drunk again sooner or later and–alcoholism being in the dogma of AA. A progressive disease–he’ll be worse off thanever.

It is true, of course, that the drinking alcoholic becomes worse and worse in his drinking behavior. But what A.A. does is to superimpose this concept on the behavior of the non-drinking alcoholic. According to A.A., the disease itself progresses. This is erroneous thinking. An alcoholic who relapses after a period of abstinence may very well get sicker than ever, but because he has aged, not because his alcoholism has “progressed.”

The term “recovered” means something different: it implies that the patient’s alcoholism is no longer a problem. He may not be able to drink normally again, although some investigators such as D. L. Davies, Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, London, believe there are many such cases. This hospital’s work has been conscientiously reported by the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol (at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies; “Normal Drinking in Recovered Alcohol Addicts”’ March 1962). Here is an excellent example of -the true scientific method, for the Quarterly Journal reports both fact and theory. It is not surprising that Dr. Davies’ article has been either ignored by A.A., or brushed off with typical illogic: “Well, if these people drink normally, then they couldn’t have been alcoholics in the first place.” No AAs I queried had actually read the piece, though all were firm in their denunciation of it. I have heard A.A.s say that the report was immoral on the grounds that they might be tempted to drink again after hearing of it. Scientific truth was of no consequence.

The expression “recovered alcoholic” means that the patient no longer has to treat himself or take treatment from others at least twice a week for the rest of his life. He accepts life without alcohol; he makes certain adjustments within himself and in his attitude toward society; and he gets back into the mainstream of life. He might devote part of his time to helping alcoholics or others—probably he does–but because he can and wants to, not as a device to keep himself sober.

TRY A.A. FIRST, BUT…

There are many such recovered alcoholics, both in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous. These men and women have learned one thing: neither A.A. nor psychotherapy, nor any other treatment is more than a bridge between alcoholism and real recovery. Good bridges, perhaps. I still believe that A.A. provides the best possible way, at present, for most alcoholics to get sober and start a new life without alcohol. Others need some form of psychotherapy and/or pastoral counseling–perhaps in conjunction with A.A. These disciplines are especially helpful to people who cannot, without professional guidance, sincerely practice certain of A.A.’s Twelve Steps, such as Step Four–“Make a Searching and Fearless Inventory of Ourselves”; or Step Ten–“Continue to Take Personal Inventory and When We Are Wrong Promptly Admit It”; or those Steps that refer to “a Power greater than ourselves.”

Alcoholics Anonymous is not a sustain- ing Way of Life. Sobriety can never be a satisfactory ultimate goal; it is, after all, merely the absence of intoxication. It is what one does with one’s sobriety that is important. AA. is a man-made means for attaining this sobriety.

Alcoholics Anonymous should not be a cult for the retardation of the “arrested” alcoholic. I do not suggest for a moment that a single A.A. quit the fellowship. On the contrary, I strongly urge sticking with it. To anyone who is having trouble with alcohol I say: try A.A. first; it’s the answer for most people.

But to those who insist upon serving A.A. as if it were a holy and apostolic church, I say, Beware. Observe those members who seem genuinely serene. Talk with those who have been in A.A. a long time and who really practice “live and let live.” Though A.A. is an important part of their lives, it is an adjunct, not the whole. They have crossed the bridge from arrested alcoholism to true recovery.

And if even then they cannot stay sober and happy, they should not despair. There are other ways, other bridges–physicians and psychiatrists, psychologists and pastoral counselors, who are capable and anxious to help them. Some specialize in helping alcoholics who have conscientiously tried A.A. and failed. Most agree that there’s no such person as a hopeless alcoholic.

A.A. as a group must recognize its real function: to serve as a bridge from the hospital or the jail to the church–or to a sustaining personal belief that life is worthwhile. It must not pose as a spiritual movement that provides everything the alcoholic needs to fulfill his destiny. It must not teach its young (as it does in Alateen, its Sunday School for the children of alcoholics) such catechisms as: “We will always be grateful to Alateen for giving us a way of life and a wonderful healthy program to live by and enjoy.” It must realize that “the actual coffee pot Anne used to make the first A.A. coffee (shown in “Alcoholics Anonymous Come of Age,” Harper 1957, a commentary on the A.A. bible, Alcoholics Anonymous, Works Publishing Company, 1946) is not the Holy Grail. The cake and coffee served after meetings are just refreshments, not the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Only then will Alcoholics Anonymous “come of age.” Then, perhaps, more of its members will become “recovered” instead of “arrested” alcoholics. Science may then be stimulated to further research. And those alcoholics who are unable to make A.A. work for them may look elsewhere and find their serenity, too.

AA has taken no notice of any criticism  over the years and still remains similar in outlook to the 1960’s version which Cain talks about and was already less effective than the original fellowship which existed before the “Big Book” became the core of the program. It now has a larger number of court ordered attendees and others who are shipped in from 12 step rehabs.Very few members actually arrive there after through choice. Many people could be helped by education and CBT methods after having psychoanalysis and being helped through their troubles. Instead, huge sums of money are given to those with no medical training in 12 step rehabs, and then patients are sent to equally ineffective and unsuitable 12 step groups to mix with criminals and nut cases! Although I realise that many in the anti AA camp are equally  deranged and delusional as the 12 steppers, I feel that rational criticism of the 12 step world is really important and will lead to progress in the alcoholism treatment field. It is a shame that AA ignores the Doctor’s opinion most of the time these days!

Here is a link to my review of “The Sober Truth” http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/sober-truth-book/

Here is my AA critical section http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/category/aa-critical/

Here is more about AA simply being faith healing. http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/aa-simply-faith-healing-higher-power/

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  1. What has changed in Alcoholics Anonymous over the past 30 years? We started the custom of reading “How It Works” aloud
    at AA meetings. That was a tragic mistake. That reading aloud to all and sundry has morphed AA into a religion. Bill wrote
    that nothing could be so harmful as for our fellowship to become some kind of religion. When we “hold hands and pray”
    at meetings, how could anyone not think of us as a religion. Some sections of the US have accepted the 24hr book as
    approved literature. That book is a religious reading. The chanting at meetings makes us look like a cult. So we have
    become some sort of strange religious cult. The saddest truth of all is that the person who will pay for our mistakes is
    the future generations of alcoholics. But our current members and our leaders/trusted servants refuse to acknowledge
    that anything is wrong. Our own figures show our loss of effectiveness. Pride and arrogance and ignorance have been
    our downfall.

    • I agree that the things you have mentioned have been detrimental to AA over the past 30 years. I think AA was once more of a fellowship and less of a religion. I thinkthe treatment centers that push the steps as a solution are partly responsible for this change. Soory your post did not appear at first – it got caught in the spam trap.

  2. I personally love AA, but I also criticize these aspects of it. I combat AA fundamentalism by refusing to do what a lot of people do, pushing their ideas as absolute truth. I stay sober, they claimed that you can’t get sober unless you do what they say, I stay sober, they lied-end of story. I tell people that the steps work for me but I also show them where in the book it makes crystal clear that AA is not the only way nor are the steps. The steps are the “only” way for people who have tried everything else. Hell, even anytime I have relapsed and people accuse me of not working the program, they apparently didn’t read the section of the book where it encouraged anyone who thinks they can control alcoholism to go back out. The book encouraged me to drink. The problem in AA is also that you have many people who aren’t that bright. Nothing against people who have an IQ under 100, but this type of fundamentalism usually goes with a lack of intelligence. The easiest way to silence people making demands that make no sense and actually contradict the program, turning it into some crazy religious cult is to show them blatantly how what they are saying is contradicting the book. I have shut down meetings that way. One was basically a human intelligence bashing orgy. Finally came to me near the end. Human intelligence is the alcoholics liability, it is evil, it causes all of the problems in the world, blah blah blah. I will not apologize for being born with an IQ in the 130’s, sometimes I wish I didn’t have it as I have trouble talking to many people who aren’t as smart as me and I hate that. I also have aspergers. In my drinking I bashed my intelligence and always thought I was the dumbest person on the planet. So they tell me to call myself stupid yet don’t do what I did in my drinking!? So you guys want me to do exactly what I did in my drinking…call myself stupid??? Really? We agnostics actually praises human intelligence but makes it clear that it won’t solve this problem. If I bash something I didn’t choose(intelligence), I am not playing the cards that life dealt, playing god, whining, and refusing to live up to my potential. The problem is EGO or pride in my intellect. So if I am trying to MANAGE my ego by bashing my intelligence, how am I working step one? Where in that am I admitting my life is UNMANAGEABLE? AA fundamentalists hate this, probably because they didn’t think of it first and are so blind to their own foolish ideas that they keep regurgitating the same goobeliegarp. Just put that as an example. I love AA none the less and I know it is not the only way…

    • Thanks for your comment Alex. At the moment I am reading an interesting book called “many Roads One Journey -moving beyond the 12 steps” by Charlotte Davis which talks a lot about how people come to believe the religious stuff in AA and how they develop a deep faith in it as solution that they do not question. I probably did not develop anywhere as much faith in AA as people who are harmed by it and it seems like you have a sensible approach as well. I will put a review of it on the site when I have time but am really busy at the moment with a few other things but I think it is something that would appeal to you.

  3. In the Final Report of the 2016 General Service Conference I see that over 25,000 AA members left the
    fellowship in the year 2015. (US and Canada) We have fewer members in AA today than we had 25 years
    ago. Our membership had increased steadily for the first 57 years until 1992, approaching two and a half
    members worldwide. Our fellowship generally doubled about every ten years.
    We lost approximately 600,000 members in the mid 1990s. I only recently discovered why we lost so
    many members in 1992. I have no proof, so I ought to say “in my opinion”. At that time our Trustees moved
    AA headquarters into a Rockefeller subsidized building in New York. Many members of the fellowship
    wanted nothing to do with that acceptance of outside assistance. Again my opinion.
    I have observed several changes in AA over the past 30 years. I questioned the changes as they took place,
    and sometimes feebly resisted. I just had “that feeling” that mistakes were being made. I will list them as I
    remember.
    1. As I wrote previously, I believe the introduction of the reading of the first two and a half pages of our
    Big Book “HIW” was our worst mistake at the group level. Bill clarified this (for me) in AA Comes of Age.
    2. The “Hi Bob” chant, which I first heard in the early 1980s, has destroyed the reverence at meetings.
    “My name is Bob and I am an alcoholic” is a statement, part of the first step. It was never meant to be
    a greeting or salutation. Chanting makes us appear to be a cult.
    3. We have accepted the 24hr book as group literature. The mention of God so many times on so
    many pages makes us appear to be a religion.
    4. The “hold hands and pray” closing has always concerned me. Holding hands ought to be left up to
    the romantics. Until the early 1980’s we simply stood by our seats and closed the meeting in whatever
    the group’s conscience had chosen. Today every member is coerced into joining.
    Concerning our lack of growth over the past 25 years, our 21 trustees remain silent. Eventually the
    count will end. That will be their solution. Stop counting.

    • Thanks Bobby, you have made some good points. I think AA should modernise a bit as the religious side puts so many off and this will get worse in the future. I also think that the cult type things in AA cause so many problems.

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