General Chat

Say what you want here, in this general chat section about recovery,addiction and alcoholism.

I am going to use this as an area for anyone to comment about anything related to alcoholism, addiction or recovery. These threads have worked well on other sites that are more community based than this one, which is really just my blog and a collection of resources I have found useful. Anyone can post on here and hopefully it will run smoothly. Some comments may get held up in the spam filter but I check it most days.

general chat

Quite a few people send me emails, but perhaps people can get to know each-other a bit on this thread. I will try to put some interesting links on here that I do not have time to put in the blog. I do this with the twitter section already, but the more ways you put links on a site the better. I hope other people will also link to interesting pieces here.


Commenting area

  1. This is a good idea!

  2. I’m having a few problems getting this working but will spend some more time on it in a couple of days.

  3. What a brilliant suggestion! A discussion page offering a balanced view of the fellowship and its alternatives could be a potential life saver for someone struggling with an alcohol problem who has doubts about attending AA, or current members who are questioning the 12 steps but concerned that in so-doing they’ll fall prey to the old “you’ll drink and die if you stop going to meetings” fellowship dogma.

    I recently left AA after 13 1/2 years of dedicated 12 step practice and fellowship activity. Peer support is so very important in such circumstances and without help from yourself and others I’m sure I would have found the “deprogramming” process much more difficult and intolerably painful. Fortunately I survived to tell the tale and, with the help of the “sobersphere,” recently celebrated my 14th recovery birthday feeling happier, more independent and more genuinely fulfilled than ever before – even despite having gone through major life changes such as the death of my father in the last few weeks.

    It would be fantastic to have a forum where people could share what works for them, suggest reading ideas (apparently this is called “bibliotherapy” – a new word for me but definitely something that’s helped keep me sober both in and out of AA), or discuss more up-to-date recovery resources and methodologies (e.g. SMART, which uses clinically approved CBT tools) developed in the 80 years since Bill Wilson laid down AA’s venerable, but now sadly outdated, 12 Steps based on the Oxford Group principles that helped him and others get sober.

    Thank you, welcome, and best of luck to all. Jon S

    • Hi Jon
      Thanks for your post and I am sorry about your recent loss. These things can be very hard to deal with in recovery and are times when people can have problems maintaining an alcohol free lifestyle.
      This kind of thread has worked well on Stinkin Thinkin and on Massives Leaving AA site, although they are slightly different in nature to this site, as they are generally 12 step muckraking sites, that attract people that want to let off steam. Stinkin Thinkin tried to develop a forum but it ran into problems with certain strong characters taking over, so they went back to a blog. I think you actually need to establish quite a large community to run a forum on a site. I would say that you need around 100 active members to make it work otherwise, a few people will take it over and then you end up with a kind of pack mentality, with lots of arguing, especially if the site owner cannot be bothered to moderate it, or is incompetent. You can also end up damaging a sites reputation and search engine rankings with a forum that has problems. I did not want to see sections such as my book reviews blocked from places such as NHS hospitals or rehabs because of bad behaviour in a forum. It is also easy for threads to get lost in a forum environment, compared to a blog environment. I do not think that forums that do not get that many members commenting work compared to blogs. I also think that people are fed up with the comments sections on some sites, not just recovery sites, but on the web in general, because of the childish behaviour that often takes place. When I originally started this blog, I seriously considered not having comments, because it can waste a lot of time moderating. On reflection though, it seems to be a worthwhile part of the site.
      Having said that it would be good to get other people more involved, and if anyone wants to write things for this site I can certainly put relevant pieces up on it under their name.
      The section that gets read the most on this site is the one related to leaving AA. i think that part of the site is visible in google and attracts people who are thinking about moving on, but find many of the ideas on sites such as the Orange Papers do not reflect their overall experience of AA, which generally seems to be a mixture of good and bad. Of course there are some who have really bad times which these sites do accurately reflect.
      It would be possible to put a chatroom on this site and people could arrange to meet on it. Again as the site is not community based, it does not have people on it at the same time, but if people were interested I could put one in. I still have the licence for the one I had on my previous site which is pretty good.
      The site has been up for about 10 months and gets a good number of visitors and so I will keep it running. I think that the winter months and the start of the year are the busy times for sites like this as people are often thinking about stopping drinking in the new year and I feel it is important they can find out things about alternative approaches. I will put in some things about Smart and Hams closer to this time, to see if they get picked up if linked to the leaving AA section.
      I am also developing a hopefully humorous look at whole addiction recovery world.

  4. Hi Michael…Thanx for starting this forum as it will offer a variety of topics and afford a place for folks to give and receive support. Your work to provide a rational, temperate, and informative site is much appreciated.

  5. Thanks I am glad you find the its helpful. I have found online resources to be really helpful for me in my time living an alcohol and drug free life. In my early days I did not find the resources that I feel would have really helped me. I think the internet has helped me keep an open mind to recovery and given me information that has allowed me to try alternatives to the main stream ideas about recovery which do not suit a lot of people.
    One of the main things that helped, was finding a way to access books like the rational recovery book, or the diseasing of America, which really opened my yes up to viable alternatives.
    The first online community that i liked was the Stinkin thinking muckraking site which was once a really fast moving blog. I had a few years sobriety and had left AA by this point, so was not looking for support, but was surprised to find out about alternative methods, that I had not discovered. I think that sites that can spread a positive method about recovery, and tell people that there are many ways to recover can really help people. I came across the stink in thinking site by fluke and found it really useful.
    The wordpress platform that this site runs on tells me search terms that people use in google to find the site, and many of them are about leaving AA and finding alternatives. People are not searching anti AA that often, compared to topics about moving on, and so I try and make the site reflect that. I see a lot of sites that are by people who feel they have been damaged by AA an I can understand that, but they miss a lot of potential people who are simply looking to move on without getting involved with arguing. I find the whole recovery world rather bizarre now to be honest. people are trying to push there own ideas and don’t wish to listen to any other point of view. Lots of good ideas get stifled by all the pointless arguing.

  6. This is a good post about how recovery resources should publicise themselves in a better way Some recovery methods have sites that look so out of date that I feel people ignore them due to their poor design.

  7. Here is an interesting piece on religion and the courts
    I really do think religion often hampers rational progress and this can really be seen in the addiction recovery world, that relies on the 12 steps, which are religious, and can be viewed as faith healing. Many suffer as a result of not getting adequate treatment.

  8. Great idea Michael . I would love to do that sometime. Still to busy with film and cleaning up sound and color correction and legal stuff…..Great to see you pop into my blog as well.

    • Hi Massive, I do look at your blog quite often and am following the trial. Good luck with the film, I hate all the legal stuff but love what you can do in online and a dub. The mastered up version is usually mind-blowing after looking at an offline for so long.

      I’ve been busy on a little project,myself which I hope you will like.

      The last year has flown by, it was this time last year when I was in Beverly Hills and I hope to be back in the the early part of the new year. Things are definatly improving in the UK at the moment and attitudes are changing. This will be a slow process, but I think future generations will benefit from the new methods that are becoming available. It would be good to have a chat sometime, perhaps catch up on Skype.

  9. First off I want to thank everyone for posting here. I come on here and read from time to time and it gives me confidence that I can do it MY way. That I don’t have to put myself in a little box called “recovery” for the rest of my life.

    It has been almost a year since my last meeting. I had to move on from it. I was going off and on for 9 years and it wasn’t working. I always blamed myself. Did I not work my program right? Am I not being honest enough? What is going on?

    Last April my ex-girlfriend died of an overdose. She was going to meetings on a regular basis. This event caused me to look at everything. It was the sole event that started the move away from traditional modes of treatment into something that works for ME. I truly believe now that she was glossing over what was really causing her problems. Not on purpose mind you. We were both told we were “working on” or “recovering” from our problem by going to meetings and working steps but in actuality that wasn’t the REAL problem. She dealt with an eating disorder and grew up in an extremely verbally abuse household. She should have been seeing a psychotherapist. On top of that she believed she was powerless. She believed she had a DISEASE. I’m sorry but this belief among others that the 12 step programs perpetuate is DANGEROUS! Over the past year I have taken the time to really look at the factors that caused my addiction. It was always my choice. Always!

    I attribute my behavior to the following things:

    1. My moral outlook – Hedonism made sense
    2. Self Image – over time this slowly got worse and worse but when it wasn’t good to begin with.
    3. I was VERY curious – believe it or not when I was in my teens I had the hippie mentality of expanding the mind with the use of psychedelics. I still believe there could be a place for this. Doing drugs isn’t immoral per say. It was my behavior that followed that ended up being immoral. The unfortunate thing is I began to not care.
    4. Lack of Goals and Aspirations – When I was young and getting into the party lifestyle I didn’t really have anything I stood for or anything I wanted to be as an adult. I truly think this played a part in falling into the lifestyle I did.

    “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

    5. The perception of my problem and the perception of the solution – This aspect didn’t play a part until later but I do believe fueled the progression to some extent. Once I believed I had a physical allergy, a brain disease, or whatever you want to call it I was put in a box that was very deterministic. If I drink it will get worse because you have a disease! The solution in this arena seems to contradict itself. On one hand they say it’s not a moral issue then the solution has everything to do with morality. “Self centeredness is the root of your troubles” is a line from one of the books.
    6. Rebelliousness – I lived in a fairly strict household so when I broke from the mold. I REALLY broke from the mold. I became the black sheep which made number 2 on this list even worse.
    7. Social Anxiety – I’ve had this problem since I was young. Still do actually but I choose not to compound my problems anymore because I DO have a choice!
    8. The desire to escape – For a long time it seemed totally and absolutely rational to escape negative feelings. The idea of covering up or not dealing with feelings didn’t really come into the picture. To me it seemed like an easier way.
    9. Adaptation – Over time chaos, drama, the party life (even though much of the time it wasn’t a party) became normal. Due to this I experienced arrested development in didn’t mature in areas I should have. So when I did experience periods of sobriety I felt like a fish out of water.
    10. Physical/ Psychological Dependence – Drugs/Alcohol became my coping mechanism. I also became physically dependent on alcohol and opiates. To not do these things would result in a horrible sickness.

    So much of this list has to do with my perception. Perception of myself and the world around me. It has been absolutely necessary for me to challenge my perception of just about everything in order to move forward. I have found this path so much more useful and rewarding then the 12 step path. Many of you have probably heard it said “the drugs are only a symptom”. They often say that but then the drugs and the alcohol are still put on the pedestal as being the evil thing. Its kind of backwards. Dr. Lance Dodes says that addiction is driven by the desire to escape “helplessness”. There is definitely something to this. I would like to share with anyone that is interested in reading some of the things that have helped me that isn’t at all related to the 12 step model: the I want to share it is because for 9 years I believed the ONLY path was the 12 step path and I assure you I did my best to be the greatest student. I wish I would have found this site or at least the kind of information I’ve found on this site 10 years ago.

    Aristotles Virtue Ethics – This gave me a foundation in terms of morality. Aristotle believed that if you live a virtuous life you will achieve contentment. There are youtube videos on it if you are interested in learning more about this. Applying this moral system has changed my life dramatically. Not everyone may need or want to go this deep into it. I probably didn’t NEED to but I find this kind of thing interesting.

    The Heart of Addiction by Dr. Lance Dodes – A modern perspective of what addiction really is. This perspective is much more useful and not nearly as fatalistic as the one provided by the 12 step model. It leaves room for possibilities. In other words there is grey area here.

    Recover! by Dr. Stanton Peele

    7 Steps to beating any addiction by Dr. Lance Dodes

    The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – I’m an atheist but this gave me a sense of spirituality. Learning to be conscious of this moment and only this moment can bring about a sense of liberation that words simply can’t describe. For 9 years I buried myself in a very past oriented philosophy. The past no longer exists. Only as a tool to make me more effective in THIS moment.

    The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey – You might think it’s silly I’m posting this but I knew nothing about money when I got clean. This book helped me gain some realistic insight into the financial world. Finances can be a huge cause of stress. Stress is something I do my best to keep at a minimum. Not out of fear of relapse. I just don’t like stress. Contentment for me is the goal NOT sobriety.

    7 Habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey

    I would also like to add that learning to set goals for myself has paid off tremendously. I started off with little ones so I could build some confidence in myself. For a long time I was told not to think for myself and that I NEEDED a higher power. I have proven that to not be true. I just need to be reasonable, logical, and rational. When I made ridiculous decisions I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Once I’m sober (not impaired) and trying to do the right thing I’m totally capable of getting things done. I don’t need someone or some thing directing my life.

    I know I wrote quite a bit here. It was nice in a way to get that off my chest. For those that are reading I don’t think you realize how free I feel now that I’m away from the 12 step world. I’m also angry because now I see how damaging it can actually be. Granted I know it can help some people but what is help? Is help being sober and having to give your life to a program? Is that really freedom? Yes you are sober but to live in fear of relapse (which I also let go of) doesn’t seem like true freedom. I honestly don’t want to look back on my life and realize I lived in a bubble that is in a sense stuck in the 1930s. It will never change either. The Big Book can’t be rewritten. If I came up with a 100% effective method of treating alcoholism tomorrow it couldn’t be put in the Big Book. I know why though because it’s a religion NOT a treatment for alcoholism. It took me a loooooong time to wake up to that fact. I’m glad I did before it was to late. I’ll end with that.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Thanks so much for your post Jt and there are a lot of similarities to my own story. I also had to completely change my self image and the way I view things. I think this happened in stages for me. It was not something I did at all when I tried stopping before AA as i really did not know what I was doing and had not read any good books at that stage. I also viewed myself as powerless in the AA way for a while but then changed this after reading the rational recovery book. I think that the powerless idea was helpful for a short time while i was stuggling with cravings but is not helpful long term. After having a bit of clean time I had some proper therepy and was able to accept some new ideas and build a new life.
      So many people get stuck on a 12 step treadmill and do not develop. This can sometimes lead to dreadful tragedies, and I am so sorry to read about your partner. That happened to a good friend of mine when he binged after a few years of AA and had no tolerance. This is when the powerless idea really harms people.
      Anyway I am really grateful for you posting this here and hope you come back.

      • Hi JT. Great post. Thanks for sharing the reading tips. Two new words for me since I left AA have been “sobersphere” and “bibliotherapy.” Both crucial ingredients in post 12 Step sobriety. I’ll definitely check out those sources and will add some more of my own. Have found stoics such as Epictetus & etc to be very relevant to AA thinking around the importance of acceptance & serenity in sobriety. Contemporary discoveries in evolutionary psychology and the biological roots of alcoholism (“The Drunken Monkey” & “The Chimp Paradox”) offer a much more convincing explanation of what I went through as a lush, why I was always so anxious or afraid, and why I therefore appeared to be so “powerless” over the booze. Anti-theists such as Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett explain how I got hoodwinked by AA’s higher power thesis, while CBT has offered a more up to date and practical form of therapy. It’s all really handy stuff and much more helpful than the steps, which I now feel were useful in my first 24 months then guided me down a blind alley for well over a decade. I reluctantly left AA after 13 years convinced I would drink and die or go insane without my meetings. Instead I’m happier than ever, still sober, have lost 4st in weight and come off the medication I was taking. Who knew..? Best wishes in your ongoing recovery. Keep coming back..! JS (Brighton)

  10. Thank you lovinglife and Jon. I’ve had to become a bit of a seeker and sponge of new information to move away from old thinking into something more useful. Jon, I agree that CBT is very useful. Albert Ellis was an amazing person and enjoyed reading about philosophy as well.

    Check out the link. It’s a pretty short video but quite though provoking in my opinion. I like this one as well. This one is completely unrelated to the first but something that I think is very relevant when speaking about the recovery from addiction because to me recovery from addiction is all about finding peace within oneself and the world around them… at least it is for me.

    It is important for me on a daily basis to center myself in the NOW. To be mindful of my thoughts. For a long time I wasn’t aware of the separateness that exists between me AND the mindless chatter that often goes on in my mind throughout the day. 5 years ago if I had a thought I thought it was ME, I thought it was a reflection of who I am as a person. This isn’t necessarily the case.

    This “chatter” or “commentary” was especially hurtful after a relapse and having to pick up a chip. Thoughts like “you are no good”, “you should just give up”, “why even try?”, “what kind of father are you to do these kinds of things”. I have since learned to be a “conscious observer” of these kinds of thoughts. Fortunately I haven’t had thoughts exactly like those in a very long time. I truly believe this could be one of the greatest tools to battle addiction. Simply learning how to be this “conscious observer” of our thinking. The Buddhists call it “practicing mindfulness”. Meditation has also been a key component in allowing me to practice living fully now. I’m not a new agey type person by any means but these things have helped me find strength and peace.

    “If one should conquer thousands in battle, and if another should conquer only himself, his indeed is the greatest victory.”


    “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but thought about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral. It is as it is.”

    Eckhart Tolle

  11. Thanks so much for your links, two great videos there. I do agree about CBT, mindfulness and being able to be a “concious observer”of intrusive thoughts. I became better at acknowledging that I was getting stressed in a situation, and would stop and imagine looking at myself getting stressed in this way. I would often look ridiculous sitting there in a room on my my own, getting annoyed and this would break the power of the thing that was stressing me. I also became able to acknowledge that many things could annoy me and that my subconscious could bring them up, but I did not need to dwell on them all day, or let them overwelm me.

    I think the 12 step world makes you attempt to supress a lot of thoughts rather than deal with them and after a while this can be too much for many people.

    By the way, if you put more than one link in a post, it may get caught in the spam trap here. I normally spot them in a few hours and try to get them back on the site. Thanks for such interesting posts.

  12. I’m glad you found the post interesting. Some may take it as “making things complicated”. That’s when I usually want to say. “Well maybe that says something about your intellect.”

    So I need to vent about a situation that happened recently and is still unfolding.

    I had an interview recently for a second part time job on Saturday with someone that is hardcore AA. She brought up the fact that she hadn’t seen me at any meetings. I told her I didn’t go anymore but that I’m a very goal oriented person and that doing very well. I’m not a mind reader but I don’t think this went over well.

    My sister is the one who gave me the job lead. She texted her and what she said to my sister was “I am really concerned at his ability to stay clean”.

    Mind you I’ve been doing very well for the past 2 years. I haven’t been totally clean that whole 2 years but I’ve been getting things done. To me that’s what matters.

    I really think she wrote me off as a potential employee because of my lack of participation in the program. I’m sure she is unaware of the horrible success rate that AA has and that meeting attendance doesn’t guarantee a damn thing.

    The situation sucks. I’m a convicted felon so getting a job is hard enough. Now I may not have gotten one because I’m not using the right treatment method. It’s not REALLY even a treatment method. It’s a religion. Ok that’s all from me for now. Thanks for reading.

  13. I am sorry to read about the job situation, that is not good. I did not find mixing recovery and work was a good idea and try to avoid working with people in AA. One caused me problems with privacy in the past. Hop you find something else.

  14. You are probably right. Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t work there. She did mention that other people from the program worked there. If they knew me I know the topic would likely come up about not attending meetings and I hate feeling like I have to defend the fact that I’m doing well. I already have a full time job. I’m looking for something part time in the evenings. I’m a single dad so every bit helps.

  15. I found bumping into people from AA at work could be a problem as I try to keep my recovery private. A lot of people do not understand addiction and you end up being gossiped about if you talk about it with people outside a recovery group. Some people are fine with being open but I like my privacy. I find that 12 step types generally go into AA slogan spouting mode as soon as they see somebody from the rooms and that makes me cringe.

  16. Thank you so much for getting this site up and running. I am still working my way through it all at the moment. I like to think of myself as “moving on” from AA. This site is going to keep me occupied for a while. The thing is to just say “hi” and “thank you” at the moment and look forward to keeping up to date with stuff as it goes on here!
    (I moved this from my blog post about having a general chat section LL52)

    • Hi John. “Moving on from AA” is a great way to put it. I did the same thing earlier this year and don’t regret it. Like you, I also found this site invaluable. It’s great to hear from people who are in such a similar situation. Peer support is so important in this process. You are not alone! Best of luck to you. J

      • I also think moving on from AA is a good term to use. I think it is important to make use of any recovery community as long as it is useful to you but also be prepared to modify your approach as time goes on. I don’t think people who are a few years alcohol free need the same type of approach as somebody who is struggling or who has a few days clean. It is easy to get stuck in a recovery rut and not really progress. I wrote this blog post some time ago about moving on in recovery

  17. I highly recommend St. Judes Home Program for anyone interested in leaving behind the 12 steps and getting out of the rocovery community.

  18. This is my first blog and I’m not really sure where to start but here goes …

    I’m lucky I’ve been sober now for two years I had one small relapse but thanks to my family and close friends I got through it. Every day is a battle and it’s not easy, when things go wrong you want to pick up again. Life is really scary and there are some really bad and dark days. However things do get better. I’ve learnt that you need to work through your feelings however much it upsets you and the people that mean the most to you.

    I have everything to live for the most beautiful little boy and the best family anyone could have but that underlying desire to drink is always still there. Some days I just want to curl up and cry I nearly died because of my addiction, however I was lucky and was given a second chance.

    The depression and problems I’ve have been left with will be there for the rest of my life. I’m fighting it every day and at the moment I’m going through a really dark phase, the mood swings, the tears and the feeling that I’m not worthy of anything , but I know deep in my heart it is better than how it used to be, the constant worry of being sick, the shakes the need for that next drink because it would help me sleep and take away the pain. You need to feel the pain to deal with it and to be honest I’m only dealing with it now. I lost a baby and it was the catalyst to what lead me to the path I’m on now.

    All I’m trying to say is that if you can get sober life doesn’t get easier but it is better xxx

    • Hi love1902. Thanks for posting. I left AA a while ago, but only after a period of security in sobriety. I’m not a professional but think that AA does offer many positive things for people in early days. It sounds like you need to get some time away from a drink and to discover your sober self. The peer support of AA meetings and the “don’t take the first drink” message might buy you some time to regroup in that respect. You could also try SMART and can do both at the same time. You CAN do this. It is possible to find recovery. Don’t give up. Help is out there. Just find a mix that works for you. J

      • “Early days” sounds patronising. Sorry. I meant the first couple of years. Good luck getting through this. CBT and gentle medication helped my depression and are clinically approved here in the UK. Best wishes. J

  19. I had big battles with depression myself and unfortunately it took me a few years to change things to make life better for myself. I still have stresses in life, which are part of taking an active part in society, but I find that over time I have got better at dealing with these things. I found CBT techniques really helped me build my lacking self esteem, and I also learnt how to deal with depression when it first appears, rather than letting it take hold.
    You may find the site helpful, as it is a community for people who are trying to live an alcohol free life, and who support each-other using a variety of methods. You can look at it for a short trial period, but because it has a big following compared to other sites there is a small charge which helps them run it and provide resources.
    It is rational to attempt to displace unpleasant feelings with something such as alcohol when we are feeling down but unfortunately this never solves the problem and things tend to end up worse. I found these two books by Lance Dodes were really useful for me and explained what was going on and gave good suggestions for dealing with it. or

    As time has gone on things have really improved for me, although sometimes I would try something that would not work or would have to change approach. Good luck in the future.

  20. Here is a link as to why addiction counsellors in America are so useless. I found that using counsellor so that were more broad based, rather than those who simply worked on addiction was the best thing for me. I think many counsellors are up themselves ex addicts who are simply pushing the solution that they like rather than one that would help their client.

  21. A piece on the fix about the effects of obamcare on AA. I am not sure how accurate this is but reflects something that I thought would happen when insurance companies question faith based 12 step methods.’s-membership

  22. A couple of people have been in touch on twitter and have interesting sites. I will look at them properly and update my links when I have time next week is one

  23. Hi, I am so glad I found this site. I am working on step 4 in SLAA Program for Love Addiction. I have become very depressed and my hope has gone out the window. I feel I cannot meet what is expected of me in this program. My counselor says I am not a sex and love addict and says step 4 is retraumatizing me of my childhood physical and emotional abuse. He is very against it. My sponsor has alot to share but has not been in a relationship in 4 years. She says it is what her Higher Power has wanted for her. Recovery friends are in relationships I feel are destructive but claim their sobriety and criticize me when I have a slip or act out. Please help with any suggestions of how I can leave Slaa. I feel if I do I will go into a worst situation. Thank You for this site.

    • If step 4 is causing problems I would take a break from it least or stop doing it all together. Thee are a few books in the book section here that may help, the ones by Lance Dodes are really good and he covers the moralising of addiction in the 12 step world, and how that can affect people in a negative way. Some people have deep depression after step 4, it does not always suit sensitive people. His other books offer good practical ways of recovering. Stanton Peele has also written a lot on the subject, and his recent book is called recover.
      Sponsors often get carried away, and do not always give the best advice. I found that having some professional help with people who were not in recovery helped me when I had managed a sober period. I am no counsellor or therapist, just somebody who wanted to say there is recovery after leaving the 12 step world. There are lots of other sites listed here that may be useful including Lance Dodes and Stanton Peele’s . I hope you ring something that helps. I think step 4 is one of the most controversial parts of the 12 step idea. It can help people who are violent and who have huge egos but can crush those who are sensitive. In AA it is the step that leads to most relapses, so it clearly does not help everyone.

      • I will l will look into it.My sponsor made a comment saying that in the two years shes known me ive done nothing different. That is not true. I had a small setback but I have changed. I have to really see if I am doing this for me or her. I cant seem to meet her or recivery friends expectations and things are always my fault. Thanks for the info.

        • I think it is important to read a few books with alternative views to the 12 step idea and then form your own ideas on what is a good solution. I did this and then discussed this with a counsellor, who was not from the 12 step world. After going through the issues that were bothering me and deciding that I had progressed a bit I was advised to cut down on AA and leave. I actually felt a lot refief when I did this although the idea of leaving is made hard by comments from sponsors etc. In my case I found the idea that AA was there if needed it and that if I had stopped once, I could stop again were really useful, rather than a concept of powerlessness. Good luck.

  24. Hellow All, I am quite new to leaving AA (been sober for 6.5 years). My last meeting was a few weeks ago and I dont miss it – the only thing I am a bit shaky about is that I would like still to have contact with recovering people like me and now that I no longer attend AA I miss the ‘fellowship’ aspect (people with the same head as mine although I certainly don’t miss the creepy types!) I’m not keeping in touch with AA members as they know I’m not into AA and they think thats the only way to stay well. I’m very much a person to move on so can you help me get in touch with other people like myself (in the UK/London area) to corrrespond by email/meet in person? We dont have to meet in a group atmosphere – could be very informal like a coffee meeting. What do you think? Thank you.

    • Well i’m in London most of the time these days. Most people that come on this site are from America (about 80%), which would make meeting difficult. However quite a few people have suggested similar things. I could put a chatroom on here and people could arrange a time to chat to eachother on it or also a video chat would be possible at specific times. if people are interested I will give it a go.
      There is the Soberistas community which may be of interest to you as it is UK based and aimed at women (men are allowed and I’m a member). They do charge a small subscription but offer 24 text chat and do organise informal meetings. In London they sometimes go to a juice bar in Notting Hill. I know that face to face meetings are something that the site owner wants to promote. Most of the members are quite new to living alcohol free,but I suppose that is true of many AA meetings.
      In the Kensington/Fulham areas there are many Smart recovery meetings which are good and well run. I think Smart is a great way to get yourself back on your feet but is not a social group in the way AA is and people move on when they are healthy.
      I may try putting chat in to see what happens here but, I am not sure if enough people would visit at the same time to make it work. I only have a very limited time to do this site so could not be on it all the time to get it going. I will look into how to get an email group running as well. I don’t know where people come from in the uk, appart from about 5 that I know in person to arrange a proper meet up or coffee, but I am sure it could happen.

  25. Hi there, very helpful thank you. Yes I am looking into Soberistas too and may join them very soon – not for the purpose of how to get well and the advice they offer as I feel I have done that bit but for the social part and the contacts you make. Yes that would be a nice idea if its not too much trouble for you to at some stage put together a meet up for coffee with UK/London folk. I wasnt aware of many Smart meetings in UK/London as when I was looking up location of meetings I only found one – in Islington. Where are the meetings in Kensington/Fulham? Unless they have started up very recently or are online?

    • Hi Susan. I totally agree with you. Having spent some considerable time in AA, I now realise there are much healthier ways of organising your thoughts and staying confident, conscious and sober as a result. Although I miss the sense of group support provided by AA, I don’t miss too many of the people in it as most of them either seem brainwashed or neurotic (or, as in my case, a bit of both!) I love the idea of an informal get together. I live and work in central Brighton so fortunately bump into old AA friends on a daily basis, which is nice as I still get a little sober sense of community top up feeling from it, but I can’t share honestly how I feel with them as this inevitably results in defensiveness about the fellowship / programme on their part. I’m currently reading Bruce Hood’s book “The Self Illusion” which has been very helpful in a number of ways, one of which is because it also explains the psychology of why we find groups support useful. As a result, I’m more confident as an individual and gradually feel less like I need group support. I think my conclusion to all this is that the online “sobersphere” can, and will, one day replace the need for AA meetings, or most other gatherings, one people are “well enough”. Anyway, welcome to the forum. I too am very grateful that it exists. Jon S

    • Hi again Susan.Also wanted to mention that thing about wanting to connect with “people who have the same head” as you, as that really resonated with me. To be honest I felt just like that too for my first three months post-AA (after nearly 14 years in the rooms) then I did some reading on the subject and quick bit of CBT group therapy … and now I don’t actually feel that I have “the same head” as people in AA at all anymore. What’s more, that’s coming from a low bottom drunk who was a total twelve step convert and full on AA activist for over a decade. Honestly I feel “a new freedom” and “a new happiness” as a result from getting away from all that stuff. I think AA just prolongs alcoholic neurosis, It does very little to solve it, and it is wonderful to be away from all that. Consider the OCEAN “big five” personality types (all this stuff is on Wikipedia now) and you’ll see what the whole thing about that type of “headspace” involves. Best of luck. I learned a lot of useful stuff in the rooms (one day at a time, look out for resentments, etc, etc) so there’s no sense throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but at the same time it helps to see beyond the immediate issue of

    • The leaving AA page was my first port of call here, and it was also the term I Googled to find your site. It is so nice to have somewhere where people can write and “share” their “experience, strength and hope” on the subject of leaving AA; when they left, why they left, and how they stayed sober afterward – whatever stage they are at in the process – in a positive and constructive environment. In a balanced forum such as this no-one has an anti-AA axe to grind. It’s more about moving on and getting on with your life unencumbered by the physical and mental problems that come with active alcoholism, or the debilitating neuroses that long term AA dependency and 12 Step work seem to encourage – as it most certainly did in my case. JS

      • Sorry – that was intended as a reply to the comment below! JS

        • That is the problem with this thread, you have to careful what you reply to, or you end up in another place!
          There are some real problems with some groups and some people in AA, but I still think it has some value. I am quite anti the treatment industry that pushes the steps, as I think making money out of faith healing when the client is expecting proper treatment is wrong. I was on my guard with certain people, but then again I was nearly 40 when I went and pretty street wise. I was taking far more risks mixing with drug dealers and drunks than I felt in AA. I think there is a problem where the young and vulnerable is concerned and these things could be fixed, by a quick talk at the start of meetings. I don’t think people would be offended by that, but it does not happen because people who effectively run AA do not do anything.

          I do have the chatroom working in here but need to test it a bit, but it may also help people. i think I may restrict the hours so that people can meet up in it at first.

  26. Here are some Smart links for London

    Meeting Name Weekday Start Time Location Format
    Hackney COGS

    19 Tudor Road Hackney E9 7SN (Nearest Station: London Fields Buses: 254, 55, 48)
    SMART Recovery, Ealing, London
    4:30 PM

    RISE Cafe, 131 Uxbridge Road, West Ealing, London, W13 9AU (Opposite West Ealing Job Centre Plus)
    CASS (Foundation66) SMART Recovery, West Kensington, London
    3:00 PM

    CASS (Foundation66) 282 North End Road West Kensington SW6 1NH (First meeting Monday 14th October onwards.; Nearest tube stations are West Kensington, Earls Court or Fulham Broadway)
    SMART Recovery, Fulham,London
    11:30 AM

    61 Munster Road, Fulham, London SW6 5RE (The nearest underground is Parsons Green.)
    SMART Recovery, London
    3:30 PM

    2 Old Queen Street, London SW1H 9HP
    CASS (Foundation 66) SMART Recovery, West Kensington, London
    10:00 AM

    CASS (Foundation 66) 282 North End Road West Kensington SW6 1NH (Nearest Tube Stations West Kensington, Earls Court or Fulham Broadway)
    SMART Recovery, West Ealing, London
    3:00 PM

    RISE Recovery Cafe 131 Uxbridge Road West Ealing W13 9AU
    SMART Recovery, London
    12:30 PM

    2 Old Queen Street, Victoria, London SW1H 9HP

    I am thinking of trying to change the site a bit so that there can be a bit more interaction between people as there are a lot of people looking at the leaving AA section and maybe that is the kind of topic that people would want to talk about, rather than just read my views, which are probably different from many people.

    I found it really helpful to chat to people who had left when I moved on. I think the video chat service oovoo would allow me to put a small video chatroom on here as well which I could look into.

  27. The Buddypress stuff and forum caused me major problems on here so I got rid of it all, so sorry for those who logged in. I also lost a couple of posts as well as I had to restore the site from a backup. I’m going to move the site to a new server If I can and see if things work better. I was getting tons of errors on the site and tons off spammers as well. I will leave things how they are for a bit!

  28. I have put the site on new Server and it seems a bit quicker and so far does not have the problems that I had before. The site does use quite a lot of resources when a few people are on it and that was causing the original host to limit certain things.
    The forum and buddy press section was a faliure as I was inundated with spammers and other idiots and so deleted it. Sorry to those that managed to sign up and post something without the spam filter deleting you or your post.

    The problems started when I put the login section on the site as it just attracted bots and other people running scripts. This one box attracted a huge amount of traffic onto the site which slowed everything down. I don’t get excited about the number of hits I get from spammers unlike some people on other sites that think loads of people are reading their content.

    Anyway the good thing is that I found out about a new way of hosting wordpress and it looks pretty good so far. The old host I was with was great when I had more conventional sites but this is much better for a site with sliders etc, and lots of pictures on the blog page. I have a few small problems with it and have probably missed some emails, but otherwise it all seems to work well.

    Please let me know if any part of the site is not working where you are. The site now lives on a server in the USA rather than the Uk which makes sense as 90% of people come from there. Hopefully it will be a bit faster for them.

  29. This was posted by DJ in the forum, so I have moved it here.

    As I said in my profile, I have been sober 20 years this month. I started recovery in AA and hit it pretty hard…like 5 meetings a week for the first 5 years, about 3 a week for the next 5 years. For the past 10 years my attendance has been sporadic…at first about 1 a week, then long gaps of no attendance at all. The long gaps were partially due to the fact that I had major life changes and moved quite a bit. Every time I moved somewhere new I thought to myself “I will just quit AA. Nobody will know the difference here”. But of course years of meetings had scared me into believing that if I left AA I would surely drink again. My last move was after my divorce in Massachusetts. I moved to Ohio to work on a relationship with a man I have known for 35 years. I lived in Ohio for 4 years, in fact got married again. During my time there I reconnected with AA. I had been married to my first husband for 25 years when we got divorced. We had 3 children together who were essentially grown up and they stayed on in Massachusetts. I was lonely and quite blown away by the fact that I no longer had the daily family life I was so used to for all those years. And so I went to AA where I knew that I would be “at home” away from home. I met several nice women right off the bat which helped me with my transition to my new life. After about a year I asked a woman with 22 years of sobriety to be my sponsor…mainly because I was asked over and over about who my sponsor was and what meetings I belonged to, etc. And while I appreciated everything she did for me and the friendship I made with her I definitely did not feel like I was ever going to get the desire to return to AA and becoming part of it again like I was in the beginning. I am now back in Massachusetts with my husband. I have not gone to an AA meeting since my return a year ago. I have absolutely no desire to drink and I have absolutely no desire to attend an AA meeting. I hear the old timers voices in my head telling me I am selfish, that I should be giving back to AA and that I won’t keep it if I don’t give it away..etc, etc,..We all know the drill. I need a place to talk to others who find themselves in this “sobriety limbo”. I was never taught that I could stay sober without AA. Believe me…that’s the LAST thing you would ever hear at an AA meeting. Thanks for letting me share. I look forward to reading the comments of others.

  30. Hi DJ. Great post, thanks for sharing. I felt very much the same way and identified strongly with your experience. I think AA offers a great source of companionship but it the flipside of “keep coming back” made it feel like I was wrong not to go to meetings and destined to drink and die if I didn’t work the steps. I now feel there’s a much more sensible attitude to this issue in groups such as SMART Recovery, and that future modes of alcoholism / addiction treatment will look back on such dogma as a damaging self-fulfilling prophesy that has caused great harm. It has helped me to share this stuff in a friendly environment, and it’s nice to hear others such as yourself tell a similar story. I can’t help but think there are probably at least as many people like you and I, those who went to AA then dropped out yet still stayed sober, as there are people in the fellowship attending regular meetings (estimated at 2 million worldwide). We’ll never know of course, because everyone’s so anonymous, but lots and lots of people just stop drinking with the help of AA then find a more positive way to structure their lives and thought processes and live happily ever after under their own steam. That’s what I hope to do. I recently left AA after 14 years and never felt better. Thanks, again, for sharing and good luck with everything. JS

  31. Just changed a few things on the site including the colour scheme as I got bored with it. I am getting so much spam after the disaterous experiment with making this site a bit more of a community, that I am going to put cloudflare back on which may cause the site to be down for a short time.

    • Sorry to hear about the spam hell. At least you were trying to do something in good faith for the benefit of others, so I think it was a laudable effort even though ultimately unsuccessful. JS

  32. I have just put cloudflare on this which should block a lot of idiots automatically, I had to remove it to move the site but it really is worth having. I could see searches in google coming up in the control panel in google which were all about finding login pages, and was getting thousands of hits on the login section, they are still attempting to find the page but will die off shortly. I can see how sites such as the orange papers claim so may hits when there are only a few people contributing to the forum. They used to get about 600,000 a month on the login box alone which means that your site stats are useless and the site will slow through being bombarded.
    This web host has several advantages over the old one so I may try something a bit more community based here in the future once things die down a bit.

  33. Great to see there is a community of ex AA’ers . I have been through the mill with the whole 12 step fellowship experience. I am British so there are cultural differences not accepted by some. I heard there once was a splinter group that wanted to rewrite the big book into English.
    My gripe is not particularly with the Big Book I like it’s turn of phrase and somewhat dated New England can do spirit. My grouse is with ‘people of the book’ which for me is those who see addiction as a disease not a symptom and use the book to eradicate the individual narrative by making all of us the same story and therefore denying our individual heritage and disparaging our families.
    I was first diagnosed as manic depressive, where I learnt the mental health tradition that if the treatment is not working it is your fault for either not trying hard enough to beat ‘the disease’ or because you were not taking enough medication.
    This is the Big Lie about mental distress. It can so often appear like physical illness but strangely it’s not . It is really all about perception and compliance to societal norms. If you fit in then you are sane if you do not you are either mad or bad. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.
    The business element is also large in my story as I first came across the idea of addiction in a private mental hospital. In these circumstances the diagnosis becomes a very difficult double headed form of abuse.
    1. You are ill we can help you.
    2. We cannot understand you so you should spend more time with us.
    3. By the way you will have to pay for that.
    4. No we have no objective test or evidence for our diagnosis, we just know.
    5. If you leave untreated you may die. This ‘disease’ is incurable. (I know all mental health problems are unforgettable we are programmed to remember extreme events for safety reasons)
    6. Catch 22 if you say you are well you must be in denial ( a subtle form of insanity) so we can strip you of your mental dignity.
    7. Can I remind you again we need the money upfront.

    What they failed to ascertain was that the biggest fear is mental health treatment itself, does nobody in mental health read One flew over the cuckoo’s Nest.

    Anyway suffice it to say I am free of AA for over 5 years now I sometimes drink I sometimes do not both are OK. I am not out of control though in fact I am more prejudiced against excessive drinking but that maybe be getting older. I have the same views on promiscuity, gambling, consumption and the whole mad consumer society merry go round which we call a market economy. Democracy is failing we do not get the best government for our individual needs and we continue to be raped and pillaged by an elite but that has always been the case. Cold steel is so much more clinical in the fear it induces.

    To be continued.

    • I have always found the disease concept unhelpful, and I am surprised that so many people make use of the concept. It does seem to be more accepted in USA rather than in the UK. I also heard of people who wanted an English version of the Big Book. They were part of the Pont Street London lot that thought they were better than everyone one else in AA.
      I do think mental health treatment could be a lot better, and people are often let down by poor quality care, both by the National Health and by private. There is such a stigma about it that never seems to decrease despite the fact that so many face problems. People need to get help in the early stages but are often neglected until things build up and get really bad.
      Thanks for leaving a comment and I hope you drop by again. I am glad things seem to be working out for you now.

    • Hi Martin.

      Thanks for sharing. I enjoy reading the experiences of other post-AAs because I identify so strongly with them – yours included.

      You make a particularly interesting point with the whole political economy issue. I grew up on that and, as they say in The Wire, I think it’s really important to “follow the money”.

      In AA I was strongly encouraged to discard all I’d learned about history and how the world works in favour of personal spiritual growth. What a croc of nonsense.

      That philosophy, like so much else in AA, stems back to the principles of the Oxford Group and its ultra right wing political agenda of personal responsibility – which basically blames the individual for everything that happens to them and refuses to take their socio-economic context into account in any way whatsoever.

      It’s a twisted and brutal logic that explains a great deal of the self-flaggelation that goes on in the rooms of AA.

      Eventually I had one of my own “hot flashes” and saw through the nonsense. AA is a well-meaning benevolent cult of sobriety that at one time did a great deal to help suffering alcoholics… but this is the 21st century for crying out loud.

      We have to do better for the thousands of individuals and their families afflicted by this unfortunate behavioural condition.
      “Leaving AA, Staying Sober”

  34. A Good piece on the Smart site about somebody who instantly realised that AA was not going to help them and found a great alternative.

  35. Thank you for doing this! I’ve been away from AA for 2+ years, not badmouthing the program but you said exactly what I’ve been feeling! I guess I’ve taken the good things from AA and am simply doing my best to lead a positive life. It’s good to see/read there are others doing the same!!

    Take care 🙂

  36. Thanks for your comment Michelle. I get the impression that many people use the fellowship for a while and then move on once they have got their life together. I think it is important for people to say that this is possible and that you do not have to spend the rest of your life going to meetings or have a fear of relapse for the rest of our lives. I think it helps people to realise that you can live a normal life after a period of recovery. I do feel it is a shame that many do not find out about alternative methods to AA, as a lot of people will respond better to less faith based solutions.

    • InATownCalledParadise October 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm · · Reply

      As Michelle said, it IS good to know that others are doing the same. It’s very encouraging that more and more of us are beginning to tell our stories in public. I often had the same impression, that there must be other people who managed to rebuild their lives either after or without AA, NA, etc… but where WERE they? I never really joined any of those programs to the extent of getting a sponsor to help me “take steps” but I have attended many meetings somewhat despite myself as the whole “90 in 90” thing always creeped me out a little. I have heard so many toxic ideas presented in the meetings, yet every once in a while I would hear someone speak who was quietly offering some real insight. That these speakers might have been considered subversive within these programs was not something that was immediately apparent to me. These were the people I was coming to hear!

      I would love to see alternative viewpoints become more commonplace within the treatment community. For example, in the various treatment centers I have attended I have never heard anyone talk about the idea of psychological displacement that Lance Dodes describes in “The Heart of Addiction”. Interestingly, a similar idea is briefly presented in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous” in a quote from a letter written by C.G. Jung. Many of these rehab centers are presenting a curriculum that incorporates some CBT but I think we still have a long way to go before it can be said that those seeking help are truly being offered a full spectrum of treatment options.

  37. Here is a great example of religious lunacy! The logic of some people in the church really does scare me and shows a complete lack of education!

  38. I hope the site is working for everyone and please let me know if it is not! I have had a few issues with it over the past couple of weeks. I moved the site to a different host which was great but have had to change a few things to get the site optimised properly. I use a system called cloudflare which hekps speed the site up all over the world and keeps out some unwelcome guests such as spammers which is really needed after my ill fated forum experiment which attracted a huge number of undesirables!
    The hosting is optimised for wordpress rather than standard sites but I caused myself problems when I tried to add a security setting as well, which affected things in the background. That is all fixed, but i am experimenting with various settings to get the best speed, but one of the problems with this has been that pages are getting cached and comments are not updating in certain situations. I am hoping to solve this soon but you may have out of date pages cached in your browser for this site, which will change over time or may be cleared by a refresh. Other than that everything seems to have improved and I certainly do not have problems with running out of resourses on the site at the moment.

  39. An interesting post by Kenneth Anderson who does the HAMS site on
    I much prefer to the fix these days as it has better writers and less morons in the comments! The fix seems really low budget now and relys on guest bloggers who write rubbish half the time.

    • Wow. That’s a great link.Thanks for the tip. Yet more useful info.

      I love that this article is in a section headed “Science & Treatment” as those two ideas both deserve and need to be stapled together very securely in the coming post-12 step and post-AA era.

      You’re also totally correct about The Fix too. A once good site rapidly heading downhill, even in the few months I’ve been reading it.

      Not helped by infuriatingly eccentric comment sections, some of which it’s hard not to get drawn into, but most of which degenerate into ridiculous exchanges that just leave you feeling strangely soiled…

      Jon S, “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

  40. Kenneth Anderson does write some good stuff and the HAMS site is pretty big now although he does not add to it that much. A lot of the arguing that takes place on the fix used to take place on the orange-papers site and then moved there. Those people will never agree and both sides are equally unrealistic, a case of Billshit v Terryturds!

  41. This is well worth a read about alternatives to AA and how things are changing, will put it in the blog when I have time!

  42. Michael Elwood November 3, 2014 at 10:38 pm · · Reply

    So appreciate you and Monica Richardson and Kenneth Anderson and Stanton Peele and Agent Orange. I don’t want to steer anyone away from what works for them but I think we must stop this 12 step cultural meme. It’s just wrong in so many ways.

    • Absolutely. Level headed online discussion of the 12 step AA meme (definitely a great way to put it) is the only way forward.

      Dan Dennett gave a brilliant talk at James Randi’s TAM 2014 on online transparency and the threat to the church.

      If you substitute “AA” for “the church” I think it’s plain to see that the days of the 12 step movement’s monopoly on recovery are numbered.

      The figures don’t add up, and people can see that for themselves. That’s why these sites are so important.

      I’m an enthusiastic AA historian and if I were a struggling alcoholic seeking recovery in the mid-1950s I’d think it was an amazing miraculous organisation. No problem.

      The founders and the other people who got AA going have truly earned their place in history. They saved millions of lives.

      However it’s now 2014, and time for change.

      Jon S
      “Leaving AA, Staying Sober”

    • Thanks so much and thanks for the email

  43. Floridagal55 November 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm · · Reply

    I just found this website today. As of Jan, 2015 I will have been in AA for 20 years. I came to the realization – look, how many times do I have to read this stuff? Why are most of the people in these rooms still wack jobs after all these years? Why don’t I relate to how these people drank? I didn’t drink like them at all. Yes I got drunk at times but never every day, never in the am, never in the day time and mostly on the weekends but not every weekend. I was a daily pot smoker but stopped that more than 20 years ago. So, I thought I want to expand my knowledge in many other areas. Learn other skills. Expand my horizons. There is more to life than AA meetings and re-reading the Big Book over and over and over. I’m afraid to speak up and tell people, especially my husband who has 27 years and was a daily drinker, and went into recovery at age 23. My friend who knows about my feelings and who is not in a recovery program asked me “what do you need, a blessing?” My sister left AA after 20 some years, 8 years ago, she drinks moderately and is fine. She says she stays close to God, reads the Bible and some readings and tries to be kind and helpful. She told me she never thought I was an alcoholic. I would appreciate any input you all on this site can give me.

  44. Thanks for dropping by, here is a link about a site that has a great post on leaving AA by somebody who was a member for many years. My leave AA section is the main part about leaving AA and is where most people end up after arriving from google here
    I have a book section which has some relevant material but I would really recomend this one in particular to find out about what AA really does.
    AA will be there for you if you decide leaving was not a good idea, but I have so far not returned. I spend the time doing many other activities these days. Good luck with everything!

  45. My boyfriend and I are non-Christians, non-God believing for the most part (we practice a lot of Buddhist philosophy). We also both suffer from dual diagnosis. In addition to our drug and alcohol problem, we also both have some pretty bad psychological disorders. I did NA for 8 years, and managed to stay clean for 3 to 4 years at a time, but I couldn’t stand NA’s clever disguise about how they’re not like AA, and you don’t have to believe in God, you just have to believe in a Higher Power, and that can be anything. And yet, in the steps and traditions, that Higher Power is always referred to as Him and Him is always capitalized. I got out of NA for about 3 years and my then husband and I were doing great, he with 8 consistent years of abstinence under his belt (we actually met in an NA meeting). But when we separated, I “relapsed” (at least that’s what the “program” would call it). No, I didn’t go drown my sorrows in the bar. I went and bought myself a nice bottle of red wine. That was the biggest thing I missed about total abstinence, not being able to have an occasional glass of wine. Alcohol never really was my drug of choice, in fact I didn’t get drunk at all unless I was also getting high. But NA is very adamant about the fact that “alcohol is a drug!”. I was still nursing that bottle of wine 3 months later when I decided to try abstinence again. The reason I got back into NA was because I started dating a guy who it turned out was a heroin addict. Why was it that I didn’t believe in the whole NA thing, and yet the first thing I thought of when he told me was “Man, we’ve gotta get you to an NA meeting”. He is currently on the other side of the real suffering that happens when you detox from heroin, and he says he appreciates the fellowship and support he received from NA, but, like me, he can’t get past the whole Higher Power thing. So we started attending wellness groups to help us deal with our mental illness, but most of the people in those groups don’t understand having both mental illness and addiction problems. I really want to start a group that can help people with both issues, and ran across Dual Recovery Anonymous. The thing that impressed me about the program was that it used the words Higher Power, but not once did it refer to that Higher Power as a He. But there was still the issue of having any kind of Higher Power at all. My boyfriend and I don’t have or need one. I found the links to some abstinence based groups on this site, most notably SMART and LifeRing. I think they both sound great, but really want to know if either or both of them can be tailored to helping people who are in dual recovery. Any thoughts on this?

  46. Hi Linda. That’s a great post. Thanks for sharing your story here.

    In my experience SMART Recovery or any CBT-based program works whether you are dual diagnosed or not.

    It’s basically the same harmful thinking process, and that’s what CBT addresses – your harmful thinking processes. It almost doesn’t matter what the issue is.

    I actually found CBT when I had treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and now use it to treat my alcoholism without ever having been to a SMART meeting.

    I can see how peer support would help for someone in a relapse situation or a new person, and you may find other addicts in a SMART meeting or online who can identify with particular issues, but I’d been away from alcohol for some time so it wasn’t really necessary.

    Best wishes, Jon S
    “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

  47. One of the great things about Smart is that it does not have different groups for different addictions and concentrates on the reasons for addictive behaviour. It is a solution that allows people to move on rather than have to go to meetings year after year. There are lots of online meetings and the handbook is really useful.

  48. I’m going to to do an upgrade to the site over the next week so it may not always be available. The theme I am using has been good but I want a different look now. The site is nearly a year old now and I feel that it is could do with a slicker simplified interface.
    I moved the site to a faster server so it should all run fine when I get it sorted although I am sure I will have some teething issues – let me know if you spot any!

    • I am new to this site and so pleased to have found it. Thankyou to all who have commented here, i have found great comfort in what i have read. I will definately be using this site for support, thankyou again for being here

      • Hi Joanne.
        Welcome. This site has helped me a great deal, too. There’s a lot to read and some wonderful links and resource suggestions.
        The Internet is a real game changer for those of us seeking new ways of staying sober.
        I’m almost a year “clean” of meetings now and, for me, it was definitely the right thing to do. It’s nice not to have to take that trip on your own, though.
        Take good care of yourself. Keep coming back!
        Jon S
        “Leaving AA, Staying Sober”

        • Jon S thankyou. AA feels so in my blood now that i just feel like a failed person. 5yrs of trying to remain sober, kept going through the steps….3 step 4s, whixh i found very hard and it brought up stuff i should jave outside hekp for…..not feel i have to look at my part. I just feel like a sinner…..due to my childhood religion and i would live to kbow and feel that you can stay sober and happy doing alternative methods

      • Hello Joanne, I’m glad you have found it useful. I’m going to be upgrading the site over the next week or so, which may mean it looks a bit strange at times, but shoulf be better in the long run.
        There are good videos about recovery from alcoholism and addiction coming out soon, and I feel that there is more information out there that can help people, so they can make suitable choices about how they are going to attempt recovery.

  49. I have just changed the theme and now have to make slight changes to all the posts, but the end result should be an improvement! I am going to leave the site live while I work on it, so if things change while you are looking at it don’t be surprised!

  50. Hi, has anyone experienced difficulties mentally when they left the 12 step world. Its lije im begining all over again… recovery, new support, im having bad dreams around aa and constantly have the aa sligans, big book going round in my head. I feel scared and alone, but i am happy to be away from aa. Please tell me that this gets easier, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

    • I am slowly leaving slaa sex and love addicts anoymous and having imilar issues. It seems like a withdrawl. Sleeping problems, depression, and gullt.

      • Hi pat thanks for the reply. Yes it does feel like withdrawal, i realise i still need that interaction with others and support networks and i am at my doctors on monday to ask for some advice on CBT, as its the same anxieties and issues that keep me were i am. I was attending AA for 5 yrs and i went to a mtg most days so it feels strange not having that routine in my life….but thats what it was a routine, something i feel i lost the choice of doing along time ago due to what AA teaches. I am a week out of AA so just going to try to be kind to myself and this site really helps, i don’t think i could get through it with out knowing that there are others who out there who have experienced difficulties in Aa and to know that they have come through, are sober and happy. Yes life still has its ups and downs but to know that others are able to deal with issues with out the steps.

        • It is difficult. SMART recovery has been helpful. I feel the steps can be used in a gentle way to help us. I feel more at peace with myself and have less urges…surprisingly.

          • Hi Pat, Hi Joanne

            Absolutely. I totally identify with your sense of withdrawal while deprogramming. I left AA early in 2014 after 14 years and still have fellowship dreams. In fact I had one two nights ago about a former sponsee.

            It’s doubly hard because (a) AA tells you that you’ll drink and die if you leave, so that’s got to mess with your subconscious, and (b) there are good things about AA that I still carry with me, such as don’t take the first drink one day at a time.

            So this is probably inevitable. All the evidence suggests peer support is genuinely useful in early recovery, so it’s probably unavoidable that such experiences will stay with us for at least a while in post-AA sobriety.

            Fear not. There is a way out.

            Much of recovery involves painting new memories over old ones. For about ten months after my last AA meeting I couldn’t travel anywhere in my small town without it triggering memories of the people knew in the rooms – not least when I bumped into them on the street..!

            Recently, however, I realised I’d been at several familiar haunts without triggering any old emotions or memories. New remembrances had taken their stead.

            The key to this is action, because that is how we generate new experiences and new memories.

            Keep active, and give time time. This too, like everything, shall pass.

            Best love. Jon S
            “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

  51. It is hard to leave a 12 step support group and that was really why I made this site, as I realised people could have problems after a time in AA and not be able to solve it using AA methods. I’m actually going to do a new front page and some posts that reflect this more as the site has become more broad based over the past year.
    The AA slogans and stock answers do take a while to fade especially if you were a really active member, and of course you can find yourself with a lot of time on your hands and a lack of community support. I used up some of the time joining fitness and other groups to make new friends that were people who were living positive lifestyles that were not recovery based. This really helped me. I also had some one on one therapy which really helped me look at my problems in another way. These were not really resentments and I doubt I would have dealt with them in AA.
    I did have depression when I left AA, but it was not as bad as when I started! However I was more concerned about the actions of certain people in my local groups and the amount of gossip and lack of trust. It was important for me to get proper medical help for depression and not simply do what my sponsor was suggesting. This was a problem for me, as I was using AA for support. One of the things that I was told by a counsellor when I left was helpful , and that was that I had already proved to myself that I could stop drinking so could do it again if I needed and that AA would still be around if I felt the need to attend. I found that once I had left I felt better after putting into practice some of the CBT type ideas. I started to read some good books including the ones by Stanton Peele and have recently discovered Lance Dodes. These changed my views on addiction and made it less scary to go it alone. I was able to dump the idea of powerlessness which was helpful in those dreadful early days, but a hindrance in later sobriety. I went back to an AA meeting after about 6 months and it seemed really strange. It was like being in a timewarp with people sharing the same old things and chanting the same old slogans. A lot of the people seemed to be much stranger than when I was an active member.
    I think we all have to find our own solutions as we are all individuals but there are online support groups such as Soberistas who are a friendly bunch. I think we also have to be prepared to modify our approach over time, and be prepared to ask for help in a different area when we need to.
    I’m going to try and update a few of the early posts about leaving AA over the next few weeks. They were written quite quickly when I started the site and needed to fill it with content, but it is the most important part of the site. I will also do a much better front page and why page and bring back the books section although you can still find the books under categories. The site had become a bit hard to navigate and hopefully this will help as well as making the design look better.

    • You know that’s a really good point about the need to have your decision to leave validated by a professional.

      I would probably never have left AA had my GP not instructed my to do so.

      She could see how very ill it was making me, and I’ll never forget her words: “There are some very needy people in AA. You’ve done enough for the fellowship, now get out of there. AA will do fine without you, and you’ve already proven you can stop drinking if you need to. Move on to the next stage of your life. You’ll be much happier as a result.”

      I’d taken a good old glug of that sweet-tasting AA Kool Aid and would never have thought such a thing by myself, so it these were amazing words to hear. What also caught my attention was her demeanour – simultaneously quite forceful but also entirely matter-of-fact about it all.

      I respect any doctor’s opinion (pardon the pun) and in fact it wa a GP fourteen years earlier who’d suggested I go to AA in the first place. So when another one told me to leave in such clear terms, I assumed it to be a clear sign from my Higher Power.

      Of course I now realise there is in fact such a thing as coincidence, and it was nothing to do with mine or anyone’s so-called Higher Power.

      I am much happier as a result, just as the doctor said I would be. However I also really identify with the idea that you need a little push from a voice of authority to break the spell.

      It can be a difficult decision to make on your own, and we’re all to some extent haunted by the insecurities inspired by AA’s dogma of “powerlessness” … but given time, they’ll go.

      I was a proper die-hard 12 step fundamentalist, so if my AA ghosts can evaporate then probably anyone’s can.

      Best of luck, Jon S
      “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

      • I think people often do well if they get some sober time in with the aid of a recovery, then look at aspects of their life that caused the addiction issues with a professional. I know several people in person that have done this. It is also true that these people were all heavily involved in the recovery process and had been active in AA, like yourself. I think this can make it hard to leave, as it does become part of your life. I think the idea of relapse after leaving can cause real fear for some people and this was the case with me. I was forty when I eventually stopped and had been abusing substances for years. I came close to destroying myself and did not want to risk repeating that. My Gp was actually quite interested in why I did not like AA and acknowledged that many do not thrive longterm in a group environment.
        It does feel strange at first, but I find have so much time to enjoy life, rather than restricting myself to a life around meetings. It was when I changed a lot of my social life that I really made progress.

  52. I used to wonder how I had so much time to drink. Now I wonder how I had so much time to spend in AA meetings!

  53. It certainly took up a lot of time and I think that was one of the things that actually helped in my early days. If I went to a meeting after work, a coffee after that, and some time travelling home, then the pub was shut!

  54. Hi all, i dont know if this is the right area to talk about this, but i suddenly feel real low and been crying alot today. I feel i have no one to go to with this as everyone i knew were in aa and they will tell me i need to get to a meeting and pray. Im at my doctors tomorow and hoping to get some help there. I am so confused i dont know if im an alcoholic….everytime i had a slip in aa i would self harm or pretend i was so bad i ended up in a&e, i wanted to hit this bottom that thwy spoke about so i would then be a ‘real’ alcoholic and would accept the program. Im just at a loss at moment and feel very emotional and down, im sorry to go on but i needed to get this out, i k

  55. Hi Joanne.

    I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling sad. I’m not a doctor or a counsellor but can share my own experience of leaving AA, which also involved some low points – particularly when I felt like I’d lost a group of friends.

    There are many things I learned in AA that have helped me since leaving, and a useful one is the idea of manufacturing gratitude. I still write gratitude lists occasionally as I think it’s a good way for us to be reminded of how fortunate we all are.

    Of course, for someone who’s depressed, being told how lucky you are is not always something that helps, as then you just feel even worse for feeling depressed – at least I did at the time.

    However stick with it and there is always a way out. Going to the doctors is probably a good idea. In fact taking any positive step might make you feel better just for the fact that you’re doing something to alleviate your low mood.

    In your situation I might also pass the time looking at inspirational documentaries on YouTube, and there’s certainly lots of those out there today. The odd phone call to a friend I can trust is also a good tactic.

    Bottom line is, you don’t need to drink – and there’s probably something you can do to improve your mood that doesn’t involve lifting a glass.

    Ultimately, if you feel you crave company and your mood is sufficiently low that nothing you do on your own can lift it, you could always go back to a meeting. I’d have no hesitation in doing that if things got bad enough.

    It’s been shown that peer support is important in recovery and AA has cornered the market there, so there’s no harm in making use of what it offers while you find your own path through the maze.

    Best of luck with this.
    Kind regards,
    Jon S

  56. Sorry to see things are not going so well. I’m certainly no counsellor or Dr but would suggest that you probably do need some form of support and some proper advice from a trained professional. I think the idea that you need to hit rock bottom to stop drinking is a poor one and many could be helped earlier, by other solutions.

    I did get quite emotional early on in recovery, and again after about 18 months and was helped by two courses of anti depressants along with couselling. Try and hold on and avoid drinking or self harming, AA gets that bit right when they say that having a drink is not going to make things better.

    There are online support groups such as Soberistas which has a chat room where there are normally people as well as Smart online meetings. Do you have any family to talk to? Sometimes just talking with a friend can make things seem less worrying.

    Certainly going to a meeting is better than harming yourself in any way and I am sure there is somebody there who would be friendly.

    Good luck and best wishes.

  57. Thank you both, this has helped me

    • I found the bad feelings eventually fade with time, but I can also say that I had some pretty tough times at certain points when I was figuring out how to change things. Often the last thing I wanted to do was ask for help from my doctor or another person, but this was often the thing that helped most.

  58. have recently left AA. I do believe in God, and I do believe God can help me become a better loving, kind compassionate man- if I follow him (I know this sounds like the 3rd step) however, what I really mean is that the spiritual ideals and universal truths of love, honesty compassion, and service DO improve one’s outlook on life, and have helped me tremendously. That being said there is so much about AA I cant swallow. The judgement of people who relapse, I feel as if I am a slave to the program- that I am done for without it. I am using HAMS right now to learn how to drink in moderation and use substances in moderation(certain ones- nothing like heroin or speed etc). I agree- it is about choice, and learning to identify one’s own thought processes that are truly compulsions incognito. I did have a recent binder of 4 days, but before that I had 5 days abstinence- AA would have told me im a failure- I tell myself “Hey you made some poor decisions this isn’t what you wanted, get up and get back to it!” It is a learning process, and I am so glad I found this site and the HAMS website- no longer do I feel deep seeded shame or like a failure because I had a drink or two, or even because I went on a binder. Thank God.

    I did go on a binder with amphetamines, but I realized the red flags and stopped quickly. I am learning slowly, but I believe I have a choice- and I choose not to dabble in substances hard to moderate! I start a 4 day abstinence period tomorrow. Thanks guys for pages like this- I no longer feel trapped

    • Thanks for your comment. I really wish I had read the Hams stuff when I was younger as I think it would have really helped. I knew I had a problem, yet even though I was not in AA at this point, I always felt a faliure when I went back to drinking. Things would get out of hand quite fast.
      The new Stanton Peele book is great on the subject and Lance Dodes is also worth reading along with Kenneth Anderson and I have listed his books in the book section.
      I choose to be totally abstinant these days, as I went quite far down the line in addiction and have no wish to return. I find it simpler not to have to worry about the amount I am drinking if I don’t drink anything. Other people can moderate well, after sorting issues out, I think a lot has to do with environment. If you are hanging out with heavy users when you drink, it may well lead to disaster, but if you are with positive people who just have the occasional glass then that is different. If you end up binging it is probably best to aim for a period of abstinance and try and sort out any underlying issues. We are all different – good luck, and if one method is not helping there are plenty of others!

  59. I upgraded the front page of the site and did some other work, last night and it seems to be stable! You may have to refresh your browser a couple of times to get everything updated, as I have several caching systems running that should speed the site up and make pages load faster by reducing the number of “hits” required to load a page. The front page should have a slider at the top with a soft focus image! Hope it works where ever you are!

  60. I really appreciate your blog and agree that breaking free from AA can be terrifying when it is drilled in your brain that the #1 reason alcoholics relapse is because they stopped going to meetings. That would be 100% correct if you only took into consideration that the people who say that, went to a meeting and shared it. What about all of the people that have stopped going to meetings and DIDN’T drink? I suspect that THOSE people are living a life free from alcohol and AA and not over thinking all the reasons why they might go out and drink. Believe me when I say that AA has truly saved my life and without it I probably wouldn’t be here today. It was part of my journey, and I thank God every day for the wonderful life I have been afforded because I make the decision to not pick up a drink one day at a time. I check my motives (it comes naturally now) and I am fully aware of the guilt and remorse that follows if I decide to make poor choices. I help others (not just alcoholics) and I am of service to anyone that crosses my path. I have a spiritual connection and I know that my HP can’t be me. I got sober in 2000 and spent the next 4 years going to meetings every day because I was afraid of picking up a drink. EVERYDAY! I had out of state moves several times and never really connected but did make a conscience effort to plug into the program every once in a while. After 10 of not going on a regular basis I am still sober. One of my reasons for not going are I have grown tired of the grandiose attitudes of members who browbeat others into thinking that if they don’t do as they do, they will drink and die. I think that I have walked on the most eggshells in meetings. For people that have the strongest forceful opinions about how people should lead their lives, they sure do have extremely tender feelings when others don’t buy into it. I always think of “Live and let live” and “Attraction not promotion”. I certainly don’t want what the woman of 30 years of sobriety has when she bursts into tears at every meeting about her miserable life. I have also experienced the backlash when I tell my original support group that I have stopped going. “You’re going to die!” they say… Well quite frankly we are all going to die… eventually. Just for today I prefer to live my life out in this exciting world rather than in a meeting.

    • Thanks for such a great reply! I love the bit about us all going to die eventually. I just wish AA could take on some new ideas, I watched the film, one little pill at work today and that really showed how a huge number of people could be helped, using the Sinclair method. Something like that could be told to newcomers in AA and save lives. Instead they are asked to buy a big book.

      Earlier comments on this thread seem to have disappeared after I changed some settings! I hope they come back over time when the cache updates! Sorry about that! I can actually see them spread over 4 pages and may link them in like that as it would keep the thread neater but not tonight!

    • Annie, that’s a fantastic post. Thank you so much.

      I only left AA earlier this year, and at the time although I was sure I’d drink and die I also suspected there must be others out there who managed to quit AA and in so doing remained sober and happy.

      It’s great to read a post from someone who has achieved this, and who has now done so for over a decade. I could read that post over and over – like I used to do page 83 of the AA book.

      Why don’t you hear about people such as yourself in meetings? They don’t come back! They’re too busy, they’re having too much fun, or have simply grown out of the programme.

      “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

  61. Jon sent me this link via email, but i decided to put it here. Looks like they forgot to say the serenity prayer again !

  62. Wow that is an incredible article!
    Thanks for the positive feedback and alternatives to 12 step programs… Ironically the night I posted that comment my husband and went out to eat and I saw someone I knew from AA who had also stopped going, watching the football game while enjoying a beer. Although I choose abstinence, I don’t judge anyone who doesn’t. If I thought I could safely drink I am sure I would too! I don’t think it is any coincidence that many people like that have been put in my path. I know another man who went to meetings for a full year at age 19. After his year he decided AA wasn’t for him and stopped going. He is now in his forties, married with children and chooses not to drink. He is very happy. When I started seeking out others that have left AA also, it brought hope that I just might be on the right track! I have a “Life is Good” t-shirt that supports my choices (moving around the country and leaving AA) in a positive way and it says, “Not all who wander are lost”. I believe I am meant to explore and I embrace that. Thanks again for being in my Google search 🙂

  63. Thanks again Annie for dropping by and leaving a comment. I’m glad you found the site helpful. It is certainly true that many can go back to drinking after a period of sorting themselves out. A lot of people who end up in AA, are really drinking to cover up issues, when quite young, and if they deal with those issues, they can happily move on.
    I think young people being told they are powerless, is quite dangerous, and can lead to them going on a bigger binge when the enevitable relapse happens. Stanton Peele writes about this, quite a lot, and I feel he is right. Good luck in the future.

  64. Hi Jon, just discovered your blog about a week ago, and am excited to read about the people that have left AA as their program. I had been in & out of the program since 2006, only to know that this is not how I wanted to live my life! Same ole stories, same ole song & dance my friend!
    Anyhow after 5 more years of drinking my life away I finally got the real help I needed with intensive OP therapy. The one-on-one was truly the answer to my prayer
    It was so imbedded in my head that if I left AA I would die, but I know now that that is simply a myth &a scare tactic.
    I watched the 48 hr program last night & thought about all those woman that are sooo vulnerable at such a critical time in their lives & thought how fortunate I was not to get caught up in something so sinister!!
    I’m now 3 plus years sober and so happy to be out of that life. Thank you for your blog & just know that it is truly refreshing to anyone whose life has been destroyed with substances. There is HOPE

    • Thanks so much Patti for your kind comments, and I glad that you re doing well and have moved on with the aid of more suitable solutions. As we saw in the film, AA was not prepared to even talk to somebody from CBS and only let them film some old Big Books. I cannot see it changing much and have to accept it for what it is. I do think that the influence of the treatment industry causes problems with other solutions being ignored, so the more of us that put something positive about alternative methods of recovery, on the web, the better.
      People are treating AA like a sacred religion, and feel it is wrong to suggest that the steps are ineffective. I think people who do well in AA, do so because they become engaged with the recovery process and being in a fellowship, with people following a common aim. I found reading this book by Lance Dodes “The Sober Truth” really helped me what had happened with AA and why it had grown . It is well worth a read compared to some of the rubbish that is published on the web!
      I hope you come back here, and encourage some others to look for an solution that really helps them.

  65. In addition to AA I’ve also been involved in LifeRing and SMART Recovery. After several years of trying to grow the alternatives to the manifestly religious AA organization, I’ve come to realize that AA has an absolutely huge number of F2F meetings compared to the alternatives. Any chance AA can be reformed from within, as I believe this is a better way to proceed than try to grow LifeRing and SMART Recovery.

    • Hi Ed.
      I think you hit on a real problem there. Peer support is undoubtedly helpful, particularly in early recovery, but AA totally dwarfs the alternative option. I live in a small city in the UK with 52 weekly AA meetings, at least as many NA, CA, gatherings, yet only two SMART Recovery meetings and no other forms of fellowship such as LifeRing or any other. There are reasons why SMART Recovery hasn’t grown, some of which were discussed in online magazine The Fix recently.
      However AA can’t change from within for two reasons. First, it’s divinely inspired so who can rewrite the word of God? Second it works to separate the alcoholic from their obsession but isn’t a healthy way to live in the long term, so everyone’s still rather neurotic and unable to agree on any appropriate reforms as a result.
      That’s why online forums like this as so very important.
      Jon S, “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

    • Thanks Edward to all the points you have made on the site last night. I’m a bit rushed today so will just answer here, but will come back to some of these issues soon with a proper post about how AA could be modified. I would like to see Smart and Lifering grow on their own, as I feel they are structured in a way that allows them to change things for the better as time goes by and are not bogged down by tradition. For example the Smart recovery handbook has only been around for a few years but already is in its fourth edition I believe. They constatnly try to improve but AA seems to want to stay the same, and sees no reason to change. People that find AA helps them are often very evangelical and work hard to promote it. It certainly has a good infrastructure, which is why most people choose to go there, and was really given a helping hand by the”get rich quick” treatment industry.
      I think you are right about the good side of lifering meetings where people are simpy discussing things that help. There was a similar group near where `i live that was mainly for musicians in recovery, which was like AA without the steps. Somebody would talk about their experiences and the rest would be given time to share. It worked well but unfortunately had to stop as people were turning up to see the celebs! There ar a few AA meetings that are less step orientated but many are going the other way.
      I agree that AA moralisies addiction which is a point you made on another comment. Lance Dodes talks about this a lot in the “Sober Truth” which is a great book, reviewed in the book section. I think that the moralisation makes sense, if viewed in the context that AA was formed in USA shortly after prohibition ended, and many viewed drinking as a moral issue. Things have changed now and much more of society drinks heavily. I do not feel a religious solution will help a lot of people. Something such as the Sinclair method will help people (as long as they want help) and needs to become more prominent. this could certainly be suggested to people in AA that are struggling (most new people). Sadly I think that AA will resist change. They will certainly simply ignore the small numbers of anti AA people who slag AA off, but may have to modify their approach if insurance companies refuse to pay for 12 step treatment and I am noticing a slight change in attitudes in the UK. All this will take time, for example, many Doctors are unsure how to use naltrexone etc and really do not know much about alternatives.
      The reeal purpose of this site is to highlight the fact that there are different methods available and to get people to say that they have done well with alternatives to the 12 step methods. Sadly a lot of people spend one hour in an AA meeting, listen to some crank talking about how praying to a group of drunks has resored them to sanity, and then leave the recovery world for good. Others feel they are faliures if the do not have a spiritual experience,these people could be helped.

  66. The print of the text on your website is too small to read comfortably. If possible, can it be changed to font size 12? Thanks.

    • It is hard to do that without destroying the formatting of the template, I did make it bigger before but it caused problems on ipads and mobiles. On most browsers you can enlarge the text, on firefox it is control plus to do this. Bt the way I also use reading glasses so understand the problems!

      • Thanks very much for your consideration. Maybe changing the format to “bold” would help. What do you think?

        • The text is set to default for this template which has a lot of custom features but is not that easy to make a change site wide. Could you tell me what broser and operating system tou use aand I will try to look at it on a similar machine. I have a mac with a 30” screen so can see most things but it seems ok on my ipad and phone. Changing the site is not something I can do quickly and I am busy work wise at the moment untill after Christmas, but I can have a look.

          • I tried changing the font on a test site and it ruined the formatting. Things overlapped and it was a total mess. I will leave it as it is as it seems to work on many browsers, and leave it to the user to change the font size at their end if they need to. I do understand the problem as I am middle aged myself and need two sets of glasses! However it is important for site rankings that a site works on mobiles and tablets these days, and this template does well with that.

  67. Thanks Jon for your response to my post. I agree with what you say. However, I don’t think that dropping the 12 Steps is possible for the foreseeable. However, I do think that dropping the “No cross talk” rule is much more likely to be doable (Not that this would be easy). In my judgement, the “No cross talk” rule is the primary aspect of AA meetings that give them a cult-like quality. Not allowing questions and discussion in direct response to someones painful “sharing” is a way to infantilize the AA members. Not allowing mature interaction among the membership creates a pathological dependency and passivity typical of religious cults. AA claims all meetings are autonomous and free to do things the way they want. This might be a good place to start. BTW, LifeRing F2F recovery support meetings are all about member sharing and constructive feedback from others with similar experiences. They work quite well as recovery support groups. What do you think?

    • Hi Ed & LovingLife52.

      Yes, I agree with everything you’ve both written. The “no crosstalk” tradition is a really interesting phenomenon, which I don’t beleive is in the 12&12. How many times have I been told there are “no rules” in AA, but clearly that’s one of them – as anyone who violate it will soon discover! I think it originated in the Oxford Group which is why it makes AA seem cultish – to build on your observation earlier, Ed.

      Unfortunately because the 12 steps don’t really do that much to help people with their anxiety or their self-centeredness, allowing crosstalk wouldn’t work very well in an AA situation. Can you imagine? It would be chaos!

      However I’ve been in CBT groups, run by professionals where the ground rules are clear from the beginning, and as you so correctly state the crosstalk was the best thing about the meeting.

      So I really suspect that this is a structural problem in AA. Crosstalk is brilliant, if properly managed, but AA doesn’t actually “manage” anything … it just puts a bunch of drunks in a room together with a copy of the big book, and appeals to the authority of (in my view a non-existent) God to help sort it out.

      I honestly don’t believe AA is incapable of change, because of it’s structural issues, and that’s why I think a rainbow recovery solution is the only way forward.

      We know more about this condition than we did in 1939. Suffering alcoholics deserve more choice and AA, if it really gave a shit about those it claims to help, would do more to promote other routes to sobriety or manageable living.

      Why can’t suffering alcoholics be given leaflets on The Sinclair Method, SMART Recovery, Harm Reduction alongside the 12 step literature they find in AA meetings? Why, in 14 years attendance, did I never hear these things even mentioned? Now that’s the crosstalk I want to hear in meetings!

      “Oh, so you’re having trouble abstaining? Why not try naltrexone?” Imagine how many lives could be saved.

      Jon S
      “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

      • This got stuck in the spam filter for some reason! I really do think that AA should talk about other methods that can help so people can make up their own mind about how to get well especially as a newcomer. Although I have no faith in the dteps I feel that being part of an organisation as big as AA helped me in my early days, and although a lot of sharing in meeting is crazy, I also heard things relavent to me. I really like the idea of Naltraxone for helping people although I do know of one idiot who stopped taking it so that he could get high, and then said that it did not work as a method, because he failed. I think that happenss with most recovery solutions! It really is down to the individual to change with any solution.

      • The reason why crosstalk is frowned upon and outlawed at some A.A. meetings is because somebody comes into a meeting with one problem and leaves with twenty problems … er… pieces of advice.

        On the one hand, you want to say that A.A.s are inmates running the asylum, and on the other, you want its members to dole out free therapy. So which one is it?

        • I never said that “The inmates are running the asylum in AA”. I’ve said AA is a religious institution with no capacity nor interest in change. The rigid 12 steppers running most AA meetings are typical for religious organizations and in no way should be critcized for that. The problem is AA represents itself as an effective recovery support group, which for a vast majority of alcoholics that turn to AA in desperation it is not. Asking questions and telling people what worked successfully for them in response to another member’s difficulties is not “…giving free therapy…”. It works extremely well in my LifeRing group.

          • The crosstalk idea always annoys some people but I do think it can be useful at times. The subject of peoples shgares often became the topic of discussion in the meeting after the meeeting when I was a newcomer. I think this helped me understand certain things about alcoholism and how people felt, which you would not always get in meetings. If you had this type of discussion in meetings all the time it could be disprutive especially if strong personalities disagree.
            I never viewed AA as therepy as I did not go via a 12 step treatment center and simply turned up on my own and looked for help. You can certainly get some good or bad advice from people in AA, and so it is important to find a few people that have similar basic views on life and religion to yourself.

  68. You may not be saying that A.A. is the inmates running the asylum, but we’ve certainly heard it described that way right?

    Being that A.A. is more of a religious institution, then these more orthodox groups would try to encourage the newcomer/apprentice/etc. to listen to the more experienced person’s experience and how they applied the steps so as to incorporate that experience to their own life.

    “It’s my job to point you towards God, not tell you how to do the thing.”

  69. Merry Christmas to everyone out there, I hope you all enjoy it, and that it is a stress free time spent with friends and relatives. Some people do find the Christmas period hard and there is some support available. Most people know that AA provides meetings throughout the day but Smart also provides online support as well which could be helpful.
    Take care and best wishes for 2015!

  70. This made me laugh – a good view of God’s mistakes!

  71. I just wanted to wish everybody a happy and safe new years eve tonight. I’m spending it London and can watch the fireworks out the window at midnight. Lets hope 2015 is a good one, especially for people who had problems over the holiday period. I was reflecting on some of the crazy New Years Eves that I’ve had over the years but am looking foward to getting up tomorrow, without a hangover and going for a run! Best wishes! LL52

  72. Hi Guys

    Finally got around to checking in here, I’ve been over on but I’m in the UK so it’s good to find a UK blog. Happy New Year. I have to say Christmas and New Year is my least favourite time of the year and I’m pretty glad it’s all over. Not for any particular reason other than there’s lots of hanging around, it’s too quiet, I don’t have kids of my own and most of my friends are all married and have young kids, oh and my own family can be a bit tricky, much as I love them, so enforced time together isn’t my favourite activity. Reason for checking in here today is this is my first Christmas out of AA and despite my best efforts – after 12 years in the fellowship – most of AA friends are either a) not talking to me or b) extremely annoyed with me for daring to leave and then seem even more annoyed that I’m not buying into the drama of it (nope not in the gutter, not dry drunk crazy, and actually pretty OK). The fact that I’ve been successfully moderating seems to blow their brains out. Although I’ve parked the moderating thing for health reasons, and also because I have some serious deprogramming to do.

    My brother is in recovery, nine years yesterday to be precise, and he did come home for Xmas for a few days, and we did talk about me leaving and all the reasons why I decided to leave (the biggest being I don’t believe I ever was an alcoholic, which is a fairly compelling reason to leave AA!) and we also talked about the 13th stepping problem etc. To my surprise he did agree with most of what I said but is still in the ‘the programme isn’t meant to be like that’ stage. If it is a stage…. I didn’t tell him I’d tried alcohol again as our relationship has been strained and he’s pretty much cut us off and I didn’t think it was the moment to do it.

    My brother and i were always close, and it was me who 12 stepped him into it all, and at the time we were allies in our ‘sick’ family. I don’t sign up to that belief anymore, I think the family disease theory is not helpful, and it’s tough, he’s hardly seen any of us in the in last two years and is in quite a hard core group of NA guys (he got really sick of the insanity of AA and moved over even though he’s not a drug addict) and he’s training to be an addiction therapist, even works in a rehab. It’s all a bit weird. I felt really sad when he left after Christmas.

    I have some complicated and contradictory feelings about my time in AA, as the more I look at it, the more it appears to be quite culty and harmful, but also it also felt helpful at the beginning (probably I had three ‘good’ years in AA before it all started to fall apart and it’s amazing to me now that I stuck it for another 9 years, my view is now, is that all my ‘unresolved stuff’ just played out in AA which is why it felt so comfortable!) but perhaps because I was so vulnerable and felt so alone when I found it, I never really identified with the majority of the drinking stories (and those stories I did identify with I think was because I believe there are lot of people in AA who are not alcoholics, just lost and lonely people who drank heavily for a period, not sure that’s a life long diagnosis), more the ‘square peg in a round hole’ tales, which is perhaps why it was so seductive for me.

    I witnessed a lot of abuse and outrageous behaviour, but I also met some really sound and kind people. I was on the receiving end of a lot of very controlling and belittling sponsorship, and as I have a complicated health history, a lot of my actual medical symptoms got labelled as my ‘spiritual malady’ so I was on the whole AA Al Anon Coda OA merry go round and felt very pathologised by the end. Did teach me to stand up for myself, I rather enjoyed telling the guy who tried to insist my cancer was a ‘manifestation of your lack of love’ where to get off! New age bollocks!

    Anyway, just thinking out loud here! I’ve been quite angry for a while but that seems to be tempering itself somewhat. Some of the anti AA stuff makes me uncomfortable (for eg someone said on a page I was on that all AA members need to go f**k themselves, and I don’t believe that, my brother for starters is a good guy, perhaps he’s still a bit lost but he’s a good man, not sure he needs to go and f**k himself!) and some of it really makes sense. I’ve met people who’ve been profoundly hurt by and in AA, and others not so much (although my observation is that it’s the middle class white guys who feel that AA helped and they then ‘outgrew’ it, the rest of us seem to have a more complex relationship with it!)

    Sorry, this is a longer post than I started off writing, but it’s good to read your blog and find others trying to figure this stuff out. I’m not an atheist, although I am experiencing some spiritual confusion now I’ve left (‘be quick to see where religious people are right’ was actually part of me leaving) and trying to work my way through all that and see what I’m left with.

    Thanks for letting me share, Happy New Year folks, I think 2015 is going to be interesting.


    • Thanks for such a long post. It got stuck in the spam filter for some reason, so sorry for the delay putting it up. I did actually get something from the shares about drinking in AA, as I was really heavy for over twenty years and got myself into some pretty bad situations at times. I do think there are many in AA, that did not have a bad problem, and have probably come from rehab. Many are quite young and I do not think AA is a good place for them. It was designed for low bottom drunks.

      There are certainly culty meetings and I think we both went to some of them, and others that are more down to earth. I don’t see AA as a cult overall. I accept that some of the things that the anti AA brigade say are true, but a lot is exaggerated on certain out of control forums. If you hang out on an anti forum you will meet a small group of people who go on and on about the bad parts of AA and who are getting more annoyed because they are arguing with people who are trolling sites and don’t represent most people in AA. They got what they deserved because they go on AA sites and troll them, but they can’t see that. I’m all for sites such as Massives which are about safety in AA and think that her film could help some groups change.

      AA certainly gave me a place to go, but I did not think much of the steps or praying. I could see through some of the crazy people, and did not put much faith in sponsors after having a Joys sponsor for my first few weeks. I do have a lot of time for many in AA and am thankful for their support. It was not all bad. AA or other recovery groups will have people who are mentally ill in them, and others who are not going to work the program in a spiritual fashion and you have to take care of yourself. Some people do not appear to have much common sense.

      My experience is that quite a few people simply move on from AA quite easily after a while, and they are certainly not all middle class. You tend not here much from them online and they ceratianly don’t go near toxic anti AA forums to balance them up. I think people that throw themselves into recovery with an open mind and who start to read about the subject, tend to move on quite easily. those who take it on as a religion and let it dominate their life can have problems. People have issues in all recovery programs and none have a huge success rate and that is because people miss the drinking and want to avoid the reality of life. AA can’t change that, being in a recovery group, will only be of any use if people really want to stop, but some people seem to want to blame AA for everything that goes wrong, and every suicide, which is not the case. Some people seem to believe anything on the internet and this seems the case with a minority in the anti AA group who will believe any little conspiracy theory and who turn nasty if you question what they are saying.

      I hope your brother does well, and that he is happy on his chosen path. That is the main thing, and we should do whatever works for us at the time. I still have about 5 people as friends that still go to meetings and we rarely discuss AA to be honest. They are happy to see me doing well, and I am for them. They are certainly not like the people arguing on the fix or op and are decent people. I found time to be a great healer and although I saw stuff in AA that I feel was wrong, it did help me in some ways and simply meeting people who had beaten alcoholism and not drunk for a few years really inspired me. It helped me beat the habit of drinking.

      Anyway have a great 2015 and hope we can all meet some time soon.

  73. Hey

    Thanks for your long reply also. I agree with a lot of what you say. I think the issue that you highlight is that some people arrive at the doors of AA with a variety of issues – some that AA helps with and some that it doesn’t but it’s hard to figure that out sometimes as it can be very emotionally charged. Mine was typical female stuff, low self esteem, poor boundaries, some abuse stuff, a date rape, etc (that made it hard to take care of myself), and a need to belong, and I can see now, difficulty taking charge of my own life, so I suppose I was a sitting duck for someone to take charge of it for me. For sure the routine and structure of AA was helpful, as was the shared camaraderie, it did take the sting out of the shame I felt. But I can see now I was incredibly vulnerable and probably some safe and gentle therapy would have been more appropriate. I was certainly drinking recklessly but not sure it was ‘alcoholism’ either and perhaps a proper assessment rather than being left to ‘diagnose myself’ would have set me on the right path.

    I certainly felt ‘part of’ when I joined AA and I desperately wanted and needed somewhere to belong, but I think that set me up to get too sucked in. A bit like Jon, I was fully and totally signed up to it and it did dominate my life. It’s a bit like being trapped inside a tumble drier, once you are in, you are so twirled around it’s hard to figure out which way is up. I did read people like Charlotte Kasl fairly early on but had a hard time expressing those ideas, moving over to CODA which is far more touchy feely gave me space to express those ideas but also kept me in the tumble drier if you see what I mean. And yes I had a vision sponsor also, who I found it hard to stand up to, and disagree with. I believed her when she said that if I ‘thoroughly’ followed the path all would be well and a ‘miracle’ would happen. Turned out she was (and is) more f**ked up than I was, but took me a long time to figure that out and trust my own thinking.

    I definitely spotted the really crazy people but the other AA group think is more subtle I feel, and for sure, not all of it bad, but that’s what makes it confusing too I suppose, some good stuff mixed in with the not so good stuff – hence my contradictory and confused feelings now. As I was ill in AA that made it even harder, my resilience was definitely compromised, and as the symptoms of my actual real disease were unbelievable panic, anxiety, and all sorts that got labelled as ‘your disease’ (alcoholism). I was so desperate for relief from them that I was pretty much willing to do anything – turns out the cause was physical but not before I’d been in rehab for ‘codependency’ and childhood trauma and been in YEARS AND YEARS of 12 step therapy.

    I got yelled at and put in the hot seat in meetings by the tough love brigade also, as I was just so desperate for relief from the anxiety (caused by toxic levels of thyroid hormones, I was REALLY ill) and I just got told over and over to ‘hand it over’ … and it was my ‘self will run riot’. I’m quite proud of my tenacity in pushing for answers really, as I was under heavy pressure to ‘surrender’. Thank God I didn’t, or I’d be dead.

    Maybe my perspective is a little different being female in AA as the 13th stepping thing really was endemic, and the chapter To Wives was written for women (if I hear that one more time, I will puke lol), and it shocks me now that a bunch of educated, young fiesty women whispered around the edges of the rooms, warning each other to ‘stay away from that guy’ rather than kick the doors down and demand some meaningful change. Any time I expressed my views on that subject I got shouted down. In the rural area I live in now I got told that I was ‘dangerous and disturbing’ and people were warned to stay away from me and my whacky ideas as the ‘programme is perfect just the way it is and it was perfect long before you got here and will be long after you are gone’. It’s hard to be the lone voice in the wilderness on your own. I’m sure many of those people who thought that weren’t deliberately being malicious, but it was alienating all the same.

    Also like Jon I had a really bad romance – with a stand up sober guy who turned out to be nuts! – and whilst I conducted myself well, and with integrity, the gossip machine and the drama around all of that (whilst I was getting really really sick) was the last straw e.g. he relapsed very badly on drugs (valium amongst other things) and sat dribbling in meetings, surrounded by people telling him ‘at least you are sober’ – I wasn’t too pleased with the guy by that point but I had loved him once and that advice could have killed him! I walked away pretty much by that point.

    As for my brother, he’s a good guy and I believe he’ll make a talented therapist and of course he’s an adult and it’s up to him to figure out his life. I just miss him, and how we used to get on, and now we don’t share a ‘world view’ it’s tricky, although we do still agree on a lot. I am living with my parents now as I’ve been so unwell, so I had to come home, and after endless years dissecting my childhood in therapy I feel it’s been healing to be around them again. For sure they drive me nuts but not sure we are suffering from a collective ‘disease’ …

    Anyway, another essay! Sorry! Thanks for reading and yes let’s try and organise a London meet up, that would be good.



  74. I certainly think that AA needs to be brought up to date, and agree that 13th stepping is an issue, but it is also a bit inevitable in a group that is going to attract some wild people. I am not defending those that do it to newcomers though, and think that a simple couple of sentances at the start of meetings would help matters. It is impossible to make a support group for addicts completely safe, but it is not always something that occurrs to newcomers.

    Self esteem is certainly an issue that drives alcohol abuse and while I agree that the 12 step method will probably not increase self esteem, people sharing about self esteem issues and panic attacks was helpful to me. There ar a lot of recovery gurus in AA, who believe that the spiritual solution will help everyone, when it clearly does not. I basically thought about some of things that were shared in meetings, and then went and talked to a counsellor about them when i had some sober time, who was not 12 step, and was more interested in dealing with my depression which she dealt with well.

    One of the problems in early recovery is that we often make really poor decisions before we are able to emotionally able to cope with the consequences. It is easy to blame a program we were part of retrospectively, yet in my case I realise that some of the things that caused me problems in AA, was down to me not being good at judging characters and allowing a few nutcases to annoy me. I was overeacting at times, but this is the type of thing that causes relapse in AA. I think a lot of these issues could occur in any recovery group – nutters and pests are attracted to AA because it is the largests easiest group to find, but would probably go to Smart etc, if that was the group that attracted most people.

    The tough love brigade can really over do things, and they are often the lot that have got so heavily involved in AA, that it has become their religion. Any group which uses broad based ideas can be dangerous like this, and the AA idea of using God as part of the program amplifies this. I found it really odd being in a group that was full of people who seemed to have done well in stopping drinking, but who were relying on a God based method that had no logic for me. I went along with it for a while, but always questioned it. I really found it odd, and acually quite funny that I listened to all that stuff, for the time that I did, and actually felt quite stupid afterwards. After a while I managed to get things in perspective. For a while, I think went a bit far the other way, as after being out of AA for a couple of years I blogged on Stinkin Thinkin for a bit and it was easy to get caught up in the “anti aa group think” there, which I think got extreme just before it closed when Orange papers types had a negative effect there.

    One of the things that helped me get my time in AA in perspective was Stanton Peele’s last book Recover (with Ilse Thompson from Stinkin thinking) that talked about things such as loving kindness. I ad been intorduced to mindfulness through a pain management course some years before and incorperated some of Stanton’s ideas and it got rid of a lot of negative energy, that I had about the past. Doing this blog has also helped, as I have read some good material on the subject and have been contacted by loads of people (generally by email) who have also moved on from AA and done well. It is easy to just concentrate on the bad things about a support group that have affected us and not see any good, and emotions can play a big part in this. However I can now see that AA did help me change in those early days and I was inspired by some people (especially the ex homeless) who had turned their life around. For me, that meant that I had no excuse to relapse, if they could do it then so could I. I had not been around many people who had beaten alcoholism before and done well, and who had beaten hardship and extreme poverty to get their life back together and were now smartly dressed and proud to sit in an AA room and help others, without asking for anything in return. These people never get mentioned on anti sites, just the unsavoury characters that cause problems, and that makes the “anti world” as unbalanced as the extreme 12 steppers in my opinion.

    It would be good to meet up soon, I’m hopefully going down to Portsmouth to listen to Jon speak next Thursday about God in AA, but that will possibly be a bit of a journey for you so perhaps we can all get together in London some time soon.

  75. Hey

    Thanks, yes Portsmouth is a bit far (used to live down that way though) – is he speaking IN a meeting? wow. And I’ve just bought that book, it’s on my teetering pile of books to read!

    And yes I agree with all you say, it’s still a muddle for me, I guess getting it all in its rightful place is a process, I blogged on moderation management and there are some amazing women there who were in AA a long time, they all seem to have mixed feelings also, it’s complicated I guess. … but yes AA taught me not to judge a book by its cover, and I did meet some miraculous turnarounds, lovely people and amazing stories of redemption (isn’t that what we are all looking for?) who had truly pulled themselves out of the gutter.

    I think the abuse issue really does need tackling. I chatted to my local vicar about AA (I know her through something else) and she was amazed and horrified that there is not a ‘protecting vulnerable adults’ policy and procedure for dealing with pests, in fact them not having that contravenes C of E guidelines and insurance requirements for using the building. I think if the senior citizens lunch club can manage it, AA can manage it. Clearly AA members are not children (at least not in the UK) but some members are very vulnerable and need protecting (if only from themselves) by there being more transparent ways of raising and dealing with issues – even if they just said ‘if a crime is a committed, call the police, the law trumps anonymity’ and some kind of statement about medications. That bit in the 12×12 that says rape is about ‘lust’ also needs to be deleted, made me spit feathers every time I heard it!

    Anyway, thanks for replying, hopefully catch up with you guys soon, you have my email address so if you want to contact me privately to discuss dates, that’s fine. I’m in London on 13th but I’d only be around in the morning.


  76. Here is a link to Jon’s talk, it is in a pub not a meeting!

    I’m free so far on the 13th in the morning, my partner is quite ill at the moment so I can’t always be certain until a day or two before , but it should be ok.

    The thing about the Karla Brada film that really impressed me and balanced the whole thing up was the obviously pro AA judge guy saying that things needed to change towards the end of the film, but very little is done. I found that a lot of the GSO business was petty when I was in contact with the London lot and there is a resistance to change anything or modernise.

  77. Haha, in a pub, the irony is pleasing 🙂 Some of the difficulty I have with the ex AA rationale is I am not an atheist, my bigger issue with AA spirituality is I think it’s wrong and unhelpful, even damaging, not that God doesn’t exist. I’ve had some interesting discussions with religious people about the ‘God of AA’ and that is more my problem with it. But fair play to Jon for having the courage of his convictions and starting a debate, wish I could be there.

    And great, well let’s see if we can make it work on 13th, and if not, no worries we’ll figure something out.

    And agreed, it does need to change but I doubt that it will despite many people like us still in AA wanting it to, because I think the fundamentalists have to a large extent taken over and / or the service structure is so unwieldy, with too much bickering and hair splitting over the convoluted traditions and concepts. If it did modernise, given it’s size and reach, it could be a good resource but even balancing out my good experiences I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone I knew to be vulnerable as it’s not safe enough and I think the sponsorship thing gets turned into pseudo therapy with often disastrous consequences for people who’ve got a lot of damage. Often not with malicious intent, but because people think time in AA qualifies them to tinker around with other people’s stuff. E.g. Step five made me very depressed, there was no big burden lifted from my shoulders, I now know it triggered a lot of stuff I wasn’t ready or able to deal with, but my sponsor at the time told me my feelings of being tiny and defenseless were ‘humility’ – actually it was a trauma reaction and I should have dealt with that stuff with a professional. I did in the end but it wasn’t a nice or helpful experience. I’ve heard confidentiality breaches and all sorts of mad stuff told to people in their step fives as well. Others had good experiences but it does seem a real lottery, and like you say some people really relapse once those feelings get unleashed.

    In terms of how they will get change approved, even discussing conference questions in meetings was a long winded exercise as members didn’t really understand the background to the questions, nor did they really understand the traditions (for eg tradition four is really misunderstood a lot of the time imo) so again there was a lot of hair splitting and bickering and disagreement. I take your point that if SMART was as big as AA it’d have many of the same issues with pests and predators, but at least SMART has a code of conduct, bylaws, rules, a complaints process, a method for escalating complaints, ways to sack facilitators, shut down groups and even to sue groups that bring the whole into disrepute. AA does need something like that to hold the membership accountable for their own actions and to shut down renegade groups. I’d like to think they could eventually do this, but if I’m honest, I doubt it’ll happen, or it won’t happen until a very damaging scandal hits the headlines.

    I also think there does need to be some method for professionals to have to declare, in the interests of professional ethics, if they are a member if there is a potential conflict of interest (eg rehab workers, judges, police officers etc). Not sure how likely that is though!

    Anyway, have a good weekend, sorry to hear you partner is ill.


    • Hello again, I certainly don’t think that young or vulnerable people should be sent to AA, but I think the type of person that spends all night in the pub would probably get something from it, and thats how I used to be at one time.

      Smart does have a complaints procedure which is a great idea and facilitators are trained which is also a big advantage, but even that cannot make a meeting completely safe. Many of the problems occur when people get together after the meeting in AA, very little happens actually in the course of the meeting itself. I did report and AA member in London to the police, for fraud and tax evaision and he was going after rich looking single women in the posh meetings. My partner reported one of the male sponsorship co ordinators at a large culty meeting for being a predatory homosexual, with newcomers.

      I don’t think you can keep crazy people or criminals out recovery groups as it goes with the territory. What you can do is make people aware of potential problems. Sadly some people will ignore guidence under any circumstances but at least it would be a step in the right direction.

      I think the amateur pyschiatrists in AA are a big problem, especially those armed with a load of self help books. I found most of step 4 and 5 to be a waste of time as well, and I do think I would have come to the conclusions I have now about what drove my drinking without proffesional help. It probably does do you good if you are an ego driven criminal but not much help if you are sensitive. Step 4 is often the point that people relapse. It really does show that one size fits all is not a great solution for everyone.

  78. I just added a film page to the site which i will hopefully add to over time It mentions the Film “One Little Pill” by claudia Christian who has written for this site and Monica Richardson who is making a film about the problems in AA which generally affect women.

    I also updated the links page which was a bit out of date.

    • Hi there

      It’s not a documentary but I was reading about a feature film called Thursday’s Speaker that looks really interesting too. Here’s the website

      And this is the blurb: Rodrigo owns this room. He’s the best twelve-step speaker in town, maybe in the state. He inspires people. He helps people. Unfortunately everything he says is a lie. He says he’s been sober for fifteen years but he was drunk last night. He was drunk the night before. He maintains the lie, though, because this is his family. His friends are here. The girls love him here.

      Rod’s balance is thrown when an old girlfriend moves back to town with a teenage son in tow. His budding friendship with April and Sam is the most honest relationship in his life, and turns Rodrigo’s perspective upside-down. Thursday’s Speaker is a dark comedy dealing with unplanned pregnancy, used car scams, twelve step programs, and family.

      Best Feature Film
      2013 Columbia Gorge International Film Festival

      Best Narrative Feature
      The Indie Gathering 2013

      Best Director
      The Indie Gathering 2013

      Best Director
      2013 IFQ Film Festival

  79. A piece on about 13 stepping in AA featuring Monica Richardson

    I’m sure the comments section will end up in a huge flaming war!

  80. Great shame to see is stopping – thought it was a good resourse and was certainly superiour to the fix, which has become completely useless.

    I did a big upgrade on the site and moved it to another host as there was too much downtime with the other host I had and it was expensive. I am slightly concerned that pages may not update quickly, with the way i have it setup but hopefully it will all work soon!

  81. Haven’t read through all the comments (there are a ton) – but would you like some help setting up an actual forum or chatroom? That’d probably be a better medium than this.

    • Thanks but have tried that before! This is not really a community site, different people are interested in different parts and normally arrive by google searches, rather than wanting to comment on every post.

  82. An interesting piece about naltrexone implants but the cost is rather high

  83. Michael Casey February 1, 2015 at 11:04 pm · · Reply

    I love this website, and I very much agree with its purpose, to help us all get over drinking disorders without feeling forced into the AA mindset of disease and spiritual disease and blaming ourselves for our disorder.

    I’ve been struggling with my drinking for over 20 years and only recognized it as a problem in the last ten years or so. I’m posting my experience here in the hopes that it will help someone else.

    I’m STILL struggling and of course AA would say that that’s my problem, I haven’t surrendered, I need to find my God and let Him take control of my will and my life. But that is a false hope, in my experience. I spent 9 months in a 12 step committed sober living house, TWICE. The first time, I embraced the “take what you want and leave the rest” approach. When I left sober living and tried to find a group, I was turned off by all the self righteous “by the book” people in each group and I stopped going to AA. And I ended up drinking, and didn’t want to go back to AA because I didn’t want to put up with those people.

    The second time, I was again at my wit’s end, without hope, wishing I could just end it all but I didn’t have the foresight to buy a gun before I’d started drinking again. I tell you that to be real and let you know how serious my problem is.

    So I went into another 12-step “last house on the block” sort of place and this time I embraced the by-the-book approach. I figured that if the founders of AA recovered magically by embracing God and he somehow mystically cured them, then I wanted what they’d got, and all I had to do was apply their instructions, step by step and day by day, and I’d be ok.

    Magically. Wave the magic wand, say the magic words in the “sick person prayer” and you’ll be ok lol. Pray each day for what you can do to help another, and you’ll be ok. Make sure to practice the magical twelfth step, helping another alcoholic, because that’s the best insurance from wanting to drink.

    Well I did all that. Every morning when I woke up I literally got on my knees to pray exactly the words the big book suggests. I shared my experience with every alcoholic I met and I sponsored an addict and tried to help him. I got certified as a volunteer at a local hospital, and shared my experience with people who were hospitalized because of alcohol/drug related problems.

    And I felt empty inside, and I felt like God just wasn’t there. I started out believing in God, and nine months later I knew that that was just another myth. Another way of hoping something outside me would fix me.

    I don’t relate this to tear down AA, or to say it’s altogether useless, but just to let you who are like me know you’re not alone. I’ve tried both approaches to AA, and I feel both are a letdown. This is my experience. If it works for you, then you probably have a religious mindset in the first place, and I’m glad for you that it works for you. But in my experience, it is not the one true solution, and it’s just a thing we try because we are out of money and out of free options.

    A book I recently read by an actual psychologist specializing in addiction suggests that we suffer from OCD. We get a temporary present-moment reward by feeling like we are in control by succumbing to the addiction. This jives with my own experience. I feel helpless because I have little money and no real prospects for the future. So I take an illusory sort of control by drinking. Long term, it means less control over my life, because of all the obvious ways it uses up money and makes me unhappy. But in the moment, I can’t control how much money I don’t have, but I can control how I feel by drinking.

    Also: this is not a religion but it is a way of thought and a way of perceiving life. Buddhism and meditation are a great way of learning to deal with what ails our minds. Basically, you observe your thoughts. And you don’t judge them, you just observe. If you’re angry, just be anger and observe. Remember that there is suffering in this world and you’re not alone in it. To paraphrase Helen Keller, there is great suffering in this world, but there is also the overcoming of it.

    • Sorry to hear how you’re struggling. Medications, for example Vivitrol, are now available to eliminate alcohol cravings. For religion, try the work of Ken Wilber.

    • Hi Michael
      I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties. Sustained alcohol abuse is a not pleasant. It really helped me to absorb those parts of AA that helped – ideas like “don’t take the first drink, just for one day at a time” I found very useful. If you can’t manage a day, try and hour. If you can’t do an hour, do five minutes. You can stay sober, you have the choice. Believe in yourself. You’re worth it, whatever your circumstances.
      I also made a lot of friends via the peer support available, all of whom shared the same loving supportive message. The problem is that the ones offering that kind of friendly reassurance are often also those most heavily into the idea of a higher power and practising the steps.
      In that way the fellowship is also a very frustrating place. Today, for that and other reasons, I don’t go.
      In your position it might be worth exploring CBT, if you haven’t done so already. It works well with mindfulness practice and there’s lots of different valid approaches. I’ve put resources like books and other sources on my blog for others interested in this and other ways of “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at
      If you find abstinence a problem I would also recommend The Sinclair Method. I wish I’d known about that when I was trying to get sober in AA. I too really struggled with abstinence and with God. You might have to push your GP to get it, but The Sinclair Method is extremely effective when the guidelines are followed.
      If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the documentary One Little Pill on Vimeo. Well worth it.
      Good luck Michael. Keep trying. Don’t give up. You can so this. There’s a lot of assistance out there for those who find AA unhelpful. Take care. JS

    • Hello Michael,
      Sorry it has taken me a while to welcome you here but I have been dealing with some time wasters . There are many ways to beat alcoholism but it is sometimes hard to find a solution that motivates us. It is often not the one that most people try first which is AA.
      I have found that meditation helps, and was introduced to it as part of a pian management course rather than for addiction, but I used to discuss it with Ilse Thompson who used to blog on the Stinkin Thinkin site and who wrote this book with Stanton Peele about recovery. . It has some good ideas and helped me, especially with the ideas on metta meditation, even though I was quite a few years alcohol free when I read it. Lance Dodes also writes some great recovery books and I have just read one by Pete Soderman, who like us started in AA and then moved on, after realising that he was more suited to a different approach . He also gives a good explanation for why mindfulness works.
      The Sinclair method is an excellent way for people who are still drinking, but who are motivated to stop. There is some information here, but also links to sites that give help in this area. There are links to different types of recovery solutions in the categories list on the side bar. I will try to put some better links up soon but am on the iPad at work at the moment.

      • Hi there folks

        Just to add my voice to the chorus of welcome for you, Michael. I was in AA for 12 years and now I don’t go any more either. There are some great blogs around, Jon has mentioned his, there is this one, there is which is a busy board too so if you need to talk or vent or just say hi then there are some good places to stay connected day or night.

        I am not an atheist (but I’m not really religious either) but I do feel AA’s spiritually is at worst corrupt and at best, not helpful. I’m still a bit confused about what I believe now I’m out of AA but my view is God is not ‘separate’ or ‘out there’ (well, he/she/it is immanent, and omniscient – so in here AND out there, kind of the reality underlying all things!) but I don’t believe in this idea of being ‘separate from God’ who will only then help us if we beg him or ‘surrender’.

        I believe that’s why in the Christian tradition (I’m not a Christian but I find this helpful), Jesus on the cross cried, ‘Oh God why have you forsaken me?’ – not because he was actually separate from God, or that God had ‘forsaken’ him, but to demonstrate that God (Jesus) was willing to go to the depths of the human experience for us, to that place where we FEEL forsaken and alone and alienated. In actual fact we are loved and held in our brokenness. That’s what I think the crucifixion story is about. It’s my belief that there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from God – we are never forsaken, and I feel we were given ‘self will’ for a reason! I also believe the notion is sin is simply ‘believing a lie about yourself’ – you know, I’m unloveable, I’m broken, I can’t do it, all that stuff not the crackpot shaming rubbish that goes on in most churches and religions, and most definitely in AA. I know very little about Buddhism, but believe this isn’t far off their ideas (I think when you boil it down, most religion is sort of saying the same thing). I think AAs ideas around God are quite punishing. But my own view is that has very little to do with God 🙂 No offence to anyone who is atheist by the way!

        I think it takes a while to get AA programming out of your head, there is some evidence that ‘powerlessness’ is a very powerful sort of hypnotic suggestion planted in your mind – so there is evidence that AAs relapse harder, for longer and more frequently because they believe ‘one drink makes one drunk’ – whereas Smart recovery would say this was a ‘lapse’ and all good progress is not lost. It’s so punitive, this AA notion that you are either ‘sober’ or you are not. The fact is you are TRYING, and as they say in Harm Reduction, Better is Better! Just keep trying. That’s enough (and actually I think that’s all a loving God would ask of us, that we get up each day and give it a go).

        There are some good suggestions made here. Also if you are in the US there are some non-12 stop treatment centres and out patient programmes around, and a few good counsellors who use different approaches.

        My one final suggestion for the day, Cold Play (who generally are a band I don’t like, I just want to shout ‘Cheer up!’ every time they come on the radio) did write one song that helps me when the shit hits the fan, and it’s Everything’s Not Lost you can listen here:

        Best wishes


        • Sorry you got caught in the spam filter! this happened before and I can’t seem to “whitelist” you. Could I ask you to keep a copy of anything you post here until it appears on the site, as I could accidently trash your post if it happens again.
          I was thinking of you earlier as the film you mentioned – Thursday’s speaker arrived today, I will let you know what I think.

          • GirlScout February 3, 2015 at 9:11 pm · ·

            Thanks Mike, no probs!

            And yes do let me know how you find it. I was reading up on Cash for Kids today, and Fix my Kid – two films, one about a judge taking bungs to put kids into juvenile jail, and the other about the troubled teen rehab industry. Both look really disturbing. And I think this is how it’s going in the UK – my brother works in a rehab and said he was deeply concerned they were taking sixteen year olds already labelled ‘addicts’ – the ethics of it do seem really questionable, even in the well run places that are ostensibly trying to do the right thing.




          • That went in the spam as well – sorry I just cannot fix this! I have just tried and it obviously did not work. I will have a look at those links tomorrow. I do not like the addict label and certainly do not think that a 12 step solution is a good idea for the young. On the other hand I do see drug and alcohol abuse in the young and feel they should be helped. Many of my drinking and drug problems started when I was a teen and it took me till I was 40 to sort them out! People should be helped at the start and maybe some guidance on social issues may help. Anyway I’m exhausted and off to bed!

  84. A good debate piece on the fix for a change about AA.
    I won’t waste my time with the comments afterwards – usual cranks from the Orange Papers! A good place for psychiatrists to find some more clients!

  85. Reply
    Dorothy G. Krasner

    June 26, 2017 at 2:26 PM

    Yes, words matter, but funding and attention and resources matter much, much more. I have been in the field of youth and human services since the 1970s. In that time, I have seen our state agency change its name several times. It has been the Office of Drug Abuse and Prevention, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, the Division for Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Prevention and Recovery and now it is the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services. Whatever its name, it has never received adequate dunging from the legislature, high priority support from the executive branch, or consistent attention from the public. The number and breadth of provider agencies has not kept up with the need, so the opioid crisis finds us struggling. Can we please concentrate on getting resources to those who need them, including individuals, families, and providers? BTW, I am a diabetic; in the twenty-plus years since onset, I have never felt stigmatized by the word.

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