How I came to leave AA

How I came to leave AA!

I decided to leave AA after about 18 months of attendance. I had remained alcohol free or sober as AA members refer to abstinence in meetings throughout this time. It was not a decision I took lightly as I was wary of the common warning that you hear in AA, that you will drink again if you stop meetings. This was given some credibility by the fact that most people who came back to meetings had done exactly this! However there are many people who make use of AA for a while, and then quietly move on. I suppose I am one of these people, and I have got to know many others, some are people I knew in AA and others have got in touch with me via this blog. Those who have a successful recovery after leaving AA generally do not go back to tell those left behind how well they are doing, and this gives the impression to those who attend meetings, that AA is the only way. This is not true, people do recover without AA, and the steps do not suit everyone.

AA Meeting

I have covered the subject of leaving AA in the blog already, but despite the posts on the subject being a couple of years old, they are read by many people on a daily basis. I think there are a lot of people looking to leave AA, after they have been helped by being in a sober fellowship. Here is a section from one of the many emails I get on the subject.

Thank you so much for your site! I’ve been clean and sober and in AA since March 2014 and I feel it’s time to find a different type of recovery. Not to bash AA because they definitely helped when I needed it, but let’s just say I feel I’ve outgrown AA. I am apprehensive and unsure how to go about leaving though. There’s the option of not telling anyone, stop going to meetings, and ditching everyone’s calls but I don’t want to do that. If so, how do I tell my sponsor and my other friends in AA? I feel Celebrate Recovery is what I’m called to do but I don’t know how to actually take the action to leave AA. Any advice you can give or areas in your site or others that could direct me would be appreciated! Thanks again!

It is difficult for me to give advice, as I do not know the people who are in contact, and I realise everyone has different circumstances. I am not a therapist, and do not want to make the mistakes of an over enthusiastic sponsor! All I generally say is that it is not a decision to take lightly, and that you may find it best to find another system of support first. It all depends on how long you were in meetings, how much you took part, and how the teachings of AA have influenced you. It also depends on if you wish to remain in a group for support or to support others or if you want to move on from Recovery groups and live a normal life where you no longer worry about addiction. It really is up to the individual and there are many variables. Of course staying in AA does not guarantee sobriety and if you are finding this difficult I would advise looking at other solutions which are listed elsewhere on the blog.

I think being in a sober fellowship really helped me initially and I was inspired to meet people who had many years of sobriety. This proved to me that it was possible stop drinking and it was an eye opener to see these people were really enjoying life. AA took up a lot of my free time which helped me break the habit, and I made use of the other members by phoning them up or going to a meeting when cravings were strong or I was not sure how to deal with certain problems. These are all good reasons to stay in AA, but at the same time I began to find it limiting in other ways. I also got fed up with some of the gossips and the really annoying “Big Book Thumpers”, and found that hearing people go on about “Higher Powers or God” was really off-putting. I had no interest in turning my day over to God, as I have never been a believer, and I found advice such as praying to a “Group of Drunks” equally pointless. Some people find comfort in the “Higher Power” concept, but I certainly did not.

I also started to suffer form a short spell of depression, after about 15 months and AA was not helping me with this at all.I think this is a common thing in recovery and sometimes AA members attempt to pray themselves well, with poor outcomes. I had become more open in AA, about discussing my problems and so I went to my family doctor and was given antidepressants and reintroduced to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which really helped me. I had been given the same type of help 10 years before, but had not been willing to open up to my therapist, or even confront certain issues myself. I was more open after being in AA, so in a strange way, the idea of personal powerlessness had helped me to ask for help, which was a major step on the way to self empowerment. I had also taken on board the idea of making recovery my priority, and so I was ready to do what was necessary to achieve that, and in my case that meant exploring other solutions. In my second AA meeting I asked how many people managed to stay sober from the start of their involvement in AA. I was told the figure was about 3% and this shocked me, but it made me realise that staying sober would be a difficult process and I needed to take it very seriously. I started to read as much as possible on the subject and found much of what I was reading conflicted with the 12 step ideas, but made sense to me.

CBT in Recovery.

Now that I was prepared to actually discuss my problems with a proper therapist, I made a lot of progress in a short space of time with CBT. I also think that having some CBT earlier on had made me a bit wary of some of the things that were said in AA meetings by members. Sometimes we need a couple of attempts, at a certain solution, before things fall into place, and I certainly don’t think CBT on its own is a magic solution for everyone in alcoholism recovery. However I would urge people to at least look at what it has to offer, and the easiest way to do this is via Smart Recovery, which is a support group based around CBT ideas. You could also look for a CBT therapist, for the type of one on one therapy that helped me.

Leaving AA is awkward.

Actually leaving AA is rather awkward for many, as you are going against the values of the group and risk loosing friendships and becoming and object of gossip. I have heard rumours that I am dead and that I have relapsed, neither of which are true, and as I was an object of gossip in AA, I am not too worried about what they said when I left. I quite like bumping into members of my old group from time to time and let them know that my life is good without AA. Most wish me well, but some are rather surprised by my success. My relationship with my sponsor broke down while I was doing CBT therapy and so we simply drifted apart. He did not want to take me any further through the steps, while I was taking prescribed anti depressant medication and I realised that AA was out of date and that I was not going to find a solution to all the issues that had led to me becoming a drunk, following the 12 step solution. I found telling him I was leaving rather difficult, but thanked him for his help and we have not spoken since in the last 7 years. I had already stopped phoning him regularly, or going to the same meetings as him, for a few months before leaving. I have kept in touch with a handful of people from AA, who I value, but have tended to avoid the people, who attended every meeting I went to and who just spouted slogans and “Big Book” quotes rather than really having anything worthwhile to say. They are the ones who always view me with suspicion if I bump into them.

Adjusting to life without AA.

I will do a full post on this soon as it is an important subject and the subject of many more emails to the site! I found myself with a lot more time on my hands and have developed a lot of new interests and activities to fill my life. I tend to surround myself with people who are not in recovery, and simply try to live a normal life. I no longer have any therapy and have not done so for several years. I have read a lot on the subject of recovery and have made use of things such as “Mindfulness” which I find calming and helps me keep my emotions in check, and life in perspective. I don’t live life “a day at a time” and have decided that I will remain alcohol free for good, as this is the easiest way for me. I view my addiction problems as in the past, but use this blog, which I write when I have spare time at work or am travelling, to keep me engaged in the recovery process.

At first it seemed odd not to go to meetings as I really left quite quickly after about 8 weeks of counselling, rather than gently cutting meetings down. I had been quite an active AA member and went to daily meetings, when I could. I was told that I could always return to AA or another support group, if I needed help, and that was a comforting thought. I was also told that, as I had proved to myself that I could stop already, I could do it again, and this was another helpful idea. I think some people tend to really go berserk during a relapse, if they believe they are powerless. I think the harm reduction style attitude, if you are actually going to drink has a lot of value! Harm reduction is a useful concept to explore if you are going to move on from recovery group, even if you do not wish to drink.

If I do relapse after leaving AA!

I do have a plan if this should happen and this has evolved over time. I think relapse is an important thing to consider!  If it did happen, I probably won’t return to AA as I do not really want to listen to a religious or spiritual solution again. I would try the Sinclair Method first and see if I was one of the 80% of people that are helped by Naltrexone. In fact I wish I had tried this method when I was still drinking as it could have helped me much earlier on and I feel I would not have fallen so deep into alcoholism. It is a shame that more people do not find out about this approach until they are really in trouble or have exhausted every other solution. I would also make use of my own sober network, which is made up of people I trust, and look at why I had gone back to drinking. If I feel a support group is needed I would go to Smart, as there are now a growing number of meeting in my area. I would also go for one on one therapy and certainly have a lot of good people I can contact these days.

The bottom line is that I am not scared about relapse any more, in the way that many are who attend AA, and who only use the steps to stay sober. I am certainly not contemplating having a drink in the near future, and it is not something I wish to do, but it is an amazing feeling not to have to worry about it any more, and I know a lot of people who are not in this position.

Good luck to those leaving AA.

I wish those of you coming to this site looking for a way to leave AA the best of luck. I would urge caution, and again mention that you should still find a way of staying engaged in the recovery process, for at least a while. You can always go back to meetings, if things do not work out, as long as you do not burn all your bridges. For me it was the right decision, and only you can work out, if it will be the right thing for yourself and if you are ready to cross the bridge to normal living!





Commenting area

  1. Rob Burnham August 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm · · Reply

    Once I discovered that I’m in the atheist, agnostic, humanist, apatheist arena of belief , I viewed AA from a different perspective. After completing a Big Book Step Study method of practicing AA using the Big Book it became clear that the purpose of the Big Book and AA is to indoctrinate the sufferers into buying alcoholism as a disease and buying God and the 12 steps as the ONLY solution. Even when it is suggested that you can choose your own concept of God, you are told that it is ….”inadequate”… and “…eventually you will believe as we do…”. The chapter “We Agnostics” is about conversion to belief in God. Dr. Bob states in his story ” …..if you are, atheist, agnostic, free thinker…I feel sorry for you….”.

    I have practiced SmartRecovery for over two years now and facilitate a weekly face to face meeting. I do believe that being part of a sober community is a key tool for my recovery/discovery. Also key is a daily mindfulness meditation practice supported by a weekly gathering of a local Buddhist sangha that meets in the tradition of Thich Nhat Han. Smart and mindfulness help keep my depressive inclinations to a minimum. May all in need of recovery find tools for personal success.

    • Thanks for commenting Rob, and I understand what you are saying about the Big Book indoctrination side of AA. I used to avoid the Big Book study meetings(I only ever went to one Big Book Study meeting!) as I really did not get much from them that was relevant to me. I generally went to discussion meetings and once I had worked out which meetings were full of big book thumpers spouting slogans I tended to avoid them. I actually found fairly basic meetings in quite poor areas, where people were trying to help each other get through life were the ones that had some relevance for me and the big “cult type” fashionable meetings were a waste of time and full of people showing off and speaking well worn phrases to impress. I think that many meetings have become more step orientated since the rehab industry has made use of the steps, and less about discussing life and problems and offering support which are probably the parts of AA that are of value to most people.This is a sad thing, in my opinion.

      I found the CBT approach really helped me and also got into mindfulness quite a few years ago and am really feeling the benefits now. I discovered mindfulness as part of a pain management course which I attended to support my partner who has spinal problems, and was introduced to ideas such as the body scan which really help me relax. Later on I got into Metta or Loving kindness meditation as some people call it.I used to discuss this with Isle Thompson when she had the Stinkin-Thinkin blog, who wrote the recover book with Stanton Peele

      I really like what they have to say in this book about mindfulness, and seriously tried to do it as they suggested and even though I was 7 years alcohol free by this time, I still felt the benefits. One of the surprising side effects for me was that it helped me get rid of any anger I had towards AA and view it in a different more benevolent fashion (which I doubt the author intended!). I don’t have issues with trying to stay sober and have not had this for some time, but really find this is a great lifestyle aid and works well with the ideas of CBT. I really hope Smart Recovery continues to grow and it really needs people to go out there and say it helped them.

  2. I look at AA with mixed feelings. For the first three years of my sobriety from alcohol, I honestly believed that they kept me from the Beefeater’s Gin Bottle and the Bud beer can. Nonetheless, whilst I attended, I was actively engaged in a non-substance related addiction which consumed around half of my days. I haven’t engaged in my non-substance related addiction for close to 5 years at this point, and I didn’t find any 12 step meetings regarding it to be helpful. I feel that 12 step meetings are cultish. There may have been a few old time Irishmen from the Bronx and Upper Manhattan who I’d be comfortable chatting with, but the rest of the folks were to be kept at a safe distance, indeed. I learned that what drives most folks astray in AA is being there to make ‘friends’. An older former retired nurse, a no-nonsense controversial type, once told me that I wasn’t there to be making friends, I was there to be staying sober. I realized that I was just listening to and talking with other drunks who were as damaged as I was, and that they weren’t Superstars.
    At this point in time, I hope that I never have to return to AA and am grateful that there are other groups available, but that they, too, may be composed of members who are damaged cultists as well. All of these groups are great if and when they work for someone, but what might work for someone when they’re 25 years old may not work 20 years later. AA is there if and when I need it, and it may at best have been described as a necessary evil during the first years of my sobriety, but I just couldn’t take the intensity any longer.

  3. No sin involved in simply outgrowing any self-help or 12 step groups, Move onwards and upwards.

    • There are certainly some cult type AA meetings where people believe that God is stopping their active alcoholism and not the effect of being motivated by the rest of the group. I am sure there are cranks in other groups as well and this would increase if they become more popular, although having said that, groups such as Smart tend to attract more rational people.
      Some members of the recovery community seem to think that the only or best way to recover is the path that they have used and are dismissive of all others. This is true of those who are pro or against AA. They also try to create the impression that you must be part of a group, yet many of us do better without one!

  4. “I do have a plan if THIS should happen and this has evolved over time. I think relapse is an important thing to consider! If IT did happen….” [Emp mine]

    Good article, but I always have to flinch a little when I read statements like the ones I quoted. What bothers me a bit is when people talk about “relapse” using passive language. For example, “if THIS should happen”, “if IT did happen.” Relapse doesn’t “happen.” What happens is that people CHOOSE to drink/use and then ACT on that choice. What you should say, is “I do have a plan, IF I SHOULD DRINK AGAIN… If I DID DRINK again”. Etc. This puts the focus squarely on your choice, and what you should do to increase the likelihood that you will not choose to drink again.

    • Hi Adam, I do agree that if I was to drink now it would be by choice, but in the past I felt like i had no choice but to drink when I was an active alcoholic. Making a rational choice can be pretty hard if emotions are running high and your subconscious is telling you to drink which is something that it thinks will help.
      There are many ways of looking at this. Most people do go drinking again at some point in recovery (often many times at the start) and may find the relapse idea helpful, but somebody in later recovery is probably making a conscious choice to drink again, although some people hit a pretty vicious circle quite quickly for a variety of reasons, and may well lose control. It is a choice to stop, but not always one that is easy to achieve, especially after years of hard drinking.

  5. I have been on a 7 year relapse after close to 17 years narcotic and alcohol free in N.A. I did work the steps without a concept of God just eliminated that view as a Atheist. Spend 4 years prior that in A.A.. So 21 years in all. Went to Smart Recovery meetings a few times but found them rather a little too Smart. Chaos ! Read the literature and found it very helpful and wish it had been adhered to in meetings. There is only one Smart meeting in my area as of now. I am going to state this opinion and repeat it is a personal opinion, subjective in thought. I realized that addiction had many levels of depth. There were people who were problem drinkers and then there are hard core addicts. As a former I.V. Drug user and current alcoholic drinker I fall into latter category. In mid recovery became a Budhist and studied and took 5 Precept vows. Practiced CBTfor many years. Depression is my main problem as I just do not care about anything very much. When I return to my home in Mexico I will attend A.A. Meetings to try and get a little time under my belt. I do not and repeat do not bash any successful form of personal recovery. This said do not like the Big Book Thumpers either but have meet a few really good open minded people in N.A. And A.A. Will go back to reading what for me was my biggest help a group called Recovery Inc which is the early form of CBT started in 1937 Chicago by Abarham Low Google for some surprising info. My recovery is my responsibility. So willing to try again. Please no judgement.

  6. Recovery Inc. has changed it s name to Recovery International. It is a very thought provoking , interesting site.

    • Thanks for that Terry, I just had a look at the site and it has some good information. I found CBT really helpful (when I did it properly!) and think many people in recovery would benefit from it. I agree our recovery is our own responsibility and I took that attitude from the start. Although i made use of groups such a AA I was always ready to modify my approach to suit my needs rather than just go along with generalised group based ideas. Good luck with everything.

  7. This is such a good blog and I cannot thank you enough!
    Over the past 2 odd weeks I’ve been feeling odd and uneasy about AA… I’m 9 amd a bit months sober.
    Seems to me noone has really sorted their problems they just swop one addiction for another, and absolutely no one us qualified to be counsellors in it!!
    All the bullshit pressure to do service, do fellowship, go to more meetings if you’re tired or sick…it’s nonsense.
    Last night I had my first appointment with a psychologist trained in addiction and it was great.
    I’m going to him from now on.
    Not once have i heard mention of any other therapies or even mindfulness in meetings. It’s all the big book and devoting your life to the fellowship.

    • Thanks for commenting Kate, for some reason your post got caught in the spam trap! I am glad you are getting some good advice from a proper psychologist as this was what really helped me. I could not really take AA seriously after realising that there was such a contrast in approach from a well trained professional.
      You have done the hard bit getting to nine months so well done, and from now on it is really about staying stopped and changing things in life that bother us. You may find Smart Recovery helpful as well as it appeals to people who want a more logical approach.
      There are some alternatives here as well . I read quite a few books which gave me new ideas and discussed these with my own psychologist which really helped him see where I wanted to go. Good luck with everything!

      • Thanks for your reply! I’m definitely a human and not a spam bot. 🙂
        I texted my sponsor after she messaged me asking me to attend a lecture and spread the word after work….drive for an hour to preach basically.
        I told her my reasons for drifting out of AA, and that I think it’s outdated. I explained the Sinclair method, psychology and various methods and how the big book is so outdated…..I got told not to give up and keep coming to meetings etc, that it was the only thing that worked for her. She is a very sweet and caring lady, but end of the day she’s very unwell. She has not kicked her behaviour as she has to go to over eaters anonymous and is completely obsessed with the fellowship.

        My psychologist who specialises in alcohol addictive behaviour thinks calling yourself alcoholic constantly is actually negative and the fear and shame is dangerous in AA. He said if you want to label its an emotional avoider!! Don’t call yourself alcoholic you’re not…. You have addictive behaviour it can easily go to food or drugs or work etc. and that’s what I thought too. It’s the same patterns. Whenever I try to bring this up in shares in meetings it seemed to get shot down.
        I already do mindfulness every day and CBT and I meditate a few times a week.
        The psychologist doesn’t think I’m a danger to myself and he also doesn’t think you’d drink and die if you did. He even said I could if I wanted have a glass if we worked on it and put methods in place… But I am happy being clean at present. 🙂

        Bottom line is, I think making friends in AA is great and being around sober people obviously is.
        But I think also some of these teachings are outdated and dangerous for your mental health.

        I’ll keep reading all your blog articles and thanks for the links!!!

        • Thanks Kate, this comment got through the spam trap but got stuck in the moderation section, so things are improving!
          It sounds like you have a good psychologist who is giving you similar advice to me. In the UK many have realised that a Harm reduction method is the best way for most. Although I have not drank at any point in this recovery ( which is certain harm reduction!) I found it a huge relief when I was told that as I had proven to myself that I could stop once, I could stop again. This took away a lot of the pressure that had come from the do AA or die message.

          I found the powerless concept was helpful in the first few weeks or months but not long term and obviously conflicts with what I was taught about CBT. I also find mindfulness really helps me relax and get things in perspective but would to say it is a solution on its own, just part of my healthy lifestyle.

          I don’t think I will attempt drinking again as I went on for too long but do believe some problem drinkers could moderate after fixing issues in their life. I was actually told by Dr Roy Eskapa who wrote the cure for alcoholism about the Sinclair Method never to have another drink after telling him about my background, especially as I will have no tolerance today to alcohol, which is very dangerous.

          I have just started podcasts that will hopefully give me a chance to discuss these type of issues with a few people who have made use of a variety of support solutions. If people do well in AA that is great but it does not motivate everyone and its crude approach can cause harm. This is quite an interesting piece on the subject

  8. Yes it sounds like we have similar ideas…..i got off the phone earlier to my best friend in AA… she kind of gets why i am trying something different which is great, as i dont want to lose her friendship. Ive had a fair bit of negativity from AA members online in the app SoberGrid and also from my former sponsor.
    It’s disappointing for me i guess, i just wanted to share that there are newer ways and we have modern medicine.
    Its a bit freaky how some people are actually acting cult-ish about it to me.
    I don’t think i will drop into a meeting to say hi. I find it very negative – the idea of living in fear/powerlessness and dangerous to real recovery. It’s also bad that i was told to do more and more when very ill and told to rest by doctors.
    I dont know if i will drink either but i feel so much better now already. I know i can change my behaviour!
    I look forward to the podcasts, and i bought “powerless no longer” which im finding very interesting. I’ve also got some good books on CBT and ACT.
    Thank you!,

    • I find the reaction of AA members to me does vary a bit. Some are rational about things and are glad that I found a solution that works for me although they always tell me they could have not done it without AA (which may be true for them.). Others come out with all kinds of rubbish, such as i was not an alcoholic etc and they are really defensive of AA in the same way people are of religion. You do certainly find out who your real friends were when you leave though, and who are just gossips and slogan spouters. I also found some meetings and members cultish, but not all.
      To be fair the anti AA lot are even more crazy and will also tell you what to think especially if it does not fit in with their narrow minded approach. I wrote a similar piece on and got a load of comments from the morons that attack each other on the fix site and any where else they are allowed, which amused me and the editor to be honest. It really brought home how unstable many are in recovery support groups, including online groups and although people who leave these types of comments do not represent or reflect the majority of people in recovery at all, it made me feel glad I had opted for individual,professional support rather than simply relying on other addicts for support.
      I think the Pete Soderman book is really good and Lance Dodes also has some good ideas.

  9. I hope this question is welcome here, if it is not, I apologize. I am doing a persuasive speech about 12-step programs and my belief that they are cults. I lost my mother three times, once to her addiction to dugs and alcohol, then to her involvement in AA, and finally she died as a result of the two combined. How would you recommend a friend or family member intervene in a similar situation?

    • I don’t see AA as a cult overall but do see some cultlike groups within it. I am sorry to read what happened to your mother. I think it is imporatnat for true friends and family to be supportive of a person in recovery and if they have concerns, then they should raise them . They can also point an individual to other support groups or places where they can get help, but it is always up to the individual to take the final decision as to what they do.
      This book maybee helpful Some websites call AA a cult but are not convincing in their arguments (often any group coulsd be defined as a cult by them). This book puts things in to perspective. This is from a review:

      “Charles Bufe tried AA in 1983, hated it, and kept drinking until 1985, when he achieved sobriety on his own. Clearly, Bufe has something of an ax to grind, but for the most part he grinds it fairly. (At worst, the author’s skepticism is no more extreme than the zeal of some AA supporters.) Bufe poses two major questions – Is AA religious? Is it a cult? – and raises some interesting points along the way. He traces the program’s religious overtones to the Oxford Group Movement of the 1930s. This movement, he argues, heavily influenced AA founder Bill Wilson. Bufe supports his thesis with detailed, if not always fascinating, quotes and parallels. He concludes that AA is religious, a label sure to rile members who consider their program a secular one. His other conclusion – that AA isn’t a cult – is only common sense: AA has no leader, makes no financial demands, and does not use highpressure tactics. Bufe raises a timely point regarding the seemingly endless spin-off groups that have adopted AA’s 12 steps as their own. How do victims, such as members of Incest Survivors Anonymous, profit from steps designed for the addicted? Appendices include secular alternatives to AA and the 12 Steps”

      I left AA after about 18 months and made use of other support as the religious side did not appeal to me and I wanted to become independant. Being in a recovery group helped at first, but I wished I had researched others around the time I chose to join AA, as I could have found something more in line with my values.

  10. I discovered this website months ago, and found it very much reflected my own emerging feelings at the time..that recovery was ironically keeping me from progressing forward in my own life. Unfortunately, as I’m sure is the experience of many others, I did not have too many people to bounce these feelings off of, as nearly all of my social contacts had become people in the rooms of AA who were not interested in challenging the ideology all that much. However, I did have a few like minded individuals in my life, so I wasn’t completely alone in my own perspective. I suppose I had to “hit bottom” with the rooms. I frequented other 12 step fellowships which emphasized other brands of so called “addiction”..some of them I went to with a friend at the time who was absolutely convinced that 12 step fellowships would fulfill him at some point. This man was, the way it seemed to me, absolutely miserable, and his misery reflected my own. The difference was that I was willing to challenge and spite the 12 step model, refraining from totally believing that I just needed to “work the steps” and my problems and “addictions” would be resolved. I knew this wasn’t true. I distanced myself from this person. I went through a number of sponsors, still wanting to maintain contact with AA, believing I could at least contribute even if I couldn’t buy into all of it..(the concept of powerlessness seemed finally to be anything but a helpful idea to me..I believe it kept me emotionally sick on some level..). My most recent sponsor told me I would relapse, as I expressed my disbelief in the steps, and basically refused to express the kind of standard, (what I would call superficial) statements people in recovery often make. “My life is a success as long as I don’t pick up that first drink or drug.” “I’m either moving toward a drink or away from it.” “The solution is in the steps.” I maintained my resistance to simply repeating slogans and catchphrases, or even simply rehashing ideas that were not my own but from the Big Book. He told me he thought I was showing “red flags.” This to me was pretty much the last straw. I fired him and realized this was a case of him lacking insight, not of me lacking “willingness”. I knew he was wrong and I know it now without shame. This has been a longwinded process, but I’ve decided to truly walk away from AA. I’m not without support. I see a therapist. I’m also a Catholic (which sounds perhaps ironic..given my resistance to the group norm..but it works out for me..). I attend Mass once a week. I read. I write. I connect more so to friends from childhood and people basically outside of recovery than I do with anyone in the rooms. This has nearly always been the case. I just want to be myself. I don’t want to live in some self induced stigma by proclaiming that I’m an alcoholic or an addict all the time. I’m a person. I don’t revolve my life around being sober. I just reached four years sober, but I live my life in order to be happy and content, just like anybody else, indoctrinated or not. I would appreciate any feedback from like minded individuals. Thank you.

    • Thanks Matthew, I think your experience in AA is quite common, especially if you join a group which is full of Big Book bashers. I found it helpful to read as much about recovery as possible and then form an idea of a solution that would work for me. I found books by Stanton Peele and Lance Dodes to be a real eye opener and this helped me drop some of the ideas from AA that had been unhelpful to me. I have a list of useful books here
      I think being in a group such as AA helped me at the start, but then I felt it restricted my development and I was happier away from recovery people and living a more normal life.

  11. I’ve been in AA 25 years. I’m fully indoctrinated into the dos and don’t of AA including the suggestion that “meeting makers make it” which of course means that the reverse is also true. Therefore, my doubts and concerns about AA bring me a lot of fear and self doubt. I’m so afraid that I’m going up life happiness, then my sobriety and then my life if I stop going. But I know that going to AA us limiting my life, I know that something is wrong with my continued membership. I’m afraid to leave, and I’m lonely

    • Hi Sue, you got caught in the spam trap and I accidently deleted your comment so I hope it is back in the right place. I did move on from AA after having some counselling which suited me, although for some it is not a decision to take lightly. There are other support groups such as Smart or Lifering and I have many good boooks about alternatives in the . Good luck with the future, I found socialising with people outside recovery groups really helped me cross the bridge to normal living.

  12. Hi everyone. I’ve enjoyed your comments and would like to add my bob’s worth. I’m a recovered binge drinker (alcoholic), having chosen not to drink any alcoholic drinks for the past 3+ years. I’ve outgrown my addiction and it’s time to move on. At the end of my decades of destructive drinking I finally realized I was addicted to the instant buzz I got from alcohol, that my drinking wasn’t NORMAL and looked for a solution. It was incredibly easy. Did I really like being so inebriated, honestly no. Did I actually need those first drinks to relax, no. I came to a sudden realization I would enjoy my social hours better being in full control of my thoughts actions and beliefs and waking up next day with a clear head. As a suggestion I went to AA with an honest and open mind for 2 years. AA is ok for some but it didn’t do it of me, they tried to sow seeds of fear and self doubt and I got the cold shoulder for not following their 12 steps etc in their entirety. I was raised with a strong belief in myself and that I am responsible for my life. So I focused on my recovery, first for myself then my wife and 3 adult children and grandchildren. The bonus of having had an addiction is that I am now aware that I can help make life more enjoyable for myself and others and by being grateful and selfless. The work is in the RECOVERY

  13. Thank you for these blogs. I am coming up on 12 years of sobriety and did not question my membership in AA at all until about six months ago, when I finally started being bothered by the drama among the people and with friends in the program. It reminds me of high school, and I have finally come to realize it is not a healthy or normal way to socialize. It is not that I did not see it before. I have quit home groups because of cliques, and have basically maintained the attitude that if it makes you feel better to judge me, go ahead, but I really bought into the fear if I were to stop going to meetings I would surely drink again, and the possibility of it terrified me. Now I don’t believe that to be the case. Leaving is sad for me because a lot of my friends are in AA and I know most of them will turn their backs on me when I stop working the program, but it occurs to me that is not really the unconditional friendship or love the program brags about if friendship is dependent upon AA membership. I have no interest in drinking. It brought me to my knees and my life is really wonderful without it. I am grateful to AA for helping me to stop, for showing me I could live without drinking, and during my time I have learned how to love myself and appreciate the person I am, but I think now it is time to move on and grow in ways I am unable to grow if I continue to base my life around it any longer. I can of course always go back if for whatever reason I cannot do it on my own, but I think I have finally come to the realization I am stronger than that.

  14. Hi everyone, I’m going to be starting a phone meeting for people who need extra support transitioning out of AA. (Or who aren’t sure they need to transition at all). After 28 years of sobriety in AA, I’m feeling like I need something different, but haven’t been able to find it yet in any of the alternatives. The first half of the group will be for talking about whatever issues are coming up for you around leaving AA. Whether it be anger, bewilderment, self-doubt, etc. And in the second half, we’ll talk about how we stay sober today. This group is for both the believer and the non-believer. Please email me for details: If you’re feeling alone in this journey, give this group a try!

    • Hi Meredith, thanks for getting in touch on the blog. Are you going to do this over skype or something similar? Anyway I could take part. If you want to write a piece I can put it on the blog which may get you a few more people. Best wishes Mike

  15. I really do not agree with what’s being said in AA meetings. I had to turn my brain off to attend meetings. It became so painful after a while to listen to the nonsense said in AA I just had to leave. I feel like I lost two group of friends. One group of friends to alcohol and drugs and one group of friends from Alcoholics Anonymous.

  16. I have just decided to leave AA, or as my Sponsor calls it” take a break.” After five years of being totally “in” and all that goes with being all in. Sponsoring at least 10 women at one time. Running a fb closed group. Weekly Sponsee meetings, service work at every activity at my local Alano club. Attending activities with the district. Going to Akron. The list goes on and on. While working full time and raising my sons. I loved all of it. I loved the unconditional acceptance when I came through the doors. Now I am in deep pain from these same unconditional folks five years later. I am losing many, many friends. I am losing holiday alcathons and dinners. I am losing everything. In fact I was banned in July from my local Alano club, for standing up during the announcements at my home group, and disputing gossip that was going on about me. I think what I may now be gaining is some perspective. I do not want to drink at this point. I now know I need balance in my life. A recovery community along with other interests.

    • Hi Renee, thanks for commenting. I also had problems with privacy and rumours in AA. I think it is difficult to be anonymous in this day and age, especially with Facebook etc. I would certainly be more guarded about what I would share if I ever returned to AA.
      I found when I left that I had more time to persue other interests and made a lot of healthy friends that way. I hope everything goes well for you.

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