How I came to leave Alcoholics Anonymous – AA!

I recently wrote a piece that acknowledged the things in AA that helped me, which seemed to go down well, at least with the rational people that read this site! It listed some of the reasons a recovery community such as AA can be of use, especially in the early days of recovery. If you read that, you may wonder why I left and eventually wrote a website, that concentrates on recovery methods which do not involve the 12 steps.

I actually left AA after spending several months discussing my issues with a counsellor that I met through the NHS in London. I met her after my family doctor or GP who had been treating my depression, suggested counselling after I had about a year and a half of alcohol free living. I had been attending AA regularly during this time, and although I was feeling better for not drinking, I had become depressed to a certain extent and had needed some extra help. I think this happens to many people who stop drinking, regardless of the method of support they employ, to change the way they live life and beat addiction. It is certainly acknowledged as a problem in many books that I have read. I had suffered from depression before, and recognised the signs. This time I did something about it straight away, which is not something I would have done, before I stopped drinking. Ten years earlier I waited until I collapsed and was taken to hospital before I got any help, so this was certainly progress! I was more open about asking for help after hearing what people had to say in AA, and realising there were some similarities to my situation. In a strange way the act of surrender in AA, empowered me to ask to help elsewhere. The idea of powerlessness is often one of the things that is criticised by those who bash AA, and although I believe it can be a two-edged sword in later recovery, when people run into problems, I feel it is quite a useful idea in the early days. I found it helpful to hear others say they could not do everything on their own, as this reflected my experience prior to joining a support group. I did need some help!

counsellor

The NHS offers free treatment to an extent in the UK, but the mental side is not as comprehensive as it could be (especially after the Tories!), so I was only allowed 6 sessions and there was a waiting list. I was assessed and deemed suitable for treatment, but elected to seek private treatment with the NHS counsellor who assessed me. She worked part time for the NHS and privately the rest of the time. This was a slightly unusual approach but the problems caused by my drinking were still quite raw, and I had really thrown myself into recovery and wanted to remain sober. By going private I could get treatment quickly, and as far as I was concerned, a couple of counselling sessions a week cost far less than I would have spent on drink and drugs in the past! It felt like a good investment and I feel it was worth it. She was not a 12 step or addiction counsellor as such but was qualified in many areas and had dealt with addiction clients on a regular basis. She was not an addict herself and so had none of the baggage that some “counsellors” have who simply want to push people towards the method that worked for them. I do not feel this “do what I did solution”, which is common in America and sometimes in the UK, is a good approach! We are all different with our own issues.

I had been suspicious of counselling and CBT the first time I had tried it, but was more open to suggestions this time. We went at a fairly slow pace as my counsellor spent a long time finding out about my values and discussing the good and bad things about my situation. There was certainly no confrontation involved, but I was encouraged to look at things that had happened in the past from the point of view of others. We looked at the way I had been brought up and the responsibility that I had faced at an early age and how that I had become used to living in a highly stressful environment, early on in life. This had affected they way I viewed the world and was something that I had brushed off in the past when asked about it by doctors. I had no other reference other than my own experience to go on and so I actually had to learn to step back from some situations and approach problems in a different way.

I was also given a list of books to read which was helpful, and I began to realise that some of the techniques that I read about would help me. I was reading a huge amount anyway on any type of self help method and was even trying self-hypnosis, which was probably not a good idea at this point. I actually talked to my counsellor about having full on hypnosis as at this point I actually wanted to erase certain thoughts that troubled me, and due to my abstinence from alcohol and drugs, we’re not being blocked. She was certainly not convinced that simply blotting out thoughts with hypnosis was the way to go!  Instead we talked about what I wanted to block out as well as key events in my life that had influenced me, and so we started to deal with my issues, and I looked at things in a different way.

Harley_Street

She actually referred me to a Psychotherapist in London to look at the problems I had and he was really helpful and built on the work she had done. This was an expensive process but I feel I got value for money. The total bill for a lot of out-patient therapy was about the same as a month in some rehabs, but I feel that was a better approach for me. I was lucky that both people were not stuck in their ways and were able to find solutions that worked for me after spending time getting to know my problems. They did not simply tell me to stick with a 12 step solution, which can happen if you get the wrong type of counsellor, who is poorly trained and simply an ex addict, who has become evangelical about AA and feels it can work for anyone. Nether of the professionals that I used for help had addiction problems, but they certainly knew how to treat them. I must say I have read some pretty stupid comments from some ex addict, non 12 step addiction “professionals” who are equally as stupid and bigoted as the bad ones in the 12 step world, and are gullible enough to believe everything they read on some idiotic websites. There are certainly some unhelpful, useless people, in the recovery world, who are loud online.

There came a point after a couple of months of out-patient treatment where the usefulness of being part of AA decreased. I was learning to be independent and practising rational techniques such as CBT and then turning up at a meeting, and nodding off while people went on about God and Higher Powers, and the power of prayer. It became rather surreal and I drifted away from my sponsor, as although I quite enjoyed discussing football, music and boxing with him after a meeting, I was finding his advice on living a spiritual lifestyle rather irrelevant! I had a good friend who had left AA 10 years earlier, and he seemed so much saner than the old timers in the rooms. I was also having problems with privacy, as there is a lot of gossip in AA, and after weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to move on. I think most people simply move on after a while when they have got their life together.

This is not a decision anybody should take lightly if they have had a big drinking problem like myself, unless they have found an alternative support method or feel really self-confident. I discussed it with the therapists and one of the things I was told that I found useful, was the idea that AA would still be there if I wanted to go back. That was comforting in a way, but by this point I was frustrated by the old-fashioned God side of AA and some of the lunatics that go there. I was grateful for the help, especially in the early days that I received, from some of the more level-headed members. I could do without sitting in a room with some of the crazy ones and had a long list of people who I viewed as best ignored, in many meetings. To be fair, there are many people on online support groups or forums that are not AA fans who are also immature and to be ignored as well. In fact some of the “anti AA brigade” are the craziest, of all people in the recovery world and possibly the most unpleasant!

I decided to leave and was supported by the therapists with this decision, and felt quite a relief, as certain people had really been getting to me with their preaching and treating AA as something divinely inspired. This is the inevitable downside of a group such as AA. It is always going to attract some crazy people and if you add in the religion from the American Midwest, you are always going to have an odd mixture attracted to the group. There are some great people who do give out a lot of support, while others should really be getting some proper mental help. In some UK areas or in  America you also have some people who are not alcoholics, in the meetings. They may have been from some institution or have bought into the 12 step beliefs when young, after being brought up in a religious way. A few are court ordered, and it is generally these three groups of people who have most problems with AA and feel that they have been in a cult, when they realise sometimes after years of attendance that they should not be there. Online “Anti AA” groups often attract these people, who have grievances against AA, some of which are justified, some not. Those who have had big drinking problems and who have managed to stop with the support of other people in AA, are generally not so critical and simply seem to quietly move on once they have their life together. Others may not believe in all the dogma but enjoy the social side and decide to stay.

Anyway I found it helpful to move on, and have not relapsed or died (contrary to a couple of rumours I heard about me from AA members). I have continued using many of the suggestions that I was given by health professionals. These may not be fixes for alcoholism as such, but are more about living life in relaxed fashion, and coping with the problems that I face in life, in a more practical way. I am much physically fitter that I have been in the past and have found that regular exercise, has really helped me beat depression and enabled me to sleep better, which used to be a problem. I became interested in things such as yoga and Pilates, as well as meditation, which certainly help with the relaxation, but have also given me a new bunch of friends, who are not the sort of people to spend all night in a pub. These type of people generally have a positive outlook on life and I have learnt a lot from them. I found that a lot of people in AA, were quite sick and emotionally immature and it was easy to pick up on their ideas and beliefs which was not always good for me. I think you get to a stage when you learn more from people who are going through life without suffering from problems and not those who are trying to overcome them. That is one of the issues with being in a recovery group, but on the other hand, some people do not do well socially with people outside AA. People adjust at different speeds, and many who have been homeless, are going to face the most problems, and take the longest to adjust to normal living. For them, a slightly odd group such as AA may offer a really good long-term support solution, while it may be less useful for those who are working and living productive lives. I suppose it depends on how strongly you identify with the group, and if you have faith in the program.

I do feel that complete faith in chapter 5 of the AA “Big Book”, can actually lead to problems in the long-term. I do feel that some of the ideas presented by 12 step groups can really help people, but it is certainly not a foolproof solution as suggested in chapter 5. I have seen people have major problems in later sobriety when a certain situation causes them to lose faith in the ideas that they have previously felt have kept them sober, such as the “Higher Power”concept. If they have no plan B and no other support group or friends away from recovery groups that they feel they can open up to, then they can face problems. They can end up with bad depression and have no effective tools to deal with it, other than a program that does not seem to be working all of a sudden. This is one of the ways that AA could really improve things, by having up to date literature that deals with these issues, and tells people where to look for outside help. Often people are simply given bad advice, or wildly different advice, from different people from the group in AA. They may not have had much experience of CBT or other techniques, which might help, and some are reluctant to ask for antidepressants, which they see as simply another drug, which is an unhelpful idea, in some recovery groups (not just AA!).

In spite of the limitations I found with the AA program, I still found attending for a while helped me, and made me more open for other types of counselling. I was more open with health professionals after having heard people share in AA, as I realised I was not alone in the problems I felt. I found it helpful to be around others, who were attempting to stay sober and to be part of a sober community. I know several people who still use this social aspect from time to time when they are working such as musicians, who play in clubs with alcohol all around them. They find it helpful to go to a meeting away from all the drinkers, and be part of this worldwide community. They could not really do this with other methods, due to the lack of infrastructure. Like me they are not relying on a programme to stay sober, but make use of the community that is available to them. It is also good for them, when a few sober friends from AA turn up at the gigs. In my case, I reached a point where the limitations for personal growth in AA, conflicted with my search for self empowerment and independence. Being part of a recovery group had been really important for me in my early days, but listening to people go on about”Higher Powers”and praying started to bore me and made me feel I was wasting my time. I had worked all the way through my time in AA, and was mixing with a wide range of people, and started to view AA people as rather quaint, compared to normal members of society. I think this is due to the religion in AA, and religion does not really appeal to me in any way so I generally avoid church members in my social life.

counsellor

After spending some time outside AA I went through a bit of a transitional phase, which was rather strange. If you have taken on the AA message and taken it seriously, you will have taken on many phrases and ideas, and may even use AA phrases when you talk. Some people call this brainwashing, although I feel that brainwashing, is much more severe, than what happens in AA. Scientology would seem to use methods that involve breaking people mentally and use violence.  On the other hand, many members of AA are quite vulnerable, gullible or mentally ill, and may have a strong religious background, that would mean they tend to really expect miracles and to be saved on a daily basis by a “Higher Power”. This is one of the dangers of the AA approach. I actually felt rather stupid, that I had taken some of the more faith healing ideas on board to be part of the group and this provoked some anger after leaving. I did used to bash AA a bit, on sites such as Stinkin-Thinkin, although I have always given AA credit for giving me a place to go, and that it helped me to a certain extent, but not for the reasons most people in AA will say. I certainly did not go as far as many and stayed away from the more crazy sites that got out of hand. Some people certainly become fanatical about bashing AA, and are probably harming themselves further, by doing this. They get sucked into pointless online conflicts, that reinforce their views, which tend to become more extreme over time in the same way that racists often become more crazy. They probably feel powerlessness all over again, as AA will simply ignore them, (along with most people in the recovery world, who simply click away), and say it is an outside issue. I certainly accept that people may have been given poor advice in AA, and that many treatment centers are operating in a dubious fashion, but I think it is important to overcome these problems, and tell people how that was achieved, rather than simply bash AA all the time. They create a lot of negativity and cause themselves further depression and anger. A few people simply cannot move on, and this is sad.

I spent a long time away from recovery websites and forums and concentrated on rebuilding my life, and becoming closer to friends and family. I attempt to be productive at work and have a wide range of interests and this has allowed me to move on. Using meditation has helped me get things in perspective and look objectively at how different solutions have helped me at different times. I feel the decision to move on from the 12 step world was the correct one for me, but am grateful for the support in my early days. I certainly wish AA and other 12 step groups would modernise and think that a lot of the rehabs are simply money-making machines who are exploiting the vulnerable, which is wrong, and really why I try to do my own small bit to try to tell people about other solutions. I am not interested in pointless arguments with mad people online, you may as well go and shout at a wall, so I rarely look at comments on online articles. I do like to keep in touch with any new developments and having this blog has enabled me to connect with some good people in the recovery world who have also moved on from AA and who are doing well.

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  1. I am thousands of miles away but I feel like I just read my own story. I don’t hate AA, I am thankful it was there when I first got sober. I didn’t know where to go or how to function without alcohol and I met some incredible people (and yes I also met some very scarey, controlling people as time went on). It was so important in those early days to have somewhere to go after work that was not a liquor store or bar. But I too became extremely depressed and knew I had to address it head on. My sponsor told me to take an inventory but I knew I needed professional help, so I sought it. I, too, did CBT and was prescribed and continue to take an antidepressant. The short version is I was basically told to choose between AA or therapy/medication by my sponsor and others in AA. I choose what was helping me move forward in life. I was at a place where I wanted more than to just not drink. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to spend time with my beautiful family, I wanted to develop some self respect and self reliance. It was truly time to go because it was time to work on some areas of my life in which AA was not the place for. I wanted to live a whole life that was full and I feel now, 2 years after leaving, that I do. It was simply time for me to go if I wanted to grow in all areas of my life. Thank you for this site. It is nice to not see constant bashing of AA but simply an understanding that many of us need something else, something more and we are not alone, or destined to end up dead, incarcerated, or in institutions if we leave. Ironically, I do think I would have ended up in an institution if I had stayed because what I needed to be truly well and happy was outside of AA’s scope. Thank you for this site!

    • Thanks for such a great comment. I get a lot of emails on the subject and I think there are a lot of people who have similar experiences to us. I really wish AA would be more open about more modern solutions that can really enhance people’s sobriety and life. Too many people try and play doctor in AA and simply reading something about this at the start of meeting could really help people, as could mentioning CBT etc. I think Bill Wilson would probably be horrified the way that AA has become stuck in the past, as he did look for alternative solutions himself.
      I really think it is important to say what has helped us, and it is often a combination of methods at different times. I will be writing about this on another site soon called http://www.Addiction.com

      • Hi Happy,

        I just read your piece and have to agree i do think Bill Wilson would be horrified at what AA has become, very closed minded when despite his flaws he was also a radical ..

        Great Post

        Cheers

  2. I will definitely be checking out your site and I so agree that if AA would be more supportive about other methods, and adhere to not advising members about medication, people’s lives could be enhanced. It sadly does not have to be an either/or. I agree that it is often a combination of methods that helps us heal to the fullest.

  3. Librarian May 28, 2015 at 2:29 pm · · Reply

    Hello Mike,

    First and foremost I would like to say that I like your blog and the moderate viewpoint that it presents. I do believe there are good things about AA – namely that when someone has an addiction – it is very important that they concentrate on getting it under control. Addiction can not be wished away. It is what a person does with their life and belief system during this period of transition to keep themselves on track that is the main issue of recovery programs and the growing controversy over AA.

    I take issue with your analysis of those of us who have been willing to argue with AA members on line.

    Personally, I argue with steppers in an attempt to reveal their thought process for the world to read and evaluate. That is my purpose for doing it. I do not feel I have engaged in ‘…pointless online conflicts ‘. I also argue to ensure THEIR fanaticism does not continue to be the only voice of recovery. When I had questions in AA – I simply got shouted down and told I would get drunk and die if I didn’t ‘believe’. Now I am getting heard.

    My online activism has provided me with a platform by which I presented my concerns about the teachings and inner structure of AA. I have quoted from the Big Book/ 12×12 / pamphlets/ teachings etc… How else will ‘normies’ know what is being taught? How else can steppers face some hard cold facts that the BB is terribly out of date. One article by a famous person about the controversy produced over 10,000 comments; that was not pointless. AA members are now hearing the word ‘No’ and can no longer shout it down.

    I will not be silent and i will continue to argue with steppers if I see fit. But that being said, I do think you have touched on a good point; it is important to be wary of being lost in negativity and activism.

    So… I believe it is good to discuss what works – but also – what does not – so long as a person does not loose themselves in it to the exclusion of all else.

    Librarian

    • Thanks, for your comments. There are some good people that write comments but they tend to be drowned out by the nutters. That goes for both sides. Would you want to go to a Smart meeting if you thought some of the keyboard warriors were going to be sitting there. I certainly would not. I think a few people are interested in arguing and will often use any place still open to them to be unpleasant and attack someone. They do not have the ability to build something of their own that people come and read so sabotage other people’s posts. Extreme views are generally ignored. Monica’s film went down well with pretty much everyone last night, because she presented a balanced argument that appeared to have the interests of people still in AA at heart although of course it is critical of those who run AA and resist change. That is completely different to the crazy online stuff that happens on the fix. Most people just simply click away once they see the same old gasbags posting away like lunatics under their various user names in an attempt to make it look like more than five people are interested. I have use a different name on addiction.com due to the terms of my contract but other wise just post as this. To be honest i have packed in commenting on other sites. I do not get anything from arguing with the same old people, there is nothing constructive in that. It all seems to stem from sites in that past that allowed certain people too much freedom to be abusive, and probably still do. The community that has moved on from Aa has some good people in it but its online presence is an embarrassment.

  4. Librarian May 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm · · Reply

    Hi LL52,

    I find your words quite harsh and intolerant – of both sides. Yes, there are nutbars but that is true of anything that has sides – just got to a football game and look in around stadium. Or to Parliament. There is lots of yelling and name calling going on there.

    Personally I believe process of argument is sacred and is also the foundation of Democracy. We see emotion as a normal part of that process in arguments that are of importance. To criticize someone’s emotions while they make their case – would be to criticize every person on the planet – including all our politicians.

    That being said, I believe it is important to know what a Troll is and when you are up against a one then move on. There is one notorious Troll on the AA side who purposely pushes all discussions towards the emotional by manipulating and twisting the truths that are spoken by the Anti side. That’s what Trolls do. They don’t care about getting along or truth – they only care about starting an ugly fight; pushing buttons. When I see it, I name that behavior; then stop talking to the individual in short order.

    As for multiple names; many ppl on both sides do that. We all have a right to protect ourselves any way we see fit; particularly in light of the recent hacking incidents. I have also created an email that has no personal identifiers and is designed to insult the thief who may be after it. I don’t want anyone to approach me or my family in any way.

    Finally, you mentioned ‘Keyboard Warriors’ and how dangerous they could be at a Smart Meeting. Hmmmmm I go to Smart meetings and separate my activism from personal Recovery as so many of us do.

    Librarian.

  5. Librarian May 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm · · Reply

    Hi LL52,

    I find your words quite harsh and intolerant – of both sides. Yes, there are nutbars but that is true of anything that has sides – just got to a football game and look in around stadium. Or to Parliament. There is lots of yelling and name calling going on there.

    Personally I believe process of argument is sacred and is also the foundation of Democracy. We see emotion as a normal part of that process in arguments that are of importance. To criticize someone’s emotions while they make their case – would be to criticize every person on the planet – including all our politicians.

    That being said, I believe it is important to know what a Troll is and when you are up against a one then move on. There is one notorious Troll on the AA side who purposely pushes all discussions towards the emotional by manipulating and twisting the truths that are spoken by the Anti side. That’s what Trolls do. They don’t care about getting along or truth – they only care about starting an ugly fight; pushing buttons. When I see it, I name that behavior; then stop talking to the individual in short order.

    As for multiple names; many ppl on both sides do that. We all have a right to protect ourselves any way we see fit; particularly in light of the recent hacking incidents. I have also created an email that has no personal identifiers and is designed to insult the thief who may be after it. I don’t want anyone to approach me or my family in any way.

    Finally, you mentioned ‘Keyboard Warriors’ and how dangerous they could be at a Smart Meeting. Hmmmmm I go to Smart meetings and separate my activism from personal Recovery as so many of us do.

    Librarian.

  6. Librarian May 29, 2015 at 3:24 am · · Reply

    I’m not sure why that got posted twice.

  7. I think a lot of people are fed up with seeing the arguing. Certainly some pro AA people are trolling and are there to derail threads but the antis are certainly guilty of that as well. It is six of one half a dozen of the other in my book. I am more pro choice than anti as although I do not use AA, I realise many people find it useful. A lot of the antis that praise other methods never use them, and it actually creates a backlash.
    I have seen stuff written about Monica’s film on a big Smart Facebook page which references the anti AA people in a negative way and that is how many perceive them. That sort of thing will not do her film a lot of good. When it was shown the other night the AA people were very complimentary about it and that shows that many have an open mind there. I suspect they were not people who were influenced by blogging etc. The people doing the most damage to Monica’s film and reputation are not the pro AA brigade at the moment, but extreme members of the anti brigade.
    I do understand what you are saying and people often go against AA when they first leave, but I think a lot of this is out of hand. I don’t think everything is great about AA and have talked a lot about that here are have linked to books that provide information that helps someone decide for themselves. I cannot support a groups of people that are attacking others on the web and who are bullying, telling people what to think, attacking women online, having no respect for privacy. Those are good reasons to leave some 12 step groups but the sam applies to some anti groups. If vulnerable people get dragged into some of these arguments, a lot of damage can be done – I have seen this first hand, and it is very sad that it happens in a recovery world where people are looking for support.

  8. Librarian May 29, 2015 at 1:32 pm · · Reply

    Dear LL52,

    Perhaps you have spent too much time on the Orange Paper Forums and that is why you seem to have developed a negative attitude towards Anti-AA people? Personally – I have never posted there because I have always felt it is a waste of my time.

    I take the time to educate the public in reputable locations. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Signalscv, 48 Hours…. etc. These are all places that our message is heard for the first time and I believe is valuable.

    I have attended many SMART meetings and now belong to a new program (non-religious) that has been invited into our local health center and is being held at the same time as the AA and SMART meetings so the clients have a choice. I believe this invite has come as a direct result of our activism. We have been educating the public and I believe this supports the film – but also validates those who are hearing it for the first time (both AA and Non-AA).

    When I was at one private screening – the post discussion with AA members was anything but friendly. They were in fact quite aggressive at the beginning of the Q&A and told us we 1) The only ppl who fail at AA are those who don’t work the program properly 2) We were killing people by even talking about these things because it would turn ppl away.

    We held our own with grace and dignity. In the end – they were listening and more willing to talk about safety once they got past their knee-jerk reactions. We were able to help them past the words/ beliefs that they had been taught because the Anti’s who were there had had experience of hearing and responding to these types of reactions before.

    So I guess it depends on the venue and the Anti’s in question. But you are using a broad paint brush when you state, ‘ I cannot support a groups of people that are attacking others on the web and who are bullying, telling people what to think, attacking women online, having no respect for privacy. ‘

    We are not all like that. Some of us are quite respectable and calm. Please hear our voices as well.

    Librarian

    • I certainly don’t waste my time on the orange papers or reading stupid comments on sites like the fix who allow childish behaviour. Like many I don’t have much time for a lot is said by the anti crowd so ignore them. I am amused when people who call themselves anti something and who criticise others get so upset if you criticise them. Some remind me of racists.

      I accept people have problems in AA (I did) and it is not a scientific solution, but I still found parts helpful. There are some bad people there but also some good. I find a lot of the arguments frivolous and are based on projections and assumptions made on crazy internet sites. I make it quite clear this is not an anti AA site on the home page, but get idiots following me around the web leaving stupid comments. If the antis use broad terms such stepper I will use the term anti, and I will carry on ignoring them.

  9. Librarian May 30, 2015 at 3:08 am · · Reply

    Hello Again,

    Well – I became sad when i read your response because when I see words like ‘stupid, childish behavior, ignore, amused, racist, frivolous, idiots…. ‘ it reminds me of the older generation who were so often intolerant and condemned any belief other than their own – through the use of name calling.

    So although i would like to discuss things that work in AA – I do not feel this is the right place to do it for me.

    I wish you well.

    Librarian.

    Adios.

    Librarian.

    • Bye! I learnt my lesson a longg time ago about letting anti AA people near a site. They attempt to fill up every thread with the same old stuff and prevent reasonable discussion.

  10. Librarian May 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm · · Reply

    And have I done that? No. I find you very aggressive, unwelcoming and intolerant – much like the AA ppl who come out with guns blazing for no reason at all.

    Librarian

  11. Librarian May 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm · · Reply

    And…. btw…. it is pro-AA ppl who fill sites with their words….. relentlessly ….. so why the swipe … just at us? IMHO…. Anti’s just have the balls to express an alternative opinion along with proof…. How can that be offensive?

    Librarian

  12. Antidenial/windycity/various other stupid names has a site lacking readers and comments – Perhaps it is more up your street!

  13. gettingbetter37 July 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm · · Reply

    Hello, I am writing from Barcelona (Spain)….
    just wanted to thank you for you website, it was exactly what I needed to read. I began too feel worst going to meetings even if at the beginning they were the support I needed to stop drinking and taking drugs and maintain sobriety. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but after six months I was feeling stuck and began to feel depressed… I read the Orange papers and other stuff and it was too bashing of AA; your blog and website defines the way I was feeling and gave me the strength to follow my instinct. Its strange and fantastic that somebody thousands of miles away can help you without even to talk to you or know you thanks to the internet; I’ve been thinking about the thousands of AA members that during decades didn’t have any other source of information where to rely on and needed to deal with the same feelings I had, having only the same answers (wrong in my view) from the same kind of 12 steppers. Now it’s one month that I stopped going to AA (the truth is I still go one day/week and I changed my group) and I am feeling better, more resolute to live in sobriety, but without looking to myself in a negative way. I am opening myself to normal people and other activities instead of reducing my life to AA, maybe if you go deep down in alcoholism is what you need, but it makes you dependent of the group, it makes you weaker instead of stronger, at least I see it like this. Thank again…. (excuse my English)

    • Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment and I am glad the site was useful to you. I think it is important that those of us who leave 12 step groups and find other ways to deal with adddiction let others know. Most people simply drift away from the recovery world once they leave AA and people do not get to see how they are doing. the only ones that go back to AA are those that struggle and this creates the impression for those in AA that they are going to fail if they leave.

      Leaving a support group always has its dangers, but I was supported by a good therapist when I moved on, until i was independent enough to cope on my own. Having this site keeps me in touch with others and it is always great to get messages from other countries. There are plenty of sites that talk about a variety of recovery solutions that are growing – I write for http://www.addiction.com on alternatives to AA.

      I certainly don’t have much time for the orange papers site. He gets some things right but a lot of it is conjecture and exaggerated. The forum reflects this and is full of people who are antisocial and who are a poor example to people wanting to try alternatives to the 12 step solution. They certainly do not help the cause of Smart Recovery or the Sinclair method with their petty argumentsand agressive behaviour. I do feel sorry for some of them who are mentally ill but others simply have personal grievances about AA and are best ignored.

  14. Hi Michael D – Thank you so much for being here with this site and your thoughtful posts! I am in the process of gently easing my way out of AA, and I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a gentle, well-reasoned explanation of the pros & cons of joining and leaving AA.

    I got sober 15 months ago, at age 53, because one day I said “wow, that’s enough, no more wine or pain pills, I need to wake up and live my life”. I went to AA for support, because it was so readily available, and it was the only thing I really knew about (I wasn’t coerced or court-ordered). It was quite helpful, particularly in the early weeks and months, in reinforcing my decision to quit. I went to a meeting most days during cocktail hour, which gave me a safe sober place to be with people who understood and cared. It felt good to connect to other people.

    I got sober with no slips, and started to feel better and better. I made a lot of changes besides just doing AA — I got daily exercise, spent quiet time every day in reading/contemplation, renegotiated my job agreement to quit working so much overtime, and found a way to gently get a little distance from some family members who drove me nuts. I’m guessing these changes had much to do with my increasing happiness and sobriety. I give AA some of the credit, because of the self-examination inherent in the program. But I was also drawing on psychotherapy I had done in the past, from which I had learned a lot, but had been previously unable to put into action.

    I had some reservations about the AA program, but I’m a thorough sort, and I decided I wouldn’t reject something until I tried it, very thoroughly. I got a sponsor and worked all the steps as sincerely as I possibly could, completing them a few weeks ago. The next “step” for me of course was to look for sponsees and involve myself even more deeply in the program. By this time, my cognitive dissonance was off the charts. I was sober, but I didn’t really buy the whole AA program, and found aspects of it very controlling and fear-based. I realized I really couldn’t teach another person something that I don’t exactly believe in. I learned a lot of good tools, but I really don’t believe big parts of the dogma. If I try to air these doubts, it’s taken as evidence of my “character defect” of being too controlling and refusing to surrender, and the answer is to pray to have these doubts removed. I don’t like being twisted up in a pretzel like that, so … I’m going to move on.

    At the same time I’m mostly just grateful toward AA … a lot of people have extended themselves toward me, warmly and sincerely. I learned a lot of good tools, including spiritual tools — not religious ones, but ideas like love and tolerance, accepting myself and accepting others as they are. My sponsor has been a model of good behavior, I think — only sharing her experience and teaching by example, rather than telling me what to do. But in the end she is trying to teach me a program I don’t believe in, so we’ll probably have to part ways. Which is sad, but ok.

    It’s been a big part of my life for 15 months, and feels so weird to think of moving on, but also it does feel like the right thing for me. My husband has been supportive of me participating in AA, but now that I’ve voiced these doubts, he said “Whew, I’m glad to hear that. I’d have quit that group a long time ago. I think you’ll be fine.” So that’s at least one other vote in my favor, which helps, because I know how some diehard AA acquaintances will likely view this.

    Thanks for being a sane, sober and kind voice out there.

    Carolyn

    • Thanks Carolyn, that is a great comment. It got stuck in the spam trap for some reason! I think lot of people move on from AA after making use of the fellowship for a while and do well. They tend not to have a voice and people in AA only see those who do badly that return to meetings. I always felt it helpful to remember AA would always be there should I ever change my mind and wish to attend again.
      There are many other resources available today and many of those are more helpful for people with modern ideas. I found being in a sober community was really helpful for yearly days and that meeting people with multiple years of sobriety was really inspiring, but I did not feel I wanted to attend for the rest of my life.

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