Inside Alcoholics Anonymous: Can a Non-Existent God Really Cure Alcoholism? with Jon Stewart

I have often mentioned the talks that my friend Jon Stewart does about the effectiveness of AA, and why Alcoholics Anonymous seems to help some people, but probably not for the reasons that many in AA will claim. Jon was a member of AA for over a decade and knows a lot about the history and traditions of AA. He is not disrespectful of AA, indeed he claims it saved his life, but he is pro-choice and wants to see alternative, more modern methods brought to people’s attention.

YouTube talk about AA

Towards the end of last year he did a talk at the Dorset Humanists which they have put on YouTube.

The sound quality is not great but what he has to say is very interesting. He does not bash AA like some people but points out where AA has come from and what it really is. A lot of people have issues with the religious side of AA and Jon talks about this.  He bought more into the steps and Chapter 5 of the Big Book than I did. He has his own blog which is at 

Jon has done quite a few podcasts with me about recovery and AA and we have looked at the steps of AA as well as other issues. You can find them here on my podcast site . I hope we will do more in the future including one on what it is like to leave AA as that is certainly a popular search term for this site.

I am glad that people are starting to question AA in this way. It makes a change to see intelligent presentations about AA rather than some of the rants that take place on certain sites and forums, where people simply want to call AA a cult and refuse to accept that many people do find it helpful. Having said that, it is not the answer for everyone and many would do better elsewhere.

Jon was also recently featured in the Observer Newspaper in the UK. You can read it here I was glad to see that many people who had quietly moved on from AA chose to comment. These people do need a voice as it is important to acknowledge that you can move on from AA should you wish.


Commenting area

  1. AA and NA saved my life, almost thirty years clean/sober. I have had a long journey when it comes to religion and spirituality. When I entered the 12-Step program, I hated the god I was brought up to believe in, and was told, when the mention of a “Higher Power” is used, as long as you are not it, because your thinking got you where you are, that is what is important. I am probably fortunate because I didn’t get sober in the “Bible Belt” where the term “Higher Power” can only mean the Christian God. If that was the case, I would of never gotten sober and probably have died decades ago.

    • I really did not get much from the higher power idea as I wanted to take responsibility for my own recovery. I found the ideas from rational recovery appealed to me once I became aware of them and decided to fight my addiction and not be passive.

  2. Hostage Crisis January 16, 2016 at 8:53 pm · · Reply

    Thanks for the link to Jon’s blog. For every 12 stepper whose life has been saved, I will without fail show you a person whose self-belief has been amputated from their brain, replaced by an inner critic that makes them question everything they do apart from ‘service, service, service’.. Lovely people but oh so miserable.

    • Certainly some people do become strange when they fully take on the ideas of AA, but then many were complete wrecks before they went. I used to go to meetings with lots of ex street drinkers and they were the grateful recovering alcoholic types praising AA, but when you understand the hardships they had faced in the past, this was understandable. Many in AA are dysfunctional, but without it these people would have nowhere where they would be accepted. I wish there was something better for them all where they could meet but at the moment the other groups have not become big enough. They seem happy enough. It was not the life for me so I moved on, but if others wish to go to meetings for ever then that is their choice. They seem much happier than some of the Anti AA brigade!

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