One of the best things that has happened as a result of having this blog and visiting other sites is that I constantly meet new people, who have interesting ideas about recovery, from all around the world. I wondered how my site would go down as I was really aiming it at people who had simply moved on from AA, rather than those who are specifically Anti AA and most response has been good. One of the most pleasant people who got in touch via email as well as commenting on the site was Jon who has written this great piece about his journey in recovery and how he has moved on from AA.
Jon is a better writer than pretty much everyone else who blogs on the subject, so I am pleased to see him publish his own thoughts here. Like myself he can see a positive side to being in AA and is grateful for the help he received in the rooms. I am sure he helped many newcomers, and is the type of person that would have been good to have met when I started AA. He spent far longer in AA than I did, and seems to have got his life back on track, as many do when they commit to a recovery group.
However, he decided to move on, and that is always a daunting prospect, even when you have been sober for a long time, perhaps even more so, as AA would have taken up a significant amount of time in the past decade or so for him and probably become a way of life. He seems to have made the change pretty easily, and can see where the limitations of AA are without having to bash it.
I was actually advised to move on from AA by a counsellor in London who was worried that I was not responding well to certain people in my AA group. This gave me the push I needed to move on. I also had a good friend, who had left AA a decade earlier and was doing well compared to those in the rooms. Jon decided to move on by himself and I feel this is actually harder to do, as you always have that bit of doubt that AA people may be right, and relapse could be inevitable. This actually worried me and is one of the things, that made me want to write this blog, as I wanted to let people know it is possible, and that many people do it. The problem is that not many people who admit that they have done this. I know there is the small but loud anti AA people, but I think many who are contemplating leaving AA will look at an anti AA forum as complete lunacy and not something they would wish to be involved in. There is no point in jumping from one dysfunctional group into one that is even worse, which is possible in a couple of online groups, where there is a pack mentality.
I wanted to share my experiences of leaving AA, without giving the impression that it is the correct thing to do for everyone. It is certainly a good idea if you are having negative feelings about the program, but if this is the case I would recommend you talk things through with a well qualified professional, if possible. I think you do need to be pretty stable if you are going to go it alone after time in a support group, and you have to fill the time with worthwhile activities. It is true that some people go downhill after leaving AA, but if you are engaged in the recovery process in another positive way, you may well do better.
I really like what Jon has written, as he highlights many other resources which are available but are often ignored by people seeking a recovery solution. I have read most of the books he mentions including those by Stanton Peele and Lance Dodes, who I feel gives the best overview of the reality of AA. He also does not bash AA in the way that some do that have left, especially those who feel that every problem they faced in recovery, such as depression is always AA’s fault. A lot of the Anti AA message appears irrational and aggressive, which plays into the hands of people who wish to promote AA as the only answer. If more people wrote pieces such as the one here http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com and less rubbish about AA being a cult set up by Nazi sympathisers, then we might actually get somewhere, and encourage people to look at alternatives.
Here is a section from his post:
A new higher power
Truth is my new higher power. Understanding truth is my new programme. I practice this programme through research and rational thinking.
AA’s programme of recovery is not a product of medical research, it was revealed to the fellowship’s co-founder Bill Wilson by a process of divine inspiration. As a result huge sections of 12 step treatment methodology are fatally flawed and significant portions of AA’s accepted folklore untrue.
Unfortunately faith-based knowledge such as this is also almost impossible to update. Consequently the programme has remained entirely unchanged for over 80 years and is also now desperately out of date.
Even seemingly uncontroversial passages of AA’s big book, such as “physicians familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal drinker out of an alcoholic … science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so yet” (Chapter 3: More About Alcoholism, p. 31) are now obsolete.
Here in the UK, for example, nalmefene and professional counselling treatment are an accredited means for achieving this once incomprehensible goal.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) makes for an interesting comparison to AA. Unlike the 12 step approach, CBT offers a proven treatment for alcoholism that requires no faith-based intuition or privileged information revealed by divine intervention. Instead it is carefully constructed using falsifiable scientific principles that can be improved and revised with the benefit of practitioner experience.
Crucially, the success of CBT does not depend on its participant’s willingness to compromise their intellectual integrity by conjuring up an imaginary best friend. Nor does it tally with the gullibility for fake new age spirituality prevalent among so many AA adherents.
Instead CBT is truly self-empowering. It works – it really does.
“God is dead” (Nietzsche, 1882) / “Nietzsche is dead” (God, 1900)
This sounds horrendous to a former big book basher such as myself, but that’s only the half if it. There is another large chunk of truth about our fellowship that need to be digested.
I’m sorry to put this so bluntly, but the delusion must be smashed. As Prof. Sean Carroll argues so cogently in this lecture at University of Oxford, there … is … no … God.
Difficult to accept, I know, but unfortunately your higher power or sense of spirituality is no more meaningful than mine. It is a convenient human construct, the product of our evolution over millennia as social animals, with absolutely no basis in reality.
If Charles Darwin was right, then everything we know can only exist as a product of its one-time evolutionary advantage. That’s the sole reason why we’re here.
If you have any doubt whatsoever about this try watching Dr. J. Anderson Thomson’s superb Why We Believe In Gods from the 2009 American Atheists Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Evolutionary psychology, it transpires, explains any and all forms of religion and spirituality.Google+