The anti-intellectualism of AA and the 12 Step Doctrine

 stink.jpg

One of the most worrying aspects of the 12 Step ideology, to anyone of a thoughtful and enquiring mind, is its insistence that one must abandon the use of reason and the asking of legitimate questions, accepting AA’s assertions instead through some sort of leap of faith.
This approach is made clear at a person’s first attendance at an AA meeting. Typically, the newcomer is told to just listen to what is said by existing members, rather than take an active part or ask questions. They are also told to “look for the similarities, not the differences”. Thus they are advised from the outset to overlook things which are said which conflict with their own understanding and experience, which is already implicitly denigrated.
In practice, this leaves the newcomer with little to identify with beyond the bare fact that they have the experience of having drunk problematically in common with others present.
This instruction to concentrate on the similarities between what they hear at meetings and their own experience would really be quite unnecessary if a large part of the content of the meeting did not consist of the presentation of ideas which might affront their reason and common sense.
The advice “look for the similarities” is really a veiled admonition that newcomers should discard their critical faculties, and not ask awkward but pertinent questions regarding the true agenda of the meeting. Telling newcomers that they should only listen rather than speak helps ensure that no difficult questions are raised, for instance, regarding the obvious religiosity of the meeting’s format.
As newcomers continue to attend meetings (assuming they do) they become increasingly immersed in a closed world where critical thought is strongly discouraged by peer pressure reinforced with the use of thought-stopping cliches, and a sneering disdain for the intellect exemplified by the slogan “your best thinking got you here”, amongst many others.
The “drunkalogues”, in which members recount stories of the damage alcohol did to them, may remain the only “similarity” they can relate to, but they mostly end with an impassioned endorsement of AA’s program as the only thing which could save the speaker, and by implication other alcoholics, from certain destruction.

Meanwhile, the aspects of AA ideology which the newcomer found unreasonable or unacceptable, and was disingenuously advised to overlook, are being gradually absorbed, almost by osmosis, through repeated exposure to them within an enclosed group of mutually-affirming true believers. In this environment, reality can be effectively re-defined for the duration of the meeting and beyond.

Despite himself, the newcomer is now becoming saturated with messages he may have found unreasonable and unacceptable on a frequent and regular basis, if he follows the injunction to go to thirty meetings in thirty days. When he reads AA literature (as he will have been strongly urged to do) he again encounters an aggressive anti-intellectualism, coupled with a belligerent insistence that the only insurance against an alcoholic death is the acceptance of a perverse and wayward form of religious practice. The sneering and dismissive tone adopted towards anyone with reservations about adopting the doctrine elaborated in the “Big Book” is shown by this quote from “Doctor Bob” Smith:

“If you think you are an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, or have any other form of intellectual pride which keeps you from accepting what is in this book, I feel sorry for you”.

One has to ask why AA has such a strong anti-intellectual bias. I think it can only be because it sees critical and analytical thought as threatening to its precepts. In other words, AA’s message simply does not stand up to rational examination, hence the intellect is treated with scorn and contempt to try to preempt such examination.
Fear of the intellect, as well as hatred and contempt for it, to the extent that the very word “intellectual” is a term of abuse, are typical of totalitarian states from Nazi Germany to Maoist China. They are also well-documented features of totalist cults.


  1. ahenobarbus458

    There is a strong anti intellectual bias to AA. It is logical that AA would have. The doctrine is rigid and unyielding; AA has the answer. The defense against it — if one attends AA — is a passive/aggressive defense of non compliance. That is, simply go there to listen. If one is silent, one cannot be disagreed with. If one does that, there is little point in attending. Except perhaps, to get out of the house.

  2. sherwoode

    Yes you are taught not to think,not to trust your own inner guidance and not to trust so-called normies (those not in aa).You are reminded over and over that your best thinking caused you to become an alcoholic

  3. sherwoode

    many states have stopped courts from forced aa attendance-I believe all states should put a stop to forced aa attendance

  4. astrobluetooth

    They were relativley kind to you! When they told me my life story and I said that, tht wasnot correct they sneared and said “so, you suffer from terminal uniqueness!” Any time I tried to say what I thought, they said “your best thinking is what got you here in the first place” because I had “stinkin thinkin”. I think AA builds the self-esteem of the established members and sponsers who enjoy denegrating the new recruits. They have found a new addiction and vice.

  5. andymar

    I quite agree, Asrto, and I do recognise the nasty put-downs. I endured very vicious attempts to browbeat and intimidate me. I have to tone down the anger I feel a little in order to express myself coherently.

  6. sherwoode

    Yes to consider your unique is part of your DISEASE.What alot of nonsense

  7. exhooker

    in desperation, i had decided to give aa another shot, not believing that there was any other way. i was greeted warmly into the “fellowship”, which meant a lot to me, (as most people don’t care much for ex-hookers and aren’t comfortable with the knowledge that i may have blown their husbands). immediately, i began to feel uncomfortable with the dirge-like use of cliches that were supposed to explain everything. outside of these cliches, there were no answers.
    when i expressed concern, as an atheist, about turning my life over to a higher power that i did not have, i was directed to “stay open minded”, believe in a different god other than the god of the bible, or to read the chapter on the agnostic. my lack of belief means as much to me as the beliefs of a devout follower of jesus or mohammed and i had, nor have no wish to change. somehow, my position was not respected and i became an outcast, yet again.
    now, as i attend the meetings i am forced to by my (aa based) program, i watch these people in wonder. i truly believe that the program is a cult and it’s only success comes from the new high and exhultation one recieves from belief.
    count me out.

  8. contessa02

    I found this link from the boards of IMDb for the movie 28 DAYS. I’m an addict to alcohol and am leaving next week for rehab. I rebuked all “Hot Line” help that pushed centers that either were AA oriented or a psych ward! My reason, which I was eventually shunned by them, was the religious and cult aura of AA. It just wouldn’t work for me. It was kind of funny when I told some operators on the hot-lines that I found a place that wasn’t AA, 12 step, and religious, that I should attend a meeting of AA when I finish my six weeks. No “I’m glad you found a place” or “Good luck”. I guess I’m not in the club.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


  • Escaping from The AA CULT!..pass it it on!

    After joining AA when I WAS 19 i felt I would die a member of AA..im now so gratefull i will not!..im 45 now and a very happy x member of AA..the mind set of the members were the same where ever I went from the middle east to the south Pacific.. YOU ARE A LOSER IF YOU DRINK..OR YOU ARE NOT A REAL ALCOHOLIC IF YOU DRINK AGAIN AND ENJOY A LIFE!…When i was going on 20 years of not drinking I so wanted to drink just so i wouldnt feel like a loser having to say i was in AA for 20 years!! im just so thrilled at being able to a drink or leave it…wish i had done this after 5 years in AA as the big book should have recommended. This is the first time i have come accross such an excellent web site to help people that did get caught in the AA CULT…though I have met many people enjoying a full life after escaping from The AA CULT!..pass it it on!
  • I found this link from the boards of IMDb for the movie 28 DAYS.

    I’m an addict to alcohol and am leaving next week for rehab. I rebuked all “Hot Line” help that pushed centers that either were AA oriented or a psych ward! My reason, which I was eventually shunned by them, was the religious and cult aura of AA. It just wouldn’t work for me. It was kind of funny when I told some operators on the hot-lines that I found a place that wasn’t AA, 12 step, and religious, that I should attend a meeting of AA when I finish my six weeks. No “I’m glad you found a place” or “Good luck”. I guess I’m not in the club.
  • Comment of the Week



    In desperation, I had decided to give aa another shot, not believing that there was any other way. I was greeted warmly into the “fellowship”, which meant a lot to me, (as most people don’t care much for ex-hookers and aren’t comfortable with the knowledge that I may have blown their husbands). Immediately, I began to feel uncomfortable with the dirge-like use of cliches that were supposed to explain everything. Outside of these cliches, there were no answers. When I expressed concern, as an atheist, about turning my life over to a higher power that I did not have, I was directed to “stay open minded”, believe in a different god other than the god of the bible, or to read the chapter on the agnostic. My lack of belief means as much to me as the beliefs of a devout follower of jesus or mohammed and I had, nor have no wish to change. somehow, my position was not respected and I became an outcast, yet again. Now, as I attend the meetings I am forced to by my (aa based) program, I watch these people in wonder. I truly believe that the program is a cult and it’s only success comes from the new high and exhultation one recieves from belief. Count me out. From the Chieftest of Sinners
  • Recent Comments

    ahenobarbus458 on Some Thoughts on Wilson’…
    ahenobarbus458 on Escape from AA
    Chaz on Escape from AA
    baneberry7 on Escape from AA
    Chaz on Escape from AA
  • Recent Posts

  • Meta

  • Blog Stats

    • 60,075 hits
  • About True Tales From AA

    Once upon a time I used to spend a lot of time getting very, very drunk. I wasn’t pleased with myself for getting drunk so much but I couldn’t stop. Someone then told me I was an ‘alcoholic’ and that the only way I could stop drinking was to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

    So I joined AA and spent a lot of time in church basements drinking powdered coffee and eating cheap biscuits trying to get rid of the ‘defects’ in my character, the defects that AA told me would keep me in the mess I was in.

    In AA I was introduced me to many concepts, and many ’suggestions’ were made to me. The concepts that I was supposed to work the hardest at were surrendering myself to a ‘Higher Power’ which would ‘awake’ me spiritually and in the meantime, while waiting for that Higher Power (or GOD) to take over, I should pray and pray and pray to get rid of those defects.

    Because, they said, if I didn’t get rid of those pesky defects I’d drink again and die.

    That was lie number One.

    This site is for people who didn’t have such a good time in AA or don’t believe any longer what AA told them. If attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous has been suggested to you as a possible treatment for a drinking problem, then only you’ll be able to decide whether meetings might help you.

    I, like many, many others have decided the meetings no longer help me.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers

%d bloggers like this: