I am so happy to find this blog. I quit drinking over 4 years ago. I too was told that AA was the only way and that if I stopped going to meetings that surely I would drink and die.
I never felt like I fit in, I hated the cheesy slogans that you hear over and over, I hated holding hands and reciting christian prayers, I hated being a lemming.
When I moved to another state after 18 months of not drinking, AA seemed even worse to me. My first 3 months of meetings and not one person offered me their number or welcomed me. I was not disappointed, nor was I surprised. But I was intrigued. These people had no idea I wasnt someone who was trying to quit drinking, but surely I didnt look like I would fit into their little click.
I stopped going, despite the fact they had armed me with the knowledge that “surely I would drink and die”. Hell, I like to live life on the edge. One month passed, two months passed, then three and four and I seemed to be sober AND happy. In fact I noticed I was happier than when I was going to meetings.
A year after I stopped going to meetings, I went back to a meeting, just to see. Before the meeting, I was getting all those pity looks and the incinuating question “Has everything been alright?” (aka. Did you drink! ARRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGG! I wanted to scream and I was feeling fiesty). I shared that I hadnt been to a meeting in a year and that I hadnt felt like drinking, my life was good and I was happy. Yeah……..I felt like stirring up a little trouble. Nearly everyone who shared after me had some robotic comment about how I was setting myself up for a relapse, I was a dry drunk, I was fooling myself…….One woman however, went on and on about how she relapsed on vanilla ice-cream…you know, the vanilla extract. She said she actually felt something. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I have since baked several things that require vanilla extract and never got drunk. (You know, like I said, I like to live life on the edge.)
After the meeting, not one single person acknowledged my existance. I was the black sheep, for sure. I left with a smug feeling, they werent going to win me over, they werent going to trap me this time, I wasnt going to play their cultish games anymore……….
And I wondered, as I walked away….how could these people actually speak about God and a higher power ? They didnt even know how to treat a fellow human being with kindness just because she didnt do exactly what she was “told”.
Back on the east coast… my “friends” from my meetings back home would call me once in a while. The first question out of their mouths was “How are your meetings?” I am not going to lie, I told them I didnt go anymore. They all dropped away from my life.
I treated these people as family, letting them use my car, listening to their problems, we had dinner together, saw shows, went for hikes…….but since I stopped going to meetings, they have had nothing to do with me. One even said, “call me after you have been to a meeting”. I never went, so I never called, and I never will.
I feel sorry for these folks. Most of them attend 3-4 meetings a week and have no time for anything but work and AA. AA is just another addiction, but harder for some to quit.
It is tough to say if I would have quit drinking on my own, but I will certainly stay quit on my own.
I KNEW there had to be others out there like me. Funny how the AA’ers tell you to “stick with the winners” and automatically assume that everyone who leaves AA drinks immediately. What a loser thing to think…………….
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.
“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us”, writes Bill Wilson on page 92 of “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions”. Well, this statement certainly disturbed me the first time I heard it read out at an AA step meeting about 17 years ago, and it still does.
We are told at the beginning of “Alcoholics Anonymous” (“The Big Book”) that alcoholism is an illness and, by implication, nothing to be ashamed of. This idea is not supported with any evidence, only with a brief piece by Dr William D Silkworth, who treated AA’s co-founder Bill Wilson for alcoholism. Silkworth speculates that alcoholism may have something in common with allergies,but offers no evidence, and the idea is not explored in any depth.
There is no further discussion of alcoholism as a medical problem. Instead, the discourse shifts abruptly to discussing alcoholism as a matter of alcoholics’ supposed lack of contact with God, and of their moral shortcomings. Thus it is, by definition, presented as a cause for shame after all.
There is then a blatant attempt to convince the alcoholic reader of the need to develop a spiritual orientation, with the odd proviso that the nature of the spiritual power believed in remains so undefined that it may take any form which appeals to the individual, from some personal conception of a supernatural “power greater than himself” to AA itself.
The thinking behind this idea may be summarised as follows:
because alcoholics are supposedly powerless to do anything about their problem themselves, they must develop a belief in, and reliance on, a “power greater than themselves, which can and will do for them what they cannot do for themselves. What is implied, though not explicitly stated, is that this “higher power” must be amenable to entreaties to solve alcoholics’ drink problems, being somehow crucially interested in their welfare in this specific respect.
When the book goes into detail about how the “higher power” is to be approached by alcoholics, it becomes clear that what is really required of them is belief in a God who must intervene at their request to relieve them of their alcoholism, and who is bound to remove their “defects of character” on demand. Thus not only has the supposed need to believe in God been intruded into what was at first presented as the discussion of an illness, but the nature of the belief required, involving God having to perform miracles on demand, is seriously at variance with all mainstream religious faiths. It really constitutes a peculiar occult religion in its own right.
The subject of this book shifts far from its original ostensible theme, rendering it not only logically inconsistent and self-contradicory, but disingenuous. The pretence that the “recovery” doctrine offered does not ultimately entail a very specific (albeit religiously heretical) conception of God is downright deceptive. Under the guise of offering a plan of recovery from a medical problem, this book introduces a superstitious form of religion by stealth.