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Why I am an atheist – Danielle

I am an atheist because of Alcoholics Anonymous. My mom is an alcoholic, and had been in the group and sober for as long as I can remember. AA was my religion growing up, even more than Christianity. While I would go years without setting foot in a church, I sat outside of AA meetings and listened to everyone share and repeat the twelve steps and the Lord’s Prayer several times a week. I learned all of the twelve steps and all of the slogans. I was taught my mom had a disease, and that her disease would kill her if she didn’t attend these meetings. I was taught that while I was important, god and AA had to come first in her life. I was also taught that alcoholism was a family disease, that it was genetic, and that I was doomed to either become alcoholic myself or marry an alcoholic.

But don’t worry, there was hope. There’s a 12 step group affiliated with AA called Al-Anon, which is for the friends and family of alcoholics. There’s also Alateen, for the teenage children of alcoholics, and Ala-Kid, for children age 6 and older. We didn’t have an Ala-Kid in our city, so it wasn’t until I was 12 that I was really pressured to join a 12-step program myself. I was again told that this was a family disease, and that unless I also was in a 12-step program, I could cause her to drink again. Around the same time, my mom married my step dad who was also in AA, and we started going to a lot of AA functions as a family. I sat in on speaker meetings, where AA members would tell their story of how alcohol had destroyed their life, and how only with the help of AA and god were they able to quit and regain a stable and happy life. For me, the fear of becoming or marrying an alcoholic was far worse than the fear of hell. I started attending a few Alateen meetings too, where we talked about how alcoholism had affected our lives, and looked at how the twelve steps could help. The twelve steps taught us we were powerless. Only God or our “Higher Power” could help us, and that he would if we worked the steps, got a sponsor, went to meetings, and passed the message on to others.

A few years later, I had a bad teenage day and my parents convinced me I needed to join Alateen in earnest – get a sponsor, and work the steps. And so I did. At first the meetings really helped and I learned some great things. However, they were things I think most teenagers learn on their own: you can’t control or “help” others unless they let you, leave a situation and cool down or talk to someone if things aren’t going well, and just because someone tells you you’re crap doesn’t mean you really are. Other than this, the group started to get scary. I got a sponsor (just a woman in Al-Anon in her 30′s), who I had to call every day at the same time to the minute. If I was late or missed a call, I had to make amends to my sponsor. On the phone, I told her everything I had done in the past day, and we would go over situations where I might have done something wrong, and she would tell me how to do it better. I started to work the 12-steps. I gave my will and life over to god, because if I didn’t I was told and believed I would go insane and die. My own will would kill me. I made amends to my mom and all of my relatives for being a bad child (my mom never made amends to me). I went to 3 meetings a week, prayed for my will to be taken away, and read AA literature every day. I started sponsoring other girls too.

And I loved it. My mom was pretty unpredictable, and often got extremely upset over small mistakes. Because of this I was a huge perfectionist as a teenager. I loved that here I had a set of rules to follow and make my life better. I was a part of something big, I was a part of my own family, and I felt I was better than everyone else. I imagined myself spending the rest of my life in the program. At conventions the people with the most time, the old-timers, would get the most praise. I wanted that to be me. This continued for five years – through most of high school and college. During this time, I rarely made a decision on my own. If I disobeyed my mom, I would always tell my sponsor who would just tell me to turn myself in, and I would. When I went to college, I would take the bus for an hour and a half each way to get to meetings, and spend around 40% of my budget on transportation and donations for these meetings.

Finally, it got to be too much, and I quit. My success in college taught me I could be OK on my own. I also saw that most people were not in a 12-step program, and their lives were still perfectly OK. This was a huge revelation. My friends in Al-Anon tried hard to convince me to stay. They suggested I should drop credits and get a job so I could afford a car and afford to go to more meetings. They told me without Al-Anon, specifically without a decent relationship with god (which I could only get by working the 12-steps) I would go insane, destroy my life, and die. Only a few of my old friends from Al-Anon have spoken to me since I quit, and each time it was a thinly veiled attempt to get me to join back up.

After I quit, I started going to bible studies on campus to fill the gap left by all the meetings and time spent on Al-Anon. My realization that these twelve step programs, the most important thing in my life and my family’s life, could be wrong caused me to be skeptical of the bible too. The more I looked into it, the less I believed. It was like AA was the thread that caused the rest to unravel too. I love science and learning, and I just kept at it until I came to a state near deism. A year or so after I quit Al-Anon I picked up the God Delusion. I was cringing through the first half of the book, but in complete agreement by the end. It’s been several years since then, and I’ve never been happier. It’s still scary sometimes to take responsibility for and control of my actions instead of praying for god to live my life for me. Sometimes I make mistakes, and they make me feel horrible. But more often I accomplish things, and I get to take full credit and I feel great.

Danielle

Comments

  1. says

    I begin to doubt PZ’s “change of focus.” He’s published Danielle’s atheism story even though she says nothing about her sammich-making ability. (Good for her, though, for absorbing the good sense of The God Delusion.)

  2. Randomfactor says

    It’s just the old “original sin” scam again.

    Thanks for writing this, Danielle.

  3. reasonable fellow says

    Interesting. I’ve not had the same experience with AA. Absolutely nothing close to what is described here. Its really unfortunate that your parents felt you needed it too, but that sounds to me like parental over-protection. Alcoholism destroyed a large part of their lives, they couldn’t bear the thought of that happening to you.

    It should probably be pointed out that the groups are autonomous and atheism and AA membership are not incompatible. Most of my group are atheists.

  4. Thy Goddess says

    Ooooh yea. I went to a couple of these meetings. But it was for drugs addicts. Not as a member or anything, I never touched anything and never even got drunk in my life. But a guy in there was a family friend and thus I had made their group a website (a 1996 website. I let you imagine the horrors). They said there’d be cake.

    I firmly have to say: *these guys are nuts*. This IS A cult, a religion, a sect by itself. That some COURTS force you into THAT is scary! Fight them, people. Don’t let loved ones into those meetings!! Tell them THEY are powerful. If they do need a group, there are secular ones that tell you YOU have the strength and will help you develop it by talking as a gang.

  5. generallerong says

    Wow. Another riveting account of an escape from a mind parasite. Yes! It can be done!

  6. says

    I’ve not had the same experience with AA. Absolutely nothing close to what is described here.

    Like any “franchise” you can get variation in the theme. Not every Boyscout troop is homophobic, super religious, McCarthists either, but the “organization” is. Nearly all AA systems are run, behind the scenes, by a religious group, and their stated policy, as Penn & Teller uncovered, is to not even bother to ask why people quit, or fail, the program, and only count the “successes”, i.e., people still attending, when quoting statistics.

  7. stonyground says

    Thanks for sharing this story, it is slightly different from other accounts that I have read here.

    Don’t ever feel bad about making mistakes, they are an inevitable part of life. All we can really do it try to avoid making mistakes but when we unavoidably do, try to learn from them and avoid repeating them. Sometimes you can laugh about them too.

  8. danielle75468 says

    Interesting. I’ve not had the same experience with AA. Absolutely nothing close to what is described here.

    Just like religions, there are more laid back AA groups, and fundamentalist AA groups. In my area, we mostly have the fundamentalist type – we called it “Pockets of Enthusiasm”. All the huge conferences and big name old-timer speakers were our brand of fundamentalist AA. Just like fundamental religions, we told ourselves and others that only we were truly following the Big Book as Bill and Lois Wilson intended, and if it wasn’t done our way, you would either go insane or drink again. And die.

    Its really unfortunate that your parents felt you needed it too, but that sounds to me like parental over-protection.

    It actually wasn’t over-protection. My mom was against getting me involved in Alateen at first. She thought that since she was in AA and sober, she had raised me fine and I didn’t need help from the program. However, right after she married my step-dad in my early teens, she went through a period of bad mental health, and her sponsor, my step-dad’s sponsor, and many of their AA friends all started pressuring them to get me in the program too because they were afraid she would drink again. It wasn’t a problem with my mom or with how the program worked, it was just that I was the weak link by not being involved.

    It should probably be pointed out that the groups are autonomous and atheism and AA membership are not incompatible.

    None of the groups I’ve been to would agree with this. The First Tradition requires AA unity, which by our interpretation was following the Big Book and the 12 Steps and Traditions exactly. Hell, there’s an entire chapter in the Big Book about how atheists can’t possibly exist, and how you can’t get sober without a belief in God or a Higher Power.

    The second tradition is “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” So how can a group be run unless God is allowed to express Himself in your group?

    Then of course traditions 3 and 4 contradict these by saying the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking, and that each group is autonomous. But all the groups I’ve been to held that autonomy had limits – you had to follow the Steps, Traditions, and Big Book. AA Unity was more important (as the 1st tradition) than autonomy. Although there could be individual members that didn’t follow these limits, they couldn’t run their own group unless God or a Higher Power was working through them. If they did, it just wasn’t an AA group anymore and needed to be stopped because it was a threat to all of AA and the sobriety of anyone who attended that meeting. (Just like gay marriage is a threat to straight marriage)

    Anyway my point is that this corresponds a lot to religion. Sure, you can defend the non-fundamental branches of religion for being helpful or useful for some people. But if you look closely, they aren’t really following their own religion anymore. And they just help defend the fundamentalists. “The problem isn’t that Christianity is bad, it just those fundamentalists who try to follow everything in the Bible.” “The problem isn’t that AA is bad, it’s just those groups who get too cultish and try to follow everything in the Big Book.”

  9. reasonable fellow says

    . Nearly all AA systems are run, behind the scenes, by a religious group,

    Citation needed. Besides, even if it were true it doesn’t mean that they’re running it for the purposes of proselytising their religion.

    and their stated policy, as Penn & Teller uncovered, is to not even bother to ask why people quit, or fail, the program, and only count the “successes”, i.e., people still attending, when quoting statistics.

    I think people still attending is pretty good measurement when talking about AA. It means they’re still committed to getting off. Funny thing, Alcoholics tend to lie all the time about whether or not they’re currently using. Surveys of success are bound to be hugely suspect anyway.

  10. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Wow, as the single father of the daughter of an alcoholic that’s only the scariest thing I’ve read in weeks. Especially given that my ex occasionally blames our divorce (the precipitating event of which was her moving out with “a friend from the program” and withdrawing the entire balance of our daughter’s college savings account for her own use, after being relieved of parental duties when I caught her trying to drive drunk with our daughter) on MY not having attended Al-Anon family meetings…

    Looks like I really dodged a bullet by specifying in our MSA that our daughter wouldn’t be taken to AA meetings. I may have to include more specific language….

    Interesting. I’ve not had the same experience with AA. Absolutely nothing close to what is described here. Its really unfortunate that your parents felt you needed it too, but that sounds to me like parental over-protection. Alcoholism destroyed a large part of their lives, they couldn’t bear the thought of that happening to you.

    Oh, well, that makes it okay then.

    It should probably be pointed out that the groups are autonomous and atheism and AA membership are not incompatible. Most of my group are atheists.

    I’m sure the mental gymnastics required to fit the actual doctrine to a humanist philosophy would be an entertaining read. I would suggest that variability is endemic to what is essentially practicing therapy without a license…

  11. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    And I’m sorry, but I have to ask: where the FUCK was your father in all this?

  12. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Oh, and another thing: would any fans of AA like to explain why they spend a huge chunk of every meeting talking about “the alcoholic mind” and how it “twists their thinking,” and yet seem to accept any member’s claims of having been victimized completely uncritically?

  13. danielle75468 says

    And I’m sorry, but I have to ask: where the FUCK was your father in all this?

    I lived with him for a few years, and then moved to another city to be with my mom. Because my mom was so unpredictable, I was always trying to get her approval. I loved her way more than what was healthy, and I would cry most nights because I didn’t live with her. After I moved away I would still see my dad every other weekend. He’s really soft spoken and never really learned how to communicate with me. From his point of view, AA was a good thing because my mom was way crazier when they were married and she wasn’t sober. He wasn’t that concerned when I got involved. I stayed with him for a summer and walked a few blocks to the nearest Al-Anon meeting every week. My step-mom made fun of me, but he never said a word. I think he got scared when I made amends to him for not being a good enough child. He started crying and tried to explain that I was good enough, but he just didn’t try to step in or stop it.

  14. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Because my mom was so unpredictable, I was always trying to get her approval. I loved her way more than what was healthy, and I would cry most nights because I didn’t live with her.

    I’m seeing that with my daughter, too. It scares me, but she seems to be figuring out, at least intellectually, just how fucked up her mom is.

    Any suggestions?

    Danielle, thank you.

    Yeah. x.x

  15. danielle75468 says

    I’m seeing that with my daughter, too. It scares me, but she seems to be figuring out, at least intellectually, just how fucked up her mom is.

    Any suggestions?

    I’m not sure. My mom always talked shit about my dad, but my dad never said a thing about her. I’m glad he didn’t, because I think I would have believed her instead of him, and it would have pushed me away. I think if he had gotten to know me better, talked to me, and didn’t try to pretend I was still 8 years old as a teenager, that might have helped.

    What really helped me was my friends, especially my boyfriend in high school who I still live with today. I started to see how controlling my mom was, how none of my friends had an 8pm curfew (except for Al-Anon meetings of course) or were grounded when they were late cleaning the cat box. I remember one time I didn’t do a chore correctly and my mom started screaming at me because I didn’t know where the correct cleaning fluid was. I think this happened a lot, but I’ve found I’ve forgotten almost all of my bad memories with her. I literally thought she was perfect. Anyway I remembered this time because my boyfriend was there. I was humiliated and hysterically crying.

    He started pointing out what a terrible person she could be. I hated this. I got really really angry and irrational every time he brought it up, and I almost broke up with him because of it. But I did this because I couldn’t defend my mom, because he was right and deep down I knew it. Slowly, I started to understand this.

    He also started to bring up how crazy Al-Anon was. This had similar irrational angry responses, but it took longer to see he was right because Al-Anon didn’t seem like it was having a negative effect on my life. When my sponsor started pushing me to break up with him because he wasn’t in or completely supportive of the program, when she tried to control my sex life (nothing until marriage!) and tried to get me to put Al-Anon above my education, that’s when I started to see it clearly.

  16. magistramarla says

    Wow, I would love to see a similar story about the Salvation Army.
    I didn’t know my Dad when I was growing up, since my abusive Mother told me that he was dead. When I did meet him in my 30s, he was deep into the Salvation Army culture. He had worked for the DOD in Vietnam and had returned to the US as an alcoholic.
    He credited them with saving his life, and they may have. However, I noticed a lot of fundy style religion and control over him that I wasn’t pleased with. He has since passed on, and I purposely avoid his step-children, who are crazily fundy.

  17. 'Tis Himself says

    Having a relationship with someone in AA, I’m convinced that many AA members are abandoning one addiction for another.

  18. Vicki says

    I have a friend who has been going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings for at least 15 years, who would agree that some people are just swapping addictions—but he figures that the meetings are less harmful than the drugs were, and his partners agree with that. Then again, my friend has never proselytized for AA/NA/etc., doesn’t seem to believe in God (he’s of the “my higher power is the group of other people in recovery” school), and doesn’t think his partners need to attend meetings to sort their own lives out, which I think is part of why those relationships are doing well.

    I also recall a friend who, after concluding that she had been abusing/overusing various intoxicants, proceeded to try to convince everyone she knew that if they were using those drugs at all it was a problem. No.

  19. machintelligence says

    I’m convinced that many AA members are abandoning one addiction for another.

    I have read that many heroin addicts are considered “cured” when they quit heroin to become skid-row alcoholics.

  20. Techlady4160 says

    What no one has mentioned is that if you are an addict and need treatment 12 step is pretty much the only game in town. Almost all inpatient or outpatient treatment facilities implement a protocol with the 12 steps as it’s cornerstone. Some rehabs are just a doctor to write your scripts, a nurse to check your vitals, and meeting, meetings, meetings. They do this because meetings are cheap and since they are not an effective treatment (they’re actually no treatment at all), it guarantees you’ll be a repeat customer. For those who really want to be free of addiction, finding a treatment facility based on sound medical science and with a good success rate is impossible.

  21. nonny says

    I didn’t know much about the AA so this was a real eye-opener. Thank you for sharing your story, Danielle, and well done for breaking free.

  22. butterflyfish says

    I think he got scared when I made amends to him for not being a good enough child. He started crying and tried to explain that I was good enough, but he just didn’t try to step in or stop it.

    Aw, Danielle. That made me tear up. It sounds like he just didn’t know what to do to help you.

    I’m glad you got out. Thank you for sharing this.

  23. says

    and their stated policy, as Penn & Teller uncovered, is to not even bother to ask why people quit, or fail, the program, and only count the “successes”, i.e., people still attending, when quoting statistics.

    I think people still attending is pretty good measurement when talking about AA. It means they’re still committed to getting off. Funny thing, Alcoholics tend to lie all the time about whether or not they’re currently using. Surveys of success are bound to be hugely suspect anyway.

    Umm. Actually no, because the same document admitted that roughly 90% of all of those that started the problem left, without continuing, never mind completing, it. And, they flat out count those that regress, as successes, as long as they remain in the program, and try to stop through it. The point they made about this was that, based on real statistics, 10% of all people that try to stop, cold turkey, without any program at all, are successful, and seem to never *ever* take another drink, never mind start up again. So, a program that demands that you remain in it, basically forever, in order to be “cured”, and whose members include people that keep falling off the wagon, is actually even worse than the success rate of people that simply wake up one morning and go, “I think I will quit today.”

    Their statistics don’t just lie about their success rates, making it look like its vastly better than secular programs, it even lies about the definition of “cured”. Its saying that you can keep failing, over and over again, as long as you continue to seek help, and that’s OK, because the program is “more successful”, that someone flat out just quitting, without any program at all.

  24. reasonable fellow says

    Actually no, because the same document..

    Just about everything you said after this is totally irrelevant to me because you still haven’t bothered to link the document that you’re taking this from.

  25. pipenta says

    One of my HUGE beefs with religion is how they’ve somehow taken ahold of reformation of destructive behaviors agenda and labelled it sin. As a society, we’re largely happy to let them have it. And the result is that nothing changes and religions just harness all the anguish as a motive power to keep themselves going, that and the fear of death and the mythology of hell.

    And I really want us to take that responsibility from them, because after thousands of years they haven’t done shit. They are no closer to understanding why people hurt each other, even their own mates, even their own young. Let’s take what we call good & evil and examine them without mythology. Then we might get somewhere.

    I don’t think that alcoholism is a disease in the sense that AA says it is. And AA is putting the cart before the horse. In the small sampling of people who I have known really well who are alcoholics, each and every one has had a personality disorder: narcissism and/or antisocial (sociopathy) or borderline. The alcoholism was just one damn symptom, not the root cause. People with personality disorders like to control and abuse other people. AA fits the bill quite nicely. It has the same problems that religion has, including sexual abuse. I’m sure you’ve heard of 13 stepping?

    The irony is that AA almost accidentally gets closer to the problems. Sure, it calls alcoholism a disease. But what disease is cured by prayer? While some aspects of the steps can prove helpful for those people who are trying to get over a bad habit, the insistence that the involvement with the organization must be lifelong is absurd. The whole business about being powerless is offensive in the extreme. And the requirement, on the part of the addict, that all family members participate is another control game on the part of the institution and on the part of the addict.

    Grrrrr and YUCK!

    Also, am I the only one who confuses AA and AAA? Maybe they should consolidate and become AAAA, which would serve the needs of drunk drivers…

  26. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I don’t think that alcoholism is a disease in the sense that AA says it is. And AA is putting the cart before the horse. In the small sampling of people who I have known really well who are alcoholics, each and every one has had a personality disorder: narcissism and/or antisocial (sociopathy) or borderline. The alcoholism was just one damn symptom, not the root cause.

    The AA literature my ex quoted at me, although it doesn’t use the term, describes alcoholism in more or less these terms – as a personality disorder combining features apparently consistent with the descriptions of Narcissistic and Borderline personality disorders. Unfortunately, this easily becomes just another excuse for not taking any responsibility for anything one does.

  27. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    (Also, pipenta, just a fair warning: apparently people like us who’ve suffered horribly from the symptom-related actions of mentally ill people are supposed to just suck it up and pretend there’s nothing wrong so we aren’t “stigmatizing.”)

  28. danielle75468 says

    Nearly all AA systems are run, behind the scenes, by a religious group

    Citation needed. Besides, even if it were true it doesn’t mean that they’re running it for the purposes of proselytising their religion.

    AA is a religion on it’s own. They believe in a god or higher power and have a very strict set of traditions and rules to follow in order to avoid their version of hell – the “alcoholic death” warned of over and over in the Big Book. Here’s an example from p. 44:

    To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience [of finding god] seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.

    They have their own clergy, which are the old-timers with dozens of sponsees, hundreds of grand-sponsees, etc. I remember I could site my lineage of sponsorship up to the founding of Al-Anon, and all of them were highly respected and worshiped. I was required to travel at least twice a year to AA conferences just to see these people talk, to tell the same story I already heard dozens of times before and to shake their hand and thank them. I would buy their speaker tapes. I had more speaker tapes than CDs. My family had cases full of them, and we would listen to them like Christian radio or something. Every time we were in the car, any time we were feeling bad, and just to fill up all empty space with thoughts of AA.

    Like religions they have regular meetings where the same holy words are repeated each time. They have guides for prayer and meditation, holy books, they even have their own symbols. I wore the AA triangle and circle as a necklace just like one would wear a cross. At conferences there were dozens of shops selling jewelry and medallions that everyone was buying up. Most people believed meditating or praying over these symbols and medallions would help them stay sober.

    And they definitely proselytize. They produce dozens of pamphlets advertizing AA, and they send these out to hospitals, schools, prisons, police, mental health institutions, etc. The Big Book specifically states we are required to pass on the message, or we will die an alcoholic death. This is what got me into Al-Anon. This is why I saw 6 year old girls with sponsors studying the Big Book and learning they were already insane and would die an alcoholic death unless they got help from God. We were told to get all of our family into the program. They were affected by alcoholism and needed help. We were told our close friends might need help too. My sponsor had one alcoholic boyfriend for 2 years when she was 19, and now she’s spent over 30 years in the program because of that. We were told to watch out for any acquaintances that might be affected by alcoholism and “convert” them too. I approached all of my friends. I brought most of them to a meeting. I brought pamphlets to high schools all over my city, and guidance counselors would call me so I could help their students and bring them to meetings. And I was praised for this.

    Yeah, maybe not all of AA is like my experience, but that doesn’t mean my experiences can be discounted. And this type of AA is exactly what is described in the Big Book by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in their first years. Find God, have a Spiritual Experience, find other alcoholics, proselytize, repeat.

    Pipenta makes a good point:

    One of my HUGE beefs with religion is how they’ve somehow taken ahold of reformation of destructive behaviors agenda and labelled it sin … I don’t think that alcoholism is a disease in the sense that AA says it is.

    AA started from the Oxford group, which was a protestant Christian organization involved in the temperance movement. They believed drinking was a sin, and they had 6 steps to follow to stop drinking. Bill W joined the Oxford group, and was later kicked out because he would only talk about alcoholism, he wouldn’t stop smoking, and he was a womanizer.

    AA expanded the 6 steps to 12, generalized the religious aspects so it would be open to Catholics and not just Protestants, and also added the requirement for proselytizing. When the Big Book was written a few years later they stopped studying the King James Bible, and started studding that instead. (AA was originally going to be called The James Group after the Bible) Bill W. was treated by Dr. Silkworth when he was still drunk, and it was Silkworth who wrote the Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book that states alcoholism is a disease, instead of a sin. Here’s the story commonly told about Dr. Silkworth, telling one of his patients about the “Great Physician” who could cure his alcoholism:

    “Oh, but this Physician is not at all moderate as to expense,” persisted Dr. Silkworth. “He wants everything you’ve got. He wants you, all of you. Then He gives the healing. His price is your entire self.” Then he added slowly and impressively, “His name is Jesus Christ and He keeps office in the New Testament and is available whenever you need Him.”

  29. reasonable fellow says

    I really don’t want this to turn into an argument because I enjoyed and accepted your original post and all of your subsequent posts.

    I have to say it though: We’ve both had or are having experiences with AA from really different perspectives. Please don’t lecture me on what I believe, my experiences or what I might hold true. I actually find it really, really incredibly insulting.

    I’m not denying that AA might have been bad in your experience. I’m saying that through my experience its been great and has helped me improve my life and I think its the reason i’m still here.

  30. danielle75468 says

    I actually find it really, really incredibly insulting.

    What I’ve written about here is my own experience, the core values of AA, and it’s history. If this “really, really incredibly” insults you, you don’t have a problem with me, you have a problem with AA. I find it far more insulting that someone could defend a group that preys on children and vulnerable adults and destroys them so completely that they don’t believe they can live without it anymore.

  31. says

    Just about everything you said after this is totally irrelevant to me because you still haven’t bothered to link the document that you’re taking this from.

    Uh… If I look around really hard I might be able to link to the episode of their show Bullshit!, in which they showed the document, but this is one case where its simply not practical (or maybe possible) to provide a link to the actual document. At least, I don’t know of any such link.

    Right – http://www.thecleanslate.org/penn-teller-bullshit-alcoholics-anonymous/

  32. WhiteHatLurker says

    Danielle;
    Thank you for:your storythe description of your experiences in AAdiscussing this on the forum

    The last is really what made this story stand out. I know that other authors have come to the boards to talk, but yours interested me more than the others. (Sorry folks.)

  33. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Danielle, on the off chance you’re still reading, would you be willing to write up an account of your experiences with AA as described here, including the clarification and expansion in the comments? Please don’t feel pressured, but if you feel up to it, it might be very helpful to someone who may otherwise be at risk of being subjected to something similar…

  34. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    What Kagehi said. Also I’ve had access to some older AA reading materials from iirc the 70s and they were very straightforward about the religiosity.

    Or, now that I’m scrolling down, what danielle75468 said. It is undeniably a cult, if perhaps a slow cult — I have to say I have known atheists who were legally required to attend who got by okay by saying “my higher power is this group.”

    Having a relationship with someone in AA, I’m convinced that many AA members are abandoning one addiction for another.

    I figured that was deliberately the point. And maybe it mightn’t be a bad point if the new addiction wasn’t so — honestly I don’t know what’s the term I’m looking for here — organizationally demanding? like if it was a casual bowling league with rules to compensate for when people don’t show up?

    What no one has mentioned is that if you are an addict and need treatment 12 step is pretty much the only game in town.

    Oh and it’s court mandated too. imo the worst single violation of the Establishment Clause.

    People with personality disorders like to control and abuse other people.

    That really depends heavily on the personality disorder in question, doesn’t it. It’s certainly not true for paranoid, schizoid, or schizotypal, avoidant, dependent, or obsessive-compulsive.

    (Also, pipenta, just a fair warning: apparently people like us who’ve suffered horribly from the symptom-related actions of mentally ill people are supposed to just suck it up and pretend there’s nothing wrong so we aren’t “stigmatizing.”)

    This is of course a lie, Azkyroth.

    Nobody here has ever attacked you for talking about your experiences with your ex. Don’t just make shit up. It doesn’t help anyone.

    pipenta’s comment is in fact stigmatizing since it only technically refers to “cluster B” personality disorders but is phrased as if it refers to all personality disorders. Okay. Well. That shit happens. People fuck up. You know better but maybe pipenta doesn’t.

    Nobody here has ever attacked you for talking about your experiences with mental health systems, either. Hey, if I’m wrong and they have, let me know and I’ll do your dirty work for you.

  35. danielle75468 says

    would you be willing to write up an account of your experiences with AA as described here, including the clarification and expansion in the comments?

    Sure, what parts would you like clarified and expanded?

  36. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Mainly the information added to the original pieces in your follow-up comments.

  37. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    And I’ll just say this:

    This is of course a lie, Azkyroth.

    First, I’ll concede that it is POSSIBLE that there is some meaningful distinction between what you describe as acceptable and what I’ve been attacked for, but I genuinely don’t see it. As such, this is not a “lie.”

    Second, given that you’re so concerned about stigmatizing, are aware of my disabilities, have implied strong familiarity with mental health conditions and thus should be aware of what ASD symptoms are, and have insisted before that people who aren’t part of a marginalized group (or do you seriously dispute that people with disabilities in general, and specifically people with ASDs, in particular are marginalized?) have no right to dictate how people in it should react to social systems and behaviors that exclude, belittle, or stress them…

    …why do you insist on describing every conclusion I express about others’ intents, or description of my experiences in a conversation with which you disagree – or any statement about social conventions and expectations at any scale, with any detectable hint of bitterness – as a “lie?” Even taking as a given that I’m too much of a defective human being to possibly have a valid perspective informed by different experiences than yours, or at least a valid internal experience that differs from yours, how can you possibly justify dismissing the possibility that I’m simply mistaken?

  38. astrastarr says

    Danielle, In no way do I mean to diminish your experience- but I have to say that is no where near mine. It was AA that helped me open my mind… in AA I became an atheist.

    And there are a few things I want to point out…

    It sounds like your mom was very sick- she manipulated you into going to meetings, but that DOES NOT mean that what AA or Al-anon is about. My dad has 20 yrs sober and NEVER EVER pushed AA on me EVER. I found my own path- he respected it.

    “If I was late or missed a call, I had to make amends to my sponsor.” Thats insane- AA does NOT advocate this.

    “that unless I also was in a 12-step program, I could cause her to drink again.” Its your mom coda issues, not your membership that makes her think that and YOURS if you believe it. Thats just insane thinking and AGAIN NOT ADVOCATED BY ANY 12 STEP PROGRAM. In fact theres a whole 12 step program to fight that exact sick way of thinking.

    You also say “When I went to college, I would take the bus for an hour and a half each way to get to meetings, and spend around 40% of my budget on transportation and donations for these meetings.”
    That’s your own fault- boundaries… you can’t change others but you can change yourself… when I don’t like something I do something about it. You can’t blame AA- you make it look like they were stealing from you or asking for your money and I am sure you know that is a GRAVE MISINTERPRETATION.

    Your last sentence “Sometimes I make mistakes, and they make me feel horrible. But more often I accomplish things, and I get to take full credit and I feel great.”

    That’s what AA gave me. It sounds like sick parents and lack of boundaries exacerbated your difficulties- not al-anon or AA, so on a board such as this when no one knows any better- by bashing those programs- you just continue the misinterpretation to the masses.

  39. astrastarr says

    I have a website for people that are willing to be skeptical of the aa cult nonsense- agnosticrecovery.com

    We can heal from dogmatically influenced systems, while still utilizing proven resources.

  40. Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy says

    That’s your own fault- boundaries… you can’t change others but you can change yourself… when I don’t like something I do something about it.

    How about you change yourself to stop acting like a jerk?

  41. astrastarr says

    Gah!!!!!!!! Im reading these posts and everyone is like ” i had no idea- oh no “… you all call yourselves skeptics?? You read one highly opinionated and over exaggerated post and you throw your hands up??? Thats how lies and conspiracy theories start- not rational thinking!!!

  42. astrastarr says

    Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy

    I am sorry if it sounds like I am being a jerk but A. it is program talk, Danielle shouldn’t take that offensively because she should recognize what I am saying there. It is about codependency… it doesn’t mean she’s bad- but it does mean we have to remove ourselves from unhealthy people… like getting out of an abusive relationship.

    And B. This is a serious issue!!!! People are dying and many of them atheist or agnostic, thinking they have no hope- read stuff like this and will never give any recovery program a try because they think that its a religion. Its not- and they are dying!!

  43. Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy says

    I am sorry if it sounds like I am being a jerk but A. it is program talk

    “That’s your own fault” is program talk?
    Sign me the fuck up!

  44. astrastarr says

    Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy

    Gah no, stop toying with me- its about personal responsibility.

  45. astrastarr says

    AA Atheists and Agnostics

    (AAAA)

    We are an online AA group and cyber-clubhouse oriented toward a naturalistic view of the world. Our primary purpose here is to achieve recovery from alcohol addiction and help others to do the same.

    We hope you find the solution to our common problem in the experience, strength and hope of the many atheists and agnostics who have walked this path.

    https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en&fromgroups#!forum/aa-atheists-and-agnostics

  46. Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy says

    Gah no, stop toying with me

    So it’s not program talk and you’re a jerk?

  47. says

    its about personal responsibility.

    How does that fit with that whole “submit to a higher power” thing that seems to be standard 12-step procedure?
    Seriously, some of us have had discussions here and elsewhere about AA and mostly are not judging the whole thing based on Danielle’s experience. The problem with AA seems to be its variability from chapter to chapter–and when submission to a higher power is an expressed part of the program, there will almost certainly be those who will insist that God is that power. Which is why it should never be part of sentencing in a legal procedure.
    I haven’t had a drink since 1984, one of the reasons why I’m still around. And I still believe that had I convinced myself that I was helpless to change myself, that wouldn’t have happened.

  48. astrastarr says

    To answer that question I would literally have to post my whole website, book and the reflections of others onto this page. Obviously it is not an easy or quick answer but suffice to say, you do not need to believe in god to work 12 steps or to get/stay sober. period.

  49. danielle75468 says

    It sounds like your mom was very sick- she manipulated you into going to meetings, but that DOES NOT mean that what AA or Al-anon is about. My dad has 20 yrs sober and NEVER EVER pushed AA on me EVER. I found my own path- he respected it.

    My mom is very sick. She’s also been sober in AA for over 20 years, and she also never pushed AA on me. Ever. It was her sponsor, her AA friends, my friends in the program, etc. Since I grew up in the program, these people were like my family. They were very influential to me, and when they told me the reason I had a hard time with my mom was because I wasn’t in Alateen, I believed them. When they told me my mom would get better if I was in the program, I believed them. I wanted to help.

    You also say “When I went to college, I would take the bus for an hour and a half each way to get to meetings, and spend around 40% of my budget on transportation and donations for these meetings.”
    That’s your own fault- boundaries… you can’t change others but you can change yourself… when I don’t like something I do something about it. You can’t blame AA- you make it look like they were stealing from you or asking for your money and I am sure you know that is a GRAVE MISINTERPRETATION.

    When I got to college, I had spent several years going to meetings every week, sponsoring other teens, driving them to meetings, going to conferences, Al-Anon get-togethers, chairing meetings, setting up meetings, working the steps, etc. It became my life. I grew up with this, and they told me if I didn’t give my will over to God and do as my sponsor said, I would go insane and live a terrible life either as an alcoholic or married to one. And I believed them. Of course I did, it was all I had ever been taught.

    So, when my sponsor told me I needed to continue going to 3 meetings a week even though the bus fare was $1.50 each way to reach the nearest meetings 20 miles away, when she told me I needed to “break the buck” rule and give at least $2 every meeting instead of $1, that I needed to travel and pay for hotel rooms to go to AA conferences at least 3x a year, I did that. Yes, this is a problem of boundaries, but I couldn’t stop because I didn’t want to – I believed it was a life or death matter. This is what Al-Anon taught me. I was told I need to go to 3 meetings a week for recovery, 2 for stability, and 1 for survival. If I didn’t do all of that, I would never “recover”.

    Your last sentence “Sometimes I make mistakes, and they make me feel horrible. But more often I accomplish things, and I get to take full credit and I feel great.” That’s what AA gave me.

    Bullshit. You can’t possibly be taking full credit for your accomplishments if you credit AA too. If you believe, like I did, that you can’t survive or have a full life without AA, then you have no idea what I’m talking about.

    It sounds like sick parents and lack of boundaries exacerbated your difficulties- not al-anon or AA

    I had sick parents and a lack of boundaries. Al-Anon and AA preyed upon these problems and made them worse. They gave me a strict set of rules to follow, took away my will and replaced it with their own, and destroyed my self confidence.

    so on a board such as this when no one knows any better- by bashing those programs- you just continue the misinterpretation to the masses.

    The masses believe the 12 step programs are good! This is the first time I have ever been able to tell this story to anyone other than my significant other. If I say anything negative about AA to anyone, I am immediately attacked for it and accused of lying and exaggerating. It’s worse than religion.

    If you continue to insist that my experience isn’t what AA is about, that it is somehow perverted and wrong, then your response should not be to silence me or correct me. Instead, you should be concerned about what I have to say so you can go back to AA and try to stop this. I used to go to an annual conference filled several thousand people who worked the AA program exactly the way I was taught to. Every meeting I went to agreed as well. This isn’t an isolated problem, and if you don’t like it then work to stop it.

  50. Cipher, OM, Fighting Fucktoy says

    Danielle, for what it’s worth, thank you for your post. You seem like a wonderful person, and you’re certainly a fantastic writer. I’m sorry astrastarr is being a jerk at you. (And being a pretty terrible example of how “awesome” these programs are, let me tell you.)

  51. danielle75468 says

    This is a serious issue!!!! People are dying and many of them atheist or agnostic, thinking they have no hope- read stuff like this and will never give any recovery program a try because they think that its a religion. Its not- and they are dying!!

    If you believe that people cannot recover without AA and will die without it, then you are proving my point that AA is a cult.

    How can you tell me it was my fault for doing everything I was told to do in this program and still believe that others will die if they don’t do it too?

    To answer that question I would literally have to post my whole website, book and the reflections of others onto this page. Obviously it is not an easy or quick answer but suffice to say, you do not need to believe in god to work 12 steps or to get/stay sober. period.

    Your site doesn’t work – you need a membership to see it. But please, explain to me what “We Agnostics” in the Big Book is supposed to be saying if not that you need to find god or you will be doomed to an alcoholic death?

  52. danielle75468 says

    Azkyroth, I’m sorry, I’m not understanding what you want me to post. It sounds to me like you just want everything copied and pasted together into one comment? Let me know if you want me to write more about something or answer any questions, but I think the comments work best in the context they were written.

  53. astrastarr says

    “If you continue to insist that my experience isn’t what AA is about, that it is somehow perverted and wrong, then your response should not be to silence me or correct me. Instead, you should be concerned about what I have to say so you can go back to AA and try to stop this.”

    You are right about that! I am not saying your experience was invalid or didn’t happen- obviously it happened- but things are not that way where I am, and they don’t have to be that way anywhere. When I say “the masses” I am speaking of the Ag/At community- which from my experience, loathes AA. And I am working on changing that so drunk atheists don’t have to die. That’s why I started my website, and am writing a book. I am not trying to silence you- I am trying to tell people that it doesn’t have to be that way.

    That comment-
    “Bullshit. You can’t possibly be taking full credit for your accomplishments if you credit AA too. If you believe, like I did, that you can’t survive or have a full life without AA, then you have no idea what I’m talking about.”
    I’m not taking full credit for everything, I had help from family and friends. I take credit for things I did, like go back to school, get a degree, write a book, quit my old abusive job, reach out etc…

    I will say thought that my perspective is indeed my opinion- and people should be skeptical and find truths for themselves.

    Recovery is changing- and I see a non theists at the forefront. I am a 12 step advocate- but also other avenues as well. I don’t bash other programs… whatever works for you is great. Therapy, doctor, SmartR, RR, message boards, friends, rehab, books and AA …

  54. danielle75468 says

    Everyone, thank you for reading and commenting. It’s been really great for me to talk about all of this. I’m not “out” to anyone but my significant other.

    This was really important for me to write because when I was thinking of leaving Al-Anon, I couldn’t find anyone else who had written about leaving it. I believed the stories I was told that everyone who left started drinking, got depressed, got divorces, got into terrible relationships and lost their jobs, etc. The only criticism I could find of the 12 steps was that episode of Bullshit (which, I’m sorry to say is not convincing to someone in the program, and actually caused me to reconsider leaving for a few more weeks.)

    I hope I might be able to offer a way out for others stuck in the program. And for those who chose to stay, I hope they can take this criticism and use it to change their program for the better. I don’t want this to happen to other children.

  55. astrastarr says

    My website-
    agnosticrecovery.com

    the other website is a grp- not started by me- for Ag/At in AA

    If you want to read it- I have written about language in AA material, and also the cult thing…

    http://agnosticrecovery.com/faqs.html
    http://agnosticrecovery.com/blog.html

    I’d really like some support, the 12 steps are one avenue and people are working on making that avenue to take it out of the archaic and discover its potential. I am just one of those people- there’s a lot more out there.

    I recommend the book- http://www.hijackingthebrain.com/

  56. astrastarr says

    “I hope I might be able to offer a way out for others stuck in the program. And for those who chose to stay, I hope they can take this criticism and use it to change their program for the better.”

    I think this is noble and I support the essence of what you are doing. If its not for you, then do what is healthy for you. Like I said- things are changing… I support change. I hope people like you and I can create that change.

  57. astrastarr says

  58. danielle75468 says

    I’d love to get your input on my work and I wish you luck. I’m sorry If it sounded like I was attacking, I simply am frustrated with the ‘hating’. I’d rather live in the solution.

    I don’t think the solution lies with AA or any 12-step program. The Big Book explicitly states that all atheists or agnostics who do not find god either weren’t alcoholic to begin with, or they will die an alcoholic death.

    We used to sum up the 12 steps as trust god, clean house, help others. That is flawed.

    I understand godless alcoholics will change the trust god part to trust the group or some other “higher power”, but this is nonsense. There is no higher power to “restore sanity” it’s only the alcoholic himself. A lot of emphasis is placed on “deflating the self” by calling the alcoholic insane, powerless, diseased, etc. I don’t think this helps, and only serves to make them dependent on the group – replacing one addiction for another.

    The clean house part can helpful. However, the way the 12-steps goes about it is very religious and cult-ish. Instead of admitting your flaws to yourself and doing something about them to change like a capable adult, you’re told to admit this to god, yourself, and another person, and then pray and wait for god to just take these problems away from you.

    The help others part can also be helpful, but again AA has problems here. The sponsorship aspect of AA really turns it into a cult. Instead of having a support group of casual friends you can turn to, there was a strange hierarchy with pecking order and tons of rules. When I left the group, all of these people – my “family” who I had known for years or decades never spoke to me again. They were afraid contact with me could cause them to leave too, because that’s what they were told. That isn’t friendship at all.

    Support groups can work. It was great to have a room of people I could vent to who understood me and came up and hugged me afterward. Like joining a major religion, I knew I could go to any city and find a meeting like this. However, if you only leave the support group and remove the 12 steps and the Big Book, it’s not AA anymore.

    things are not that way where I am, and they don’t have to be that way anywhere.

    Just like fundamentalist Christians can use the Bible to justify their positions (and be correct according to the Bible) the AA/Al-Anon groups I was in can use the Big Book to justify everything they do. As long as the Big Book stays the same and is looked to so highly, there will always be “fundamentalist” AA groups like the ones I was in.

  59. danielle75468 says

    A few parts I missed and wanted to clarify:

    “If I was late or missed a call, I had to make amends to my sponsor.” Thats insane- AA does NOT advocate this.

    In my “sponsorship line” that’s what we did. It was quite a big line too, several hundred to a thousand people across the US, and we got this rule from an even larger sponsorship line in AA. You’re right, there is nothing in AA that tells you to call your sponsor every day, to make amends if you miss a call, or even to have a sponsor in the first place. But sponsorship is a tradition that has been around since the beginning of AA. Each sponsor passes on “advice” or a “suggestion” to their sponsee (with the implication that if the sponsee doesn’t follow this advice they will drink again or something) and then that sponsee passes it on to their sponsees. As it gets passed along, it goes from “why don’t you try this” to “our whole line does this, if you don’t do it you won’t recover”.

    Yes, you can “fire” your sponsor, but where I was almost everyone had a sponsor in my line. If you didn’t, you got left out. We had special birthday parties, anniversary parties, conferences, weekend trips to someone’s cottage, etc. If you left the sponsorship line, you left all of this too. And you couldn’t be as close with you “sister sponsees” anymore.

    “that unless I also was in a 12-step program, I could cause her to drink again.” Its your mom coda issues, not your membership that makes her think that and YOURS if you believe it. Thats just insane thinking and AGAIN NOT ADVOCATED BY ANY 12 STEP PROGRAM. In fact theres a whole 12 step program to fight that exact sick way of thinking.

    My mom didn’t tell me that, it was other people in the program who did. And of course, they didn’t say it in these exact ways. Instead, they told me it was a “family disease”. I was told everyone in my family was affected by alcoholism. That meant I was too. I was insane, and needed god to restore me to sanity. We would only be a healthy family if our entire family was in recovery. And if we weren’t a healthy family, my mom would be more likely to drink.

    Of course, on top of that they add that I didn’t Cause my mom’s alcoholism, I can’t Cure it and I can’t Control it. But when the underlying message is that this is a family disease – that we are making each other sicker unless we go into recovery – it just doesn’t work.

  60. says

    The problem with AA seems to be its variability from chapter to chapter–and when submission to a higher power is an expressed part of the program, there will almost certainly be those who will insist that God is that power.

    No, the problem is, despite the denialism going on here, that the “core” of the original AA program is religion, and that the ***primary*** difference between those people having horrible experiences and good ones is that *some* chapters admit that it flat out doesn’t work as religion, keep all the 12 step BS, but add in just enough from secular programs to be helpful. They still basically lie about their success rates. I don’t remember what the 100% secular programs have claimed for success, but I think it was somewhere around 20%. See, the difference here is that AA, as in, “the one based on the nonsense religion BS, whether its now using secular elements or not”, and all its cousins, isn’t a federal/state program, it is run by a religious group, and as such it does not have to comply with the same rules. One of the rules that *all* fed/state programs are required to do is try to work out why people leave, and keep some sort of track, after leaving the program, of redidivism. That is why programs like AA basically lie and claim a 95% success, when they really only often have a 5% success, then turn around and say, “But we are better than the non-religious ones, which only have a 20% success rate!”

    Its completely irrelevant to the original nature of the program if its cheating on its own rules, to semi-secularize the program, in those chapters that are vaguely honest about how poor the programs actually are at what they try to do. Its only slightly relevant that this secularization is happening, because it doesn’t change the fact that they refuse to give up the total bullshit in the process. And, I am sorry, but people, all the time, find *lots* of things that help them out of addiction. The simple fact that they can’t seem to do better than chance, and they hide behind, “Its religious, so we don’t have to bother to keep real track of, never mind prove, our numbers.”, when confronted about whether or not it works better than just flat stopping on your own, doesn’t mean it can’t work for some people. Obviously it does. The question isn’t if it does, the question is, “Does it do anything for them that any other random thing they choose to do would have, and if not, why not go with a secular program, where the organization that runs it at least give a frak if you drop out (even if its only because the law says they have to)?”

    That key issue is the major problem I have with them. And, just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that the more “secularized” branches don’t make some attempt to do so, and that this doesn’t maybe improve their success rates a bit (since it means the members, and the person running that branch, actually care enough to lend real support), but it doesn’t change, at all, the fact that the program, at its core, is one in a long list of what is fairly indistinguishable from what Penn and Teller titled, “Self Helpless”, programs. A lot of fairly common sense ideas, shackled to raging nonsense, which either helps you, or hooks you like a fish, because it doesn’t distinguish between that works, and actually solves the problems, and what simply replaces one addiction with another. And, if you have to keep attending meetings, because you are never “cured”, and your scared that you will fall again without them, its an addiction.

  61. says

    When I say “the masses” I am speaking of the Ag/At community- which from my experience, loathes AA. And I am working on changing that so drunk atheists don’t have to die.

    So, you want us to change our minds, so we can join your cult, instead of attending one of many demonized, but non-religion driven 100% secular, programs, which, being state/fed run, actually have to show evidence they work on some level, not a long list of, “Here are the anecdotal stories of thousands of people that thought they saw the image of Jesus on a build… oh, wait, sorry, wrong bullshit anecdotal defense.” In any case, assertions of members/eye witnesses are not allowed in secular programs, since its biases the result **against** failures, even more so when there is no legal requirement, at all, for religious programs to track/report such.

    So, you can take your testimonials and stuff them the same place, imho, as the people giving it for their sub-branch of religion does. And that is being “kind”, since you seem to be unable to recognize that their very wording/nature of your arguments is a) something you would outright reject if it was presented for a religion, and b) cultish. Have some coolaid ready, I am sure, sadly, being all too human, some atheists/agnostics will happily drink it, once they hit rock bottom, and your site looks like a way out. But, there is a reason why, in many states, it is now deemed **illegal** to require someone to attend AA, instead of a secular alternative, and its not because of some false bias, against the program. Its just sad that it isn’t illegal everywhere…

  62. astrastarr says

    This is the AA preamble:

    ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

    The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions.
    A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes.
    Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

    In my opinion the basic core of what 12 step programs are and why they work for whom they work for is 2 things… group therapy/interaction and CBT. Alot of AA is CBT, even though the founders did not realize thats what they were doing. AA never claimed a 95% success rate. The results of a survey that was done are on Wikipedia if you would like to see them. Keep in mind that the majority of alcoholics, whether in any program or not, will not recover and die from something alcohol related.

    “See, the difference here is that AA, as in, “the one based on the nonsense religion BS, whether its now using secular elements or not”, and all its cousins, isn’t a federal/state program, it is run by a religious group, and as such it does not have to comply with the same rules. ”

    AA is not “run by a religious group”. Each individual group is autonomous and is supposed to be. I think each individual group get its own tax id if they open a bank account and are considered a 503 C. AA, when it was started in 1935- was more like “the moose lodge” or “the elks club”. It was a fraternity. Now a-days I would say its more like a grassroots organization. There are no leaders, each group is autonomous etc.

  63. danielle75468 says

    In my opinion the basic core of what 12 step programs are and why they work for whom they work for is 2 things… group therapy/interaction and CBT.

    So if that’s all there is to it, why not get rid of the spiritual parts of the 12 steps (which is most of them), the outdated, sexist, theistic Big Book, the lifetime membership, and the proselytizing? If it weren’t for these things, I would have no problem with AA – it wouldn’t be AA anymore.

    Keep in mind that the majority of alcoholics, whether in any program or not, will not recover and die from something alcohol related.

    I really hate going into studies and statistics about alcoholism and recovery. It’s a very hard thing to study reliably. But I’ve never seen a study say the majority of alcoholics will not recover and die. A 60-year study of alcoholics showed that nearly 3/4 of those still alive at the end of the study (unfortunately they didn’t study causes of death) were no longer abusing alcohol.

    The AA studies showed approximately 26% of newcomers are still in AA after a year, which is about as close as they can get to a success rate with an anonymous group. However, a similar study showed a 35% “success rate” among the general population of alcoholics, in AA or out. Another study concluded AA and 12 step programs are not effective at all.

    AA is not “run by a religious group”. … There are no leaders, each group is autonomous etc.

    Please see comment #35 for my thoughts about this.

  64. says

    AA is not “run by a religious group”.

    So, they get their individual, “big book of how things are done”, from entirely autonomous sources too then? Maybe some do. But, again, I will repeat, the inclination of such groups to ignore/recreate only parts of, or otherwise ignore, the original religious components of the program ***is a modern thing, not how it originally worked***.

    Also, I am sorry, but creating “dependence” on a group is not the same as group therapy. The point of curing addictions is to stop the negative behavior, and move on with your life. When the system pretty much requires that you continue attending, insists that you can’t ever stop, or you will fail, and the **primary** core of this is a dependence on the existence of a group, instead of actually addressing the problems which really lead to the original addiction, which is ***not*** one of the 12 steps at all, no matter how you try to twist one of them into that, its still a cult, and not a recovery program, even if its no longer “religious”.

    You don’t “cure” someone of problems involving their behavior, and self esteem, and ability to make sound decisions by telling them they are unable to make decisions, can’t behave, and destroying what ever self esteem they still have. You do it by figuring out *why* they are having problems, and addressing the actual causes. 12 step programs, from step one, do the ***exact opposite***.

  65. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Seriously, some of us have had discussions here and elsewhere about AA and mostly are not judging the whole thing based on Danielle’s experience.

    I, for instance, have had EXTENSIVE secondhand experience with it and what Danielle has to say is completely consistent with that experience.