The Cult Called A.A.

[excerpt]

The whole A.A. program hinges upon the alcoholic's acceptance of what A.A. calls a "higher power." Conversely, adherents to the twelve-step program are expected to renounce any personal responsibility for, or control over, their problem. This blatant renunciation of the concept of free will is also a characteristic of every single other cult I can think of — the individual counts for nothing, while the non-existent, the illusory, the hypothetical, is all. Self-respecting, proud, analytical achievers do not make good cult members. A cult follower must be stripped of his sense of individual worth — in many sects, he is humiliated sexually, deprived of sensory stimuli, sequestered from the larger community, or otherwise manipulated to look upon himself as degraded and worthless. In A.A., you are plopped in a ring of cultists every evening and pressured to place your entire destiny in the hands of some "higher power."

Pretty concise and precise dissertation on why AA is probably not the recovery method of choice for godless freethinkers, nor any other 12 step based program for that matter. Echoes my sentiments very closely. I've knocked up enough detox frequent flyer miles to have an opinion about this stuff, and all I can say is AA drove me to drink just to drown the dumbness out. Do not believe the AA evangelicals that drill it into you that it is the only program that works, because that's horseshit. There are others, SMART Recovery for example. Any competent counselor should have available alternatives. If they don't, get another counselor because they're not doing their job.

I know there are atheists here for whom AA does work. This is not meant to be a criticism of you. If it works for you, then good for you and keep on going. This is for everyone else out there that may not be coping and being told AA is the be all and end all.

Tags: 12 step, aa, alcohol, alcoholics anonymous, drugs, gambling, narcotics anonymous, recovery, substance abuse

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Warren, I agree with your points here. I think it's clearly wrong for courts to require people to attend AA when its written materials are so flagrantly religious in nature. I was just pointing out that Tarquin's experience could easily happen as well, based on local differences.
Yes. I agree with you Jason. I am not arguing with Tarquin's experiences. I am presenting my own and my knowledge about how AA works as an organization.
@Tarquin and Warren: I don't know what you guys have experienced, but AA does not claim to cure alcoholism. Hence everyone is a recovering alcoholic, never an ex-alcoholic. We are all powerless and by extention helpless. This is the whole problem. AA offers stasis, a holding pattern away from harm. The only way to maintain that holding pattern is to attend meetings. If that's not cult-like, I don't know what is.

@Tarquin: There is NO OBLIGATION TO: attend meetings

That's bollocks and you know it. Every detox drills it into you like a mantra on leaving - 50 meetings in 50 days. Not to mention court orders and parole conditions for the less fortunately situated of us.

I consider the claim that AA is a cult ignorant and irresponsible.

And your defensiveness tells me it is. QED. You neglected to notice that both I and the author of the article stated that if AA works for you, great, keep going.

What both I and the author agree upon is that there is relentless propaganda out there, much like what you have just said yourself, that AA is the ONLY solution. This is a lie. And it is a despicable lie when it is force fed to vulnerable, damaged people in the early stages of recovery. Of course that is all really great news for all the 13th steppers out there.
Felch,
Well actually AA does claim to cure alcoholism and it also says that it doesn't at the same time (flim flam) - lol. In the Big Book in the first pages it states We are fellowship of men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind body.
This was the view of some of the groups I was in.

However, you are correct in stating that AA also says that this "recovery" is something that must always be maintained over and over again i.e.. stasis. This is stated in their text: We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.
This was the view of some of the other groups I was in - particularly the more cult like ones.

This is an example of just one of the many contradictions in AA and why even members cannot present a coherent philosophy or effective treatment of addiction or addictive behaviors. Sure it "works" for some. But, I question this premise as well. I think that a person abstaining from alcohol is the result of the efforts of the person who really wants to abstain from alcohol. This success is then attributed to their AA group and their wacky 12 steps to "spiritual awakening" .

Regardless, Felch, I am sure you would agree there are far better methods for agnostics and atheists to address addictions. SMART being one, RR being another and science may also provide actual cures someday.
The status quo in AA will never recognize this though. Many in AA would prefer to hang on to their archaic mode of praying to a door knob and reading a 80 year old piece of shitty literature written by a deluded stock broker, whilst meeting in a church basement drinking crappy coffee.

It is my belief that as science continue to research addiction and discovers actual cures for addictions - that someday AA and the XA family will be looked at as the superstitious, outdated and contradictory bullshit that they are by future generations.
"@Tarquin and Warren: I don't know what you guys have experienced, but AA does not claim to cure alcoholism. Hence everyone is a recovering alcoholic, never an ex-alcoholic. We are all powerless and by extention helpless. This is the whole problem. AA offers stasis, a holding pattern away from harm. The only way to maintain that holding pattern is to attend meetings. If that's not cult-like, I don't know what is"


I don't remember saying anything about a cure. I really have no idea if alcoholism is a disease for everyone or if there is a cure. Abstinence works for me .I also mentioned I have not been to AA in over 4 years.

The cliche here is '90 meetings in 90 days' .The most I ever manged was 7 a week for 28 days,which was during my rehab.Then it was 3 times a week for two years, then once a week for a year. Then I stopped entirely. I've been once in that time,when I 12th stepped someone. I have always ignored the dogmatic morons.The ONLY rule I've followed is 'don't pick up the first drink'. I took the Big Book at its word;"these are SUGGESTIONS for improvement"---I chose to ignore most of the suggestions.

I have had a confidant and friend in AA,(one) but never a sponsor.I never embraced the AA fellowship outside of meetings as most of are 'em are nuts or very twitchy,and you can't trust a drunk not to drink. AA was a means to an end for me,not a lifestyle choice nor a panacea.

It seems obvious that my experience is different from others. That's OK. In my opinion,those differences do not invalidate any of our experiences,nor allow allow any sweeping generalisations about AA as an organisation.

Today my only concern is my life is incomparably better than when I was drinking. I also realise if I had not stopped ,I would probably be dead by now,or worse,in some wet brain ward.

To be blunt,I really don't care all that much about the 'why' of it. I do care about the 'what' IE I'm sober and thrilled to be alive with most of my marbles. I will continue not picking up the first drink a day at a time.That's worked for going on 8 years,and suits me just fine.

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"What both I and the author agree upon is that there is relentless propaganda out there, much like what you have just said yourself, that AA is the ONLY solution.'

I did not say nor mean to imply any such thing. My position is that I am unaware of any other programme which is able to claim a higher success rate of long term recovery(in excess of 5%)

My defensiveness was due to not reading the post thoroughly. To imply I'm wrong or have been brainwashed because I disagree with you is an ad hominem attack.

I have nothing further to say on this matter.
@Tarquin

I applaud you for your abstinence. But, did AA really help you stay sober, or did you do it yourself?
From what I am reading about your experience - you thankfully did not buy into the hardcore AA line.

Unfortunately I did. This was after I was labeled an alcoholic by my mother as a teenager and sent off to meetings. Needless to say, as a teenager I had not yet developed a sufficient BS detector and I bought the whole thing - hook line and sinker and it harmed me in more ways than it helped me.

If it was you that stayed abstinent - then AA was superfluous. If it was the group and the fellowship "tool" that helped you to remain abstinent, you could have gone to a weekly meeting of abstinent poker players to stay sober.
And I don't care about the "how" or "why" either if it works. I just want to make the point that AA is not the only solution (and by it's own admission, if not yours, is not a cure). As a short term get-straight-quick program it does work for many. However, there is a minority (and I would guess more often with the godless) for whom AA can be a soul destroying disaster of forced socialisation, group confession and to be brutally honest, a voyeurism / exhibitionism freakshow which can shatter a fragile psyche. To sell it and only it to people needing help is wrong, and it is this attitude that there is no alternative that is irresponsible.
Felch,

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For writing that.

I am one of those people that you are describing where AA was a personality destroying disaster.
I can't tell you how angry I am about the years of my life that were wasted going in circles in AA because of the false belief that there were no alternatives and the constant equivocating by doubtful members about the harm AA does to some people.

I find it sort of ironic that there is even an argument about the value of a "spiritual program" on an atheist social network.

This is the first time I have expressed this experience and my opinion of AA openly, because I feel safe enough on this site to express it.
I don't have any experience with AA but I do have some with NA. I went to a meeting one time with my recovering girlfriend at the time. My biggest problem with the program is that they tell you that you are powerless and that you cannot fix yourself. You must give yourself up to a higher power, I see that as a huge copout. I think this might also contribute to relapses. A friend of my current girlfriend has been in and out of NA for about a decade. She is now a scripture rambling god freak who thinks that she can only be saved from her addiction by getting strength from god. When you take the blame off of yourself it's much easier to slip and have that first drink or hit. I've even heard her say "I can have one drink, god won't let me have any more." Of course every time she does have that first drink she ends up with a needle in her arm or a pipe in her mouth. She tries to gain her strength from an imaginary friend and she learned this from NA. This I think is the biggest problem in the approach of AA or NA. Nobody should be told that they have no power. Accept responsibility for your actions and maybe you can hope to defeat your "demons" some day.
My biggest problem with the program is that they tell you that you are powerless and that you cannot fix yourself. You must give yourself up to a higher power, I see that as a huge copout. I think this might also contribute to relapses.

I've wondered about that, too. If the 'other' is of such great power that it renders the individual powerless, then it seems rather inevitable that one will relapse. And the only recourse seems to be replacing one external power with another. The 'higher power' may be whatever one wants it to be, but I just cant help seeing it as being like "The Devil made me do; only God's Grace can save me".
meh... fair point
I struggled mightily with alcoholism in the early 1980s. I quit drinking in 1984, and I did it without AA.
As I understand it, the first thing you're supposed to do is admit your powerlessness over the problem. I still feel that had I done that, I would have been doomed. I was not powerless, and although it took numerous tries, I took charge of the addiction. It was always in my hands, it still is, and next month makes 26 freaking years. I can't imagine having spent all those years depending on some "higher power" to keep me sober--it just seems so much healthier from a psychological standpoint to depend on myself.

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