Hello and welcome!
My name’s Bob, and I’m a former member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I left AA three years ago following a brief relapse, and subsequently ‘converted’ to Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) with a modicum of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Please note, however, I am merely a lay practitioner, essentially self-taught in these disciplines, having received no formal training. I do not speak for either of these therapies, nor do I consider myself an authority on them. Neither does my eight-year AA membership qualify me as an expert on Alcoholics Anonymous. This is simply a space for me to share my experience strength and hope in regards to maladaptive drinking, leaving AA, and recovering from recovery
Although some of the material contained herein will challenge/criticise the core tenets of AA, this is NOT an anti-AA blog. It is not my intent to denigrate Alcoholics Anonymous as a whole, or dissuade people from attending. AA was there for me when every other option was unavailable. It undoubtedly saved my life, and my sanity. Conversely, AA has negatively impacted me in some ways, and my continued attendance did contribute to (but not cause) my relapse.
Whilst Alcoholics Anonymous might not have worked for me long-term, it has literally saved millions of lives. I would still recommend it for those experiencing problems with maladaptive drinking. For the most part, a new attendee will find understanding and sincere support from peers who genuinely want to help others achieve abstinence. Additionally, it’s free and widely available the world over. There is only one requirement for membership: the desire to stop drinking. Nobody is anybody in AA, but everybody is somebody. A person could be a billionaire or a pauper, and he or she would more often than not be welcomed with open arms.
Unfortunately, given AA’s decentralised and autonomous structure, it’s impossible to avoid overgeneralising, and unfeasible to accurately portray it. Please keep this in mind as you read my posts. As a fallible human being, I will inevitably fall into the part/whole error from time-to-time. One thing I will not be doing, however, is referring to AA as a cult, because it isn’t! I totally understand why some people might have reached that conclusion: some of the more fundamentalist members/groups (ingloriously referred to as AA Nazis, Big Book Bashers, Traditionalists) certainly do behave cultishly. Fortunately, though, in my experience, such members/groups are the minority, not the norm. That said, most members are quite protective of AA’s ‘design for living,’ and calling it into question, especially during a meeting, is unlikely to be well received.
My unasked-for advice to anybody considering going to AA, is to try out a number of groups, a couple of times each. You’ll soon know if it’s not for you. If, however, somebody claims that AA is the only way to achieve abstinence, and that you’ll be damned to a life of jails, institutions and death if you don’t completely give yourself to the AA program, I’d recommend you give them a wide berth. AA might have been the only option for many years, but now there are plenty (please see my post It Works if You Work It).
In addition to these new options (some of which have been around quite a while), the way in which professionals think about so-called alcoholism, and the language they use to describe it, has changed quite dramatically. As an adherent to the cognitive behavioural therapies, I tend to refer to alcoholism as maladaptive drinking/behaviour, addictive behaviour, and occasionally alcohol/substance misuse in an effort to avoid repetition. Additionally, I rarely use the terms ‘sober’ or ‘sobriety,’ preferring instead ‘abstinent’ or ‘abstinence;’ I may, however, use the former to refrain from overuse of a word or phrase.
Leaving AA has without a doubt been a bitter-sweet experience. I do sometimes yearn for the comradery. Unfortunately, it has proven difficult to maintain friendships with people who still attend, perhaps because I inadvertently challenge their very belief system. Additionally, I occasionally miss being a member of a worldwide fellowship, and contributing to something greater than self (although that could be achieved through other means). The benefits far outweigh the costs, though. Leaving has enabled me to finally admit that I am an existential nihilist; a philosophical stance I found very difficult to reconcile with AA’s core tenets. It’s also enabled me to reject some of the more dubious ideas I found in AA, as well as finally find a path that’s right for me. I have been much more content since my relapse, than I was during my eight years in AA.
I’d love to say that this is my new medium for carrying my new message, but it isn’t. This blog is a cathartic exercise; one which (I hope) will help me to recover from recovery for good.