I am genuinely envious of the AA member who unquestioningly embraces the core principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and lives a relatively meaningful and purposeful life through the embodiment of AA’s primary purpose; regrettably, I am not one such individual. Following a tumultuous couple of years, which ended in relapse, I left the Fellowship; I had been a sober member for eight years.
My relapse was the culmination of years spent in cognitive dissonance, as I attempted to reconcile antithetic beliefs with AA’s core tenets. Essentially, I had concluded that alcohol use disorder (AUD) was not a chronic illness over which we were powerless, and that what members mistook for the hand of god could be explained by changes in attitude and behaviour, apophenia, confirmation bias, the herd mentality and the social instinct.
For a while I had deluded myself that AA’s Third Tradition could provide a reprieve. The thought of abandoning something I had invested eight years of my life in was quite overwhelming. Once I had determined, however, that AUD was probably a maladaptive behaviour, NOT a cunning, baffling, all-powerful malady which negated free will, my membership was null and void; AA’s corner stone had become its weakest link. Consequently, the need for a god dissipated: as a lack of power was no longer a dilemma, I didn’t need a power greater than myself to solve it.
It has to be said that leaving Alcoholics Anonymous was not unlike leaving a cult. I had been inadvertently programmed to view myself and my role in the world in a particular way – a way that wasn’t necessarily healthy or helpful (for me). The negative impact of some aspects of the Fellowship continued to plague me long after I had left. Fortunately, I discovered Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), which has enabled me to abrogate much of the stinking thinking I acquired in AA.
Despite my apostasy, I am not anti Alcoholics Anonymous, and I’m not intent on denigrating the Fellowship as a whole. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the camaraderie and the sense of belonging and purpose it once afforded. Neither am I of the opinion that Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t work; I just don’t believe it works for the reasons I had once hoped.
Conversely, however, there is much awry with AA. Its Basic Text is grossly out-dated, both in content and language, and its 1930’s medical estimate is incongruent with current models of alcohol use disorder. Although lauded as a spiritual, not religious, programme, many members do exhibit attributes commonly associated with cults; this is sadly to the detriment of the whole Fellowship. Such members’ insistence that Alcoholics Anonymous is the only way to achieve abstention is a complete fallacy, and, despite what they purport, leaving AA need not eventuate in what I suspect is a self-fulfilling prophecy of relapse, misery and death.
Naturally, the contents herein are just a reflection of my own experience. They are essentially an exploration of how I progressed from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body to AA zealot, AA skeptic, and finally to AA apostate.
Up-dated 03 December, 2018