What is your opinion on/impression of Alcoholics Anonymous?

I know some people see it as a cult of sorts. Also, have you ever been to a meeting?

9 Answers

  • raysny
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Not favorable. I've attended hundreds of meetings in 5 states since 1982. (They're about as different as different MacDonalds.) If they are not a cult, they are at least cult-like. Of course, I'd say that about any organization that promised me that if I left the fold, I'd die.

    For years I was told that AA was the only way to quit drinking. I was repelled by the religious aspects of the program and all the people running around claiming that AA is "spiritual, not religious" doesn't change the fact that a 6-year old would call it religious.

    People kept telling me that I must have gotten it wrong, or gone to a few bad meetings, that anyone regardless of religious beliefs is welcomed with open arms.

    Page 77 of the Big Book states, "Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us." How can anyone claim that this is not religious? Every time the question has been put before a higher court, the final decision is that AA is at least "religious in nature".

    Some will claim you can choose any god you want, but in practice, your god must be a deity with the same micro-managing attributes as everyone elses. AA evolved out of a Christian sect, the Oxford Group.

    The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps


    But even if you can accept the bastardized Christianity of AA, with no Free Will, miracles on demand, and the idea that alcohol is so powerful that even God can't fix it, only grant a daily reprieve, the powerless concept is another story and perhaps the most damaging aspect of 12step treatment. It is contrary to most therapies where a person is empowered in order to make positive changes in their lives. How powerlessness affects alcoholics:

    "In a sophisticated controlled study of A.A.'s effectiveness (Brandsma et. al.), court-mandated offenders who had been sent to Alcoholics Anonymous for several months were engaging in FIVE TIMES as much binge drinking as another group of alcoholics who got no treatment at all, and the A.A. group was doing NINE TIMES as much binge drinking as another group of alcoholics who got rational behavior therapy.

    "Those results are almost unbelievable, but are easy to understand -- when you are drunk, it's easy to rationalize drinking some more by saying,

    " "Oh well, A.A. says that I'm powerless over alcohol. I can't control it, so there is no sense in trying. I'm doomed, because I already took a drink. I'm screwed, because I already lost all of my sober time. Might as well just relax and enjoy it. Pass that bottle over here, buddy." "


    And that's not as disturbing as the Vaillant study

    ( http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-effectiveness.... )\

    which showed that the success rate of AA was the same as no treatment at all (5%) but had a mortality rate SIX times higher (3% vs. 0.5%, mostly from suicide).

    As an atheist, I was told that it was impossible to get sober without God, that I was going to end up dead and drunk in a gutter. As a human being, I was told that I was powerless and unless God chose to grant me a daily reprieve, I was doomed.

    AA wouldn't be so bad if they would admit they are religious, and they did not actively persue new members by petitioning the courts:


    Over 60% of peole who join AA do so due to mandates of the courts, other government agencies or employee assistance programs. Considering this is a violation of the Establishment Clause, this practice should be illeagal and has been declared so in at least 16 states; yet, it still occurs. Forcing people into inappropriate treatment that doesn't work is self-defeating. AA has a 95% dropout rate in the first year. Because of their practices, they are creating a new sub-class of people, the ex-AA member. And some of us are unhappy with the experience.

    Nope, don't think much of the program.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I did have a problem with religions and cults when I can into the Fellowship. I was already against them. I thought religious folk were hypocrites, pious and probably all going to hell all the while they thought they were going to heaven.

    Then I found that AA had no GOD it wanted me to honor or worship. They said I could bring my own God. They were telling already-religious people to keep their own religion if they wished. That is how I knew AA was not a religion or cult- because how could one bring a religion or cult to another religion. It can't be done - It would be against the religion /cult itself.

    And I REALLY discovered that it was not a trick to get me to accept a religion when they told me if I did not have a God, then I could invent one as an experiment just so I could try out their treatment. No, that's NOT a religion or cult talking.

    So it is pitiful to me when I see the Anti-AA Cults come marching in with their wiles about AA being a religion.

    Since I was not initially on 'speaking terms' with the God of my understanding, I took a temporary 'god' - my AA group. That was all there was to making a beginning and only a beginning - nothing more. Nothing less. Very uncomplicated and very un-mysterious once I got down to it.

    Today I still have a problem with religions. I am totally against them for myself. If AA were a religion, I would have nothing to do with it!! Yet I have developed an incredible relationship with my newfound Friend. He is my own concept, which I have never revealed to a single soul. He has never let me down. Not in life. Not in sobriety. This is spirituality in my life.

    How it will be for you, I cannot say.


    Danny S

  • indigo
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    I went to the reccomended 90 meetings in 90 days. It became a nightmare. I wanted to stop drinking, not join a new religion.

    At first, people seemed nice, but they kept hugging and touching me and asking for my phone number. (if people did this in a bar, would you let them? it's creepy!) At the very first meeting a half a dozen people approached me and told me "to not worry about all the God stuff they said, I'd get it later." When I stated that I had been raised in a christian church, and already had a very clear concept of religion/God I was told "oh, don't worry, we'll fix that." Everyone told me how much they loved me.... until I expressed ideas different from theirs.

    I tried attending meetings all over a major city. Every single group was overly religious - I had to embrace THEIR concept of a micromanaging, all powerful God. If I did not believe that by following their steps, God would save me from "jails institutions and DEATH!" then I would die alone in a gutter.

    I was also told to publically admit how I was "powerless" over alcohol. I spent 2 years in college studying science - let me tell you, alcohol is NOT powerful. It's a clear liquid. It has no supernatural ability to MAKE me drink it :-p

    I was discouraged from finding a better job (it could be stressful) hit on at virtually every meeting (google 13th stepping), and spent my time with a bunch of unemployed ex-cons. I was constantly berated for "thinking too much" and told how stupid I really was. One women's group thought it would be "helpful" to call me a sl*t ... aparently having a boyfriend is a no - no during the first year of sobriety. I was strongly encouraged to cut off my old friends (even the ones who didn't drink) and to stop calling my family. "AA was my family now" (yes, they said that, yes it's cult like and creepy)

    I find any group that enforces the conformity or death idea to be unacceptable. I simply stopped attending meetings - not one of the 100 people I'd given my number to has ever called. Once you leave, you're totally on your own, and all the support disapears. I also find it totally unacceptable that people are court ordered to join a religious group. If you want to punish a drunk driver, violating the Constitution is not the way to do it.

    Before I get flamed, I did find a fantastic job, and have had no "urges" to drink since. I love my work and my life too much to keep downing a bottle of jack a night.

    Another poster has listed excellent references, I would strongly encourage anyone thinking of joining to read them - AA is a cult (albiet not the most evil out there). If you want to quit drinking, there are several other options. The most simple - DON'T PICK UP A DRINK!

    Just as a post script to my origional answer - Why do you NEED God (or a God figure) in order to not drink? The concept simply does not make sense to me.... God doesn't do anything else for me on a daily basis, nor does he save millions of people from earthquakes, tsunamis or cyclones....why would he jump now and keep me from drinking when he gave me the ability (will and intellegence) to stop on my own.

    Also, please read 1984 by George Orwell. That should give anyone considering making a group of people their higher power something to think about :-p

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I have been to thousands of meetings, but left after 12 years as I could not honestly believe the aa spiritual program was really true.

    I am no better than most aa members, except some old timers who know better but are lazy and set in their ways. AA and most rehabs are hyped up, full of misinformation and help in the short term, but not the long term.

    I refer people to smartrecovery.org nowadays.

    Source(s): 25 yrs sober
  • I go weekly although the religious crap is really starting to get to me.

    The meetings themselves aren't *supposed* to be inherently religious as to be inclusive, however sometimes certain meetings become that way.

    If over mention of God and Jesus offends you, you might want to try another self-help group besides AA like Second Chance (which doesn't even do the whole 12 step thing).

    Over all though, my experiences of AA have been pleasant.

  • 1 decade ago

    I love it when people answer questions like yours based on their "impression." As a former member of AA who went to meetings for nine years, I have more than an "impression"...and I KNOW it's a cult because I've SEEN what goes on.

    Here's what happened to me. Ten years ago, I had a terrible drinking problem, which had been going on for 25 years. I decided to quit drinking after some horrible things happened in my life. I "knew" because I'd heard it so much that I "had to" go to AA. So I went. My first impression was that it was nonsense, but I kept going because the people were so nice to me. They totally love bombed me and after a while I got to like it. I ignored the stuff that didn't make sense (which was most of it) and before long found myself in the middle of the group. Speaking, running meetings, becoming involved in the service structure, going to conventions, the whole nine yards. I thought I would never leave. The group replaced my family and most of my friends.

    But I went to individual therapy at the same time. A lot of what I learned about myself and my reasons for drinking conflicted with AA dogma, so I found myself editing everything I was saying in AA to "fit" the approved story line. Here I was, supposedly "practicing a program of rigorous honesty"...but slanting the truth to fit within the confines of what you are allowed to think in AA. How cultish is that? They tell you what to think!

    Then, of course, there were the dogmatically based abuses of AA members by other AA members. For example, people "with time" are considered within the group as being people to emulate. A person can be an axe-murderer, but if he has been sober for 20 years, he's a guru. And he can use that guru status to dupe newcomers into having sex with him or to get people to support him financially. If the newcomer should happen to get angry at the abuse, AA dogma kicks in; the newcomer is told that "anger is the dubious luxury of normal men" and to go do an inventory on his or her part in the abuse! It really is amazing.

    Then there is the issue of the dually diagnosed person in AA. Of course many people with drinking problems also have mental health issues, such as depression or bi-polar disorder. And you would not believe how often such people are told to stop taking the medications prescribed for these conditions...on the grounds that one is not really sober if one takes any meds at all. I have seen suicides and relapses occur many times because of this. It is criminal.

    And then there's what happens when you see all this and you decide you want to leave. That's when you find out you really were in a cult. "You'll drink!" you're told. "You can't stay sober without AA! You'll die drunk in the gutter if you leave!" I'm fairly certain some AA member will write in to say this doesn't happen, but it happened to me, and I am not unique.

    Oh yes, it's a cult. A group that preys on vulnerable people, love-bombs them to get them in, controls their lives, tells them what to think and say, acts as their physician, uses group dogma to allow the elders to abuse newer members, and threatens you with death if you leave, is a cult in my book.

    And by the way, if you want a great example of the sort of complete, utter, bizarre nonsense I am referring to, just read what Danny S. has to say.

    Source(s): Former alcoholic. Last drink 9-1-98.
  • 4 years ago

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  • 1 decade ago

    Not being a person with a substance abuse problem, my information is second hand from reading accounts of people who do have that sort of problem. It seems that AA is a useful support group for people that are going through a difficult transition from abuse to sobriety. In a similar way "Weight Watchers" is a support group for people trying to lose weight and adopt a healthier attitude towards food. It is harder for many people doing either of these things alone, I suspect.

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