Is AA a cult?

In some ways, AA shares characteristics with cults. In other ways, AA may seem like a religion. But where does Alcoholics Anonymous fall within the sociological practice of its beliefs? Is AA truly a cult?

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Cult definition

Traditionally, sociologists have defined a cult as a group whose ritual practices and beliefs are outside the social norm. However, cults have become more narrowly defined in recent years. Cults are now better understood to be groups that impose authority on their members, exploit members and use rituals or mind control to retain membership. The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) has a cult checklist which can be segmented into three sections:

1. Cult group characteristics

  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • The group believes that its ends justify whatever means it deems necessary.
  • The group makes elitist claims of a special, exalted status for the group, its leader(s) and members. The group has an Us vs. them mentality, which may cause conflict with society.
  • The group uses peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion to influence and control members.
  • The group uses feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and control members
  • Group obedience requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter their personal goals and activities.

2. Cult leader characteristics

  • Leader(s) dictates how members should think, act, and feel (Ex.what clothes to wear, where to live, choice in marriage partner, etc.).
  • Leader(s) are not accountable to any authorities.
  • Leader(s) and members discourage or punish questioning, doubt, and dissent.
  • Leader(s) use mind altering practices or mind control to minimize or suppress doubt (chants, denunciation sessions, meditation, speaking in tongues, work routines)

3. Cult member characteristics

  • Members believe that the leader’s ideas, system, and practices are “Truth” or “The Law”.
  • Members devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  • Members have excessive, excited and unquestioning commitment to the leader (dead or alive).
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Is Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) a cult?

On the face of it, Alcoholics Anonymous may meet some of the criteria for behaving like a cult.  The group does work outside of mainstream society, and many of its beliefs would be considered weird or abnormal to the general populace.  Plus, there talk about the difference in thinking between alcoholics and “normies”, or people who are not alcoholic.   Furthermore, some members  ritualize the practices of A.A and its formers Bill W. and Dr. Bob maintain  a “hero” status within the organization.  Nonetheless,  A.A. seems more of a religion than a cult.  And even though there is an internal peer pressure that “A.A. is the only way” to sobriety, most people within A.A. would agree that other programs may work for other people.   Here are a few more reasons that A.A. may not be considered a cult:

  • The primary mission of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help others
  • Membership is voluntary; commitment to the group is a personal decision
  • A.A. encourages healthy relationships within society
  • Feelings of shame or guilt are seen as unhealthy
  • A.A. moral codes are in line with social norms
  • No central body or group imposes authority over individual members
  • There is no permanent leadership
  • Leaders are accountable to local, state and federal authorities
  • A.A. allows everyone a voice, including one of dissent

Your opinion on AA:  cult or religion or neither?

What do you think?  Does A.A. qualify to be a cult?  Is A.A. a religion or is the anonymity of A.A. outdated?  Does it even matter?  Your opinions are welcomed here.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. I don’t think AA is a cult. However, there are some groups that are cult-like. But certainly AA is a religion. I attended AA meetings for 40 years and left almost 13 years ago. It has been a great relief not think I have to go to meetings. I don’t know why I waited so long to leave. I am very happy not to be part of the AA religion anymore.

  2. For 19 years I have knowledge with AA and being a Christian. I can see honestly where a person who only knows religion would think its a cult because it is different from traditional AA but I can honestly say that being a die hard Christian and AA member ” IT IS NOT A CULT” in fact it blows me away just how much the 12 steps are directly from the bible and written beyond the founders of AA human abilities to word it in such a way that we find God. this was for sure the work of God using these men. The reason they say ” a God of your understanding” is because some of us think that we have already done so many bad things that we don’t understand grace when we come in broken and feel undeserving of his grace because we have hatred of ourselves. All the founders could hope for was that through the 12 steps It amazes me more daily how much I will be reading a bible passage and it hits me ” This is what I meant on step 3″ or whatever step I see jump out. Step three is surrendering to a God a our understanding. There are more people that know the story of Jesus and God then anything else. It is a day by day thing of growing into a relationship and for me it meant finding Jesus. I dont think I ever met one person in the 19 years I have been in AA that surrenders to Satan. I have never heard of that. I could go into great detail on this and think I may write my own comparison of how AA and Christianity are same concept in more ways then the average pastor or Christian would know. Thats 19 years of studying Big Book, Bible and Christian Demonology for past 5 years. God knew that everyone has different backgrounds. He knew us before our mothers womb so he knows that not every person learns and receives his grace the same. He is the master physician and the great healer. There are many ways of healing certain diseases but he knew that with a disease as deadly as addiction that he had to find a way to reach people who may have never known him from childhood or feel he is turned against you over our actions ( in church we call these ” sins” ) We dont realize that we are renouncing sin through these 12 steps to God but we are and once our fear or dislike of God is gone as we sober up and see our purpose, it is ok to us thats what we are doing. . We grow to love God through AA. I hope that all in AA will call their higher power Jesus Christ but just like in church , all we can do is pray and try to teach but we can’t force anyone. It is hard to love God when you suffered a disease so painful as addiction. Why did he let that happen to me. If that the God Christians serve then why would I want that God who wont help me and lets me suffer. Once the 12 steps are worked thoroughly and honestly, we emerge saying ” He let me go through that pain because he needed me to fill my purpose in his kingdom and that is to help those who think like me” ( IN Christianity the working the 12 steps with all our hearts is same as the bible ” Those who earnestly seek me will find me, those who knock on the door, the door will be open) I do not get the same feeling in Church as I do in a AA meeting not saying I dont go to church because I do. I dont get the same feeling cause the spirit of religion is very very powerful in churches. The spirit of religion holds you in bondage to fear, loneliness, confusion, judgemental minds, hypocrites. Christians are called Hypocrites a lot because the picture can be portrayed as ” You shall sin not and if you do you go to hell” We are human. We were born of the flesh and sin. We repent of our sins in prayer to God and call them sins or iniquities and in AA we call them wrong doings and We do a 10th step at night and it is to go over ” Our sins for the day like “Where was I selfish, were was I in the wrong and we confess them to God”. I have studied demonology from a Christian aspect for years now and I can assure you that addiction is a demon. Generational Curse usually. It is of the devil and it is a very powerful demon. Familiar Spirits from generation to generation. Notice it usually goes back in generations. God says ” I will visit the 3rd and 4th generations for the sins of your fathers” The only one that can take authority over a demon is God. That is what in church we call ” deliverance and in AA we call that Sobriety” There is only one person that knows both languages and that is God” I can promise you that Churches are not all of the true God. You have Jezabel, Leviathan, religious spirit and many more spirits in both the Church and AA. I can assure that AA will be there more for each other then 95% of Churches I have went to. I am not knocking the Church, I am knocking the churches. I love the church I just dont love so many opinions that literally can kill people. I would be dead if I had to get sober through a church only. I can’t relate ( not that I dont love or care about church) to the baptist preacher or the priest that was born into a family of other ministers and the worst thing they seen growing up was nudity on TV and are in shock over that. Alcoholics got nude and swung on poles to support the addiction and some prostituted themselves out for drugs and alcohol. I couldnt tell a pastor that stuff. The bible tells us to confess our sins to God and another believer and AA says ” Do a 4th step and share your wrong doings with your sponsor or a priest” I choose to do it with someone who has done the same things as me. As liong as it gets done. and make me feel so much worse about myself cause My sins were so much worse then theirs. Judgement is what scares alot of people away from Church. It is also the spirit of fear. Fear is talked about all in the bible. God said ” I did not give you a spirit of fear” In AA we are shown how fear dominants our lives and cause so many problems.. We have to get them to a meeting first so they dont die that night of overdose and clear their head so God can begin using us as the messengers. BTW: I seen today that the symbol for AA was also occult in nature. Well, It is also Christian too. If you study Occult and demonology you would be shocked to see how much they use some of the same stuff. Devil does everything God does but with a twist to deceive. Truth is the symbol is used in both. However, The power of intent is where it all lays. Intent is where the meaning comes from. If I want that star at night to read my future then it will but if I want that star at night to be a beautiful creation from God then it will be. The triangle is TRI. meaning 3. The Father, The Son and the holy Spirit. Trinity. The circle is also used in Occult and in Christianity. It has different meanings. Some say that it is used to surround something to ward off evil spirits. It symbolizes unity, I dont mind it being said to ward off evil spirits and in the center is the Trinity. I am ok with that. It is a demon that causes the disease anyways so keep it warded off. All Christians do daily things to stay close to God or it opens door for bad things to come in and in AA we say ” We have a daily reprieve contingent on the daily maintenance of spirituality. I understand what you mean about Jesus not being the center. I do. It bothers me to but I found Jesus as result of AA. I would not be a child of God, the same one you learn in church without AA. Pray that all alcoholics eventually find Jesus and know the power he has.

  3. What a bunch of bologna. I have been in Alcoholics Anonymous for over 20 years. There is absolutely no peer pressure to join. There is actually no joining, no dues, or fees. Anyone can walk in off the street and sit down in an AA meeting. There are no leaders. There are “trusted servants” These are rotating positions for people who in charge of running the meeting, making coffee, putting out chairs etc. Some meeting do have treasurers. At the end of the meeting they pass a basket. You can donate if you want or not. This money goes into coffee, literature, pamphlets etc. Some meeting send part of the donations to the head AA office in NY to pay for basically bringing big books of AA to prisons, running of the organization. I have certainly never heard anyone speak in tongues, or chant. Each meeting is autonomous meaning people run it the way they want to run it without influence from the Head Office. The big book and the actual steps are about admitting you have a problem, clearing away the shame and guilt of drinking and making right harm done to others. Once you have had some sobriety (no set amount of time) you help another fellow Alcoholic. I have met mostly wonderful people who are definitely not brainwashed but they are sober. likewise, I have met a few that are asses, just like in any group where there are human beings. I have had good times in AA, made lifelong friends. AA only focus is to “help the alcoholic who is still suffering. Some people go to AA and hate it. That’s fine, you are free to go. Yes, some people are court ordered or pressured by their families to go to AA. AA encourages people to make the decision themselves to go to meetings and get help. Every alcoholic knows that until the alcoholic can admit they have a problem and accept help their chance of recovering is slim to none. Have I been to bad meetings that are a bunch of egomaniacal dictators? Yes, but 90% of them were well run and well-intentioned. It’s sad to see people who are trashing an organization that has helped many people. I could not have recovered if it were not for the program of AA. I have a peace and truth within me I never dreamed I would have. 4 years ago I was in liver, kidney and heart failure. I drank a 40oz of vodka a day. I contributed little to nothing to society. Today I am sober. I own a business, have employees etc. I am grateful for my life. How can that be a bad thing? I don’t get it.

    1. So I keep hearing, but I’ve heard cases of courts ordering people with DUIs or other alcohol related issues to attend AA meetings. In this case what we could end up with is an entirely Atheistic individual who doesn’t believe in God or a Higher Power or any such thing being ordered to attend an inherently spiritualistic form of addiction treatment.

  4. Hello Everyone,
    I started using the AA program to help me learn more about myself. My egos (as I choose to believe) caused me many problems. I have learned similar techniques were used by many through out history. I personally accept that I am a complex being who has a desire to stay sober. I only have this desire for sobriety because I cant control my desire for pleasure. Consequently, unless I address it, my obsessive mind could kill me. I use attitude and powers I never knew I had my disposal before… to give me balance and focus my mind. I first learned this with AA and my spiritual growth has allowed me to expand my techniques but… AA never failed me, For this I will forever be grateful. Peace

  5. “AA has no opinion on outside issues” “Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety” I am a 33 year member, I have come and go as I chose. Life is better for me within the fellowship. This is far from a cult. We truly do save lives. It’s just not for everyone like anything else. There is no coercion. For those of us for whom it works we sincerely want to share the blessing with others who can benefit from the program. OM Namah Shivaya.

  6. I was browsing thru my old email account and I saw a notice that some one commented on this article. I commented on this article on October 4th, 2012. When I commented on this I had 6 months sober, just had major back surgery, got kicked out of rehab and I was happy to be alive and not using heroin. At this point in time I really had nothing in my life other then a family that loved me. I had minimal clothes, no car, no job, no license, but one thing I did have was happiness. Happiness that I did not have to wake up every morning chasing a high I couldn’t catch. Happiness that I could wake up every morning and be truly free. Happiness that I had the ability to love others and the craziest thing was, I had the ability to love myself. All these are foreign ideals to me. All I knew in addiction was pain and how to hurt others, things like love and happiness were for normal people, not “junkies” like me. “Junkies” dont deserve happiness, or at least that is what I thought. To this day, I still have these things and its thanks to a.a. A.A taught me how to show up for life without the need to get high. A.A taught me how to find happiness and freedom thru the service of others. Thru showing up to life everyday, taking the next step that is put in front of me and trying to be of service, I have a great life and I am about to celebrate 5 years of sobriety on 4/12/17.
    My life today is alot different then how it was. I am a nursing student and I am currently in my first clinical rotation. I have a cdl, I have a truck that I bought and paid off, I am a board member on a local grass roots coalition who helps people with addiction, I am in an honor society, and I am a freemason. All these things are well and good, but I have happiness and that is pretty cool. I would not have any of this with out a.a teaching me how to stay sober. So if you are a drunk, or junkie like me give A.A a try, worst case scenario is you make actually find happiness and sobriety.

    Deborah I am saddened to hear your experience with your family members that are in a.a. Our tenets are supposed to be “loving, kindness and tolerance” -not just to people into a.a- to all people we come in contact with. I feel the people we have harmed (mostly the family) deserve this the most. The tenets we learn in a.a are supposed to be carried into all aspects of our life and some of us fail at this, but we do try. Also we are a bunch of drunks and junkies who happen to have gotten sober, so we are fallible.

  7. I am not an addict, but most of my family…sister, sister in laws, brother, and cousins are all in AA.
    I have found this to be an isolating experience, as once they become AA members, they fail to engage with others who are not in AA. It seems that AA provides a social network that allows them to identify themselves as special, self-centered, and different. And only AA and the 12 steps can save them from their addiction I also experience a self concept of these members as people who “work on themselves”, are “spiritual” and “honest”. Having been around them for decades, what is very clear to me is that people in AA act very differently to other AA members than they do to those not in AA. I have observed that while amongst AA members, they practice those rules and steps that AA focuses on..gratitude, honesty, etc. with one another. Their words and behaviors are carefully selected to reflect their AA values. However, as an “outsider”, I can tell you that some of the most selfish, unaware, and non spiritual behaviors I have ever been part of have come from these same people. Additionally, they are apt to share (gossip) lots of information, feelings, etc., with me as long as no one from AA is in sight.

    Sure, I am glad they have found a way to stay sober..but after five or 25 years, these people still have no friends outside of AA. AA has become their addiction. And because of this, an “outsider” experiences much of their views on life and who they think they are as, well, not truly who they are, but a mask of sorts. They certainly are not more spiritual, contrary to what they say about themselves…they are very controlling of their lives, and often very very selfish. They lack the awareness of the world outside of AA.

    No one that I know in AA would ever treat a member in AA the way they have treated me.
    They seem to be almost childish about the rest of the world, and don’t seem to understand that others can be spiritual and full of gratitude without a 12 step program.

    I think people like AA because they have an instant friendship base, and they don’t have to work on their sobriety alone.
    Unfortunately, the book and all its rules brainwash them into a way of thinking that feels very underdeveloped and exclusive. And, unfortunately, they only have social interactions within the group; allowing them to have a false sense of who they are..always aware of how others view them, and they also compete with one another in this realm.

    I know they say “we” are self-centered by nature…they are taught how to think about themselves.
    But unless I remind myself ahead of time that it is always about themselves, I will be disappointed by expecting a more well rounded, giving, mature and fair person. The person they are when in AA only.

  8. As a longtime AA member (My first meeting was in the early 1980’s and I’ve been in and out-mostly out-since then) I have had 3 periods of sobriety of one year and numerous 30-90 days of sobriety. Every time I started drinking again I always thought that I had another “sober” time left. Then when I was 52 years old I had a brain aneurysm burst (should have died) then 3 days later I had a major stroke (could have died) then 6 months later I had an epileptic seizure. Clearly God was trying to tell me something. I have now been sober for 6 years 7 months and am aware that I’m living on borrowed time.

  9. I was in A.A. for 25 years, booze and drug free for the entire time. I spent may years there looking for power in my life which the book tells me I lack and is the source of all my problems. I steadily gained a grip of my life since the consequences of being drunk were dormant during this time. I can from the beginning admit I had trouble with the disease part, but would use that terminology so not to offend anyone. Now I must say that A.A. for me did not fit many of the criteria that you have at the top of the page. I was baptized into the faith I now worship in and go to meetings very little, and if I thought that A.A. was a danger to a christian, I wouldn’t go. They even say in their book that “this book is only meant to be suggestive”. How then can this be pressure to conform to the only truth. i know the church I ran from fit a good portion of your criteria.

  10. There is enough ridiculous ignorant superstitious garbage on the Internet to imply just about everything in the universe has something to do with occult, satan, NWO, to fill a black hole. Anyone that searches out this stuff, reads and believes it, needs a lobotomy. Whenever you see or hear something derogatory about someone or something, go find out for yourself.

  11. I was forced by the court system to go to AA for 5 years or prison. It seemed like a better option. I wish now I could have gone to prison. I haven’t been in the cult of AA since the day I fulfilled my court ordered obligation.
    I don’t know if all of AA is a cult, but I know the Tampa Bay Young Peoples group is for sure. Besides condoning sexual relationships of 29 year old men with 15 year old girls, the group itself is structured just like any cult. I’m sure they wouldn’t like me talking about the forced gang rape that took place at Ballast point with a newcomer and 2 other members. Nor would they like me talking about how they snowballed the police when the kidnapping and manslaughter charges of this same woman were being investigated.
    It is part of the groups traditions not to cooperate with outsiders. That is the very definition of a cult.

  12. I can see how it is an elaborate system to help one stay sober with people striving for the same goal, but in my opinion, any type of Spiritual program outside of Church is consideredna cult. It has spiritual aspects to it, and while u cant discount that a person has to repent of thier over induldging, and alcoholic behaviors, spiritual matters and theology is to be kept within church walls. I can see how an ignorant person would say its a spiritual program and think its a good thing, that is exactly how some cults, even Christian cults form to my knowledge at this present time.

  13. AA and Al Anon are intolerant of Atheists, so it is not open to everyone. they think the doors are wide open to all walks of people. That’s their denial and they will stick to it. Why do people get mad at me for not believing in god? They project that I am being rude or I am bad. I am supposed to respect their belief in god but they don’t respect my beliefs. Does hypocrisy seem to be a main theme?

  14. I am an Atheist and Buddhist. I look with in not outside for enlightenment. We turn inward not outward for a god to solve things or ask for. Buddhism is not a religious faith and so is not the same direction as faith based religions. So the god, hp path is actually not universal as an alanon reading states. A very arrogant statement. Monothiesm is universal. I am in Alanon, where not doing 100% percent of the program is considered wrong. Saying I don’t believed in gods gets people mad and they leave the room. I find a lot of shaming techniques are used to get you to follow the party line of God / Hp. Just like Nazi Germany or communist countrys, not following the party line results in being shunned, negative cross talk, side comments, condescending attitudes, and shamed. You will never recover without a hp, you can’t do this or that without an HP. These are also shaming techniques used by Christians to get you to buy the party line. The people don’t see their religious intolerance and like a lot of Christians are oblivious to the fact they push their religion on to others. I can talk about Buddhism or I will get cut off as that being an outside religion. However its ok to talk about Christianity and not be cut off. Hypocrisy. The Christian philosophy is protected from other philosophys. or ideas contrary to Christianity. Like pastors twelling their flock, stay away from him hes a non believer. It’s a threat and they don’t want people to know of other ways. They want to control what people think and believe.

  15. I have had on and off experiences in rehabs that led me to go to AA meetings. It was a “suggestion”. They( drug and alcohol counselors etc) did not hesitate to point me in the AA direction. Nothing else was suggested. I was not asked what I thought. I was told AA is an option and has saved many lives. I checked it out. I have been to many meetings from 2006 to 2011. I got tired of talking about negative issues that stemmed from alcohol digestion. I got tired of hearing sob stories. Everyone has some. I finally realized that talking about negative events, feeling, flaws so forth and so on is depressing. I realized that a negative environment is not healthy. I prefer to surround myself with people that talk about the here and now and not what has happened to them in the past that was negative. It took a long time for me to realize that I was not welcome until I walked arounf and talked to everyone and shake their hand. I felt like I was looked down upon unless I behaved a certain way or said the wrong thing. I was asked questions from those that have been faithfull members or old timers, I was told that I was wrong. I was basically treated as though I was an outsider and that I will be until I tell other members what they want to hear. I was laughed at when I said anything about anything. Even iwhen I talked about the weather I told that I was not focused and was continually asked, “Why are you here” and “Do YOU think your an alcoholic?” When one is treated as though they are stupid and told that they have an alcohol issue(alcoholic) when they are fresh out of rehab and vulnerable to suggestion and told they must they must surrender or they will end up in”Jails, constitutions or dead.” That’s control. Basically, I was left feeling that I could not think or make decisions on my own. Helpless.

  16. Yes. AA is a cult. I attended 90 meetings in 90 days, got a sponsor,and did the 12 steps. As soon as I began to ask questions, point out the contradictions in the program, and end my service commitment due to school I was immediately ostracized for “not listening” “not taking the cotton out of my ears” being told that you can be “too smart for the program, but not too dumb” “not being willing to go to any length” and all the clichés cult members are taught to deflect questions and deny the truth. The steps will make you feel worse. The entire program is about taking control of feeble minded and vulnerable people. That is why I was told that “I hadn’t really hit bottom, so I wasn’t ready to receive the message.” What they really mean is that I still had my faculties and was immune to their manipulation. I am still sober because I am empowered to do so. Not because I am powerless, and because I didn’t give my will and my life over to AA. The big book and 12 and 12 are filled with double talk written by a narcissist that teaches how to manipulate new prospects, and convince them they are useless without following AAs cult practices. No one in the rooms seemed happy, especially the old-timers who are still waiting for “the promises” to take fruition. The entire group is just a bunch of nervous cult members who snicker amongst themselves to ensure no one is having non-AA thoughts. The addictive mind becomes dependent on AA lies instead of Alcohol, which is not recovery at all. If your in AA, ask questions. LOTS OF QUESTIONS. After all, you’re expected to surrender your will and your life over to them. Ask what AAs success rate is. Ask about its origins in the controversial Oxford Group with ties to fascist dictatorship. Read about AA from posts and literature that wasn’t written by AA. Ask about Bill Wilson, and his true history and education and sleeping with numerous female newcomers. Ask about Dr. Bob, and how he forced his 17 year old daughter to marry a 32 year old AA member, chronic womanizer and relapser who’s story as AA number 4 was removed from the 2nd edition big Book. Best of all, don’t go in the first place. You are NOT powerless over Alcohol. Your life does not need to managed by anyone but you.

  17. It seems to me that most AAer’s give more props and gratitude to “the program” and the “gurus” than they do to God these days. It’s just not the place for me anymore, it’s not my TRUTH anymore. I think it’s a good place to go to get the tools to live sober but I’m not so sure most of us aren’t supposed to evolve beyond it, at least eventually.

  18. I think that it’s a cult. I’m not an expert but I went in with an open mind and within days I am being encouraged to not only attend daily meetings in the evening but noontime ones as well. Shortly out.of treatment, I had done over 17 hours of recovery work and I decided to take a day off for myself (remember in treatment just before that all day every day was recovery work, I went to my first meeting hours after I was released). Part of the reason I skipped that day was because it was big book study and I didn’t think I was ready.

    I have spoken to a few fellow members who have all been very nice and asked them what they do to keep them occupied so as to not end up with drinking people.

    Every one of them just said going to meetings and talking to their sponsor was all they mostly did, other than hanging out with family and other AA people. Even with tears of sobriety.

    This struck me as odd right away. The idea of achieving sobriety I thought was to regain a normal life without alcohol, not to spend every night talking about how you are an alcoholic.

    I read the whole big book and found the whole “higher power ” crap very misleading. They talk in person about how you can call a doorknob your higher power if you want (I can’t imagine surrendering my life to a doorknob but whatever) but the only mention of higher power was in one chape chapter. Almost every other paragraph refers to God.

    Further more the book belittles people’s faiths because “it obviously couldn’t stop you from becoming an alcoholic “.

    The steps have little to do with not drinking, and everything to do with making you feel guilty and submitting to god.

    I’m returning my big book today and I will no longer indoctoinate myself into this cult. I will attend meetings for peer group support and be nice to the nice people there but I’m really glad I figured all this out so early.

    Turns out AA has a negative success rate. AA people, growing from three months onward, are 5 times more likely to relapse, and when they relapse they relapse more severely, and are 9 times more likely to die than someone taking no treatment at all.

  19. Interesting read, plus the responses on this subject were very much appreciated. I see the similarities, and the differences. I simply adore how if you are not an alcoholic and are just an addict you are cast out by some (not all) old timers in the group. Also, the whole you have to make AA part of your life 24/7 is draining. You CAN have a life outside of AA. You CAN get sober without AA. I go to one meeting in the morning and that is it. There are times where I have been made to feel like a “bastard at a family reunion” and have often wondered are we there to help each other or hurt each other? Plus, some people are so dead set intent on removing all traces of damage they did in their drinking/drugging careers by trying to help others they will deliberately play sides and in the process hurt the people they are trying to help as well. It makes no sense at times, and if it doesn’t drive the newcomer out back to drink or do drugs, they feel worse at times after they attend meetings, start working with the sponsor and working the steps than they did before they walked through the door. Very interesting read.

  20. I commented awhile ago,and aa is a dangerous cult,now that medical cannabis is legal in a lot of places.i find it curious that aa members find it that your not being sober. I have a friend stage 3 cancer on medical cannabis and goes to aa,well she made a mistake of mentioning it in a meeting,who proceeded to tell her shes not sober,and a few actually suggested taking opiates,but told her she wouldn’t be sober either.and most said suck it up god wont give you to much you can handle! I was mean to tell me a person who is going through chemo isn’t allowed to take a herbal medicine to help with the pain then an addictive narcotic! well you guessed I,she was shunned.but not by me.i still haven’t stepped foot in a meeting its been 2 years now I have 17 plus years of continuis know when I get calls frm aa members when they need something,a ride a pack of cigarettes etc. shopping. its sickning but these same people refuse to spend anytime with me because I too am on medical cannabis.the benefits are unbelievable I take no narcotics I don’t drink whatsoever my physically problems are maintained so I can live a almost normal life.i have 3 old friends in the programs who all know im a patient and except it unconditionally.i had a good friend for years in aa who knew then out of the blue told me we cant be friends,so is aa a judging mainstream cult.absolutly. are they dangerous as a pack yes.i still would never stop in a meeting again,my husband now has 28 years sober,and he hasn’t been to a meeting in 26 years!hes a hardworker family man.and knows its a cult.we live a very simple life in the suburbs.we have friends we can count on 1 hand.when we went out I was told I was 13 stepping,what they didn’t know he was my mechanic we started out as friends before he got sober,and because he wanted me,he went to detox and a halfway.and 6 months later we were married.after released from halfway house.we had a small wedding, nothing to speak of,but great jobs.and everyone was saying it wouldn’t work,the negativity I got from people and he did in aa,if we listened to there bullshit,we would of broken up a longtime! everyone in the program who we know have gotten married seriously years of courtship,every single one,is now divorced,dead,,or using again.or ran to aa for the social part and dating part,some have been married 4 rather be a happily married person with a kid who just graduated a private college and works and moved out in days. and guess what im still married! these other people are whack jobs,belong from a cult they can never leave,do not get close to anyone in program with a better then you attitude.they mostly suck.

  21. I commented on this thread a couple of years ago, i’m now coming up on 12 years of sobriety, not attending AA so much however.

    I’ve had some more thoughts on the “cult” debate. I noticed that someone commented that their “dissenting voice” wasn’t well received within AA, and that this is a red flag in designating it a cult. I’ve certainly experienced this myself, but I think the writer misunderstands how AA works for AAers. AA is intended to be a consistent process and practice, and I think that I certainly benefited from “humbling” myself before a process which had outcomes I wasn’t capable of achieving on my own. In other words, instead of always believing that my “dissenting voice” was the be all and end all of my experience, I learned that I didn’t know everything and that if I wanted to learn how to get sober, instead of dissenting I was going to have to, as they say, be teachable. For me personally, not being teachable (fragile self esteem and self worth coupled with a grandiose sense of my own importance) meant that I was defensive about my own opinions and considered them to be important to others as well as myself, and it had held me back in all aspects of life, not just in getting sober. So when I first came to AA, the fact that there was no debate within the organisation helped me to listen to a (fairly) consistent message, and to practice it in the company of others who were also trying to practice it as they understood it. It was only later, as my friendships within AA developed that I found that people might have all sorts of ideas of their own about how THEY needed to recover, building upon their earlier shared experience of recovery according to a consistent message but then growing into religious practice,or other thereapeutic practice, or simply conducting themselves better in life and living well. But within the meeting, they would put their own reservations to one side, and participate in the relatively consistent message whihc helps the newcomer let go of their “need to be right”, and to become less scared of changing and developing. But getting annoyed at members who “dissent”, while not very tolerant and an understandable red flag for people who don’t understand its purpose within the social context of meetings, is a response to what is perceived as being misguided action which threatens the chances of recovery for newcomers.

  22. I have been a member of alcoholics anonymous for a year now i am by nature a suspicous person so I am very much interested in the cult debate. I think strictly speaking all human organisations are cults. The worlds organised religions are all just very successful cults. I have tried being a christian and I have experienced and witnessed all the same things happening which AA is criticised for. I completly agree some people go a bit nutty with it just like with anything in life just look at the way some football fans behave and no one accuses football of being a dangerous cult. reading these posts I feel like I am reading about a completly different AA to what i have experienced. I agree with the guy who says a lot of people dont really know or care if your there of not there way to absorbed in themselves. I think there are a lot of cultural factors I attend AA in london england which is a staunchly secular soceity compared to many regions of america I have not came across any of the extreme behaviour described here. its actually a bit of a youth club at times becuase its hard to meet people in london who dont drink it provides a teetotal social oppurtunity. Yeah there is the odd thing i dont agree with and decide to leave out but just like a great freind your not gonna like everything but i am not gonna give up the freindship. in my expericence no one shuns anyone for having an opinion .i can only speak for myself when i say I would not stop being freinds with someone for not attending anymore. I agree its not for everyone but the fact is its some peoples best option in my case my own case my familys addictions and my own left my life a wilderness so i hardly have anything to lose anyway. I dont feel like a brainwashed zombie my manager commented recently that i am looking better physically and mentally. I have not been encouraged to cut ties with anyone in fact my sponsor discouraged me from changing my phone number to burn bridges with my old freinds. to be honest I think the beleif systems of all the worlds religions are way more bizzare than what AA would have you believe . alls i see is a lot of sensible advice..keep your life simple . let people be. dont hold on to resentment. like anything in life whther its alcohol sex etc it not the things its self that is bad its how you approach it and make yourself feel about it. it gives my life some structure and dicipline after all the chaos of addiction but I agree it can become obsessive so i make sure i balance out my life with hobbys and interacting with none AA members so it all does not get to intense . its all about being sensible with it at the end of the day .

  23. Many people in AA are active sex addicts , my sponsor was always chasing tail.
    He was also some kind of nut , You know how they say AA has no opinions on outside issues and does not get involved with any causes , my sponsor had no opinion about any thing ,and did not get involved in any thing outside of AA. Apparently he thought he was the embodiment of AA like Christ is God in flesh and blood.

  24. I read a statistical analysis about AA ,it said 50% of people who go to their 1st AA meeting are no longer attending AA meetings after 6 months, the analysis went out to 20 years and said .01 % of people are still attending AA after their 1st meeting 20 years later.

    Bill W. and Dr.Bob did die from active addiction at the end of their life’s ,they both died of smoking related illnesses’, so much for dying clean and sober. Nicotine ,and other chemicals in cigarettes are detoxed in the liver ,so if a person continues to smoke, like most AA members do after they stop drinking, they are still not clean , and they are still using a chemical to alter the way they feel.

  25. This has been a really interesting read. I have seen members of AA that do a lot of the cult like behaviour people have mentioned, but I have always looked at those people as working the program wrong. And I have to say, I have expressed different views (often) and I never got ostracized the way folks are insisting happens. Or I was too dense to notice it lol I have noticed that some people do worship Bill W and Dr Bob, but I have to say I know at least as many members that aren’t so besotted with them. Anyway, I see how some members have probably said the crazy stuff that people have been reporting. I guess the the only defense I can think of is that most of these people are even crazier when they are drinking.

  26. “There are some too who are not capable of being honest with themselves”, In that alone, AA is either a lie, a religion called ‘alcholism’. or a cult as the book, Bill W. , Marty Mann, and a host of others including the disease concept which originated by a man who also felt being black was an incurable disease could never be honest with themselves, and unashamedly took biblical concepts and tailored them to fit their whims and scratched out Jesus in the process when the entire bible points to him.. At worst it’s a huge evil lie and a best it’s a brainwashing cult that steers people away from God and into self yet claiming at the same time it does not. It’s blindly the 3 faces of Eve all rolled up into New Thought yet they do not tell you that, which by default means they are lying.

  27. It is a cult. I go to meetings in Los Angeles. And have been ostracized by many people for having different views and beliefs. I ‘m not thrilled with how AA has become a showcase for celebs and others to be seen…. It’s principles before personalities. And some of these people are downright ruthless and lack integrity…..

  28. Hey Robbo B,
    Answering with my opinions on your question.
    Ted Kennedy said, “Republicans and Democrats both want the same thing. They both just have a different ideas on how we achieve it.”
    Such might also be true of the AA Cult member vs. the person that stays sober without the cult.
    Nobody is a horrible. Everybody is where they is baby! 🙂
    Any true cult will plant a seed in your head that says, “If you leave us you will fall flat on your face.” a.k.a. “There is no exit”.
    Q. Why would any A.A. member suggest this to another?
    A. Because if you stay, you validate their decision to stay there.
    THAT is what they have to gain. = validation
    If you move forward and do better in life with the tools but without them … well,… I think that might be a bit embarrassing for them.
    Peace and wishing you the very best.

  29. There are some brilliant and very interesting points and arguments posted here, many have been well thought out and researched, on both sides of the argument there are very valid, intelligent and logical views both from personal experience and some from scratching below the surface. Addiction is a huge, massive subject which I cant even begin to go into. I am in recovery myself, 1 year now, I have recently stopped going to meetings for my own reasons, some of which I have read in the posts here but which I am not going to go into because I do not want to influence peoples responses to my questions here. I got clean/sober in AA/NA, I have now stopped going because I dont like/agree with a lot of its aspects, I do not use the 12 steps anymore to stay sober and I am still sober, according to AA this means that Im not really a true alcoholic/addict ? Anyway I have been researching weather AA is a cult or not. What I cant find an answer to is, if AA is a cult, psuedo-scientific, quasi-religious, pagan, new agesist form of disempowering brain washing and mind control, which Im perfectly happy to belive, I dont like it and am looking for genuine reasons not to. Who are the ultimate beneficiaries, financial, physical or otherwise, from my experience, I cant see who is set to gain financially or physically, I have never seen anybody get exploited, yes Iv had the death threats, Iv been ‘suggested’ to do certain things, have bling faith and loyalty in an ethos that does not tolerate individual thinking or self empowerment but if it is really a cult, who is gaining, what is really the purpouse of AA if it is a cult , apart from its own survival, a cult that is simply just self perpetuating that does nothing more than to ask people to blindly follow its oppressive doctrines seems rediculous, if its real the evil, bad, nasty cult that people are saying it is, who are the beneficiaries, who gains, controls ect and for what purpouse, just having lots of sponsees and being able to have a certain ammount of influence/ gain respect off sick people is in itself seems to be an unhealthy and limiting world view, I cant personally see it, please enlighten me though. In closing, anything, whatever it is that can give you a freedom and release from the nightmare and hell that is addiction, that can re-establish with acceptance, growth and love, you with, your self, your family, your spirit and community, is somthing to be commended. Peace and love to all who walk this earth.

  30. I agree with Karen but, I don’t think they are dry drunks, it’s just that being sober and going to AA does not cure personality or character problems, which most people in AA have.

  31. I notice all these people on here arguing that AA is not a cult. Just shows it is a Cult. You cant disagree with them. I was in the rooms for years and trust me the shit that is allowed to go in there would not be allowed in a low life bar down in Newark, NJ. I could go on and on. I finally broke free. What you basically have is a bunch of mentally ill dry drunks lip synching AA Jargon but not living it. If they were living it they would not need AA.

  32. AA is definitely a Cult. I was in a very “structured” group in Anchorage Alaska that used guilt and manipulation as well as mind control and submission as part of its practices. Very few individuals had power and they taught their sponsees to rely on their sponsor for guidance rather than empowering them to rely on God. They only hung out with eachother. There was an emptiness to their words and souls. Something was missing. I believe that AA is evil and its related to or similar to illuminati. Both symbols are a triangle. Coincidence? Nope. It was very sad to see vulnerable people turned into puppets and it makes me so angry to hear lies that these leaders tell. There is a guy named Clancy who sponsors 100’s of people. No one should have that much power. I believe that people only need God to change them. AA is a bunch of shit. Don’t buy in to it. Just pray and pray and ask God to help you and release you from the Addiction. Screw the sponsors and do not believe that you are powerless. Only God can free you. I used to think the steps were spiritual and good but now I don’t know. It seems like a good tool and it has worked for lots of people. It took me three years to rid myself of the brainwashing crap these people beat in to my head. Its some scary stuff so beware.

  33. Oh Yes. A.A. is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a cult. The tools, 12 steps and slogans are great.
    Go in… get the gifts and get out. Faith in a power greater than our self is the key to staying sober so don’t let any dillusional cult member tell you anything different. 25 years clean and still doing it one day at a time without A.A. and with God. So very grateful I escaped them.

  34. I would agree that aa is definitely cultish, but I’m not entirely ready to walk away from it yet even after over 20 years sober. I feel it was instrumental in my getting and staying sober, but in recent years I’ve cut back on meetings from 3 or 4 per week to 1 every 2 weeks or so. I’ve noticed I actually feel better and it feels right to me at this point. I have noticed that my great “friends” have dropped me like a “hot rock” since I’ve cut back on meetings. That seems a little culty to me.

  35. It’s definitely cultish. Everyone seems brainwashed. I left a few months ago after about a year and completing the steps and pretending to believe all the b.s. just so I wouldn’t be shunned by my fellow cult members. I wanted to kill myself at times. I’ve left and am starting to slowly become human again, but the brainwashing was pretty deep. My fellow cult members probably think I’ve relapsed and are telling each other to “work the program”, “keep coming back” or you’ll end up like me and that I’ll be dead because “to drink is to die”.

  36. I know of all of these and I am an atheist so believe me I have tried many Sos or freethinking groups but there are only a handful of people. buffalo doesn’t have Women in Sobriety anymore, hasn’t been here in 20 yrs. I did get an article from a member yesterday about the new Freethinking etc meetings starting in New York city ,, 130 or so ,, can’t wait to go to one but again , there are only teenagers and a few adults, I would support the group though, thank you for writing back, I have two friends in the grips of their disease and can’t stop, it’s a horrible way to die,, one is 20 with her liver gone already, one 68 made it through nine cancers and Vietnam but this enemy is to much for him.

  37. Hello Karen. SMART Recovery is one option. Rational Recovery or S.O.S. or Women in Sobriety. These are all similar self-help groups, without a 12 step program. Additionally, psychotherapy in both individual and group settings has shown evidence of success in the treatment of addiction.

  38. So if AA doesn’t work what do you suggest? nothing? What else do you know that at least has millions in it sober.. I don’t care if we have 50 or one, if it helps someone stay away from alcohol and it has for so many of us, then it works. YOU are only criticizing , not telling any solutions. I lost my son at 28 to addiction, drugs, and his dad, my ex husband, plus so many I can’t count in the past 28 yrs I have been in AA , I know it doesn’t always work, but I also can tell you I am sober, my friends are sober, so it doesn’t help unless you want it.

  39. I went to meetings in Anchorage ,Alaska and palmer Alaska. Alaska has a very bad substance abuse problem ,and AA does not help one bit because people are forced to go to it when they had a DUI, and as soon as the law says u don’t have to go any more they drop out of it.AA sucks it always has and it always will ,and believe me there are more people who agree with me than they do with u , The proof is in the pudding ,if AA was so popular and successful then there would be hundreds millions of members in it in the whole world instead of just mere millions.

  40. U got that right their are a lot of sick people in AA,I know a guy who while driving drunk killed 2 people ,and he showed no remorse or gilt at all. Another AA member told me and 2 other former solders that we suck and we Marines laugh at the Army, he was of course a Marine corps vet. They say principles before personalities that’s bull shit.

  41. I don’t know where you go to meetings but I have been going for 28 years, and never have experienced what you talking about. nor has anyone I know have. I have found wonderful friendships, closer than any others since high school because it is the first time I am sharing honest feelings. I love A.A and though you have to remember that this program is full of sick people trying to get well, you can’t let people tell you how to live outside of how not to drink . The Big Book tells us that everything is a suggestion, there are no rules. no leaders. I am an Atheist so I get a lot of crap about the God thing, but I am also assertive enough to stand by my convictions and not let what others think control my life. If they think only a God or jesus is the only way to stay sober I remind them I have 28 years without God, if they say if i don’t go to meetings I won’t stay sober, I remind them not everyone needs meetings, thousands of people remain sober without it. Bill Wilson said that we need more than AA , and that we might need outside help, he also said that it’s a place where men and women come to share their experience , strength and hope with each other and have a common purpose, to stay sober. End of story. I hope you will try again, at different meetings, it’s the easier , softer way to remain sober in my opinion than to do it alone.

  42. I have been an AA member for 23 years with continuous sobriety.I don’t believevAA is a cult but I have encountered certain groups whom I would personally not engage with.I know of some meetings where members would not hesitate to express their views on being given directions by others who think they are an authority.AA saved my life and my family members have benefitted greatly.I go to 2or 3 meetings a week.I keep away from people with strong views as much as I can and know a lot of AA members who would never interfere with the lives of others.The AA literature also suggests that we only share our experience with others when asked to do so.

  43. having been sober for 15 years then drank for 8 months,now with 13 years of sobriety,through the aa program,i can tell you from my personel expiriance that aa is defiantly a cult! if you don’t go to meetings people will try to convince you to go,or ignore you forever,all your so called friends in aa,are manipulaters,backstabbing people,who use you for there personel gains,then dump you when you can no longer help them out,aa is dangerous,ive seen it ruin peoples life,kill them,made them phycotic when these so called members castercize them,for not attending meetings,i was told in the beginning to stay away from college educated I know why,they knew it was a cult,and programmed me to believe in there practices. I would never attend another meeting or talk to these people again,they take your soul,and stab you in your back when your not looking.just don’t drink don’t go to meetings,and live your own life!

  44. I suspect AA has some cult like characteristics and seems to be growing more like a cult in recent years with the Pacific and Atlantic Group forms. The AA pamphlet on sponsorship makes it clear that the sponsor is not supposed to control your life but apparently that is being ignored. There used to, and still is, a good deal of “loose garment” AA around. But like all religious/spiritual movements it can develop into a cult and I think that is happening. As to the Lucifer and Father of Light statement above. Bill was odd and into some dangerous things., table rapping etc. Dr. Bob was a pretty straightforward evangelical Protestant as I undertand it. Bob liked the Book of James, and I think that statement quoted above is a misguotation from James. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” AA has done good, people have sobered up who might not otherwise. It is not the only answer for everyone who has an addiction. I am saddened to see it becoming rigid and cult-like and claiming to be more helpful than it is. People in AA should, after a period of time, try to integrate themselves into the larger society.

  45. The one thing I noticed about AA that stood out is that members did not think they need to right their wrongs at the fox hole meeting meetings we had nursese who stole drugs from patients who were still nurses ,we had an assistant DA who built cases aginst people who were buying and useing prescription drugs illegally which is what he was doing before he becamE sober ,we had the director of jails in the valley ie;

  46. brain washing? mine needed to be washed, it was filled with lies, deceit, I was a thief, and only cared about the next drink . If going to A.A stops one person from continuing this way of living, then it works. I see everyday men and women going to A.A and this has changed their lives for the better, Those that come and don’t find it for them, they don’t come back of do later with more war stories. One hour a day to keep myself on track, hear how it never gets better , only gets worse is a small price to pay ,, a dollar if you have it,, free if you don’t. All those misconceptions about the Program, I am sorry you had such a bad experience. some are true but name me one organization with this many people with one common purpose, to get sober and help another alcoholic , that is better. We are not saints,, we are just people trying to help each other stay away from a drink or drug. don’t worry about the rest.

  47. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read about A.A. You obviously are not a member nor an alcoholic in need of a support group. I have been in for 25 yrs and love this program. I could not have been sober all this time without this wonderful program. i am also an atheist and no one cares what my belief system is as long as I don’t think I have power over actively drinking. I don’t know where you got your information, but none of that crap is true , except that Bill Wilson was a philanderer, but who cares. He is dead, but he and Dr. Bob started the most successful program for alcoholism in the 20th century. We are an a group of individuals all suffering from the same disease, yes disease according to the AMA, so of course we will have some “different people” that may do a drunk a log but if that helps them , then so be it. I would be dead right now if I was not in AA, I lost my ex husband best friends and my son all from addictions, and wished they would of gone to AA. they didn’t.
    if anyone out there is alone with their addiction and needs love and support, please try a meeting or two, before you decide . good luck.

  48. First of all, AA is *not* Christian. It is pagan. You can choose any HP/god you wish, and then you pray to it. Not only is it pagan, it is also about as opposite to Christianity as it gets. First Commandment: You shall have no other gods before me.

    Secondly, AA is a cult. Of what? Well as with most cults, just look at what they say — it’s the *opposite* of what they do. For example, a Satanic cult will praise The Almighty God publicly, but in private they will exalt Satan. An apocalyptic cult will eschew lust (in preparation for “The End of Times”) and then marry off teenagers to old men. AA will demonize drinking and then its members will go out and get plastered.

    That’s right: AA is a drinking club. Huh???

    Well all you have to do is look at the published literature. AA does not reduce drinking over no treatment at all, and actually has been shown to exacerbate it for young people.

    But AA is supposed to prevent drinking! Yes but they’re a cult. That’s the point. They do the opposite of what they say. (One hallmark of a cult member is steadfast belief in its tenants regardless of the objective truth.)

    So AA is actually a drinking club whose purpose is to propagate the myth of addiction. And in fact you must “confess” this as the first step if you want to join: I am powerless under alcohol. If you don’t say this you are not welcome. This is classic brainwashing technique. It turns a healthy (but possibly lonely or drama-starved) normal drinking guy/gal into a full-fledged addict. Classic.

    So yes, AA is a brainwashing cult that propagates the Myth of Addiction to provide cover for their drinking (and the ensuing fun/intercourse/drama). Of course, the stories in the Big Book depict alcoholics as innocent victims of a disease who get drunk and then go home and play solitaire through their tears. But it’s pure fiction (yes, like the Bible), designed to deflect attention from the simple truth, and to offer motifs with which to embellish your own addiction history. The founder, Bill Wilson, was a notorious philanderer both before and after his sobriety.

    Now of course, some people are not brainwashed into addiction. They are just plain old liars. They are easy to spot because they start their drunkalog with something like “I was a born liar.”

  49. It’s the middle of 2013, and I’m exremely impressed by the info put forth here by Dan, with whom I’d like to correspond. “Surface investigation”, indeed: one of Lexington, KY’s most vocal thumpers natters on here and there about the Osford Group; this may be as far as he has been able to take his veneration of Dr. Bill and Mr. Bob, guys for whom I have much more respect, having been reacquainted with the social/historical context of the inception of AA.

    Here, in the Baable Belt, the most meaningful aspect of AA cultishness is shunning. (Because I’ve been shunned? Maybe. I have only recently acknowledged and sought help for some narcissistic entitlement issues. My perceptions are more often skewed than not; because of my wiring/rearing, I still see rejection and shunning at every turn, and yes, this is maladaptive as hell.) I am agnostic, and ppl who cop to same are shunned. I faked being less so–by not discussing it w/ AAs–until I watched a bunch of thumpers try to G-d to disinterest if not death a bunch of young dual-dx inpatients. Had to say something, and did so.

    That said, I also wished to express at that meeting the truth that there are agnostics in AA’s ranks, ppl who are able to use some of what they encounter in AA in some conjunction with other paths to better emotional health/contentment/the valuation of long-term abstinence from non-prescribed mind-altering agents.

    It does have many valuable ideas, some dovetailing with several others–Buddhisms, Christian theology, CBT. I’m a throw-em-all-at-the-wall/see-what-sticks kind of girl, though. I take what sounds good, give it a try, see what works, and try to drive that further home.

    The origin of the slogans–muy interesting. Going to look into that now.

  50. AA is a pyramid scheme only thing is at the bottom no one ever gets payed ,but the people who work at the central office in NYC do get payed form the dollars put in the basket

  51. AA may not be a cult ,however I do believe it is an unhealthy organization in the fact that it has no moral standards ie; it is ok to be homo$exual it is ok to pick up intimate partners at meetings ect….. ,u can wore ship anything including satin if it is a higher power that keeps u sober ,sobriety is thought of as being the most important entity in your life ,more important than family,faith or any other moral standards.I have been to many meetings ,and the members seem strange ,many of them think if they don’t go to an AA meeting at least one time a day 7 days a week that they will drink,and most of the members think that AA is above Christianity and it has some weird power that the Church does not have. In my observations the members had many vices,but only wanted to give up drinking and keep all thier other vices going ie; gaming, smoking, intercourse ect….

  52. Fascinating comments on your nicely balanced article AB. I celebrated 10 years of sobriety in AA yesterday so I’ve been thinking about the organisation quite a lot recently. For some reason I got it into my head to do some reading around on the old “cult” argument. I came across a really spirited debate a few years ago on this subject, on a cult website. It seemed that there was a majority view among cult experts that AA is not in fact a cult. But that certainly doesn’t seem to kill off the debate, and there is great passion on both sides. I suspect that might have more to do with the personalities that are likely to have to attend AA more than the organisation itself!

    The comment I came across that I like most in my web wanderings was that if AA is a cult, it’s the most disorganised one the world has ever seen. From a personal point of view, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and gave me a second chance at life that I never imagined existed. They never asked anything from me, not one thing. But I choose to give a little time back to – as we say – “repay my debt”. To make sure that just as there was a meeting available when I needed one, there will be a meeting available when others need one. I think ultimately AA invited me to find a way to be a better human being, without being terribly prescriptive about how that could come about.

    All the best!

  53. I have gone back and forth on this. If the only “face” of AA that people see is sickos in an AA meeting who don’t even know what they are talking about, constantly quote from the book but contradict it left and right, violate the traditions over and over again DEMANDING that others do what they want them to do(fourth step MUST be in columns, black ink, white paper, ad nausium which the book makes no demand, zip, zero, zilch, notta, etc etc that people do a fourth step one way or the other), then yes it will seem like a cult. Stick with the literature which is very liberal and non-demanding, AA’s teachings are beautiful and peaceful. I think there is the religion of AA and there is the program of AA(people who practice AAism are self righteous, bristle with antagonism at any mention that AA looks like a religion for instance and will debate endlessly and even sometimes get really loud and obnoxious over a person having the “audacity” to call a spade a spade-they also tend to believe that you are incapable of making ANY decision in your life and they try to play God in people’s lives all the time). Difference of attitude depending on the practitioner. Had I not fired all sponsors, read the book for myself, worked the steps by myself, did the opposite of everyone else’s demands(demanding I go to X number of meetings per week, demanding that I get a sponsor, demanding that I can’t do an inventory on a computer, etc etc), demands that are no where to be found in the literature, my sobriety is now better than it has ever been.

  54. I was in AA for twelve years, stayed sobered, but got sober at 18. Was pretty much brainwashed for 12 years. The thing is that it is a cult and a religion. First of all, they say the lord’s prayer after every meeting and that is a christian prayer, though AA claims it isn’t a religion. The other thing is that God can be whoever you choose it to be…a tree, your dog, etc.
    A court in New York ruled AA as a religion years ago, so there’s evidence that it is. And it’s a terrible one at that. For me personally, I found christ, and haven’t gone back and have never been happier. I accomplished and felt better about myself within a few months of becoming a christian then my entire 12 years with AA.
    I also believe it can be cured because picking up a drink or a drug is a choice, noone is making it for you. That doesn’t mean that you might not think about it from time to time, but it is a choice. AA tells you that it isn’t, The only way to stay sober is through their terrible program that really does not work that well. Through 12 years i’ve seen more people go then stay, and only a few stayed sober through all those years I was sober. So what does that tell you statistically?

  55. I have read this whole post and found some if not logical or fact based,yet very interesting point of views. there are some things I can’t comment on because I do not know enough about, but I can comment on my experience. I would like to comment on this whole page but I am using an iPod and I don’t got hours to type. I am a recovering addict I have six months sober.I was shooting two bundles of heroine on a daiily basis. I lived to get high and got high to live.heroine was my deity, my lover,my friend, my life. when I say this I do not exagerrate, every waking minute and every ounce of energy was used to please my lover nothing else mattered and you better pray to your god if you got in the way of me and my significant other. it took me to the point where all I thought about was suicide, literally it got to the point where I would rob and steal and my excuse to do it is I would not be alive long enough to experience the consequnces. but I was allways to scared to actually do it, I hoped everytime I shoot up a bundle of heroine at once I would not wake guys have no idea what I have did and I am still alive,eventhough I begged god on a daily basis crying for death it never came. yet here I am still alive,all the times I have driven when I should of been in the emergency room being treated for an overdose, all the times I shoot up unknown substances in my arm, literally shooting up enough opiates to kill a army of elephants. yet guess what here I am to post this if that is not proof of gods will for me or the fact simply that there is a god I don’t know what is. when I was using my family despised me I had no friends and I was just waiting to die. now threw the grace of god and a.a(as introduced me to my god and set the ground work to have a relationship with him) I have a family who loves me and I actually spend time with them, I have true friends I can call at three in the morning and they would come to Africa to pick me up, I have a relationship with me god and most important I fricken love life and love myself. this weekend I am going to the beach to a far show, last weekend I went camping with my a.a brothers and the weekend before I went to the beach. I can’t remeber the last time I have had so much fun and been so happy just to be alive and I am sober. when I was getting high I couldn’t of imagined this life in my wildest dreams. if you would of known me a year ago and yu met me today you would not even think I am the same person and you would not have a bad word to say about a.a. threw a.a I found god and god saved my life. I don’t care what a.a is it saved my life. let me clairfy that statement a.a is not a cult, but really I could careless eitherway I sober and happy… no matter what your opinons on a.a no matter how outlandish and ludicrous they are, a.a saves peoples lives and makes a profound difference in the world;for those who work the program the results speak for themselves.

  56. I think all 12 steps are cults. Through Facebook, I was contacted by an old friend who I learned was an ex-gang member, convicted felon, and “recovering” addict. I found it interesting that he could not go a few sentences without launching into some scripted “recovery” lingo. I finally pointed it out to him, and he appeared not to be aware he was even doing it. It was like he was a programmed robot. “I’m a changed man. I’m not the same man I used to be. I did some things I’m not proud of. Today, with the blessing of the Program, yada yada.”

    And with all that he’s done to screw up his life, he’s suddenly an expert on how everyone should think and live, especially addicts. He believes without going to meetings, an addict will regress. If you’re not working your program the way he’s working his, you’ll probably fail.

    I don’t know what the answers are for addicts. I just found it interesting that a guy who spent his childhood and part of his adult life in gangs is again latching on to a philosophy that’s designed around rigid group think. At 40, I think the chances of this child/man ever building a life where he is freely thinking for himself is pretty remote.

  57. people like to argue, it feeds there ego, William James, noted father of American Psycholgy has very good writings and thought’s concerning ego. Most modern thinker’s do not. Now that acheived sobriety and more, I have found thr deeper reason’s I drank or used drug’s for so many years. The Big Book of AA is a consolidation of idea’s from Jame’s classic book “Varieties of Religious Experience’s” et. al. I read it and found true reason for myself which is really what matter’s. I care nothing of the opinion’s of other’s and their descent of ancient idea’s that offer enlightenment and peace of mind. Once I took, was self centered, and selfish. Now, I am a giver and find it truly is better to give tham to receive. AA is the greatest show on earth and I have a chance to particpate. There is a good wrench for every nut that comes in. We are the cream of the crap. Many people here and in the world need to drop the book and lighten up. Take the good and leave the bad. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you. That’s your mind….either fill it with good and banish the bad. Man truly does not lives on bread alone but on every word thay proceed’s out of the mouth of God. This is the acceptance and gain of wisdom. Then, and only then, can a man or woman begin to achieve sanity, sound reasoning etc. This is the great fact for us or! this is the proof that appear’s to have happened regarding true change in other’s. Revolutions such as Communism etc fail because there is no change from within. Only God Himself has the power to fill you with peace but you must be willing to change. A woman prophetess told me that God wanted to lasso me like a wild horse and pull me close to Him…Wow! I was humbled even at a time when I was trying to break the bonds of alcoholic addiction or slavery if you will. Freewill is our good fortune. I am now a lowly servant of God whom I fear, the maker of the heavens, the water’s, and the dry land….Face your fears…live your dreams…

  58. Iinenvolved. It us not dangeroys. It does nit make people drink. You dont have to stay. Uf you can stop by yoursel, fine. Uf tou get unvilved you wont drink. You,gave to make thus your life ir ut doesnt work. Mist peopke dont wabt to, so it doesnt wirk for them. A small group does, so ut works for them. You dont magucally stop drinking. If you think you do, you have no udea what yoyre talkung about. Its not a cukt any mire than catholuc, jydausm, chrustuanuty, hinduusm, a basketball team, a baseball team, the army, ir any ither group that has rules and ohilisophues. Either you do what they say or get out. Leave aa alone, let it helps who it helps

  59. I would like to know why the people in all these posts are so obsessed with trashing aa. Where does this extreme hate come from. I just left aa. In november ill have 21 years sober and in me 20 years there I attended at least 10,000 meetings. I left, because I have alot if time and I dont want to sit with drunk people everyday. So now ket me say what I want to say. A very small handful if people stay sober in aa. That is because its too much work. There are things people dont want to do. Uf this orogram git givernment grants, the success rate us so low it wouldnt be funded anymore. Now the teachings are dogma, dont argue ir think. Bill us always right. The book us always right. Do what youre told. The fellowship us always there. Your spinser will guide you. Uf you keave youll drink. They will try to make you not leave. So let me tell you reality. They dont care if you stay ir keave. The oeople are so sekf centered, they dont even realize youre gone. I never read the big book. I could care less about bill wilson. My sponser was the reverand if the chyrch. I never had an aa sponser and never wanted one, cause hes as sick as all the rest. Its a origeam. The origram is always right. Uf you could debate it, the whole pkace us out if control. Stoo havings opinions that ruin you life. Stop analtzing things. You wouldnt have a priblem uf you coukd think cirrectky. I did the steps when I,wabted to. I went to the mtpeetungs wgen I wanted to. I went to theye if meetings iwanted to. This higher power thing is bunk, cause how can I make up a good higher power when um think like an udiot. I kearned about Jesus vecause I wanted to. You dint have to. You dint gave to say the lords prayer. You dont have to do nothing. You can even drunk. Ypuf you come drunk to the neetungs, thats cool to. I stayed sober by doing service and getting

  60. Cult, pure and simple. But you can stay above that if you keep your selfwill about all things except booze. Then aa can be a good component of recovery. As with all things in life, some aa groups are better than others.

  61. Dan, I am well versed in Theosopy and the idea’s of man. Again your sources about “channeling” and a spirit named Boniface are in error. While I agree that Bill W. & the BB of AA do not have references citing sources, the BB of AA is not a medical journal etc. The steps hail from many writing’s, Thomas Troward et. al. of the Great Lectures of Edinbourogh was the mentor of Emmet Fox. Sam Shoemaker who was God’s lowly servent at the skid row mission witnessed Bill Wilson’s confession of Christ and baptism. Bill W. asked Sam to write and take credit for the twelve steps since it is based on the Bilical book of James. After meetings of the newly forming groups in New York they would go to hear the lectures of Emmet Fox. A young man trying to get sober in the newly formed AA groups had a mother who was Mr. Fox’s secretary. That’s how they got wind of his lectures. Bill W. initially wanted Dr. Bob’s wife to right the Chapter to the Wives but she declined. And yes, Lois should have written the chapter but the book is geared from the alcoholic’s view. Can you imagine the anger coming through the writings of a woman who had suffered so much. However, she did go on to form Al-Anon and that’s the way it worked. I don’t know your background of faith or addiction history. You sound like a young Christian person who is quick with slinging unfounded information. A friend of mine who is a profound thinker and has many degree’s in Engineering, a devout man of faith, and an excellent Bible Scholar went to an AA meeting and looked upon the 12 step’s. He remarked! “Those are Christian principle’s from the Book of James!” This is my last comment as this site and rebuttal’s serve no useful servce to me. I have studied the Holy Scripture’s, Psychology, and Addiction Studies as well as my own experience. I hold many degree’s which I count as folly compared to God’s great wisdom. if you will take anything from this last discussion Dan remember this equation – Sound reason + love = wisdom and again, anytime I begin to sense someone is just making unfounded comment’s it is like wrestling with a pig in the mud….after a while you realize the pig likes it. Perhap’s you will convince a few souls but I would rather stay with what has worked for millions who died sober and close to God…

  62. Les,

    I think I’ve made my references clear enough. Much of what I wrote is based on my own experience, and readers already in AA can judge for themselves whether the BB and 12&12 are, from a spiritual point of view, a rehash of Theosophy and Freemasonry, both of which are decidedly anti-Christian systems. There are many books available in any large bookstore contradicting AA’s success claims. Dr. Herbert Fingarette’s Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease, written some two decades ago, is particularly noteworthy because of the author’s credentials.

    Have you read Peabody’s Common Sense of Drinking, which I refer to above? It’s available on the Internet, and if you read it, you’ll find Bill W lifted many concepts and slogans almost verbatim and without attribution. Do you doubt Bill W’s and Dr. Bob’s attempts to contact and channel spirits and the dead, or that Bill W himself said a spirit named Boniface dictated the 12 Steps to him in a trance? Do you doubt Bill W redacted the stories in the BB to reflect success due entirely to his system, despite half those early members relapsing and dying from alcohol? Do you doubt Bill W wrote the chapter “To the Wives” himself, pretending it was the combined effort of the wives of the early members?

    Anyway, Les, at least you’re aware of Fox’s Sermon on the Mount being the primary teaching manual before the BB was written. Fox’s thinking anticipates New Age-ism like nothing else. Today, it’s my opinion that New Age-ism permeates AA meetings like a hidden hand, and in this regard readers of any belief should take a look at the essay, “Masters of the Blinding Light: What Jewish People Should Know About the New Age,” which is available on the Internet.

  63. I wish all who make such outlandish comments against Bill W. and AA would cite their sources. Such comments as dismal recovery, occult and demon writings et. al. Dan, your way out there bud…Christina clams a much more severe addiction than alcohol…Hmmm, I wish I would have spilled a Martini on my party dress but that was not the case. Please be specific when you try to do one better than another. Oh! and Dan, I think steps 8 & 9 cover personal responsibility. You would think people would know how to rationally and with logical education back up their arguments. One can always tell people who are lazy and do not do the proper reading and study as well as citing sources. Other wise, your comments fall profoundly short and not worth the read.

  64. We’ll Dan, I don’t know about anyone else…but I do know how it works, as I have studied the origin of addiction as also the history of AA from it’s early founding. Carl Jung the noted Austrian Psychiatrist who treated Roland Hazzard was himself involved with mysticism and of all things even brought his mistress home to Sunday dinner at table with his wife! The best pamplet I found in the meeting rooms is one called “A Member;s Eyeview of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. This a meeting of one Dan, myself….I wholeheartedly took the steps and incorporated them into my life. I was hopelessly lost in the “slavery” of alcohol but my true enemy was myself and the crouching, charging, snarling, tiger’s within. I met and faced my fear’s and now living my dream’s and need not explain to anyone. Even as Christ Himself said nothing to Pontious Pilate and he marveled at Him who stood silent before him as He knew the truth about Himself. The steps are based on the book of James in the Holy Writ and most manifested and used in the Big Book from the book -The Sermon on the Mount- Fox, E. (1934). I understand what you mean when people say they don’t understand how it works and this is repeated over and over again. Let it be so, in the pamplet I spoke of earlier and as the blind man said that Jesus healed, “All I know is once I was blind, but now I see. And that is the sum of me…once I was an enemy of me and now I love me…and I am at peace with myself and the Lord of Host’s….I am even ridiculed at meeting’s for giving that experience but that experience belong’s to me and not one person great or small can take the Love of God from my heart because I read, studied, and applied the principle’s that are as old as recorded history. I do not, nor to I accept your conclusion that AA is a cult, or New Age but that is your concern and not mine. I take & live my AA program, Bible reading, and living with God all by faith and the works thereof. Remember Dan, a little mind is just that but, holding the hand of God is a mighty mind. I am more than a child of God…I am a son of the King….who can mess with me. This was told to me by an angel sent from God one day in broad daylight…I shall never forget it as long as I breath the air. Even this writing is of no avail to those who disagree with the principle’s of the 12 step’s and arguing with such folly is like wrestling with a pig in the mud…after a while you realise the pig likes it.

  65. It saddens me to see comments following mine that ignore the New Age infiltration of AA. Les, for example, exemplifies the New Age irrationalism that pervades AA thinking. I can’t tell you how many times I had to endure members telling me “I don’t know how it works, I just know it works,” when the facts so obviously prove otherwise. What “works” for these people is New Age-ism, but they will never admit that’s what keeps them coming back. AA, as has been demonstrated in university studies, does not keep people from drinking. The proof of this is that far more people stop drinking on their own than do through AA, so the number of oldtimers in AA who don’t drink is statistically and scientifically meaningless.

    I restricted my earlier comments to the pernicious anti-Christian nature of AA’s theosophical, gnostic “spirituality,” and tried to impress the need to do your own research on New Age-ism, theosophy, gnosticism, occultism, demonic automatic writing (the acknowledged source of Bill W’s writings), Freemasonry, etc., if one wants to understand what’s really going on in the rooms. I should also add that Jewish members, or prospective members, of this cult should understand the implications of New Age-ism from their perspective, and in this regard I would recommend googling “Masters of the Blinding Light: What Jewish People Should Know About the New Age,” for AA today is nothing if not a New Age cult.

    AA intends to become your life for the rest of your life, and, considering its record of abysmal failure, that’s a heck of a price to pay.

  66. I loved your comment Christa, Those with critical cpmments have critical spirits. I was told early on that I didn’t have a driniking problem, but an internal spiritual problem and a “phenomenom” of craving we now suspect may well be a gene marker in us. So I quit playing the “victim role” as a result of taking the steps and the result was a happy handshake with reality. Was it easy? by no means, But “God” is a loving Spirit of action and His people willing to help in an unselfish manner. Alcoholics, addict’s have gimme, gimme attitudes. I never dreamed it possible that 3 years ago I made a decision to stop drinking. Thank God for “desperation” LOL Amazing that some minds do not have the ability (constitionally) to be honest with themselves, so they make up excuses that you read on this site. The language of EGO is spoken well by the critics here. That’s why I say “Thank God for desperation.” Keep up the good work Christa. I will have three years tomorrow.

  67. AA is definitely a type of cult and religion both.
    23 years I clung to the insanity.
    When expressing that I was finding more help and health progress in methods outside of the AA mindset I was socially attacked by people with significantly less time sober, relapses and other mind sets that did not warrant their opinion to be even remotely respected.
    But I was wrong, going to go back out drinking or risking others to die with my opinions.
    It woke me right up!

  68. Hi Christa. Thanks for sharing about your experience in A.A. I think that it is a wonderful way of life, too. It is a microcosm of a society which many churches and religions actually want to emulate: openness, honesty, acceptance, change. And perhaps just airing out the discussion can provide people with another option for life. Thanks again for adding your comment!

  69. Wow there are some really amazing misconceptions of AA, the Big Book, Bill Wilson, etc. out there, it is truly jaw dropping to read some of the things that people really believe. I have been in AA continuously for over 23 years. Just like any group of people, you have members who are more extreme and “by the book” and the ones who are more casual about stuff. I have dozens and dozens of friends who have been sober as long as I and we all have very normal, fun and wonderful lives. We aren’t mentally unfit, we aren’t in a cult, we aren’t sheep following some mysterious dogma. Bill Wilson wasn’t perfect and most of us don’t idolize him. A sponsor is just a mentor, you aren’t “shunned” if you don’t have one, there is no such thing as a sponsor having a certain standing in AA, truly that made me just laugh. We are all just trying to help each other, someone who is sober for 6 months can help someone who has been sober for a day. There’s NO shunning or ostracizing, or any of that crazy stuff. I have found members of AA to be very kind, loving and inclusive and I have been around quite awhile now. The program was founded on Christian principles, it is not anti-Christian at all, as a Buddhist I don’t even agree with all the spiritual principles mentioned in the book but no one cares. I am free to agree with whatever I want. No one tells you that you will die if you don’t follow the program. But I personally do believe that alcoholism is a progressive illness and that left untreated people will die, just like untreated diabetes will also kill people. Hopefully alcoholics get sober one way or another, AA or not. We don’t tell people to stay away from our friends and family who aren’t in AA but newcomers to AA may have a hard time staying sober around drinkers, at first. The 4th step is an INVENTORY (look up the definition) where you take stock of the things that are causing you to feel bad about yourself so that you can deal with them. You also look at the things about yourself that are great so that you can not feel like crap about yourself anymore and you can build on those good feelings. To summarize, AA isn’t for everyone but a lot of the negative comments are just plain ludicrous and completely incorrect. AA is made of a group of people, some crazy, some sick, most are perfectly wonderful and amazing! I met my fabulous husband 19 years ago in AA! I am having a marvelous time living a sober life, my hope is that others will find the same happiness for themselves.

  70. One thing that makes me think that AA is a cult is that I have seen addiction specialists who are AA members intermix AA ideology with Counseling methods. I work in a Rehab and hear workers with Master Degrees in Social Work at meetings make suggestions for a client’s aftercare that sounds more like what a sponsor would say than a professional who is suppose to be looking for the best outcome of religious and non-religious clients.

  71. Thanks Christina for your rebuttal…I don’t believe I said AA was a “cure” If you will read carefully I state that nothing is perfect. These are not new ideas or principles and you are right about people talking themselves into drinking again if they stop meetings. I don’t go as often anymore because of the intense second hand smoke afterwards which prevents me from fellowshiping after the meeting. I actually returned to church to expand spirituality and be around loving people. I do not enjoy the abrasive nature of some there in AA’ers who cuss and interupt others while talking but as I said earlier people there will not be on the cover of metally fit magazine. I don’t agree with everthing in the book but the initial process helped me launch into a more more healthy lifestlye. I like the positive things of AA like, helping others. I wish I could say I spilled a martini on my party dress when I showed up there. LOL But as I slooowly became sober I saw people I didn’t want to be like. I actually went to a VA ADTP 28 day program and a 1 year aftercare so I went to any length th stay sober. I still remember what the Psychatrist said “I want to see what your like with alcohol in your system”. My intent for my intial blog is that I detest complainers, AA is not perfect, the ideas are not new. I am now a registered alcohol and drug counselor in Calif. I read and study about the human brain. One need only the desire to stop drinking and that is the starting process of most things put into action. Also Christina, wnen I hear others denegrating AA I never hear them say ” Now I can drink with impunity” Let me stress, I will not take another drink of alcohol, but only on a day to day basis. I live in the moment and that makes me happy and the Spirit of love walks and talks with me. I learned some wonderful principles in AA but some of those people there are nuts and never accept the the heart of the program is centered on the power of a loving God who does the healing if I am willing. I wish you well Christina, I really do, and I think we can agree that we agree mostly. Once I was a drunken hells angel like looking guy with long hair and a beard, shades, gun toting and even have said to some members in AA that early on they were in danger of their life for talking crap about my insane comments at meetings. Now I am changed and now I could honestly walk you to your car at night so you can be safe. This is how it works and continues to work for me. I am a miracle. Merry Christmas to you Christina, I mean that.

  72. If AA works for you that is wonderful. It is NOT 4 every1 and that is the problem with AA. They claim without it the addict will die or go 2 jail. That is bullshit and is backed up by 0 facts! The facts are AA has an extremely low success rate and an alcholic is 10times more likely to recover without it. There is absolutely no science to back up the claims AA makes. Furthermore to say AA is not a “religious” group is a bit unrealistic. Bill W got all his “ideas” from the Oxford Group and God is mentioned in many of the steps. He had a religious awakening of some sort in a hospital and that is what led him to sobriety(wow). Les I believe you mention God in your comment, right? I am 5 years clean from a much more serious addiction than alcohol and guess what…..I DID IT WITHOUT AA, NA and whatever other group out there that is forced upon every addict as the only way recover. What worked for 1 person may or may not work for another, simple as that. I was forceed to many groups and everytime I ran the hell out of there! Again, if it works for you, that is wonderful and I sincerely mean that! Stop forcing it and claiming as the cure all because there is nothing further from the truth

  73. Wow! Sure is a lot of big thinking going on here. Maybe we could all get together and have a few drinks, just to see who can stop. If you can then my hat is off to you. If your still sober after a few weeks of some “controled drinking” then you may have some merit to what you have stated here. But if not, do you really want to go back to that nightmare of not stopping? Or dying, or going to jail. I slowly got sober in AA. I don’t care if it’s a disease, childhood terrors, I just know there is a sloution if you put the effort into it. Just like anything else we do if we want to excel. Yes, you have the whole world at AA meetings, liars cheats, 13 steppers…what did you expect? No one there is going to be on the cover of Mentally Fit Magazine. I have some nice friends there and some I don;t hang with because without alcohol in my system I able to reason as God would have me to. My wife, family, and respect has returned. There are other meetings to go to if yours isn’t funtioning right, if not, get involved and speak your peace, stand up for what is right and quit complaining on some blog like a child. Love God, clean house, and help others. Whats so hard about that! Or, have a drink or drinks, it’s now your choice…I’m not that brave or stupid!

  74. @ flannigan, the comment begs the question, assuming what is at issue. Has a disease been discovered which causes a behavior such as heavy or destructive drinking, or is it the case that these behaviors are merely being labeled as a disease? As far as I know, and despite much research into the matter, no disease has ever been discovered. AA simply makes heavy or destructive drinking a logically sufficient condition for the diagnosis of disease; i.e., it’s a disease because they say so.

    To be fair to AA, many people “coming in” cannot accept their responsibility for the destruction left in the wake of their drinking, and the idea that they have a disease beyond their control makes it possible to take the first steps at “sobriety”, or total abstinence. In time, a person learns to take responsibility for his or her past drinking. I don’t know of course, but my guess is that flannigan would subject those in the throes of destructive drinking to another sort of “faith healing” with no scientific basis whatsoever, modern psychology, still mired as it is in thoroughly debunked Freudianism, which last I heard was passing itself off as “psychodynamics” or some other pseudo-scientific sounding name.

    My complaint remains the inane cult aspects of AA and in particular the venomous attacks on “organized religion,” which the newcomer soon realizes is coded language for the Catholic and Protestant churches. It staggers me that people who attack two thousand years of faith imply in their strident attacks on their former church that they’ve examined the theology, philosophy, morals, ethics, art, architecture, music, and civilizing force of the Christian churches and found it wanting in light of the theosophical and gnostic teachings of an amateur dabbler in occultism and necromancy like Bill W.

  75. The question of whether AA is a cult or not is irrelevant. AA is not an effective or appropriate means of dealing with alcoholism (however one may define that word). Faith-healing is not a valid treatment of a medical disease or disorder.

  76. Christina, if I were you, I would assume that unless you find out otherwise your professor is an anonymous member of AA, and a fanatical adept at that. For these people, AA is the core of their psyche. To even question AA despite all the studies proving it doesn’t work for nearly all those who try it is to question the very meaning of their life.

    Like the theosophy AA’s spiritual dogmas are based on, AA claims scientific validation for its beliefs that are substantiated by no other proof than their saying so. The “disease concept of alcoholism” is an hypothesis at best, and, in realty, a metaphor of questionable therapeutic validity. It surely is not a verified scientific theory. It does, however, provide the legitimation for indoctrinating newcomers into a religious cult insofar as their destructive drinking is said to be a disease whose only chance for recovery requires a complete and unconditional surrender to AA.

    AA’s dogma appears to me as a a dumb-downed form of Theosophy. This occult religion was a late 19th century revival by Madame Blavatsky, who also claimed like and Bill W to have received a revelation from demonic spirits. In her case, two associates almost immediately exposed her as a total fraud. Theosophy is loaded with occultism, necromancy, magic, and the like, and it’s not surprising, therefore, that you’ll find so many members of AA involved in Eastern and esoteric religions and all this sordid occult stuff. This is nothing if not soul-sickness, a sure sign of a disordered consciousness.

    One thing that I found frightening is the consensus in AA that its borrowed and plagiarized theosophical dogma and program of recovery were divinely inspired and of equal provenance with the Bible. I’ve listened to those still calling themselves Protestants and Catholics say on many occasions that they found the teachings of Bill W more meaningful in their lives than anything they ever learned in church, which borders on insanity considering Bill W admitted he got the 12 Steps through demonic channeling. Like Theosophy itself, AA’s provenance is demonic channeling, and all such cults down through the ages are characterized by demonic inspiration as distinctly opposed to the Divine inspiration of God.

    Bill W, if you didn’t already know it, also wrote the chapter “To the Wives” in the Big Book, which his wife Lois had so desperately wanted to write herself, in which this spiteful man blames her nagging for his habitual relapses and his smashing their house to pieces in the years of hell she endured before he had that drug-induced experience of a spirit he called the Father of Light while in the hospital drying out.

    Like Brenda above, I also found myself depressed after leaving AA meetings after listening to a cacophony of spiritual dementia for an hour at a time. But, the brainwashing is intense enough that I kept going as she did and it was no easy process to break from it. To this day when I run into AAs that I had see almost every day, they greet me with what I’d call almost an evil eye, as if they were looking and wishing for some telltale sign that I’m secretly drinking.

    Good luck in your class, and don’t be browbeaten by some cultist masquerading as a scholar if that’s the case.

  77. Dan, your comments are so insightful and I appreciate your thoughts! I am writing a paper for my addictions counseling class regarding AA and I came across this blog. I am so happy to see I am not the only one with such feelings regarding AA! I am five years in recovery and I did it without following the 12 steps nor anyone else’s ideals. I took addictions counseling out of curiousity but I deep down new it would be a challenge for me considering I do not believe in coercing people to attend AA as all councelors do. I tried to explain to my professor/counselor I am not comfortable in AA or NA because even though people are not drinking or using they still have major mental issues and are not the people I want to be influenced by. I also can not understand or imagine preaching the good word of AA with all of my spare time as many of these people do!

  78. Brenda touched on a critical point. She says that therapists steer people to AA, but “blindly recommend it without regular attendance at closed mtg to find out how sick it can be.” I disagree that most blindly recommend AA. From what I’ve learned over the years, the majority of certified drug and alcohol counselors who recommend AA ahead of other modes of treatment do so because they are themselves anonymously members of AA. In fact, the counselors I’ve met at meetings are among the most extreme fanatics, and so much so they decided to go back to school, many for a master’s degree, to make spreading the theosophical cult of AA their life’s work. This borders on fraud since they never reveal their own membership or fanatical beliefs to patients who are lied to with abandon about AA’s track record of failure. This would also apply to a significant percentage of nurses, doctors, and psychologists who specialize in drug and alcohol treatment, despite academic studies and the extensive literature proving is doesn’t work, has no scientific validity, and is a quasi-religious theosophical cult. AA’s objective isn’t to cure the world of destructive drinking. It’s a cult whose objective is to recruit long-term initiates from among those under extreme emotional distress from destructive drinking (and now several other destructive behaviors) who can be manipulated through its cult-like modes of indoctrination and brainwashing. The patient seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol problem should realize that they are most likely already sitting across the desk from a high-level, fanatical adept of the cult who’s mission in life is recruitment.

  79. This is an interesting post. I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Not gonna thump the Big Book here either. I have been sober now for 22 years and attend several AA meetings a week, depending on work, etc. I can understand a lot of the negative comments that I have read in these posts pertaining to AA, from sponsorship to 13th stepping and the courts forcing folks to attend. One group that I attend will not sign court papers. We don’t have to. Most do however. AA sure did not initiate that. What I had to realize early on is that there are imperfect people in AA just like any other organization of folks. KVLT said he was forced to go to AA, get a sponsor and do some other things, that personally I disagree with. He said he was addicted to opiates and not alcohol. The court system seems to think that AA is a “cure all” for everything, when in fact it is designed only for the alcoholic, as NA is designed only for the addict. When an alcoholic or addict is forced to do anything, most will rebel. I know that I have and still do. I do not try to control anyone in AA. The folks that I sponsor are free to do anything they please, including getting drunk. Most of the time just listening to another alcoholic is all that one needs, because if they talk long enough they will answer their own question. We do not need lecturing or someone trying to run our lives. Remember that you hired the guy or lady, and you are perfectly free to fire them. It is really pretty simple. I want to be sober more than I want to be drunk, and AA has been a wonderful fellowship to me for these years, and has played a Huge part in my recovery. Is it a cult? To me, absolutely not. If it is to others, I totally respect that also. I really love to see folks stay sober, no matter what fellowship or organization, if any, they attend. Just an old alcoholics opinion.

  80. It is always a relief to see a comment which affirms a feeling I have had in AA-ie, the morbidly self-obsessed(well put) emotionally puerile cranks-yes. Yikes and if you express any different ideas the hostility/fear is palpable. It is crazymaking. Often I feel worse after a mtg than before . I go infrequently now and hoping to eliminate it altogether. I quit for several years (after 16 years involvement) and studied cult stuff to help me let the AA shit go. Just working on some alternatives( there anren’t many where I am from). AA is the biggest game in town. Therapists etc blindly recommend it without regular attendance at closed mtg to find out how sick it can be. Yikes!

  81. Mark, good point. I’ve been to several thousand AA meetings in many towns and different states, and, as you say, dissent is unacceptable. The chief method of voicing dissent during a meeting is that obnoxious, de rigeuer body language of coughs, shifting chairs, and a sense of hostility permeating the air. But, let one of those “gratefully recovering Catholics” or their Protestant counterparts start bashing “organized religion,” meaning Christianity, and there’s always a chorus of inane “ummm” and a wave of positive energy permeating the air. No one, but no one would dare openly bash Judaism, Islam, or any crank pseudo-religion at an AA meeting in the way Christianity is bashed, for fear of offending some member.

    I don’t know what your own beliefs are, but as for the true believers in the “rooms,” AA dogma is a dumb-downed form of theosophy, which is also what Freemasonry teaches in its highest degrees of initiation. According to one woman close to Bill W, he claimed he was perfecting the teachings of Jesus Christ. This sounds bizarre, but, in fact, consistent with masonic teaching. Like masonry, AA tells its newer initiates that it’s tolerant of religion, and expects its member to believe in one form of Higher Power or another. As the initiate progresses, however, that god and its will are replaced with a gnosis promising that the initiate “will intuitively know” the ultimate meaning of life. (As an aside, the very concept and term “sharing” is a straightforward borrowing from masonry.) As I mentioned in a comment above, AA, like Freemasonry, promises salvation in this life, or “Utopia,” as Bill W considered that sick, morbid obsession with meeting-going. As with Freemasonry the initiate undergoes a descent into the Underworld, the hell of drinking in AA’s case, and through trials and initiation at the hand of an adept, finally overcomes death itself, and in so doing becomes himself a Christ, a savior of mankind like Bill W, dedicated to spreading this poisonous message to a target audience, the “still sick and suffering alcoholic.”

    “Recovery” becomes a lifelong process because it doesn’t work. Their morality is strangely silent on intimacy morality as many have noticed. In fact, my first sponsor took up with a babe at the meeting who was young enough to be his daughter, then divorced his wife, and the two are happily preaching AA’s message to this day. Destructive drinking is symptomatic of underlying psychological problems, as even AA admits. Spending time at AA meetings proves that, while these people may not drink, they’re morbidly self-obsessed, emotionally puerile cranks who should be avoided like the spiritual plague they are. Never forget the “AA Death Threats,” and never, on penalty of maybe even losing your life, buy into that horrific mind control.

  82. Allows a voice of dissent? LMAO! Go into a meeting and question the aa way of life and see how much your allowed to dissent.

  83. Thanks for your compliment. I’m no expert on these matters, yet a cursory look over “Bill’s Story” in the Big Book should be enough warning that AA is anti-Christian. Bill says he admired Christ, but as a man only, and for His morals. As far as I know he never retracted his denying the divinity of Christ.

    Bill, the admitted occultist, states in his own words that “the Devil, the Boss Universal,” had him before his conversion. But, conversion to what? Early in the chapter he says in no uncertain terms that the spirit that appeared to him in the hospital was the “Father of Light.” This is as straightforward a reference to Lucifer as there is. In occult, satanic circles, this is a standard name for Lucifer and not some possibly ill-chosen reference to God the Father of the Bible. For many occultists Lucifer is both the demiurge that created the universe and the source of enlightenment. Bill subsequently refers to “God,” but this must be taken in context.

    His “story” in the Big Book involves in large part his conversation with an old friend who’d “gotten religion,” who he had a long talk with in his home while still drinking. His friend was so exasperated with Bill’s denouncing God and religion (meaning the Christian religion), that he suggested, and Bill accepted, that it should be a god of Bill’s own choosing. Bill then talks about his god actually being more of a “God-consciousness,” as he puts it, which probably derives secondhand through someone like Crowley from Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit,” where Hegel, also a fanatical occultist, creates in his consciousness a Second Reality, in effect imagining himself transforming himself into God through sorcery. This is all so sordid and dark I find it difficult to even write about it or consider that I stayed with the “program” for so long despite all the red flags that it was a dangerous theosophical cult (at best), whitewashing its occult origins and based today on the apotheosis of Bill W as a savior.

    While there is apparently no evidence directly linking Bill W’s and Dr. Bob’s occultism to the “theology” of AA, their involvement in it and claim to have read widely in the subject of occultism, spiritualism, and necromancy should alert us that the connection is undoubtedly real enough. If my recollection is correct, there is not a single word in the approved literature about an afterlife, a Heaven or a Hell. On the contrary, Bill W says that through AA he and the other adepts had found “Utopia,” or heaven in this life, in the here and now. And, nothing brings out the emotions at an AA meeting quite like the venomous attacks on “organized religion,” which is coded language for Christianity. As a warning to newcomers or those considering joining AA, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that AA members who were formerly Protestants or Catholics will come on to newcomers as if they’re still believers when they’re nothing of the sort.

  84. That is such an interesting look into the rites and rituals of the A.A. program and their possible connection to secret societies, Dan. We DO think that A.A. can work for some people, but are so interested in other recovery programs that can help as well. I don’t that that all members of A.A. would agree that sponsorship has to be sacrificial, but I suppose that the amount of free will each person submits to the program and its leaders is personal. Perhaps: “It’s a cult if you cult it.” ???

    Thanks for sharing!

  85. After 16 years in AA, I can attest that it is most definitely a religious cult that deceptively pitches itself to newcomers as “spiritual, not religious,” and “not aligned with any sect, denomination, or creed,” which is patently false. Many who have superficially investigated the origins of AA believe Bill W started it as a spinoff of Buchman’s Oxford Group, also known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA). In fact, Bill W was far more influenced by his wife’s family’s Swedenborgianism, an occult, theosophical religion that denies the divinity of Christ in no uncertain terms. During the 1930s when AA was formed, many occult, initiatory “religions,” anticipatory of today’s New Age-ism, were all the rage, and nothing characterizes the faux spirituality in AA today quite like New Age-ism. Another AA going by the same letters, “AA,” and standing for Argenteum Astrum, Latin for (Order of the) Silver Star, was formed by the Satanist, Aleister Crowley in 1907, who claimed to have channeled a spirit named Aiwass in receiving his diabolical religion’s inspiration. In a similar fashion, Bill W claimed he received the 12 Steps by channeling a demon or spirit named Boniface. As even official literature attests, both of AA’s founders were constantly and seriously involved with spiritualism and necromancy, and Bill W himself was a notorious womanizer constantly preying upon vulnerable female newcomers. Many, if not most, of AA’s cherished slogans were plagiarized almost verbatim from a popular book on drinking published in 1931, Richard Peabody’s “The Common Sense of Drinking.” The “stories” in the Big Book were all redacted by Bill W to reflect rigid adherence to his “program of recovery,” when, in truth, half of more of the people in those stories died from alcohol.

    One of the most potent modes of control over members is the so-called “AA death threat,” where newcomers are quite literally brainwashed into believing that unless they faithfully attend meetings for the rest of their lives and religiously follow AA’s dogma, they will relapse with the inevitability of a curse promising “jails, institutions, or death.” There are many other similarly worded threats throughout the approved literature guaranteeing many of those who “go out” do end up in jails, institutions, or the grave. AA members call their disgraceful schadenfreude at such cases “keeping it green,” meaning, of course, it served the unfortunate right for leaving. In fact, a study by Harvard University demonstrated that a person has a better chance of sobering up and leading an abstinent life by avoiding AA. At best AA can be said to have helped about 2% or 3% of those who came through its doors achieve sobriety for any length of time.

    The other founder of AA, Dr. Bob, was a Freemason, who’d been thrown out for his drunkenness, but reinstated after he stopped drinking. Masonry permeates the AA format. As in masonic lodges, newcomers to AA have a sponsor to guide them through the steps or degrees of initiation who also serves to vet the newcomer’s conversion to this new religion with the group at large. And, make no mistake about this. If a newcomer does not have a sponsor, he is not a part of AA and will be shunned and finally ostracized from the group. Going further, a newcomer’s acceptance and popularity within the group will be determined by the standing of his sponsor. In all its highest degrees of initiation Freemasonry, like Swedenborgianism and Theosophy, denies the divinity of Christ. In fact, Freemasonry has adapted a semi-Judaic calendar to make it clear it sees its antecedents as earlier than and of greater historicity than the Gospels. A review of Masonic art and architecture also makes it clear it is ultimately a pantheistic, occult fraternity relying heavily on Egyptian Hermetic symbolism. I can’t go further into this in this limited space other than pointing out that AA’s chief symbol is a triangle within a circle, which is a straightforward adaptation of a key masonic symbol.

    A newcomer will be told that all religious beliefs are acceptable so long as a person accepts a power greater than himself, that is, some Higher Power whose will the newcomer must conform his life to. In practice, the will of the AA Higher Power translates to his sponsor’s supervision and approbation of every aspect of the newcomer’s life. Worse, in order to put the newcomer under control of the sponsor, who’s almost always a high-level adept, he must write out a full confession of all his faults and defects of character before passing on to the higher degrees of initiation, called steps in AA parlance. AA is full of loaded language, and a newcomer will constantly hear members of the group thank the group for their “unconditional love.” I say loaded language because this is in reality a formulaic, ritualistic announcement that the person has turned his “will and his life over to the care of a power greater than himself,” which, as I mentioned above, means to AA and the Sanhedrin of oldtimers who are every group’s “leaderless leaders.”

    Others above have made points I don’t want to repeat, so I’ll leave it at that. In my opinion, AA is surely one of the most pernicious, anti-Christian cults to come along in the past few hundred years. Their brainwashing and propaganda are extremely effective, and despite my year away from AA, I’m still haunted by the death threats and other nonsense that I intellectually grasp as nonsense, but emotionally find difficult to break with.

  86. I was told that my recovery center would make suggestions, and the beauty of a suggestion is you can take it or leave it. They were forcing me to go to meetings, and get a sponsor. I never even had an alcoholic problem, I was addicted to opiates. I had only been a drunk a hand full of times in my entire life, and they told me I would never be able to safely have a drink again. They were trying oh so hard to shove me in an air-tight jar labeled alcoholic and told me it is gods will. NO! It was their will, their “suggestion” and a ton of recovery rhetoric. I played along for a few months to detox myself, get my head straightened while I was attending college, and yeah I did learn valuable things, but it was all psycho-education, nothing that AA had taught me, AA taught me to despise BIG BOOK thumping verse spitting drones. Never again will I step my own two feet in the ROOMS of AA.

  87. I denounced AA a while back. But Mona Lisa, one thing you said that was inaccurate was that when people are doing a fourth step and it is true that people aren’t encouraged to also list positive traits, according to the 12×12, the essay on the fourth step does. People may say that, but the literature doesn’t. Sorry to nit pick.

    I totally agree that AA is not only a religion, but a cult. It is a religion. People hated me saying that in meetings towards the end. It all got to looking really kooky at the end. People going against good common sense to get themselves to meetings. I remember this one guy who had trouble seeing at night, he would come to the meeting and rationalized driving to get there. He could have killed a family on the road, but he had to be willing to go to ANY lengths in order to stay sober. I also came to the conclusion that as a Nichiren Buddhist(not SGI, I also denounced SGI about 4 months ago and am joining the Kempon Hokke), but I have learned through trial and error that if I chant 2 hours a day, I NEVER have the urge to drink. I was told by some members that there is no way I can stay sober and not go to meetings. Nonsense, because I am living it. I no longer have to ever be patronized for not wanting to go to a smoking meeting since I don’t smoke. That’s another thing, back when I was a newcomer and I wanted to quit smoking since my limbs were starting to ache, I would get splitting headaches, and I wanted to quit smoking more than anything. I had this sponsor who chastised me for not wanting to go to the smoking meeting. He came down hard on me telling me that I just didn’t want to quit drinking. What a moron. Not once did I SAY that I wouldn’t go to meetings, I said I didn’t want to go to that ONE meeting. But then again, I don’t care what it is, this is how AA members interpret a newcomer starting to be concerned with their health-common sense becomes UNcommon sense(in other words you should be willing to put your health at risk in order for you to stay sober-meaning that you shouldn’t try to quit drinking coffee at eight to ten o’clock at night because getting sober is so hard). I also came to the conclusion that with his seven years of sobriety at the time, if me with a month at the time managed to quit smoking AND stay sober, it would have made him look bad since he still smoked. I quit smoking by chanting. My current beliefs are that Nichiren Buddhists have NO business whatsoever in a 12 step group(since a Buddhist is their own higher power by the Law of cause and effect and to look outside of myself to a higher power would be like a Christian blaspheming the Holy Spirit, slandering the Law-this was another reason I denounced SGI because many SGI members don’t see anything wrong with Nichiren Buddhists going to AA meetings). I change my situation, not a deity. I also would never believe that “God got me here and God keeps me here.” It is not even part of the Buddhist world view because my Karma(which was dictated by actions I took in the past whether this life or past lives), so I got myself there. That tool demanded that I agree with him that God got me there. I told him never gonna happen because I am a Buddhist. He pretty much told me I won’t stay sober, so on and so forth. I don’t ever want to go back to AA, it is a complete and total waste of time.

  88. I was a member of AA for 9 years and I believe it is a cult. Most of the points you make to argue that it might not be a cult are incorrect, as follows:

    * The primary mission of Alcoholics Anonymous is to help others.

    The Big Book makes perfectly clear that the goal of the program is “”fitting ourselves to be of maximum service to God and our fellows”.

    * Membership is voluntary; commitment to the group is a personal decision.

    More often than not, attendance at AA meeting is coerced, either by the court system, employers or 12 step based treatment centers.

    * A.A. encourages healthy relationships within society.

    No it doesn’t. One of the first things, in fact, that my sponsor told me was that I should not trust anyone who wasn’t in AA. “People who don’t have a program, who aren’t used to living a life of rigorous honesty, are not to be trusted” she said.

    * Feelings of shame or guilt are seen as unhealthy.

    Feelings of shame and guilt are INSTILLED by the program. Haven’t you ever read the 4th step? Where you look at your “character defects” but are never encouraged to look at positive traits?

    * A.A. moral codes are in line with social norms.

    In most other groups I’ve belonged to, people wouldn’t look the other way while veteran members abused vulnerable newcomers. I cannot tell you how many incidents of 13th stepping I knew of in the rooms of AA and if they were ever addressed it was by encouraging the victim to “look at her part”.

    * No central body or group imposes authority over individual members.

    This is true. Which only means that within each AA group, the chickens are guarding the hen house.

    * There is no permanent leadership.

    Ever heard of Clancy?

    * Leaders are accountable to local, state and federal authorities.

    No they aren’t. That is the entire point.

    * A.A. allows everyone a voice, including one of dissent.

    If you don’t agree with the program, they tell you that you will die.

    AA is definitely a cult.

  89. I used to think of Bill W. and Dr. Bob as cult leaders. I mean, some people in AA devote their lives to the history and traditions of AA. And some people in AA quote things that they said in meetings, and such. In this case, I think that they are living AA as a religion. But, who am I to say that this is any better or worse than someone going to church? If it helps them stay sober, than so be it.

  90. Does anybody knows who has he copyrights for the Big Book? I have heard that it is Bill W.’s family, however I could not find any confirmation mentioned online. My point is there is no easy way to find out where the money coming from the sell of millions of books worldwide is going and who is profiting from it.

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