Should I Leave AA?
I've been sober for about a year and a half. I've been in AA for most of that time. I'm having trouble with the idea of being powerless over alcohol. I instead feel empowered by making the right choice every day. I want to leave AA but am told that I will surely die if I don't work the steps and go to meetings. Should I leave AA? - In Recovery
Submit Your Own Question to a Therapist
Dear In Recovery,
Thanks for your letter. Congratulations on your sobriety! It is hard to answer you without knowing what you mean by “having trouble” with step 1; I would encourage you, as did the founder of AA, Bill Wilson, to figure out what these 12-step concepts mean to you personally. You might decide you are not powerless over booze, as long as you stay away from the first drink. Some would argue that AA helps people stay away from that first drink and that without ongoing support, a recovering person’s life can become so unmanageable that the person finds he or she must drink again. Others feel that once they stop drinking, life becomes manageable again and ongoing participation is not necessary. As the recovery saying goes: For some people, stopping brings an end to problems, for others stopping means the real problems have just begun.
Sometimes there is very black and white, “either/or” language in the program, which isn’t everyone’s experience. (A client of mine told me he was instructed to “forget therapy” and only do AA, which he fortunately ignored.) While it is wise to respect the power of addiction, there is middle ground between AA and death. You might, for example, try working with a sponsor who is open-minded in helping you define your own terms. You might try going to fewer meetings before stopping altogether. The program can help some people bring order to issues like work, relationships, finances, and so forth. But not everyone. The bottom line is your safety and well-being. If you find you can have a happy, sober life without AA, there is no “law” that you have to stay. Many people with addiction find they need the consistent structure provided by a 12-step program and build their life around sober friends and activities, while others use the program as a “bridge back to life,” and some people find it doesn’t work for them at all. I say, take it one step at a time, stay honest with yourself, and see what works best for you. Good luck, and thanks again for your question!
adrienneSeptember 14th, 2012 at 3:13 PM
AA was not the right plan for me, but I have to believe that there are people out there for whom this works. Otherwise it would not have been successful for so many years, right?
But I agree with you, I needed to feel like I had more control over my drinking than what AA told me that I did. I did not think that I could ever be a success with stopping unless I found a way to do it with positive self talk over the negativity that I felt at AA.
Please don’t get me wrong, AA can be great for some people, but it just wasn’t for me. Best of luck with your sobriety. It is a daily struggle, but you can do it, I am certain.
CalebSeptember 15th, 2012 at 4:02 AM
AA is definitely one of the more recognizable names in help with alcohol dependency and addiction, butby no means does this mean that this will be the treatment plan that will work for you or that you even have to try.
There are those who will try this first simply because of the name and the popularity that it seems to have. And for many many people this is enough for them and they have great success. But there are plenty of other programs out there that could help you as well.
You don’t have to outright discount Aa, BUT YOU ALSO DON’T HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN EITHER.
MarkSeptember 15th, 2012 at 7:03 AM
you have to find the meeting group that is right for you
i loved my time at AA but I had a good sponsor too so that helped.
and I found meetings where I liked everyone so again, I made those connections that made it all a little more comfortable and easier
susanSeptember 15th, 2012 at 2:49 PM
whether you should stay or leave depends on how much of a control you think you have over your sobriety.if you can handle things and need no more support constantly then you can stop but if you feel you need that constant little telling every now and then you should continue.
maybe you could quit but still have a friend or two you can talk to at times when you do feel like taking a drink?
RodneySeptember 16th, 2012 at 5:16 AM
I think that it is pretty silly to assume that if you do not choose to go to AA than you will die. Obviosly there are plenty of people in recovery who did not walk the AA syeps and they have not died but have thrived. This is the think that I hate the most about some of these programs that insist that there way is the only way. That is just not true. There is something out there for anyone who is looking for help when they are an alcoholic. It should not have to be just one way or the highway.
K.HSeptember 16th, 2012 at 12:32 PM
If you feel you can go on and remain sober without the help and support from AA then by all means you can stop attending the meetings and see if you can hold on.But if you are not fully confident or find yourself losing against the urge to pick up a drink then you would have to go back.
I think the therapist here has answered your question the best way – “You might try going to fewer meetings before stopping altogether.” That way you can see where you stand with respect to being able to maintain sobriety without the help of AA.
DamienSeptember 16th, 2012 at 9:12 PM
I’ve been to AA before and although it is extremely helpful I have to concede that it can get overwhelming at times. There was a time when I wondered if the addiction I was overcoming would make me a permanent AA person. I was scared to be honest. But then I took a decision and attended fewer and fewer sessions until I was sure and confident I didn’t need the support of AA anymore. That was my journey towards complete abstinence. All the best in your journey. All you need is a bit of self confidence and control.
tonia millerSeptember 17th, 2012 at 3:56 AM
If you think that AA is not for you, then it’s not for you.
I can only say that from my own personal experience it saved my life.
I had a hard time getting to a meeting in the beginning, just becaus ei did not really think that I had a problem.
But after I started going to meetings out of curiosity, I learned that I did have a problem with drinking, and that it was affecting my life in many more adverse ways than I thought.
I will not say that AA is the only way, but it was the only way for me to get the help I needed in the way that I needed it.
A. AdamsSeptember 17th, 2012 at 3:20 PM
you just have to go and see for yourself if this is right, it may have worked great for a friend and not so well fro you but that’s oaky. just because the first thing you try doesn’t work doesn’t mean that there is snot something that will, you just have to find the right shoe to fit
Jennifer TSeptember 17th, 2012 at 4:27 PM
First of all, ask yourself why you are attending the AA meets. Is it because you need help with your addiction or is it purely because you are scared of losing control? I think that should give you some insight on what you really want. You come across as being a little confused to me. And hey, you are NOT going to DIE if you quit going to AA meets. How do you even think that is possible?!
EricSeptember 18th, 2012 at 4:20 AM
I completely agree with the writer of this letter. I think that my biggest problem with AA is that it pounds into you just how powerless you are over drinking, alcohol, and the addiction. How is that good for anyone to be made to think that wew have no power over the decisions that we make? I don’t know about you, but even though I know I could get out of control if I drank too much, but I still think that there is an element of me not being powerless over that. I still make the choice, still have power over the decisions that I make that are right and wrong. There are plenty of other options for you to pursue to be forced to stay in onethat demeans you.
TaraSeptember 18th, 2012 at 4:16 PM
I am finding alot of nasty, acting out, ragers, and fear mongers in AA. I am planning to cut it out…I will not share openly anymore at meetings as people can give you ridiculous cult zealous feedback. I also have never had a sponsor who could talk anything but the lingo jargen. I will now only go to meetings and listen and go to other better SANER venues like Smart Recovery.
LovinLifeNovember 17th, 2014 at 8:48 AM
Good for you … You are of a vast majority who have become aware that AA is a program of negative affirmations
Which does not build self-esteem but a belief system of co-dependency upon a philosophy from 1930’s. Would you want a surgeon to use methods from the 30’s to operate on you today?
We need a positive belief system rather than brainwashing guilt fueling propaganda that strips us of any self-empowerment & feeling of self-worth.
LeighSeptember 18th, 2012 at 5:44 PM
I’m a therapist in a 12-step based treatment facility. I’ve had many patients relapse and come back to treatment (often following long periods of sobriety) because they completely stopped working a program of recovery, which resulted in the loss of their support and accountability. I vehemently agree with what the therapist above said about being honest with yourself. You could be in a place where you are safe enough to gradually taper off on meetings, but I would proceed with caution and heavily involve your sponsor and/or sober peers in your decision making. I would also look at the severity of your alcohol problem (impact on job, health, family, etc.) and bear in mind that relapses can often throw you further into the depths of the disease, which can certainly increase the risk of death. And I do agree that are other programs of recovery outside of AA and other 12-step programs that have proven to be successful. But if taking an hour or two out of your weekly routine to go to meetings has kept you clean and sober, why fix what isn’t broken? This is a progressive, powerful disease that thrives on isolation and complacency. Whether or not you buy into the concept of powerlessness, chances are that when you drink, you have minimal control over your decisions. Working a program and staying spiritually healthy can prevent the disease from taking over that control. Good luck!
BrianJune 6th, 2014 at 7:17 AM
Addiction is not a disease and it is the focus on this concept that does more than anything to keep people stuck.
Addiction which includes drugs , alcohol , sex ,gambling is an answer or better yet a symptom . Each person needs to find and then address what is pushing the addiction . Sorry buts it different for everyone . Could be trauma , an anxiety disorder depression etc. or even a combination of things . Heal the cause and the addiction dissolves . Also no such thing as a personality exhibiting quote untreated alcoholism . This nonsense is being taught by fundamental AA groups. There is also an underlying set of beliefs taught in AA that constitute a philosophy that is unworkable by most human beings .
PbSeptember 18th, 2012 at 11:34 PM
No, I don’t think you should leave AA. Neither do I think you should come up with your own program.
I suggest instead you read the Big Book of AA and see if it applies to you or not. If you are persuaded you can drink without dreadful consequences, then step one does not apply to you or does not yet apply to you. If you cannot stay sober, nor stop when you start,then step one is a no brainer: you’re an alkie, mate! :)
I encourage you to ignore the peanut gallery of AA members, therapist sand well meaning ‘support’ and discover if AA will work for you by examining the record of the first 100 folk who recovered.
Don’t worry about figuring it out. Read the book.
anonymousJanuary 2nd, 2014 at 8:37 PM
Ignore 90% of the people in the meetings, remember why they are there! Read the book, odds are, they don’t do anything but regurgite parrot talk to get attention anyway. Get some close friends, inside aa AND outside of aa. Live life, pursue your God, and love your brother’s and sisters! Keep calm and ignore the parrots!!
dave rodwayApril 12th, 2014 at 2:26 PM
Nowhere in the Big Book of AA does it say to go to meetings and get a sponsor.
It NEVER says to do that.
How one gets “sober” is by not drinking. That’s it. You don’t drink, then you are ‘recovered’ from the ‘problem’ . I always say “drinking’s not my problem and meetings aren’t my solution”. Don’t confuse fellowship with the actual PROGRAM of AA. Page 14 tells us: “For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.” THAT is how you get and stay sober. 1) Stop drinking (drugging too) 2) Find someone that lives the program as it is written in the book. 3) Help others do the same.
Page 103: “After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol.”
LennyJuly 7th, 2014 at 1:47 AM
I Have been 9 months sober in AA.. and a struggle it has been!
I have decided to leave AA for good now, although sober I have struggled from the outset with the disease model.
Convinced in rehab I had an incurable disease of the mind, which put simply only gets worse has absolutely destroyed me. Being convinced im sick and have a disease has been a huge weight to carry around.
Every thought or action is fueled by my ilness.. and I have accepted (until now) that Im powerless over a mindset which only wants to destroy me… but no more.
Going to meetings and hearing people talk about their powerlessness over EVERYTHING and been reminded im living with an illness thats incurable is deflating.
Also, how do I stop thinking about alcohol when its in my make up (alcoholism that is) and its all they talk about? I wake up thinking about AA and go to bed thinking about it.
AA keeps me feeling sick.
Am I, or have I been restless, irritable or discontent??
WHO HASNT? As a kid I wanted to be here, then there, then I was moody…. ok cool!! So is half the world.
Im not leaving AA and doing it alone, Im going to smart recovery for a couple of meetings a week then also working with a counselor 1 time per week.
I want to feel empowered and have some control over my attitude rather than it be set or controlled by a disease which I never knew I had??
There are other ways, but AA have made it clear… we give you 1 week and you will be drinking.
Best way to keep coming back? – be convinced of an incurable disease from which we have a daily reprieve and you are sure to get the numbers coming back!
I was told by AA that I could pray for anything to be removed, and I have. But I ask the question why doesn’t anyone pray for their alcoholism to be cured????
Anyone left or leaving with similar thoughts?
LovinLifeNovember 17th, 2014 at 8:30 AM
AA will twist everything to keep you feeling “guilty if you don’t keep coming back.”
The program is filled with negative affirmations that brainwash you into “believing you will never be auccessful staying sober without AA.”
Positive affirmations build self-esteem and empowerment within.
The AA model is outdated. There are new treatment models that address today’s Addicrion needs.
Don’t let any program bully you which is what AA does.
Unless a person is certified or licensed all they can do is identify they have aubstance abuse issues.
Therapy is necessary to address reasons for the addictive behavior.
Saying, we were the problem isn’t always true.
I’m not continuing AA and almost 12 years sober.
AA is negative and detrimental with the
brainwashing that if you leave AA you will surely drink again. Is that a healthy
belief system or fear based propaganda!
Darren Haber MFTJuly 8th, 2014 at 9:02 PM
Thanks all for your posts. I wanted also to respond to Lenny, who raises some very good questions. An interesting paradox you point out too, in that if we can pray for anything to be removed (as AA suggests) why not our alcoholism? I think you have to make sense of the concepts in a way you are comfortable with. Remember, spirituality (like a Higher Power) is “as you understand it/Him”. The cofounder of AA, Bill Wilson, said spiritual concepts were personal and required searching. Basically, the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking. That’s it. Not that you buy every single idea hook, line and sinker. Take what you like and leave the rest. Also AA really is not for everyone. It works for some, not for others. Recovering folks are very passionate about their sobriety, but you can be equally passionate about SMART meetings and therapy, or what have you. It might be the church, meditation, yoga, volunteering, whatever works for you. My sense is participating in something bigger than you, that gives your life meaning and purpose, is the basic idea. No one has a monopoly on sobriety. Some love AA’s passion and intensity, some find it a huge turn off. Some like it but in small doses. Sobriety is very personal and I commend you for searching for what works for you. I have a friend who goes to AA and SMART and likes them both. I know some that go to AA for some time, then switch to another path. My sense is, if you find yourself sober and happy with your life, you’re on the right track! Thanks again for writing.
Darren Haber MFTJuly 8th, 2014 at 9:03 PM
ps to Lenny: congratulations on your 9 months! It gets easier, trust me.
LennyJuly 9th, 2014 at 9:43 PM
Darren,thank-you so much for your post. What a relief to have an open minded person. I absolutely agree, I had started to do some volunteer work and loved it! I find joy in many things but have struggled with the idea I have a brain destined to torture me.
May I ask are you in recovery or AA/Smart??
The truth is when I got sober without AA I would have gone mad! And for that I am grateful!
But today I just feel like it wants to keep me mad/insane.
I haven’t done a meeting in 2 weeks and feel fine, infact the relief I feel accepting responsibility for my actions and accepting in my heart that I have some control over my attitude is incredible.
Thank you also for reminding me about the spiritual idea… because the reality is I have been a selfish person and without AA’s look at me behavior I would never acknowledge that. Purely and simply AA has shown me that there are other people in this world.
Thank you for your post! :)
Darren Haber MFTJuly 10th, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Hi Lenny, glad my post was helpful. As for your questions, I can’t really comment on my participation in recovery specifically, due to anonymity concerns; let me just say that I am familiar with a variety of support systems and can say unequivocally that the process of finding something that works for you, and sticking with it via a commitment, is just as important as WHAT you choose. For instance I have a client who stopped drinking/using via his involvement in church, and that worked for him. I am glad you have found relief in a way that feels right. Thanks again for writing. :)
Jon SAugust 23rd, 2014 at 11:17 PM
I am a classic low bottom old school drunk. I was very happy and truly grateful to be sober for over 13 years in AA. I was active in the fellowship and worked the programme diligently … then hit an insurmountable brick wall of anxiety and depression that came out of nowhere and left me entirely bereft and totally suicidal. The steps and meetings stopped working, and I gradually came to understand the real reason why so many AAs commit suicide while sober. Fortunately I survived … and recently celebrated my 14th year of sobriety in a new way – as an independent, freethinking, nonreligious, member of the online “sobersphere”.
AA is a useful tool to separate the alcoholic from the alcohol, but it does that only by replacing one form of denial/insanity with another. I’m sorry to say that I now view AA as a potentially dangerous cult of sobriety based on an outdated methodology. Its apparent “success” has drowned out newer and better ways to survive a devastating and potentially fatal behaviour problem, such as the CBT-based SMART programme.
I have, I hope, now armed myself with more viable tools of recovery. However each step away from the fellowship had to be taken very gently and with great care. Like-minded peer support online was indespensible. Its hard to find a balanced view of AA out there, but I found online blogs from others in a similar situation to be very useful. RecoveringFromRecovery is a great example of this.
Darren Haber MFTAugust 24th, 2014 at 11:28 AM
I just wanted to thank Jon S for his honesty and fascinating account of his journey. I will look at the link you provided and again, appreciate your post!
HonorOctober 9th, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Im so pleased to have found this site. Im over 17 years sober in AA, which Im very grateful for, I have not had a sponsor for 8years, as she sacked me because I wouldnt do what she felt I should do so much for unconditional love they all talk about lol, I love the programme, & have a strong faith in God, & go to Church, I have a brilliant normal life today, I still go to 1 never more than 2 meetings a week, I do service, dont share very much, I take what I want & leave the rest, not sure about the illness thing,I have been very lonely & depressed in AA at times & I had been working the steps & going to Meetings, Im sure without my faith in God, I would have drank or committed suicide as so many long term AA members do
Jon SOctober 27th, 2014 at 1:05 PM
Hi Darren. Thanks for your comment. That’s very kind.
AA saved my life – but that was 14 years ago.
Today there are better and more up-to-date means of recovery such as CBT or Motivational Interviewing, two clinically proven techniques that do not rely on a pretend best friend in order to help the suffering alcoholic.
Leaving AA is the best thing I’ve done in recovery, so I’ve now collected resources that might help anyone considering doing the same at this blog:
“Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at jonsleeper.wordpress.com
It’s important to go gently, and leave safely. Hopefully you’ll find it useful.
MartyNovember 1st, 2014 at 3:17 PM
Get outa AA as soon as possible.
LovinLifeNovember 17th, 2014 at 9:14 AM
You will grow into a “parrot talking robot” without any confidence that you will be able to live without AA. It’s sad and pathetic the lies that are covered about the “Truth” of Bill W.
He cheated on his wife with other AA members, left part of BIg Book profits in his will to a mistress, dropped acid when he was 10 years sober. That is “sober.” Oh I get it “Live & Let Live”
Anything goes in AA… Even better AA loves it when you relapse so they can commit massive character assassinations under the false pretense of caring by “oh, did you hear?
The spiritual experience he had was copying the Oxford Group theory. Bill W was a manipulative drunk who sold his BS that others followed. Nothing about AA is original … It uses weakness & guilt to keep you hooked!!!
Contact Smart Recovery where you really can identify positive and effective methods to long term sobriety.
NoelDecember 20th, 2014 at 9:25 AM
I finally made the break from AA & NA in August and I absolutely do not regret it.
I have come to view the main reason for me to abuse substances was out of a sense that I had too much time on my hands and it was a method by which I could occupy my time, rather than any deficiencies in my character that were causing me to use.
While initially it was a port in a storm enabling me to find some stability while I was sorting out the chaos that the legacy of A&D abuse left me with, I got more and more frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the programme, being left with the feeling that I was flogging a dead horse, yet dreading being accused of showing a lack of commitment to the programme – a so called hallmark of the alcoholic personality. I was becoming ambivalent and torn – knowing inside that there was something deeply wrong with the programme while staying quiet for fear of appearing like I was rocking the boat. Eventually this became intolerable.
Today I forgive myself for all the neglect that I caused other people and myself through my abuse of substances and through my AA/NA membership.
These days, people can alter my state and to keep my state of mind real, I associate with those who have the best interests of me in mind.
Little Rock LarryMarch 4th, 2015 at 8:47 PM
I have known for years it’s not a disease nor an allergy. Been AA 27 years-builta lifestyle…always bypassed my own gut.had many good times.now have read much. Had therapy. Need to be true to me. Slowly deprogaming it’s in my subconscious. Group speak triggers my basic shame core. Got to heal inside or outside A A. Getting FREE..!! 72 years old…it’s time to honor me..Thx all.
Little R.March 4th, 2015 at 9:12 PM
72years old 27 in aa this time. No disease no allergy built a lifestyle in aa. Now deprogaming. Daily AA triggers my sick side. Now empowering me slowly as its in my subconscious. Read, affirm, keep positive friends, get therapy. Neuro-linguistic change. Maybe I’ve still got time. Getting FREE..!!! Thanks to all.
drew65March 23rd, 2015 at 7:14 PM
Thanks all, over 23 years sober in aa, since my mid 20’s. I’ve been slowly pulling away for the past several of those years and yeah “deprograming,” at least that’s what it feels like. I still, maybe once a month or so, feel the need, for some reason to go to a meeting, thinking “maybe it’s me, maybe it’ll be different this time” or “maybe I’m just going through a phase or something” and someday I’ll be a good entranced aa member again? That doesn’t happen though, I always come away with baggage I didn’t go there with and further confirmation that God led me there (and aa did help me get and stay sober), but now God is leading me out of there.
drew65March 27th, 2015 at 7:13 AM
Just reflecting on how, when I do go to the occasional meeting now, all I do, along with everyone else, even those, like me with decades of sobriety, is talk about ourselves like we’re still that screwed up problem ridden person with “a long way to go” and still “alot to work on” etc. Then I leave and it’s like “what a bunch of b.s.” My life is pretty good and I’m not that lost, screwed up kid anymore, I’m a successful, reasonably happy adult. But hey, if you have any confidence in your abilities or get “too happy” watch out! You’re probably not “working a good program.” I get so sick of the self abasement and self deprecation that seems to be a requirement to be a good aa. At this point in my life, to bad mouth myself that way is as much a lie as being grandiose is. It seems “right sized” in aa means smaller and less than you really are. I’ll be 50 in a few months and I’m sick of it.
IstierSeptember 2nd, 2015 at 6:45 AM
I can totally relate! I got to AA at age 23 and am now 50. I have had continous sobriety and have been an active participant all this time. My life is good and I am a stable, strong and successful woman… a far cry from the shy young woman who could not cope with her life so many years ago. I have been cutting down on meetings in the past year, going to one a week and I am seriously considering quitting AA for good. I am simply tired of rehashing the same old sad story …. it ‘s been so many years… I fully accept that drinking is not an option for me, but I am tired of carrying the label of being a sick and broken person for life! AA meetings encourage me to hang on to that label and at a cetrain point it becomes seriously counterproductive.
Darren HaberApril 9th, 2015 at 8:56 PM
Thanks all for your honest comments.
DavidApril 30th, 2015 at 1:47 PM
I think A.A. kept me from my full potential as a person by telling me I am an addict. I read the Big Book many times and all it did was remind me of negative triggers. I do not identify myself as an addict anymore but a man who is a new creation. I don’t talk like an addict, think like an addict, use like and addict so why call myself an addict and limit myself to that mold. I work in mental heath recovery and do some addiction recovery. We focus on whole health not just the spiritual. The spiritual was important to me but it was not enough to make me well. Oh and A.A. says you can make a God of your own understanding. Well what if your God says porn and smoking and a bad diet and toxic relationships are O.K. as long as you stay sober.Well for me I found a more clear definition of who God was and A.A.s version never worked for me. Oh it worked to stay sober but I wanted more than sobriety. I finally got medications for my mental illness and poof the desire to use went away because I felt good and my head was not crazy anymore. I left A.A. and changed my diet. I started an exercise program. I started doing volunteer work in my community. I got my sleep right. I built a support network of people who were not addicts who supported me in becoming successful in my life. I changed careers to work in recovery and give back to the world not just “a program”. I learned cognitive behavioral therapy to learn how to change my thinking and actions so I did not have to depend on meetings and a 85 year old program that you never graduate from. I found a way out of my addiction I don’t talk about it anymore it is of no interest to the kind of people who are in my life today. I share my recovery story with people I work with who want to recover but that is the only time I bring it up. I am healthy and happy and active. I have the best job in the world. I am not an addict anymore. Hi my name is David I am a father, husband, a Christian, an artist, I love people, and most of all I love who I am today.
April 30th, 2015 at
Thanks for sharing your story and congratulations on your sobriety!
MikeMay 14th, 2015 at 8:08 PM
It is so good and freeing to hear especially the great joy toward the end of your name without the forever imprint of the tag of alcholic . I am leaving aa a day at a time in and with respect toward myself I get very little out of it for me I have no idea for any one else if good for them but for me it’s becoming toxic and counterproductive I thank it for all and any good it afforded me
shannonMay 1st, 2015 at 9:39 PM
I am kicking around the idea of going since leaving 8 years ago i found myself struggling with drinking too much on the weekends or wanting to.
I went to a meeting tonight. I struggle with the idea that these people are totally accountable to a god that they cannot define or know what it wants. That is a pretty convenient boss to work for. I do see the purpose of being part of a community and it is vital for humans to be in one. also serving others has its purpose. But to submit to a greasy dude who now rides a harley and because he now outwardly has his stuff together, I don’t see how that is going to make life anymore bearable or the wisdom in that. They are like paratroopers when you say that are new to the meeting, there are like 20 of them ready to tell you to how to live your life. Do everything i tell you and tell me all the nasty stuff you have done and you will get to stay sober one more day. Going to meetings is humiliating and depressing.
It may have its place in my life 20 years ago when i didnt know better but i am 39. Half of my life is gone. I think that i will take with me what has worked and leave the rest.
SuNNyMay 9th, 2015 at 10:29 AM
I left AA last winter with 23 years of sobriety. I am still sober, and I haven’t abandoned what I’ve learned about staying sober – identifying my triggers and honest responses to drinking. I drink to kill and I kill to drink.
My decision to discontinue participation in AA meetings, sponsorship and events came about over the course of events in my life, especially the last 3 years. I have not talked much about it with anyone until very recently. It has been a very confusing and difficult decision to sort out. I am also learning that I don’t have to qualify or quantify the decisions I make, but I want to share enough to reach out to anyone else that is challenged by some of the issues I have with continuing AA membership.
There came a time when my life fell completely apart despite my best efforts to resolve my difficulties. Suicide, family losses, joblessness, divorce, loneliness. I needed support, and I am not talking about hand-outs for money, a place to live, etc. (although I have seen plenty of that in AA over the years).
I asked for companionship from friends, a sponsor of many years. The passive/aggressive responses were so shocking, I think I may have been in denial they were happening at the time. The more my life fell apart, the more abandoned or I became. I think I communicate well and asked for what I needed and wanted, but I am not willing to take responsibility for the reactions of others. I am still “WOW” over this.
Today, I have not one single friend in my life from AA after 23 years of active participation in my community.
I also left AA because I am not a ‘member of the no matter what club’. Hearing people screaming in meetings “Don’t drink no matter f___ing what muthaf_____” and seeing people I cared about blow their heads off because they drank in the event of “no matter f____ing what” situation is very disturbing to me. Who would feel welcomed back with this behavior and mentality – where would one go?
Court dates, fees, fines, judges, child support, failed marriages – we all have had to contend with some or all of those matters, but hearing this endless barrage of events from the last debauch in an AA meeting. No. And being told that you are “intolerant” because you speak up about not wanting to endure these discussions best held in a court room, DA or attorney office is like being a moving target for retribution. AA members becoming tax funded employees and court advocates to help people skirt responsibility for criminal behavior, reduce time for treatment – AA taught me to take responsibility for my actions. When I got somber, another lady went to prison. I will never forget that she paid her debt, and I was willing to do what was required for once in my miserable life up to that point.
Positively, the early years in AA taught me about how to assess my behavior, discover who I am, and how to not drink and avoid the problems that pushed me to drink. I am truly not a person that can drink now or a little or “some day”. I am okay with that – I don’t fear it and fear does not keep me sober. I loved sharing what I have learned in AA with others that were interested. Strong in my convictions though, I tried not to push it on people who didn’t want what I had to offer.
AA showed me that there are a lot of walks of life and spiritual philosophies that could lead to a wonderful life too. Look for them, adopt them if they seem right. I am so grateful I did or I may well have lost myself during that time of loss and abandonment to a bottle. I get to make decisions today, including not going to AA meetings.
There are other options out there, but my experience is AA membership monopolized my time, and when I needed support, you could hear the tumbleweeds dropping seeds.
If you are looking for perfection in AA, keep looking. If you are finding perfection in what you are doing, keep looking.
Best wishes to all!
JennSeptember 21st, 2015 at 9:51 PM
I’ve been sober almost 12 years. About 4 years ago I became more and more troubled by meetings, the constant self-abasement, the culty rhetoric, the falsehoods, the fear mongering. Each time I heard the promises, I thought, wow, what a hyperbolic lie. Sure, people’s lives get better when they don’t drink, but all their concerns don’t magically disappear. Members told those lies to newcomers, and may have given them hope, but it was a false hope. Just stick to not drinking, not all the hyperbole. The ups and downs of life continue even when someone gets sober. To pretend otherwise is sabotaging, a setup for failure.
Additionally, in my city, the new age positivity crowd started taking over meetings. If someone got cancer and shared about being scared, someone in the meeting would tell them it was a character defect to be scared, and they must have drawn the illness to them. Disturbing garbage like that. It’s one thing to be accountable in one’s life, completely different to constantly degrade oneself and other people, telling them every misfortune in the universe is somehow their fault. The dogma was twisted.
After giving meetings another 2 years, I realized AA is not good for growth past a certain point. If someone wants to spend their whole life ruminating over alcohol, even though the whole point of going to AA was to get past alcohol, then it’s the program for them, but if they actually get past the alcohol obsession and want to look at the “higher quality problems” people like to discuss in meetings, they won’t get much out of AA. At least I didn’t. I don’t want to spend my entire life berating myself as a hopeless, meek, damaged drunk. I wanted to move forward and face bigger challenges, and I have. I haven’t died or ended up in an institution like members threatened. Quite the opposite. I’d say my life is healthier now than it ever was in AA.
JulieSeptember 25th, 2015 at 11:09 AM
OMG I so appreciated your sharing. I’ve been sitting in the rooms now for 20 yrs, I would say in the past 5, I’ve been out living a great life, limiting my seat within the rooms. I’ve just taken a step back, haven’t been to a meeting in 2 weeks, haven’t felt the need to drink nor the need to overly critique myself. So this is my thought, we hear in meetings if we leave we will surely drink again, however, do we know this for sure? What about all the Members that have left and lived, their just not going to meetings to tell us how wonderful their life is. Hugs xoxo
AnonymousOctober 6th, 2015 at 7:15 AM
i was drinking alcoholically by the age of 20 to the point of D.T’s. I had attempts at sobriety before some forced upon myself in drunken stupors and by family and friends but eventually found my way into AA due to my seeming inability to comprehend anything else offered to me such as family care treatment addiction services etc.. Stayed sober with medications and AA for roughly a year, ended up using again and eventually making it back to the rooms to hunker down this time and do something like the steps and to scope out a healthy sponsor whome turned out to be both clean and sober as well as a chemical dependency counsellor. This went well as I was given and took the opportunity to receive friendship and fellowship and appropriate sponsorship both my sponsor and his were infact both experienced addictions counsellors and strong AA members. Unfortunately however one man died due to lung cancer and the other man said some things to me after an AA group meeting one night (not related incidents) that triggered in me a profound desire to show these people my abilities as a human being with or without the groups so called support. The man had suggested strongly and quite mean spirited that I should not attain a specific job position due to factors he felt about me that were wrong in his eyes. Needless to say I have been employed at the same said organization for the past 4 years and have much desire to continue hard work on the 12 steps but like many here I have limited my contact with AA meetings and no longer desire the said fellowship of people who have often times made me feel lonely suicidal depressed and angry to such extreme extents that I’ve had dangerous relationships and brushes with the law. I am happy however to report that I am now clean and sober and very weary of AA and NA meetings.
NunyaOctober 25th, 2015 at 1:28 AM
I was an addict in AA for 14 years. (Aside: NA was too poorly organized for me and I felt like a cute but ignored white girl there so I wound up in AA.) I consciously left AA. Now I drink moderately and have no desire to do drugs.I started a blog about my waking-up process, post-AA. It’s at cultdrama.com
Darren H.October 25th, 2015 at 1:28 PM
Thanks Nunya. I found your blog very interesting.
JimNovember 15th, 2015 at 8:04 PM
I’ve been in AA for only 19 months. I’ve worked the twelve steps twice with two sponcers.
God lead me to AA and now he’s leading me away.
I’ve experienced the ninth step promises and had my spiritual awakening at only six months sobriety.
My problem is, the AA fellowship is damaging to my spirit. I feel as if I’m being pulled in two directions. The good thing is, God is stronger then AA.
Most people in AA seem to be spiritually damaged. They don’t like the fact that God made it so easy for me to quite drinking and I get a lot of grief for sharing my experiences, strengths and hopes.
I’ve recently been so — touched —-by God that it’s now very clear to me. I have to leave these people.
I’m grateful for having the AA experience but it’s holding me back from being the person God wants me to be.
Yes, I’m an alcoholic but most importantly. I’m a, (human being), and one of Gods children, like us all.
caraNovember 16th, 2015 at 12:26 PM
I totally agree with your post. My spirituality has flourished within the rooms of AA and i have expirienced the promises also.I am now being encouraged to do the twelve steps although i feel they are the basic morales i was brought up with anyway! I have got myself a sponsor and although fearless regarding my approach to this wonder why i should divuldge my inner most secrets to someone i dont know because i wouldnt expect it of her.
RichNovember 22nd, 2015 at 3:36 PM
I have stopped going to meetings and am approaching 13yrs of sobriety. I owe a debt of gratitude to AA for getting me off the booze and showing me genuine friendship, fellowship and love. My life is nothing like it was before I got sober. I am happy and content with my lot most of the time. I am just like everybody else. I can still succumb to doubt and fear at times. Feelings of inferiority, anger and confusion at what happens in life, but hell am I really that unique? My problem wasn’t with the program so much ( I still try my best to follow it) it was with other members who seemed to go out of their way to try and humiliate me. Not all members, just a few. It came to a head a couple of months ago at a meeting. This one member tried to get a rise out of me, playing the clown behind my back and generally being obnoxious. When it came time for the meeting he sat down next to me. I felt my hackles rise and knew that if I didn’t leave the meeting I was going to thump him. This isnt why I go to meetings. They are supposed to be a peaceful sanctuary. Many times there is shouting, anger and self defeating brainwashing that often makes me feel leaving worse than when I arrived. I am no saint btw, but I never try and demean people for the sake of my own soulsickness. I try and live a good , honest life and so far the wheels haven’t fallen off. But ….. I still feel guilty about leaving AA. Some off those people helped me out just by sharing their experience , strength and hope. It makes me sad at times but I’m not going to put myself in the firing line for another confrontation. That old attack dog in me doesn’t need to rear its ugly head anymore in my life. Thank you so much for having this forum to share on. Ive needed to share this for a long time.
ChristianDecember 21st, 2015 at 3:28 PM
I have been in AA for nearly eight years (I came in at 31), I have been going to one meeting a week for years now, the same one. I was lucky to find a strong group, compassionate about the program and always willing to help new comers. I consider myself fortunate that my sponsor was well versed in the program, and always stressed what it says and doesn’t say. But this group seems to be an island in a sea of poor meeting that are nothing more than echo chambers for bullshit. I love the program, it saved my life, but there is a noticeable difference between whats actually written in the big book and how the majority of the members that i encounter in my city conduct themselves. They are not bad people but they are trapped in this limbo of constantly reinforcing ideas that I believe are not really what AA is saying. I worry sometimes if i left this place if i would continue going to AA meetings if they are like the majority of meetings in this city. I hate to say it but AA in it’s original form now ignores its own teachings and had grown weak. Most other members I encounter seem to more scared of drinking than actually moving on with living.
LindaMarch 25th, 2016 at 8:57 AM
Hi All, I am struggling with the guilt feelings. I have been blessed with 16.5 years of sobriety. All along been brainwashed by long timers about how if you stop going to meetings you will drink again. Meetings are not like they used to be. For me its too much profanity and negative comments and behaviors. My therapist feels that it is hindering my recovery if I am around all the Profanity while I am trying to grow. I live in Chicago and even with the non profanity meetings they still swear. I leave there resentful and upset. Yet I find myself forcing myself to go. Please advise thanks
Kathleen D.May 1st, 2016 at 10:31 PM
Went to AA consistently for 3 years. Grateful to be alive and sober today but really had a problem with the sponsorship deal. How is a newcomer supposed to know how to find an “appropriate” sponsor? I was willing to do what I was told and I really wanted to fit in. The sponsor I picked was someone who really tried to convince me that because I was alcoholic I couldn’t think for myself or trust my own instincts. Well, if she was an alcoholic why would it make sense for me to trust her ideas as to how to work out my program of recovery? Newly sober people who are as confused and demoralized as I was in the beginning of recovery as I was are extremely vulnerable to the whims of controlling sponsors who view their sponsee as some kind of trophy. I tried going back to AA a couple of times to offer experience, strength and hope to newly sober people at meetings because I remember how tough and scary it was for me in the beginning but because I made it clear that I do not believe in sponsorship, that it is potentially a set-up for an unhealthy, dependent relationship I was made to feel like an outsider. I’ve quit going to meetings for good. My decision was finalized when an older man with decades of sobriety decided he wanted to try to “13th” step me. That really disgusted me. I would really like to encourage people who think they have a drinking problem to seek help from resources where there is more accountability which seems to be 0 to none in AA.
Sammy TMay 20th, 2016 at 1:28 PM
This thread is awesome and is giving me loads of hope that I can reprogram from all the negative brain washing and fear monger img that AA has instilled in me. It transformed my life beyond my wildest dreams but as its been said I got to a point in recovery where it just became overly negative for me. I want to live in joy and positive modern scientific ways of staying sober. Just wish their was clearer support for the reprogramming from all the shame and dependency and insecurity it can create in addition to the positive changes. I tried my first smart meeting this week. Wishing you all luck and happiness x
dinoJuly 26th, 2016 at 1:40 AM
AA is a bridge to normal living its full of broken people once the illusion has been smashed you will want to move on and cross the bridge to normal living , get yourself a strategy , get a wide circle of friends social activities and go join the real world how long you stay depends how long it takes you to assimilate and make friends / relationships with people finding along the way self worth and all the other positive things use Aa meeting as a bridge to normal living because believe me you will be getting used if you realise it or not , its a sad place you will come to see and after a period you will become a all my friends are in AA or you will leave across the bridge to normal life, I would leave with no resentment and if possible leave there your you were right card the one that says your not ready yet your bridge isn’t ready yet because you intend to go on a spree and return with your card of ” you were right ” bla bla bla back to trying to make friends , go on a public speaking course go on a course that helps with confidence, lack of communication is a underlying trait I see in AA meeting non more so that misfits eventually getting a voice and the proceed to bully weaker people its amusing place and a great place for a arguments if you like arguments good luck the parties over get real approach your next meeting , with maybe I don’t wanna hold hands with strangers I don’t wanna hug anyone who wants to be hugged weird bunch of dry drunken bsrts
Smiles4meJuly 26th, 2016 at 1:04 PM
After 15 years straight sobriety in AA I left 1 yr ago. Has it been easy? No. Did I make the right decision. YES! AA really started to wear me down 5 yrs ago yet out of fear that the “AA Relapse Fairy” would strike upon me w/out warning. Nonsense :) I do not want to nor choose to drink. My track record w/ drinking is poor. I dont want to experiment again. This I did gain from AA.
What I just dis was delete from my phone my last AA friend who I knew for 13 yrs. Very hard to do. I knew her family and she was supportive. Yet…the “quality & type” of support no longer works for me today. I have moved beyond the friendships where prying into your personal life and constantly inquiring about your “spiritual” life is just of no value to me anymore. I want equality in a friendship. I dont need a mother or a therapist. That friendship dynamic used to work but no longer works. I tried really. She is one of the 2 friends that did not immediately drop me when I “left”. Over the past yr its been hard to deprogram w her in my life. Its like she always has to overtly & covertly throw up in the conversation AA slogans and attempt of pry into “how can I live w out AA”, and how much she just enjoys vs needs (reah right…the biggest AA radical in this side of town), and how content she is in and out if AA. She spins the convo constantly around how my spiritual life is w out AA. Its very unsettling and I seem to end the time w her very irritated. Maybe “bait” for her to run to her clones and report I am not happy joyous and free..lol.
You see, I have bipolar disorder and AA attendance & “guidance” prevented me from getting a correct dx and treatment. The is no drunk that can top a bipolar rage. Most cant comprehend that. If there was a god, all the praying I did never removed it. Alcoholism a disease??? Lol..F’n NOT! Bipolar a disease..hell yes! I decided to quit drinking. No god, no sponsor or 12 steps. Just woke up and decided to not live that way anymore. Too bad I cant do the same w bipolar. It was not until I was 6yrs into program where I sought treatment for BP.
I have a great therapist today and I am finding new friends. There are no perfect friends or therapist. However, today I can make healthier choices as to who I want to surround myself with. Sure, no “instant” friends out there like AA, yet I’ll be damned if I am sitting in convo and someone dares to say “gee..how are u doing…what are you doing spiritually..how do u pray.” That person will no longer be my friend if I deflect that topic and he/she persists to bring it up. Also..its nice to have new people in my life that dont sit there and berate themselves or constantly inject the therapy-type talk throughout the convo. Wow!! Its been a process and I am still learning as I deprogram.
Thanks for this blog and to Monica Richardson and Orange Papers.
There is another way to life and peace :)
LifeAugust 9th, 2016 at 8:28 PM
Oh, hey there friends ! add me to this long list of people leaving aa. Wow! so great to read everyone’s comments and ideas about why they stayed and why they left. I have just passed the 30 year mark yesterday, and my feeling is so what.
I mean, I don’t drink but life goes on and other things come along. I have been in and out of the rooms for many years, and often I feel driven from them because of the weird and dysfunctional behavior of some of the other people. Because I came from an alcoholic home (surprise!), I did tend to believe that I was the ‘problem’ and there are many people there who will be happy to have you believe that.
You know, I am not perfect but I am not going to drink. I will go insane if I have to sit in any more aa meetings and listen to someone talk about “when I was drinking …” ok, that was 30+ years ago. What have you been doing since then? Creepy 13th stepping sh$t, crazy abusive behaviors and aggressive, hostile gossip – I can’t handle it and it can take me several days to recover from some of their behavior. I have such an emotional hangover right now because of too many dysfunctional people around me from these local meetings. When people sit in the same rooms day after day and talk about the same stuff over and over, and then give me grief because I don’t do my recovery like them – whoa! And for sure, I agree that some of the strangest and angriest people like to be sponsors. These are the very people you should avoid! My first sponsor was a kind and gentle woman, a friend. That’s how I am in the rooms, and some people don’t approve of my methods.
I have some good and healthy people in my life who are kind, friendly and loving. They are consistent and supportive, just as I try and be. These are the people I need to spend time with, and let go of trying to fit into aa. Glad to know how others feel and that I am not alone with this.
Kathleen DAugust 9th, 2016 at 9:54 PM
It always amazes me to read leaving aa experiences because when you are “in the rooms” no one wants to hear it when you have a grievance so you feel like an outsider. It’s almost a set-up for more rejection (again!) and no alcoholic needs that! My first sponsor dropped me like the proverbial bad habit and then acted like it was my fault when I failed to acknowledge her subtle hints that she no longer wanted to sponsor me. When I said I thought I really ought to learn to stand on my own two feet she said, oh, no, you can’t work the program without a sponsor. So I’m supposed to set myself up for yet another failed friendship? Sure, honey! Congratulations to sober alcoholics leaving aa. Our numbers seem to be growing. We don’t need anyone micromanaging our recovery. We can be full-fledged responsible people fully capable of making sound, reasonable decisions.
Sammy TAugust 16th, 2016 at 12:45 AM
Just wanted to update I am three months out of AA now. Still haven’t drunk and am starting to get self belief, self esteem and self confidence back. It is such a joy to believe I am not some diseased outsider and great to learn to trust my own desire not to drink and to honour that. I am so happy to have left
Happy HorseSeptember 4th, 2016 at 11:50 AM
Lately, I have been reading about leaving AA. Most threads have been very heated to say the least. This thread is the most accessible yet. Thank you all for your love and tolerance.
Circa 2014 I was connected, vital, empowered. I had a calm mind and a light, humorous presence. I was also moderately driven and had developed a degree of strength and flexibility. All this, after nearly 20 years of drug and alcohol addiction. I did the time. I did the work. I had recovered.
Still quite isolated and miserable, I joined AA for the social contact. It was amazing! I related to people as never before. I got a sponsor and took the steps. What a profound experience! Life was better than ever.
Now, after 20 months in the program, I am once again isolated and miserable. It has been driven in to me that I am sick and insane. My mind is the problem. I am diseased and will be for the rest of my life.
I have finally realized that this is not me. I am healthy, sane and have access to power.
There are many aspects of AA that I still believe are truly great. The storytelling, which is a powerful force of validation and healing for both the teller and the listener. The spiritual connection. I have AA to thank as the conduit by which God finally got through to me. The opportunities to help others recover. This is why I go to meetings at this point, to help others. The tools. The steps and the sponsor/sponsee relationships can be very positive and helpful.
At this time I am realizing that negativity, powelessness, small-mindedness, and stagnation do not serve me. My health thrives with positivity, empowerment, and true open-mindedness. My mind is becoming calmer once again, through the process of letting go. Letting go of the undesirable, self-defeating aspects of AA.
David WSeptember 6th, 2016 at 11:28 AM
Thanks for reading my story and I am proud of you for your success in recovery. Always remember that you are not sick or broken, a victim, abuser, or an addict. You are not your behavior but a miracle to the one who created you. You are beautifully and wonderfully made so start being who you ARE …Keep being awesome!
MatthewDecember 21st, 2016 at 10:24 PM
Thank you for this thread, it is timely.
I kept feeling like I was the only one looking for the solution, and that was that life was good when you choose to change the your attitude! My Higher Power concept has always been love, which has not failed me. My problem was the guilt I felt in leaving, because the fellowship had helped me in a time when I was wretched. The thing is, I can help others outside the rooms without being lodged in with those who are intent upon reliving their despair. Perhaps leaving is the ultimate realization of the Promise; I do not regret my past or wish to shut the door on it – BUT I do choose to live without the fear of drinking tomorrow.
After slimming down my meeting attendance and quietly giving up my service commitments, I just called my sponsor and told him I was leaving. I am grateful for the program for helping ,e to realize my sobriety – now I’m off to live it.
Chris C.December 30th, 2016 at 12:50 PM
I am so glad I found this thread and have spent a bit of time reading through all the comments, all of which I can relate to. ‘Identify’ is not a word I want to use anymore after 11 years being in and around AA meetings and people. I started slowly pulling away from AA a couple of years ago and there was a 7 month period at the start of that where I didn’t go to ANY meetings. I had a good understanding of what the program says and what I had learned though in AA. There was a couple of times I nearly did drink but I knew I was doing something wrong and changed what I was doing. That took the idea of drinking away again.
Anyway, I do wish AA was better organised and like someone said above, I wish people were held more accountable for their actions. I had my anonymity broke and a very personal thing about me gossiped about in local meetings. And the reason was that ‘some people are more sick than others’. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as they say. I have also experienced bullying in AA from several people who seem to want to gang up on me. Then there’s people trying to run my life as well. They think I should be doing such & such with my life.
Fortunately for me, I have spent quite a bit of time developing relationships and building a bit of a life outside of rooms. Generally speaking, I just don’t want to be around this cult like behaviour anymore with people telling me that God got me sober for a reason and I should do what they tell me to. These narrow minded people are sicker than the real people I prefer being around. The program is meant to be ‘a program of attraction, not promotion’ and I sure as hell am not attracted to any of it anymore. There was a time I needed AA but all I wanted was to get rid of the drinking. I don’t care a damn about the rest of what happens in life. I also sure as hell don’t want what AA has to offer, which is another one of these cliches they often spout. I had a good go at being in AA, but I have never really felt like I fitted in. However, I am thankful that it is there and if I ever encounter someone who I think would benefit from going to meetings and stopping drinking, I would gladly take them.
For now, AA and me, have parted company. I have lost the willingness required to carry on, along with being open in meetings or with other AA clones wanting to drive me back into the rooms. I’d rather be completely free from all the complicated talk and trying to remember all the cliches. I already know I can live my life in peace without the fear being generated by folk in rooms. They can keep that! I’m officially finished.
Leave a Comment
By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.
Search Our Blog
- Rita: I appreciate finding this website. I absolutely adore my therapist. Í have been seeing her for over 2 years through my divorce, and am coming...
- Jill: You might actually have an awful lot to give but they make you believe that you don’t.
- Janeen: I like to let others know that what they have contributed is valuable and that I appreciate the work that they have put into something . I...
- Chan E: I’m 22 years old. Young woman just looking for a new job to start my life and I have this job coach who is 62 years old, has been...
- Max: Unfortunately I think that there are those people who go through life actually looking for the warning signs because that is the out that they...