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
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!

Kind regards,

Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT is a psychotherapist specializing in treating alcoholism and drug addiction as well as co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, secondary addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma (both single-incident and repetitive). He works in a variety of modalities, primarily cognitive behavioral, spiritual/recovery-based, and psychodynamic. He is certified in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and continues to receive psychodynamic training in treating relational trauma, including emotional abuse/neglect and physical and sexual abuse.
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  • adrienne

    September 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.

  • Marshall

    July 24th, 2023 at 8:23 AM

    Recovery in any 12 step program is not only about living happy, joyous and free from addictive behaviors but it is recovering one’s life as addictive behaviors shroud a person’s ability to remember and reflect upon the totality of their lives. Being in active Recovery means attending meetings regularly and working the 12 steps. Putting down the drink or drug and not actively attending meetings results in the other character defects coming to the fore. What is called a ‘dry drunk,’ someone saddled with the other ‘isms’ of narcissism, judgmentalism, perfectionism, etc…Alcoholism is only the symptom of a living problem.

  • Caleb

    September 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.


  • Mark

    September 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

  • susan

    September 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?

  • Rodney

    September 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.H

    September 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.

  • Damien

    September 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 miller

    September 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. Adams

    September 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 T

    September 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?!

  • Eric

    September 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.

  • Tara

    September 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.

  • LovinLife

    November 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.

  • Leigh

    September 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!

  • Brian

    June 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 .

  • Pb

    September 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.


  • anonymous

    January 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 rodway

    April 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.”

  • Lenny

    July 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?

  • LovinLife

    November 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 MFT

    July 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 MFT

    July 8th, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    ps to Lenny: congratulations on your 9 months! It gets easier, trust me.

  • Lenny

    July 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 MFT

    July 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 S

    August 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 MFT

    August 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!

  • Honor

    October 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 S

    October 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

    It’s important to go gently, and leave safely. Hopefully you’ll find it useful.

    Jon S

  • Marty

    November 1st, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    Get outa AA as soon as possible.

  • LovinLife

    November 17th, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    Agree 100%
    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.

  • Noel

    December 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 Larry

    March 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 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.

  • drew65

    March 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.

  • drew65

    March 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.

  • Istier

    September 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 Haber

    April 9th, 2015 at 8:56 PM

    Thanks all for your honest comments.

  • David

    April 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.

  • Darren Haber

    April 30th, 2015 at 10:18 PM

    Thanks for sharing your story and congratulations on your sobriety!

  • Mike

    May 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

  • shannon

    May 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.

  • SuNNy

    May 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!

  • Jenn

    September 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.

  • Julie

    September 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

  • Anonymous

    October 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.

  • Nunya

    October 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

  • Darren H.

    October 25th, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    Thanks Nunya. I found your blog very interesting.

  • Jim

    November 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.

  • cara

    November 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.

  • Rich

    November 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.

  • Christian

    December 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.

  • Linda

    March 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 T

    May 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

  • dino

    July 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

  • Smiles4me

    July 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

    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 “ are u doing…what are you doing 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 :)

  • Life

    August 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 D

    August 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 T

    August 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 Horse

    September 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 W

    September 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!

  • Matthew

    December 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

    Hi people,
    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.

    Chris C.

  • Rob e

    March 30th, 2017 at 7:22 PM

    Very good read

  • Sam E

    June 28th, 2017 at 7:51 AM

    I had tried to stop drinking or control for years. Tried AA and did not like it. I would go back to AA to sober up for awhile and something about it works. I would stop going and end up getting real drunk and doing something stupid or getting in trouble. Then I realized I couldn’t keep on or I was going to die. I went for two years and I studied about alcoholism and different ways of dealing with sobriety. I also learned about PAWS, look it up. That really helped me stay in AA for the two years. I needed the support group to help me stay sober until I did not have any more acute withdrawals. (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) I still feel like I have a drinking problem when I drink, but now I don’t drink and I don’t go to AA. I don’t feel like I am scared of drinking anymore. I just know I can’t and don’t want to anymore. AA helped me become sober and if I ever feel like I want or need to drink again or if I do drink again and it goes back to what it use to be, I will go back to AA. Thats where the part is with AA that if you leave you die. I feel like if i drink again it will get bad and i would or could die and or kill somebody else in a car wreck and end up in jail. If I do end up drinking and it gets bad, I hope nothing happens to me or anybody else, and I would have another chance at AA. Some feel like that is reason enough to keep on going to meetings forever. I still don’t like going to meetings so I made a choice to not go and not drink. Some also say alcoholism is a disease an some say it’s not. I don’t care if it is or not, I drink alcoholically and I don’t want bad things to happen to me, so I can’t drink. It is that first drink, I tried for years on my own without the support group. I hated drinking and I hated not drinking. I have learned how to deal with life sober. Bad things still happen but I don’t deal with it drinking. Good things happen and I don’t have to be drinking for them to happen. I have fun and I don’t have to be drinking. I’ve learned a lot and I could not have done it without AA.

  • saneornot

    July 17th, 2017 at 9:43 AM

    Hi I have been researching about leaving AA and thank you for all your posts. I have been in the rooms for 4 months and I am always going to eternally grateful for everyone I met and what AA has done for me but I have not been totally honest about it all. I completed step 5 and felt lifted it was great but then I realised I do not believe in higher power/god so I kind of flopped at step 2 really but just believed I could make it work. I also despise going to meetings feel under pressure from sponsor to go to a meeting and I cannot deal with the fact I have to do AA forever. I looked in to SMART recovery and women in sobriety and counselling. I felt better I did not go to a meeting the other night. I felt free if that makes sense? I am scared to talk to my sponsor about this…thanks for r eading

  • Darren Haber

    July 17th, 2017 at 11:19 AM

    Hi saneornot. Thx for writing. My suggestion is to do the best you can for the first year or two, because I think it takes around 18 months for sober living and emotional sobriety to really kick in. That doesn’t mean you have to “tow the line” 110% but follow direction the best you can, and if your sponsor is too strict you can get another one. This is for you in the end and it’s all volunteer. Congratulations on sobriety. That’s quite an achievement!

  • Stephen

    September 29th, 2017 at 5:54 PM

    It’s not the same anymore. I was sober from 2005-2010. I came in when my life was falling apart and I knew I was going to die or end up in prison. I loved the program, I did everything, but at 4 years I found I didn’t like what was happening in the rooms. I went out after five years for numerous reasons. All of the above comments are remarkably correct as to the negative part. Plus in my area, felons and paper signers make up the majority of individuals in attendance nowadays. I’ve tried going back, but the meetings in my area seem to result in prison, death, or a life sentence into one hell of a messed up society that thrives on the failure of the individual.

  • Josh

    January 5th, 2018 at 6:37 PM

    I’ve decided to leave AA after almost 2 years of sobriety. It started to feel really unhealthy mentally. I don’t like the arrogance that AA members have that their way is the ONLY true way to stay sober and everyone else are just dry drunks. I don’t think I’m powerless over alcohol. I think that I have the conscious choice to pick up a drink or not.

    The real kicker is when one of my AA friends in a fit of anger told me that he didn’t understand why I get to stay sober because I don’t work a good program of AA. Fucking sick.

  • Chris C

    January 8th, 2018 at 5:54 AM

    I don’t blame you, Josh, for wanting to leave. I found it the same after 4 years sobriety being in the AA meeting rooms. Fair enough, AA is often the first point of contact for many people who have a problem with alcohol, but it definitely isn’t the only option available these days. If you can do without AA support and find that being there is only having a negative impact on your mental well being, by all means leave it. As they say in rooms, the door swings both ways. For me, I was where you’re at now, AA wasn’t doing me any good and I was just getting sicker mentally. I don’t go at all anymore and I’m far happier without it. I still get the occasional notion of drinking but I don’t give in to it. I’m still sober as well! That’s something they lie to you about (in what is supposed to be an honest program!). Not everybody drinks again or dies if they leave AA. Their only motive for saying that is to keep people in AA which is falling apart from what I’ve seen. Back to what you were saying, nobody can force you to keep going and nobody will chase after you either. I sometimes bump into people randomly who I’ve met in the rooms and they don’t seem upset that I don’t go anymore. My own counsellor from the early days of getting sober even said that she couldn’t see me wanting to stick around. Life is better without AA but I give credit where it’s due, it did help me in the early days. I hope you make the right decision and do what’s best for yourself without being influenced by folk heavily indoctrinated by AA.

  • Life

    January 8th, 2018 at 2:08 PM

    Josh, other people’s opinions are just that – other people’s opinions. You do what is right for you and I would be careful to not leave because of someone else but because it is the best for you. AA is not perfect and yes, there are alot of crazy dudes (and dudettes) in there but, whatever. If you feel you get even a tiny amount of good stuff from it then go as you feel necessary and ‘take what you like and leave the rest.’ Bill W himself said, what we are saying is ‘meant as suggestions only,’ and to keep seeking after the healing that you need from wherever you can find it. AA was never mean to be a dogmatic, hyper critical hotbed of rigid dysfunction, but instead an open and expanding environment where the group conscience reflects the will of a power greater than ourselves. Seek for the kernal of truth and healing, and let go of the rest and maybe use it as a template for making healthy choices. Just my opinion – especially for a person in early recovery

  • samantha w

    January 8th, 2018 at 3:54 PM

    So here is my update 20 months after leaving AA. Sometimes I miss the sense of community of having people to ring to just talk to about your problems, the chance to help others and the easy ability to meet people and go for coffee etc. and get deep quickly. However, I have never looked back from leaving the Cult of AA. Believing that I was disempowered and sick and defective and somehow different from “civilians” was just so wrong. Sitting listening to so many long term sober people with mental health problems bashing themselves to death with slogans and not getting medical treatment because they wanted the programme to fix all ills – with some committing suicide as a result of blaming themselves for not working their programmes hard enough. No thank you. I guess the thing for me is I can find the things that I miss from AA elsewhere. I have learned to have more deeper relationships, with people who are not in AA, and to be able to ring my friends to talk about my feelings and have my emotional needs met rather than being the supposed care free party girl I was before AA. I do more hobbies, there are lots of meet up groups to find people to connect to in normal ways. And also I do feel like I miss helping others more so I am going to do some voluntary work in a hospice soon. Its like there are more ways to do service than just helping other alcoholics. Surely the principle of being less self absorbed and helping others shouldn’t just be restricted to AA members in a cultish way. Also I continue to support my self care and meditation/spiritual practice through yoga and have a good therapist and self help books to help me to stay sane and grow. Anyway, I am still glad that AA allowed me to stop being a drunk. Full credit to it for that. However, I am still undoing some of the damage it created in me, instilling some weird sense of catholic guilt, and self blame and low self esteem etc. from the 4 and a half years that I tried to work a “perfect programme in the rooms”. If I had my time again, I don’t know what I would do. I only wish there were better alternatives for people looking to be sober. Anyway, I am just happy that I haven’t ended up in a mental hospital or dead like many of the AA members said I would if I left. Good luck in everyones journeys.

  • Sammy T

    January 9th, 2018 at 4:00 AM

    Help – I accidentally posted under a full name above yesterday. I can’t seem to find away to edit my name to Sammy T in the previous post. Please can someone help me to fix it thanks?

  • sharron c.

    January 14th, 2019 at 3:52 PM

    i left AA over 6 years ago…i was away for 3 years..i moved did vol work then waged work..due to a bad relationships while out of AA i started to get drunk too often ..i went back but to NA not AA..i was in and out of NA for 2 years..then left that too 1 year and 4 months ago.In all i spent 20 years of my life in and around and sometimes out of these fellowships. when attending i did all the suggestions..All of them..And read most of the books.i have changed inside I am not the person I was pre AA. Some parts of my old self I miss..other parts I’m glad are gone. I found AA and NA to be too religious for me. Too cult-like.And sponsors controlling. Some manipulative.I did not make any close friends there.And from start to finsih of my time there i was taken for a mug at times for cash..i was threatened and intimidated.i was belittled.i was used.i was shunned .i was sexually harassed and stalked..i became isolated due to some sponsors..people kept back from me.i was given misinformation. my time there was isolating and at times glad i left.there was no good friend in there to social life to boyfriend or partner to miss.i live in a new town now and have built up a new life new and real friendships.all that is missing from my life is a partner.i believe i went through a cult experience. and i believe it can be a dangerous place for some.

  • Maria A.

    June 30th, 2019 at 7:05 AM

    I started attending AA 3 months ago and it helped me to get sober and I learned from members. I learned some skills about sobriety, cravings and what to expect in “early sobriety”. I have stopped drinking many times in the past 15 years (my drinking started late in life) but it seems different this time because I am now stopping only for me. But I began to feel more unsettled and uncomfortable at meetings, asked someone to be my sponsor, and started “working the steps” all things that were supposed to help me. I felt more unhappy and restless. After reading some good research articles on addiction and alcoholism, I discovered that there are other programs that have the same success rate as AA. I have joined another group which, unfortunately, does not have live meetings in my area but does have online meetings, chats, etc. I am ready to stop attending AA meetings altogether but am going to miss some of the very lovely people I have met. I also cannot adhere to the some of the AA principles, beliefs and doctrine of acceptance. I am dealing with the death of my husband of 43 years which occurred 6 months ago and doing grief work, but the AA gurus don’t want to hear about. The other program wants to build self confidence and provides a caring environment which is apparent even on line. My experience with AA has been the opposite. I was convinced in less than a month that I had some horrible character defect, had wronged people all along my life, was a Godless, faithless, powerless person who did not have the strength to do anything without the help of the strangers sitting in that room and in order to live another year I needed to stop associating with many of the people I had known for most of my adult life, stop doing things I enjoyed (like playing golf – “it’s not about the golf, you know”), and going out for dinner because it was associated with a glass of wine!
    I am so glad AA works for some people. I met people who have had many, many years of sobriety and they credit AA. I wish them well and continued sobriety. I am not one of the people who can sign up for the long haul of this program. For me, good byes are hard.

  • Walter A

    July 26th, 2019 at 6:11 AM

    One question. If AA has helped you to stay sober for a year and a half, than why do you want to leave it? Step one says that we “WERE” powerless over alcohol, and that I lives “HAD” become unmanageable. Before we came into AA, we could not control our drinking. AA gave us a way to regain that control through complete abstinence. Once we are no longer craving a drink, we are no longer powerless over alcohol because we have a choice of whether or not to pick up that next drink. I have been sober for almost 3 years, and this time I allowed someone who was experienced in the BB to take me through the 12-steps. We are not supposed to go through the steps by ourselves, but rather together. Once you do go through the steps, and recognize that it is your higher power who helped to separate you from alcohol, then you begin to see the program for what it is. That is a philosophy that is supposed to enhance your life, not limit it. I only go to 2-3 meetings a week because I found that by forcing myself to go to meetings, I was developing a resentment towards AA. Last time I began to question AA (developed a resentment), I had 2 years sober, stopped going to meetings, stopped calling people from the rooms, and ended up relapsing. Just be careful that you are not questioning AA because you are developing a resentment for the people in AA. You must always remember, there a a lot of sick people in AA. Some of them have been “sober” for a long time, but have never been taken through the BB. For those people, AA is their life, and not an enhancer of their lives. Whatever you choose, please talk to your sponsor about it before you make your decision. AA is not for everyone.

  • JJD

    October 14th, 2020 at 6:43 PM

    I liked AA more for the entertainment , its better than going to the movies ,or Circus. I was sent there for DWI as were many others.The Sobriety rate at the club was very low, maybe 10% range. Once I left the meetings and got back on the street in my car I felt like drinking again.I don’t think it works. Rocker Eddy VanHalen said he went to AA for years and finally got sober when he just decided to Get Sober For Real,For Himself, something inside changed.AA is a Babysitting Operation!

  • sharron

    July 13th, 2022 at 11:07 PM


  • SP

    August 11th, 2022 at 1:24 PM

    I have enjoyed reading these comments. I have been in AA for 18 years and am considering leaving…and that feels very freeing. I connect with what I read that, “AA is a bridge back to life, not life.” Being able to see it as a bridge that I can step off of allows me gratitude about the time I spent “in the rooms.” Th meetings have gotten rather political and some groups have weighed in on controversial topics, which is not apart of the traditions. Its been three months since I have really taken AA seriously and I feel the most confident I have since getting sober 18 years ago. I am so grateful for the people, working the steps multiple times, and reconnecting with God. Yes, I have sponsored multiple times. Because of all the outside controversial issues that have creeped into the meetings, I am feeling the need to leave. My most honest reason is that I feel like AA has bridged me back to my faith, and I think there is more growth for me there now. My sponsor is not approving of this development, but I don’t care. I have also been asking myself if there is harm in always introducing myself as the problem that was in my life (alcoholic). Identify so much more as a child of God, mother, friend, sister, worker…positive things. In my faith, I believe that God calls us by our name and not our sin. That is true healing for me. Maybe it is just time to go…

  • SE

    September 26th, 2022 at 1:52 AM

    Been sober in AA for 9 years and believe me, I have done it all–7 meetings a week, sponsoring, service commitments (including being DCM for two years in my area), always shared, worked the steps, just really your typical AA girl scout. But some things have been feeling off to me for the last few years. For one, I had a sponsor who demanded that I call her every day in the beginning of the 2020 lockdown–she said that anybody who wasn’t freaking out was in denial. I wasn’t freaking out, and she was pressing me to divulge my troubles and problems to get her guidance. It got so that I actually felt relief when I had an issue I could bring to her! Such a weird dynamic. Eventually I got a different sponsor, but even then, I kind of felt like … what are we doing here exactly? At this point, I have coping skills. I can take stock of my actions and make good decisions based on the information I have. I can love other people without trying to control them. I can sit through uncomfortable or painful feelings without losing my mind over them. (A lot of the problems I called my sponsor about in the early days were basically “Help! I have a passing unhappy feeling, what do I do?”) They say you should get a sponsor who has what you want, and I realized that I didn’t see any longtime sober person who fit the bill. I tried talking to one of my AA friends about this, but got a condescending “sounds like someone who needs a sponsor” type reply.

    The thing that bothers me the most is hearing lovely people bash themselves by saying, “I’m a liar, I’m a cheat, I’m a thief, and I can’t be trusted.” It just seems so disconnected from reality, it makes me sad. Like, no, you’ve been sober for 25 years and you’re a badass lawyer who is really nice and has cheered me up many times, why are you saying this stuff about yourself? This isn’t humility, and I don’t know what purpose it serves except to keep people in line. When people say AA isn’t a cult because there’s no central figure who collects all the money and controls everyone, that used to satisfy me. But I’ve realized that treating Bill W. as a prophet and the big book as an infallible text creates a similar dynamic. Sure, anyone can say anything in an AA meeting and they’re “only suggestions,” but if you hear the same “suggestions” from everyone for years and years, it doesn’t feel optional.

    It’s been lonely to observe these things. I feel like I really can’t share them with many of the sober people I consider friends, because I get some weird responses–anger, fear, or syrupy sweet “concern” that feels somehow the worst of all. It really, really helps to see that there are other people who left AA and stayed sober. Don’t get me wrong, AA was really helpful for the first many years. I loved it, and I felt like I really belonged somewhere, and there are a lot of things I learned that I will always take with me. But I’m so grateful to hear a few other viewpoints. I don’t want to stay sober out of fear and shame.

  • Roy

    January 28th, 2023 at 1:14 AM

    I have been clean and sober for 28 years. I have been around AA and NA for a substantial periods of that time. I don’t find that they are very effective as most people I have seen come in eventually go back out via relapse. The 12 step mantra is basically “my way or the highway.” ANY discussion that is perceived as a criticism or a challenge to the accepted dogma is usually met with personal attacks and statements to the effect that you will relapse if you don’t “toe the line” The one size fits all approach to 12 step programs grossly misses the fact that people are very different in their reasons for needing a “program” and what will be effective to get them relief from their drinking and/or drugging. And don’t get me started on the VERY PREVALENT PREDATORY BEHAVIOR present in both groups. It is not uncommon for well established members of both programs to prey upon newer vulnerable members. It is so prevalent that I personally recommend that females who are new to the program travel in groups AT ALL TIMES, do not give your phone number out to men, and sparingly to women, and to stay away completely if you find yourself having to go to meetings alone. In my opinion it is dangerous…..physically, mentally, and spiritually. There was a recent case in my area where a husband and wife took a newcomer to their home and the wife groomed her and eventually the husband wound up raping and sodomizing this poor woman. As if she didn’t have enough problems to deal with. This is not an isolated incident. Sexual exploitation occurs frequently. My personal recommendation is to find something besides a 12 step program to deal with your substance abuse issues. I have completely terminated my attendance and connection to the 12 step community and have found it to be refreshing, liberating, and contributing greatly to my peace and serenity. There is a lot of support out there that does not require you to attend 12 step programs. Seek help for your substance abuse and you will find it. I wish all a fruitful pursuit of a solution. Peace.

  • Ann

    May 28th, 2023 at 12:16 PM

    I have been sober for one year and am doing great, but I am having uncomfortable feelings about AA as time goes on. I went to rehab to get sober; then attended meetings every day at first, and now just once a week. I have a sponsor who I connect with and regularly see. I did the steps and tried writing inventory, but it honestly just feels like homework and I do not get anything out of it. My sponsor and I read the book, which I can enjoy because it is relatable content, but find it odd how so many treat the book like the end-all-be-all. “The Big Book says…” is something I hear constantly, like every situation has to be governed by this book.
    I appreciate the coin system and was happy to get my one year coin, but do not like how if someone slips up after having years of sobriety, they feel like they need to disclose themselves and get the 24 hour coin again. That seems humiliating.
    Another thing, I was asked to potentially give a lead, but speaking in front of a group of people is something that makes me extremely uncomfortable. The thought of doing it is adding more stress and worry in my life, and I was told my by sponsor that I can’t say no. I have worked so hard to get rid of stress in my life, I do not want to make myself more stressed because “I’m not allowed to say no?” I understand the goal is to help others by sharing my story, but essentially feeling peer pressured into doing something does not sit well with me either. I know if I say how I feel, I will hear how “fear is what keeps us sick.” I am 32 years old and want to protect my peace, but AA has a way of making every negative (but completely natural) human emotion feel like “a character defect.”
    Anyway, I once felt connected and happy to go to meetings, but the longer I’ve been sober I feel less into it. I know I wont relapse if I stop going, I am the one keeping myself sober and am in control of my own actions. It feels like AA uses fear and shame to keep people coming back. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s where I’m at.

  • Melissa

    June 15th, 2023 at 11:51 AM

    I am coming up soon on my 1 year. I am on my third sponsor. I have been feeling angry towards AA. That is not healthy or what I want. I am sick of the parrot talk and hearing the same stories over and over again. I believe in God. I want my daughter back. I lost custody and trust for putting alcohol first. She goes to therapy because of the trauma. I am on Step 8. I am supposed to go to 3 meetings per my sponsor. I do 1 maybe 2. What keeps me sober is God and my daughter. I don’t feel powerless. I want to feel empowered. I go to Therapy. That helps a lot. I know my alcoholism was caused by my divorce and how my ex treated me before and how evil after. I could not cope. I chose alcohol. Made a lot of stupid decisions. But my problem is my thinking. I just need to work on that. I feel guilted into going to AA. Afraid of what others might think. Also that looming phrase from AA that I will relapse. AA helped me draw a line in the sand. Stop drinking or keep drinking. My 1st sponsor told me that. I had started AA and was still drinking. I told her I was done the next day. Poured a practically full bottle down the train that at one time felt like I would be cutting off a limb. Took a picture and sent to her. I needed that push. But now I am more interested in getting my chip and moving on. I don’t care to feel like if I stop I will for 100% sure relapse. I have meetings to still go to when I need to. But I hate feeling like I have to go. I had a sponsor once tell me “Well when you don’t want to that is when you most definately should.” Why? I can’t get back that 1 hour and get nothing out of it but watching the time till it is done. I hate that they have to read that same stupid script everytime. Ugh. I sit there thinking is it done yet. The only part I like is Daily Reflection. At least variety and make you think. I am scared to bring up to sponsor. Part of me says Suffer till 12 Steps are done. But did you hear that? Suffer? Why should I. I am my own person and I have also been told by a sponsor that this is a sure way to fail. To put yourself in charge. She said “Drive my own train.” She also said to not get a boyfriend. I have been fine. The new one doesn’t care. Which I like. That whole be alone 1 year bs. Why should I not be in charge of my life. Why should I not know and except that if I drink again that nothing will get better. I am not stupid. I don’t need beat over the head about it. That just makes me more angry. I don’t need anger because that causes stress and the I will show you. I don’t need that. I know why I am doing this. I think I will pick up bike riding or something and find hobbies.

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