ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Personal Health Information & Self-Help

AA Is a Cult & Other Myths of Recovery

Updated on July 16, 2012
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

12 AA Myths that WILL Keep You Drunk

Last night I heard an AA member actually use the "c" word. He said when he first came into AA he refused to drink the Koolaid because...

"AA is a cult. "

I had just read those exact words -- along with "We know AA won't work because she's an atheist" -- in a comment on one of my recovery hubs just hours before.

It made me wonder. How many people out there believe AA is a cult? How many continue to suffer because they hold onto these (and/or other) misconceptions about the program that has saved millions of alcoholics' lives around the world?

This hub addresses some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding AA and its 12-Step program of recovery from alcoholism. (Bonus: 12-Step recovery also works for other addictions including drugs/narcotics, gambling, sex, overeating, internet, etc. The 12-Step concept even works for those who live with alcoholics/addicts).

Bil W and Dr. Bob 12-stepping a newcomer
Bil W and Dr. Bob 12-stepping a newcomer

Why 12? Why not 10?

I picked 12 myths because there are 12 Steps in AA. AA is, after all, a 12-step program. In fact, AA is the granddaddy of 12-step programs. Since this hub is about AA myths, I wanted to pick a number associated with AA.Hence 12.

This is not to say there are only 12 myths surrounding AA. Please feel free to add your own suggestions. Who knows. We could end up with "AA Mythbusters II, III, IV, etc." Heck, this could become a regular "AA Mythbusters" series!!

The 12 Myths of AA

1.It's not for atheists

2. God = religion

3. Too many rules

4. I'm not like them

5. I can handle this myself

6. It's only for dumpster-diving old men

7. They meet in nasty smoky church basements

8. They won't let me have sex!

9. I'll be exposed as a drunk

10. I just want to learn to drink normally

11. I'll never have fun again

12. It's a cult and nothing more

Myth #1 There are no atheists in AA

Categorically false. There is a saying "In a foxhole there are no atheists." It means that it's hard to deny God when your life is that literally on the line.

If addiction to alcohol -- in liquid or any of its other mind-altering forms -- is kicking your butt, maybe it's time to revisit the staunch no-God policy.

I have a secret for you. You can still be an atheist and be in AA!

Many (too many) people use "I don't believe in God" as an excuse to reject the helping hand of Alcoholics Anonymous. Many sober people in AA still classify themselves as atheists in the classic sense. And yet they are sober. How can this be so? Read on.

Sorting it out in your fuzzy brain

Myth #2 You talk about God; you must be a religion

First part = true. AA does talk about God. A lot. We talk about a "loving God" and we talk about "a God of our understanding."

Second part = false. In a religion, everyone prays/pays homage to the same God/god. Not so in AA. We don't have a Jesus, Yahweh, Mohammed, Buddha or any one deity or icon. We have only the idea (or promise) of God.

Wanna hear something really, really cool? You actually get to choose your own God. For many -- and not just the avowed atheists among us -- that right there is extremely freeing!

Myth #3 AA has too many rules

I understand. No alcoholic likes to be told what he can and cannot do. We react by doing the opposite! Authority is a dirty word to alkies. F-the rules.

I get it. I feel the exact same way!

But if you hate to be dictated to, AA is actually a great place for you! AA actually does not have any "rules." Instead, we have "suggestions." There is a big difference. It may seem subtle, but once you get inside you'll realize no one here can boss you around, tell you you're doing it "wrong" or kick you out!

Please don't base your opinion of AA on bad experiences with organized religion. Christianity has The 10 Commandments. AA has The 12 Steps. Both are guides for living. You can "work" the steps (and it is highly advisable, if you don't want to end up getting drunk again). But you can't "break" them. Major, major difference.

You can turn your back on AA and go out and relapse. But AA will still welcome you back with open, sober arms. There are no sinners here. There are no bad people or failures. We're just a bunch of drunks (sometimes aka a Group of Drunks or GOD) trying to help each other stay alive through another day.

Myth #4 AA people aren't like me

On the outside, maybe not. But inside, they are just like you. Every single one of them struggled to stop drinking or "stay stopped," just like you. Every single one of them has suffered from feelings of self-importance and self-loathing (often at the same time). They've had great times drinking, but then the magic wore off and was replaced by obsession, which led to desperation and hopelessness.

The list of similarities between drunks is long. It's a lot longer and more powerful than surface differences. If you close your eyes and listen to another alcoholic sharing his/her story, you will eventually recognize yourself.If you read through the stories in the back of the "Big Book" I can almost guarantee you'll find phrases, pages, or even whole stories that you could have written about yourself.

And when you recognize your tribe and feel that indescribable feeling of salvation (coming home) you'll know you're in the right place. We do understand. Only too well!

Myth #5 AA is for weak people and losers

How many times have I heard people wrongly equate sobriety with willpower. It's easy to deny you have a drinking problem. Or to know you have a problem but insist on handling it yourself (because you're strong and capable and that's the way you handle everything in life). This may be possible for some people. Chances are they are not alcoholic. They actually can put the bottle down and never look back.

If you are a "real" alcoholic, you will eventually hit the wall in your life. In AA we call it a hitting your "bottom." You will try everything in your power to stop drinking and realize -- to your horror -- that you cannot. Or you may go on the wagon for extended periods , but be miserable and crazy as a loon. You're "handling" your drinking problem, but the price is your sanity. You're not weak and you're not a loser. You're suffering from untreated alcoholism.

Would you expect to treat yourself from any other progressive, fatal illness? Cancer, perhaps? It's the rare specimen indeed who is able to pull off that miracle. And if you can manage to stop using alcohol to treat the horrible thoughts and feelings that come part and parcel of alcoholism, then hooray for you. But if you stop putting alcohol in and the horrors continue (because if you are an alcoholic you are hard-wired for horrors), then what?

Either way, you need help. AA will help you, even if you don't (at first) want us to.

Myth #6 AA is only for old men

I have two thoughts on this. First, I would have thought the 21st Century and shows like "Dr. Drew" and "Intervention" plus the tabloids and (I daresay) personal experience -- because we all have at least one drunk in our lives -- would have dispelled this myth.

You cannot judge an alcoholic by their exterior. The majority of AAs come in while still functioning -- at some level. Some of us have abused alcohol for decades while managing not to lose our jobs or families ....yet.

There are as many women in AA as men these days (at least the meetings I attend).

More and more, young kids are going off to college and smacking their heads much quicker. There is an active and growing group of YPAA (Young People in AA).

But part of this fear is valid. Homelessness (and other forms of hopelessness) come with the alkie territory. That lovely woman next to you with 25 years' sobriety once lived in her car -- After CPS took her kids away. That new guy with the the wild eyes? He just got out of prison. He used to be a prominent ____________________(judge, pharmacist, banker, musician, athlete, president, etc.).

The truth about alcoholism is it is an equal-opportunity destroyer. AA, on the other hand, is an equal-opportunity healer. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking .

Myth #7 AA meets in dark, smoky church basements

That's an outdated image more than a myth. Yes, ashtrays were once as ubiquitous in AA meetings as coffee pots and candy bowls. But these days it's rare indeed to find public buildings that permit smoking within several feet of the entrance, let alone inside!

Smoking is still part of the AA culture -- for some. Many AAs hang onto this crutch until they get enough sobriety under their belt to quit tobacco, too. As such, you will definitely see AA members huddled on the sidewalk taking their puffs before and after the meeting.

But the meetings themselves are smoke-free. If a meeting does allow smoking it will be designated on the meeting schedule (which you can pick up at any AA meeting or from the local AA central office). You'll also find a variety of meeting locales, times and formats.

If you have a thing about church basements, choose a meeting that meets upstairs!!

AA and You -- How Many Are True?

How many of these AA myths have you heard before?

See results

Myth #8 AA won't let me have a sex life

Ha ha ha ha ha. Like anyone has ever stopped you from having sex!!

Seriously. This chastity "rule" is a valid concern for newcomers. But honestly, it's not a rule. And it also has a really valid premise.

It's suggested that you focus on your own recovery and not get involved romantically right away. This is because your sobriety is so new it's easy to backslide into old familiar (read: destructive) habits. When you add the trauma/drama of another newly sober person, the odds of relapse double. An

As a newcomer, you'll want to hang with people who can show you the ropes and stay away from swingers -- they'll mess with your heart, which will mess with your sobriety, which can quickly lead to a relapse.

But that's just the first tender months -- not forever! Put aside what you may have heard. There is no chastity requirement. AAs are not celibate. (If they are, that's entirely their own business.) Many sober couples meet and marry in recovery. It's a beautiful thing.

Myth #9 If I see someone I know I'll be outed

Another understandable fear. You've braved your first AA meeting. But there in the front row is Mary from Accounting. "OMG! Of all people. Mary! I know she hates me. Now she knows I'm in AA and now everybody at work is going to know I'm an alcoholic loser."

But wasn't Mary the one who found you passed out in the stall at the company Christmas party? Didn't Mary pour you discreetly into a cab? DIdn't Mary offer you an Alka Seltzer that day you came in late with "the flu?"

Newsflash: Mary's known you're alcoholic for years! She's recognized all the signs. Because she's one, too. She's secretly thrilled to see you finally make it into AA.

As to blowing your cover at work, it won't happen through Mary. She's learned through AA that "anonymous" means just that. She's got your back (and no,she's not going to stab it).

"In the rooms of AA, who you see here, what you hear here, what is said here, let it stay here."

Do you believe the myths?

Which of these AA myths do you personally believe to be true?

See results

Myth #10 AA can teach me to drink normally

Close, but no cigar on this one. This is every alcoholic's dream, to be able to drink like normal people. Alas, we are alcoholics.

Our bodies do not process alcoholic normally. Our brains do not think about alcohol normally.

I've heard more than one woman confide, "I thought AA would finally teach me to drink like a lady." And many an alcoholic husband who declares, "Yeah, I figure I'll put in my year, get my wife off my back. By that time I should be dried out so I can go back out and drink like I want to."

The truth is, AA cannot teach us to drink normally. That is physiologically impossible for us. But it does teach us to live and act normally. And over time, we do become ladies. And we do make our wives and families happier when we're not drunk all the time.

In recovery we find a new normal for ourselves that doesn't revolve around booze. That, too, is a beautiful thing.

A new guide for your life

Myth #11 I will never, ever have fun again

Another classic fear. This one's pretty universal. But think about it. Drinking has dominated your social life forever, it seems. It's hard to imagine doing any of the things you enjoy without the associated beer, cocktail, glass of wine, nightcap, etc.

But on closer examination, how much fun are you really having right now? For most AAs, as our drinking progresses, previously enjoyed activities fall by the wayside. As obsessive drinking runs roughshod over our lives, fun slows to a crawl. We're left with the illusion of fun, overshadowed by the reality of alcoholic drinking.

I can tell you this. You had fun as a child, before you picked up. You will have fun as a sober adult, after you put down. It's like returning to a simpler, happier time. Anything you used to do drinking you can and will do sober -- and a whole lot more.

What is a cult, anyway?

From Wikipedia: "The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.[1] The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices. The word was first used in the early 17th century denoting homage paid to a divinity and derived from the French culte or Latin cultus, ‘worship’, from cult-, ‘inhabited, cultivated, worshipped,’ from the verb colere, 'care, cultivation'.[citation]

Myth #12 AA is a cult

To the uninitated (sorry, couldn't resist a little cult pun), AA's practices may seem bizarre. But consider the truly, truly bizarre situation of the alcoholic. To feel remotely "normal" s/he must self-medicate his disease of alcoholism by ingesting alcohol even when s/he doesn't want to. The alcoholic has lost the choice of free will when it comes to drinking.

AA's whole purpose is to help the alcoholic regain that choice. You are a slave to alcohol. AA doesn't want to enslave you to anything. We want to set you free!

I suspect, though, people who see AA as a cult are afraid they're going to get sucked in and "lose themselves" (see above for the irony of this argument). They come into the rooms of AA clinging desperately to their uniqueness, to their pride, and to the pipe dream that somehow they can show everyone up and do this on their own with sheer willpower. They likely view the other AA members as sheep blindly following the herd.

I will accept the premise that AA's practices and principles are bizarre. For the active drinker, they are abnormal, indeed.

But there all similarity to "cults" ends.

We do not believe in saviors. We do not believe in prophets.

We do work communally, but the main work of AA is performed solo, then shared with your sponsor and (only if you want to) with the rests of the fellowship at group level.

But what of mind control, you ask? There is most definitely mind control going on! But it's an inside job. Inside meaning inside your own head!

If you're expecting Dr. Bob and Bill W. (the founders of AA) to command you to make animal (or virgin) sacrifices or scrawl "PIG" in blood on mirrors -- or any of the negative associations we carry around about cult leaders and followers -- you're going to be either pleasantly surprised or sorely disappointed.

And one more thing. It's notoriously difficult to extricate oneself from a 'real" cult. They don't let you go without a fight == and several deprogramming sessions.

In AA you are always free to go. And you are always welcomed back. No one holds you here against your will. But I'll tell you this. After a period of sobriety, whether it's 3 months, 3 years or 23 years, you can walk out the doors of AA and do whatever you want.

Eventually -- and usually sooner, not later -- your alcoholic mind will trick you into taking that first drink. And once that happens, you will be right back into uncontrollable drinking and bonehead behaviors within a week.

Not to worry, though. You are always, always welcome at AA. We just hope you cut through the myths and accept the help we're offering. It's a lot easier to come in and work your steps and stay.

If you aren't ready for recovery AA will "gladly refund your misery at the door."

We wish you all the best. We hope you make it back safely to sobriety.

Not everyone does.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • j-buchanan profile image

      John Godwin 2 years ago from Athens, Georgia USA

      Aren't you gonna tell me the truth, which is no. This is a new God isn't it? It's a new God as we understood him!! Tell the truth.....this new God is AA or the group/ people of AA.....If you people don't believe me then bring up Jesus Christ in an AA will see. AA is a dangerous religious cult.

    • j-buchanan profile image

      John Godwin 2 years ago from Athens, Georgia USA

      Hi, This was quite an interesting read. I had to stop however when you spoke of how cool it is that in AA you get to choose your own God, so therefore according to your logic that is not religious? Secondly, could you tell me if I can keep my God from my childhood. I grew up in a Protestant family, and I like the God I already have. Can I keep that same God?


    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 4 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you, GP Dave.

      You nail it in your comment. AA is the most successful long-running recovery program in the world. Alcoholism and addiction have notoriously low success rates. Once you understand you are up against a disease that wants you DEAD, you can continue to deny it or you can get on with treating it.

      But we all have to get over that major hurdle of DENIAL first.

      Those who come in court ordered, or who have to do DUI classes or go to rehab on a family intervention are lucky in a way to have a "forced" bottom. I don't expect many of them to stick around. But if they can get even a glimmer so that the next time they relapse horribly they know to go back to AA, that's a win.

      To the detractors who say AA didn't work for them, my pat answer is, "You didn't work it."

      If you managed to not drink without AA, bully for you. I hope you are not as miserably and clueless as a sober person as you no doubt were (we ALL are) drinking, then that's not much of an improvement is it?

      Thanks for the reminder.

      No one dreams of being an alcoholic when they grow up. But I believe also that no one enters the rooms of AA by accident. If you end up there, you are a chosen one. Don't blow that chance!

    • profile image

      GP Dave 4 years ago

      I have been reading some of the detractors comments about AA. It seems sad that they have to denigrate something that works so well for others, but not for them. AA saved my life many times over, and I was sent there by the courts in 1999. I came with the resentments described in the BB. Contempt before investigation. I have stayed, long after my probation ended, because it helps me in all aspects of my life. I will continue to read the material that the detractors post, just to remind me of what I used to be like.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello Ellen,

      You are definitely not alone! You've described untreated alcoholism perfectly. Take the alcohol out of alcoholic and you still have the 'ick.'

      That's what recovery is all about. Learning to get over the self-centeredness and bad behavior of the drinking years.

      I hope one day your dad will be able to hear your truth.

      Have you looked into Al-Anon or ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) to treat YOURSELF? Alcoholism is a FAMILY disease. Everyone is infected by the person with the primary disease. All learn dysfunctional coping tactics. And all endure and witness things children should never have to, and that the helpless spouse is unable to shield them from.

      Even if your dad never figures out how he hurt you, I do hope you are able to get to a place of forgiveness.

      He was and still is a sick man.

      I will add you both to my prayers. MM

    • Ellen Karman profile image

      Ellen Karman 5 years ago from medina, Ohio

      My father was an alcoholic my first memory until I was in college! Then he quit and is just a grumpy old "dry drunk." He wont even admit that he was an alcoholic all those years. He's very narcissistic so it's not even worth it to talk to him about how it effected me. I love all the comments on here - I'm not alone!

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Yes, anything that helps is worth it. And coffee is much safer than alcohol. I used to drink and when I thought I was overdoing it, was able to stop on my own. But I started exercising and meditating. If you need a group though, why not go? It doesn't say what God you need to believe in, it's just telling you to give up your burdens to another power, so they aren't all on you. I wish more people would go, I know how much it hurts the other family members. It's great to see you too.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Jean,

      I'm so glad your uncle finally got sober. Better late than never. But it takes what it takes. And everything you describe sounds spot on. The serial marriages and wreckage during drinking days. The love and support of the AA fellowship through sickness and other life challenges. As for your aunt, she was "infected" as well. Alcoholism is a family disease. Meaning everyone in the alcoholic's life gets sick. The wife, the children, the parents -- all dysfunctional because of the primary drinker's dysfunction. And when the alcoholic enters recovery, the rest of the family benefits but still have to work through a lot of pain, anger, etc. themselves.

      Not all AAs become addicted to coffee and cigarettes. Usually if you smoke already, that addiction stays with you until you're ready to give it up. Coffee -- yeah. Instead of meeting for drinks, AAs meet for coffee. Although that can be tea. I know a lot of people in recovery who have become really healthy. Working out. Yoga. Etc. But there is a danger of substituting SUGAR addiction for alcohol. Which essentially is sugar.

      Not ideal. But no one ever got arrest for driving while under the influence of cake, right?

      Thanks for visiting. Always a treat to see you, my friend. MM

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I had an uncle who had a terrible drinking problem all his adult life. He was married twice, and finally got himself together when my aunt passed on, he went to AA and got remarried. He stayed with it, and in fact, because he was so Irish, loved to talk, and began to mentor many people. I was so proud of him. I only wish he had done it earlier in life. I had 5 cousins who were pretty messed up from growing up in his household, and the 3rd wife reaped the benefits of having the "whole" man, as a really nice person, not the mean spirited drunk who was bad to his family and some of the cousins carried on his alcoholic ways. He had bone marrow cancer, but people from his AA group visited all the time, and I believe gave him the strength when he needed it. If only we would be nicer to people before they get to the point they need to push all the pain inside and try to drink it away. Apparently my aunt was not a good influence on him either, though that was hard for me to accept, wife 3 was only my age. But AA does help. My brother says all the people do is become addicted to coffee and cigarettes, but when you are ready to seek help, you can find it. When the studen is ready, the teacher appears.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      You put it very well, DM. AA is where problem drinkers go when they have nowhere else to turn. The more desperate you come in, the more willing you are to admit your way simply isn't working. Often that does require the people who love you turning from you. They have to. Or you'll never "get it" and take action.

      The "kind" people of AA have all been in your shoes and they understand exactly how miserable you are. And they've been able to turn off the alcohol cravings and stop the self-destructive behavior and learn to live live without drinking.

      Plus, it helps them stay sober to help you get and stay sober. So it's a win-win all around:-)!

      Good to see you, my friend.


    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Ellen,

      We've caught up elsewhere, so I'll just say thanks for commenting here.

      Hi Dolores! Haven't talked to you in seems like ages.

      1. One of the great things about AA is they let you choose your own version of God. It can resemble to any degree -- or not -- the God you may have been raised with. That's the difference between being a"spiritual" vs. a "religious" program. No one concept of God (or any) is forced down your throat. If you can't accept that there is some force, something, some being, some Higher Power that is a little smarter and better at guiding your life than the way you've been managing it yourself, then you might as well stay drunk.

      Not to get too ethereal here, but the HP is ultimately inside each of us. He/she/it has been there all along. Wow!

      2. Yes, I type HP so often on here and 99% of the time mean Hub Pages. It's a bit of a jolt to type it here on HP and actually be talking about Higher Power. LOL!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I also think that some people have a problem with a Higher Power because they see God as an authority figure who is always ready to condemn instead of a helpful father figure. And every group has it's own personality, so some may appear more Christian than others. Certainly, AA is open for anyone of any religion or not.

      One funny aside, here, on this site, when I see the abreviation HP, I right off think you mean HubPages, haha.

    • Ellen Karman profile image

      Ellen Karman 5 years ago from medina, Ohio

      Thanks so much Mighty Mom! yes I am back, had lost all my thoracic discs and had to take it real, real easy for eleven months until the bones fused and wasn't bone on bone which is very painful, but they have all fused where I've lost the discs and I'm back to writing. I love this place and am still getting used to all the things like if I have my ads hooked up correctly or not but I'll get it with time, the important thing is the writing and the friends you make on here! Thank you Mighty Mom, Ellen Karman

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey Ellen! It's so wonderful to see your smiling face. Looks like you're back with a vengeance (in a good way).

      Hooray. I am very happy and hope HP delivers everything you want/need it to.

      Keep coming back. It (HP) works. LOL!

    • Ellen Karman profile image

      Ellen Karman 5 years ago from medina, Ohio

      Great information on debunking the myths and maybe and hopefully the people that read this and need to find themselves in the rooms will find their way there due to what you wrote! I'm voting this up as I'm sure many have. Thank you Mighty Mom, Ellen

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      That's the whole problem with alkies. They believe they are strong as hell and run on sheer willpower. That is no match for the disease of alcoholism. You're working against biology.

      But by surrendering we can get humbled enough to concede our way doesn't work.

      We do, in essence, internalize our own strength (no reason the HP can't be WITHIN you -- not you yourself, but within you). And recovery absolutely teaches you to fish. And all kinds of good stuff we never knew how to do before!

    • profile image

      An AYM 5 years ago

      Hmm, that is my one main dislike with that process - the emphasis away from individual willpower.

      It may just be a personal split in ideology, but I believe that if you strengthen someone through an external force you contextualize a person's strength, but if you strengthen someone through their own willpower they internalize their own strength.

      That whole, "teach a man to fish" allegory.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi AYM. Yes, you're right. I hear that complaint a lot. If I had the chance to "update" AA (ha ha -- the very idea is heretical) I would soft-peddle the "GOD" references. I'd probably use Higher Power which is more palatable to some.

      But honestly, even alcoholics who arrive believing in God have turned away and turned toward the bottle (go with Devil references if you like).

      WeALL have to learn to connect or reconnect and learn a new way to be guided by God, our Higher Power, or something/someone other than our own willpower.

      The cool thing about AA as opposed to religions is you can pick your own God. I've gotten a good laugh when I've talked to teens about the concept and tell them they can use a doorknob as their HP. It's true!

      Thanks for your comment. MM

    • profile image

      An AYM 5 years ago

      That people would think of AA as a cult is entirely silly, but I do believe their emphasis on God is legitimately detrimental. I don't think it's necessarily them thinking it's a cult as a means to avoid treatment. I think Atheists who come in to investigate that source of treatment are made uncomfortable by the forcefulness in which something they don't believe in is pushed on them.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      The idea of dismissing AA as a cult sounds like it may come from people who know they have a problem but refuse to believe they can change, or who do not want to change. I met an atheist who had no problem with AA's Higher Power. His HP was the goodness of the people who helped him, his faith in the decency of a group dynamic of people willing to assist him when everyone else had given up on him.

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 5 years ago

      I know what you mean when you talk about the "ick". We can call this power anything we want - we just need to acknowledge that it exists in order to move forward. :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Kathleen Kerswig. Thank you. Yes, it's not at all uncommon for people to use GOD to mean Group Of Drunks or Good Orderly Direction. I know the God thing really throws some people. But to remain sober, you absolutely have to accept that a power greater than yourself (call it God or Higher Power or whatever works for YOU) is doing for you what you could not and cannot do for yourself. And that is not just getting sober. It's staying sober. God is all over the 12 Steps and when we (read: I) forget to stay in contact, I feel like an untreated alcoholic. Emphasis on ICK!

      Thanks again for your comment. MM

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 5 years ago

      The important thing is to acknowledge that a power greater than self is what will help a person get sober. That concept has saved many people. Many times people join AA or another 12-step program and decide to use the group as a higher power in the beginning. They develop a belief in something greater than themselves and it grows and changes from there.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      AA is God-centric to be sure, but I'm not seeing in the Big Book anything about the Bible. In fact, the Chapter "We Agnostics" (p. 44-57 in the Fourth Edition) make clear that AA can work for those who do not believe there is a God/god or are not sure.

      Perhaps Dr. Bob and Bill W may have been Christian. But both found that neither Christianity nor medicine nor psychiatry nor willpower nor any other known method could save them from their hopeless state of alcoholism.

      That is why they founded AA. A peer-to-peer program that is definitely spiritual in nature. There are definitely important parallels with Christianity.

      Trust in God. Clean House. Be of Service.

      But you don't have to be Christian or accept Jesus or even any particular concept of God to get sober. That is an essential difference and a really, really important piece of information for anyone suffering from alcoholism who feels God has turned His back on them. He hasn't!

    • Katherinefbell profile image

      Katherinefbell 5 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      The original AA was decidedly Christian and founded by two born-again men, i.e. they had accepted Jesus as Savior and been indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The twelve steps were derived from the Bible. Check the history. Now all kinds of pagan understandings of God are allowed.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Katherinefbell.

      I'm not aware of any Christian moorings in AA. There are many principles in AA that mirror Christ's teachings, and we do use the word God -- a lot.

      But the Bible is not the spiritual basis of the program.

      Actually, we have our own "bible" called the Big Book. Not intended to be heretical, just that for alcoholics who cannot stop drinking, this program does what nothing else -- including for many Christianity or other religions -- cannot.

      Thanks for your comment. Always good to get another perspective. MM

    • Katherinefbell profile image

      Katherinefbell 5 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      One thing I do know from my experience in ACOA is that the 12 step groups have strayed from their Christian moorings. They do not allow that Jesus is the one way to the Father, the Creator, that He said He was. Nor do they allow members to quote from the Bible as the definitive Word of God.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Lisas-thoughts101! Always great to meet others in recovery. It sounds so trite when really we are talking about life and death, as you know. Thanks for commenting! MM

    • Lisas-thoughts101 profile image

      Lisas-thoughts101 5 years ago from Northeast Texas


      What a great hub! I have been in AA for almost 12 years and I hadn't really thought about those myths. They are all so head on. Shawn, I am sorry you lost your mother to this awful disease. I lost a brother to it, as well. It is amazing all the misconceptions we have about this disease and the denial. AA has saved my life and the lives of so many people I love. Thanks for writing it. I voted up and interesting and useful. Will come back on a computer I can go to facebook on and share!!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi SP. Good to see you. Yes, there are people out there who get clean and sober on their own. Talk about miracles!

      One of the premises of AA is that it is peer-to-peer -- fellowship and service to others are both essential.

      I understand the "introvert" comment. AA is full of severe introverts. It's extremely healing and supportive to be able to be honest about the details of our personal lives (which kept us isolated and locked in misery and drinking to try to ease the pain). Everyone else has the same disease and are amazed to hear others from very different background telling "their" story.

      It's the same thing I tell rape victims on my rape hub (also from experience). Time alone does not process the trauma. You gotta GET IT OUT and do that with others who are "safe" meaning they have walked in your shoes.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Another possibility could be is some people might be able to recover in a more introverted setting. AA seems like a good thing for many, but there might be people who do not want to be as open sharing all the details of their personal lives and such.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you so much, skye2day. Congrats on your 20 years --although we both know we only have today. I know some people do get sober without AA, but I wonder how they actually tream their alcohlISM once they take out the alcohol. I have found a new way of life that is way better than I had when using booze as my solution.

      And, like you, I found God. He had always been there. I had simply turned away from him for many years.

      So many blessings.

      So glad to know others here on HP are sharing this journey of recovery.

      You're absolutely right. Bill & Bob rule!

      God bless. MM

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Mighty Mom Fantastic info!! True stuff. I pray that any drunk oops alcoholic that has preconceived notions about AA (cult and or religion) do stop in for this read!! AA as you shared has saved millions of lives, mine being one of them. Well God saved my life. He led me to AA. It was there I found God. He was never lost I was. Anyway great read. I love the way you write. Powerful. God Bless your journey MM Hugs to you. Keep sharin it girl.

      Gotta love that bill and bob!

    • PapaGeorgeo profile image

      PapaGeorgeo 6 years ago

      very interesting ! voted up

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks for the referral, AmberExperience. We really are what we eat! MM

    • AmberExperience profile image

      AmberExperience 6 years ago from OOO--SAH (how my friends in Argentina said USA)

      Mighty Mom. Check out this Documentary called "FOOD MATTERS" I watched it on netflix awhile back. Its main focus is how beneficial an all raw/organic diet is to the body and mind but it also touches on that info that I referred to. Its pretty good stuff

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Billjordan, You said it all right there. It saved mine, too. And millions of sufferers around the world. Even the ability to come back in after a relapse and be welcomed without judgment helps many alcoholics. Glad you're here.

      AmberExperience. That is interesting. I have not read about that but do know of rehab programs where they emphasize whole body and nutrition is key.

      We know it's a disease of the mind, body and spirit. We do wreak havoc in our bodies with alcohol and it takes effort to straighten our bodies (and our poor eating and exercise habits) out. Thanks for sharing this. I think it deserves its own hub. You wanna write it?? Best, MM

    • AmberExperience profile image

      AmberExperience 6 years ago from OOO--SAH (how my friends in Argentina said USA)

      nutritionally speaking, IN THE BEGINNING of the program, when it first came to be, taking large amounts of vitamins was a part of the AA program also. When the FDA got involved nutrition kind of phased out, but I have seen mentors and sponsors really see the benefits and help those struggling get on a healthier mindset and body which has helped to fight the war of addiction. Thank you for your post!

    • Billjordan profile image

      William Jordan 6 years ago from Houston

      This is a great Hub glad you wrote it AA save my life probably the main reason I am sitting here Thank God for AA Great Hub....

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, GL, my new friend! MM

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Good for you Mighty Mom!

      A Mighty Hub here.

      Shine a light on all the good stuff.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well then we will both keep fighting the good fight and we'll see what happens.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, billybuc. I'm a big fan of yours as well. Just doing my part here to promote RECOVERY not just solo sobriety. And if I can dispel some misconceptions about the disease of alcoholism or AA and reading the truth helps anyone -- alcoholics and/or their families -- to find the solution, then that's a big old bonus!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You reminded me of some myths I had forgotten about; another great hub and I am becoming a big fan of yours.

    • advocateforchild profile image

      advocateforchild 6 years ago from Orange, CA

      Yet another wonderful hub. I love that you bring to light the many misconceptions people have about AA. I would like to add the AA is not only for Alcoholics, but works very well for people with drug addictions as well.The local Friendship Hall helped my daughter save herself, and her struggle was with drugs. AA is wonderful in many ways, and often there are more meetings, more hours, more places to go because it has been around for longer.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      LOL B Noelle

      I will be sure to pass along your gratitude to Bill.

      I hadn't thought of the correlation of the 12 Steps to the 10 Commandments or other Christian rules to live by.

      I'm not sure it would technically be a "relapse" tho if you momentarily forget it's Friday and Lent and stop at McDonalds:-)

      Thanks for reading and commenting. MM

    • B Noelle profile image

      B Noelle 6 years ago

      Hahahahha!! Love this!! I searched possible acronyms for GOD and these came up: Getting Off Drugs, Group Of Drunks, Good Orderly Direction, anything you want. Google search engine defines 'cult' as:

      1. A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.

      2. A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

      I see how AA can be considered a cult. The practices that alcoholics participate in are strange and to the outside world can be seen as sinister. But we see that in any religion. AA, if I'm not mistaken, has the 12 steps that are supposed to be followed to help someone recover from alcoholism, similar to other principles other religions possess: don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent, don't have sex before marriage, etc.

      When the pain of recovery is less than the pain of continuing doing what you're doing, in this case addiction, you pick recovery, cult or not.

      Thanks for the article. I voted up!

      P.S. Say "Hi" to Bill for me. ;).

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 6 years ago

      Very useful article here. I like the fact that you picked 12 myths to match the 12 steps. As I've read through the comments, it's obvious that everyone has different experiences to share when it comes to AA or any other 12-step program. It is apparent that it can work for those suffering from alcoholism. In my opinion, it works when the alcoholic is willing to do something different than what they have been doing. Willingness is the key to taking action. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      Jesse 6 years ago

      I'm a dry drunk so don't listen to me.

    • profile image

      kidknot 6 years ago

      Gr8 post. Glad to find people like you in this wide, wide world.

    • Xenonlit profile image

      Xenonlit 6 years ago

      I've never needed AA, but this is a great hub for those of us who get bad information all the time. Voted up.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Wendi,

      Ah, yes. The old "drawing up a contract with myself not to drink" trick. Nothing like making yourself feel like more of a loser than you already feel. It is, perhaps, a necessary part of the bottoming out process to try every possible method on your own to realize you CAN'T control your drinking. That is what alcoholism is.

      How graphic can I be here?

      How about writing a contract with yourself not to sh%t when you have the flu? How do you think that would work? Would you blame and berate yourself when you inevitably broke the contract? Alcoholism is a disease.

      Anyway, I'm glad you found me and whoever in your life is struggling with drinking, I wish you all the best.

      Recovery IS out there and is a beautiful way of life!


    • Wendi M profile image

      Wendi M 6 years ago from New Hampshire

      Good morning Mighty Mom!

      I just finished reading some ridiculous hub written by (well, I can't remember..imagine that?) about drawing up a contract in order to limit the amount you drink. I found myself infuriated (at first,) but then I read your comment, regained my clear head, and followed your name to this hub!

      All I can say is "Thank you putting the smile back on my face today!"


    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA


      I knew I liked you from the first! You are a true kindred spirit. Thank you for supporting my non-cult view. We are powerless. But we have ultimate power -- HP (Higher Power, not Hub Pages. Although that's pretty powerful, too!!)

      xoxo, MM

    • Lola1929 profile image

      Lola1929 6 years ago from Oregon

      Wonderful hub! I always go back to having a Higher Power. The word (or idea) of God is way to scary for some people. They are usually thinking of the God of their childhood, and this is usually not a helpful thing to do. A Higher Power can be nature, the sun, a beloved pet. I have been encouraged to see my HP as a friend, and talk to Him/Her as I would talk to a dear friend. On the suggestions I would say, "Progress, not perfection". There do seem to be a lot of rules, but doesn't any life have some sort of set of rules? These "rules" have helped me to live a better life. They are "rules" I can life with. It's not about willpower, like you say. In program we learn to GIVE UP CONTROL. That's how we get better. I am powerless, but there is a power greater than myself that I can turn this problem over to. I have a friend who went to AA to quit smoking! LOL Along the way she got sober. People are addicted to alcohol. It is like an allergy. Our minds and bodies simply don't react to alcohol like a normal drinker, and we never will. 12 Step programs are not cults... like you say they may seem strange, but if a person comes to a few meetings they will find a camaraderie they can find nowhere else. I encourage people read this hub and honestly take a look at their own life or someone they care about. Lots of good stuff here!

      Love from Lola

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      All I can say to your experience, justateacher, is God bless your husband (and you). Holy crap. He managed to stay sober IN SPITE OF those around him. So many of the things you cite are just so flat-out wrong. It boggles my mind that so many DIFFERENT people associated with your husband's sobriety told him such bs.And somehow he intuitively knew best for himself. Yay!

      I have heard of drugs being offered outside of NA meetings. I imagine there are AA meetings where true recovery is not the real goal. In rehabs (inpatient) it's very, very common. Very.

      Your husband is right. You have to want it for yourself.

      As for Al-Anon, I have AA friends who go to both. They work the Al-Anon steps and swear by that program. I tried it and wanted to reach over the table and strangle some people. My husband HATES Al-Anon. They told him to "just leave her." Had he listened, I would be dead.

      The thing about Al-Anons is they do have the choice to walk away. But they seem more interested in bitching. They just didn't get what they were dealing with. Y

      ou are so right. It is a DISEASE. AA teaches us we are not bad, we are sick. Al-Anon should be teaching the same message, not the opposite.

      Anyway, I'm so glad your hubby has 2+ years. That is a long time to stay sober. Please tell him for me I wish him serenity and a happy life. And to you, also. Thank you for commenting. MM

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 6 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      My husband went through a 12 step program and his life changed for the better. But I can't say it was the program itself that helped him - it was more seeing people in the program that were now in the program for the fourth, fifth or sixth (Or more) time and still not receiving the help they were being offered. He was in inpatient treatment center (because he chose too, not because he was forced like 8 of the other 10 people in his group) because he knew he had a problem and wanted to fix it. He was ready for the change and was determined that this would be his one and only trip through the program. When he was released to outpatient care and into a 12 step program, he was often offered drugs and alcohol while at the meetings, and before and after the meetings. He was also told by a counselor that he was making these things up and that it never happened. Then she told him that he should no longer play pool in his pool league because he would not have the willpower to resist the drinking that may occur. I believe that my husband recovered from his addictions because he did not want to be like the people he saw.

      I attended Al-Anon meetings, as well, and was not happy either. At these meetings I was told that my husband was a horrible person that needed to learn how to be a good person through the 12 steps. I knew better - my husband had a horrible addiction, but he was not a horrible person. I chose not to attend any more meetings.

      My husband has been clean and sober for more than two years. He still plays pool in his league and, believe it or not, has not been tempted to have a beer with the guys. They are his friends and understand what he went through and encourage him to stay on the right track.

      The myths you listed are not what kept me or my husband from liking a 12 step program. It was the people who were involved.

      I know that we may have just had a horrible experience and that there are programs out there that help people in long lasting just didn't work for us....

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, LL. Sometimes I worry that I have, in fact, drunk the Koolaid. But hey, it's kept me from getting drunk. We don't have to understand why it works. Just look around us and know that it does work. All around the world.

      Perhaps a "How to recognize a dry drunk" would be a good companion piece to this.

      Simply not drinking is not treating the disease of alcoholism. If that's all you're doing you might as well drink cuz you're gonna be miserable...

      Thanks, friend. I really appreciate your comment. MM

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Great stuff. I have heard a few of these myths before, but it's nice to get the straight scoop from someone who knows what they're talking about. What seems most convincing to me is AA's extensive track record. I know many people who find AA extremely effective, and, in fact, the only thing that actually works. So, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      TWS, Good points. Finding the right group is essential. You have to feel like you "belong" even if you feel weird at first. In many places today there are sooo many options of meetings. "I can't find one I like" is just another excuse. Then again, if you live in a region where there are only, say, 2 options, you have to force yourself to fit into one of them (and/or do you meetings online!).

      I can relate to feeling that some people's ideas of AA stray from the book. I could (and probably will) write a hub on "bleeding deacons" vs. "elder statesmen" in AA. You can't just sit back and rack up time. You gotta work it to get/stay well:-).

      Too intellectual? Holy carp. That is so sad. It is possible to be too smart for AA but not too dumb. Intellectual prowess will get you NOWHERE. This is not a scientific study. Brainiacs need to swallow their their pride and just let the big words go. It's a SIMPLE PROGRAM!

      Hello ShawnB2011. Didn't I just meet you here the other day? Good to see you out and about!

      So sorry about your mom. My mom, same thing. She tried it but I think the deck was stacked against her getting sober. In hindsight I see that. But good for your stepmother. I hope that if anyone else in your family is alcoholic (which they may not know for years), they will look to your stepmother as a model. Right on! Thanks for sharing that. MM

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Chica, chica, chica.

      What a lovely comment. I wish I had known your stepdad, but I feel like I do know him, if you know what I mean. Thanks.

      Mentalist acer -- that is a profound comment and actually very true. I've met some of my best "real" friends in AA. Most of the others on Hub Pages:-).

      Thanks!Cheers, MM

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      AA is one of the first social networks.;)

    • profile image

      Lady Tenaz 6 years ago

      Girlfriend...AA is a great program that has helped millions and it makes me sad that people think that they are a cult. AA paved the way for NA and I am proud to say I have some family members who have turned their lives around with the NA program and my stepfather was a recovering alcoholic who went sometimes to 2 AA meetings a day. I love the the 12 steps and I love their quotes because its about "one day at a time" thinking...nothing more nothing less. Whether you are religious or not it is an upbuilding program and yes not everyone in AA is there for the right reasons but MOST are sincere in their quest to better themselves and others. I think their idea to be a support system is a great thing as there is always strength in numbers...and quitting drinking on your own is difficult and sometimes impossible for some. HUGS to you...My step-dad would have loved this hub.

    • ShawnB2011 profile image

      ShawnB2011 6 years ago from Arizona

      I believe in anything that has a remote chance of helping people and their addictions. I wish my mother had given AA more of a chance. She attended a few sessions but it wasn't for her. She had become a victim of alcoholism and died as a result of it. On the other hand, my stepmother attended AA and she has been sober ever since, going on 20 years now. Just like quitting smoking, I think one has to WANT to stop in order for any program to work for them and find what best fits their comfort zone to achieve their goals.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I think finding the right group is the key. Sometimes groups are led by people with weird ideas that stray wildly from the concepts in the "big book."

      There's other times that groups are led by people that are just too intellectual for the person seeking recovery.

      I think it's very frustrating - but well worth the effort to find the group that stays within the text, and is able to allow someone to feel safe.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Friend,

      We don't always agree on stuff, but on this we do.And that pleases me. Apparently AA is helping someone in your life, so hooray!

      BTW, some aspects of AA annoy the sh#% out of me -- still. But I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I need to stay sober and so far it's working (7 years and counting).

      We can make -- or break -- our own experience in the program. More flexibility than in just about any other aspect of my life.

      Uh oh. I think the Koolaid mustache is forming around my lips now.

      Thanks so much for being the first to comment! Cheers, MM

      There i

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Great write!

      I've been to countless meetings. I'm not, however, an alcoholic at all. I used to be irritated by some aspects of A.A. - but now I appreciate it for the great things that it continually does for people that need it.