Alcoholics Anonymous: Program or Cult?
My Experience With AA
I've been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for about 3 years. By no means, is that considered an old veteran of AA. As a matter of fact, in the eyes of many, I'm still considered a somewhat " new guy". I'm OK with that, because as long as I stay a new guy, there is always plenty of room for more learning and more doors opened to experience the benefits of true sobriety that keep coming everyday. But, I've had enough time to hear, learn, experience and understand the real purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first thing we need to understand is the true meaning of the word "sobriety".
What is "Sobriety"?
When we think of the word "sobriety", we define it as being free of substances that are mood or mind altering. Many refer to this as "clean and sober" for an extended period of time. Even though this definition is factual and very accurate, there is also another definition of sobriety. That definition is " to achieve life balance". That is what AA and the 12 steps is all about. That perfect balance is a goal that can never be reached completely, but can be improved on, one day at a time, for as long as one chooses to keep moving forward to the best of his or her ability. That is why you have people that have been members for 30 or 40 years and yet keep going to meetings and stay active by helping new people. That's part of that balance.
In our drinking days, everything we did was motivated by selfishness. We did whatever it took, at anyone's expense, to dull our craving for alcohol. Now that we have learned that being selfish and taking the time to make ourselves a better person, we are also making things better for the people around us. When we are on our way to improvement, we become willing to share our experience, strength and hope on how we did it with others that are looking for the same things, but don't know how. We use the paradox," You've got to give it away to keep it." That's balance.
Let's Talk About the "God Thing"!!!!
I think this may be where the questions about program or cult come from. So let's look at where AA goes with this and clarify exactly the point AA is trying to express.
Nowhere in the program of AA does it state that you have to believe in God in order to achieve sobriety. As a matter of fact, the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking. That is one of the AA Traditions. What AA suggests is that you find and accept that there is a power greater than yourself. It also states that that be a power of your own understanding. Not AA's; not mine; not another members. But your own. To not believe there is something greater than yourself would mean that you have total control over everything. EVERYTHING! We all know how absurd that is. If it were true, why would you be at an AA meeting or even interested enough to read this article? But alcoholics don't think that way. They feel that they can control their drinking. So, why don't they? Even after lost jobs, D.U.I.s, divorces and jail, they still continue to drink. They don't realize that they have had a higher power all along. That higher power is the disease of alcoholism. More times than not, ego tells them that they can do it on their own. But they can't. It's that simple.
By accepting a higher power of your understanding, it opens the door to accepting help and guidance from others. It gives you the willingness to follow, to the best of your ability, the suggestions by others that have been successful in their recovery. You accept that you can't do it by yourself.
Nowhere does AA state that that higher power has to be God. There are many Atheists that are wonderful, sober and respected members of Alcoholics Anonymous. If your wife threatens to throw you out if you don't go to AA, guess what; she is your higher power for now if you want to keep a roof over your head. It can be a judge that court ordered you to AA meetings or go to jail. He's your higher power if you want to be a free person. Your job can be your higher power. It doesn't matter as long at it is something that motivates you more to stay sober than to drink. This higher power is not something to worship, but to respect. To remind you that you are not in total control of everything. As things begin to settle down in your life, your concept of your higher power will probably change.And so will your relationship with that higher power. Many do accept God as their higher power but never declare that to be the only way. As long as the concept of a higher power is present, whatever that is, you will be OK. This is the creation of some sort of spirituality; not to be confused with religion.
See, AA never addresses the concept of heaven or hell. It doesn't address life after death or the hereafter. It doesn't address judgement day. That's the church's job. The clergy's job. The bible of your choice's job. AA does not recruit members. It is a program of attraction rather than promotion. It has no ulterior motives other than to give people a better path to a better quality of life, as long as you are here on Earth.
I have heard many people exclaim that their friend was brainwashed by AA. If that's what one thinks, so be it. But they don't realize it's exactly the opposite. See, you are already brainwashed to believe that alcohol is your friend, your comfort, your confidence, when in fact, it is destroying you and everything around you, with every drink you take. With a little opened mindedness, AA wipes out all those false beliefs and provides you a way to replace those beliefs with positive thoughts of your own understanding.
The Open Doors of AA
AA is one of the few places that I know that you can walk into any room, with every walk of life known to man, and be comfortable because you all have one common problem and one purpose for being there. That is to carry our message to another alcoholic and help them to achieve sobriety. When you walk in, you will always be greeted with a handshake and introduction. If you go back out drinking and decide to come back, the doors will be open to you and you will be greeted with a handshake and a "welcome back". Unconditionally. You also have the freedom to leave whenever you choose. But you will always know that we will be here for you, should you decide to come back. No questions asked.
Summary Of AA
AA is a group of millions of people with 2 goals in mind. One is to improve their personal quality of life. We aren't here to try to regain the time lost in our days of drinking. But to make the most of the time we have left. And two is to no longer pollute the world with our selfish drunk behavior and be a menace to the rest of the world. Maybe even help make it a little better place to live.
To me, Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. (Preamble) If someone still believes that AA is a cult, well, you don't have to go. At least for now.