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Is Alcoholics Anonymous A Cult?

Updated on February 2, 2016

Party Lifestyle

Hangover. We have all been there. Head pounding, heart racing, trying to recall thoughts from the night before; in short we've all had a bad hangover. Actually we've all probably had a couple dozen. The best cure? Rest, water, greasy food, and time. Sometimes I've even had a beer the next day, because why not? In the eyes of an AA member this would probably qualify you to be an alcoholic. Does having a party lifestyle for a few years mean you have a drinking problem? Alcoholics Anonymous thinks so. Here are certain things that AA thinks makes you an alcoholic.

  • Hiding your drinking.
  • Drinking to relax or feel better.
  • "Blacking out".
  • Being unable to stop once you start.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations.
  • Being able to drink more than you used to.
  • Trying to quit but being unable to.

Personally, sometimes after a long day at work I love to have a couple beers, watch a few episodes of Archer, and go to bed. I guess that would qualify as drinking to relax. I have also had my fair share of blackouts (college was fun), but I feel like everyone has. Are they using this list as a way to help you, or a way to recruit you?

Characteristics of a Cult

Alcoholics Anonymous follows a lot of similarities to a cult. Some of which I will go over now.

1. Authoritarian Leadership

After doing some research and knowing a few people who identify as alcoholics I understand that after you work 12 steps and have a certain amount of time sober under your belt you are suppose to speak during meetings or sponsor others that identify as alcoholic. The more steps you go through and the more time you have sober makes it so you can do more in the program, and almost gives you some sort of authority over the members, such as running meetings and helping guide others through the steps.

2. Exclusivism

Alcoholics Anonymous believes that they are the only way to help keep an alcoholic sober. It is the only way an alcoholic can remain sane and if someone is to leave the program they risk their sanity and their sobriety. They believe that AA is the only salvation to ones drinking and to leave or not comply is to risk ones life.

3. Isolationism

I once had a friend a few years ago who got caught up in the whole AA thing because she had gotten a DUI (which is never ok), and she told me she was not to talk to me or her family until she had gotten better or else she would die since we were drinkers. To me, that is complete crazy talk. If AA is supposed to create some sort of serenity for the members, why are they telling them to fear for their life because of other people who aren't causing them harm with their presence.

4. Opposition to Independent Thinking

As stated a few paragraphs above, AA thinks that they are the savior of all alcoholics and if anyone tries to go with a different way to deal with their drinking they are doomed and will end up drunk again. That's crazy, cult talk to me. Of course if you are in AA and reading this right now, you probably think that I am the crazy one.

I am not saying Alcoholics Anonymous is the anti-Christ or anything like that, but you have to wonder if they use cult like tactics to recruit members. Everybody who is in AA has to follow "the 12 steps" or else they are doomed to be drunks the rest of their lives. I'm sure for some people Alcoholic Anonymous has completely turned their life around, but at what cost? They have to completely surrender themselves to a "higher power", and completely conform to what Alcoholics Anonymous wants for them. It seems to me like the 12 steps are just a replacements for the alcoholics previous addiction, and that the addiction component of alcoholism isn't truly addressed. This is such a controversial subject I really don't want to dive much deeper into it. I just want to get people's brains working in a way to where they don't do everything they are told, and don't believe everything they hear.


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      Kathleen Kerswig 22 months ago

      I am a recovery coach and I have always told my clients that there are many ways to get sober. AA has had much success over the years but you have brought up some points that need to be considered by the individual who attends meetings. The one thing I have heard from speakers at open meetings is that the individual is the only person who can decide for themselves if drinking is a problem. Only the drinker knows for sure. Appearances can be deceiving at times. The bottom line, in my opinion, is to allow people to find the solution that works best for them. As a recovery coach, my job is to help clients find the right answers for them. AA is definitely not for everybody but it has helped many people in a positive way. The only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking. A person can't get thrown out for not doing the steps or for being an atheist. They are a member as long as they say they are a member. The challenge is to remember that individuals sometimes give out the wrong message regarding the 12-Step program. I suggest that people check AA out for themselves before making a final judgment regarding its potential for helping people get sober. I think that as an individual grows in their sobriety, they are able to evaluate what they hear with a level of clarity that they did not have before when they were under the influence. Thanks for bringing up this subject - I think it's always good to keep the conversation going on such an important topic. Alcoholism is a big problem for many people. Blessings!