Leaving AA

We get a number of calls and e-mails from folks who think it’s time to leave AA behind but are frightened by the brainwashing they have undergone as well as being affected by the 12 Step nonsense their spouses and families have swallowed. This excerpt from a recent inquiry typifies many of the common themes expressed by those who have outgrown “The Program”:

“ I’m in AA at the moment, sober for 9+ months. Sober seems to be fine – don’t miss alcohol as much as the social part of it. Doing lots of yoga, and trying different things. I just don’t like what I get from AA and the message that I am diseased for life and have to admit 2-3 times a week that ‘I’m an alcoholic’…

Right now my issue is that I truly rankle at the message in AA that if I don’t work THEIR program, I am ‘lost’. But if I question the program, I’m told my disease is rearing its ugly head and I’m in danger. I just feel this is a losing proposition for me. I like some of the program, the principles you might say, but the idea that ‘they are suggestions only’, and ‘take what works for you’ seems to be missing, at least where I live. And I hate sharing, I really, really do.

My husband is fairly flexible, but he wants me to work ‘a program’ of some kind. I’m not comfortable with remaining with AA . I’ve been to Sober Recovery meetings, but I didn’t like those either. I don’t like meetings at the best of times (maybe too many of those in my working career)?

Wondering if you can help bridge this gap.”

It helps to have a model that actually works and addresses all of these issues. In writing about “Who AA Harms” I note that AA “works” for people whose emotional development ceased by the age of 12. They are life’s’ permanent conformists, enamored by trinkets, slogans, in-groups, and outgroups (Normies) and terrified by those who would deviate from The Program.

Then along comes someone like our writer, regressed by alcohol and circumstances to that level, but with the drinking gone they quickly rebound to their natural adult levels and find AA untenable, as almost any real adult would.

There’s the rub. Virtually no one knows this actual research and experience-based model. What’s more, neither do spouses and other family members, employers, judges, or most everyone else.

It’s hard to maintain confidence in your own perceptions with that kind of opposition.

What helps?

Exposing AA for the childish cult it is. Helping people deal with whatever issues they were medicating with skills, not slogans. Advising them to never ever refer to themselves as “alcoholics” and reminding them that abusing alcohol is always a choice, not a “disease”.

And educating significant others to the same realities.

Yes, AA can serve as a short-term waystation on the road back to a real life. But that’s all it is. Don’t get stuck there. It’s just another way to maintain an alcohol-focused non-life.

Preparing You For a New Day-To-Day Life

Traditional “programs” – whether residential or outpatient – do not prepare you for life without an alcohol focus. Exactly the opposite.

Consider for a moment that 90% or more of all programs are based on AA and AA is all about increasing your focus on drinking. You are commanded to devote yourself to “The Program” and the “Steps” to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.

And all that matters is counting up the minutes, hours, days, months, and years of not drinking. That’s right, all that counts is NOT doing something. That’s a definition of living? Not doing something?

Whatever happened to doing stuff?

No folks, that’s not the AA way.

Yet if you want your alcohol abuse to go away, that’s exactly where your focus needs to be, on Doing Things – activities that actually address the conditions you’ve been medicating. Now there’s a radical idea.

AA admonishes you to stay away from “Normies.” But those are the people who are actually going to help you learn to live normally.

The saying goes, we become the average of the people we surround ourselves with. So, want to be a drunk? Dry or wet? Easy. Go to AA, that’s all you’re going to find there. I know of no faster way to become an “alcoholic” than to join AA.

So if AA only prepares you to be an “alcoholic,” how do you prepare for being a real person?

Some of that is fairly obvious once you set aside all the mythology. For example, you develop actual coping skills rather than medicating. Anxious? Learn and practice CBT, physically active routines, and some formal relaxation routines, i.e., get a massage on a regular basis.

Lonely? Join with other “normal” people in pursuing an activity or hobby that interests you, preferably one that doesn’t involve drinking and whose participants know nothing about your former problems with alcohol – and who you don’t care to inform.

Personal and/or professional relationships out of balance? Assertiveness training, and the measured introduction of assertiveness in place of passivity, or passive-aggressive drinking, will liberate you far more than hiding out in either a cult or a bottle.

The list goes on, things you can do with your life rather than watch time pass you by with either a drink in your hand or cult telling you what to do to avoid both living and thinking.

Spectator or participant? Your life. Your choice?