Is Alcoholics Anonymous a Cult?
This week I have two guests on the show with the experience to answer this important question. First there’s Mike of the Digression Sessions Podcast, http://digressionsessions.com/. Mike was a very precocious alcoholic who was able to hit rock bottom at the impressive age of 21. Just in time to actually legally drink! Mike had a somewhat positive experience with Alcoholics Anonymous. He was able to cope by picking and choosing which steps he liked. He was helped further by the fact that he was still fairly agnostic about god at the time.
Second is Danielle, who has actually never had a sip of alcohol! Because her mom was an alcoholic, though, she was indoctrinated into an extremely cult like group called Al Anon. We find out that this is a different group than Alcoholics Anonymous. It is for the family and friends of addicts. However, the things she was forced to go through were just as controlling and unreasonable as the 12 steps can be for alcoholics.
For example, Danielle was told who and how she should date and what she should wear. She was dictated to constantly by her sponsor. Danielle would never make any life decision without obtaining explicit approval from her Al Anon family. She was subject to a ton of Alcoholics Anonymous dogma and she wasn’t even an addict!
Was Danielle’s experience the norm or was Mike’s? It’s hard to say. But we also hear 3 clips from notable and representative members of Alcoholics Anonymous that paint a grim picture. Further, the steps themselves are incredibly religious. (See here: http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf) Though Mike was able to ignore the ridiculous parts, as an atheist I would have quite a hard time doing so myself.
Finally, some say the success rate for Alcoholics Anonymous is alarmingly poor. See http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/the-surprising-failures-of-12-steps/284616/ for example.
Image courtesy of MR Lightman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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One thought on “AS52: Is Alcoholics Anonymous a Cult? Part 2”
I recommend SMART to anyone looking to recover from addiction, atheist or otherwise. Most, if not all of the people there were there specifically because they couldn’t stand AA (or just didn’t think it would help them).
My sense was that they were well trained, and really focused on recovery. Just to give one example, they discouraged the “war stories” that AA members tended to go into so much. I believe there was an Onion article titled something iike, “Recovered alcoholic kind of proud of how much he used to drink.” Well of course we are; we were really good at it. But I strongly doubt that has any use in therapy; if anything it puts you back in that old sick mindset.
Overall, the group leaders at SMART were 100 percent focused on getting you sober and getting you back to your life. And if you did it in a few months, so much the better. None of this “welcome to the rest of your life” horror.
For what it’s worth, anyone who wants to can sign up and participate in their online forums and even tune in to weekly meetings of some sort. I don’t know how that compares to sitting in a live meeting, but if it’s important to you to seek out help and there’s nothing near you, that’s probably a good place to start.