The Addiction Solution Podcast



Leaving the Cult of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – Part 1

by | Nov 9, 2018 | Audio/Video, The Addiction Solution Podcast

Alcoholics Anonymous is the most widely accepted and protected cult on the planet!

In this podcast Mark and Michelle talk about their experiences being born into AA families and then fulfilling the dire predictions that they would become “alcoholics”. From attending thousands of meetings, to forming their own AA groups and holding service positions in their district and area, Mark and Michelle got a unique perspective on the inner workings of AA, and how those who question the dogma are treated. For them leaving AA was a process that eventually led to co-writing The Freedom Model for Addictions with Mr. Steven Slate.


  1. David

    Thank you for telling the truth about this terrible program. I just shared your podcast on twitter. Very important what you are doing.

  2. Jasmine Gibb

    I did not lose my husband to alcoholism but my kids and I are losing my husband to the cult of Alcoholics Anonymous. It has been really sad and I am treated terribly even suggesting that AA can have negative effects on a person. My husband has been a devote member for 3 years. His sponsor advises sobriety before everything including family. I am well educated, well loved, love my family and was willing to love my husband through anything but I can’t fight this organization. Help please. Do I leave and save us or can I still help him?

  3. Dawn

    Ohhh, great. So glad I ran into your podcast. Very good and it’s so great to be out of AA, truly sober – soundness of mind. 🙂

  4. monica

    Great podcast and thank you for all the work you are doing ! After Leaving AA myself in 2011 I see AA as a cult more and more with every year I am gone.

  5. Emily. Divney

    I am so grateful I found your podcast. I have been struggling with AA since I “ entered the halls” 4 months ago. I have been questioning everything with this one size fits all mentality. Every time people speak they are all using the same language like they are pod people. I have experienced the 13th steppers, judgement, being told “ if I don’t get a sponsor and do the steps I am not in recovery “ and most baffling, that I am powerless over alcohol. I was sober for nearly a month before I picked up a white chip, and I only attended once a week, yet I am powerless without the support of this group? I recently decided to explore a new type of recovery through my church and the very gentleman who I first contacted through a friend, a man who I believed was a great AA mentor and support in my early sobriety, completely stopped talking to me afterI told him I was moving on from AA to try something else. THAT is the most cult behavior of this whole program. Seriously? I am sooooooo happy I never drank the cool aid!

  6. Candace

    I listened to this podcast yesterday and can’t stop thinking about what I heard. Last December I got involved with a man who was immersed in AA. 3 years ago I lost my husband to alcohol. He was only 54 years old. We were married for almost 30 years. This new relationship was the first I had since my husband passed. I knew the man for 10 years before he asked me out. We were good friends.

    I fell for him deeply and admired everything that he was. I strongly backed AA and was so impressed with his dedication. I never felt loved the way I felt love with him. It was a fairy tale. The trouble was, he had not been sober for a one year time span. Apparently, that was the magic number. Once he was sober for a year he could consider having a relationship. I bought into it and severed our relationship. We only had 6 weeks to wait for that day and I felt he was worth it. During our time apart I worked on myself, reading about AA, going to Al-anon meetings 3 times a week and focused on their literature. When he celebrated his one year Soberversary I congratulated him, thinking that together we could do good things for other alcoholics and their families. For 3 days I didn’t hear from him. I was devastated.

    I was driving myself crazy, not understanding how he could have said all the beautiful things that he said about me and our relationship and then just dumping me. I reached out to him to try and understand what had happened. The person who answered me was NOT the same person I had fallen in love with. He said very cruel things and didn’t acknowledge any of the endearing things that he said before he left me. (I was very afraid of relationships, which he knew before we got involved. I didn’t ask for him to say anything that was even remotely ‘a commitment’ but he did, every day….all the time) When he told me it was over it was as if someone else put words in his mouth. It was and is still very painful. I’m 60 years old and never thought I’d know love again.

    Your podcast confirmed everything I suspected. His AA sponsor said and did anything to change his mind about our relationship. In 6 weeks they were able to eradicate any feelings he had for me. (I always felt as if his sponsor feared me and the relationship. My man was very smitten.) And I never got a chance to let him know how I felt about it all. After listening yesterday I realized that I need to tell myself that he is dead, and that alcohol took another person I loved. It is the only way I can stop hoping that he will see that he needs me as much as I need him. He is not that person anymore. He is dead. He is now a walking AA zombie and I will mourn him like I mourned my deceased husband. It hurts but I need to get past it.

    That poor decent man deserves to be loved and I am afraid he will live a loveless life. I feel destroyed by it all but know that I can and will live through it by moving on. The whole thing is so damn sad.

  7. Melissa Dell

    Mother of a devoted AA young adult son-sober 4 years. ( I’m not an alcoholic but was married to one) we are Christians . I need a support group. My son is victim of this AA cult. I don’t want something that is NOT Christian based ( higher power) I believe Christ overcomes . Tired of cults

  8. Dave

    Spent 25 years in AA but never totally felt like I fit in, probably because I never drank the cool aide. I always felt it was more important how well I functioned in life during the other 23 hours of the day. Since being sober the only times I’ve had any problems were with the cool aide drinkers in the rooms. Meetings are full of people that can’t run they’re own life but are more then happy to tell you how to run yours. I have a great life with a wonderful wife a nice home and a good job and finally found inner peace only after leaving AA.

  9. DC

    What an amazing help doubt can be. AA/NA/ACA was helpful at first but the longer I was in those rooms the more depressed and lost in myself I became, looking back it was no wonder I lost myself as it is drummed into one that they cannot trust themselves or their thought’s. My doubt was classed as my disease talking and me taking my will back from a made up god. 99% of the oldtimers were angry & extremely childish, Wilson himself wasn’t the beacon of his Steps and preachings so how could anyone hope to get anything positive out of that cult?! It is a made up quasi-religion at the end of the day.

  10. Timothy

    Great show. I left AA after 26 years-haven’t been happier. I weaned myself from meetings over the past 5 years and realize I was only going there to meet women or see old “friends”. I was becoming one of the predatory old timers. Having self respect I elected to get hell out of there. It is a cult-a religious cult that lovebombs you when you are vulnerable to indoctrinate you into their ways. These are some of the sickest, most twisted people out there. So glad to be away

  11. August Holland

    Attended my very first AA class and I tell you I am totally blown away because I asked myself if this is a cult and low behold I believe it is and I refuse to drink to the cool aid.

  12. Was west

    I’m a member of AA and never thought of it as cult ‘lol’First educate yourself to what a cult is by definition.Dont blame AA for your own family problems or failures.AA did not come to you,you went to it time after time,you need to be accountable for own actions.The one thing I notice about the whining is that no one relasped while and after being involved with AA.

  13. Nicholas Rodriguez

    Wow..some good stuff..i have 6 years and see alotta BS , couple oldtimers trying to chase me out , got in a fist fight & banned for a year, was villified, bullied & still wonder why i go back as the aa black sheep.

  14. Terry Wall

    I left AA after I began to realise my addictions were really a natural consequnece of my post traumatic stress related issues. AA was teaching me i had a disease and was called mad. I started feeling very alien and abnormal and more isolated from the world than ever. I have become much more involved with the real world since leaving and have much more commpassion for my self now.

  15. Lorraine

    I spent 20 years in AA and left after being introduced to this cache of research on Bill W, Dr. Bob, and the origins of AA. I highly recommend people read this vastly informative body of work.

  16. jared

    Fascinating podcast. I’m coming up on 3 years sober myself. Went to a couple of AA meetings and was immediately turned off. Seeing as how I was only a few weeks into my sober journey, I got a LOT of flack and it made me question myself. However, I stuck to my guns and here I am now – still struggling with life but figuring it out on my own terms, and still sober.

  17. Deb collins

    I totally agree! I’ve been alcohol free for 38 years but found myself overusing some psych meds so started to go to NA. Both institutions told me i was broken ans needed thwm to get better. AA and NA made mw feel as if i was wrong because i never felt likw i fir in. If u don’t belive in god thwn you’ll never r fit in.
    I tried for 40 years to find a god i could believe on. Again feeling something was wrong with me cuz everyone else seemed to get it. 5 years ago i Titrated myself off all meds. VERY difficult and 3 years ago i stopped my most recent attempt at 12 step programs. I stopped feeling guilty or broken because i don’t believe in god and think AA is definitely a cult. I’m now 70 and feel better about who i am than ever before. I do shake my head and wonder how i could havw been a sheep for all those years and judged myself so harshly for just being human! I AM NOT BROKEN!

  18. Maria Betancourt

    Wonderful podcast. Answered my question about my friend that has been in AA for many years now. I thought AA was becoming a cult to her, and lord it has. I never never see her anymore, she is always doing a meeting with her sponsor or a pre meeting before a AA meeting. It goes on and on. She only lives to go to AA and be with all her AA friends. It is very sad.

  19. shari prouhet

    I have seen the initial support of AA help people stop drinking, but once the total dependence to drink daily is gone the indoctrination begins to take hold because people are empty vessels and those who have stayed are brainwashed. The bondage and strongholds are insanity of a different beast.

  20. Counselorchick

    One of the most amazing aspects of this cult is how deeply the dogma manipulates members.

    Even after getting free from the cult for whatever reason, members STILL find it extremely difficult to see that clearly they were brainwashed into believing they were NOT in a cult.

    It’s bonkers.

    And brilliant.

    I mean really, if you’re in the market to start a cult, you’d do well to model it after this one. After all, they will never drink enough cyanide to commit mass suicide, but they will watch each other hang from their garage rafters… while chanting “some must die so that we can live.”

  21. Nicole

    Why is aa a cult but weight watchers isnt?

  22. John P

    I have not had any experiences in my first year in AA that would suggest I am in a cult. I can come and go as I please, I am able to define my program as I see fit, I do not have to subscribe to any religion at all (there are even agnostic and atheist meetings), there are no leaders in AA, etc. People are fallible. Any large group of people will have individuals who try to enforce their beliefs or are just not good people in general. I will say that the vast majority of people I have met in AA are kind, helpful and are not pushy at all.

    There are some concerning comments that have been posted here but it is not my place to address the defects of others or to judge them. All I can say is that for me, AA has kept me sober for a year when nothing else could previously. I am happier and healthier due to this 12 step program and I am learning how to be a better person. I encourage everyone to make up their own minds and to not lump everyone in together because of one person’s beliefs or actions. AA may not be for everyone (and that is totally fine) but it is most definitely not a cult.

    The only thing I will address directly is that for me, I have to put my sobriety above everything, because if I am not sober I am not able to maintain any type of meaningful relationship at all. Good luck to all, and I hope everyone finds peace and happiness.

  23. Judson H Henry

    Thank you for this. AA is a cult. Full stop. They do all the same things that all horrible, toxic cults do. They destroy family bonds in order to recruit cult members, they have an infallible guru to come in the place for family (the “Big Book”), they indoctrinate you to “turn yourself over” to them…

    I can only hope they never have a moment when they freak out and serve poison-laced kool-aid, Jimmy Jones style, to all their members. Wouldn’t surprise me if they did at some time. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  24. Anonymous

    I went to AA for many years starting back in the 80s. I never liked that AA’s “Big Book” was written by a bunch of old coots in the 1940s. Also the language is NOT gender-neutral, and precludes women from relating to it. And with a founder who took LSD and was a known womanizer. Nobody else seemed to care, but it mattered to me. Bill W. was also a financier and started AA as a for-profit model for treatment centers to use. When that didn’t work he reverted to the non-profit that it is (and a very successful one). Anyway – I attended for over 14 years regardless, figuring I’d never be able to take it that seriously, but I didn’t want to drink and if it kept me from drinking by showing up at meetings. I also made some friends. I tried working the steps, but I never hurt anyone with my drinking and they told me I had to “make amends”…but to who? Myself? Nobody seemed to get that. I stretched my thinking and made some amends, but it created more harm by planting ideas that would never have occurred to them. My sponsor(s) kept implying “how’s your relationship with your daughter” and so forth. My daughter didn’t even know I had a drinking problem. I was beginning to wonder if I was even an alcoholic, and not because I wanted to drink again but because I did not even qualify given my drinking history – not a daily drinker, no hard liquor, no drinking and driving. But I had a low tolerance and a “desire not to drink” at least for now. I was too afraid not to drink on my own, I felt I needed support so I continued going to AA. After many 13th steppers hitting on me, getting yelled at by “sponsors,” getting judged, leaving meetings in tears thanks to how others treated me, going to meetings where nobody would speak to me, AND getting told not to “make any changes for a year” when what I desperately needed was change because my present life was stagnant…I got out and found strategies for working this all out on my own. Three higher education degrees later (including a PHD), a successful business and wonderful life, I continue to work at deprogramming myself (there is guilt, and I question myself all the time, juging myself) and this podcast has been helpful in this transition.

  25. David K

    I learned of you, indirectly, from the movie, The 13th Step, and related links on the Internet. I’ve listened to both podcasts in detail, several times each. I ordered the digital version of The Freedom Model, and will start reading it shortly. So why am I here and offering my comments? I’ve been “in AA” for over 4 years. This is my third journey with the fellowship – the first two were short lived. I did go to a treatment facility in Oct 2015, and frankly, it was a fantastic experience for me that helped me start on this journey in sobriety that I decided to take. While a 12 step program was not the focus of the treatment I participated in, it certainly was part of it. In my first year sober, I was on the proverbial “pink cloud” as everything was fantastic – or at least that’s what I thought. I was definitely drinking the KoolAid, but I started to question some things. Most of all, I heard, over and over, that “some people are too smart for AA and it doesn’t work for them”. I guess I’m one of those folks… I’ve read the Big Book cover to cover several times – a masterpiece for sure. I struggled in trying to identify with Bill’s story – it just didn’t fit me, yet I actually coerced myself, eventually, in believing I was indeed formed from that mold. I bought into the notion that “we’re all alike”, etc., etc., etc. I’ve questioned the money angle – especially at the World HQ level. I’ve questioned the service angle – I actually have not sponsored anyone else, nor would I. I just couldn’t take that responsibility. I’ve served at the Group and District levels, and have been frequently met with significant resistance when I offer suggestions for change. I don’t fit into the cliques that exist in any of the groups. Whenever I’ve shared, they have been factual testaments which have, at times, been refuted by others in the meeting. I certainly could go on extensively. I’m not bashing AA – just sharing my experience. That I’ve found an alternative is such a breath of fresh air.

    For the past 2 years, I’ve struggled with deep, chronic depression. I’ve been on several medications attempting to shake it loose. I finally got my hands on a book, Lost Connections, that’s based on significant research and that I immediately identified with. Frankly, me experience in AA has segregated me from most people – you just don’t hang around with folks that aren’t in recovery – that’s not healthy… So I’m in counseling with a fantastic professional who is helping me get some things in my mind functioning again, mostly in the form of choice, perception, behavior and the like. Many of these run contrary to the AA approach, yet are yielding very positive results for me in short order. What I’ve learned in a very short time, and has been emphatically reinforced in your podcasts, is that the psychological environment I experienced in AA is a strong contributor to my depressive state – I programmed myself in all the AA facets which have held me back from a free, productive, enjoyable life.

    I look forward to reading your book. Likely I’ll give you a ring in a couple days. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not the express train coming at me – it’s the sunlight that is illuminating my way back into a joyous life.

  26. Julie

    Thank you for this great podcast. One of the things that I’ve always thought about AA is that at the meetings you always have to say your name and that you are an alcoholic. Multiple times. If we hear that over and over, we start to really believe that we are and that the only way to be ‘saved’ is to attend meetings and commit your life to the ‘program’.

  27. Alexander

    Thanks I was grown in A.A., my parents were both members, my dad stopped and freed himself. Whew it’s a tough thing. Whew. I had years A.A. free and my mental health was better. Thanks

  28. Sam

    Not being a fan of the ‘disease’ model of human behavior I cannot swallow AA,NA or any 12 step recovery program. We’re talking about human conditions that have existed since the dawn of man and all of the sudden in 1935 the lights came on with Bill Wilson’s spiritual awakening — really? It’s very Jesus-like is it not? Nobody prior to 1935 overcame their ‘addictions’, through any other methods they just succumbed and that was that — really? Sounds suspicious to me. 12 step recovery cheapens human agency and denigrates our natural abilities to overcome adversity if you’re willing to do some work on your own and learn something about yourself be it through reading, self-education or CBT.

    I was exposed to AA at 17 and was told I had to get a sponsor — a lay therapist of sorts who’s only qualifications was that he was a former ‘drunk’ himself and he did the steps — this was my leader. They get you when you’re most vulnerable — usually going through some horrendous withdrawal when you’ll accept the help of Charles Manson. If you buck the dogma they spew, you’ll encounter …. GUILT. Guilt of not calling your sponsor, guilt of not going to enough meetings. Guilt of not getting a job. Guilt of using a substance again — but that’s your fault because you didn’t do a thorough enough n step. You also better pay tribute to the ‘old timers’, the calcified crusties who spent 20+ years in the basement studying chapter / verse of the Big Book. If you don’t show them ‘respect’ — good luck.

    If you extricate yourself from the cult, you will be ALONE or so they tell you … oh sure, they’ll always have am icy seat for you in the basement … waiting… ever so patiently for your return because really, there’s only ONE way out of addiction … the basement and the Big Book. They are your friends right … until you stop going or following their dogma. Very interesting form of friendship I must say .. sort of conditional from a ‘program’ that offers ‘unconditional love’. Honestly, I’d prefer being high until something better comes along.

    Thank you very much.

  29. TAS

    I enjoyed listening to the podcast and reading the comments. I left AA after 28 years of sobriety. It was difficult to leave; I was fortunate that there some events in my life that facilitated my exit. I met a wonderful woman, who was not in AA. We dated for a couple of years and then got married four years ago. My wife does not like AA nor does she like the people that she met who were my friends in AA. Once we were married, we agreed to make new friends with other successfully married couples. I also did a lot of research. It’s not always easy to find. The disease model dominates the whole treatment, psychotherapy and medical community. Although, I’m hopeful that this is changing. I support the freedom model very much. People need to be aware of the alternatives that are out there. It has taken me years to deprogram myself from all of the ridiculous and harmful 12 step dogma. I encourage others who have finally reached a point in their lives that they are ready to unlock the shackles of fear that are keeping them tied to the “program”. It’s time to graduate from the 12 steps. You can’t get onto the highway of life if you are stuck in second gear!

  30. Amy

    Thank you so much for this podcast. I am currently a member of AA with 7 1/2 months of sobriety. I have been struggling since the beginning with many aspects of the program. I am still trying to decide if it is necessary for me to maintain a completely sober existence, but I am told daily that anything else is not possible. If I do choose sobriety I feel that another program may be the best fit for me, but am nervous to lose the only support system I have at this point. I do feel that those in the program have my best interests at heart, but I find the rooms very narrow-minded. I swing daily between feeling that the program is working against me, then worrying that I am just in denial or suffering from a lack of “willingness”. If there was ever any hope of having another drink again in my entire life I fear that it has been completely scared out of me. It has become a miserable existence. I’m also told that those feelings are common for anyone that isn’t truly “working the program”. I now have hope that there are others out there that have had similar struggles with AA and may offer some hope for me finding some answers outside of the rooms.

  31. Richard

    My two cents: I, personally, have never had any real problems in AA that were not solvable by me owning my reality, with strong boundaries. I have just gotten out of a rehab (45 days) where the Twelve Steps are just once piece of the puzzle. I understand the criticisms of the rehab industry. Really, the only reason I went (reluctantly) was to be away from alcohol and to help my case in court (I got a DUI, first, no casualties or property damage). My perspective is that I CANNOT safely drink alcohol, alcohol nearly destroyed my life, has been the complete bane of my existence, and I WANT IT GONE forever. I understand that many recover without AA. That is great for them. I need structure. Like Brene Brown, I used to hate calling myself an alcoholic, but since becoming a Buddhist, I believe that any identity we label ourself with is an illusion anyway, so it doesn’t bother me anymore. I follow the program as described by Kevin Griffin in One Breath at a Time, so perhaps my program is less suffocating than it is for someone forced to follow a Judeo-Christian format. Personally, I agree with the basic premise of the Big Book, that a spiritual life is better than a materialistic one. After all, that is exactly what Brene Brown says in her books. And that is exactly what Buddhists and Taoist believe. So, there is no argument there. I have nothing against atheists (I used to be one), but the reality is there is an awful lot that can’t be explained by science, Buddhism can be practiced as an atheist (see Stephen Batchelor), and life is pretty hellish if you don’t have a moral philosophy to guide you. Having said all this, if you aren’t an alcoholic, you definitely should not be forced to practice a twelve step program. I definitely am not in favor of that. Let’s all try to keep a little perspective here. Nothing in the Big Book or 12&12 says you have to practice Judeo-Christianity. As I said above, I practice the twelve steps as a Buddhist. I practice the steps every day of my life. I will not have a sponsor, though. Nor will I take on a sponsee. My family comes first. While my sobriety and recovery must necessarily precede a healthy family, that doesn’t mean it comes before them. I fit my spiritual practices around my family’s needs. Not the other way around.

  32. Richard

    Also, who cares whether alcoholism is a disease or not? I, for one, know that I CANNOT consume alcohol safely and without destroying my life. I couldn’t care less if I have a disease or not. I can’t drink.

  33. Stacy

    I’m leaving AA and I’m so excited. I’ve been in for a year, but I got sober on my own, for 6 months prior to joining the program. What I noticed as soon as I got a sponsor was that something wasn’t quite right. She had me write pages and pages of how my life was “unmanageable”, which actually started making me depressed and feel worse than I had felt before. I keep trying to find people who, “have what I want” and I can’t find anybody lol! Nobody is thriving and happy in their life, even after 5, 8, 10, 20 years of sobriety. But it’s my fault because I can’t “take direction?” Who wants to take direction from somebody who clearly isn’t happy? I felt very shamed by my sponsor. These people cling very tightly to the identity of being an “alcoholic”, and everything in their life (that every human being goes through) is because of being an “alcoholic”. Having a bad day? It’s your alcoholism. Did you get angry at your boss? That’s your alcoholism. Are you “stuck in your head, thinking negatively”? That’s your alcoholism. Everybody does these things!! It’s not alcoholism, it’s being human. The specialness. It’s a bunch of BS, and it’s so disempowering. The steps did NOT help me. It’s the work I’m doing OUTSIDE of the program that is helping me. I don’t even think about drinking, ever….until I go to a meeting. And I feel worse after the meeting than I do before. I don’t want to sit and talk about alcohol for the rest of my life. I don’t want to tell the same stories over and over and over again. These people are clearly stuck, and it’s sad because I have met some very cool and well meaning people. But I can see how stuck they are. They can’t move forward. I’m focused on creating an awesome life, one that is not centered around my addiction to alcohol. Thank you for putting this information out there. We need other options in our society!!

  34. Anonymous Please

    During college I had a prescription for an opiate to treat then-undiagnosed pain. (Over a decade later I was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, celiacs disease, and a slow growing spinal tumor.) My friends and family were skeptical of my pain and convinced me to seek drug abuse help.

    Eventually I gave in. When I stopped taking pain medication I couldn’t function through the pain and since there was no diagnosis I assumed I must really have been mentally ill or addicted or both.

    I did not know that the place, an OTP, where I went for medical help was religious & AA/NA based. They required strict adherence to dogma or else I was shamed endlessly a d never allowed to advance in the program and put me in group therapy three times a week that was run by a fundamentalist Christian priest. Eventually I capitulated and attended religiously, paid lip service to the slogans and attended meetings frequently. Otherwise meant my medication takehomes would be taken away and I would be forced to attend the program daily.

    Eventually I went to the meetings, I internalized their shame-based, defeatist, identity-obliterating dogma and honestly believed I needed it. I cut anyone out of my life, at their insistence, that did not support my beliefs or who still enjoyed alcohol or took pain or anxiety medication.

    I began to understand that there was something very wrong with the program when my sponsor (who chaired my home group) had to leave to care for her husband as he fought & died from cancer.

    To them, her absence from the meetings meant she “dirty,” she was as good as “using“ again and as good as dead. I was shunned from the clique and told “God help you if (name omitted) is your sponsor.” I was as good as using and as good as dead to them too.

    They expected her to put meetings above supporting her husband as he died.

    By this point my health had really deteriorated but getting a doctor to look for a physical cause after I sought help for an addiction was a trial that took years. Even now that I have solid diagnoses my pain is doubted because I had been in addiction treatment.

    After years of searching, I found a doctor willing to look at me as a whole person. My pain isn’t being treated well due to opioid crisis hysteria but I have a loving, supportive family, a job I love and hobbies I cherish, and a doctor who is doing his best to keep my life quality reasonable.

    I have not gotten high or gone off the rails or died. It’s been 13 years since I left the program. The program did far more harm to me and my relationships than taking pain medication did. In fact I would go so far as to say the only reason taking pain medication impacted my relationships at all is because of societally internalized Anonymoys program/Prohibitionist dogma.

    Years of therapy helped me get past the cult programming and now I’m living my life with joy and gratitude.

    I’m no longer ”working a program,” I am living my life.

  35. Brian

    Some people made themselves AA Gods and sold that idea to make themselves money . $$$
    Cult within the cult. Its sick.
    Go and truly be free.

  36. Richard

    Thank you, thank you, and again thank you, for this science based program. I actually haven’t finished your book (I intend to), but I have read enough to stay sober from alcohol (sobriety is my intention). Just the idea that I can Choose to stay sober is radical to me, after just getting out of rehab and years of going to A.A. meetings. I am in the process of unbrainwashing myself. Simply put, without your program, if I was trying conventional AA, I would not be sober right now. Fresh out of rehab, I came back home to my wife and seven month old baby. There is no time for meditation (which I do for myself), and absolutely no time for AA. If anyone in this thread doesn’t have experience with children, your free time basically does not exist anymore. All of this to say that I need a program with minimal work, no homework, where I can choose to stay sober. You gave me that. Thank you. 62 days sober and counting.

  37. Dennis

    Wow I have found people who truly understand.

  38. Anonymous

    Not sure the cult definition is applicable here. AA is a fellowship. Nobody runs AA, nor is their a leader nor one individual who profits from AA.

    There is no doctrine. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.

    Conversly, AA is not the only way to get sober, nor does the AA literature make that claim.

    Whatever path in life that substance abusers take, sadly few will achieve a lifetime of sobriety. The statistics on recovery from substance abuse.

  39. Charlie

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.I like so many people here agree AA is cult like and full of total control freaks.I have been in and out of AA for over twenty years and finally found the courage to escape I have never been a stupid person and always prided myself with my intuition about people.I was brought up with excellent morals and principles which AA and it’s program tried to change I also lost over a stone in weight with the anxiety I felt when I left meetings I’ve never had the morning drink my drinking was minimal and believe I went of the rails when I hit 30 due to bad choices I made in life.I tried to take my own life and nearly died as a result of the confusion and bullying I experienced in AA I was also beaten by a so called sponsor in my home group who couldn’t take it when I decided to break free from her clutches after 5years of control,control,control.I had to take drink to approach her and ask her why she couldn’t accept that I’d moved on in recovery so she belted me in the jaw dragged me out of her home like a tramp and nearly broke my wrist in the midst of it all.Spiritual principles my eye!!!Truth be told I saw through her and she didn’t like her good name in AA being harmed this woman in my home group made my life hell I was totally on my own as a woman in my group as all the women were terrified of her and I was totally ignored.
    This has helped me so much as I’ve doubted myself and my own judgements for years.In my opinion AA is full of cloned individuals who mirror each other and the strong play on the vunerable and turn them into their little puppets on strings.
    I’ve been out of AA for a few months and I’m finally finding my own identity again I’m a good human being and do my best to live with love.Im reconnecting with old friends and family and also enjoying a few drinks on a Saturday evening I can sleep again and I’m also gaining weight.There’s no head trouble anymore or confusion I’m big enough to make my own decisions without having to consult with a higher power or hypocritical sponsors who tell you to do things they don’t do themselves.
    AA is not for me I’m a nicer and better person without it am so happy to actually now be getting a life as I’ve been in a bad mood for over twenty years but heh what doesn’t kill you
    will make you stronger.

  40. Dennis Sarno

    Looking for help to deprogram what A.A. has done to my brain. I really need help

  41. ticky sibanda

    The Back to Basics cult led by the so called Messiah of AA Wally P and its affiliated organizations have infiltrated taken over many AA groups. Their aim is to totally take over AA. These people are solid cult and they operate covertly within the fellowship. Unfortunately AAs World Services have not managed to get AA General Service Offices to delist cult type groups that use the AA name. This is the real problem in AA at present and not many are aware of this situation as cult goes to great lengths to cover its tracks. I feel very sorry for all of its above victims. What I might suggest is that people who have been abused form their own groups, get to know cult activity and stop it in your new groups if it raises its ugly head.

  42. Dan W.

    I really sympathise with a lot of people on here , people need people and we were de-socialized thousands of years ago and religion stole our sense of identity and humanity from us, the great lie came in to replace our sense of self and others. It’s so powerful and destructive of peoples identities. AA I believe put up a decent fight for it’s independence as later on Bill tried to pull his bride away from raping hands of religion but in the end, in my experience there is no hope in saving it and as the world wakes and becomes more educated(secular)with the Internet the religion will either destroy us in it’s death throws or hopefully die but expect the worst.,unfortunately so shall AA with it. The the principles of the steps work in a humanist way “Secular AA” works just as well and we are trying to de-cult AA but we’re up against a real monster with religion. The cultist Christians have it and made it a cult in the fashion of they’re religion.

  43. Kyle Johnson

    I remember at my 5th meeting I wrote a poem, and FYI my doc was percs ONLY, I’ve never tried any drugs my effort life bc my brother was an addict and I was in a horrific accident that caused 8 injuries and doc didn’t know what he was doing. Weaning way too fast and too much each time as well and I never failed a test or anything but anyway at that meeting I wrote a poem and at the end I remember it saying something along the lines of goodbye percocet forever and everyone started telling at me and the whole hour was talked about how that’s not what NA was about and they made me cry so hard bc they were that mean. I never went back. I tried explaining to them I don’t drink and never tried any drugs that’s why I said percocet…. And they just kept yelling & I mean yelling at me the entire time about it’s about giving up EVERYTHING. well I hate to tell you but when I went to rehab my counselor even told me that she’s never seen anyone with as bad of anxiety& add as bad as me and she’s had plenty of oriented leave there continuing on to go back on those meds and not advise then, which I never have, and I literally can’t live day to day without them. I’ll NEVER FORGET HOUSETL BADLY THEY made me feel… Ever. As a matter of fact that day I left and for an oxy right away. After that I got dinner again and I was in so much pain ask the time and would only relapse bc of that so I now take suboxone for my pain now and been sober 2 years without these A-hoke people.

  44. Kye smith

    Where do I even start…..I remember at my 5th meeting I wrote a poem, and FYI my doc was percs ONLY, I’ve never tried any drugs my effort life bc my brother was an addict and I was in a horrific accident that caused 8 injuries and doc didn’t know what he was doing. Weaning way too fast and too much each time as well and I never failed a test or anything but anyway at that meeting I wrote a poem and at the end I remember it saying something along the lines of goodbye percocet forever and everyone started telling at me and the whole hour was talked about how that’s not what NA was about and they made me cry so hard bc they were that mean. I never went back. I tried explaining to them I don’t drink and never tried any drugs that’s why I said percocet…. And they just kept yelling & I mean yelling at me the entire time about it’s about giving up EVERYTHING. well I hate to tell you but when I went to rehab my counselor even told me that she’s never seen anyone with as bad of anxiety& add as bad as me and she’s had plenty of oriented leave there continuing on to go back on those meds and not advise then, which I never have, and I literally can’t live day to day without them. I’ll NEVER FORGET HOUSETL BADLY THEY made me feel… Ever. As a matter of fact that day I left and for an oxy right away. After that I got dinner again and I was in so much pain ask the time and would only relapse bc of that so I now take suboxone for my pain now and been sober 2 years without these A-hoke people.

  45. Sean

    Is there someone I can personally talk too about deprogramming AA. I am being harassed on social media by members. I’m struggling more with harassment than drinking. They are trying to ruin my reputation and work references because i worked for some of them as well. Its hard for me to find friends now. what was going on in the rooms never felt right but I poured myself into it and was constantly back stabbed.
    I need help please.

  46. C

    My wife joined NA about 3 years ago and almost immediately prioritized it over our marriage. They used guilt style tactics to force more and more ‘responsibilities’ onto her, hijacked all of her free time, and subsequently eroded our marriage to the point where she openly said that she’d choose the cult over me. We’re now getting divorced. Until she started NA, we were happy. She joined because we both smoked weed, I found it easier to give up than her, and she thought it might help. It was cancerous to our relationship and far more damaging and toxic than recreational weed smoking ever was.

  47. kim

    I was in the AA cult for 18 years. I totally drank the Kool Aid.
    About 10 years ago the cracks started to appear but I was indoctrinated and brainwashed into believing I was the problem I remained. I did more service and worked harder to no avail. I was sober but miserable.
    As time went on and social attitudes towards sexual abuse started to change I watched in horror that the same social attitudes didn’t reflect in the rooms. Victims continued to be silenced. I swallowed my outrage.
    I watched on in horror that people with real mental illness were given dangerous advice by unqualified people. I swallowed my outrage.
    I watched on in disbelief that people with many years of sobriety and well respected and adored frequently unravelled, were judgemental, abusive and dangerous. I swallowed my disbelief.
    I watched on in silence as sponsors and sponsees broke the anonymity of others under the thinly veiled disguise of service and kindness. I swallowed my voice.
    I watched on in despair as long time sober friends died by suicide because they could not find freedom despite their very best efforts. Knowing it was a lie when the cult declared “they could not or would not completely give themselves”

    Relapse, death or institutions are NOT waiting on the other side of AA. A life beyond your wildest dreams is.

    Also: I used the Freedom Model to stop with the food. It’s been life-changing.

  48. Ray

    For those of you who are truly interested in the bondage AA brings you into, the lies it teaches & how very much unChristian it is (contrary to many peoples understanding of it’s founders/foundation), i encourage you to go to this website –

    “I spent the first thirteen years of my twenty four years of sobriety in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In those years I found no peace, no calm, and no joy. Then I began reading the scriptures and seeking to follow Christ with my whole heart and I have been blessed with peace, calm, and joy beyond what I could ever have dreamed was possible.” (Chad Prigmore – website founder)

  49. eddie

    I’ve been sober for 32 years and absolutely none of what I’ve read here has ever happened to me. Zero idea where these people were going to meetings, but I’m sorry they experienced what they did. We have a choice, go/don’t go, get a sponsor/don’t etc. Maybe it’s for you maybe it’s not.You don’t like it? don’t come back.It’s not the only way to get sober, but, it worked for me.
    Sure, AA has idiots like every other organization, but for the most part I’ve met good and loving people there. Do whatever you need to do to get sober. I hope all who read this find their way out of addiction, whichever way you choose!
    God Bless!

  50. Tabby

    Wow your podcast actually scared me I felt like the AA clan was gonna come kidnap me for hearing this. I’ve always felt peculiar about this program. I have a similar story I use to be in the rooms since I was a kid my mom would drag me. I hated it even then and I would be damned if I ever became a part of AA. And of course I was told by my mom I’m an alcoholic because I had a hit a few “jackots” in the 3 years of my life I drank from 18-21. Lol I’ve always had a burning hatred for AA I “worked the program” for a year and at my one year I finally said fuck these people. I was unhappy at 1 year sober everyone there told me to go back out then, total fucking slap in my face. Extremely brain washed I’m not dedicating my only life on this earth to AA to count my days and minutes sober. I’ve never been so indecisive and unsure of myself every since. I want to unlearn everything they “taught me”.

  51. Troy Roberts

    I am a child of 2 people that are/were addicts to alcohol and drugs. My siblings and I have called AA a cult for over 30 years. The other issue was the “13th step” where older pedophiles and rapists would prey upon young and newly sober people. Everything was about addicition 24/7 and my younger brother even stood up in an open meeting and stated “listening to all of you makes me want to go out and do drugs!” I despise AA and cringe when I hear “I got my (insert a time frame) Chip!” I always respond “how come I don’t get a chip for not being an addict? I also have personally observed “AA” members that got “sober” have gambling, sexual, food. manipulation, and other “addictions” that never get addressed because they are “working their 12 steps”. And don’t get me started on the “family” they try and portray. Last time My siblings and I physically spoke with our father (73 years old) we confronted him on some lies he was in and the AA family (all call him “dad” or “pops”) rushed in to defend him and told us they “loved” him so all 5 of his kids said in unison “Glad someone loves him, you can have him until he learns to quit LYING) and now we all walked away. He would rather be with AA than his own grandkids.

  52. Roland C

    I am in my 3rd try in AA. 1st came in 1987, sober 12 year drunk 13 years, sober 4/5 years drunk 8 months sober 4 years, givevor take months, this time I came out of closet told my sponsor I have long ago stop believing in a God, he panicked ask if he could speak with his sponsor, I said OK, I still go to AA though I have study many traditions, these days a Buddhist, all I can say is my restored to sanity was simple, my awakening was that people suffer and want to be happy, and I should be of service in any way I can, all traditions say be of service, today I made the decision to stick with secular AA and rdo meetings, secular AA works for me, my journey has been through AA, hindu gurus, Avatar, more gurus, Secular AA, RDO, but today I said bye to AA, quote “if you don’t want what we have let the door hit you where good lord split you” so I said I am gently closing the door good bye,

  53. sharron c

    20 years of hell, all for the sake of 6 half pints of larger once a fortnight and weed. And found no peace joy happiness freedom or wonderfull life after many attempts at steps in AA NA and also LDS church recovery that i went to after i left the others ,i only stayed there for 3 months and left that to , and meetings service sponsors books. Had no friends in it. Was hated by all in it. Was abused by many. Needed help from counsellors doctors mental health after i left to get my head around the fact that all harms were not my fault. And to talk about the abuse i had from some .Had to get help from the police 3 times, I am still building up my self esteem that they utterly destroyed. I feel better about myself now, than i did when i was in there. my life isn’t perfect but its better than it was when i was in there. I find i can talk to people who havent been there, who i can say what i want to, im haveing conversations now. I have more time for other things. I can have a laugh and a joke with people now, not walking on egg shells haveing to watch every word i say. people out side of there aren’t blameing me for everything, and shameing me guilt tripping me ,pointing out defects all the time. Or shunning me. i dont have to listen about god stuff or higher powers all the time. Its put me off all forms of religoun now. I have read the average person has about 5 friends.I had none in there.and had gave up old friends to do recovery.Today i have 5 face to face friends, and friends on facebook. I havent ended up in jail,or an istatuion and im still alive.

  54. Aaron Young

    I really liked this podcast. I have 32 yrs. after 2 yrs. Sober I walked out that door of AA for 8yrs. Had some anger issues so I went back and therapy. I was labeled a dry drunk. I took it and continued. I have always disagreed with some of AA methods and guilt treatment. Hypocritical about “higher power” I stayed and tried to make it my own. I walked out the doors in 2020 and had some gilt but my family is most important to me and I would rather be an atheist than listen to everyones Christian ideals. So I left I meditate I check my myself and where I am at. My secret is the hula hoop and it works for me. I can make it bigger or smaller based on my mental health, I am only responsible for the person inside that hula hoop. I will listen to this audible book to see if there are more tools that work without AA. Thank you and all your hard work and personal stories.
    Aaron young

  55. Timothy Mulvihill

    I am also finally realized that AA is a cult of mind fucking, manipulating and deceptive people who are smug and arrogant about their lifetime sobriety numbers. They love to tell this to members who have gone out (drank or are coming back) I had over 18 years of sobriety helped hundreds of newcomers, spoke regularly, chaired meetings, active in GSO etc. Then curiously drank a little beer and confessed. I was shocked to hear from my fellow/like family group that they could never come back after so much TIME . Everyone counts and does steps like innings of baseball. Sponsors are cliques. They speack on phones and meetings about others who SLIP or can’t make it. The good old timers were long gone by early 1990’s and drug use became necessary to be clean and sober. The rehabs resulted and money was made from conselors to clinics. Glad I’m happily marrried and away from these witch burners.

  56. Ricardo Brown

    AA is a plagiarized satanic ritual cult I’m an ex AA & ex Scientology victim.Run!

  57. Phoinex

    I attended twelve step programmed on and of for a few years I had a lot of mixed feelings about it around that I found something’s useful and helpful but to gain that bringer I had to push down any negative feelings and try and justify things I was not comfortable with in the end I made my mind up that it is a religion as it’s belief system is so rigid and dogmatic and can not be called in to question or criticized . Giving my self labels was just not for me either . My stance is get over your addiction what ever way works for you .

  58. Mark

    Just over two years in AA now, its the only thing on this earth which has got me to stop drinking. I’ve had to drop old friends or dangerous people AA suggested it but the decision was my own. If I associate you with drink then I have to stop seeing you on a social basis as chances are you too always have a drink in your hand. It gets easier over time and if we were more than drinking buddies then our relationship may evolve into something else.

    While I do agree there are predatory groups and ones that are like cults, there are also members who just want to stop drinking and help others. Don’t get me wrong I have met a bunch of insidous people, just because people are nice doesn’t mean they are good. Road to recovery from plymouth and its offshoots being an example in the UK. They are controlling and try to dictate your life. As a new comer it is dangerous as they get you when you are vulnerable. But if you have the courage strength and wisdom once you regain a semblance of sanity you will see through them.

    Honestly AA is the closest thing we have to stop drinking, its allowed me to grow up and develop into a functioning member of societ. I will always have time for it and try to help where I can. But it is not the centre of my universe and I do not aim to control others or as some seem to be aiming towards become a sober guru.

    There are a lot of sick people in AA, a lot of control freaks it seeps through and like all things political/religous it can be corrupted.

  59. Khalessi

    I was married to an AA member. At that time i never heard of AA, I never did drugs , drank I was totally naive. We went to therapy together after his first couple of rehabs i escorted him through- out of love and concern for his life.- Therapist diagnosed him with severe NPD – I had no clue what THAT meant (at the time)- I just knew he was VERY abusive- after me sharing his abuse with HIS sponsor trying to understand if his abusive behavior was “normal” in a sense of recovery ( me trying to rationalize his abusive behavior) , he told me to go to ALANON.– victim shaming at it’s finest. The therapist helped me to make a REAL escape plan. AA protects abusers, tells the wives to go to ALANON.I heard a lot of similar stories. Your addict husband abuses you- go to ALANON . My husband almost killed me before I could escape- and he is still the AA poster boy.

  60. Jeremy

    I have been a part of an AA program, had a sponsor, did the 12 steps, and attended meetings regularly. However, there was a nagging internal conflict I struggled with as a Christian that I couldn’t reconcile with the AA program.

    For a couple of months, I saw my life and relationships going in a negative direction. I was struggling with God and the program didn’t seem to fit me. I knew there was something more to this. I ended up stepping away and that’s when the light bulb came on for me.

    I don’t doubt that AA works for some people. However, my issues with it are from a Christian viewpoint, the roots of it’s spiritualistic beginnings, and contradiction within the AA book and the principles/steps which many consider taken from Christianity.

    Bill was a mess. And that’s not to condemn him because we obviously all have our issues. The writing of AA was done using occultic practices calling on spirits to guide and lead him. Nearly all the principles were taken from the Oxford Group, which became an interweb of faith religions promoting peace for all men and women. Within the Big Book, there is one mention of Jesus and three mentions of sin. This wasn’t based on Christianity at all and is actually filled with heresy and idolatry which go against the Bible. Not to mention, Bill believed LSD enhanced the connection to God and recovery experience in AA. What Bill put together and how he did is very questionable and certainly not Christian.

    For a group where people are supposed to remain anonymous, it’s very hard to trust any stats about recovery. For many people, it doesn’t work and the independent research backs that up. Whether you believe in the 5 to 8% success or not, the numbers are not as high as AA would indicate. The Big Book states it is fine if people find another program that works but if people try the program and it doesn’t succeed, they are the problem. It’s a simple program and people either aren’t honest or have mental issues that keep them from following through.

    And those who find success in AA, are active, and evangelists for AA are diligent in doing the daily steps, following the program, and treating the Big Book as a Bible. It is fear based in the sense that AA calls this a disease for which people are powerless and unmanageable and need a spiritual solution to restore to sanity. That is completely unbiblical for one and instills a fear in many people that without AA, their lives will go back to being sick and powerless. And it’s that fear of walking away that keeps people in it. On top of that, it is a works based salvation in which any time we feel drawn to deep reflection or going too much into our selves out of selfishness, we need to stay saved by doing God’s will, doing on our own, and doing good for others. And any time there is struggle, just do.

    The irony of AA to me is this – people trade their addiction to alcohol for their addiction to AA and the program. And for the many who are dedicated to AA, it is an addiction. And I think the program and literature are designed that way.

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