If you found your way to this blog, you probably have a reason… And if the reason is that you’re having a problem with alcohol, I want to make sure that we can offer you something beside our obsession with tearing the ass out of A.A. We make fun of A.A., but we don’t trivialize the need to get sober or the despair that drives the need.

There are some links to alternative communities in the right sidebar of this page, which may be of help to you. But I also want to give you some more ideas about taking control of this, based on my experience and the experiences of others who have done this without A.A.

Now, I quit drinking without A.A., and so did the co-author of this blog. And so did many people that we know. We all had it bad, too – if you want to do something about it, it’s bad. The idea that, because we were able to do this on our own, we are not really alcoholics, is gobsmacking. No one can tell you what your experience is. You know if you have a problem. And you can quit drinking. You can.

The insidious thing about belief systems is that they are founded on fractions of truth, and A.A. doesn’t get everything wrong, despite the fact that it is seriously wrong. Not just flawed, but wrong. For instance, one of their slogans, “It will work if you want it to work” is right on.  What that means is that your intention to quit has got to be fixed. The fact that A.A. has the same success rate as nothing bears this out: The people who make the decision on their own to quit and the A.A.s who “want it to” have exactly the same success rate. What that demonstrates to me is that it’s about the decision you make and not about the program you work.

However, we have all had the experience of being determined to quit when we’re morbidly hungover, only to lose that resolve by midday as we get our legs back under us – vaguely wondering where the resolve went, but more desperately focused on the important task of getting back in the bag. I remember waking up seething with hatred for myself, incapacitated with hangover, skanky taste in my mouth, knowing that this was just another in an eternal string of daily promises I had broken to myself – and I’d surely break another one today. I felt utterly defeated by the knowledge that however badly I wanted it at that moment, I still didn’t want it bad enough that this would be the last day I woke up like this. It’s a nightmare.

So, what was the difference between one of those horrible mornings and the one horrible morning that it clicked? I’m not sure, but that was the day I asked for help. I joined an amazing non-denominational online community of quitters – some A.A.s, but most not. I journaled, played, argued, supported others, read a lot, and white-knucked it on this message board. I believe A.A. is a scam and a half, but that doesn’t mean that I am against asking for help.

Asking for help quitting is an enormous step toward committing to it, and I believe that the commitment is success itself.  If A.A. has a 5% success rate, which is equal to the success rate among people who choose to quit on their own, the only common element is the decision. If you’ve made up your mind, what difference does it make how you go about reinforcing and actualizing it? How you reinforce and actualize is your business. Committing to quit drinking is a commitment to honor your life, to move away from mediating every facet of your experience on this earth through an alcohol-induced stupor. 

A.A. doesn’t want you to commit to quitting drinking; it wants you to commit to working the program, so that you can quit. I really believe that this is completely backwards and inside-out. This makes quitting incidental to working the program: “It will work if you work it.” Remember, the stated goal of A.A. is to perpetuate the program.

I do hope that the distinction I’m making here is clear. In one scenario, you decide to quit drinking, then go about reinforcing that decision in ways that make sense to you. In the other scenario, quitting drinking reinforces the program, which is paramount. In the first case, “self-will” is your friend; in the second, it is your enemy. In the first, sobriety is something you take control of; in the second, it is a gift, given to you by the program.

Do you think it is more likely that you will achieve your goal of living without alcohol if it is a choice you have made for yourself, or if it is an elusive reward you have to negate and debase yourself to humbly receive on a daily basis, like a crust of stale bread you must be grateful to Someone Else for?

OK, enough of A.A.

I think the toughest thing about quitting alcohol is wanting to want it – wanting to be able to make the decision, but not being able to move beyond that point of desire and into energy. This is the foundation for any permanent change you make in your life. And since what we want from moment to moment changes, and since the addiction is a stronger muscle than your will – like your dominant hand: it’s the one that you use automatically – fixing and maintaining our intention to quit is not easy.

So, get some help. Get after it. There are many communities of sober people, who got that way, or are getting that way, without A.A. – join them and stay close. Plunk yourself right down and build your community. Find a counselor who is knowledgeable about addiction, but who is not invested in 12-step – seek and ye shall find. Make a list of your priorities (your children, your dreams, your health…) and keep it close. Write vividly about how you feel when you are hungover, and keep it close. Step out into the world, sober, and really celebrate your successes (not by crying through your drunkalog for the hojillionth time), by actually celebrating, reveling in and honoring your accomplishments, sharing it with your community. Set goals for yourself that are important to you, but that you could not do if you were drinking, like making your kids pancakes on Saturday morning… you know, life kinds of things. Watch movies that will make you laugh your head off. Learn to meditate. Get hypnotized. Volunteer at the co-op. Whatever floats your boat. Remember that even if you’re crawling out of your skin or sobbing in a corner, you will not die of it. Read a lot. Keep exercising your self-will until it becomes your dominant hand, until the desire becomes a decision, and you can finally say, “I don’t drink” and move on to the next case.

The biggest job you have ahead of you is turning that desire into a decision, once you make that decision, there’s nothing more powerful. That is how it’s done – and even A.A. bears this out. They’re right: you can quit drinking by praying to your Chia Pet, but you have to want to quit. You can put any nonsense before “but you have to want to quit,” and it will work, because that’s the key. Getting to the place where you want to is imperative, and can be a process – and it’s different from wanting to want to, or wishing you could — but this can be done. It’s hard, as is evidenced by the low recovery rate. But, there’s no such thing as your “last hope” or the “last house on the block.” You are not powerless; you’re just not used to being powerful, yet. Don’t turn it over, or let go – take it back. Don’t trade alcohol for aphorisms.  If you believe in a higher power, then believe this, too: there is no supremely enlightened being that wants you to debase yourself and throw away your uniquely human potential to create your life by being drunk or by living the rest of your life on your knees.

–ftg

129 Responses to “What Then, If Not A.A.?”

  1. Cuda Says:

    For the record

    ” A national survey of 1,320 psychologists found that half the respondents reported assessing or treating at least one patient who had been sexually intimate with a prior therapist; a total of 958 sexual intimacy cases were reported.

    From here!
    http://www.kspope.com/sexiss/sex2.php

    Here’s clergy having sex.
    http://www.theawarenesscenter.org/clergyabuse.html

    Here’s Teachers having sex with students.
    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53859

    Need I go on???

    Sex occurs anywhere where people of the opposite sex gather for whatever reason and AA is no exception.
    The above links point to people in a position of trust only and excludes casual meetings anywhere else.

    Now where do you feel safe???

    1. raysny Says:

      Numbers-wise, you’re comparing being hit by lightning with car accidents.

      There are severe consequences for people abusing their positions of trust everywhere but AA.

      Apples and oranges.

    2. a. anonymous no more Says:

      So go to psychiatrist.
      Duh.

      Further on the Apples to Oranges…probably not one of those professionals lost their license because (how many of those) it was consensual…as apposed to AA where there are all sort of felons and a policy of “do what your sponsor tells you or you’ll die.”

      Step away from the group now…carefully back away.

      🙂
      KC

  2. mikeblamedenial Says:

    You forgot to mention prisons, where much of the sex engaged in is same-sex, and often non-consensual. Prison, incidentally, is often where the people in the positions of trust you cited wind up when such acts are discovered, and prosecuted. Some of them, of course, wind up attending AA meetings as a condition of their parole/probation.

  3. Cuda Says:

    Very few end up in prison when the sex is between two consenting adults.

    1. mikeblamedenial Says:

      The examples you cited didn’t fall into that catagory, and are generally deemed illegal.

  4. Cuda Says:

    No they didn’t. Point being that AA is not the only place that people have sex. Therefore when someone says “Run from AA” because there’s guys in there that want sex I have to ask, “Where are you going to go where guys don’t want sex?
    A Therapist? No.
    Clergy? No.
    It’s possible that men aren’t interested in Sex in Moderation Management, Smart, SOS, Life Ring, Group Therapy, etc…. But I doubt it.
    So to point this out as being an AA problem and a good reason to stay away from AA is ridiculous.
    Maybe Nancy Reagan was right all along.
    “Just say No”

  5. Ellen Says:

    I find it so amazing that you are so full of resentment toward AA that you are willing to devote so very much time to putting it down. Instead, how about sharing how you recovered from active alcoholism, and about others have done so? This just seems as though it stems from a huge resentment that perhaps might have an effect on your contentedness in sobriety. Just sayin…

    1. friendthegirl Says:

      Hi Ellen, Your question and sentiments are addressed here: https://donewithaa.wordpress.com/faqrs/

    2. mikeblamedenial Says:

      AA seriously under-values well placed resentments. I have lots of them. Heck, I make money off some of them. On a busy day, I spend maybe forty-five minutes on the AA-critical stuff, most days, less. After about 4,000 AA meetings, I’m still a long way from catching up with the criticism. I recovered from alcoholism by drinking until I couldn’t drink anymore, then stopping. Spontaneous remission, they call it. I haven’t wanted to drink since. God relieved me of my compulsion. Just like that. Contentment is sobriety? I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

    3. raysny Says:

      Not as much time as AA members defend it, promote it, and attending meetings.

      For years I bought into the lie that in order to stay sober I needed AA and it wasn’t until I broke free from that programming that I was able to achieve it.

      AA members are unwilling to take a critical look at the program in fear that it will somehow break the magic that is keeping them sober and they will be struck drunk.

      1. James Says:

        ..programming. Wow, talk about arrogant.

        1. raysny Says:

          No, I’m not arrogant. I’m not a drunk or a dry drunk either and was far beyond a heavy drinker. I’m somebody who wasted years trying to “get” AA. I now have 11 years sober by turning my back on AA and taking responsibility for my alcoholism and my recovery.

  6. Dana R Says:

    To the response to Ellen /Yes it is a resentment or hurt to be betrayed and to speak about it is the way through/ Keep on talking about what happen in those AA rooms it is toxic and it is time to speak up abouit it. So keep on people //The people who talk about it have been through the BS wiht AA , I can only assume you havent Ellen//

  7. Ez Says:

    good article on SMART; interview with the founer Joe Gerstein
    http://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/magazine/5061bf54cb044e5b828579634090eb19.pdf

  8. violet Says:

    you guys are not only awesome for having this blog, you are awesome writers, too. loved reading this. loved the empowering ideas of what i can do instead of using. i am not in a spot where i think i am going to use, however, i do have some tough days once in awhile. looking at my options like this instead of going to a meeting and being “grateful” for being “sobah.” BLECK! just the idea of going to a meeting makes me feel worse. reading this (um, in case i have not myself clear), makes me feel awesome. thank you guys.

  9. Donald Quinn Says:

    More advice…

    Examine your core beliefs, and challenge the ones that are not working for you.

    Use a day planner.

    Write out a commitment to sobriety.

    Learn to recognize negative internal dialogue, and challenge the hell out of it.

    Make a chart, and track your progress.

    Take a good look at all areas of your life that have suffered negative impact as a result of your addiction.

    Career/Education
    Finances
    Health/Fitness
    Friends/Family
    Physical Environment
    Fun/Recreation
    Romance
    Personal Growth

    Identify problems, and set goals to solve them.

    Make a chart and track your progress.

    If you have a huge list, prioritize starting with goals that meet your basic needs then move on to the other stuff.

    Don’t lose hope because you have lots of problems.

    No matter how frustrating it may seem, there is a solution to every problem. It’s up to you to identify the problem and find a solution that suits your specific needs.

    Almost every alcohol troubled person understands the feeling of absolute powerlessness that goes hand in hand with an active addiction. Understand that feelings are not facts. It’s up to you to put powerlessness in the past where it belongs.

    You can choose to believe that you’re powerless and wait for someone or some thing to solve the problem for you, or you can solve the problem yourself. It’s up to you.

    If you challenge yourself, you may just be surprised to find out how capable you actually are.

    Quitting drinking is an event… Learning to live without alcohol can be an opportunity or it can be a burden, the choice is up to you.

    1. Anonymous Says:

      Whatever happened to people who just like to drink and drank too much without any underlying reasons ? I LOVED to drink. I have great kids a great husband but was just bored. I started having my own little parties. I stopped because as someone said. I simply couldn’t drink anymore! No issues no delving into my psyche no blame on past or present.

      1. McGowdog Says:

        And what about the people who can choose to drink or not? What a rational idea. Maybe with all tjat knowledge, you can control it too. Hats off to ya!

  10. hazeleyes77 Says:

    I was also a member of “AA” for over a year. I also quit going to meetings beacuse I found it to be such a negative environment for me. For anyone that has actually attended AA meetings for any period of time, you will already know that the majority of meetings are negative…Focusing on the problem, Not the solution. I do owe AA a lot because in the beginning, the fellowship and leading me to God was very important for my personal recovery journey. And, it’s well known how many thousand of people the organization has helped to get sober. But, do you know the statistics on someone from that program having long term success with sobriety? I recently read that the succedss rate is around 1%. After being out of that organization for almost a year and still sober, I see it as a cult. I know, I know, some people will react harshly to that comment. I don’t care. This is my opinion and I am entitled to it. I just got done doing tons of reasearch about the characteristics of a cult and it’s amazing how many of those fit Alcoholics Anonymous.

  11. Ron Says:

    A cult is a cult is a cult.They all prey upon the weak.Time for the authorities to go after this scam called AA.

  12. Jjjj Says:

    Interesting article, but you kind of missed addressing those who simply are not “joiners” and don’t really benefit from support groups or “communities.”

    My husband’s been “clean and sober” for over 20 years, and did it by removing himself from all his former friends, and developing interests in activities that didn’t involve alcohol. It’s really hard, if not impossible, to train for running a marathon or ride a “century” (ie., 100 mile cycling ride) if you’re drunk or hungover.

    Aside from agreeing with the belief that AA is a cult, he feels that hanging around with others who talk about drinking (and still hold a desire to continue using) was counterproductive to his own sobriety. He’s also a very good listener and spent more time in counseling listening to them talk to him about their own problems, using him as a sounding board to work through their own issues–while charging him for the privilege!

    He had far more difficulty quitting smoking.

  13. UnPickled Says:

    I blog about getting sober on my own (20 months -woot!) and I’ve heard from hundreds of readers who are or were just like me – quitting on their own. Two things kept me from AA – wanting some privacy and also the time commitment of constantly going to meetings. AA seeks to replace your addiction to booze with a dependence on meetings, and to me that seemed neither do-able or necessary. Nothing against the program – it works well for many and power to ’em. Whatever it takes to turn it around. I suspect that each person’s experience with AA (and maybe any program) has a lot to do with the other people in the room – just like anything. Other people can make or break everything from Zumba to book club to the subway to recovery groups. I disagree with AA on one point and that is the “always an alcoholic in recovery” mentality. I’m finding the change phase has a beginning, a middle, and an end – after that you’re a non drinker. In AA, you’ll always call yourself a “recoverING alcoholic”. I believe I am “recoverED” – even though abstinence isn’t alway easy for me. Thanks for your blog – I’m going to pour through it all. Love and encouragement to those who are embarking on THE CHANGE. It’s great on the other side!

  14. Kim Hiles Says:

    I haven’t had a drink since March of 1992. AA initially saved my life. However, after doing the 12 steps, going on commitments and completing the Big Book Step Study process, I was sitting in a meeting one day and realized how negative everything was. “I am powerless” “I am an alcoholic” I am this…..I am that. I didn’t agree with the labels. I realized I wanted something more positive in my life…..a place I could feel inspired. Shortly thereafter, my aunt sent me a Science of Mind magazine and my life was changed forever.

    I continue to grow and learn. I have no complaints. I haven’t had a drink in almost 21 years and have no desire to do so. It is so a non-topic in my life. I have a wonderful family. I have deep connections. I feel EMPOWERED and powerful. I embrace my spiritual essence and realize my connection to all things. Life is pretty cool – it is a wonderful ride. .

    AA is for some people and it has saved countless lives. It saved mine. However, if it no longer works for you or never has, there are millions of other ways to inner bliss – keep the faith. Have hope. You have a purpose.

  15. Caroline Says:

    AA NEVER WORKED since 12 yrs off & on – I’m not a groupie!!!!!


  16. I just wanted to say thank you for this. Im currently living in a halfway house trying to get sober and was basically told AA wont work for me unless I give up my beliefs and find a higher power. I was also told its bullshit that I think I have any l power over anything iny life. AA preaches the idea that we have no control over any aspect of our lives and thats my biggest issue with it. Anyways, point is I was delighted to read someone has found another way because I knew that it had to be bs that AA is the only thing that works. I also had the we agnostics chapter shoved into my hand after telling my case manager that I dont agree with AA or believe in a higher power, as if that would change my mind. If anything its done the opposite because no part of that chapter struck or swayed me at all.

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