“Members of Alcoholics Anonymous cannot and will not permit themselves to forget their brokenness and vulnerability. Their wounds are acknowledged, accepted, and kept visible. The capacity of one alcoholic to empathize with another is still a recognized as “building a transmission line to him”. The apparent (or presumable) effectiveness of AA’s members in the care and treatment of their fellow alcoholics is one of the great success stories of our time, and graphically illustrates
the power of wounds, when used creatively, to lighten the burden of pain and suffering. AA offers lifelong emotional support to those who explicity acknowledge their problem and admit their helplessness to face life’s stresses and temptations to regression alone.” – David Olsen, Executive Director of Samaritan Counseling Center
People like me who discover that Alcoholics Anonymous is a religious cult that has nothing to do with solving a drinking problem seem to go through a variety of disturbing emotions, and some fear, about telling the truth about their experience.
At a certain point, I finally decided that AA was not healthy for me. It was making me doubt myself, making me feel powerless, insane, defective, and dishonest. It was depressing and stupid, because I’m not a dishonest person and I’m not crazy. I began to want to tell people about it. I tried to tell my therapist at Samaritan Counseling Center, but they terminated me for non-compliance instead of listening. Over the past year, I’ve had more insight into why people have such difficulty explaining how AA is counterproductive and unhelpful.
The first reasons are obvious. AA tells you that if you leave you’ll die, or end up in jails or institutions. That’s enough of a psychological mind-fuck to keep many people from speaking out. But assuming most people are capable of seeing that that’s just not true, based on empirical data about human habit patterns, there is a lesser known reason why people have trouble speaking out about it.
Dissent and negative feedback are being actively censored by 12-step businesses. The rehab industry is a $35 billion/year business.
In the past couple of months, I’ve had my Yelp account disabled because I posted a negative review of Samaritan Counseling Center for their 12-step coercion. I’ve seen review after review in support of my protest deleted. I’ve seen other people’s reviews of their rehabs deleted.
What keeps people from telling the truth about Alcoholics Anonymous? It’s not fear, in the end. It’s sheer exhaustion from being repeatedly shut down for standing up. It’s a sick, dangerous cult, and the reason why people aren’t aware that places like Samaritan Counseling REQUIRE 12-step fealty is because people like me are not allowed to tell the truth to others about what to expect there. Indoctrination strategy requires that the client is unaware of the ultimate intent of the ‘treatment’. This is called suppression of informed consent, and it’s illegal.
This blog focuses on 12-Step coercion by state-licensed professionals.
There are many different aspects to the anti-AA movement, though, because there are many reasons to reject Alcoholics Anonymous. They are all intertwined, as I’ll try to show:
Some point simply to the bad psychology of AA. It’s not helpful to think of yourself as selfish, dishonest, powerless, insane, and defective. Out With the Addict Identity
Some point out the fact that AA mixes vulnerable young people with court ordered sex offenders and people who have a history of violent crime, telling vulnerable people not to trust their own thinking and to do what they are told to do by virtual strangers. The 13th Step: The Film
Some point out that AA is a religious cult. Independent or critical thought is discouraged. You read from the AA scriptures and recite Christian prayers. You’re expected to come to believe and proclaim that AA saved your life and that without AA you will die. AA is a Cult
Some point out the fraudulent and vehemently anti-science rehab industry which is full of “addiction specialists” whose primary qualification is AA membership. It’s a big business founded on misinformation. Doctor Debunks the Bad Science of AA and the Rehab Industry
Some point out the Constitutional violations in mandated attendance in a religious group as punishment for a crime (or non-crime!) Separation of Church and State
Some point out the Ethics code violations by professional two-hatters (people who serve as both licensed professional social workers and AA proselytizers). My cartoon about the 12-step coercion experience originally did not include the name of the organization in the title. But after having my Yelp reviews repeatedly removed, I decided it was the way to make sure this ‘faith-based counseling’ 12-step organization is flagged in some way for people searching for information.
And some point out the pseudo-science of the disease concept of alcoholism. They note that 12 step groups exist for everything from eating and sex and gambling to even Emotions Anonymous, pathologizing virtually anything to spread 12 step faith healing as the solution.