Ritual Abuse in Alcoholics Anonymous

Another thing that I want to talk about today is ritual abuse and how common it is in AA. Ritual abuse is commonly understood as severe abuse that involves sexual, physical, and psychological abuse as well as things like torture that centers around a belief system and cult/quasi cult like group (sometimes including family systems). However, I see ritual abuse as being any form of abuse that is ritualized around a central belief system that happens within a group of people (or even two people). This can include forms of severe abuse like sexual or physical abuse or it can be only psychological or emotional. In my opinion, though, all forms of ritual abuse are severe, even if they are only psychologically based. In Alcoholics Anonymous I believe that pretty much everyone goes through some form of ritual abuse. The whole program of AA as based around it, as are most cults. It can be hard to see this but replace the word ritual with ritualized and it makes more sense. In AA there are all kinds of rituals based around a centralized belief system. In AA, a person comes in they are told to go to a meeting every day or a few times a week, find a home group, find a sponsor, work the steps, do service, and always say yes. Even though this only sounds like suggestions, the way that it is usually presented is pretty coercive and abusive. Being told that you have to do all of these things, including look at your character defects in order to stay sober, is psychological abuse. The truth is that only 5 % of the people who come into AA actually stay sober, and it has been found that it is the social support that one gets in AA, not all of these suggestions, that predicts long term sobriety. So being told that you have to do all of these things to stay sober is just plain incorrect and ritualistic. Also, the phrases that people say, and the fact that people reinforce the abusive Big Books ideas of “We are all selfish”, “Intelligence is bad”, “Anger can lead you to drink”, are all very ritualistic and psychologically abusive. Because AA is a cult, anyone who has gone to AA has been subjected to some form of ritual abuse. It’s pretty awful, and the brainwashing (which is part of ritual abuse) that comes with it is hard to break.

It is still difficult for me to think that I was in a cult, but I was. The fact that there is ritual abuse there solidifies my feelings that it really is a cult… and it is shocking that such a huge cult exists in our world! When will society see what is really going on? Only when we speak up about our own experiences and begin to learn about these kinds of abuses and cults themselves. Then the world may actually be able to recover from the influence of AA and ritual abuse.

12 thoughts on “Ritual Abuse in Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. Clancy imislund of the Nazi pacific group came to the AA log cabin meeting to tell how he disliked how people look in the meeting I was one of the guys with beards that he screamed from the podium..”SHAVE”…that’s the last time I had anything to do with AA…johnjaklestudio8@gmail.com…310.9277362.

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    1. I experienced some of that too. There were meetings in my area that were created from people who had known Clancy. I’ve never gone to a meeting in the area that Clandy was in, so I can’t tell you how these meetings matched up to the California meetings, but people say that they do. Anyways, in terms of public speaking and the such, I have always been a black pants and button down shirt kind of girl. I was asked once to speak at one of the Clancy type meetings. Of course, I showed up in my usual attire. Afterward, my sponsor chastised me for not wearing a skirt or dress and stated that women should wear a dress or a skirt when speaking at AA meetings- that it was tradition. But despite pressure from other people, I would always wear nice pants and a button-down shirt every time that I spoke at a meeting. The whole thing was ridiculous. I’m sorry that you experienced some of that too.


  2. Absolutely love your article! Found it at the perfect time! I don’t expect you to read all the following as its bit long but would really like to “share” it! After deciding to give AA a 3rd try (3rd time lucky Goddess willing I thought!) Only two months in of regular meetings, tea service and getting myself a sponsor purchasing the BB I also came to the conclusion that if I had not already suffered Complex PTSD given time I would have contracted it in those rooms!!! After having complained to my sponsor about a very inappropriate comment a fellow member made to me (she had also been abused by the same guy on the way to a prison visit) “somehow” a bullying incident happened in the middle of the next meeting, the atmosphere was appalling when I entered the room my sponsor started off nicely how pleased she was to see me as she knew how hard it must have been come back then it was suggested I should talk to the “pervy” guy to sort it out???? when I calmly replied why would I do that? she was not happy!!! I was then publicly reprimanded for the way I spent too much of my own money on tea and biscuits I brought for my service compromising some stupid tradition. I’d been given opposing advice by the group financier who had previously told me to buy the stuff but not contribute the pot as it saved her dealing with receipts this then led to said finacier stood over me gesticulating madly with “jazz hands” she also in Amdram as well as AA ! 🙂 accusing me of lying!!!!! over the fucking tea money!!! It was laughable apart from the fact my sponsor also knew I was also in severe shock as one of my friends had died a day before! I should have up and left the meeting then but I stuck it out listened to Mr Pervy do his normal 20 minute share (he goes to all the meetings) I was then chastised at the end of the meeting for not staying to clear up the tea things (something I was also told was not my service but what I normally do) I was so desperate to leave the meeting which had also been full of women (including an old dear I give lifts too) going on about wonderful Mr Pervy within my ear shot during the break. By the time I got home I had decided never again. At 1 am after walking the dogs and some of my shock at being bullied in such an obvious way for speaking out. I received a txt from my ex sponsor saying she was concerned I didn’t seem” present” in the meeting and often looked annoyed! blah blah blah resentments blah but ended it with a loving emoji hoping I realised she was coming from a place of concern and love!!! BLEURRRG! I have taken my higher power and decided never to darken AA s doorways again as much to their relief as mine I hope cause they obviously don’t do whistle blowers

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I have no problem reading and digesting all of it. I thank you for responding with such depth. I know that with my first abusive ex that people encouraged me to hang around him because he and I had similar sobriety lengths and similar political values. They were like “Yeah, he’d be a good guy for you to be friends with”. So we were friends for a couple of years before he finally made his move but then I ended up in this horrible relationship with him that everyone supported. It was terrible. And in terms of bullying in AA? Awful! I don’t know how I survived as much of it as I did. And yes I have had those concern statements. It happened the most when I was working through my trauma and would cry at the drop of a hat over the smallest thing. People in the program were “concerned about me”, but I felt that their concern was more of a criticism than from an actual place of love and concern. It was extremely difficult for me and I felt like it was a brainwashing/mind control technique to try to get me to stop being emotional, especially at meetings. Oh and one more thing in response to your comment. I also had a friend who was accused of stealing from his home group and drinking while doing it. But he didn’t do either of these things. I don’t remember what happened to the money but I believe that either he lost it or someone actually stole it from him (he was the group treasurer). But somehow in the gossip mill of AA people believed that he must have stolen it and used it for alcohol because that’s what alcoholics too, nevermind the fact that he’d been sober for years and had done tons of service work for the district. He was heartbroken and left for a while. He’s back in AA now but can only go to certain meetings because of the bullying he’ll get at his old home group and some other groups. The people in his district actually started a meeting that is pretty non-traditional AA for him and others. But I guess that people have practically given him death threats and/or insinuated that they want him dead due to what they assume that he did. It’s pretty bad. When cult behavior in AA peaks it can put people in danger as people think that they are entirely justified in acting in really immoral ways. Anyways, thank again for your comment!


      1. Thanx for reading my lengthy post! (opps and here another one I’m not obsessed by AA …honest) Its all coercion and gas lighting muddied by the fact that there are a lot of lovely people intermingled with the psychos and narcs but the latter flourish and abuse any good parts of the programme. I wasn’t actually accused of stealing the money like that awful account of your friend my situation was even more pathetic than that my sponsor didn’t like the fact I was spending lots of money on teas and pricey biscuits etc but not reclaiming it!..in the right way but as advised by the finance person and it blew up over nothing!!! the fact that these women got so mad about such trivia in order to bully me for daring to call out some actually really dodgy behaviour. I feel it was almost like a test to see how i’d react i.e.submit or disappear a form of newbie grooming verses getting rid of a possible problem . There seems to be a rite of passage to being broken down but its very skewed against females . Luckily I hadn’t become personally embroiled with anyone there so it should be easy to go “no contact”but it is like a mind control scenario not just the phrases but the shares the old timers do are repetitive and get into your head like ear worms! When a new chap came into the rooms he looked completely freaked out and I imagined how through his eyes we look like automatons bit like the creepy clones in that new film “Us” That last meeting when I walked in it went eerily silent it was actually perversely like that scene from “American Werewolf in London” when they walk into the Yorkshire bar all the normal friendliness was gone I was already outcast it was horrible! The guy I complained about has 35 years “apparent” sobriety and in addition disabled. He does a lot of visits to women in psychiatric units which is worrying but to many he is AA ! How dare an upstart newbie with virtually no sobriety call him out on behaviour they appear to have tolerated for years! Ah well live and learn gotta be better than die by the sword of simple acceptance one day at a time! 🙂 and you’re right that criticism under the guise of concern is a real killer like being handed a honey coated turd!!Have to say your experience over the pond is a real eye opener I can’t imagine that stuff happening little England but who knows. I am not hanging about long enough in those rooms to find out!
        Positive Recovery to you :-X

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  3. Thanks! I can’t believe that guy was allowed to do that for so long. And, this pecking order in AA where people act like you have nothing to contribute/can’t have anything good to say if you are a newcomer is total B.S. But, what it does is keep newcomers from actually thinking for themselves because they are supposed to listen to older members. Basically, it is mind control and cultish. And with the money situation that is an example of the fact that in AA people act like if one little tradition is broke, that everything will fall apart and die. It’s totally black and white thinking. Anyways, it’s been nice chatting!


  4. Too true! Thanx for your reply have been trying to “like all your replies! I am “slightly” computer illiterate and do not understand blogging or replying to blogs (am not good on internet media per se) doh! s do don’t understand the word press log in pop up thingey doh! Have just lost a post so will attempt with this B -X

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  5. Oh Great it worked (I obviously worked it lol!) and I found your home page lovely picture of you and cat btw!!
    In the post I just lost I was saying you are highly educated did you find that a problem at AA ???? When they found out that despite ALL my areas of complete density/”defects” (computer literacy being one of them) I actually have a PhD. , some were quite sneery? My field is not in psychology like yours. Any knowledge I have of your field comes from self educating to get over abuse and trauma … mores the pity!!!
    On a lighter note I have started developing my own mantras to recite and if possible act on. Yesterday,s was “Pause for Paws” where when feeling that ikky panicky feeling I grab one of my fur babies. I have three dogs and a cat for a snuggle the pups actually usually hand me their paws when I do this so its even more apt. Just thought of another to counter AA triggers “More paws less bores” !!! hugs from me + fur babies -X


    1. Those are some cute sayings. When I need comfort and reassurance I tend to hold my cats right up against me. It works. And yes I did have problems in AA because I am highly educated. For the first few years, I really didn’t fully feel like I fit in because of it, and was bullied quite a bit by AA members who were less intelligent/jealous of my degree. I was told that I was egotistical when I talked about my successes in school, and was talked out of getting my PhD (I have an M.S.). It was really sad. The other thing that happened is that people would always “set me up” with sponsees who have severe mental and developmental problems. They would make it out to be that they were doing this because of my assets/degree when really no one else wanted to sponsor these women and I was gullible and nice enough to fall for their persuasion to do it. Then I would end up trying to sponsor these women who I was not equipped to sponsor. The truth was that no one was, really; these women tended to need professional help but were not willing to get it so turned to people in AA, including me. I had luck with only one woman as a sponsee and she was not one who fit this category. The rest were doomed not to work out from the beginning. So yeah, it was not great to have a graduate degree in psychology while going to AA. Either I was bullied or taken advantage of constantly.

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  6. Goddess that sounds absolutely awful! What a nightmare you’ve been through!! Yet again damned if you do- damned if you don’t, a typical abuse cycle! I never even got to manage coping with a sponsor let alone a sponsee as well and one’s with extreme mental health issues sheeeeezzzzuss!!! How are you suppose to act a responsible adult in an organisation which infantilises and disempowers you on the one hand but expects so much on the other. I reckon AA sets you up to feel so pressured that the need to abuse substances (drink included) becomes even greater i.e. never leaves and so your perceived need for the programme never wanes it’s like an ever spiralling disorder or decency. The harder you work the programme the more it expects from you!!! You should definitely complete your Ph.D thesis or start a new one on this your topic!!! just be careful who ends up supervising it. I had two supervisors who were at total odds with each other and had huge egos to match! I was pure piggy in the middle- helped me tackle the research from opposite ends of the spectra though which was ‘spose was handy in an interdisciplinary dept three years of umpiring them fighting though, meeting and being stalked by my psycho ex on campus which culminated in me getting pregnant with my son…..I Its a family joke that he received an invitro doctorate as he literally “sat in” on my viva 🙂 🙂 Seriously though you definitely should complete !! B-X


    1. Thanks! I think about it but know that I would need accommodations due to my disabilities, so I’m not sure if I want to go there. Plus, graduate school, while it was enjoyable, definitely produced a lot of stress that I’m not ready to take on right now. But, anything is possible, so who knows. That’s a cute story about your son by the way!


  7. opps*dependency not decency roll

    Liked by 1 person

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