Is AA A Positive or Negative Force in Our World

Over the past week, I have been reading the book “Combating Cult Mind Control” by Steven Hassan. What I am beginning to understand through reading this is that cult members rarely have a choice as to whether or not to join or leave a cult. This is because cults use mind-control methods in order to gain members to their groups, and they also use mind control and phrases in order to keep members in the group by stating that devastating things will happen if one were to leave the cult. Due to this influence of mind-control, people who join cults are not making fully informed and an actual choice to join them. No one freely chooses to join a cult.

One thing that happens in AA that is characteristic of a cult is that people are told things like “If you drink you will die” and that if a person doesn’t accept AA’s program or brand of spirituality that they are sure to die as well. Then, they are told through multiple sources, including AA literature, sponsors, and in AA meetings themselves, that AA is the only way to get sober. Sometimes this is said directly, and sometimes it is said indirectly, especially in the Big Book.

Anyone who is trying to get sober is going to be fearful, and AA capitalizes on this fear. People come to AA and hear all kinds of horror stories about what will happen if they continue drinking, and hear that alcoholism is a progressive disease. On top of that as I said above it is made clear that following the AA program is the only way to stay sober.

When a person first joins AA, he or she is usually suggestible and vulnerable. When you factor this in with the ideas of doom that they are hearing regarding what happens if you don’t embrace the AA program or leave it, one begins to wonder if a person truly has free choice when it comes to joining AA. This is because much of this type of information that he or she is hearing are forms of mind control, and a person experiencing mind control never has a truly independent choice when it comes to whether or not to join the group or organization that is using it.

Cult also use fear tactics to keep a person from leaving the cult. Most cults tell the person through methods of mind control and manipulation that if they leave the cult, terrible things might happen to them like death, illness, drug addiction, persecution, financial loss, etc. Now, if you listen in AA meetings you will hear stories of all of these things happening or suggestions that they will happen to a person who leaves AA. Also, many phrases promote the idea that one’s life is dependent on AA membership, such as “to drink is to die” and that if you leave AA you will face “death, jail, and institutions”. The truth is, though, that all of this is unfounded and is not based off of any evidence, however, in AA it is believed to be true and is perpetuated by members who come back after relapse.

Due to the power of suggestion and implicit learning, an AA member will internalize these messages not just on the explicit but also on the implicit level. This means that he or she is not fully aware of how much these suggestions in AA are really driving their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Thus a person could attempt to argue that they can leave AA any time they want to and that they are not fearful to do so, yet due to unconscious or implicit processes, memories and biases, they really feel that they have little control over whether or not they leave the group due to these fear based messages. Yet they suppress this fear or use thought-stopping techniques in order not to face the fact that they really do not feel like they have a choice when it comes to staying in or leaving the group, as this would result in emotions and thoughts such as feeling a loss of control. These thought and feelings would then lead to cognitive dissonance surrounding the cult and their role in it, and since many feel that their survival depends on AA and other cults, this is not something that they allow themselves to deal with.

Because of the many fear based and thought-stopping statements and stories that are told in AA, it’s likely that most people in the program do not have as much choice over their membership as they would like to believe. Furthermore, thought-stopping, which is encouraged in AA in many ways, according to Hassan, can actually form a kind of addiction because the person does not have to deal with uncomfortable thoughts and actually feels quite good. However, this is a cult induced feeling. Hassan argues that because of this a person might even go through a detox upon leaving a cult because they have become addicted to thought-stopping. And who really wants to do that?

However, many argue that despite all of these problems that are inherit within AA, that because it helps millions of people to stay sober, that it is a positive force in our society. But at what cost? Is AA really a positive force in our world if it is using cult-like techniques to draw people into the program and keep them sober? And what about all of the other recovery programs that do not rely on these types of techniques? Do the means really justify the ends?

The truth is that members of most cults do feel that anything and everything that helps them reach their goal is justified, no matter how harmful or unethical it is. I’m guessing, then, that most AA members who read this will feel that everything I am describing is a means to and end, and possibly will even see the negative practices of AA as positive. Still, though, even if a member believes that these are positive, they cause harm to every member of the organization in numerous ways.

So when you think about what is really going on in AA, you begin to worry about what impact this will have on our world. Millions of people in our world today are part of an organization where free choice is limited and people are urged to become totally dependent on the group. They are urged not to think critically, and are presented with many phrases and platitudes that discourage free and critical thought. They are also told that using your intelligence is a threat to sobriety and are discouraged from feeling and expressing their emotions. Because of this, a significant portion of the world population is not living up to their potential due to their dependence on AA.

But what would happen if these millions of people were not under the influence of a cult and could actually think for themselves? What would that look like for our world? If these people were to leave AA and find other ways to stay sober that do not employ mind control (and there are many that are as successful and even more successful than AA), the world would be a much better place. As it stands now, though, AA is one of the biggest threats to the advancement of our world today.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.

Categories Alcoholics AnonymousTags ,

12 thoughts on “Is AA A Positive or Negative Force in Our World

  1. I so relate to this. Great post. I am so thankful I continued questioning, challenging and embracing critical thinking skills during my time in AA, which ultimately prompted me to leave. It took quite some time to release myself of the fear based programming and self blame that was inherent in the program. I feel I am free now. Funnily enough though I have joined a 12 step group – co dependents anonymous and it is very different. It is about self love and acceptance and I only go to one meeting a week! There is no pressure or talk about doing this for the rest of your life. It feels more grounded and positive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like I am still releasing the programming from AA myself. I’ll get there. I’ve never been to CODA, but I have been to Al-Anon and ACA. Out of the three, I liked Al-Anon the most. I’m glad that you’ve found a group that you like!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s the best of the cults,maybe I here’s not a lot intellectual freedom but freedom from self.
    The matrix has a bigger grip on a bigger chunk of people.
    Gratitude may be a fluffy process but one would debate the cloning of aa against your freedoms you think you have.
    I don’t think aa converts intelligence but frees it from the evil and control of alcohol.
    Your mirrored self for example had used aa as a reflection your personality agrees with but if you weren’t clean and sober from its cult your eyes would be still looking inside your skull.


    1. I actually don’t attribute my sobriety to AA. I attribute it to the fact that I decided not to drink. Also, I was way more selfish in AA than I was while I was drinking. Like, 20 times more. I was not a selfish person at all before I went to AA. And in terms of intelligence and AA, I was talked out of getting my PhD because my sponsor and others in the program acted like I would relapse if I used my intelligence too much. My intelligence was much freer before I ever went to AA and AA blunted my intelligence due to thought stopping. Before I went to AA I was actually doing award-winning psychological research and when I started going to AA my writing skills diminished as did my ability to do research. I don’t see alcohol as an evil thing that controls a person, their personality, etc. This is because that is just not the way that alcohol works. It’s a substance and there is a thing called alcohol/substance use disorder. Alcohol, though, doesn’t make us do anything. If we have a use disorder we will find ourselves drug seeking in order to get more substances, but that is us doing this, not alcohol. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and thus we are more likely to behave in ways that we normally would not under it’s influence. But alcohol does not cause these personality or behavioral changes. They are already there and simply come to the surface when we drink. This whole thing in AA where alcohol and alcoholism are personified I think is one of the huge problems within it. It is interesting to hear you share this type of cult-speak on my page. Thanks for your comment and I will say that I disagree with pretty much disagree with everything that you just said.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. March 31, 2019 — 10:29 pm

        Thanks for your reply.
        I also was high function but couldn’t stop when I wanted to.I learnt what a alco was in aa and identified.Have used it since. For alcohol only,a bit like a dentist or doctor,mechanic,tradeperson ect,if it works why change.
        My up take on the program is it’s concept was put together for the hopeless piss head and low and behold a heap got relief one day at a time.But you know this,if someone’s life was a week from ending because of the booze,what else will work,and for those fortunates the “cult” has returned them to sanity.Doctors give up long before death arrive,and as you know Meryl everything else has gone.Does it not have place?


      2. Well, the truth is that the success rate of AA is actually about the same as the success rate of alcoholics/addicts who get sober on their own: 5 to 10 %. It’s a myth that AA is the only and best option available for people to get sober. There are many other support groups and methods that help a person get sober that have higher success rates than AA. Unfortunately not everyone knows this due to the monopoly that AA has on the medical field and treatment industry. And these other methods generally do not employ cult tactics to get people “sober”. Honestly I feel like it’s time for AA to go as more effective methods that are based off of science and research are available. But, because of it’s cult mentality it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. And no, I don’t think that there’s much benefit to having a cult like this in our world, especially when there are more effective ways to help people stay sober that do not employ the same harmful methods that AA does on it’s members.


      3. Thanks for your reply
        How tide up in my aa world ive been not even to consider the success of other therapies , apologies for my ignorance.If this is the case its brilliant news, it adds up to 11% between what you know to work for the addict and what i know works for the addict.Thats 11% less children being harmed and abused by parents and relatives,11% less woman being traumatised with the violence and emotional cruelty,11% less hospital, police and other resources being drained by addicts of alcohol, and drugs.The list could go on.The ripple effect is positive on both sides of the debate.Have a safe life


      4. Okay. Well your response makes little sense to me. What I can tell you is that recovery programs do not stop a person from being abusive. That’s a myth that this happens and is perpetuated by people in AA. Secondly, getting sober does not mean that women will not experience violence and trauma. In fact, rape is much more likely to happen within AA then outside of it. I’ve talked to countless men and women who were sexually assaulted and abused in AA who did not experience trauma anywhere close to this magnitude than when they were drinking. I myself was raped by multiple men and women in AA and was forced into human trafficking. This is 1000 times worse than any trauma that happened to me while I was drinking and is not as uncommon as you think. Body brokers also roam AA looking for victims. It is not a safe place. The other truth is that getting sober is not going to prevent a person from getting assaulted or abused no matter how they get sober. It’s actually part of rape culture and victim blaming to act like a woman’s drinking habit has anything to do with whether or not she is sexually assaulted. It’s also extremely ignorant and honestly just pisses me off. I truly feel sorry for you as it seems like you’ve picked up some wacky ideas from AA.


    2. I can pick out the cult-speak in this comment, but otherwise have no idea what you’re saying. It’s a bunch of garbled word mush that makes zero sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh and it’s pretty annoying and demoralizing that someone would come onto my blog and make assumptions about me and give me advice just because I’ve had problems with alcohol. It’s the same type of patronizing behavior that drives so many people away from AA. Yet AA members actually think that this kind of insulting behavior is a good thing. This just illustrates that AA is one of the most dangerous cults in our world today.


  4. Walter Klausmeyer April 1, 2019 — 9:24 am

    Absolutely a negative. When people reach out for help, AA is the biggest roadblock to any type of real treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is. Yet so many people swear by it. The truth is that during the last couple of years I was there I started to notice how people would talk about how much better their lives were since they went to AA but at the same time had all sorts of problems that were as bad if not worse as the problems that they would describe that they had while drinking. People might have other addictions than alcohol that they felt like they shouldn’t address because they had to focus on not drinking alcohol, relationship issues, health problems, job problems, and all kinds of other things, yet they seemed to be in denial about these things and how much they were impacting their lives. Of course, though, if they were to admit or see the truth it would cause a ton of cognitive dissonance about their membership in AA and role in it. An example that I have of this is my Grandfather. He got sober from alcohol during the last 7 or so years of his life, but continued to smoke cigarettes. This is pretty common in AA, and it even says in the Big Book that we should not be too hard on ourselves when it comes to other addictions because alcohol is the one that we should focus on. Yet my grandfather actually died of lung cancer in his 60s while he was a sober member of AA! I was there at the end of his life and it was horrible and traumatizing. Still, there is this notion in AA that this or that addiction is better than drinking, so why not do it- as if some addictions are better than others, with alcoholism being the worst. It’s just another AA myth really.

      Liked by 1 person

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