It’s Time to Change How We Speak About 12 Step Organizations

I saw a post in Facebook that got me thinking about the wording that people in AA use. If you’ve ever been to a 12 step group, you know that there are lots of phrases, and that the groups basically speak their own language in a lot of ways. But, I think that the language that is used to even describe AA subtly reinforces false beliefs about the program such as the idea that AA is more than it’s members, and that it is some kind of stand-alone organization that is separate from and includes it’s members, as well as ideas that AA and it’s members can do no wrong.

The issue with this kind of thinking is that it lets members off the hook for problems within AA/the program, including problems with safety and predatory behavior. It also lets the organization of AA itself off the hook for these problems. So, basically, these ideas promote an unsafe environment because no one takes real responsibility when safety issues that might arise with people they know within AA, groups, or the organization as a whole.

Now, I want you to look back at my writing and see that at first, I described AA as simply “AA” and the “program”. Then, a sentence later I described it as the organization of AA. What’s interesting about being in this organization is that most people that I knew who went to it never referred to it as an organization. They referred to it as “AA”, “The Program”, “Meetings”, “The Fellowship” and more. But, very few people that I met in AA actually regularly called it an organization. This really makes me wonder if not calling it an organization, or organization of people is one of the small word tricks that keep people in AA from feeling like they need to take action when it comes to things like safety within the program, or stopping any other kind of harmful group dynamics. This is because if a person goes to AA but doesn’t even implicitly understand it as an organization, then the organization of AA becomes it’s own entity in this person’s mind, which can lead to this idea that this organization and it’s members can do no wrong. And, this idea is then not only shared within AA, but also in society as well. This kind of thinking obviously puts our entire society in danger in regards to AA.

What if we started to regularly refer to AA as an organization, or a club, or even use the word support group more often, rather than simply “AA” and/or the “program”? I’m not sure, but I’m betting that it might bring AA down to the level that it should be at for both members and society alike. Who knows what could happen after that. Some say these days that this organization is on a downward slope, with no way to be saved, particularly because it’s members will not take direct action against predatory behavior. But, what if we just changed how we talked about this organization as a society? Could it’s members start to be more open to change then? Can AA be saved? These are all good questions to think about.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.

2 thoughts on “It’s Time to Change How We Speak About 12 Step Organizations

  1. I never really thought about AA as an organisation, but you are totally right that AA needs to be contextualised as an organisation as otherwise it isn’t accountable. Thanks for sharing this insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! I think that as long as people talk about AA as though it’s above other organizations, it will continue to have the problems that it does and eventually will either fall apart or just become even more unsafe and unaccountable than it already is.


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