alcoholics anonymous is stupid

October 28, 2007

The 12 Suggested Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Story of
How many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism
(Second Edition)
pp. 59-60

Note that this is not a checklist. Well, I guess it is a checklist, but its a sequential checklist. You follow it from one to twelve, no deviation, no skipping, no starting in the middle. Of course, in all honesty, it does list itself as “suggested.” However, this is the format the list takes in many forms of an Alcoholics Anonymous organization, and it printed in a similar for an organizational meeting.This list dates back to the 1930s, during Prohibition. So, to say that it’s outdated is a little understating. Also, I want to point out a couple things.

First, I want you to notice how often the language includes words referencing “God” or a “higher Power.” This means, without any clarification necessary, that this model is a Christian one, or at least one rooted in Christian concerns, which makes total sense considering from whence it came. According to the AA website, American courts often contribute 11% of membership. Translation: Of the 2,000,000 people that call themselves members, 220,000 are there by court order. While we may still be a country of 300 million people, 220,000 thousand is a lot. You’ve probably never seen that many people in one place at one time in your life.

Now, according to this article, the AA, under scrutiny of the the Seeger and Malnak tests (tests that determine the religiosity of an organization) does not classify as a religion, but its members do engage in religious activity, and so are protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

I’m thinking right now about how an organization that isn’t a religion can foster religious attitudes. My brain tells me this is either one of two things: 1) total crap; 2) a cult, but probably more appropriately named a religion. Or a cult. Or a religion. You pick. I’m going with number one.

If such an organization’s members are so protected, yet even one of its members is forced there by law, this means this is either 1) a court-appointed load of crap; or 2) a court-appointed religion. Or cult. I’m going with number two on this one.

That said, it would be very unconstitutional (as though there are degrees of constitutionality) to order someone participate in the AA at any level of government. I have a problem with this, and you probably should as well. When I first figured this out, I said to myself, I said, self I said, this is how they will first encourage a state sponsored religion: through recovery aid.

That leads me to point two. Read the whole 12 steps again. Do you see anything about feeling good about the road long traveled, or taking control of your life again? I don’t. I see a long and arduous process of self-destruction of confidence, esteem and morale. I see blithering minds that seek release from a life of chaos. And that’s before they enter the program. Can you imagine what someone going through this program has to endure to be “successful?”

I can also hear someone screaming at their computer screen, “My life (or brother’s or sister’s or whoever’s) life was saved by AA, you beepity beep.” Uh huh. I have a hard time believing that giving up self-control has saved anything for you. It’s a process of forfeiture. I know this because my brother, who is only 18, go through the process when he was much younger than this. It’s the same 12 steps, regardless of age, by the way.

He spent most of his life up to that point feeling like he couldn’t control his world, made none of his own choices, and felt the only escape was through narcotic drugs and prescription medications. And alcohol. And self-concocted doses of something or other. He gets sent away to a camp where he has to participate in this demeaning process, and what does he get in return? A little gold coin with a “you did it” on the back. It’s called a sobriety chip. For an adult who can appreciate symbolism as reward, it would work fine, but I can’t imagine a results-now teenager having any stock in such things. My brother didn’t.

Please do not support this organization. It’s own personal studies do no reveal any of its success statistics. According to a 1989 report shown on Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (also, info here), AA only has a 5% success rate. And the percentage of people who succeed without AA: 5%. And I’m sure they feel a lot better about themselves in the end.



  1. I cannot summon up a enough of a snarky response to the checklist…but if it works for some…a bit like religion in general.

  2. And in all honesty, people with addictions might always have some sort of addiction. They successfully quit one addiction to aquire another because the addiction isn’t their problem. It’s something deeper, where a psychologist might need to do some digging to drag it out in the open.

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