Discouragement with AA

January 16, 2009



I read a post recently where a fellow recoverer was feeling discouraged with AA.  I have also dialogued at length with a number of people who do not care for AA or who feel it is not the program for them.  And still others who angrily oppose AA and the 12 steps.


When I read the open-minded tone of the AA Big Book, nowhere do I get the sense that the founders and pioneers of AA ever felt that AA was the “only way”.  I get the sense that they felt that finally, after years of failure by their own efforts and the efforts of medicine, psychiatry, and religion, they came across a process for staying sober.


Nowhere in the Big Book do I get the sense that all alcoholics are the type of alcoholics that need AA.  Rather, I get the sense that AA was discovered to be incredibly effective in helping alcoholics of a particular type and that this particular type happens to be a relatively large percentage of us.


The 12 steps in fact are specifically referred to as a “Suggested” program of recovery.  This then makes the 12 steps the “12 Suggestion”, not the 12 Orders or 12 Commandments.  It is also my experience though that many participants of AA treat and share our program as “The Only Way” and change the steps from Suggestions to Commandments.


Our traditions state that “Our public Relations Policy is based on attraction rather than promotion”.  I do not see that narrow-mindedly forcing newcomers to conform to what we believe AA to be as very attractive.  I do not see that forcing our timelines on them is in any way attractive at all. 


As I have experienced, there is far more power and attractiveness in the process of suggestion giving and receiving.  When I was told I must make certain changes, my resistance went up and usually I did not do what was told to me and distanced myself from the person making the demand.


On the other hand, when something was suggested to me, and to that suggestion I added my willingness and volition and followed through, I went through a process of life-changing discoveries.  By following suggestions by my own volition, I now earned and owned the solutions rather than having them surgically grafted to me.  We seem to be creatures that must learn for ourselves.  Our willingness appears to be a necessary ingredient to change.


Certainly, there are many circumstances where a newcomer’s immediate safety (or safety of others) is at stake and we are wiser to express a more of a demand in these acute situations.  I am referring though to the ongoing process of recovery and growth when I speak of the process of suggestions.


 I have felt that many AA members, having discovered the life changing power of AA, turn into Hell-fire evangelists and zealots preaching AA rather than offering its suggestions.  Then when the newcomer does not respond to the preaching and demands, preachers step it up the intensity.  This is not AA as I read it in the Big Book nor the 12 x 12.


I am glad to say that I feel I have discovered a balance that works for my sobriety and recovery.  I am grateful to weed out the demands and discover the suggestions then follow them through to a beneficial end.  I thereby stay sober and in a process of recovery.  As do millions of others of our kind.  No pressure to conform, just an offer to join us on the journey.


Ciao.   Chaz



  1. Yes I hear you!! AA and NA did save my life. It’s a spiritual program, and I still believe that truly working the steps will liberate anyone. The hardliners who tell you that it’s AA’s way or the “highway” 🙂 are in my opinion a bit like people who go to church on Sunday and become pretty dogmatic in their believes.

    Still there are those to who really found not only sobriety but also something beyond that, peace and acceptance. To me that is the value of the fellowship.

    But as Addicts and Alcoholics we are prone to ego games. And really it’s sometimes very funny that people who almost died, lost jobs and god knows what fight over the right interpretation of a tradition. And do so with the same vigor as they drank or drugged 🙂

    • Thanks Barb!

      The word “ego” you mention in your reply jumps out at me. I think unhealthy ego is what underlies the tendancy by some to become narrow-minded crusaders. Perhaps they feel the need to be right and prove it to others. Yet it has the exact opposit effect.

      My first sponsor fit this description yet I sill managed to learn from him some valuable truths that I live by today. Even if they were served up on a plate of unhealthy ego.

      Thanks for the reflections!

      Ciao. Chaz

  2. My dear blogger friend Chaz:

    There have been times in my life when traditional 12 Step Recovery was a great fit with my life, and I have learned and grown so much from my experiences in NA, SA and CMA.

    I have also found a different approach to be a better fit at times in life, and that is through SMART Recovery http://www.smartrecovery.org/
    Check it out sometime.

    SMART Recovery (Self Management And Recovery Training) helps individuals gain independence from addictive behaviors (substances or activities).

    For some of us, our success requires some degree of change to be more congruent with where we are at that moment.

    Love reading your blogs… my favorite blogger!

    Best regards,


  3. Thanks Mark…

    I feel blessed to be able to pass along what has been given freely to me. Ideas and teachings that have helped me recover in so many ways.

    The fact that these are also blessings to you and others is to me the essence of how God as I understand him works through people.

    Please feel welcome to pass along anything you hear that is helpful.

    I will check out the site you mention. I am always curious about ways we find recovery and growth.

    Thanks Bro.


  4. […] one of Chaz’ posts, Discouragement with AA, he makes a couple of interesting statements. Towards the end, he refers to people evangelizing and […]

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