It is often my experience that AA can be limiting. AA was how I got sober. The practice of the 12 steps also helped me order my thinking in ways that made me less anxious, depressed, and irritable. Beyond that though, I have found most of my help in personal growth outside of AA.
Yet many people in AA discourage or minimize other approaches to personal growth, claiming that “The Program is all we need”. I disagree.
The only contribution AA formally makes to any issue other than our alcoholism is the suggestion in step 12, “we tried to practice these principle in all of our affairs”. This is fine, but for me and what I want from life, it is insufficient. I want more than just sobriety. And I am glad that AA recognizes its own finite scope.
We are free to, and it is suggested, that we strive for better things in all of our affairs. But this is where AA must leave off. AA history shows that any time AA tried to be more to people than a way to get sober, it failed. This is not because AA does not care or wish for better things for us, it just appears that there is a limit to which the scope AA can be effective.
Where I find AA limiting is when members profess that AA is all we need. Or that all roads lead to AA. Sorry friends, I don’t see it that way. In fact, by and large, AA’s I have known as a group do not have a very high standard for themselves when it comes to matters like relationships, health, fitness, and career development.
How is it that so many of us are snatched from the jaws of death of alcoholism, only to continue in other jaws of death like toxic, abusive or non-functioning relationships, poor eating habits, obesity, under-employment, financial irresponsibility, lousy parenting, and the biggest mystery of all to me… SMOKING.
I know so, so, soooo many AA members whose lives are disasters in these ways. Yet they profess the great power of their program and “higher power”. For me, AA was a life-preserver that God used to help save me from alcoholic destruction so that I could continue living long enough to find other solutions for growth and recovery in addition to my recovery from alcoholism.
In my experience, the AA bar is fairly low. Divorce is as rampant in AA as anywhere else. I am constantly hearing stories of conflict, painful breakups, problems with parenting, and unexpected pregnancies. Standards of health and fitness are probably worse than the average sampling of people. I am in the minority as a non-smoker.
I know these are not official AA positions. I guess my point is that if AA is the only process of growth in a person’s life, then one shouldn’t expect much beyond getting sober and a little more sane.
For me, I have a hard time imagining that God threw me a lifeline just for me to jump back into a different sea of destruction. I want a lot in my life. I want a great marriage, great relationships with my kids and family, great health, great fitness, financial prosperity, and to be a resource to anyone whose path I cross.
To accomplish these things, I need a lot more than just AA.