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Buddy T

Study Shows How A.A. Is Effective

By January 13, 2011

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Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can increase a person's spirituality which in turn can reduce the frequency and intensity of alcohol abuse, but that is not the only way that the 12-step program helps people to remain sober. A new study shows that attending A.A. meetings can increase spirituality, especially for those who had low spirituality previously.

But the Harvard Medical School study also showed that Alcoholics Anonymous was also effective for both agnostics and atheists, indicating that A.A. helps in ways other than spiritual.

John F. Kelly, Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, studied 1,500 people in recovery, surveying them at three, six, nine, 12 and 15 months into their recovery process.

The study's primary finding was that attending A.A. meetings enhances spiritual practices, especially for those who were not spiritual or religious prior to attending A.A., and that spirituality showed a "robust association" with better recovery outcomes.

"I've heard it said that A.A. is too spiritual, and I've also heard it said that A.A. is not spiritual enough for some people. Although this is not the only way that AA helps individuals recover, I think these findings support the notion that A.A. works in part by enhancing spiritual practices," Kelly said in a news release.

A.A. Helps in Other Ways

But Kelly's study also found that A.A. meeting attendance helped people remain sober in other ways by:

  • Helping members change their social networks.
  • Enhancing recovery coping skills.
  • Enhancing motivation for continued abstinence.
  • Reducing depression.
  • Increasing psychological well-being.

The researchers concluded that "while spirituality is an important mechanism of behavioral change for A.A., it is not the only method used."

Source: Kelly, JF et al. "Spirituality in Recovery: A Lagged Mediational Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous' Principal Theoretical Mechanism of Behavior Change," Alcoholism: CLinical & Experimental Research. 16 December 2010.

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Photo: Clipart.com
January 13, 2011 at 4:15 am
(1) Bill Wilson says:

No study has ever shown that AA is effective in getting people to quit drinking. In fact, every study ever done on the effectiveness of the 12-steps in get people to quit drinking has shown exactly the opposite. A person is statistically just as likely to quit drinking drinking on their own, and in doing so, they aren’t subjected to the cult tactics and manipulation of AA (which is a hotbed of brainwashed lunacy).

What this author is doing is confusing correlation with cause which makes him either ignorant or intentionally manipulative. The studies actually show correlation between AA attendance and abstinence. All this means is that people who have quit drinking already, are likely to attend AA. Claiming AA is the cause of their abstinence is like saying hospitals make people sick. They don’t. It happens to be where sick people congregate, just as those who quit drinking congregate to AA. These studies were not even designed to see if AA is effective at getting people to quit drinking. It was not their purpose.

If this author wants to be honest, he would cite the actual studies, including from Harvard, that do examine effectiveness of AA. That won’t happen, because “Buddy T” is an AA, and those guys avoid real studies like the plague. It’s just another reason to stay away from AA.

January 13, 2011 at 7:29 am
(2) Laura Y. says:

Dear Bill,

My husband is caught up in this cult and it is destroying our marriage. So, I am trying to educate myself as much as possible about this cult. I would really love to read all those studies you cited. Would it be possible for you to send them to me?

~ Laura

January 13, 2011 at 10:17 am
(3) Wendell Montney says:

Recovery is a very personal matter and there are many paths to long term sobriety. It has been my personal experience having over 28 years working with addiction individuals who work 12 Step programs have a better chance of long term recovery than those who do not.

Let me qualify my comment, if you use alternative support systems with accountability it can be as successful. The need is for open and honest dialogue with people who will point when we are gaming vs recovering.

January 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm
(4) raysny says:

The idea that AA reduces depression or increases psychological well-being is propaganda. Most people with coexisting mental disorders do not respond well to ‘ego-deflation’ or the anti-medication faction and sometimes outright hostility they find in the rooms. They drop out in droves.

You can’t say that AA helps with depression when the people suffering from it are pushed out the door.

I’m a mental health care worker who works primarily with those who have coexisting substance abuse issues. Whether you believe that AA has a 5% or 26% retention rate in the first year, you can’t only survey those who stay and get any kind of valid insight.

January 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm
(5) Wendell Montney says:

Responding to Raysny, not everyone responds well to 12 Step programs and not all 12 Step programs suggest you stop taking prescribed medications.

Co-occurring disorders often need medication and support. It is very important for those who take medication to help with depression to listen to their physician or psychiatrist. Even the Big Book tells us not to play doctor.

May I suggest you find a different 12 Step home group or a sponsor who understands. Accountability and support really helps recovery last.

January 14, 2011 at 12:53 am
(6) Miranda says:

@ Wendell, it actually is a pretty common practice. I had a sponsor who persuaded me to get discontinue my medication. I very seriously considered suicide. I fired her. The next advised me to do the same and was also fired. They both had different homegroups. The attitude is that you aren’t really sober if you are taking any mood altering medications, even when they are an antidepressant prescribed by a physician. They tell you to “let go and let God.” That’s only one of the extremely dangerous practices in AA.

January 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm
(7) Anne says:

Lots of trolls posting here.

I’m in my 20th year, sober because people in AA were there when I needed help staying sober. Some people can stay sober on their own but I can’t.

Regarding the spiritual part, I’m an agnostic and my sponsor is an atheist with 23 years. I have my own spiritual program that’s not related in any way to Christianity. For the last decade or so, I take what I need and leave the rest behind.
AA is only for people who WANT it, not people who need it.

January 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm
(8) Anne says:

Regarding medication, I’ve been on anti-depressant medication since I got sober (19+ years ago). I don’t mention it in meetings, it doesn’t belong there. Alcoholism frequently accompanies other mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder. If you want to read more about the dual diagnosis, see what recovery doctors say in HBO’s terrific documentary: http://www.hbo.com/addiction.

In the AA literature (one of the pamphlets, I think AA and medication), it specifically says “NO ONE SHOULD PLAY DOCTOR”. A number of times I’ve handed that to another alcoholic who felt he had the right to judge me.

This isn’t a problem with AA, it’s a problem with individuals who are reckless and irresponsible enough to tell someone to go off their meds. Walk away from those people.

January 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm
(9) Anne says:

I’m posting a lot here because this is a life or death matter. I’ve seen people commit suicide because they stopped taking meds. Here is a link to AA’s brochure and official stance on it.


Unfortunately the brochure and lots of people lump all drugs together. There are habit-forming meds like Valium, anti-anxiety pills that are very addictive. In this day and age plenty of people enter the rooms addicted to these drugs. If I took a valium I would consider it the same as having a drink.

But anti-depressants and meds for bipolar people aren’t addictive. And for so many people it’s a matter of life or death, being sober or not.

January 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm
(10) Lynn says:

WOW!!! Bill Wilson is definatlly not the Bill Wilson, founder of AA!!! I was 10 years sober when I ended up in the hospital with Bi-Polar!!! When I was in treatment tests stated that and the counsler and I laughed!! Thank God I had great people around me and a sponsor who understood! I have been and active member of AA of over 34 years! AA saved my life and helped me find GOD of my understanding. I had 13 years of perfect attendance in church and totally missed it!!! Found it all in progarm!! Yes, I agree tnat AA may not be for everyone but it sure has been for me! Before I came to AA I was no use to myself and anyone else!! To be of use and be GODs instrument!! I was agnostic when I came!! Love Ya’s

January 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm
(11) Ken says:

AA is one option readily available to deal with alcohol abuse, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is another noteworthy alternative as it puts one in control of his or her path to sobriety. This therapy is especially appealing to those who don’t want to subscribe to spirituality or religion.

January 17, 2011 at 7:09 am
(12) wil thompson says:

I could not stop drinking while I attended AA meetings. Sitting in a room with other alcoholics constantly talking about alcohol just made my mind even more obsessive about drinking even when the testimonies of other members were very negative about alcohol. Its almost impossible to be an agnostic or atheist in AA despite AA members saying that you can. There is a whole chapter in the AA Big Book that says so in black and white. Anyone in the program for years and claims to be an agnostic isn’t following the program. I am now alcohol free for six years after going for proper counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy and finding a healthier replacement for my addictive personality (in my case, its mountain climbing and playing chess).

January 17, 2011 at 7:24 am
(13) Gary P. says:

Personally, I believe that one should get honest with one’s self, and be ready to sincerely want to quit, after hitting one’s own bottom, if you will. Then, one can proceed from that point, and seek help, either from A.A., Rehab, Church, Internet A.A., with another friend that has quit, or whatever it takes. The whole of the matter is to change one’s life for the better. After all of this, it is just a matter of maintaining this new lifestyle, one day at a time!

January 17, 2011 at 8:58 am
(14) brig says:

14 years sober in AA, I still attend several meetings a week. I have been to AA meetings in NY, NJ, VA, PA, NC, SC, MA, CA, MT, and some other states. I have found AA has encouraged me to be open-minded to all spiritual outlooks, or lack thereof. If am totally honest, I am am not intimidated by the very few who try to impose specific beliefs or practices on others. Atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindu, Muslim, etc. are all welcomed.
I have been taking anti-depressants for 10 years, which I do share at meetings when appropriate, and have never been challenged. Most people accept this as part of living.
The meetings are very uplifting thus helping me tremendously in lifting depression.
The reason AA has survived this long and has spread to over 150 countries worldwide, is that it is effective, always available, AND very flexible.
A desire not to drink, a desire to be honest and open-minded, and a willingness to change are the only things needed for recovery with AA.
It is a lot easier to do it with others than to try it alone.

January 17, 2011 at 9:56 am
(15) Charlie says:

Please do not say AA does not work,
I am sober 50 years now, Thanks to AA and it’s fellowship.And I know many many more who are sober Thanks to AA.I say it works if you WANT to be sober,You can talk to people who know what you are going through.,And we help each other. Thank God for AA.

January 17, 2011 at 10:20 am
(16) Rob E. says:

Dear Buddy T.:

Congratulations on such a positive article on AA. My father, an MD and also an Alcoholic, stopped drinking after 25 years by killing himself. My brother is also an alcoholic, who has had several heart operations due to his drinking, and likely will be dead in five years. On the other hand, I managed, after three years of coming to AA meetings drunk (they never turned me away), to become sober and tomorrow I celebrate 30 years of continuous happy,sobriety. I thank our co-founders, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, and their wives, our Big Book with the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. However, it was the concept of a Higher power or power greater than myself that saved my life. We are not a “Religious Cult as some AA-bashers say and organized religion has no place in AA. As for a “Cult”. I came in drunk many times in the beginning and was never refused as well as if you say have a desire to stop drinking then you are automatically a Member.
RobE., Willowdale. Ontario, Canada. Jan. 17. 2011.

January 17, 2011 at 10:49 am
(17) Sherry says:

I can only speak from experience. AA saved my life and I am anything but spiritual. Again, I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t found AA. I would be dead. It works but only if you want it.

January 17, 2011 at 11:03 am
(18) Gregory B. says:

In my own personal experience over 26 years of trying to recover from alcoholism/addiction, and yes, much of it based in Twelve Step associations, I have found that anyone worth their salt will agree wholeheartedly, that AA is not for everybody. By that same token, it is virtually impossible to apply an empirical approach to spiritual “recovery”, especially when it comes to a very personal path that AA adheres to. There are simply far too many variables in addiction/alcoholism, to claim “exact science” as proof positive of it’s worth and efficacy. One, if not THE BIGGEST misconception regarding AA is when folks try to dispute what is written and spoken about all over meetings…..,”AA doesnt force you to believe in anything.”. To paraphrase…..if you find that drinking and/or drugging are ruining your life, when it comes to finding a better way to live….it’s a matter of whatever makes your boat float ! And that includes AA bashing .

January 17, 2011 at 11:20 am
(19) wil thompson says:

AA has saved lives. That is a very good thing. But one should not ignore the fact that AA is fundamentally a spiritual program. AA has its roots in the Oxfords Groups which placed a significant amount of emphasis on confession and deflation of the ego. This cannot be a good thing for many alcoholics. AA has also destroyed many lives. The suicide rate and relapse rate within AA is quite disturbing. I would advise anyone to seek secular alternatives where possible if you happen to be an atheist or agnostic. “Thank g-d for AA”. Indeed, if you happen to believe in such a thing. The Orange Papers website offers a whole range of different treatments which have a proven and successful method of alcohol addiction . To those who have found solice in AA, I wish you well, I just believe that you have sobriety not because of AA but in spite of it.

January 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm
(20) Bridie says:

AA sponsors/members need to leave prescription medication issues to the prescriber and the patient. It is ignorant and dangerous for anyone from AA to be giving their opinion about psychiatric drugs to a another AA member. I share at AA meetings that by treating my depression and anxiety first with medication I was able to see that I had an alcoholic problem. It was when I got honest with my psychiatrist about drinking and I got referred to AA

January 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm
(21) Doc K. says:

AA has saved my life. Over the years both in and outside AA meetings I have heard or overheard many comments either for or against our Program. Someone once said, “Take what you can use and leave the rest there.” So true! In my case, I could have said, “To hell with it” and gone back out but thanks to AA and my first strong sponsor and those since, I never had a relapse and have been through many situations where the thought of “taking just one drink” was always there. The program has always worked for me and continues to work for me. I continue to thank those who believed in me and believe in the Program.
Tomorrow, January 18th, 2011, is my 41st AA Anniversary. My sobriety date is January 18th, 1970. I could never have reached this on my own. I owe my life to AA, to God as my Higher Power, and to all of you who continue to believe that our Program of recovery does work. God bless… Doc K.

January 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm
(22) Bridie says:

I stick to the AA template that the book offers for the solution for freedom from drinking. I drank for 30 years. Meetings serve as a safe haven for discussing how to stay sober and about the anatomy of a relapse. There can be a cultish side to some members when they continue to quote the big book like a mantra. The spiritual growth is fun as I am finally taking the time to explore this part of our culture. The book doesnt tell you how to find a higher power only to get one.

January 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm
(23) Roxy Roo says:

AA not only helped me stay sober, as a bonus, it improved my mental health dramatically I have not drank for3 years and find that sobriety and AA do for me what counselling, therapy, anti depressants, failed to do for the past 25years.

I am still prescribed anti depressants, and I believe I still need them, I still have low moods but nothing like I used to do before AA. Since the day I realised my problem was alcohol my mental health has improved – its not 100 % ok – lets be honest whos is? however since giving up booze and living the AA way of life I have never once felt that I wanted my life to end, never once lay in bed in the morning or the night and wished it would all stop all go away. Before AA this was my life, a constant battle with my emotional demons. yes I get fed up , yes my husband still drives me potty (sometimes) but today with AA and a sober head I can cope, I no longer hate myself (which I did do for most of my adult life) Not sure if AA saved my life – cos I am not sure if I ever would have “ended it ” but I NEVER have that feeling any more and do you know what I am grateful and I am glad that I have AA in my life. Is is a cult? No I dont believe it is. My sponsor tells me things as does the AA literature, however I see these as suggestions, it is MY choice and My choice alone asto what action I take.

January 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm
(24) Roxy Roo says:

AA not only helped me stay sober, as a bonus, it improved my mental health dramatically I have not drank for3 years and find that sobriety and AA do for me what counselling, therapy, anti depressants, failed to do for the past 25years.

I am still prescribed anti depressants, and I believe I still need them, I still have low moods but nothing like I used to do before AA. Since the day I realised my problem was alcohol my mental health has improved – its not 100 % ok – lets be honest whos is? however since giving up booze and living the AA way of life I have never once felt that I wanted my life to end, never once lay in bed in the morning or the night and wished it would all stop all go away. Before AA this was my life, a constant battle with my emotional demons. yes I get fed up , yes my husband still drives me potty (sometimes) but today with AA and a sober head I can cope, I no longer hate myself (which I did do for most of my adult life) Not sure if AA saved my life – cos I am not sure if I ever would have “ended it ” but I NEVER have that feeling any more and do you know what I am grateful and I am glad that I have AA in my life. Is is a cult? No I dont believe it is. My sponsor tells me things as does the AA literature, however I see these as suggestions, it is MY choice and My choice alone asto what action I take.

January 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm
(25) Cheryl says:

For those who think AA is a cult, I looked up cult in the dictionary, and I see its just a word that just gets thrown around. A system of religious worship. Nothing could be farther from the truth, I am religious and I do not worship in AA, I go to church.

January 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm
(26) Tracy Korhonen says:

It is true that the 12 Step program is not the only way one can find sobriety, but it is one of the best ways to find and keep sobriety. The benefits are numerous – from positive changes in a person’s thinking/feeling/behaving, being educated on the medical facts that prove addiction IS a disease, and a sense of belonging that many addicts have never felt.
We learn how to change destructive thought patterns, to give back, take responsibility for our choices and so much more. Some people are religious about their spirituality and others, like myself, do not follow any particular religion yet we are all there to give and get help and support from each other.
I once felt the exact opposite about the 12 Step program. After experiencing the progressive nature of my disease, I became willing to give it another try.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am my own person with MY own set of beliefs and would laugh if someone told them I was “brainwashed.”

In my experience, most of those who refer to this recovery program as brainwashing have learned nothing of it’s true nature and are miserable and still looking for answers outside of themselves – and will never find true happiness.

I have seen the families and loved ones of addicts claim the recovering addict they love has been duped, fooled, and brainwashed by this program. What they have difficulty accepting is this – that they too have become “sick” because of the addicts use and they too must change, as well, if they want to become healthy.
That is why addiction is called “a family disease.
I feel great sadness for those who spew such venom about something that has helped millions of sufferers of addiction and their loved ones.

January 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm
(27) Tracy K says:

So you go to church? So what. Those of you who claim to be “religious” and dump your hatred all over the 12 steps sound very full of “spiritual pride.” Shame on you for thinking you are better or more deserving than people like me.

January 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm
(28) Mike L says:

Personal testimonials have no statistical value, they are just personal stories. That being said, here’s mine: At all meetings I attended, the majority of participants pull a little piece of paper and the leader is busy signing them. That means that their participation is not exactly voluntary and that their higher power is not some god or spirituality, but their PO or judge. It’s hard to tell if we deal with the efficiency of AA or the super-efficiency of ETG. As for accuracy of the statistics… it seems more likely a “meeee? nooooo!” answer from somebody just coming out of his garage than “yes, I just had one”.

January 18, 2011 at 10:00 am
(29) Bobby says:

AA has saved my life. My life was in shambles before I came to AA. In the last 4 “sober” years, I have seen my life, my job, my wife, my kids come back..literally…All because of the wonderful fellowship of AA. My eyes brim with gratitude even while I write this post.

Someone has rightly said above that AA is a divine program which surpasses all boundaries…otherwise how would an AA member, who is a Hindu, be writing this from New Delhi, India ? I am grateful that we alcoholics have this program and we indeed are blessed that we can help other alcholics get back to the mainstream of life. God Bless and Peace to all !

January 18, 2011 at 10:12 am
(30) charles says:

AA does work

January 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm
(31) issueman says:

To the people previously posting that AA does more harm than good, doesn’t work, is this or is that, is a cult, is brainwashing…..I say whatever! You are free to have whatever opinion you wish It matters none to those of us who posted here with quit the opposite viewpoints as well as the Hundreds of thousands or more that have found freedom. Can you say that about whatever it is that freed you, if you were in fact in bondage, a real alcoholic as described in the Big Book? Doubtful.
There is not any other organized fellowship that has shown so many who were lost how to live again freely.
To those in AA who allow fellow members to spew opinion in our fellowship. Shame on you. Stick to showing other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW WE HAVE RECOVERED as outlined and is the Primary Purpose of the Big Book of AA and they too can RECOVER from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
For the haters here, go find your own way. And if you can not, the hand of AA will be extended to you when and If you make it back. Peace.

January 19, 2011 at 6:34 am
(32) BeBop4000 says:

I believe it was Albert Einstein himself, who called the formation and growth of Alcoholics Anonymous, “the most important development for humankind in the twentieth century”.
As a long time member of Alcoholics Anonymous, clean and sober for over twenty four years, believe me….when it come to battling my addiction through different avenues, I have tried them all ! (with the one exception being getting naked and banging on a drum in the middle of a forest!).
As of this writing, neither AA nor science, has found a means of quantifying how well AA works. For those of us needing to resign from the debating society to get sober, it matters little. All we really know is that years ago, two drunks met up, and against all odds, helped each other stay sober one more day, when every fiber of one of them called them to a bar to get drunk again. From those two “seeds”, millions now get to apply the same principles, leading to the same result !
Great strides have been made in medicine and science, regarding the diagnosis and treatment of addiction, much of it pin pointing disorders and malfunctions in certain areas of the brain, as the roots of scientific explanations of alcoholism. And until a magic pill is discovered that eleviates all the factors of alcoholism and brain function, I’ll continue to join my fellow millions whose lives most definitely have been improved by their association and participation in spiritual recovery.
Attempting to “prove” the efficacy of AA is akin to “proving” the existence of God.

February 1, 2011 at 8:19 am
(33) carol says:

I show up with an openmind,honesty and williness. AA is a strong program that has benefited me as an effecive solution to my sobriey and played a hugh part along with other methods to help me heal from depression. I can only speak from my experience of 7 months ,not sure exactley what Im doing right,I do know I listen to the winners,it’s working for me.

March 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm
(34) raysny says:


I’ve heard AA members make that Einstein claim, it’s something someone claimed Einstein said and has been repeated endlessly in the rooms. Too bad it’s never been verified.

“As of this writing, neither AA nor science, has found a means of quantifying how well AA works.” Nonsense, AA has been tested in several randomized longitudinal controlled studies and found to have worse results than no treatment at all. Brandsma showed that those exposed to AA engaged in five times as much binge drinking as those who received no treatment, nine times as much as those who received rational emotive therapy. Ditman showed that people arrested on alcohol related charges were more likely to to be rearrested on alcohol related charges than the control group that received no treatment.

The NIAAA’s 2001–2002 National Epidemiolo­gic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions interviewe­d over 43,000 people. Using the criteria for alcohol dependence found in the DSM-IV, they found:
“About 75 percent of persons who recover from alcohol dependence do so without seeking any kind of help, including specialty alcohol (rehab) programs and AA. Only 13 percent of people with alcohol dependence ever receive specialty alcohol treatment.­”

March 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm
(35) Zuvman says:

I can say with honesty that I have been to great AA meeting and Terrible AA meetings. I’m fortunate that my home club is one of the great ones. If I have been to some of the clubs I’ve visited(maybe only that meeting was bad) that I would not have stayed in the program. I really wish the program was not state mandated. I’ve see so many people come in and just sit there to get their papers signed. I went of my mild antidepressants on my own(doctor supervised) because after i quit drinking for 3 months I wasn’t having the issues I had. No one even mentioned going off any kind of meds at our club. I know several people that either quit on there own, used AA, or are still struggling with addiction. All have successes and failures. I could qoute hundreds of studies promoting or demoting AA. Some real some made up. The fact of the matter is do what it takes to help yourself with your addiction. if you think AA will help you don’t like the club you went to, Go to another one. If it helps you to go, Lie. Tell them your form out of town with a month of sobriety or don’t say anything. Just say your there to listen. If AA is not for you then definitely find another program that is. It easy to stay drinking because you red AA doesn’t work. It easy to keep drinking because you read “insert any program” doesn’t work. I guess what I’m trying to say is do what works for you but nothing will be easy. Just remember that.

August 21, 2011 at 12:20 am
(36) Keith W Henline says:

My name is Keith W Henline and in two weeks I will celebrate 30 years without a drink or drug thanks to the AA program.
I was a hopeless drunk for 12 years, in and out of jails, hospitals and finally a mental ward. If you can take a pill and get sober or find Jesus and get sober, good for you but that didn’t work for me. AA took me in when no one else would! I stayed at first because I had no where else to go, nobody wanted any part of me. So, if you have better options, please have at it and don’t waste my time. I’ll probably see you again when you run out of options as I did and then I will welcome you with open arms. But most likely I will read about you in the obituaries because that’s where most addicts that think they don’t need AA end up.
God bless all you hopeless AA members who loved me until I could love myself.

October 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm
(37) Grasshopper says:

There is empirical evidence that out of a study group population of 100, only 2 remained sober through AA, and another 3 remained soberas a result of other programs outside of AA. That empirically is a 5% success rate overall, or a 2% success rate using AA methods. The study was conducted by Dr. George Valliant, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, specializing in schizophrenia, alcohol addiction, and heroin addiction. Dr. Vaillant (correct spelling- ooops) is also a recipient of the Jellinek Award for research in alcoholism, and he’s the Director of Research, Dept of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; and he’s a Class I Trustee at At AA General Services. Incidentally, his findings were completely in synch with internal AA findings from their triennial surveys that points that as you close in on 5-10 years sobriety, the continuous sobriety is only 5% as well.

December 7, 2011 at 10:04 am
(38) Emily C says:

How sweet of all of you. I shall inform my father that he is in a cult. They have obviously hypnotized him or something. Seriously, a man can’t stay sober for fourteen years on just a higher power (a high power that is different for everyone. Allah for Muslims, an object for agnostics… my father’s is God, but that’s just plain silly.)
I’m so scared for him. Maybe I’ll stop him from going to the AA meeting. Maybe I’ll also advise him to go to a bar, and talk to the alcoholics there. They’ll inspire him to keep sober. Alcoholics are very convincing people.
Or maybe running around, being drunk, getting sent to prison, then deported is his best option. Yeah. Anything to get him out of this cult.

I hope you all realize I’m being sarcastic.

December 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm
(39) leejan says:

If I knew that AA had solutions for life towards a spiritual direction, I would have never gotten sober. I just wanted to quit drinking and keep up the pace of running around trying to control everyone and everything to go my way. AA isn’t for everyone. This program makes one look at themselves, how we got here and how we can live sober. It’s really too simple for complicated people. I’m still trying to learn, now I’m more willing to learn. People in AA laugh more too, so beware of laughter! AA is for people who want it not for people who need it.

January 4, 2012 at 10:17 am
(40) nellie H. says:

All I can say is..I was living in total misery..With no hope..today I do not live “In a hopeles state of Mind” one day at a time with God’s help and A.A. principles..I am sober (seven yrs. now)..Grateful to be alive. A.A. is not for those who need it..but for those who want it….It is also all about facing life on life’s terms, without drinking….It is a spiritual program also….

January 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm
(41) Tony says:

“Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings can increase a person’s spirituality which in turn can reduce the frequency and intensity of alcohol abuse.”

OK…first off, Kelly studied people “in recovery,” but I’ll bet that was *only* folks who had stuck with AA, which meant that he missed all the “dropouts” (which independent researchers find is around 95% four years out), plus he didn’t survey a cross-sample of the *entire* population to report on the folks who found sobriety without AA, Twelve Steps, or any particular reliance on “spirituality” (whatever that is…it’s never defined in these kinds of studies).
Fortunately for us, the NIAAA *did* such cross-population studies (over 43,000 Americans surveyed each time) and found those “under-the-radar” folks who gained sobriety not doing things the AA way. The NIAAA found that 75% of folks who had a drinking problem (going by the DSM criteria for alcohol dependence) found a solution *without* support groups or treatment at all! Which corroborates a lot of the hunches of folks like James Christopher (founder of SOS) and Jack Trimpey (Rational Recovery). The medical establishment in the US is so co-opted and controlled by AAers that “medical treatment” in this country often means nothing more than telling you that you have to attend AA, whether you’re likely to benefit or not.
I’m extremely grateful to have eventually, after 25+ years of Twelve Step attempts to brainwash me, come across Christopher and Trimpey’s writings and ideas.

January 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm
(42) george kalergis says:

AA worked for this Agnostic and has for many years. I take what I need and leave the rest behind.

I don’t understand those that seem to have an ill spirited vendetta against AA. (almost like AA was the cause of their problems with life)

I have been to thousands of AA meetings around the world and have not encountered anything close to the frequency or severity of negative occurrencs they so stridently and constantly proclaim.

I don’t know how many complaining have unresolved AA issues, but I do know what “denial” sounds like and I get a strong undertone of that in many negative posts.

As far as studies of AA effectives goes, sampling criteria is a major challenge for that, but (unlike the very old Orange Papers) some of the latest studies show very positive indicators that although AA is not for everyone, it most emphatically works.

There are much better studies now available using better sampling techniques and criteria that the complainers dont seem to be aware of. (or at least they continue to ignore)

The study results found here


seem quite well balanced and have used updated criteria and measurement of different parts of a complicated issue to show results which seem to correlate to my personal AA experience quite closely.

For a balance professional studies that looks at the AA solution and effectiveness in a balance and neutral manner, I highly recommend this modern and recent study.

It works if you want to work it…..almost any way you want to work it. :)

February 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm
(43) Susan says:

I guess I have to wonder if anyone read in Living Sober where there is an acknowledgement of the proper use of prescribed medications. No one should tell another to go off meds unless it is your medical practitioner. It’s on page 88 where… “It becomes clear that it is jsut as wrong to enable or support any alcoholic to become readdicted to any drug, it is equally rong to deprive any alcoholic of medication which can alleviae or control OTHER disabiling physical and/or emtional problems.”

March 17, 2012 at 11:08 am
(44) Tammy W says:

AA isn’t only about stopping drinking. Alcohol is just a symptom of alcoholism. Most of the long term and even a lot of the short term AA members that I know, including myself, have a much better quality of life as a result of the program. Show me a white knuckle dry drunk who can say that they have peace of mind before you try to convince me that there is a better option than AA.

March 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm
(45) PDoe says:

Well, lot being said here. I just celebrated 16 years on March 17, and I’m IRISH! All 16 yrs with AA. I was dx’d BPII last year and have been getting treatment and my life has changed dramatically, more then AA ever did.
AA helped me to get where I am today but I think it’s time for me to move on. I had two brain surgeries within a year and a half, last one May of 2010. In the rooms I was told to go to meeting and stop focusing on my “problems”, with the dx of BPII, I was told to go meetings and stop focusing on my “problems”. I am choosing not to go to AA so that I don’t focus on THAT problem, alcoholism.
My participation has been waning over the past 4-5 years, mostly because of medical problems. At this point I’m down to 2 meetings a month and sick of hearing how I should go to more meetings. My mom has stage IV lung cancer so I need to go so I don’t focus on my “problems”. At what point do I face my “problems”? Look, AA isn’t for everyone and at some point a person my decide to move on. They can always come back if they need to, right?

April 16, 2012 at 11:35 am
(46) michael h. says:

” A new study shows that attending A.A. meetings can increase spirituality, especially for those who had low spirituality previously.”

can a reference be posted for this? without this how can one judge the conclusions of this report?

April 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm
(47) BuddyT says:

The source reference is posted at the bottom of the article.

June 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm
(48) chere says:

So interesting, AA has helped me to fit back into the world as a non-drinking person….my world has opened up and a spiritual path is part of that for me. Rather than limiting my existence, the principles have allowed my world to become wider…with more freedom personally and professionally, with more understanding, tolerance. Because AA is not “quantified” academically, we have our stories. Some people get really stuck in AA and afraid to venture out into the world, but I have found freedom to become part of the world….most often a joyous participator. I believe that my sobriety is not fragile, it must be maintained and nurtured because my basis in AA is spiritual and an important part for me, it is not my only existance.

When I read that individuals have been advised to “stop” medication against medical advice…….run away, run away……AA makes no claim of ANY medical experience….we have the experience of a spiritual solution to our addiction problems. We’re not all “well” people in the program, and medical opinion by AA people is not part of the program. We encourage and recommend that AA members seek medical attention as a part of our recovery process.

It is sad that such a simple program suffers attacks as the result of some members assertions of knowledge where there is none and the idea that sobriety is only maintained in the rooms. As I recover and grow, AA is an important part of my life after 23 years, but I have been prepared to re-enter the world of the living in all it’s places and conditions.

July 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm
(49) Bill B says:

RE: Those AA bashing commenters here – the ones labeling AA a “brainwashing cult” etc. – I suspect that they are simply unhappy people scapegoating. If you don’t like it, so what? Go on and be positive about something else that you do like – spread your energy elsewhere in a positive fashion – but I doubt that you will. There will always be haters and whining moaning negative people (glass half full people) who are happiest being unhappy – if u know what I mean. The irony here is these are the very type that actually need the philosophies of AA the most. Me, I personally like AA a lot, but still I take it all with a grain of salt and don’t buy into everything they say. For example they say about no substances at all yet everyone is drinking caffeine and smoking cigarettes @ AA meeting :) But so what? I find more good than bad in AA and do not consider it a cult. A cult is like Scientology -

July 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm
(50) Bill B says:

AA is not trying to gaffle me of a third of my wealth. They ask me to give a dollar or two and only if I can afford it. Come on! That’s nothing in this day and age for an invaluable hour of group therapy. A movie costs like $12 and is not nearly as entertaining or educational or beneficial as even the most mediocre AA meetings I have attended. I may not even be an alcoholic but I know I did drink too much and I needed to quit. I also needed to get my shit together…All of this I did a year ago…..and thanks to AA and the good people I have heard speak I am able to stay sober. But staying sober (not drinking) is not hard for me…what is hard for me (and most people) is dealing with the problems in life – and they are always nearby -

July 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm
(51) Bill B says:

PT II – AA is not trying to gaffle me of a third of my wealth. They ask me to give a dollar or two and only if I can afford it. Come on! That’s nothing in this day and age for an invaluable hour of group therapy. A movie costs like $12 and is not nearly as entertaining or educational or beneficial as even the most mediocre AA meetings I have attended. I may not even be an alcoholic but I know I did drink too much and I needed to quit. I also needed to get my stuff together…All of this I did a year ago…..and thanks to AA and the good people I have heard speak I am able to stay sober. But staying sober (not drinking) is not hard for me

September 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm
(52) rob c says:

alcohlics are (a) anti social (b) dishonest (c) self deluded (d) addicted to alcohol (e) abusive ……………………………alcoholics in aa are (a) social (b) honest (c) aware of twisted perceptions (e) help others……………………………………………………………………..you tell me if the program works?

October 15, 2012 at 11:11 am
(53) tk says:

I chair a weekly AA meeting, but as I told the group a few days ago, I don’t work the Twelve Step program. I work another program that’s 2500 years older than AA. At least three of the Twelve Steps are against my ethical principles, and one Step is just flat-out psychologically harmful, I feel. Is AA attendance worthwhile? For some it is, for some it isn’t. I truly love and appreciate the people in my group, but don’t care much for the organization behind it. I’m required to attend three different court-mandated support/counselling groups. There was no choice of which group(s) to attend — no differential diagnosis — which is the real tragedy in current substance abuse treatment here in the US. Of the three different types of support groups I attend, AA is second-most-helpful. That being said, I feel AA will be helpful to people who are able to wrap their brains around the idea of “spiritual”, “Higher Power”, “God” or a supernatural “other-force”. However, many folks just can’t for various reasons, and I personally have no interest in the Buchmanist theology underlying AA’s program. It’s not their fault that they can’t figure out what Bill W. was ranting about in the Big Book. Bill W.’s own program never worked for him, in my opinion. For people such as myself, SOS, SMART or mindfulness-based relapse prevention will be more efficacious. For folks like us, forced into AA attendance when other groups might be more appropriate, I would recommend surfing YouTube’s vast repository of ideas, opinions and presentations on recovery to find those little nuggets of helpfulness which will act as guideposts on your path to recovery. You will find your way eventually, if you want it badly enough. There is no one “true” path to recovery, and I’ve come to understand that after three decades of fighting my own personal “war” and observing others fight theirs. May all beings be happy!

February 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm
(54) clark W says:

No one is forced to go to AA. If it does not appeal to you, go elsewhere.

If you are court ordered, and find AA against your principles, refuse to go! Take the judge’s plan B, jail.

There is no real such thing as “AA says.” No one speaks for AA. There are members who will tell people to get of medications, there are members who will tell people to see their doctors. The subject should not come up, but does. Problems other than alcohol are just that, problems other than alcohol. Why ask an AA group about them? Might as well ask the same questions at the Wal mart line.

Go to AA if you want to stop drinking, if you like it stay, if not, find something else.

Yours in Fellowship,


March 9, 2013 at 10:55 am
(55) tom says:

It works for some not for all. All i know is it worked for me and no one ever told me to not take meds my doctor prescribed anyone that says that is stepping out of bounds nowhere in the program does it say that!

March 26, 2013 at 8:23 am
(56) Mikefmaine says:

May I point out 1 miniscule detail that so many people seem to chose to ignore. The first A. in A.A. stands for Alcoholic, not Depression or Bi Polar or Mental Health disorder not Post Traumatic Stress or Coexisting disorder. Right, Alcoholic….A.A. encourages people to pursue outside help for outside problems. I work with tow trucks for crying out loud.. I explain my experience in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous. I listen when someone has problems I relate my experience. I have no tools or skills when it comes to being Bi-Polar. I fully recognize that. Please seek help wherever you can find it. If you want to know how I stopped drinking and changed my life for the better with the help of A.A. come find me at a meeting. I’ll be happy to sit and talk. God Bless.

June 2, 2013 at 2:00 am
(57) DJ says:

Let’s face it, alcoholism is a mental illness just like schizophrenia, psychopathy, narcissism or any other mental disease. People in AA are there because they are screwed up and always will be. A nutcase who doesn’t drink is still a nutcase. At least with AA hopefully you are semi functioning nut case who can lead a productive life without destroying society any more than we already have. AA gives us a place to vent our insanity without having to do it by abusing our wives and children’s faces with our drunken fists for a change. As they say, AA is NOT a hotbed of Mental Sanity. If you want that go somewhere that isn’t court mandated. it’s tough but alcoholism isn’t for rocket scientists and if you were smart you wouldn’t be in a room in the first place. As the saying goes-your best thinking got you here.

July 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm
(58) Sue says:

Alcoholism is a mental as well as a physical illness. AA works great for me, been sober for 8 years and I don’t think you understand the program or the steps until you actually spend awhile in AA, read the Big Book and do the work. AA is not a cult, the lunatic fringe who say that have completely no understanding of the program and probably haven’t even read the book, Bill W was a great guy but the dude was a drunk, good grief. Sure I suppose there are other ways to do sobriety, I spent 15 years with a psych and a shrink without any benefit, didn’t find sobriety until I went to AA. Saved my life.

If you don’t like it, have a party – you don’t have to go. Cheers

July 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm
(59) Lori says:

Ok, there are so many people who are misled on here! I agree that there are many ways to recover. Yes I am a member of AA, but I am totally open minded. The program teaches that principle. Some people how ever are so called open minded, that they call any spiritual approach a cult. AA is not a cult, we are a group of people who support each other in our journey to obtain and sustain lasting recovery from Alcoholism. I also have bipolar disorder, and have many friends in AA with mental illnesses. There is a pamphlet on medication and AA. It supports that we are not doctors, mentions mental illness specifically and says to follow a doctors care. There have been misinformed people in the rooms, that is unfortunate. Don’t not judge an entire program by a handful of people. That is like racism. I know AA is not a race, but that’s how racist view other races. Be educated and recover!

September 9, 2013 at 2:25 am
(60) ccash1026 says:

If AA works for you then great. Attacking the12 steps as an effective means of support is idiocy. Take what you need and leave the rest. AA has one purpose. To help those who want to stop drinking. Why all the anger??) don’t like it don’t go

October 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm
(61) Jeremy says:

AA Has worked for me.

I know long term alcoholics through the blessings of AA. People who have known the anguish, misery and devastation of alcohol and addiction who no longer use or drink; and are willing to try to help others do the same by going to these AA meetings.

LOL. Cult ? ROLOL. Go ahead and TRY to make an alcoholic or addict do anything they don’t want to do.

It has worked for me and others I know. If you don’t like one meeting go to another. Take away what you need, leave the rest.

If you think the head that thought you into the misery you’re in is going to think itself out on its own. …

There are unfortunates who cannot, or will not accept a way that has worked for others and are doomed to a downward spiral of misery and despair that make death look like an attractive option. They simply cant get out of their own way.

I live sober through the blessings and what I learned in AA. When I can i help others do the same.


December 1, 2013 at 9:29 am
(62) bills friend says:

27 yrs going to AA and NA. dedicated to a drug free lifestyle the practice of spiritual principles helps me not do stuff which makes me feel bad… as a result I dont feel bad….. and dont want to do drugs…DUH!.

December 1, 2013 at 9:32 am
(63) stan says:

27 yrs in AA and NA

February 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm
(64) Trimelda says:

I am a pastor of a church based upon the Twelve Steps. We have run it for twenty years. We had to reform when a couple of people in leadership decided to HIDE the fact that one of them was abusing his wife and child.
The person who blew the whistle was asked to get out of the group because she was “abusive”(!) and was told she had to apologize to the abusers or else.

Guess what we did? The abusive jerks who tried to run the place like a cult were reported to Domestic Violence Intervention but nothing happened. We reformed and kept on going. Now we get more people than ever before.

My advice to those who have run into abusive 12 Steps Groups is to MOVE ON. The ones who stayed and helped us reform were the long time, seriously sober, you work your program and admit you have a real problem with real needs people. If you work your program you will have success. If not, well, be blessed and try something else.

April 22, 2014 at 11:54 am
(65) Melody says:

I find it bizzare when people call AA a cult. It couldn’t be any more of a cult than the girl scouts. AA is for those that are willing to admit to a higher power and basically to submit to a higher power. You can call it God or not, the choice is given. Yes, most people that attend my home group have a God in their lives. I’ve seen many many lives changes for the better due to AA and the fellowship that comforts and understands. It’s a pretty simple program really, people allowing God to use them to serve others and to give encouragement to those just coming in. Perfect democracy and still in tact after 75 years. There is no forced anything and you can leave anytime you want. There’s no membership, required money, no CEO making a million dollars a year and those that are in a particular group have a voice if they want one. I’ve seen people go out on their own and try other programs as well and 9 times out of 10 they end up right back in an AA meeting, because it works. If people need another program to get sober, then God Bless em, do it. But don’t bash a program that does save millions of peoples lives. Oh and to touch on the mental illness issue someone previously mentioned, if you’ve got something else going on in your brain besides just an obsession with alcohol then by all means to seek help for that, just don’t blame AA if you have mental issues and AA didn’t fix it for ya.

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