Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual experience
December 14th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Alcoholics Anonymous as a spiritual experience

Only the first of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous mentions alcohol. The other 11 talk about redemption, restoring moral character, and devotion to God (or other higher power).

From that perspective, it makes sense that a new study finds that Alcoholics Anonymous increases spirituality. But it goes further than that: Spirituality may actually play a role in successful recovery from alcoholism, says research in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The way that Alcoholics Anonymous members share their experiences of suffering is akin to what happens in a military unit or a musical group or a family, where the idea of "we’re all in this together" becomes particularly strong, said Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

"Someone will say something profound that everyone can connect with beyond themselves, and it can be very moving," said Humphreys, who was not involved in the study but also researches the effects of Alcoholics Anonymous. "That is a spiritual process."

Alcoholics Anonymous has more than 1.2 million members in the United States, encompassing more than 55,000 groups across the country. Founded in 1935, participation in this group has shown to be effective in short-term and long-term outcomes in numerous scientific studies. Since a large body of research has found that this and similar groups work (Narcotics Anonymous for drug use, and other organizations), more studies are turning to a deeper question: Why do they work?

Meetings of 12-step support groups vary according to how "religious" they seem, Humphreys said. Some of them are full of discussion about God; others don't emphasize it as much, but focus more philosophically on the nature of being and existence.

"Certainly the basic frame is about minimizing selfishness, minimizing grandiosity, giving to others, accepting character flaws, and apologizing when you’re wrong," Humphreys said.

Addiction to any substance, be it alcohol or marijuana or harder drugs, raises common issues prompting spiritual questions, Humphreys said. These experiences include loss of control, terror, doing things you’re ashamed of, and being close to death, he said.

The new study looked at data from 1,726 adults randomly assigned to different psychosocial treatments for alcoholism. Researchers asked the participants questions at the beginning of the study and then every three months.

They found that participants in Alcoholics Anonymous said they increased their spiritual beliefs and practices, especially people who were low on those measures when they first began Alcoholics Anonymous. Moreover, spiritual beliefs and behaviors appear to at least partially be responsible for successful recovery from alcoholic behaviors. Perhaps that also relates to findings from a separate study that religion breeds happiness because of personal connections made in a congregregation.

Still, spirituality and religiosity don't probably operate alone in Alcoholics Anonymous - the coping skills, support, and other encouragement of abstinence from alcohol likely also help participants in recovery, the authors wrote.

Also, the study does have limitations.  For instance, most participants were Caucasian men participating in a larger study called Project MATCH. Also, what is meant by "spirituality" varies and means different things to different people.

This wasn't the only news in favor of Alcoholics Anonymous today.  A study published in the same journal found that women returning from prison decreased their drinking habits after weekly meetings of the group for six months.

Of course, Alcoholics Anonymous isn't for everyone, and there are plenty of secular programs out there, such as Rational Recovery, that don't overtly make religiosity part of the process.

Here are some guiding questions to help you decide if you need help with a substance problem: Do you need to consume more and more to get the same effect? Do you find yourself repeatedly consuming more than you intended to? Do you find yourself thinking about your next use? Does your habit end up taking more and more of your time? Are you waking up in the morning thinking about it?

soundoff (626 Responses)
  1. Larry Lupus

    For all you morons you claim AA doesn't work. I just came from a old timers meeting where six people had a combined 217 years of sobriety. It works. Whether YOU get it or not is another question. Don't blame AA for your lack of willingness to get sober.

    December 15, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • openmindedlee

      And you sound so full of peace and serenity.

      January 3, 2013 at 09:49 | Report abuse |
  2. Larry Druka

    If anyone reading this is in need of help but finds that they cannot deal with AA or twelve-step programs, a number of other alternatives exist. In no particular order, Rational Recovery, SMART, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS), and Moderation Management all offer programs tightly focused on sobriety issues, without the "spirituality" or "powerlessness" or steps or invasive people of AA that many find alienating. AA is not the only approach, not at all.

    There are choices, there are other possibilities. Look into all before attending or committing to any to see which fits you best.

    December 15, 2010 at 23:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. mike

    all i can say is that i have tried to quite drinking for years with the same result! nill. AA is a support system that teaches you and if you follow the advise you have a great chance at success and you will see things clearer which is scary but reality. i think the were in this together and with the understanding of a higher power and our lives are uncontrolable with alcohol is critical. like anything if you want it for yourself and work the program it really works. a perfect example is 2 doors one says peace and tranquility the other says nothing. curious you go through the door that says nothing, and a guy hits you in the head with a baseball bat. most would walk away? no, the alcoholic gives it another try thinking the guy is gone! guess what he gets hit in the head again and again and again. were a normal person would go to the peace and tranquility door. aa has tought me peace and tranquility

    December 16, 2010 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bobbyzworld

    I got nothing but Love and tolerance for everyone, wasn't this about how spirituality has been found to help with alcohol dependancy?? Not what works and what doesnt, or who's right or wrong!! Peace veveryone

    December 16, 2010 at 01:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JC

    The author is wrong on one count...the word alcohol is also mentioned in AA's 12th step, "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs."

    According to the Doctor's Opinion in the AA basic text, "Alcoholics Anonymous," alcoholics have an allergy to alcohol. The way that translates is that in the case of a true alcoholic (as opposed to a heavy drinker, for example), once s/he takes the first drink, the body demands more, and s/he can't stop. I denied my alcoholism for years because I could go for many, many months without drinking. But when I had one, I wanted 6. So the idea of powerlessness to me means that once I start, I can't stop. And if you read the first step of AA, the only thing I'm being asked to admit powerlessness over is alcohol – nothing else.

    This is a 3-fold illness – emotional, physical and spiritual, and if I only address the physical part of it, by abstaining, and I don't address the emotional and spiritual parts of it, I'm going to be pretty miserable, not to mention defensive and angry.

    The root of the word spirituality is spiritus, which from the Latin means to breathe – to breathe is to live. Ever since I admitted that I had an allergy over alcohol and I chose to change my life by practicing some pretty terrific principles (the 12-steps), I've been breathing – and living – much more easily.

    December 16, 2010 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Janet

    As for the people saying they dislike the word "Powerless". "It seems degrading". I think maybe each of you are having your own issues with the drink. That's fine if by reading this article, something clicks with your question of Am I or Am I not a problem drinker? Yes!!! We were powerless over alcohol when we first enter into a room. Why? Because, we are powerless and, being skeptical is why people fail. Only about 25% has a chance of real recovery. Because of my "higher Power" that I choose to call "God", prayers and the AA Program, I am 10 yrs sober. My very first meeting was the scariest place I have ever been. I had to introduce myself and then I said "I am not sure if I really belong here-??!!? And before anyone could comment, the chairperson told me "until you know for sure, why don't you keep coming back"? His remarks most likely saved my life. I have NEVER met more sincere, kind people, who really understand each others issues. They basically have the same problems. If you fail even 1,4 or 50 times, you will be greeted by people who will not judge you for being an alcohol.

    December 16, 2010 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BigAl ,

    Great Post JC, and your right BobbyZ, people are clueless when it come the words Religion and Spiritualty, untill they have practiced, REALLY Practiced the 12 Steps, They Know Nothing , they can read all they want , And Get Zip from it, ,

    December 16, 2010 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. AndyM

    I think it is extraordinarily arrogant and insulting for any society to think it can decide for people what they are or are not "allowed" to believe in. The way Alcoholics Anonymous intrudes an agenda of spiritual belief into what it claims at public level is simply a support group for people is both dishonest and very offensive to many, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Absurd notions like "spiritual diseases" have absolutely no foundation in medical science and would not be tolerated in any other area of medicine other than addiction.

    December 16, 2010 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RWS

      Andy M-AA offers a solution-not "intrudes an agenda" Its there if you want it. If you don't like it don't use it. The trouble with people like you is that you spend WAY too much time judging how others should live their lives. Why don't you point that criticism at yourself? Perhaps you may not like what you will find.

      December 16, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • McGowdog


      I think it is extraordinarily arrogant and insulting for any society to think it can decide for people what they are or are not "allowed" to believe in. The way Alcoholics Anonymous intrudes an agenda of spiritual belief into what it claims at public level is simply a support group for people is both dishonest and very offensive to many, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Absurd notions like "spiritual diseases" have absolutely no foundation in medical science and would not be tolerated in any other area of medicine other than addiction.

      Andy, Alcoholics Anonymous isn't shoved down anybody's throat any more than alcohol is. You claim that law breakers are ordered to A.A.? No they're not. They're given a choice; Bubba and a drain pipe... or a few A.A. meetings. As far as A.A. being treated like a cure for a disease, this is not true at all. Alcoholics do not have a disease. They deal with a mental obsession coupled with a physical craving once alcohol is introduced. A.A. took the path of preventive maintenance; they treat the alcoholic's mental condition so they can get to a place of not wanting a drink.

      Alcoholism is not a disease because once an alcoholic drinks booze, their problem gets solved. They are merely seeking the only solution that they know.

      Booze gets you high. It feels good. It feels nice. It's enticing. It's as spiritual as some folks ever get.

      A.A. is one drunk helping another drunk. It doesn't want to be medical science nor did it ever want to be. If you want to cure your illness with a pill and a shrink, go for it. Good luck with that.

      Medical science has yet to cure the common cold. But it seems to do pretty well with breast enhancements and whiter teeth. Yeah, we'll put all our trust, and our bank accounts into that!

      Merry Christmas!

      December 16, 2010 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
  9. BigAl ,

    Andy M clueless like the rest,

    December 16, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dennis Again

    wow! i thought my post 2 days ago was toward the end of the thread. obviously struck a nerve, eh? i study religion for a living, and i have never seen a good way to differentiate "spiritual" from "religious" but to look at the context: usually one of "organized" religions (we here in the US call them denominations) vs an individuated felt connection to something beyond oneself and concrete dogma (Rodney Stark, among others has called this the "religious marketplace"). AA, (speaking as an egghead, not an alcoholic) seems to straddle this distinction, which may in fact be why a) it works (if you work it, ha ha) and b) why it annoys some people so much.

    December 16, 2010 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. McGowdog

    Andy M and AnnaZed and some other A.A. H8ers in here are from that Stinkin' Thinkin' website and they are all little spiteful Tangerines... Agent Orange clones spreading their hate for 12 Step programs. Many are radical atheists and I call them anti/XAers because they are either atheists who are offended by the mention of God and religion and/or spirituality and if they had their way, they'd like to deny you your right to practice faith of your own choosing. This spiritual approach that A.A. uses neither needs to be apologized for nor is it hidden. The others are folks who went to A.A. for a day or 15 years and are now experts but left the program because someone told them to do something or they were told to consider that maybe they were only hard drinkers to begin with.

    Merry Christmas and happy Festivus for the restofYous.

    December 16, 2010 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. James M

    And a link for those who are interested: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm

    Its from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it states:

    Dependency on alcohol, also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism, is a chronic disease. The signs and symptoms of alcohol dependence include—

    * A strong craving for alcohol.
    * Continued use despite repeated physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems.
    * The inability to limit drinking.

    December 16, 2010 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. McGowdog


    ""I represent one of the ‘Old Timers’ in AA now myself and some 25+ years later ,recall a real ‘Olde Timer’ tell a new person who was struggling with the God and Higher Power wording -to forget worrying about that. He simply told the atheist, ‘See that chair?, Use it as your higher power because at least it has four legs for balance so it is more stable than you. Now use it by siting in it and closing your mouth and listen, you will be amazed at what you will learn…”

    If you are talking, you are not listening and if you are not listening you will not learn.""

    Ahhh. I used to think the anti/XAer (antiAAer) was the lowest form of entertainment on the internet.

    I was wrong.

    BL_Jerk... I gotta response for you.

    For one thing, you do not have 25 years of sobriety... just so you know. What you have is 6 months repeated 50 times. I wouldn't trade my almost 7 years of working steps yearly over your 25+ years of A.A. experience.

    This oldtimer you recall that used the chair for the new man on the fence? Just so you'll know, this how I would have handled that; I would have busted that chair over his fat skull, then would have said, "There. There's your higher power." Telling the new man to come in, sit down and shut up and listen is not A.A.

    What A.A. is... is sitting the new person down and asking, "So, what brings you here? Then you shut YOUR mouth... and listen.

    Then you ask, "So, what makes you think you're even an alcoholic? Do you really know what an alcoholic is? Talk to me about your drinking." Then, you... you know! Shut YOUR mouth and listen.

    Then you ask, "So... you think you might be alcoholic. That's great. Keep an open mind. Go through the book. Read it. See if you identify."

    At some point, the new man/gal starts to find out the seriousness or non-seriousness of their condition. Booze drives us to seek God. Not a chair or a mouth or listening to some bleeding deacon babbling fool go off about their 25 years in A.A.

    Get a life, loser.

    If someone wants to take a non-spiritual approach, that's fine. If they want to do something besides A.A., that's fine too. You don't even have to run them off. When they come to a good A.A. meeting and find themselve identifying or not, they get to decide on their own. You put the responsibility in their own hands, not yours.

    Talk like BL_Jerk just demonstrated kills more alcoholics than booze itself. They are like sterile sheep that can't throw any lamb. They can perform in the act alright, but they run of the young rams off and keep them from getting to the ewes... and keep those with something going for them from getting their message out.

    The spiritual life is action. It is to be lived. It's not a suduko puzzle or a wuzzle. It's not a theory. What the hell are you telling the new man to sit down and shut up for? You should listen and observe folks inside and outside of A.A. Ask yourself why they're there. What are they after. People won't tell you what they are up to. They will show you.

    December 17, 2010 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Larry Druka

      Ah, that AA serenity, that AA humility. Thank you both for showing people how AA zealots treat newcomers in AA: It's either "Shut you mouth" or manipulate them into conforming. Nice or nasty, the goal is the same.

      Thank you and all the others for showing the world how the AA zealots they will encounter handle any dissention from their gospel: "you do not have 25 years of sobriety... just so you know. What you have is 6 months repeated 50 times." (Translation: my sobriety is better than your sobriety). "A.A. H8ers" "all you morons you claim AA doesn't work"

      Thank you for showing people that people with closed minds will tell you to keep an open mind and do as you are told.

      Thank you for showing us the serenity and spiritual progress that "almost 7 years of working steps yearly" creates: " I would have busted that chair over his fat skull." "Get a life, loser."

      Thanks to all the AA people posting on this "story" for showing how utterly intolerant AA is to any criticism whatsoever, and how ad hominem abusive they become instead of answering criticisms directly. They have given you fair warning as to what to expect, but they will never ever ever tell you to look into other alternatives like RR or SMART. Try mentioning looking into other alternatives like LifeRing or Rational Recover and watch people with utterly no experience with those methods tell you they won't work.

      If you need help, then make sure you read all the AA posts above, for they clearly show you what you are in for. Ask yourself if those spiritually superior AA posters seem serene and humble, or do they sound angry and domineering and mean?

      There are much better alternatives. None has a worse success rate than AA.

      December 17, 2010 at 03:07 | Report abuse |
  14. McGowdog

    Gee thank you, Larry. Thank you for taking the time to speak for all the losers who;

    a) have no sense of humor
    b) have no brain of their own,
    c) thank their snark will be well-received and seen as a high form of wit and intelligence

    Now do me a favor; have a drink on me. Unless of course, you're against such a thing.

    Larry, I see you're a fan of stats. Do you score baseball games too? You are a fan of Agent Orange, I see. But you go on to say that A.A. has a 1% success rate, not the 5 that Terry claims.

    Well let me think about this; I am a success in A.A. even though my odds are worse than if I just quit on my own. Even though I've quit drinking ever since I was 10, this is an enlightening find. I feel extra special now. I feel like going to an A.A. meeting and sharing it.

    Tell me something though; so according to those A.A. Triennial Surveys that you so worship and hang your hat on as Rational Scientific Logical Fact... what's my percentage? I got sent to A.A. in 84 and drank after 8 months. Then I got sent to A.A. again in 86, but bailed on a loop hole (manipulated my counselor at Level II Education and therapy)... and drank again. Then got sent to A.A. again in 93 or 94... got sober for almost 2 years. Then went back to A.A. on my own in 96. Sober for almost 3 years. Then sent to A.A. again in 2001. Sober for over 2 years. Drank again. Quit on my own here and there. Drank some more. Then walked into A.A. in 2003 and have been sober since.

    What's my success rate? -500% or something?

    See, with me, I don't think A.A. ever failed me. I failed A.A. Booze did something for me and I came in on a mission. I've been free of booze like never before.

    I really don't care what you all say about "us". We're real people and I'd gladly discuss this with you face to face over a cup of coffee any time, any place. I think you'd enjoy my company.

    December 17, 2010 at 05:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • alcoholfree07172011

      I agree with u 100% can we talk I have some ?s for u. Contact me at hvac.john@yahoo.com

      January 15, 2012 at 23:29 | Report abuse |
  15. Retired Atheist

    The Penn and Teller piece states that 5% of those who quit are still sober after 10 years inside or outside of AA. Having a background that includes some statistics at the Masters level, though no expert, I realize this. The 5% sober in AA for over 10 years are an ADDITIONAL 5% who may not have found sobriety outside the “rooms”. That is by some estimates over 2 million people. I have seen estimates that the alcoholic’s bad behavior while drinking affects about eight people around them. There is a ripple effect to the disease but also a ripple effect in recovery.

    I sense anger among those opposed to AA’s approach to the problem of alcoholism and those defending AA. May Peace be with you all. It appears to me to be a movement that has done more good than harm.

    I came in the rooms an atheist but today realize that there is something larger than the scientific mind. Some physicist are finding that consciousness may be tied to the physical plane in ways that are measurable (see The Measurement Problem in Quantum Mechanics as described in the book “Quantum Reality”). The connection to that plane I experience today is similar to the artificial affect produced by alcohol but much deeper and more rewarding. I stay tuned in by sharing recovery with those still suffering – not because I have to, but because I get to. Being a conduit of recovery is the greatest experience of my life.

    December 17, 2010 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • McGowdog

      Nice post. I've been an observer of cyber-recovery for a couple of years now and I've been involved with A.A. recovery since 1994. I've seen the good the bad and the ugly.

      A.A. is said to be anarchism flavored with democracy. Just look at the traditions. Any two or three drunks can gather for the sake of sobriety, exercise their right to be wrong, and get sober anyway they wish, provided that adjacent groups are not affected... and even at that, who's gonna enforce the non-A.A. law? The only law for an alcoholic is booze and God.

      So, I hear the frustrations of the XAers (ex-A.A.ers), but it just looks like they tried to change their little piece of A.A. into something else and it either failed them or they failed to sway the group conscience.

      We are glad that there is alternatives such as Rational Recovery, SMART, Life Ring, etc. I used to see a couselor from the local treatment center at one of the meetings in my home town. I asked him why he chose to bring his clients to a strong A.A. meeting that's so staunch on the primary purpose of "A.A. is for alcoholics, period", because his clients range from alcoholics to addicts to military folks with PTSD, etc. He said that he likes to take them to a good A.A. meeting, a good N.A. meeting, a good C.A. meeting etc. throughout the week. I asked him if he has been to other recoveries like Rational Recovery, SMART, Life Ring, etc... and he said "I've looked into those recoveries... but they don't have any real success for the real alcoholic and the real addict. He said all they pretty much do in there is b!tch about A.A." When he said that, I laughed my gizzards off.

      A.A. is such a pure and simple onramp to that metaphysical plane... it encourages right off the bat... the act of courage, which is empowerment... in affirming that we are human and in need of a purpose beyond our currently "set program", then neutrality and trust in a process that can take us to a better way of life for ourselves and others, then willingness which opens up the power of intention, then acceptance which enables us to see our true assets and defects... which enables us to forgive our fellows and seek retribution and amend the damage we have done ourselves, then guess what? Reason! That's right. Recovered alcoholics are infact allowed to think! We're allowed to think and question and test and question and prod and be like real adults! Wow! Then there's other states of consciousness that can be achieved within A.A. work and whatever else a person wants to do.

      You do an honest set of steps and tell me that it isn't a design for living. Some folks get this in church. Other folks get this from how they were raised. Yet others get it from their own rational mind. However it works for you.

      I honestly believe that there's something different about me with regards to where I've gone with booze. The first time I "checked out' consciously, I was 10 years old and drinking enough booze to put me into a state of bliss which turned into a 2 hour staggering drunk before the lights went to dark and I literally needed to be carried home by my mom and brother. When I came too, I had crossed some kind of line. In my mind, there was a place that I could go to achieve this bliss... an elusive allusion.

      I don't know about the God stuff... the rules and regulations of what a Higher Power is supposed to consist of... whether A.A. is religious enough or not. At this point, I don't care. I keep an open mind and know that I've tapped into something that works and has given me an operating foundation.

      When the anti/XAer police come storm my door and arrest me for not getting a D.U.I., not puking on hotel walls, not storming people's hotel rooms from the balcony and thowing their furniture onto the ground two floors below, and not trying to kill myself with bourbon... I'll start to question this "cult-er!!!!!!! organization".

      December 17, 2010 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
  16. Chris Salmon

    "Since a large body of research has found that this and similar groups work "

    Can you provide links or references to this body of research? I would like to study up on that.

    December 17, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Chris Salmon

    They say that even though all their literature is chock-full of Jesus and "God" stuff, it's not religious, it is spiritual. To me this cannot be true, because the difference is that religion has a "set path," it's organized and has dogma that can't be questioned by believers – in other words, just like AA. (!?!) Furthermore, by most definitions "spiritual" connotes a belief in "spirits" (duh) and other invisible, supernatural phenomena. Not ALWAYS but, yeah, it usually does.

    The whole "higher power" thing is just code-words and misdirection and is, in fact, dishonest in my opinion. They're still talking about invisible magical beings "helping" them or "taking away desire for alcohol" or other inanities. As though that has even a remote possibility of working on a global, statistically significant level.

    And the WHOLE thing about "your higher power could be a doorknob" or "a chair" or .. pretty much anything you want to make up out of thin air .. that's as laughably nonsensical as nonsense gets. It has no meaning. They might as well say "unicorns and george washington came, then of course there was fly soup!" Seriously, it's gibberish.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Larry Druka

    Chris, the "higher power can be a chair" thing is an intentional disingenuous manipulation of newcomers started by Bill WIlson himself. In other writings he makes clear that by hook or by crook (mostly by crook), the goal is to bring everyone to God, meaning his interpretation of Protestant Christianity.

    Let's insert the doorknob as higher power into the steps and see what we get:

    "Came to believe that a doorknob could restore us to sanity."

    "Were entirely ready to have a doorknob remove all these defects of character."

    "Humbly asked a doorknob to remove our shortcomings."

    It works no better with "the group" either. The Higher Power must be a deity that conforms to Protestant vision of God or the steps and a great deal of AA literature make no sense. But Bill Wilson was clear about his real intentions.

    Look at the AA posts above and ask yourself if the posters seem to be spiritual, or if instead they are instead drunk on AA bathwater and abusive towards any criticism of their orthodoxy.

    December 17, 2010 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • McGowdog

      How about replacing "Doornob" with "Bourbon"? There's a Higher Power for ya. Drink some bourbon tonight and see if you have power over It.

      Now, some of us do like to recognize our critics. We should and do listen. But go over to that Stinkin' Thinkin' Muckraking-the-12-Step Industry blog and shout the praises of A.A. They'll run you out on a rail because they hate A.A. and they hate anybody who shares the joy of finding peace and faith in their Maker.

      So you're a staunch and radical atheist. Good for you. What do you want? A cookie? Oh, I know. You want to quit getting religion shoved down your throat. Well once alcoholics stop leaving their home and stop beating their wives, children, and dog whenever they tie one on, then society will stop trying to intervene.

      Now that you've got a bunch of sober alkies roaming the internet, what do you expect? Silence? How about some Smash-mouth trash-talkin' recovery?

      You don't see us bothering you in your Atheists-R-US forums, do you?

      I'd rather have a bottle-infront-of-me than a frontal labotomy. Now let's all party sober till we puke!

      December 17, 2010 at 18:12 | Report abuse |
  19. Pabro

    Becaus of the grace of God and the fellowship of AA I have not had to have a drink of alcohol or use any mind altering substances since July 5 1991, and for that I am truly grateful. If I can help anothr aloholic overcome his dependance on alcohol I will be fulfilling my purpose in this world. I learned, the hard way, by not drinking and going to AA meetings, I have found myself. If you don't like me sober, do you like me barfing on your shoes?
    AA works if you really want it too.

    December 17, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Chris Salmon

    umm... wow .. hey "McGowdog" – were you just having a bad day yesterday or is rational and coherant as it gets for you?

    "Drink some bourbon tonight and see if you have power over It."

    No thanks I quit drinking. But I would like a cookie – how did you know?

    December 18, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • McGowdog

      My wife just made a bunch of cookies. I'd give you some if you were here.

      December 18, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse |
  21. Chris Salmon

    Also to "AAguy"

    "OF COURSE it's the sprituality of belief in a "Higher Power" that makes it work! But please do not confuse this with religion, because the spitirtuality of AA works NO MATTER WHAT RELIGION YOU ESPOUSE."

    What if your religious beliefs don't include "spirits" and "Higher Powers" ??

    I find it funny that you guys think that there are magic spirits that like you and help you, magically taking away your desire to drink if you join the cult, but if you *don't* join the cult, they basically say "FU, dude! You didn't join the cult we like so we're gonna make you die a horrible death from alcohol."

    I mean, that doesn't sound like a very nice magic spirit to me. And why would this invisible, undetectable magic spirit think you guys are so darn special, anyway? Doesn't it seem rather childish and grandiose to think that because you're in some club for drunks magic spirits specially favor you? What are you guys, the center of the universe?

    December 18, 2010 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. McGowdog

    I think many people of "spirituality" would have just as hard a time proving that there IS a Creator of all of the manifest universe of form... as they would proving that there is NOT.

    But let's say that this realm of Creation has an unmanifest form which transcends the world of form and causality. Let's say that It's the Pure Potentiality of all Creation... yet infinitely small and Unmanifest. But It's all that ever is, was, or ever will be... yet... is beyond causality and doingness. It just Is. It is everything everywhere and need do nothing... but just be.

    So It is the Wind... and we are to align our sails to that Wind. God always loves us for we are but a piece... a divine spark from that Flame which is God. We are all but an expression of that God... that... don't forget... gives us free will.

    It's like a bunch of fish swimming in the ocean, then some smartast shark coming by and saying, "How about this water! Ain't it great?" Then the other fish are thinking... "Water?? Doah!"

    December 18, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Larry Druka

      Wow! That made sense to you? Wow!

      Wow! Wow! Wow! That has to be the most bizarre, unintelligible attempt at metaphysics I have ever seen, and I have seen some doozies. That's really out there.

      Perhaps you should let someone else speak for AA.

      December 18, 2010 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
  23. Pav

    Interesting thread. I can't speak for AA or anyone in it. I can only speak for myself, it's all I have. I haven't used anything since 1979. Because of AA, I've built a decent life. A good life. I have a husband, a home, a degree, a good job. I have friends and my family is no longer worried that I will be found in a dumpster or on the street, dead. I have a life that works for me, and that has for a long time. I have never laughed or cried harder since I got sober. I've met some of the best people I know in AA. I've lost some of the best people I know also. I have a profound belief in God, and have had some pretty wonderful spiritual experiences in the program. I have a life. If someone doesn't find what they need in AA, I wish them the best in their search. I found the answer to mine, and I am satisfied with it. I love my life. I wish that for all of us.

    December 18, 2010 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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  25. kevinc

    AA and all the 12-step programs are Christian-based. They seek to CONVERT and require it. If anyone tells you different it is a bait-switch lie. the 12-steps are meant as ego deflation. If one already has low self-esteem, many addict do, this is a DEADLY support group. Make NO MISTAKE they are support groups not RECOVERY PROGRAMS.
    Finally, if a member of the 12-step groups promote the group/themselves or reveal their full names they are in violation of their own rules...this is honestly sad when members can't follow their own rules. Which begs the questions: can you trust them or are they just brain-washed religious cult members? Can your trust them with YOUR secrets? Can you trust them when they claim anything much less the truth about THEIR sobriety?

    My experience, 7 yrs in AA/NA, is it is fear, shame and guilt based. Not based in any spirituality I am familiar with today. Thanks for very little AA/NA.

    December 20, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ken Ragge

    This is really, really sad to see. Once again we have the national media explaining to us how AA works without there being a methodologically-sound study in existence indicating that AA works.

    Also, once again I see the assertion made that since AA is for everyone of whatever religion that AA can't be religious. One could argue on the same basis that the Billy Graham Crusades weren't religious because everyone was welcome there, even atheists.

    Let me assure the AA members here that the Billy Graham Crusades, which were about helping people find God just as the Steps are about finding God, is as religious as religious can be. The only difference, other than Graham's Crusades being Christian, is that the followers of Graham were honest about who they were.

    January 1, 2011 at 23:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. McGowdog

    So you assert that A.A. is religious? Fine. Call it religious.

    So you assert that A.A. is Christian? Fine. For some Christians in A.A., this is just fine and dandy. But we don't talk about getting you to Heaven. We just talk of getting you to Heaven sober.

    Happy New Year to ya, if you have the ability that is. In about a week, I'll have 7 years sober in A.A. And guess what? I'm gonna celebrate it with coffee and cake. We're gonna party sober till we puke.

    January 2, 2011 at 03:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. FriendofBillW

    It's kinda cool to get the "normie" perspective of the Spiritual Experience. Typically the response from friends family and employers has been "whatever your doing, keep it up".
    As a member of AA, the 12 Steps & 12 Traditions are the principles on which I live my life today. When I've made the decision to impose my will and live my day selfishly, I find my day turns out infinitely worse than when I've surrendered my will to the care of the God of my understanding and search to do their will for me that day. Doing this the concept of "One day at a time" had taken on new meaning then when I first came into the program simply not wanting to get drunk.
    To relate that to the point the writer of the article made where Alcohol is only mentioned in the first step, is true as my live in this program has progressed. Simply stated, my sobriety is a side effect of right living and right action. As the "Big Book" of AA reads: "We get a daily reprieve contingent on our spiritual condition."

    January 29, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Dripable

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    November 10, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. aahistorian

    Alcoholics Anonymous History
    The Conversion of Bill W.
    More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A.

    By Dick B.

    Search the full text of this book

    The Conversion of Bill W.
    More on the Creator’s Role in Early A.A.
    How many times have you heard that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is God-given, was divinely-inspired, or was accurately characterized in the article by a Chicago judge: “Why We Were Chosen?” Or that Bill Wilson was guided by God when he penned the famous “Twelve Steps?” On the other hand, how many times have you heard the expression: “A.A. is spiritual, but not religious?” Or heard that A.A. requires a belief in a “higher power?” Or heard that A.A. is about “not- god-ness?” This book doesn’t address those questions. It is not about the nature of A.A. Nor about the place of the Creator in today’s program. Nor about whether AAs are a chosen bunch. It’s an account of the many ways the Creator seems to have touched the life of Bill W. and, through him, the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Did He impact Bill W.’s life and hence A.A. itself? You will meet a Bill W. you haven’t met in the dozen or so biographies of his life. You’ll look at events in Bill’s life you’ve probably never heard of— whether inside or outside of A.A. You will see how many times Bill seemingly had a conversion or religious experience, whether he called it that or not. You will see how many times religion and church and clergy impacted on Bill’s activities, whether or not he impacted on theirs. You’ll note the details about Bill’s decision for Christ at the Calvary Rescue Mission and his belief he had been born again. You will see the many examples of conversion experiences that Bill might have run across, just following his own “hot flash” experience—the event resulting from his call for help to the “Great Physician” and his vision that he had been in the presence of “the God of the preachers.” Was Bill Wilson converted? Did Bill Wilson become a born-again Christian? Did Bill Wilson truly believe in the one, true, living God? Were all of Bill’s frequent references to Almighty God a manifestation of what he really believed? God knows the answers. They’re His special province. Not mine. But you will have the opportunity to focus on a new question about the part our Creator may really have played in the life of Bill Wilson and in the worldwide Fellowship which began in Akron in 1935 and of which Bill was co-founder.

    Paradise Research Publications, Inc.; 249 pp.; 6 x 9; perfect bound; 2006; $23.95; ISBN 1-885803-90-7

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