Beware the AA Zealots

Hi, I just read your article entitled, “Is Rehab Just an Empty – and Expensive – Promise?” I gave up drinking at age 59, back in 2001. I did not want to exchange one addiction, drinking, with another, AA. I’ve never been to an AA meeting, but I’ve heard that some members “needed” to attend meetings very often, sometimes 3 times a week. Over the course of the past 18 years I’ve talked to 2 AA members who accused me of being a liar when I told them I quit “cold turkey”. Guess I’m just lucky.

My reply: No. There is no luck, not where behavioral choices are concerned. Here’s what the AA people are really telling you: “You threaten my narrative. You upset my myth. My myth holds that ONLY the group fellowship of AA can make people stop drinking. If you stopped on your own — cold turkey, no less — then it can’t be true. You must be lying”.

Put that way, it sounds absurd. So it’s easier to intimidate you. What better way to intimidate you than to call you a liar?

I’m not saying everyone associated with AA is this dishonest. But the True Believers and most zealous ones are, in my experience.

It doesn’t matter what the subject is. It can be drinking or anything else. When someone holds a faith-based narrative about something — something that is not subject to factual or logical contradiction — they become anxious as facts emerge to threaten that narrative.

Some people, when they become anxious, get hostile. Calling you names is a form of hostility. It’s a defense mechanism. It lowers anxiety. It’s based on a false belief system. In this case, the false belief is that one MUST have AA in order to stop drinking. Either you join AA and stop drinking — for which AA gets all the credit; OR you keep drinking. If you present a fact or experience that suggests the opposite … then you’re in for it, you liar!

It’s cult-like behavior. It doesn’t mean everything about Twelve Steps is irrational. In my book, “Bad Therapy Good Therapy: And How to Tell the Difference”, I described what is and isn’t rational about AA.

But the worst thing is when people falsely believe that you can only depend on the power of the group to stop your drinking. Peer pressure, especially when voluntarily sought out, can be a powerful thing. It motivates some more than others. But to say peer pressure is essential to quitting a habit is not true.

Dr. Stanton Peele did research finding that millions of people stop cold turkey, on their own. It doesn’t mean everyone will, and it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do so. But it’s just as wrong to say only the AA way will work.

Facts are facts. The truth is the truth. You are with yourself 24/7, and you know what’s true. Reality trumps even the most fervent beliefs of the most zealous AA-proponents. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

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