AA: Who It Helps – Who It Harms – Who to Watch Out For!

AA: Who it Helps; Who it Harms; Who to Watch Out For!

Among the many myths and illusions surrounding alcohol abuse and “alcoholism” is the shared belief that AA is the “only way”. The reality is that AA not only isn’t the only way, it’s not already in the top five.

Yes, a few people every year find AA helpful in achieving relief from their alcohol abuse or dependence. So, who are they? And are you one of them?

Fifty years ago my uncles, a pretty smart crusty bunch, referred to AA as the “Peter Pan Society”. Twenty-five years ago, using Dr. Jane Loevinger’s form of adult development I wasn’t surprised to confirm they were right, mostly. The great majority of AA success situations turn out to be those people arrested at the 12- 14 year old “Conformist” stage of maturation.

A little reflection is all that’s necessary to confirm this for yourself. Who else, after all, would be influenced by a group of low level peers, slogans, trinkets, medallions, bumper stickers, and so forth? Who else would be so afraid of “normies”, intimacy, and giving up their alcohol focused life?

Lost in the world of these True Believers is the more usual, and tragic, reality – the far greater number of people AA harms. Indeed, this fact is so anathema to the faithful that hate mail rains down every time we mention it – but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Who’s harmed? Again in Loevinger’s form, it’s the bright, sensitive, creative “independent” individuals. That’s the meaningful information, individuals, those who have reached maturity and who frequently abuse alcohol out of boredom and loneliness or in order to find permanent respite in a difficult world.

AA and the True Believers are unwilling to concede the obvious fact that not all alcohol abuse is “equal”. Nor, are they willing to concede that people are not “powerless” over alcohol. Furthermore, they will absolutely deny that there are literally dozens of ways to leave alcohol abuse behind. They already sometimes succeed in convincing already the most gifted among us that “AA is the only way” and since those gifted people generally abhor AA’s conformity, they waste years in more drinking or, sometimes, commit suicide in despair.

nevertheless others pass by AA and use it as a period of rest and reflection before outgrowing both “The Program” and their problem. A few of these “Conscientious” individuals also stick around and become the sponsors every conformist member can only hope to get. Performing their own version of community service, these dedicated AAers do provide some of the protection and parenting the rank and file will never outgrow the need for.

“Protection”? Why protection?

Unhappily there is in addition another part to the AA membership – the low level “Self-Protectives” who, modeling themselves on Bill W.”, use AA as high fields for their 13th Stepping con games and sexual predation. These are the ones people looking at AA must be regularly on guard against and they exist in virtually every group and at every level of AA.

Is AA for you? You don’t need AA based treatment, you do need, perhaps, to visit a few meetings and see if it fits. If it doesn’t – and it doesn’t for well over 95% of those who try it – then look at the alternatives. There are a half-dozen effective programs distributed across the country and one of them may match your needs and give you the real research based short term help you need to leave alcohol abuse behind. Permanently.

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