AA has failed – what can I do?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on June 5th, 2011 - Last updated: January 31st, 2014
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I am social activist for whom both AA and Jack Trimpey have failed; what can I do?

Dear Stanton:

I have been going to AA meetings for almost five years, mostly gay meetings. I have had three sponsors. I have major problems with some of “the program,” probably because for much of my adult life I have been a socialist and civil rights activist in the south and when I hear people talk about powerlessness I interpret that as meaning I have been going to AA meetings for almost five years, mostly gay meetings. I have had three sponsors. I have major problems with some of “it down and shut up!” which is what AA tells me when I am told to “take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.” I have not been able to stay sober, and I don’t know if I want to. I know that booze has caused me some major problems, legal, relationship, and it has compromised my intellectual life, which is all I have. I tried Rational Recovery, I talked to Jack and Lois Trimpey two or three times a month, but he came across as a huckster, a snake oil salesman, a purveyor of polemics, which I encountered all too frequently on the left and I am frankly very tired of people like that. I just want to figure out how to live in a society which has destroyed so many people I loved and cared about. I guess my question is, after this tortured introduction, is how can I structure my life? I know that when I have periods of more involvement in social issues I have drank less. Is that the key? Does the solution to alcohol abuse lie in just putting other things in one’s life as a substitute? I have a non-alcoholic friend who tells me, just go to the gym, go for walks, go to bars and have a drink or two, just don’t isolate, because that is what gets you on the pathway to hell. Thanks.


Dear Jim:

I like your sense of things; I like your activism; I like your intellectual values; I like your friend.

Being engaged in the world is a key to alleviating addiction. But being involved in the world has its own distractions. What if you become disappointed in your causes and your fellow activists? What if, as a result of (or in combination with) your social activism you fail to deal with other life issues? That is, there is no simple formula for non-addiction. But your and your friend’s instincts — that a fulfilled life provides strong ballast for avoiding addictive excess, is correct. At the same time, of course, you can’t avoid the obligation of analyzing your drinking and the situations in which it goes overboard and addressing both the situations and your behavior. That is, know when you drink the way you don’t like, and don’t go there. If that is impossibly hard, then try abstaining largely.

Here’s how I think about it: people who do good should be rewarded. Only, no agency provides such rewards. Only you (and those dear to you) can make sure that you get the good that you deserve.


Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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