Alcoholics Anonymous Criticism

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on April 27th, 2013 - Last updated: November 20th, 2023
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AA Member: It’s dangerous to give people choices!

Dear Stanton,

As a recovering alcoholic, I know of nothing else other than AA that has worked for me long term, and believe me, I have tried everything and have the financial means to try everything. I would have spent over $100K on psychologists, psychiatrists, medical professionals, most of whom ended up concluding AA and complete abstinence was the only solution. Those who believed I could control my drinking nearly killed me with ferocious insane benders being the only result. If the benders didn’t kill me, facing up to the aftermath nearly did.

You pursue a very dangerous path to suggest complete abstinence is not the only solution for chronic alcoholics/ addicts.

You can write me off as ‘another AA zealot”. However, I am a very successful businessman, am highly educated, have a wide variety of friends, but am very firm in the belief that AA works for alcohol addicts if used correctly.

Is there a lot of ingrained sickness within AA? – alas yes. Is AA perfect? – far from it. Is there a viable alternative – NO…..


Satisfied AA member

[Stanton’s Response]

Dear satisfied AA member,

I’m glad that AA and abstinence work for you.

We find that when people exercise informed choice, they’re much more steadfast in pursuing their selected path.  WE DON’T CHOOSE ANYONE’S GOALS FOR THEM, because the research shows that people inevitably react against solutions that are imposed on them. This is why — as the data also shows — AA has such a poor track record.  We at LPP are perfectly content to allow people — we encourage most of them — to pursue abstinence as their best course of action.  Does AA show the same flexibility when it encounters people who can succeed — or even do better — at reducing their drinking than abstaining?

Research I review in the LPP readings shows that about one in ten alcoholics go to AA or a 12-step program.  Of those, perhaps one in ten (actually, the figure is lower) remain with the program.  This means that fewer than 1 in 100 people come to AA and succeed at it!  If you disagree, what is your figure?  I think you’ll agree that AA “saves” only a small minority of alcoholics.  That this percentage is so low with a program that is available everywhere is quite shocking, don’t you find?  Yet, this is to be expected since AA insists that its way is the only way — that if you don’t follow their commandments, you are not “working the program” and there is something extra wrong with you (along with your drinking).  Who needs that added burden?

And you’re a person who proves our point!  You say that you consulted numerous psychologists, psychiatrists, and medical professionals, “most of whom ended up concluding AA and complete abstinence was the only solution.”  You then seemingly disregarded their advice for many years.  Why did you consult so many professionals and then ignore them?  And what was it about AA that scared you off for so long?  Don’t you think they might repackage the 12-step approach to lower the barriers that you and so many other alcoholics and addicts face in finding suitable help?

We practice an approach, called motivational interviewing, that allows people like you to reach sound conclusions for themselves.  If you would have consulted with us, you might well have achieved your resolution of your alcoholism much more rapidly, and saved a lot of money and suffering.  Based on your description of your alcoholic career, it seems we couldn’t have been worse than what you actually experienced, could we?  In fact, we are much, much better than what you found out there.  I’m sorry that we weren’t available to you when you needed us.

With best wishes,
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.


  • Jenny says:

    In my view, many of Mr. Peele’s observations are self-serving; I worked in the addiction field for many years, and there were very few clients who could handle limited drinking. Does Mr. Peele ever address the gene for predispostion that is present in many families? I knew of many, many clients who had numerous blood relatives who were alcoholics, i.e., grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings. Curious that Mr. Peele never talks about this. Sorry to say that his positions on alcohol seem to serve his own business interests.

  • Matthew says:

    AA is absolute nightmare. Cultish. Strange. The meetings are sad and hilarious simultaneously. I think it’s great fir the two or three percent willing to make the emotional and social sacrifice. The best way to stop drinking is to not drink. Simple. Don’t swallow fluids that contain alcohol. Millions have quit. Approximately twenty five percent succeed. Added bonus…… no more bad coffee with sex offenders.

  • Bob H. says:

    Maybe someday Alcoholics Anonymous will be the instrument Bill W. envisioned. The answers
    lie in the traditions and the concepts. We may
    return to our goal of being self-supporting through our own contributions (money from
    our own members only), declining money
    from any other source. We need to MIND
    our own business, take responsibility for AA’s future. Study/Research/ our past
    forty years.
    We (alcoholics anonymous) have morphed
    into a strange religious cult. We were once
    an altruistic fellowship. Bill W. and Dr. Bob
    would not recognize today’s AA.

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