Please write if you left AA


Further Reading

Dear Stanton:

Congratulations on an excellent website. It is comprehensive and it is well put together.

I have been in AA for 13 years, and I have been an addictions professional for 9, I have just this year been exposed to Miller and Marlatt. I am blown away by the possibilities.

I wonder if any research has been done on people who have sobriety in AA, and then left, not to return to drinking, but because AA ceased to respond to their needs. I would ask that these research references not include “converts” to other forms of treatment, as their points of view tend to be just as skewed. I seek folks who have gone on in life without formal treatment, and have no axe to grind.

Thank you so much for your amazing work.

Randy Markey

There’s a mailing list for former 12-step members. Join by sending a message to with the text subscribe XAA-L yourname

Dear Randy:

The point you express is a very important one — people who go it alone, either initially or after leaving AA or other treatment, have no acknowledgement or reference group. The problem is that we need to learn about and from them. I will list this as an FAQ at my website.

Best wishes, Stanton


I read with interest your e-mail to Dr. Peele on his web site. I would be interested in corresponding with you as I think the phenomenon of individuals leaving AA, especially those forced into it while adolescents (myself included), is much more widespread than acknowledged. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen friends I met in AA who are no longer members. Some are drinking without problems and some are still abstinent, but all experienced essentially what you described: AA failed to substantially add anything meaningful to their lives.

I too left AA after over 11 years of membership. I became disenchanted with the religiosity and anti-intellectualism of the program and I never really bought the disease concept, even after 30 days of high-priced “disease-model” treatment that I was forced to receive at age 19. But I suppose my real motivation for leaving was boredom with the meetings: sitting down for an hour and a half and listening to people take turns discussing themselves (usually in a tedious and familiar fashion) ceased to be a productive use of my time.

Though I don’t think I have any axes to grind, I am not shy in my criticism of AA. I am not a member of any alternative program though I have read the new Rational Recovery book and feel it has a lot to offer. I have studied much of the addiction literature, while as an undergrad at University of Washington and, currently, as a second year law student at NYU. I am very interested in the legal implications of forced AA attendance and the effect the acceptance of the disease model has had on the law, particularly civil commitment statutes.

Like you, I am also intrigued by those who decide to leave AA. From reading your e-mail, I gathered that you are considering doing research in this area. Is this correct? Please let me know as I would be happy to assist in whatever way I can, time permitting.

John Reisinger

Mr. Markey:

I saw your letter in one of Stanton Peele’s FAQ pages.  If you still consider the concern current I would like to weigh in as someone who was helped with a drinking problem by AA and who subsequently left.

Having been exposed only to the disease model, I joined AA in 1983 at age 30 and I still must say that following the disciplines set forth turned my behavior around and set me up for much growth.  Perhaps the biggest revelation was that, in spite of supposedly being afflicted with something I couldn’t control, others expected me to be responsible for my actions.  Nevertheless, after ten years or so I grew tired of hearing the same slogans repeated ad infinitum.  If it was spirituality it was very limited spirituality, and I could do better in that department.

At about the same time I grew very chary of identifying myself as an alcoholic, even to my doctor, who obligingly changed the language in my records.  I said that I had never been diagnosed as alcoholic, nor received treatment.  The attitude of personnel departments toward recovery seemed to have changed in the era of murderous downsizing, from benevolent acceptance to the possibility of using a past drinking problem to “trump up” a reason for termination.

These days I get along fine without AA or any other programmed approach to maintaining sobriety.  In fact I have ceased thinking of myself as alcoholic, as AA sees that condition: something that resides across a line that, once crossed, removes choices from people and forever marks them as ill.  If the treatment establishment sees alcoholism as a disease, some in AA still seem to see it as demon possession, and that isn’t my style at all.

Please feel free to contact me if I can provide any further information.


Ken Lott

Very interesting letter.  I think some in AA would find your letter highly challenging, more so than one highly antipathetic to that organization, since you think AA helped you but you nonetheless feel you have outgrown the alcoholic designation.


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.


  • Sharron cocker says:

    I suffered in AA and was surrounded by and used by dominant imperfect selfish cruel humans who had planted the idea in my head that I needed them could only trust them there way was the only way without them I would have no quality of life or would die go insane or be put in prison I was victimised by some I was not a selfish greedy person pre AA there were lots of things said that I didnt see as being right or true for me there were similarities and I was told to look for them and not at the differences however there were so many differences I couldnt ignore them I left AA years ago and NA 3 years ago I have went through many feelings and thoughts about it since today I am no longer angry around AA or afraid of AA or afraid to go on with my life without them my grudges towards them left me eventually I read lots about cults and found that helpful and gave me understanding of what had happened to me I began to build a new life make new friends find new interests I began to get some of the old me back my pre AA personality i try to keep the good i got from AA and let go of the rest today it’s more and more in my past and my body is less tense my mind isnt always thinking about it they are just people I used to know a place I used to go to and dont want to go back to i am doing ok I havent been in jail or mental ward since I left I enjoy my voluntary work for Oxfam my hobbies and interests I joined a drumming group I love being with my family at times and enjoy being with the new friends I made after I left AA I let it all go and moved on and I’m happy and safe and like who I am today I have all I need and thankfull for all I have got today I’m lucky most people in AA spend all there lifes trying to get away from it but never do I got out and I’m liveing a life I dont want to escape from

  • Sharron cocker says:

    Survivor of abuse in AA

  • Amy says:

    After 5 years recovery I am now able to have the attention to just relax and watch tv drama, watched a Morse drama last night and when it is suggested to Morse to join the Masons he reply’s ‘ I don’t join things – in fact I’ve left the choir’. I just follow my intuition now and at this present moment I feel no fear of picking up a drink again or any fear of not attending AA. For me AA was a bridge to normal living. It helped but found it was not always Principles before Personalities.

  • Chloe grace says:

    I am so grateful that I found this thread.
    I have no idea how old it is but I need to write this.
    I have been trying to work the aa program for ten years and I can honestly say I feel more mad now than I ever did before.

    I feel hopeless and everytime I tell someone in aa that I cant do this anymore I’m told that my disease talking and I cannot trust my thinking.

    I’ve completely lost my identity and I honestly have no idea who I am anymore. I keep leaving the fellowship only to return and try again because I am terrified that I will go mad or drink.

    They really have put the fear of God into me. I was never like this before. I am terrified of leaving and I feel trapped. They say in aa that insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results, that’s exactly what I am doing. Repeating the steps, changing sponsors and expecting different results. I am so confused

  • Lance W. says:

    My name is Lance, I am 28 years old and I live in Montana. I grew up in alcoholic home on a Native American Reservation… I soon left after highschool and started to drink alcohol for the first time. I remember I would use to always say, “I would never end up like them”. I soon made it too college, and received a DUI. I was always a good student, I never drank too much. However when I got my DUI in Missoula Montana my life changed forever…. I was forced by the judicial system in Missoula Montana to attend AA meetings. I was always placed under arrest for having a drink or two at home after work by a misdemeanor probation office — These are not felony charges. I was treated so horrribly, my mother ended passing away during these trials. I was placed on ridiculous high amounts of alcohol monitoring and the courts labeled me. Countless probation officers wouldn’t allow me to be back in my hometown after my mother died… my dad got sick soon afterwards. When it comes to AA in this story, I’ve shared it so many times it became spiritually exhausting. Why have you prayed in the morning? Do you get on your hands and knees and ask God for forgiveness…? You know I didn’t need to hear any of that, during those times. I read the books, complete strangers in AA scrutinized me for the problems that was inflicted on me by others. I’m Native American so my religion was compromised and I was treated like a criminal. I realized that I’ve made mistakes in my life, I no longer need to punish myself although I’ve already been punished. But still AA has impacted my life in such a negative way… and really I didn’t even have much of a drinking problem to begin with. I have realized AA isn’t for some people. To those who have had it work, congratulations, but not all people need the twelve steps. They just need to find the support and love within themselves and fight back.

  • pat watts says:

    I am 47 yrs clean and sober in AA when it was a loving caring fellowship (circle of friends) and i despair about what it’s like now . I live in Brighton (Hove) and i’m looking for like minded people with whom i can share my recent horrendous experiences with

  • Thankful says:

    I came into A.A. under horrible circumstances and I have to say it was a miracle for me. The steps guided me in living a much different life and I did experience complete magic in working the steps. That was 7 or 8 years ago. As I have gotten better and healed ( mostly from an autoimmune illness), slowly, life has opened back up and I have found myself surrounded by hostility- and projection and just an all around toxic atmosphere. I really feel that the suggestion to keep doing the work and looking at everything you have done wrong , along with the cycle of constant complaining just awful. I have been abused severely by almost every sponsor I had and have been having a difficult time transitioning back into the real world after this. Years of brow beating and being told there is something wrong with you is not good for anyone. I am beside myself realizing how I allowed myself to be treated for so long. So incredibly happy to have made the final decision that this is it- and the members have not made it hard!

  • Isabel says:

    I don’t know how old these posts are but I found the site through googling leaving AA. I left a year ago after 14 years of attendance meetings. At 10 years, I cut down my meetings to one a week and gradually down to nothing. At year 5 i wanted to leave AA as i was so disillusioned and it was painful to carry on faking interest and belief. What kept me going was fear what would happen to me if i left, drink, go mad etc, we have all heard the scare mongering. This scare mongering, presented as a truism, is based on stories of people who come back to the rooms after relapsing. But, what about the people, many many people, who leave AA but carry on being sober and doing fine. You wouldn’t go back to a meeting say ‘hi guys, just to let you I’m sober and doing fine without AA’ their stories don’t ever get heard. So, the evidence for this ‘if you leave, you’ll drink, go mad and die’ is very biased, without concrete evidence and a way to keep people enslaved to AA for the rest of their lives. The culture of AA is very threatened by the prospect of people leaving, living sober and not going mad because it challenges AA whole belief ssytem, basically that only AA will keep you sober and sane. It’s kind of disgusting really, and the thing that makes it very much like a cult, scare mongering so people never leave. It would be great to have a substantial resource for ex AA or ex any other 12 step fellowship to tell their story so that people that feel completely trapped in AA through fear of leaving, can have a unbiased view of leaving AA. I feel angry that i felt trapped for so long because i believed in this misinformed rubbish, basically a paranoid lie based on very little evidence. It should be stopped.

  • Rebecca says:

    I’m Rebecca I was compelled to write something don’t find god in aa. I was in therapy for 8 years for bipolar. I was holding on by a thread in aa. People tried to help meI kept it some what together. On my meds drinking odouls periodically. I got really confused in the program.thinking I failed. Then got out of conseling.smoked a joint and went on cbd. Aa made me feel insane. Unfortunately all the things I did for my recovery were wrong or whatever now I can’t go to meetings I can’t go to a hospital. In the morning I feel fine but crash emotionally and mentally throughout the day. All the hope they preach and literature caused me to fret my life. My only refuge is church. Aa destroyed gave me a life, my only solution is to leave. And suffer in silence.

  • Bourdon says:

    I noticed very early on in my AA attendance that it was a clique, specifically in the case of my chapter, a clique of Irish Roman Catholics. I felt I would never truly be accepted as one of them, and that feeling intensified, not weakened, my desire to drink. In my recent absence from meetings, I found my desire to take a drink declined to nothing. However, going to meetings and listening to all the tales of woe I found depressing enough to lure me back to the bottle. I can do this alone.

  • TG says:

    I am survivor of Alcoholics Anonymous which was originally patterned after a Pro-Nazi 1930s Christian Evangelical Cult and is an incredibly toxic dangerous religious cult that presents itself as a “treatment program” for Alcoholism. Problem is, it doesn’t work, never has worked, and never will work… AA has a failure rate of 99.9999%. I am actually one of the 0.0001 percent that survived the abuse & insanity that passes for “recovery” or “sobriety” in AA. I have managed to actually stay clean and sober 36+ years because I went into therapy, counseling, and sought qualified, professional treatment and support OUTSIDE of AA… If I had relied solely on AA’s crack-pot 1930s circus tent Neo-Con Christian Revivalist RELIGIOUS Pseudo-Science, “faith-healing” antics, I would not be alive or sober today. NY Supreme Court and multiple state and US Federal Courts have ALL ruled that AA is a religious cult, and I agree. I’d specifically like to link up with other “Survivors of AA”.

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