Are there any resources for people recovering from AA?

Further Reading

Dear Stanton:

I would like to find out if there are any resources for people ‘recovering from AA’. My husband and I have lived a life that could be called ‘Growing up AA’. He was 21 and I was 23 when we began, we are now approximately 17 years sober and after several years of desiring a transition out of that way of life we are on our way. We have even experimented with drinking alcohol…this was an incredibly big step after having been told for most of our adult life that we would lose everything if we tried. So many concerns and questions have been surfacing and I thought it might be nice to have some support in the transition. (As an aside, Moderation Management seems to have different concerns than what we are dealing with.)

Thanks,
Nancy


Dear Nancy:

Thank you for sharing your story with me. I appreciate that MM is not for you. Indeed, the idea of people leaving AA after they have abstained successfully, and resuming drinking, fills people with dread. When behaviorists were the leading proponents of controlled drinking, Peter Nathan of Rutgers University attempted to create a controlled drinking program. When one person who was in AA volunteered for the program, Peter quickly dissuaded the man from joining!

But why can’t people decide that they may want to drink after extensive AA attendance? Doesn’t their attendance prove, even to AA people, that these drinkers have been willing to accept AA up to a point, and that they are making an informed decision? Oddly enough, while maintaining alcoholism is a disease, AA and other disease proponents ignore the standard therapeutic requirement that people be told of the alternatives and be allowed to govern their own health care decisions.

The appropriateness of permitting people to choose their own path is particularly true in your and your husband’s case, since you joined AA so young. Youthful overdrinkers typically overcome their drinking problems without abstaining, as the NIAAA’s NLAES study reiterated. Nonetheless, it is frightening territory for many. Let me alert you to a group that invites ex-AA members to subscribe. Perhaps you will find people with similar experiences to you there. Here is one (and there are several) such people at SPAWS.

Maybe you should start a group of recovering AA members?

Best wishes,
Stanton

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.

Comments

  • Dave says:

    Hi,

    Thanks Nancy, Stanton and others for discussing this taboo topic. I googled “healing from AA” as, after attending for just this year, something doesn’t feel entirely honest about it for me.

    I love my group members but fear the all-too-familiar cultishness, having had a Pentecostalchurch background.

    I don’t do taboos well.

    My relationship ended late last year after therapy uncovered childhood sexual abuse issues. I cried a lot and she left. I was double heartbroken. I drank for three weeks and found it difficult to get out of the rut. I’d drank fairly heavily most of my adulthood but until the break-up it had never been a serious concern to myself, family or friends. I entered AA for support but was told I had a disease. Any attempt at reasoning around this was met with laughter, labelled as denial. Being one of the most agreeable people on the planet I identified as one of them and, gratefully, learned a lot. I especially loved the spiritual aspect of the program, reliance on a higher power, I love that shit.

    I haven’t attended for over a week, I miss them terribly and it’s so tempting to return and go along with it all. But my sense of integrity prevents me, certain things just don’t resonate.

    Thanks again for this thread. I too am desperate for support from a community who can embrace spirituality in a universal way. I might check out this book – is it available in audio?

    Dave 😉

  • Ann says:

    I am almost done with your book and wish there was a forum for those of us in this boat. It is going to take me time to detox from 36 years of AA philosophy and way of life. It was a good one, it’s just time for me to start a new chapter in life and I am going to have to draw on my faith and courage to make a go of it! I am so use to having a support group to lean into, it doesn’t seem right to take this journey on my own. Actually I have great spiritual support and have asked a friend to help me with accountability, but if it were someone who has been through what I have, it would be so very helpful.

  • Ann says:

    I grew up in a very dysfunctional home with alcoholic parents. My Mom was indeed an alcoholic who was very very sick and could never stick to any long term sobriety. She truly led a sad life and died from alcoholism at 65.

    I grew up in the 70’s and started partying at 13 years old. I’m telling you there were not many who didn’t dabble in drugs and have a good time drinking where I lived in Northern Indiana. I was irresponsible and made a lot of bad choices. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I started thinking maybe I should not behave like I was. I did however continue drinking almost exclusively on weekends (yes there was the occasional middle of the week night at the bar). I worked full time and knew weeknight drinking was a bad idea for me if I had to get up early the next morning. I also smoked cigarettes, probably a couple of packs on Friday night out, which I’m sure added to the horrendous hangovers I use to suffer!

    At 22 years old I was quite a wreck. I now know I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. No one identified this as the problem as I think there was little known about it and I was treated for a heart problem and given valium. I knew I needed some kind of help (who wouldn’t after having a traumatic childhood dealing with my mother’s neglect and severe alcoholism).

    In February of 1983 I went for a consultation at a mental health center, what I didn’t know was treatment for alcoholism was booming and everyone walking through the doors was diagnosed with it. They told me, “You have probably inherited alcoholism just like you did your big brown eyes”. I thought about it for a week, decided drinking wasn’t really fun for me anymore and I wanted to feel better.

    I went to treatment, a half-way house and got deeply involved in AA. They kept telling me my problems with fear (my hands would shake uncontrollably) would get better in time. It didn’t and I sought additional therapy. They really didn’t know what they were doing back then with people like me and it continued off and on for years. When I was around 30 my doctor recommended prozac and then a few years later I switched to paxil which I am still on to this day. I still have occasional problems with anxiety but now know how to deal with it.

    I met a man in AA and together we had a family and were married for 25 years. I have since divorced as he was controlling and emotionally abusive. I have been living a good life, involved in my church, have held a secretarial job in a school for 20 years, and am a leader in Celebrate Recovery. I have beautiful daughters who are successful, happy and don’t abuse alcohol in any way.

    For the last 5 years I can’t get drinking again out of my head! It hits especially strong this time of year when school ends and my friends a co-workers talk about relaxing and enjoying cocktails and celebrating the start of summer.

    I have old friends that died young from too much alcohol and I have many friends who grew out of that reckless time of our lives where having fun was the only thing that mattered.

    I certainly have been brain washed with the AA philosophy, but I am not knocking it for it did help me and I know will continue to help others in need. Could I be a responsible drinker now and where would I even start? How could I get passed being the person who everyone knows as either the “non-drinker” or the recovering alcoholic who hasn’t drank in 36 years?! If I drank I feel my friends would be watching me like a hawk, afraid that I would go off the deep end. How could that be relaxing?

    I don’t even know what “normal” drinking really is. I have friends with many different drinking habits, from an occasional glass of wine to a couple of beers in the evening. When is it too much? I guess too much is different, for different people. Too much is when it effects your every day life and/or health.

    I want to taste craft beers and go on a wine tour with my church friends! I want to find other people like me and see if they have been able to break free and drink like a “normal” person. I would love to correspond with Nancy and others like her.

  • Howard Casanova says:

    After leaving AA, my 27 year marriage, my business crashed and I turned 65 I followed the MM plan to return to social drinking. I am still at it. No relapses, no plan to go back to abstinence either. My memoir on this; “Beyond AA by Howard Casanova” tells much more about my journey. Dr Peele was an inspiration and is footnoted in the book.

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