Can an alcoholic become a social drinker? My experience with the AA and 12 Steps

Stanton Peele By: Dr. Stanton Peele

Posted on April 22nd, 2009 - Last updated: September 29th, 2023
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

How somebody overcame AA to become a controlled drinker.

Dear Dr. Peele:

I went through a somewhat nasty divorce in 1990, along with getting laid off from my job. I realized that I had a drinking problem, and I attempted to moderate my drinking. I was somewhat successful, but not as successful as I wanted to be.

I started going to AA meetings, and I was told that AA was my only salvation, and I reluctantly agreed at the time. However, I had bad feelings about the program from the beginning, and I felt like I was being forced to accept things that I didn’t believe in. I believe in God, but I didn’t like the constant reliance on “Faith” and “Letting Go and Letting God” (whatever that means).

I started to resist the demands to attend all these meetings. But when I voiced any concerns to other members, they would just tell me to go to more meetings and to “work the steps” until I “got it.”

I thought that AA was the only answer, that I was incapable of grasping the program. My solution was to immerse myself in the program even more, entering a two-week treatment program.

One day I figured I was being brainwashed, and something deep inside me started to fight back. I relapsed about six months into the program; I think I did it just to get away from all of those boring meetings.

I started to question everything about the 12 step program. I started to tell people I didn’t think I was powerless. But I was still frightened of leaving AA. My sponsor’s advice to me was to go out, get really drunk, kill somebody, and maybe then I would crawl back to the program and accept my powerlessness.

I started to tell people I didn’t think I was powerless.

By this time, all the other members were getting very hostile towards me. I decided it was time to leave AA. I thought that I might die if I left, but I couldn’t go on there.

I was in a very shaky state of mind by this time, so I checked into a mental hospital, and they diagnosed me as having a major depression. They filled me so full of Prozac that I couldn’t sleep, then they medicated me to get me to sleep. I became suicidal at this point, but I also think I tapped into survival instincts that I didn’t know that I had.

Something strange then happened. Somewhere inside me a “true self” asked, “Can alcoholics become social drinkers? Why don’t you try some controlled drinking?” I went out and got roaring drunk several times, just like I had done before going to AA. Then I started to cut back on my own. At this time, I found your book, The Truth About Addiction and Recovery. It became immediately evident to me that you were telling the truth, and that “The Life Process Program” would work for me.

Your program was the catalyst that put all the pieces into place for me. I’m sure it saved my life. I quit drinking immediately for 13 months and then I developed a self-identity as a social drinker! I decided that’s who I was and it is who I still am. The first time I went out with some friends, had some beers, talked to a pretty young woman, and had a great time.

I developed a self-identity as a social drinker! I decided that’s who I was and it is who I still am.

Thank you (and Archie Brodsky and Mary Arnold) for writing a great program. It saved my life, and drastically cut down the trial and error time I would have to go through to become a social drinker. I hope you continue your work because I know there are other people in the same boat that I was in or worse. I know that you take a beating from others in your profession and the 12-steppers.


NOTE: This letter was submitted via the ‘Ask Stanton’ form on our website. It is a fascinating story, and although it does not require a response, we felt it appropriate to share with you. Well done MK!

Find Out More about our Alcohol addiction program


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *