Transitioning from AA to Real Life

Stanton Peele By: Dr Stanton Peele

Posted on August 21st, 2019
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.

Following is a letter to Dr Peele from a lady whose AA experience did more harm than good. It’s not everyone’s experience, but these anecdotes are ubiquitous. The fact that so many people have this experience with AA should make it clear that AA ought not be touted as a universal way to overcome addiction.

Caring for Animals - This is my passion

Dear Stanton,

I’m a 56 yr old female. I started going to AA after being court ordered for my 2nd DUI. I was also sentenced to a year probation which means no drinking while on probation. I went to meetings that first year 5 to 7 times a week. Even after i was released from probation i went to meetings.

AA is very structured. Meaning do what they tell you to do. Get a sponsor, call your sponsor everyday, work the steps, dont date your first year,  be of service to AA.  Service to AA implies you give back by chairing meetings, making coffee, clean up after meetings, giving people rides, being secretary to your home group, giving the lead at lead meetings etc. And eventually getting your first sponsee.

But lets get back to the biggie. Working the steps. Basically it falls on Gods hands. Only God has the power to relieve you of your addiction. Each step focuses on the power of God and giving your will up and placing it in Gods hands. And that was my first struggle. But i gave it a shot anyway. I did everything that was asked of me even when i didn’t believe one bit of what they asked of me. I preformed to their standards for 2 years.

Until i started asking questions, questions that challenged the AA principles. Questions the AA ‘robots’ couldn’t answer. Sitting in meetings started depressing me.

Is this what my life is going to be like?
For the rest of my life???

I dropped to 2 meetings a week. I started volunteering at a farm animal rescue a couple evenings a week which eventually lead to every Saturday mornings  as well. Farm work is hard work. The animals need fed, watered and cared for. This means getting up at 5 am on a Saturday when its -10 F. Or working when its 105 F in August. It means waking up at 2 am when your on call. To chase down a pig who jumped from the slaughter truck and bring that pig to safety.

Our sanctuary rescues criminally abused farm animals that suffer from humans consuming animals. This became my passion. This was my life now. Eventually volunteers hours turned into a paying part time gig. Which turned into full time, as the doctor i was working for retired. I started hiking and joined hiking clubs which turned into hiking trips out west, weekend camping trips.

I was struggling to even make 1 meeting a week.  The AA ‘robots’ starting asking where i was. Telling me without AA I would relapse. And that anyone who leaves the program will surely end up dead or in jail. They couldn’t understand that there is more then one way to stay sober. I told them i was no longer part of AA as I decided to leave the program. The AA robots said i shouldn’t be making any decisions without first calling my sponsor and praying about it!

AA is fine for some people. People that like to live their lives in square little boxes and never leave the box. I couldn’t grow as a person stuck in the one box fits all rules of AA. I also cant live my life based on others judgements or opinions of me. Other people don’t get to validate my worth. I also cant live in the past. I don’t look behind me cause i m not living there.

Sitting in a church basement 4 nites a week saying, “Hi I’m Vicky, I’m an alcoholic ” does nothing to keep me sober.

My journey, my story, my life.

A former drinker
3 1/2 years sober

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.


  • Tracy says:

    I’m in full agreement with the article. Until I discovered SMART cbt tools and 4 points of maintaining motivation, learning to cope with urges in a real way, tools to manage nagitive thoughts and living a balanced life, I thought I was destined to fail…..I’m happy in my life for the first time in a long time, sober and glad for it with no desire to drink anymore, and living my best life!!….thanks to Smart, (self management addiction recovery therapy/tools! ✌🏻️

  • Frank Crosetti says:

    First of all A.A. does not tout itself as the answer to addiction. It’s a program for alcoholics.
    As to your version of your experience in A.A.. I can only say that it doesn’t resemble mine. I don’t know what area you speak of, but I find it unbelievable that there were no reasonable members. Apparently only “robots” where you were.

    Where I’m situated we encourage those who are new and sceptical to ask questions. I’m happy that you’re sober. I’m less thrilled that you chose to slag A.A.

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