Leaving AA – A 22 Year Old’s Story

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on October 14th, 2011 - Last updated: October 11th, 2019
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This young man stands for a large group of individuals – those who turn to AA for help, but who are filled with doubt and ambivalence and now feel ready to leave AA. The AA answer is to “fake it until you make it.” But this can take a tremendous toll on some people. And, of course, it may not be necessary. Particularly among young people, I have observed a large number who outgrow the assumptions of, and are keen on leaving AA – or for whom they never fit. In any case, this young man describes well the inner turmoil and anguish of someone who has been faking it in AA.


Dr. Stanton,

I been in AA about a little more then 2 years. I celebrated 2 years and then relapsed recently.

The so called relapse was due to surgery I had on my foot;  i got hurt dancing (i am a breakdancer) and the medication they gave me was percaset.

They told me to take a certain amount but it didn’t do that much so I took double the amount a got a little buzz from it and it was considered relapsing. That week since i thought i blew it I took the pills cause I was in a pain and had fun and felt good at the same time.

My problem wasn’t pills or weed or alcohol but basically everything, because I was young and had fun experimenting and didn’t know the truth where it could lead me. I am 22 and in college, Syracuse University to be exact. Going out at night with my friends that still drank didn’t stop me from having a good time.

There were so many times that I knew i would be able just to have a drink but didn’t because the people in AA that were ‘born alcoholics’ told me I cant and i will die. So i felt guilty to do so. And i have been in denial that if i do i will die, and somehow made my story worse then it was. I ended up telling myself I drank worse then I did so i knew 100% that I was an alcoholic when the whole time I knew i wasn’t.

I did go thru the steps but something was still wrong. I hated on people drinking because I couldn’t and knew that could, and a big part of my alcoholism was to impress people, i loved drinking the hardest stuff and as much as I could cause i wanted to impress people, but now i have so many things going on in my life I don’t need to impress people anymore.

I really wanna try to drink again but feel guilty to the people in the rooms (aa) that I love. Then there are some that i helped get sober. Its just that I feel I am ready to leave the AA.  I want to live a normal life for a 22 year old and this is constantly on the back of my head. Not sure what else I needed to say but thats where I am at. Thank you


Further Reading

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 never understood what they meant by faking it to make it. I kept getting told to fake it to make it but no one told me what that meant and what I was to fake. I was always being told to smile. Constantly being told to smile all the time I was to fake smiles no matter how I was feeling, when my Father whom I loved and helped care for 10yrs until he passed away, died I was told to smile and help other people. And my sponsor and her friends were angry with me at that time because I hadn’t smiled in one of the many photos she took to put on her Facebook page at that time. To the point, that they threatened to beat me up. At the time I was 3 or 4 months clean and was still in grief and shock around my father’s death, the pain I went through with family at that time my cousin’s problems, her son died at that time, and I was also exhausted from days of no sleep and in very bad physical pain arthritis, I just couldn’t muster another smile for yet another photo.

  • Jenn says:

    I suffer from ADHD ..which is essentially a dopamine deficiency.. sometimes when I drank I got black out drunk and sometimes I did not .. I also have a under distended bladder and wet the bed drinking some .. which led to a lot of shame .. I drank in college mainly weekends with friends .. it was a reward for completing my school work as I struggled with the reward center if the brain .. my parents never drank while I was growing up so and my moms mother was an alcoholic .. I was told there are people that have 1 or 2 and alcoholics .. so since I have more than 2 a sitting and sometimes drunk in colleage .. I must be an alcoholic .. I graduated college early with a 3.7 gpa and was an athlete … but at the same time 2 out of 5 days a week I would
    Throw back shots . At times loosing control of my bladder
    which I also could do sober when drinking to much coffee..I stopped drinking at 22 and went to AA because my parents told me my drinking would progress and I would end up like my gram .. I felt like a binge drinker but never and alcoholic truly but I lied to myself and others when I told my story I made it worse than it was .. I then worked in the D&A field after being in AA and continued to feel I was living a lie .. I sought treatment for ADHD .. and felt my brains chemicals were no longer unbalanced .. during this time AA has me cut off all my grew up with with as they drank .. leaving AA I felt so isolated .. and still do .. I am 35 now .. and I don’t have addictive behaviors like my partner I met in AA ..I have two children now and over 13 years I never struggled wanting a drink .. I could take or leave it but now I have come to the thoughts of “ why live in fear ?” I was scared into AA and stayed because of fear .. now letting fear of what people think of me .. I had to get honest with myself and the fact I lied to myself and others in AA to feel like I fit in… there were moments when I did abuse alcohol and I made it seem like it was a constant when it was not .. I am also not the same person I was at 22 and still trying to deprogram .. I have taken meds after surgeries and have left over never felt need to abuse any or take a drink after .. Now I feel like if I ever did want to have a glass of wine I would be judged so harshly and looked at as someone who relapsed.. I do believe I was a moderate drinker who came into AA young and impressionable .. and now getting the indoctrination out of my head is a process

    • Zach Rhoads says:

      It sounds like you’re coming to an understanding about what it means to be YOU. It’s not about whether or not you could qualify for a diagnosis (we all could, to some degree), it’s about how you decide to reach and maintain balance and joy in life– with or without drugs.

      We so appreciate your sharing your own experience. Someone out there needed to hear this.


    I’m 24, 3 years sober, 2 years free of AA/NA indoctrination.
    I absolutely feel your pain. I lied to fit in, I accepted their broad sweep of what makes you an addict or alcoholic. It was only when speaking openly with ‘normies’ that I found out everyone feels insecure, everyone overthinks at times almost all the diagnoses of being one of them also made you one of 7 billion people on the planet.
    I am still dogged by the fear of chronic addiction (which was emotional and financial hell for me at one point) but my life suggests I’ve moved on. My mental health has improved (mostly), I exercise, I am now at university, I manage life better day to day and I am more confident of my self. I am fairly sure that I could drink again, the only way to find out is to try. I am not comfortable enough to do it yet, I am on a process of deprogramming from AA by learning facts.
    You did not relapse, this is nonsense, these lies ruined my friend. She took double her psychiatric medication when she found out a fellowship member committed suicide, she was told her 2 years were gone and she had relapsed, 2 years later shes selling herself for money for drugs.
    You are free to make your decision and accept your own consequences, do not live your life by the opinions of others. Just make sure your life is in order first !


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