What do I do when I am forced to attend AA for my job?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on May 3rd, 2009 - Last updated: November 21st, 2023
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Dear Stanton:

I am a professional pilot. I was a drinker for some time in my life. I decided that alcohol was interfering with things in my life. Although alcohol never was a problem for my job, and not really knowing how to go about getting help to quit, I turned myself in to a treatment center. They proceeded to convince me that I was an alcoholic and would not be able to function without their support (AA). I have not had a drink since February 1996 and have been to FAA appointed psychatrists and have been approved for return to work — with a monitoring system in place, an AA sponsor, attendance at group outpatient sessions at a private treatment center and 2 company sponsors and a medical sponsor from the Airline Pilots Association (Union). With all of this in mind, and that this is only the tip of the iceberg, my questions are:

  1. Are you familiar with the procedure and or follow up treatment for people in my situation?
  2. How do I get support to ask the FAA not to have the treatment center jam AA down my throat? I have told them about Rational Recovery and SMART and personel at the center have almost become hostile toward me.
  3. Are you familiar with any other cases like mine?


Dear Jerry:

Yes. This is a common situation. For starters, many AA-oriented personnel are zealots and not therapists. They are incapable on understanding that everyone is not like them. Indeed, it is a mark of the failure of their own therapy that they cannot comprehend alternate routes to recovery different from their own.

I have been involved with several cases likes this, some involving pilots, others involving other federal workers. In some cases it works like this — a guy had several drunk driving arrests a number of years ago. He cut that out. Somehow this has now come to the attention of the authorities. They insist he enter conventional alcohol treatment/AA and that he abstain or else he loses his job/license.

In such cases, I have written a consultant psychologist’s letter explaining that AA and abstinence are not the only way to the appropriate personnel officer. I charge $500 for a consultation, this letter, and a follow-up. It is probably also necessary to get a lawyer.

There is fairly wide recognition today that AA is not the only way, and legal constraints have now been placed in some jurisdictions on mandating AA attendance. Although there is more opportunity to present such a point of view now, it can still be a hard road. You gotta have some fire in your belly to get involved.


Dear Stanton:

Thank you very much for responding to my inquiry. I’m not sure I have the fire required. I would pay to have someone communicate to or with the FAA about my situation and for someone to monitor my abstinence, even if it meant a urine sample a week, but to get a lawyer and begin a battle that may never be won, well, that is another story. If I can be of assistance to anyone who might come your way with a similar situation, I would be more than happy to help out. If the FAA insists that I go back to the psychatrist, perhaps I will call upon you for those services if you in fact will provide them.



Any time.


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.

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