Can we make AA better?

So 75 years later the experts have studied Alcoholics Anonymous and in all of that time they cannot determine with any kind of certainty which part of AA deserves the most credit for transforming people’s lives. Studies point to fellowship, the power of the group, commonality of experience and solution. One of the studies suggests the more deeply AA members are connected to the fellowship, the better they fair. So, if the most effective aspect of 12 step recovery is fellowship and 12 steps are only effective with a small percentage that try it, aren’t we condemning those people who actually get treated for this disease to relapse if there is nothing else for them to do. Those for whom the 12 step programs worked might say folks who won’t go to meetings need to find the willingness if they want recovery. But maybe we need to ask if we can do more? Can we take what we learned in AA and make it more accessible? Can we make AA better?

AA is perfect- for what it is. It’s democratic, controlled anarchy, self-supporting, unaligned with no leaders that make suggestions for recovery. People use it the way they need and want to. The issue is not AA, the issue is that there are many who need it who won’t go.  We need to take what works well in AA and create that in another environment in the hope that those who won’t go to a 12 step program might go there. Start another program. Maybe we need to come out from our church basements and start a recovery program that offers tools, fellowship and services on a visible, promotable platform for those who won’t go to 12 step programs and for those in 12 steps programs who want something more.


~ by Christopher Kennedy Lawford on July 21, 2010.

17 Responses to “Can we make AA better?”

  1. I’ve been sober over 20 years…no AA, no nothing..just me and my heart.

  2. Agreed. Was bouncing this around in my thoughts this morning during a meeting. After 16 years of meetings, I find my continued advancement as a human being through the spiritual facets upon which AA was founded – which I believe are universal.

    Providing a structure for someone to become willing to stop drinking/drugging is just the start, providing them an environment to change their behavior and grow up is the “advanced recovery” – allowing them an opportunity to grow in the Realm of the Spirit…. to be Honest, Pure, Unselfish and Loving – these concepts are as old as time itself.

    I have heard of AA meetings that focus on “recovery only” or the “spiritual solution” rather than the war stories and current dramas… finding the solution to change is perhaps where AA can morph.

  3. Buzz Aldrin answered this question when he was a guest on “IN with Tamara Henry.” I have never aired his “alcoholism” portion of that interview, but I guess it’s a good time to, now that he came out and talked about it on 30 Rock. I will get that together and post it soon.
    Tamara Henry, MA

  4. it is based on attraction—not promotion. that is the reason it works. not for those who need it–but those who WANT it kind of like everything else including diet and exercise. maybe if Madonna can start a recovery center everyone will show up.

  5. It is NOT for those that “NEED” it ———

    and it is NOT for those that “WANT” it ……………

    it is for those that DO IT: if nothing CHANGES——nothing changes. As that 12th step says: we MUST have SOME type of a Spiritual Awakening— and stop being so selfish, self-seeking, & self-centered………………THAT is the “DISEASE”—-the “substances” (AND dysfunctional behaviors!!!) are simply SYMPTOMS——- liike adding gasoline to the fire that is already GOING …………….until we have surrendered our will and are ready to go to “any lengths” to CHANGE and begin to live to HELP OTHERS—instead of living for our will—— we will just be “dry drunks” white-knuckling” it ……………chemical-free but MISERABLE!
    SERVICE WORK is the one Key that can always transform addicts into more productive, happy, joyous, and FREE Human Beings, as we were meant to Be……………. We get to Heaven Two by Two —–NOT one by one. Help Others.

  6. Hello everyone, especially Christopher whose memoir I just read for the second time.

    Last week , I got arrested for drunk driving, and I’m facing $5000 in fines ,and at least a 3 month license suspension. It was a bit of a shock, and I felt the need to read about others’ experiences with alcohol (thus the re-reading of Christopher`s book), as well as talk it out with other. I went to two AA meetings since, thinking perhaps it could help me out, but, as usual, except for one person a bit one night, I simply DO NOT TRUST AA. Period. I have been going for a few years, I gave it a shot, but all this crap about God, a Higher Power, gets on my fucking nerves. I simply do not really trust ANYONE there. You people are into a spiritual trip I cannot relate to. Very often , all this spiritual posturing comes off as phony or shallow to me, it just enrages me. There is so much conformity in AA; if you do not talk their talk, people nod out.You are excluded. A couple of days past, Christopher asked why so many people hate AA. I don’t know whether he was talking about external people to AA, or internal “enemies” like me, who just get livid most of the times I go (which, of course, is not very often anymore). AA simply bugs the shit out of me: all that idiotic superficial positive thinking bullshit, praying for others who hurt you (how about hitting them back if they fuck you over!?), and, oh, you know, things will just work out…(tell that to the Jews killed by the Nazis!!), and all the rest of that fucking AA jargon. I simply will not confide in 99.9% of the people there.Period

    You know, I was ready to come on here and blast you all even worse than this. But what stopped me was Christopher`s blog today, with his suggestion that somer alternative to AA be developed. And that alternative for me would be: cut out all the spiritual crap, and let’s just share what we experience,what we feel, especially all the painful emotions. Man, I tell you all: if I had more people I could really talk to, if I could share my anger without some AA asshole cringing, if I could just bare my soul more often to someone, I WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN ARRESTED. Because I drank and drove because I was MISERABLE; I had no one to talk to as usual, so let’s down that bottle of wine and forget this whole sordid world which makes me puke. It’s that simple. And AA does NOT, repeat, DOES NOT help me.OK? I was in front of 30 people at a meeting last monday, and I was raring to tell anyone about what happenned. And I did not because I did not trust them, and I don’t trust you people. I don’t want to hear about your fucking God bullshit. Is that clear enogh?!

    Luckily, my drinking problem is not acute. I don’t even think I am alcoholic, by AA`s defintion. But what drove so many of us to drink: frustratrion, loneliness, longstanding seething anger, confusion, etc… I share that with you all. But I don’t communicate it to you, because I despise AA. I have to find something else, or it’s going to be a lonely goddamm rest of my life.

    One last thing: the speeches of JFK and RFK have 100 times more spiritual depth than anything Bill Wilson wrote, at least for me.I am especially a big fan of Robert Kennedy, and the major serious books about him are a great source of inspiration and consolation for me. The Big Book, however, doesn’t mean shit to me.


  7. The one way we can make AA better is to defend the traditions and maintain our anonymity on the level of Press, Radio, and Films. Alcoholics Anonymous is headed for doom if we are not careful to follow this tradition, no matter how well-intentioned we might be.

  8. I have been a member of AA for 40 clean-and-sober years. In-patient and out-patient programs are designed to detox the patient and prepare his/her re-entry into the community sober . If the patient is dual-diagnosed, they are referred to a mental health specialist in addition to AA. AA acts as a spiritual fellowship of loving support.
    The 12 Steps; if assimilated, accomodated and applied as suggested in the Big Book; appear to work for those I’ve refrred to the AA program. As an addiction specialist with a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, I trust that any program that persists, in full force, for 75 years must work. Willingness and being teachable is primary in recovery, (whether its in-hospital or in AA.) If the addicted individual does not have a deep desire to recover, nothing will work. (We just experienced that with Lindsey Lohan, unforunately she is in real denial.)
    My very wise father, a WW II Marine and later Fireman, stated to me repeatedly as I was growing up, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” My personal experience with AA is it isn’t broken.
    Hope everyone has a great day.

  9. What a great idea! I have many friends who could benefit from AA who aren’t actually alcoholics but have the behaviors of one even though they don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. The spiritual aspect, fellowship and principles can help most people who face challenges in their lives. It would be great to offer this program on a bigger level.

  10. Just as I thought: no one responded to my cry for help. You all talk the talk, don’t walk it, can’t see beyond a needy person’s rage, drug yourselves on “god”. The usual AA shit. This is just like when Christopher Lawford asked his dad for help when he was 20; Lawford Sr could only respond with his charm and whatever. No real connection to help Christopher when he needed it.

    Fuck AA. Mark.

  11. Mark, 

    Psssst! Seek and ye shall find:  

    Connect with Lifering tab


    You can sign in as a guest and have a look around, or peruse the rest of the site, and see if you find anything there that jumps up and grabs a hold of you.

    I found the tools and fellowship Christopher speaks of in the second half of the last paragraph of his post there, and while it may be a road less travelled, for me and many others, it has made all the difference.

    Take Care,

  12. Very sobering to read these comments!

  13. Wouldn’t change a thing…Saved my life…21 years ago and still does!!!

  14. Hi Bobbi,

    Thanks for the reference to Lifering. I checked it out a bit, and the introductory explanation of their approach sounds promising. As long as I can listen to some plain speaking somewhere, and not listen to any of that AA mind-mush bullshit,I think I can make some headway. After my UDI, I am feeling so raw, so vulnerable, that increased drinking is a distinct possibility, but I ain’t goin’ to no goddamm AA meetings!! So , thanks again, Bobbi, I hope there is something there for me.

    One last thing, anyone interested in a site dedicated to criticising AA, check out ” Stinkin’ Thinkin’ “. Ironically, the reference to it came up from this site, after one of Christopher’s blogs.


  15. No problem, Mark – I hope there is something there for you, too.

    Take Care,

  16. mark – just read your posts – i hope you find what you need – and want what you find. taking responsibility for my own actions was one of the first gifts i gained in sobriety. i hope you find peace and can release your anger. i have learned to accept that other peoples’ opinions are neither right nor wrong, just different than mine. i have been attending AA meetings for 5+ years – it helps keep me grounded and has helped me learn how to hold my head high – accept my limitations and not complicate things – to get out of my own way. i wish for you a peaceful life. rcg

  17. Im interested in hearing how Christopher and others feel about Gabor Mate’s in the realm of hungry ghosts

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