Alcoholics Anonymous as a Cult
Scorecard, Answers 31 to 39.

(To go back and forth between the questions and the answers for Alcoholics Anonymous, click on the numbers of the questions and answers.)

31. Dishonesty, Deceit, Denial, Falsification, and Rewriting History.
A.A. scores a 10.

A.A. is immensely dishonest:

  • A.A. practices deceptive recruiting.

  • It masks and hides the true nature of the organization by saying that it's "Spiritual, not religious".

  • It tells newcomers that "Our goal is to help you quit drinking", rather than "Our real purpose is to make ourselves of maximum use to God". (The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, page 77.)

  • A.A. hides the ugly details of its history from newcomers and faithful old-timers alike. A.A. doesn't want to admit that the real spiritual, theological father of A.A. is Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman, a renegade Lutheran minister who founded a cult religion called "The Oxford Group," and who admired Adolf Hitler, and who believed that a great world government would be having Christian Fascist dictators running all of the nations of the world.

  • And A.A. doesn't want you to know to what extent both William G. Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith were enthusiastic converts and happy true believers in the evil fascist cult religion that Frank Buchman created.

  • And A.A. really doesn't want you to know that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob merely adapted Frank Buchman's cult religion to their own ends when they created Alcoholics Anonymous, and that, essentially, Alcoholics Anonymous is Buchmanism.

  • Bill Wilson started the tradition of hiding A.A.'s Buchmanite cult religion roots while he was writing the Big Book. Bill purged the Big Book of almost all references to the Oxford Group, and of every single reference to Frank Buchman, in order to distance A.A. from the very unpopular Oxford Group Movement. Alcoholics Anonymous is still hiding its Oxford Group cult religion roots today.

  • And A.A. is also hiding the intensely religious nature of the A.A. program from beginners, until they are better indoctrinated. A.A. feeds newcomers the real facts by "teaspoons rather than by buckets", and doesn't honestly tell people the whole truth, straight out front, about just what membership in A.A. really entails. That is deceptive recruiting.

  • A.A. hides the truth about its founders. A.A. doesn't want you to know what kind of criminals and nuts both William G. Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith really were, so A.A.W.S. Inc. keeps a great mass of historical records and documents locked up and inaccessible to scholars and historians. They even refused to allow ABC News or NBC News teams to search the archives for information. Now Susan Cheever reports that parts of Bill Wilson's life, including his philandering and sexual exploitation of women newcomers to A.A., is "still officially secret", and that embarassing information about Bill's sexual misbehavior "has been excised from the official literature and — for the most part — from the official A.A. archives."

  • The definition of sobriety that A.A. uses is false. Neither sobriety nor good mental health require doing Bill Wilson's Buchmanite Twelve Steps. Joining a cult religion and trying to get all other excessive drinkers to join it too is not sobriety or mental health.

  • Bill Wilson was grossly dishonest about the A.A. success rate. Basically, he lied like a rug, and fudged the numbers, and hid and covered up the relapses and failures of A.A. members, and exaggerated the success rate by a factor of 15. Bill and Dr. Bob calculated their success rate to be a mere 5% (in Akron, summer of 1935), but Bill wrote in the Big Book that the A.A. success rate was 50%, with an additional 25% recovering later. Then Bill exaggerated even more, and wrote in the Big Book that "RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path."

  • Alcoholics Anonymous is still highly dishonest about its success rate, and the efficacy of A.A. treatment. The more moderate members say things like,
    "Well, very few people can quit as you did, just on your own, without a sponsor or a support group. A.A. is the broader way that can work for everybody."
    That is just the opposite of the truth. Basically, A.A. does not work at all. It does not have a success rate.

    A.A. ignores those facts, and just persists in repeating the chant that "A.A. is the proven way, the one that works, the most cost-effective treatment, the one that is enormously successful, the one that has saved millions, the best alcoholism treatment program in the world, the only treatment that works."

  • Wilson claimed that "Alcoholics Anonymous requires no beliefs", but that was and is totally untrue — just a lie intended to fool people into joining his cult religion. It is impossible to work the Twelve Steps without believing in the Alcoholics Anonymous version of God — a dictatorial, micro-managing old-Testament patriarch Who will kill you if you do not believe in Him and follow His dictates, and Who will bless you with Sobriety if you do (as well as answering your prayers and granting your wishes).

    See the file on "The Bait-and-Switch Con Game" for several of the ways in which A.A. hides from newcomers what beliefs are really required:

    Also see the file, "A.A. and Religious Faith" for an analysis of Bill's fanatical rant against agnostics and atheists, which declares that they must all be converted into true believers in his "faith" by giving up their human intelligence and their rational, thinking minds. (That is not a joke or an exaggeration.)

  • A.A. declares that religious conversion of the newcomers is not the goal, when it is obviously the goal:

    Relieved of the alcohol obsession, their lives unaccountably transformed, they came to believe in a Higher Power, and most of them began to talk of God.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 27-28.

    From great numbers of such experiences, we could predict that the doubter who still claimed that he hadn't got the "spiritual angle," and who still considered his well-loved A.A. group the higher power, would presently love God and call Him by name.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Appendix II, "Spiritual Experience", page 569.

    Of course we speak little of conversion nowadays because so many people really dread being God-bitten. But conversion, as broadly described by James, does seem to be our basic process; all other devices are but the foundation.
    William G. Wilson's statements to the American Psychiatric Association 105th Annual Meeting Montreal, Quebec, May 1949

  • Then there is "The First Woman to become sober in A.A.". Marty Mann was not the first woman to become sober in A.A. She was the first woman to stay sober.

    The first woman to become sober in A.A. was Jane Sturdevant. She is listed by Dr. Bob with 12 months of sobriety, dating her entrance into AA in February of 1937. You can read about her in Doctor Bob and the Good Oldtimers. (Thanks, L.D., for that one.) Which leaves the question, "What happened to her? Why is there no further mention of her in the A.A. history books? Why isn't she a legend in the A.A. history, like the other A.A. "pioneers"? I can only guess that the reason that "A.A. History Lovers" do not wish to talk about her is that she relapsed and returned to drinking, too.

    The second woman in A.A. was Florence Rankin, who wrote the story "A Feminine Victory", which appeared in the first edition of the Big Book. Unfortunately, the Twelve Steps didn't really work for her, either, for very long. She relapsed, and disappeared. (She is said to have committed suicide in Washington, D.C..)

    So Bill Wilson quietly removed her story from the second edition of the Big Book in 1955, and A.A. started yammering a new party line about how Marty Mann was the first woman to achieve sobriety in A.A.. Actually, Marty Mann was a late-comer who read the first edition of the Big Book while she was in Dr. Harry Tiebout's sanitarium in Connecticut, being treated for alcohol addiction.

    Our first woman alcoholic had been a patient of Doctor Harry Tiebout's, and he handed her a prepublication manuscript copy of the Big Book.
    Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, page 18, and
    The A.A. Way Of Life, William G. Wilson, page 302.

    That statement contains two lies:

    1. The woman patient of Dr. Tiebout who was described in that quote, Marty Mann, was not the first woman in A.A.. That is obvious and undeniable, because another woman, Florence Rankin, had already written her story and put it into the first edition of the Big Book that Marty Mann was reading while she was in Blythewood Sanitarium. Marty's story didn't get into the Big Book until the second edition, after Florence had relapsed and disappeared. But Bill Wilson didn't want to admit that the first and second women in A.A. went back to drinking, so he constantly repeated the lie that Marty Mann was the first woman in A.A..

      (Today, they sometimes carefully add deceptive qualifiers like:
      "Marty Mann was the first woman to achieve long-term sobriety in A.A.",
      "Marty Mann was the first woman to successfully quit drinking in A.A.".)

    2. The book that Dr. Tiebout received was not a prepublication manuscript; it was a multilith printing (like a mimeograph) without any copyright notice in it. Bill Wilson was so eager to make some quick money off of the book that he invalidated any possible copyright on the book by prematurely printing and selling multilith copies of the Big Book for $3.50 each (without the permission or knowledge of anyone in Akron). The author of the story "ACE FULL...SEVEN ELEVEN" was so outraged by Bill Wilson's dishonesty that he demanded that his story be removed from the book. Then, when Bill Wilson realized the seriousness of his error that permanently voided the copyright on the book, he fraudulently applied for the copyright in his own name, claiming that he was the sole author of the book, and that he owned a publishing company called "Works Publishing" (which did not exist). But it was too late; the copyright was already invalid, and it still is. Nevertheless, ever since then, Wilson repeated the story that the first printing was just a few "prepublication" "review" copies that didn't count, and that did contain a copyright notice. Dr. Bob's daughter, Sue Smith Windows, says that Bill Wilson was lying.

    That "revisionist history" routine is just totally typical of A.A.. They have little or no respect for the truth, and change or hide their history whenever and however it suits them. (It reminds me of Stalinist Russia, where they rewrote the history books every time Stalin changed his mind about something.)

    Eventually, 15 years after Bill Wilson's death, the A.A. staff revealed this detail:

    The name "One Hundred Men" fell by the wayside because of the objections of Florence R., at the time the only female member. (Her story in the first edition was "A Feminine Victory." She later returned to drinking and died an apparent suicide in Washington, D.C.)
    PASS IT ON; The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, "anonymous" (really, A.A.W.S. staff), 1984, page 202.

    (But then the new story about how the "Alcoholics Anonymous" name was selected conflicted with the old version of the story that said that alcoholics were superstitious and afraid of the number thirteen.)

  • Dr. Robert Smith, 1949.
    And speaking of Doctor Bob's daughter Sue Smith, the "council-approved" A.A. book Doctor Bob and the Good Old-Timers, written by the anonymous staff of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., contains a total cover-up of her story. According to that book, Sue Smith and Ernie Galbraith, who was A.A. Number Four, were in love, and got married against the wishes of Doctor Bob. That is a deceptive half-truth. Sue Smith [Windows] wrote in her own book Children of the Healer: the story of Doctor Bob's kids, that Doctor Bob forced the disgusting constantly-relapsing philandering older alcoholic Ernie Galbraith on her in order to break up her romance with her high-school sweetheart Ray Windows, whom Doctor Bob didn't like. Then Ernie seduced the innocent teenage girl Susan and took her for himself, which isn't what Doctor Bob had in mind. so Doctor Bob whimpered and cried that Ernie had "double-crossed him." See the item "Disturbed Gurus" for the story of Doctor Bob using Ernie to get rid of Ray Windows.

    Doctor Bob was a textbook example of a petty tyrant — Doctor Bob was a grovelling toady to anyone superior to him, like his wife as she searched his pockets for hidden whiskey bottles (read his story in the Big Book, "Doctor Bob's Nightmare"), but Doctor Bob was an autocratic tyrant to anyone weaker than him, like his children, or sick, detoxing, alcoholics whom he made surrender on their knees before him in the hospital.

    Doctor Bob was so inconsiderate of the health and lives of others that he even operated on patients after drinking alcohol and taking "goof-ball" tranquilizers to get himself in shape to operate — to stop his hands from shaking so badly.

    But that isn't the picture of Doctor Bob that the A.A. organization routinely publicizes.

Bill Wilson was not very accurate or realistic when describing himself, either:

  • He had a habit of saying that he was poor and starving, and not getting any money for all of his hard work, while he was really grabbing all of the A.A. money that he could get his hands on. Speaking of which, the official A.A. story of the publication of the Big Book is a work of fiction.

    In the Big Book, Bill wrote:
    "None of us makes a sole vocation of this work..."
    The Big Book, William G. Wilson, 3rd Edition, page 19.
    But Bill did. He never worked a straight job again. Bill arranged A.A. finances so that A.A. supported him comfortably for the rest of his life, with a beautiful house in the country and a free Cadillac car... Bill and his wife Lois were living so high that Lois even had a private secretary, Francis Hartigan, who wrote a biography of Bill Wilson. And Bill had numerous mistresses on the side, and he even used the A.A. headquarters to give them employment. That doesn't quite match the public image of the poor recovering alcoholic, poor as a church mouse, completely self-sacrificing, just living to help other suffering alcoholics, now does it?

  • The strangest comment on Wilson's morality has to be the item that comes from Bill Wilson himself. Bill made a large set of autobiographical tape recordings before he died, and two biographies were written using them, Robert Thomsen's Bill W., and the Hazelden Foundation's Bill W., My First 40 Years. In that Hazelden book, we read:

    There will be future historical revelations about Bill's character and behavior in recovery that will be interpreted, by some, as direct attacks on the very foundation of AA. Bill often wished he could be just another AA member with no trace of notoriety. But such revelations will, in the end, only reinforce Bill's humanness and, most important, the extent to which Bill acted to the best of his ability to protect AA from himself.
    Bill W., My First 40 Years, "William G. Wilson" (posthumously ghost-written by Hazelden staff), Hazelden, page 170.

    What a crock. Considering what we already know, we can only wonder what horrible things AAWS is still hiding in their sealed archives. They often claim that Bill's constant, outrageous philandering proved his "humanness", but that's a pretty lame rationalization. And Bill didn't try to protect AA from himself. He robbed A.A. blind and did whatever the hell he pleased, A.A. be damned. The old-timers even had to form a "Founder's Watch Committee" just to follow Bill Wilson around and watch him, and keep him from publicly embarrassing A.A. yet again by thirteenth-stepping all of the pretty young women who came to the meetings. Bill was such a blatant philanderer that he would take two women to an A.A. meeting, and seat them one on each side of him, and spend the whole meeting with his hands on their legs. Bill Wilson was also a sexual predator who showed no concern for the welfare of the pretty women who came to A.A. seeking help for a drinking problem.

    Bill Wilson did not protect A.A. from himself.

32. Different Levels of Truth
A.A. scores a 10.

A.A. has at least three levels of "truth":

  • There is the nice, bland, public truth (the exoteric, or outsider's, truth): "We just want to love you until you can love yourself. We just want to help you quit drinking. We are just a bunch of nice people, ex-drinkers, who stay sober by helping others."
  • There is the insider's religious truth (the esoteric, or insider's, truth): "Our real purpose is to make ourselves of maximum use to God. Our real purpose is to get people to Seek and Do the Will of God. Our real purpose is to make people love God and call Him by name. Our real purpose is to bring the whole world under 'God-control'."
  • And then there is the really secret inner circle's truth, that of the oldest old-timers, the executives of the G.S.O. and A.A.W.S. and the Board of Trustees, who meet in secret to set their agenda and the strategy for achieving their goals. They have even done things like sue and commit perjury in the courts of two nations to get A.A. members bankrupted or put in prison, to stop the distribution of cheap or free copies of the old, out-of-copyright first edition of the Big Book to poor people, which conceivably might have threatened some AAWS profits. And they did that to faithful A.A. members who were "carrying the message", not to some unbelievers or outsiders!
    And again, the real and complete history of A.A. is only revealed to these special insiders. They are the only ones allowed to see the historical documents that are kept hidden in the locked and sealed archives.

Ken Ragge comments:

The line is not always sharp and clear between the two "levels of truth." [i.e., between the outsider's and insider's versions of the truth.] I have heard AA members on radio interviews speak in detail of alcoholism as a spiritual disease. Normally, all that "should" be said is that it is a fatal, progressive and incurable disease. Saying "spiritual disease" is too much of a tip-off to the true nature of "the Program." It might turn away "those who could have been helped."
The Real AA, Ken Ragge

See the file on Bait-And-Switch Stunts for many more examples of "two levels of truth", where the newcomers get one "truth", and the old-timers have another.

33. Newcomers can't think right.
The elder cult members believe that prospects and new converts are incapable of exercising good judgement.
A.A. scores a 10.

A.A. members always assume that newcomers are suffering from the mental symptoms of severe alcoholism: the clouded thinking, unrealistic beliefs and expectations, rationalizing drinking, and being in denial about having a drinking problem. And, "they haven't been around long enough to know." A.A. believes that newcomers must get sponsors to supervise them, help with their indoctrination, and do their thinking for them.

Bill Wilson wrote that new A.A. members could not hear God correctly while doing Step Eleven:

Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely on it.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 87.

A.A. members also always consider any disagreements a beginner may have with the standard program as examples of "diseased thinking" — problems that will disappear when the beginner has "recovered enough" (meaning: been indoctrinated enough).

This item is tricky because alcoholics who have just quit drinking often really do have mental problems like cloudy-headedness, unclear thinking, short-term memory loss, and attention and sleep disorders. And some really are in denial about how bad their drinking problem is. But A.A. always assumes the worst of newcomers, and takes advantage of the newcomers' weaknesses to convert them into new believers before their thinking clears up too much:

  • "Your best thinking got you here."
  • "You are in denial."
  • "Your thinking is alcoholic."
  • "Stop your stinkin' thinkin'."
  • "You have a thinking problem, not a drinking problem."
  • "Just follow the program. It's too early in your recovery for you to start being creative."
  • "You also have not been sober long enough to have a foundation worthy of long term sobriety."

Ken Ragge, in his book The Real A.A., wrote:

      One of the major differences between legitimate organizations and mind-control cults is that, in cults, one of the unanimous opinions is that the potential new member is incapable of exercising good judgement. Any disagreement or disbelief of doctrine is treated as a sign of poor judgment. In AA, this is expressed in the term "alcoholic thinking" and the phrase, "hasn't been around long enough to know." It is also expressed in patronizing attitudes.
      Patronizing attitudes are also reflected in the names that members use to describe targets of indoctrination. Scientologists refer to them as "raw meat," and Oxford Groupers referred to them as "lost sheep." Alcoholics Anonymous refers to them as "pigeons," "beginners," and "babies." Of course, all of these terms are used lovingly.
The Real A.A., Chapter 9, "Meetings," Ken Ragge

A.A. old-timers feel comfortable with practicing deceptive recruiting on the prospects and newcomers, because they believe that the thinking of a newcomer is so faulty that whatever a newcomer thinks will probably be wrong anyway. So it doesn't really matter what they think. Just feed them some happy pablum, and tell them anything that will mollify them and make them just "Keep Coming Back" until "their thinking improves" — until they are well-indoctrinated, and attending meetings has become a habit. The instructions to the recruiters are, Dole out the truth about the 'spiritual' nature of the program "by teaspoons, not buckets."

When one group of Steppers in Ohio was told that A.A. was accused of brainwashing members, one member said, "If A.A. is doing brainwashing, then my brain must need a good washing."

Curiously, that was also the opinion of Sun Myung Moon of the Moonies cult, who said, "Americans' minds are so dirty, so full of sex and drugs and sin, that their brains need a good washing."

And before him, Chuck Dederich, the leader of Synanon, the 'drug rehab program turned crazy cult', said almost exactly the same thing:

Purification was another goal of gaming, which Chuck expressed thusly, "Of course, we brainwash in Synanon. The dirty brains we get all the time need to be washed for Chrissake!"
Escape From Utopia, William F. Olin, page 210.

34. The Group Implants Phobias.
A.A. scores a 10.

A.A. implants lots of fears and phobias:

  • Members are taught that they will relapse and die drunk:
    • if they leave A.A.
    • if they don't do the 12 steps.
    • if they "hold something back" in their 5th Step. (That is, if they fail to confess everything.)
    • if they don't believe.
    • if they don't "have faith".
    • if they aren't "spiritual".
    • if they don't go to lots and lots of meetings.
    • if they don't do what their sponsor says.
    • if they try to think for themselves.
    • if they are "selfish".
    • if they "have a resentment".
    • if they do what they want to do, rather than do what they are told.
    • if they "break A.A. unity":
      To those now in its fold, Alcoholics Anonymous has made the difference between misery and sobriety, and often the difference between life and death. A.A. can, of course, mean just as much to uncounted alcoholics not yet reached.
            Therefore, no society of men and women ever had a more urgent need for continuous effectiveness and permanent unity. We alcoholics see that we must work together and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone.
      The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 563.

  • Members are made to believe that they just can't make it without Alcoholics Anonymous.

    None of us in Alcoholics Anonymous is normal. Our abnormality compels us to go to AA... We all go because we need to. Because the alternative is drastic, either A.A. or death.
    Delirium Tremens, Stories of Suffering and Transcendence, Ignacio Solares, Hazelden, page 27.

    If you leave, you'll come back on your knees.
    — A.A. slogan

  • A.A. members are even taught, with fear-mongering and threats of death, that they cannot trust their own thinking:

    If all our lives we had more or less fooled ourselves, how could we now be so sure that we weren't still self-deceived?   ...  
          ... what comes to us alone may be garbled by our own rationalization and wishful thinking.   ...   Going it alone in spiritual matters is dangerous.   ...   Surely then, a novice ought not lay himself open to the chance of making foolish, perhaps tragic, blunders in this fashion.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 59-60.

          The alcoholic may say to himself in the most casual way, "It won't burn me this time, so here's how!"  ...
          When this sort of thinking is fully established in an individual with alcoholic tendencies, he has probably placed himself beyond human aid, and unless locked up, may die or go permanently insane.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 24.

  • Newcomers are taught that their situation is hopeless — that they are doomed to an alcoholic death from an incurable progressive disease unless they join A.A. and do the Twelve Steps for the rest of their lives. One of Prof. Margaret Thaler Singer's six conditions for a "brainwashing" program is "Create a sense of powerlessness, covert fear, guilt, and dependency." A.A. does that quite well. A.A. founder Bill Wilson wrote:

    Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [my required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to [my] spiritual principles [cult superstitions].
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 174.

  • And A.A. says that if people quit drinking and manage to stay sober without Alcoholics Anonymous, those do-it-yourselfers will turn into miserable, insane, terribly bitter, angry, and unhappy "dry drunks".

  • Members are constantly reminded that if they do not completely give themselves to "this simple program" that their fate is "Jails, Institutions, or Death."

  • People are taught that their lives will fall apart unless they do Bill Wilson's Twelve Steps properly:

    We are sober and happy in our A.A. work. Things go well at home and office. We naturally congratulate ourselves on what later proves to be a far too easy and superficial point of view. We temporarily cease to grow because we feel satisfied that there is no need for all of A.A.'s Twelve Steps for us.   ...
            Then perhaps life, as it has a way of doing, suddenly hands us a great big lump that we can't begin to swallow, let alone digest. We fail to get a worked-for promotion. We lose that good job. Maybe there are serious domestic or romantic difficulties, or perhaps that boy we thought God was looking after becomes a military casualty.
            What then? Have we alcoholics in A.A. got, or can we get, the resources to meet these calamities which come to so many?   ...   Well, we surely have a chance if we switch from "two-stepping" to "twelve-stepping," if we are willing to receive that grace of God which can sustain and strengthen us in any catastrophe.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 112-113.

    By implication, you don't stand a chance, you won't be able to handle life in the real world, if you don't spend years doing Bill Wilson's 12 Steps. And you won't get any grace from God, either, unless you do ALL OF Bill's Steps. (What? Will God withhold His grace if you disobey Bill Wilson and don't do all of his Steps?)

    (That is another False Equality propaganda trick — "Doing God's Will == doing Bill Wilson's will.")

  • Some hard-core true believers insist that you cannot change the ritual and ceremony of meetings even one tiny little bit or else you will break the magic and somebody will relapse and die drunk.
    (Which is why they won't stop reciting Bill Wilson's lies from page 58 of the Big Book at the start of every meeting, "RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path", no matter how many people they see relapse.)

  • Likewise, they will tell you that you cannot criticize A.A., or tell the truth about A.A., or some weak alcoholic will get pushed over the edge, relapse, and die drunk. (That's the propaganda stunt called It's Too Terrible To Tell.)

  • And then A.A. proselytizers love to harp on how bad things might have gotten, if it weren't for A.A.:

    Terrible things could have happened to any one of us. We never will know what might have happened to us when we were drunk. We usually thought: "That couldn't happen to me." But any one of us could have killed somebody or have been killed ourselves, if we were drunk enough. But fear of these things never kept us from drinking. Do I believe that in A.A. we have something more effective than fear?
    Daily Reflections; A Book of Reflections by A.A. members for A.A. members, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1990, April 15.

Frank Buchman loved to use guilt to manipulate prospects, and get them to surrender to the Oxford Group cult, but Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob found that fear worked much better with alcoholics. Just explain to the alcoholics how hopeless their situation is, how they have an incurable progressive disease, and how they are doomed to drinking themselves to death, and how horrible it's going to be, and you have their attention.

The word "death" appears in the first 164 pages of the Big Book (plus the Forward, Introduction, and Prefaces) 15 times. Bill Wilson constantly threatened the faithful with death unless they followed his instructions exactly. And the Big Book has many stories like this:

I did not know that I had no power over alcohol, that I, alone and unaided, could not stop; that I was on a downgrade, tearing along at full speed with all my brakes gone, and that the end would be a total smash-up, death or insanity.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, story Promoted To Chronic, page 471.

There are those induced feelings of powerlessness and helplessness again.

Bill Wilson documented the origins of that fear induction strategy:

Then came that little man that we who live in this area saw so much, him with the kind blue eyes and white hair, Doc Silkworth. You'll remember that Doc said to me, "look Bill, you're preaching at these people too much. You've got the cart before the horse. This 'white flash' experience of yours scares those drunks to death. Why don't you put the fear of God into them first. You're always talking about James and The Varieties of Religious Experiences and how you have to deflate people before they can know God, how they must have humility. So, why don't you use the tool of the medical hopelessness of alcoholism for practically all those involved. Why don't you talk to the drunk about that allergy they've got and that obsession that makes them keep on drinking and guarantees that they will die. Maybe when you punch it into them hard it will deflate them enough so that they will find what you found."
Bill Wilson, speaking at the Memorial service for Dr. Bob, Nov. 15, 1952, file available here.

Bill Wilson followed Dr. Silkworth's advice, so from the very beginning, A.A. has been deliberately using fear of death to manipulate people's minds and get them to do what Bill Wilson says. Like:

For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, pages 14-15.

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [my required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 174.

35. The Group is Money-Grubbing.
The cult is preoccupied with fund-raising.
A.A. scores a 10.

The average A.A. meeting, where they just pass the hat, does not seem to act like that at all. A.A. would appear, to the casual observer, to be completely innocent in this regard, in spite of the fact that Bill Wilson lectured his fellow alcoholics to put more money into the hat in his second book, "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions":

There was a place in A.A. where spirituality and money would mix, and that was in the hat!
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 163.

And then, two pages later, Bill grandly bragged about how the A.A. headquarters had turned down a bequest from a rich old lady:

      Then our trustees wrote a bright page of A.A. history. They declared for the principle that A.A. must always stay poor. Bare running expenses plus a prudent reserve would henceforth be the Foundation's financial policy.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 165.

But Alcoholics Anonymous does have quite a profitable business going with publishing the books of the founder, Bill Wilson. A.A. is not poor. If a faithful member wants his library to be complete, he will have to buy:

  • the 'Big Book', Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
  • Pass It On
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age
  • The A.A. Way of Life: As Bill Sees It
  • Language of the Heart
  • Daily Meditations

The A.A. headquarters also gets royalties on all of its books from all of the foreign countries where they are published (even when the copyrights are invalid, and they have to commit purjury to continue to enforce the copyrights). And they often get a cut of the collection baskets that go around. It adds up. A few years ago, the A.A. G.S.O. published a financial report that stated that they had $10 million in the bank and in safe investments, just a little "prudent reserve" for a rainy day. And the A.A. General Manager Greg Muth got a total of $250,000 per year, $125,000 for being the General Manager of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., and $125,000 for being the head of the GSO.

Also, A.A. does not exist in a vacuum, and it never has. A.A. has always had auxiliary or front organizations, from the very earliest days:

  • Marty Mann, the first woman to get and stay sober in A.A., founded the National Council on Alcoholism (NCA), so that there would be an organization to push the A.A. point of view and engage in public controversy. (The NCA morphed into the NCADD, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.)
  • A little later, Dr. Ruth Fox founded an organization aimed at doctors, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), with the same goals as the NCA — to promote the 12-step cult religion method of treating alcoholism.
  • There is likewise yet another front group just for the 12-step-pushing counselors, the NAADAC, the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.

Those front groups have been campaigning to get more money into the hands of A.A.-member "counselors" for sixty years, by demanding that alcoholics receive "fair treatment" for their "disease." They've been practicing extortion on both the government and the health insurance industry for a long time. And Hazelden, with its super-expensive residential treatment facility ($15,000 for 28 days), and its proselytizing publishing house, acts as yet another arm of the octopus.

And the largest part of the hidden 12-step empire is the entire alcoholism and drug addiction treatment industry, which the 12-step believers totally dominate and run as counselors and administrators, and which pays many hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of A.A. members annually, by employing large numbers of professional A.A. proselytizers as "counselors". The health insurance industry is supporting an awful lot of fanatical A.A. recruiters and preachers, whether they like it or not.

In turn, those counselors raise millions of dollars annually for the national headquarters of A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., by having the detox and rehab facilities buy the books that AAWS publishes, like the insane "Big Book", Alcoholics Anonymous.

And all of that is all being done in the name of giving those poor "diseased" alcoholics "fair treatment."

All of that professional recruiting and proselytizing is going on in direct contradiction to the much-repeated "Eighth Tradition":

8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

[Long Form]
8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional. We define professionalism as the occupation of counselling alcoholics for fees or hire. But we may employ alcoholics where they are going to perform those services for which we might otherwise have to engage nonalcoholics. Such special services may well be recompensed. But our usual A.A. Twelfth Step work is never to be paid for.

In addition, A.A. members can, as private citizens, do what they cannot do as A.A. members. If that sounds confusing, look at it this way, like they do:

  • While a person is declaring that he is a member of A.A., he must remain anonymous, and cannot engage in any "outside controversy." He must also obey the Eleventh Tradition, which states that A.A. is a program of attraction, not promotion. And he must obey the Seventh Tradition, which states that every group must be self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  • But when a person says, "Now I am acting as a private citizen, and not as an A.A. member, and I will not reveal my A.A. membership to anyone," then he can engage in outside controversy, and promote A.A., and raise money, and do anything else that is forbidden to a well-behaved A.A. member (except drink alcohol).

Thus, A.A. members who don't reveal that they are A.A. members can lobby Congress to get more money for "treatment" of alcoholics from the government, and also lobby for laws to force the health insurance industry to pay for more "treatment," all of which will of course be supplied by A.A. and N.A. members who work as counselors who push more people into A.A. and N.A., who will in turn then donate money, and buy books, which will send more money to the greedy perjurers at the national headquarters, who will run more TV commercials to bring in more recruits...

And the racket goes on and on...

And A.A. members who don't reveal that they are A.A. members can advertise their drug and alcohol treatment facilities as having a really great program, a program based on "the best, the most successful, the most proven methods" (12-step techniques), without ever bothering to reveal the fact that the "treatment" program is really nothing but a course of Introduction to Twelve-Step Cult Religion. Neither do they have to reveal that their standard practice is to keep clients in "treatment" — going to "group therapy" sessions by day, and A.A. meetings at night — until their health insurance money is exhausted, and then to "graduate" them, in order to maximize the facility's profits, which they call "getting the clients the maximum benefits". That really is the standard, commonplace practice.

The national headquarters of A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (AAWS), is very conflicted about what their basic mission really is. The Fifth Tradition clearly states:

"Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers."
But AAWS has sued A.A. members in both Germany and Mexico, and deliberately, knowingly, blatantly committed perjury, to stop members from printing cheap copies of old out-of-copyright versions of the Big Book and giving them to people too poor to buy them, like Mexican alcoholics, or Swedish and German alcoholics in prison. (The long-time A.A. journalist Mitchell K. has done a good job of documenting this. [See list.] He was there in Germany to witness the German court proceedings.) AAWS actually claimed in Mexico that a "Wyne Parks", not Bill Wilson and 40 other original A.A. members, had rather recently written the Big Book, so it's still under copyright, and since copyright violations in Mexico, are criminal, rather than civil, cases, the Mexican court sentenced the Mexican A.A. member to prison for a year. AAWS wants all of those poor people in foreign countries to buy overpriced new books to fatten the AA coffers, in spite of A.A. already having $10 million in the bank.

Apparently, AAWS has written itself a new charter and some new traditions, and now its Fifth Tradition says,

"We have but one primary purpose — to make money."

And the new Sixth Tradition says,

"Problems of spirituality or honesty may easily divert us from our primary monetary purpose. We think therefore, that anything that is of genuine spiritual concern should be incorporated and managed separately, and have no involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous.
Truth is no object in the pursuit of money.
We all have to put profits ahead of everything else.
We must not let anything else divert us from our primary purpose — to make money."

Unfortunately, the Board of Trustees of AAWS refuses to answer questions about their behavior, and they won't tell us what wonderful new Guidance they have received from God, instructing them to act in this manner. How are us lowly individual members supposed to know what to do now, if the leadership won't reveal God's new Program of His Kingdom to us? We want to get to Heaven too, you know...

36. Confession Sessions
A.A. scores a 10.

This one is easy to see, it is downright self-evident, because every meeting is a confession session. Not only must members admit their faults to the whole group, but the members must also confess even more stuff, their innermost secrets, to their sponsors in the Fifth Step, and again in the Tenth Step. The slogan is, "You're Only As Sick As Your Secrets", so get on your knees and start blabbing.

  • Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Step 8. Made a list of everybody we ever wronged or offended.
  • Step 9. Went to them and "made amends".
  • Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Remember that guilt induction and confession sessions were two of the essential elements of the Chinese Communist brainwashing program.

The A.A. book of daily meditations teaches us that only a confession session with another person is humbling and embarrassing enough:

Somehow, being alone with God doesn't seem as embarrassing as facing up to another person. Until we actually sit down and talk aloud about what we have so long hidden, our willingness to clean house is still largely theoretical.

It wasn't unusual for me to talk to God, and myself, about my character defects. But to sit down, face to face, and openly discuss these intimacies with another person was much more difficult. I recognized in the experience, however, a similar relief to the one I had experienced when I first admitted I was an alcoholic. I began to appreciate the spiritual significance of the program and that this Step was just an introduction to what was yet to come in the remaining seven Steps.
Daily Reflections; A Book of Reflections by A.A. members for A.A. members, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1990, May 3.

It's interesting to watch the pattern as newcomers get indoctrinated and trained in what to say while "sharing" their stories. If they don't deliver the right rap, the rest of the group will look at them with increasing impatience, telling them in many subtle ways:

  • You haven't put yourself down yet.
  • You haven't said how wonderful the A.A. program and the Twelve Steps are.
  • You haven't told any jokes about yourself and your foolishness yet.
  • You haven't said how stupid you are.
  • You haven't said how grateful you are to your sponsor for correcting your thinking and making you see the truth.
  • You haven't said how lucky you were to get sent to prison where you were coerced into joining wonderful A.A. as a condition of probation...

37. A System of Punishments and Rewards
A.A. scores a 10.

The A.A. system of rewards and punishments is subtle but powerful.

  • First off, abstainers are rewarded with tokens or coins and applause and congratulations for sober time accumulated.
  • New members grow in status as their Sober Time increases.
  • New members grow in status as they learn to parrot the slogans and recite the standard dogma.
  • The longer they stay sober, the more their words are considered to be sage advice and wisdom.
  • Oldtimers who sponsor many newcomers have very high status.

On the other hand, for those who take a drink:

  • It is very humiliating if someone who had accumulated six months or a year of sober time now has to raise his hand at a meeting when asked, "Is anyone here in his or her first 30 days of sobriety?"
  • He loses all of his status as an oldtimer.
  • Other members assume that he isn't as spiritual as they are.
  • Other members mumble things like, "He isn't working a strong program."
So there is consistent pressure to stay sober and work the program. But that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Newcomers are gradually steered towards what they are supposed to "share" when they are called upon to speak, just by how the other people react to what they say. A room full of true believers can be very intimidating. The group can either ostracize you, or embrace you, depending on whether they like your behavior and your "sharing." They will coldly glare at you if you say the wrong things, or smile and bathe you in warm, loving looks if you say what they want to hear. They will laugh at your jokes if you say the right stuff. They can say a lot through body language, without ever saying a word out loud. It doesn't take very long to learn to follow the examples that the old-timers set.

In his second book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, A.A. co-founder Bill Wilson documented the story of Ed, an A.A. member who refused to believe in God, and who refused to say what "the elders" wanted to hear. They punished Ed by ostracism and hostile attitudes, "all fraternal charity vanished", and they wished that he would relapse. Then, when Ed finally did relapse, "the elders" abandoned him to his death. They wouldn't visit him to see how he was doing, or try to get him back on track, or help him at all. They were punishing him for his disbelief and refusal to conform to the group.

In addition, sponsors will either praise or harshly criticize their sponsees in order to get conformity and the desired behavior. All of this is enforced with the threat of death: either do what you are told, or you will relapse and die drunk (the ultimate punishment), they say.

And, if you do not please your sponsor, he or she can fire you, and leave you to fend for yourself. That can be terrifying to a newcomer who fears for his life.

People who have been sentenced to A.A. by a judge or parole officer or a diversion program face much greater threats of punishment: either please your sponsor so that he sends in good reports on you, or else you will lose your job or get thrown in jail or prison.

In extreme cases, like when A.A. members run organ transplant centers, the punishment for non-compliance is death. Dr. Clifton Kirton reported that when he needed a liver transplant, and resisted A.A. indoctrination, he was told, essentially, that he wouldn't get one unless he "internalized" the A.A. "recovery concepts."

And, if you are picky and hesitant about choosing which old-timer you wish to have as your sponsor, they can slap you with condescending remarks like: "Maybe she's trying to break all known records of the time it's taken somebody to find a sponsor." The experienced old-timers stash libraries of such condescending put-downs in their memory banks, and have them sitting there, just waiting for some non-conforming newbies to use them on.

38. An Impossible Superhuman Model of Perfection.
A.A. scores a 10.

In AA, as in all mind control cults, an ahuman model of perfection, which is impossible to reach, is held out.

  • The perfect A.A. member never drinks any alcohol at all.

  • The perfect A.A. member goes to A.A. meetings very often, and practices the Twelve Steps constantly, in all of his affairs.

  • The perfect A.A. member never criticizes A.A., Bill Wilson, the Twelve Steps, or "The Program".

  • The perfect A.A. member feels Serenity and Gratitude at all times, about everything. He never feels any negative emotions, especially not any anger or resentment. For that matter, he never really feels any passionately strong positive emotions either. He has learned to "stuff his feelings", and remain emotionally flat, just maintaining a steady state of Serenity and Gratitude.

  • The perfect A.A. member is completely selfless, and wants nothing for himself.

  • The perfect A.A. member wishes for nothing in life but to Seek and Do the Will of God.

  • The perfect A.A. member never feels any desire to drink alcohol, because God has simply removed the drink problem. It does not exist for him.

  • The perfect A.A. member is a fountain of wisdom and a great teacher and a good example for newcomers. He is even a real credit to his race.

  • The perfect A.A. member recruits new members constantly, and keeps all of his sponsees sober.

  • The perfect A.A. member is happy to grovel before his sponsor and God, and wallow in guilt, and confess all of his moral shortcomings and defects of character, often.

  • The perfect A.A. member is happy to "find his or her part in it", as if he or she controlled the whole world and was responsible for everything that happened in it. For example, the perfect A.A. woman who is raped should not bear any ill will towards her attacker; she will simply find her own part in it and figure out how how she made it happen and how it was all her own fault:
    "I dressed too nicely; I made myself look too good; I asked for it. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake."
    The perfect A.A. woman will then "make amends" by apologizing to her rapist.

  • The Big Book says:
    And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake.
    The A.A. Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict, page 449.

  • The perfect A.A. member masochistically, narcissistically grovels before God, and declares that we must all be entirely rid of "self":
    "God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. ... May I do Thy will always!" We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 63.

  • The perfect A.A. member knows that the Twelve Steps work, because the Twelve Steps certainly worked for him, and made him so holy, Serene, Grateful, wise, and in such constant conscious contact with God that he is now a living saint...

  • And the perfect A.A. member is also very humble, in spite of being spiritually superior to the common rabble.

"The Promises" is another list of super-human standards. "The Promises" are the things that Bill Wilson said the A.A. members would get after they did Steps One through Eight, and were halfways through Step Nine — serenity, peace, confidence, and much more:

        If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
        Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, pages 83-84.

It's a shame that this stuff doesn't really work. We could be cranking out saints on an assembly-line basis if it did...

The Promises are really just a bunch of veiled accusations, which are great for guilt induction: The Promises are actually saying, in so many words, that you are currently a real spiritual slob — that you don't have peace or serenity or confidence, and that you feel uselessness, self-pity, and selfishness.

  • You are not free or happy.
  • You regret the past.
  • You don't comprehend serenity or know peace.
  • You have gone way down the scale, and you can't see how your experience could benefit others.
  • You have feelings of uselessness and self-pity.
  • You are interested in selfish things, and you are self-seeking, and not interested in your fellows.
  • You are afraid of people and economic insecurity.
  • You don't know how to handle situations — they baffle you.
  • You can't do things for yourself, and God isn't doing them for you, either.
  • The Promises are not materializing in your life because you are not working for them.
  • And since the promises are not extravagant, you must be a real loser for not having gotten any of that stuff.

Isn't that clever? By listing all of the wonderful things that people will supposedly get at some unspecified distant time in the future, Bill Wilson manages to make people feel really guilty and inadequate in the present. And he was such a good mind-manipulator that he even managed to make people like it. The true believers swear that The Promises are inspired scripture, and some groups even read them out loud at every meeting.

Obviously, if you believe this nonsense, and compare yourself to those standards, you are going to find that you are just a miserable failure, a completely unspiritual slob.

  • You will wonder why the Twelve Steps haven't made you into a saint, like they have done with so many of your fellow group members (who are actually "Faking It Until They Make It" and "Acting As If" and re-enacting "The Emperor's New Clothes").

  • So you will feel horribly guilty and inadequate...

  • And then your sponsor will tell you to do the Twelve Steps even more, and really completely give yourself to this simple program, this time, and do another Fifth Step and confess your sins again, this time leaving nothing out.

  • So the guilt-induction, confession-session brainwashing routine is repeated for yet another cycle...

Bill Wilson even declared that "We" are all just pathetic sinners who can't measure up to God's desired degree of perfection:

Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn't strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose.
[Whose intended purpose? God's? Mother Nature's? The Force of Evolution's?]
When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth.
[How do we demand that desires supply us with satisfactions? Desires are urges or wishes to get some satisfaction, not the source of satisfaction. Hunger, for example, is the desire to get some food. Hunger does not give us any satisfaction, it gives us a big pain in the belly.
And Just Who is keeping the big account book that determines how much pleasure is now due us?]
That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 65.

So just measure how far away from perfection you are — how far away from "the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth" you are — and Bill Wilson says that is how much you sin.

Are you starting to feel guilty and inadequate? Good. That is necessary for the brainwashing to progress.
Remember that Prof. Margaret Thaler Singer wrote, in one of her books on cults, that an essential element of any thought-control or brainwashing program is "Create a sense of powerlessness, covert fear, guilt, and dependency."

Oh, and by the way, whatever happened to "Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization."? (Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Foreword, page xx.)

Whatever happened to "Alcoholics Anonymous requires no beliefs"? (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 26.)

Here, we are required to believe that God designed and built the world with specific intentions in mind, and then badly screwed up the design, and His inventions don't work as He intended...
We aren't as good as God intended.
We are "departing from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth."

Bill Wilson is actually teaching us that God is an incompetent Cosmic Design Engineer, and His inventions don't work right.

And we must also believe that God isn't getting His wishes granted. We aren't as perfect as He wished.
Gee, we aren't getting our pleasures, or our wishes granted, and God isn't getting His wishes granted.
Nobody is happy.
It would seem that "the Creative Intelligence, the Spirit of the Universe", really royally screwed things up, this time.

(Actually, I don't believe any such nonsense, but I can't say the same for William G. Wilson.)

Someone is telling you that it is because people have free will, and they are using their free will to screw things up?
No, there is no free will in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Remember Step One: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol..."
People who are powerless do not have a choice or any free will.

So Bill Wilson was playing both ends against the middle. A.A. says:
"You are powerless over your progressive fatal congenital disease, and you can't control your drinking; you were born that way (so you must join Alcoholics Anonymous or else you will die)",
but then the story is:
"You should feel guilty for being less than perfect, anyway. And you should feel guilty for wanting to feel good, and for wanting more satisfactions or pleasures than are due you in Somebody's ledger book."

That double-bind will drive you nuts.

Have a happy stay at the funny farm. Don't commit suicide too soon...

39. Mentoring
A.A. scores a 10.

This one is also easy to see. Everyone is supposed to get a sponsor when they join (sometimes the sponsor is the recruiter who brought them in), and some people continue to have a sponsor for the rest of their lives.

The sponsor is supposed to answer all of the newcomer's questions, and advise him or her on decisions and choices, and more or less guide his or her recovery.

      At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue. They can do this, because they are the carriers of A.A.'s tested experience with Step Four.
      The sponsors of those who feel they need no inventory are confronted with quite another problem.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 46.

The sponsor makes the newcomer do the Twelve Steps, and make lists of all of his or her faults, sins, "defects of character" and "moral shortcomings", and listens to his or her confessions.

Our next problem will be to discover the person in whom we are to confide [the person to whom to make the 5th Step confession].   ...   This may turn out to be one's sponsor.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 109.

Some members actually claim that nobody ever outgrows the need for a sponsor to supervise him or her and to correct his or her thinking, so they are never free of a mentor.

We had approached A.A. expecting to be taught self-confidence. Then we had been told that so far as alcohol is concerned, it was a total liability. Our sponsors declared that we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 22.

The sponsorship system also creates a pyramid-shaped hierarchy of status and power in the organization. Many of the members can even trace the chain of their sponsorship back to the founders. That is, they might be the great-great-grandchild of Bill Wilson or Doctor Bob by the lineage of who sponsored whom. But some of the old-timers are not nearly that far down the pyramid. The closer you are to the top, the greater your status and power. In addition, Time is power and rank within the organization. The more sober Time someone has, the greater his rank, and the more authority his words carry.

This pyramid-shaped power structure is one of the invisible ways that newcomers are kept in line. There is an often-repeated slogan in A.A. that says, "Nobody has any power over anybody else." But that simply is not true at all. Everyone is supposed to follow the "advice" and orders of his or her sponsor (or else you'll die drunk in a gutter, they say), so the orders can trickle down from the very highest levels of authority and power, and everyone is supposed to obey them.

A willingness to do whatever I was told to do simplified the program for me.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 381.

Since I gave my will over to A.A., whatever A.A. has wanted of me I've tried to do to the best of my ability.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 340.

Obviously, there is a great danger of abuse in such a system. Any old criminal or pervert can set himself up as a wise guru and start ordering the newcomers around. Some sponsors use the sponsorship system for sexual abuse of newcomers. See:

And don't forget that many people (between 1/3 and 2/3 of the membership) were coerced into A.A. by parole officers, judges, therapists or counselors.1 There, somebody most assuredly has a lot of power over someone else. In many cases, if those newcomers do not please their sponsors, so that the sponsors send in satisfactory status reports on them, then the newcomers can be sent to jail or prison. That's quite a threat.

Even worse, those criminals, cons, addicts, and perverts who stay in A.A. and become oldtimers rise to the rank of being sponsors, having the power to abuse others. There is no test or examination to determine whether someone is qualified to be a sponsor. There is no formal education for being a sponsor. Just being around A.A. for a while is the only qualification for becoming a sponsor. And there is no board of review to check whether someone is doing a good job of being a sponsor. Sponsors can do anything they wish. Likewise, there is no censuring of bad sponsors or revoking their credentials for misbehavior. There are no standards, and no accountability, and no repercussions for bad sponsorship.

The first couple of editions of the Big Book did not even mention the system of sponsorship. Bill Wilson was hiding the similarities between Alcoholics Anonymous and the Oxford Group. The idea and the terminology of "sponsors" was copied from Frank Buchman's pro-Nazi Oxford Group cult, along with most all of the rest of the A.A. religious tenets and dogma.

See the cult test item "Members Get No Respect. They Get Abused." for more information on abuse of the sponsor/sponsee relationship.

40. Intrusiveness.
A.A. scores a 10.

A.A. sponsors are extremely intrusive, and often want to completely run the new member's life, assuming that the member is incapable of running his own life.

A.A. assumes that new members should not have any privacy. Violating peoples' boundaries is standard A.A. practice. Newcomers are encouraged to "share all" in meetings, and to their sponsors. The slogans are:

  • "You're Only As Sick As Your Secrets"
  • "We are only as sick as the secrets we keep."

And one member rationalizes the intrusiveness this way: "My secrets i tell to my sponsor. I share generally with others at meetings. This is what ive chosen to do. Others share everything, to everybody. To each their own, really."

Some sponsors insist on poking into and controlling every aspect of the newcomer's life — starting with telling the newcomers what religious beliefs they should have, after telling them that they can have any beliefs they wish.

Some sponsors feel entitled to tell sponsees whom they should or should not marry, which job they should take, and to decide what sponsees should do with the rest of their lives.

Likewise, a common A.A. platitude instructs new members not to get into any sexual relationship for the first year of sobriety. Similarly, Bill Wilson even felt qualified to lecture A.A. members about their marital relationships, and advise split-up couples not to get back together, until the wife of the alcoholic — not the alcoholic himself — got "a new attitude and spirit" from God.

A.A. feels entitled to take up all of a member's spare time. If someone chooses to spend a quiet evening alone, other members will tell him, "You're isolating. Let's get to a meeting." Note that A.A. even has a standard negative term for someone spending his time doing something — anything — besides wasting his life on an endless series of pointless meetings: "isolating".

The Northern Illinois Area A.A. Intergroup actually feels entitled to tell recovering alcoholics not to go back to college and finish their degrees — to just stay with the A.A. group, and stay ignorant and unemployable, and to spend their time recruiting for A.A. at the local jail.

One of the worst ways that A.A. and N.A. function as intrusive cults is in telling newcomers not to take their doctor-prescribed medications. Never mind telling people what to believe or how to act or where to go, or with whom to associate, sponsors even try to dictate people's consumption of medications. All too often, steppers who have no medical training presume to be qualified to modify a real doctor's treatment program by telling people not to take their medications. They have killed people by doing that. More on that issue here.

The collection of A.A. horror stories tells many tales of extreme intrusiveness by A.A. members and sponsors:

  1. My first sponsor ... starts screaming at me because she knew I took medication for some mental illnesses I have.

  2. stop taking medications to please A.A.

  3. I used to attend the badger group in waukesha, the biggest aa cult in waukesha... What has always been shocking to me is the rationalization of a death after a person has quit taking their meds under the so-called direction of their sponsor.

  4. *AA sabotage* (framed as a warning from a Good Samaritan, but really a character assassination) was the culprit for much of my grief.   ...   *AA sabotage* could get me fired from a job with a single phone call, or investigated with a complaint to the police.

  5. the people yanked away from their families

  6. I'm bi-polar and went off my meds (because of aa guilt) and ended up in a mental hospital because i was going to kill myself.

  7. another bad sponsor

  8. another bad sponsor

  9. The 'teacher' of the Steps class said I had to go to any lengths to remain sober. ...being in the program I BEGAN TO DISBELIEVE WHAT I KNEW WAS THE TRUTH.

  10. A girl is hijacked to a 12-Step treatment center by a Stepper true-believer aunt, after the aunt gives the girl alcohol.

  11. They were mad because I was getting married when I got back.

  12. The Q Group: Young women have been raped by much older men. My old sponsor had sex with a 14 year old girl and he is in his 30's. He acted like it was no big deal. I mentioned to him that such things are wrong. He said "who says so"...

  13. abuses in England

  14. another treatment center horror story

  15. ...they decided to "intervene." In the evening I heard numerous individuals (all women from her support group) knocking on my door and windows. I ran in the bedroom and hid. I felt like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead were coming for me.

  16. The crap these people taught about medication was reprehensible. I stopped taking medication after MY sponsor called me out on my Prozac.... I was shamed into stopping it.

  17. her sponsor forbid her from seeing me for thirty days... and at the end of the 30 days I was told by my now ex that I could never talk to her again

  18. After I gave birth I had severe postpartum depression. I had not healed from the birth and my sponsor told me not to take any medication. ... My sponsor had said that god would heal me and when god wanted me to sleep I would.

  19. ANYTIME I don't follow a direction, no matter how small, I get yelled at and lectured and told repeatedly that I'm not willing and haven't had a real bottom. There are no choices, it's an illusion. It's really controlling.

  20. He is already a wreck... He attends AA meetings 6 days a week with a sponsor, one of the counselors tells him that he should not be taking Paxil, which he takes for severe anxiety, because it's "all in his head and he is causing his own anxiety".

  21. ...this group went to friends of mine outside of A.A. and spread lies, ruined my reputation and cost me dear friendships.

to answers 41 to 50.


1) Bufe, Charles, Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?, 1998, 2nd edition, page 88. Bufe calculates that from 33 to 40% of current A.A. members were originally coerced into attending A.A. meetings.
The most damning information came from A.A.'s own publication, The Grapevine. The centerfold of the November 2002 issue of the AA Grapevine summarized the results of the most recent triennial survey of the A.A. membership. It found that the vast majority of the A.A. members — 61% — had been "introduced" to A.A. by pressure or coercion from the health care system or criminal justice system.

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Last updated 7 October 2015.
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