Alcoholics Anonymous as a Cult
Scorecard, Answers 61 to 70.

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

61. The Guru Is Extra-Special.
A.A. scores a 10.

The two "saints" of Alcoholic Anonymous definitely were and are rated as extra-special. The A.A. true believers imagine that two broken-down mentally-ill alcoholics had the keys to God's Kingdom, and that everything they wrote was true wisdom.

The cultish worship of Bill and Dr. Bob began so early that at the very first A.A. clubhouse in New York City, on West Twenty-Fourth Street...

There was a picture of Bill above the fireplace with what looked like a halo around his head. We used to kid Bill about it.
Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, Nan Robertson, page 79.

Yes, it was really "The Bill W. Movement" from the very beginning.

William G. Wilson
"What, me get a job? You've got to be joking. It's your job to support me, because I'm special."

William Griffith Wilson certainly considered himself extra-special — Bill took the best of everything for himself: all of the money, all of the women, all of the praise and adulation, and all of the fame and credit for "saving" alcoholics, while exhorting all of the other alcoholics to be anonymous and work selflessly. When Bill Wilson was caught stealing the Big Book publishing fund, stealing the copyright of the Big Book, and selling unauthorized copies of the book, Dr. Bob told the other members not to make a fuss about it, "for the good of the fellowship".

The A.A. organization even bought Bill Wilson a Cadillac car and a big house in the country, "Stepping Stones", and gave Bill enough money that he never had to work a straight job again. The A.A. headquarters, the Alcoholic Foundation, even supported Bill's mistresses and girl friends for him — women were hired as office staff because they were Bill's girlfriends, even though they could not type. Nobody else in A.A. ever got that kind of treatment.

And whenever another scandal over Bill's philandering or drug use arose, the other A.A. members just scurried around, covering it all up. Nobody else in A.A. ever got such privileged treatment.

And the Seventh Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous states that A.A. should be forever self-supporting, declining outside contributions. All except Bill Wilson, that is, who happily took a $120 per month stipend donated by the outsider John D. Rockefeller, Jr., which was equivalent to $1680 per month in year 2012 dollars. (See an inflation calculator here: Heck, for that matter, the whole start of A.A. was marked by Bill Wilson's scheming to get money from other people. The entire creation of the Big Book was financed with funds fraudulently obtained from others in what basically amounts to a stock swindle.

At the same time, many A.A. members actually believe that Bill Wilson was guided by God and instructed by God when he wrote the opening chapters of the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous. They imagine that Bill was some kind of a spiritual teacher whose role it was to lead people to God. And they imagine that Bill's words embody some kind of indisputable wisdom. "If Bill said it, then it's true. Period. Bill has the answers to everything." The true believers will not question the validity of Bill's statements in his books, even when they are blatantly false, contradictory, irrational, grossly unrealistic, and obviously insane.

The current leadership of Alcoholics Anonymous considers Bill's words to be so special that when they released the fourth edition of the Big Book, they did not change a single word, or fix a single falsehood, in the sacred First 164 Pages, which Bill mostly wrote or co-wrote. (But they did delete Clarence Snyder's story, The Home Brewmeister. Clarence Snyder was the one and only person in the Big Book who criticized Bill Wilson for his financial dishonesty. Now there are none.)

Likewise, the other cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, is also considered a prophet and a saint of the church. The true believers pointedly overlook the fact that Dr. Bob was such a religious fanatic that he wrote in the Big Book that he felt sorry for you if you don't swallow all of the dogmatic religious statements that he and Bill Wilson were selling in the Big Book. Dr. Bob's daughter wrote in her own book that Dr. Bob was a cold, cruel, aloof, harsh alcoholic father, someone who carved a paddle with which to beat his children, modifying it so that it would hurt more. Dr. Bob was a textbook case of a petty tyrant, someone who grovelled like a toady before his superiors, like his wife (read Dr. Bob's Nightmare in the Big Book), but who was an autocratic dictator to those who were weaker than him, like his children or sick alcoholics. The faithful A.A. members also overlook the fact that Dr. Bob was so wrecked and had such a bad reputation as a doctor from his many years of being a drunk doctor, that he was incapable of even supporting himself while working as a doctor, and had to be supported by an A.A. handout for the rest of his life while he devoted his life to cult religion.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob were the only people who ever got royalties from the publication of the Big Book even though the book had at least 32 authors, and those authors had been promised that the group would own the book — everybody else was supposed to be "unselfish" and have "no thought of the profit motive." Bill Wilson even had the gall to brag:

To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, Working With Others, page 93.

The unselfishness of these men as we have come to know them, the entire absence of profit motive, and their community spirit, is indeed inspiring to one who has labored long and wearily in this alcoholic field.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Dr. William D. Silkworth, The Doctor's Opinion, page XXV.

In spite of all of that, the A.A. true believers still imagine that Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob were special people.

62. Flexible, shifting morality
A.A. scores a 5.

The early members really exhibited the Double Standard regarding Bill Wilson. Whenever he committed crimes or sins, members just ignored it and covered it up for him.

Doctor Bob told the other members not to make a fuss, "for the good of the fellowship", when Bill Wilson stole the Big Book publishing fund and the copyright of the Big Book, and then sold unauthorized and uncopyrighted multilith copies of the book (which invalidated any possible future copyright).

When Bill philandered and thirteenth-stepped the pretty women who came to the A.A. meetings, the other members just covered it up. They just looked the other way when Bill Wilson acted as a sexual predator and took advantage of the young women who came to A.A. to try to achieve sobriety. Behavior that would have been considered grossly immoral if done by anyone else was just rationalized away when Bill Wilson did it. The other A.A. members didn't see any conflict between Bill's behavior and his constant demands that everyone else adhere to the highest standards of "spirituality", "absolute purity", "absolute unselfishness", "absolute love", and "rigorous honesty".

Even today, A.A. members also exhibit flexible morality in their treatement of prospective new recruits:

And even today, the national headquarters of A.A. displays flexible, shifting standards of morality. They have committed perjury in the courts of Mexico and Germany to enforce non-existent copyrights on old versions of the Big Book, and put poor A.A. members in prison for the crime of trying to help other poor alcoholics. That is hardly "absolute honesty" or "absolute purity".

The reason for the 5 rating, rather than a 10, is because I can't really condemn all A.A. members as morally crippled. Some are more cultish than others; some are sicker than others.

63. Separatism
A.A. scores an 5.

Rather than healing people and returning them to normal life in the mainstream of society, like real doctors do, A.A. has the goal of keeping people coming back to A.A. meetings for the rest of their lives. You never recover, so you have to Keep Coming Back. The goal of 12-Step-based "treatment" is not to heal people and end the treatment; it is to addict the patient to the treatment so that he will spend the rest of his life in a 12-Step group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

While other cults may isolate their members in "temples", or ashrams, or communes, A.A. and N.A. isolate their members in "half-way houses", and "clean and sober homes" or "treatment centers", where everybody is a member of a 12-Step group, and they all go to 12-Step meetings together several times a week.

Too many A.A. members have a tendency to only want to socialize with other A.A. members, rather than integrating themselves back into general society. They defend such social isolation by claiming that it separates them from sources of temptation or embarassment. Unfortunately, it also separates them from sources of common sense, or any other viewpoints than that of Alcoholics Anonymous.

John Bradshaw says that people in the Codependency and Adult Children of Alcoholics cults should reject their own families and other people who are not "in recovery", and limit their social contacts to "people who will support you", that is, other 12-Step cult members:

If your family of origin is not in recovery, it is almost impossible to get support from them while you're in your own recovery process. Often they think that what you're doing is stupid and they shame you for it. Often they are threatened by your doing this work, because as you give up your old family roles, you disrupt the frozen equilibrium of the family system. You were never allowed to be yourself before. Why would they suddenly start allowing that now? If your family of origin was dysfunctional, it is the least likely place to get your nurturing needs met. So, I advise you to keep a safe distance and work on finding a new, nonshaming supportive family. This could be a support group of friends, it could be the group you joined to work on your inner child, or it could be any one of the myriad 12-Step groups now available all over the country.
Homecoming, John Bradshaw, page 209.

Your real family is reduced to being only "your family of origin". The cult is of course your new family now. And your old family is so bad that you just shouldn't have anything to do with them any more.

Oh yeh? Says who? How could the author know that? The author just assumes that the birth family is bad for their offspring, without knowing anything about the family. How casually the author advocates breaking up families. The author assumes that the family will resist or resent their child changing for the better. The author assumes that the child's personality changes will be for the better as the cult indoctrinates the child. But what if the author's real fear is that the family will resist their child mindlessly babbling nonsensical cult propaganda like what we see in this paragraph?

The author says that the family will be upset "as you give up your old family roles, you disrupt the frozen equilibrium of the family system." That is delusional. Who says that the family is "stuck in a frozen equilibrium"? Who says that the family is attached to the child's "old family roles"? That entire paragraph is just grossly unrealistic cult dogma that merely assumes that the family is will resist the new cult recruit changing.

There we see an extreme example of devaluation of outsiders, which is another standard cult characteristic that A.A. strongly exemplifies.

And mind you, this "advice" is for people who are Adult Children of Alcoholics, or people who supposedly suffer from "Codependency", both of which are imaginary diseases that don't even exist, and which will not be cured by 12-Step religion.

A recent letter to the Orange Papers told a story of A.A. members trying to get a fellow to write off his own mother:

In at least one occasion he [the sponsor] even got annoyed because I was putting my mother first and not other people within the fellowship. Not only my sponsor wanted such things. Another long standing member of the fellowship was giving me similar advice but his was worst. He wanted me to quit my job, ask my brother to take care of my mother and try to cut contact with her to as minimum as possible. According to him keeping in touch with my mother would lead to codependency which is for him another form of addiction that is also treated used the 12 Steps program. This advice was received after having met him only 20 minutes earlier.

Another letter said,

She said that she was so committed to AA, that she divorced her husband of 20+ years because he complained that AA was more important to her than he was. It was! I found this shocking and COMPLETELY SELFISH.

The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book even says that A.A. comes before family, with this rationalization:

"I decided I must place this program above everything else, even my family, because if I did not maintain my sobriety I would lose my family anyway."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition — Chapter B10, He Sold Himself Short, page 293.

And a rehash of the Big Book that is intended for youths tells a story of a supposedly-successful recovery where...

Even after she remarries, she doesn't lose sight of her priorities. She places God first and A.A. second. Her husband is never more than the third most important aspect of her life.
Big Book Unplugged; A Young Person's Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous, John R., page 107.

64. Inability to tolerate criticism
A.A. scores a 8.

Alcoholics Anonymous does not take kindly to criticism. Few A.A. members react to criticism rationally. They often engage in ad hominem — attacking the speaker, rather than challenging the truthfulness of his statements, which are usually correct (which is why they don't try to refute them).

  • "Enjoy your new DWI, pusswad!"
  • "Oh God! Just what we need, another Ken Ragge clone."
  • "As a critic of A.A., you're just an amateur."
  • "He's one of those people who wants to spend his whole life crying about how A.A. hurt him. Maybe next year he'll get a life."
  • "You are a liar."

People who criticise A.A., or disagree with sacred A.A. dogma, have lost their jobs as counselors or therapists for having done so.

65. A Charismatic Leader
A.A. scores a 7. They don't have one now, but they did have one.

Bill Wilson, the A.A. founder, was a classic textbook example of a charismatic leader. He was so charismatic that members felt honored just to be in his presence:

Sometimes he [Bill Wilson] would hold audiences for small groups of the faithful. One old-timer remembers waiting for two hours in order to spend twenty minutes with Bill W. at a Boston hotel in 1947. That day more than two hundred A.A.s were placed in groups of fifteen; each group was seated in turn in a large lounge, where Wilson held court. The experience was thrilling; the pilgrim felt as if he "had been in the presence of some spiritual force." Bill's "aura" pervaded the room; he seemed "to be unaware of the phenomenon and even of his part in it, but to me it was real yet unnatural."25

25. Freeman Carpenter (pseudonym), 60 Years an Alcoholic; 50 Years Without a Drink (Newtown, Pa.: Unique Educational Services, 1996), p. 372.

Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, Matthew J. Raphael, pages 167 and 199.


One of the most important events that happened to me in 1947, when my emotions were so unpredictable, was the day I met Bill W. for the first time. Bill W. as you may know was one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. One evening the chairman of our Saturday night meeting announced that Bill was coming to Boston for a weekend. He said Bill would be staying at one of the larger hotels and would have his suite open for visitors during certain hours. I made sure I was there.

That Saturday afternoon there were over two hundred people waiting to see Bill when I arrived. To accomodate the number of visitors, the leaders created groups of fifteen people and gave each group a twenty minute time period to visit with Bill. I was in the fourth group and it proved to be worth the two hour wait.

We were ushered into a lounge that was large enough to accomodate the fifteen of us comfortably. There were four medium-sized sofas and six overstuffed chairs to sit in. Bill was sitting in one of the chairs facing the door when I first saw him. He was dressed in a modest brown suit, white shirt, and brown striped tie. Even his shoes and socks were brown. He stood up to shake our hands as we walked in and to me he looked to be about six feet tall. I could see that he was slender and well-built. His handshake was firm and warm.

However, it wasn't his physical appearance that impressed me as much as it was the spiritual aura that seemed to permeate the whole room. Bill seemed to be unaware of the phenomenon and even of his part in it, but to me it was real yet unnatural. I was so awed by his presence that to this day I can't tell you what we talked about, but I will never forget the feeling. I wasn't alone in that either. It was not just my youthful impressionability; other men older than I had felt it too.

When I walked away from Bill that day I knew I had been in the presence of some spiritual force. The strange warm feeling I took away from that encounter lasted for several days. I had the privilege of repeating that experience once again a year later and I had exactly the same reaction to him then as I did the first time. I would have moved to New York just to be near him if I could have.
60 Years an Alcoholic; 50 Years Without a Drink, Freeman Carpenter (pseudonym), (Newtown, Pa.: Unique Educational Services, 1996), pages 371-372.

To a lesser extent, Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith is also revered as a wise old guru, and a kind-hearted soul, which he was not.

66. Calls to Obliterate Self
A.A. scores a 10, and rates even more.

Another aspect of surrendering to the cult is the constant appeals to newcomers to erase "self" and "ego", and "abandon selfishness" and to devote oneself to serving the leader and the cult — which is disguised as "surrendering to God" or Step 2: "turning your will and your life over to the care of God". Bill Wilson harped endlessly about "selfishness", "self-centeredness", "self-seeking", and proclaimed that it was the cause of all of our problems, and that we must get rid of it and become obedient little slaves of his religion:

And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God's help.
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 62.

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success.
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 60.

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?
      Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.   ...
      So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God's help.
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 62.

Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.   ...  
First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", pages 64-65.

Like most sick people before me, I was implacably selfish, and chronically self-centered.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 401.

When we saw others solve their problems by a simple reliance upon the Spirit of the Universe, we had to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work. But the God idea did. The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, "We Agnostics", page 52.

Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way.   ...
Our actor is self-centered...
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 60.

So quit trying to run your own life and take care of yourself, which Bill Wilson called "playing God".

And then there is Bill Wilson's masochistic, narcissistic grovelling before God, declaring that we must all be entirely rid of "self":

We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him: "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. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. 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.

A.A. co-founder Doctor Bob also declared that his alcoholism was caused by selfishness:

Unfortunately for me I was the only child, which perhaps engendered the selfishness which played such an important part in bringing on my alcoholism.
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, "Dr. Bob's Story", page 172.

And, of course, Bill Wilson's solution to the problem of selfishness was to get everybody working "selflessly" to go recruit more A.A. members.

A currently-popular A.A. booster, Wayne B., declares:

...if a person wants what AA has, and is willing to go to any lengths to get it, then one is ready to take certain steps. Ok, but what is the "it" AA has to offer a still sick and suffering alcoholic?!?
      As stated in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, the it is 2 specific things: (1) victory over alcohol and (2) freedom from the bondage of self.

Also see the cult test item, Don't Trust Your Own Mind, immediately below, for more on this subject.

Also see the discussion of the A.A. calls to obliterate self in the file on The Heresy of the Twelve Steps.

67. Don't Trust Your Own Mind.
A.A. scores a 10.

Members are definitely taught to distrust their own minds:

  • "Stop your stinkin' thinking'."

  • "Your best thinking got you here."

  • "Don't go into your mind alone; it's not a safe neighborhood."

  • "Your thinking is alcoholic."

  • "You have a thinking problem, not a drinking problem."

  • "Utilize, don't analyze."

  • "You need a checkup from the neck up."

  • "Let Go Of Old Ideas."3

  • "We're All Here Because We're Not All There."

  • "... no alcoholic ... can claim 'soundness of mind' for himself."
          == William G. Wilson, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 33.

  • "I am powerless over people, places, and things."

  • "You have alcoholic thinking."

They will be told that their mind is useless, damaged by alcohol, and is a great liability. They will be told that alcohol is cunning, baffling, and powerful, and that their minds are being controlled by their addiction to alcohol, and that their addiction wants to kill them. They will be told that their old bad habits don't want to let go of them, so any deviation from the A.A. program is proof that they are diseased. Any disagreement with the standard A.A. dogma, or any attempt to think and act independently, is interpreted as alcoholism dominating the member's mind, and defeating his attempts at sobriety.

      "When you have to go into your head," says an Al-Anon friend, "don't go alone. It's not a safe neighborhood."
Hope for Today, published by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., page 47.

Faithful true believers even brag that their minds are broken:

For years, I was sure the worst thing that could happen to a nice guy like me would be that I would turn out to be an alcoholic. Today, I find it's the best thing that has ever happened to me. This proves I don't know what's good for me.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, pages 449-450.

This does, of course, create a huge logical problem with his story. To wit: he can't then rave, like he does, about how good A.A. is for him. How would he know? He admits that he doesn't know what's good for him. So when he says that A.A. is good for him, he's probably wrong.

In Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill Wilson declared that we do not even have the right to decide all by ourselves what we shall think:

How persistently we claim the right to decide all by ourselves just what we shall think and just how we shall act.
  ...   We are certain that our intelligence, backed by willpower, can rightly control our inner lives and guarantee us success in the world we live in. This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet this acid test: how well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, pages 36-37.

So, according to Bill Wilson, you must not use your own intelligence and will power to quit drinking and take care of yourself. That is "playing God".

To my mind, the most serious threat posed by the technology of behavior modification is the power this technology gives one man to impose his views and values on another... If our society is to remain free, one man must not be empowered to change another's personality and dictate the values, thoughts, and feelings of another.

Senator Sam Irvin, writing in Individual Rights and the Federal Role in Behavior Modification, November 1974.

Bill Wilson repeated the idea that you cannot trust your own mind, and must have your sponsor censor your thinking, in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, where he stated that in both confessing our moral wrongs and in receiving Guidance from God, we cannot trust our 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? How could we be certain we had made a true catalog of our defects and had really admitted them, even to ourselves?
      ... what comes to us alone may be garbled by our own rationalization and wishful thinking. The benefit of talking to another person is that we can get his direct comment and counsel on our situation, and there can be no doubt in our minds what that advice is. Going it alone in spiritual matters is dangerous. How many times have we heard well-intentioned people claim the guidance of God when it was all too plain that they were sorely mistaken. Lacking both practice and humility, they had deluded themselves and were able to justify the most arrant nonsense on the ground that this was what God had told them. It is worth noting that people of very high spiritual development almost always insist on checking with friends or spiritual advisors the guidance they feel they have received from God. Surely, then, a novice ought not lay himself open to the chance of making foolish, perhaps tragic, blunders in this fashion. While the comment or advice of others is by no means infallible, it is likely to be far more specific than any direct guidance we may receive while we are still so inexperienced in establishing contact with a Power greater than ourselves.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 59-60.

So, you are supposed to sit quietly in Step Eleven, and wait for God to talk to you and give you your orders, then you should humbly assume that you got it all wrong and completely misunderstood God when he gave you your Guidance, because you are only a novice who is inexperienced in talking with God, so you should then let your sponsor and the A.A. group correct your thinking, and tell you what to do, what to think, and what to believe.

Also note Bill Wilson's arrogant assumption that none of the newcomer alcoholics have had any prior experience in making contact with God. Their spiritual and religious lives were a total blank until Bill Wilson told them to pray and meditate and believe. In Bill Wilson's deranged mind, everybody was an atheistic alcoholic (or an alcoholic atheist) until Bill the Prophet set them on the right path by telling them what to do and what to think.

68. Don't Feel Your Own Feelings.
A.A. scores a 10.

Just like your thinking is supposedly 'alcoholic' and cannot be trusted, your feelings are also alcoholic and cannot be trusted either. You cannot trust your gut instincts — you must be alienated from yourself. Anger is especially prohibited, and should only be felt while criticizing "enemies" of A.A..

A.A. teaches new members to deny the reality of their own feelings and to distrust their feelings with numerous slogans:

  • "Stuff your feelings."
  • "Feelings aren't facts!"
  • "You should feel Serenity and Gratitude."
  • "Alcoholics can't afford to have resentments."
  • "You have a resentment."
  • "There is only one letter difference between Anger and Danger."
  • "Want some cheese with all that whine?"
  • "Poor Me, Poor Me, Pour Me Another Drink!"
  • "All you need to start a meeting is a pot of coffee and a resentment."
  • "The road to resentment is paved with expectation."
  • "The flip side to forgiveness is resentments."
  • "Try to be grateful and resentful at the same time, you can't serve two masters."
  • "Write a gratitude list and count your blessings."

And then there are "The Promises", which tell A.A. members how they should feel, when (if) they become holy enough:

... we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.   ...   We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.   ...   That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.   ...   Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.   ...
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, pages 83-84.

Even victims of rape or child abuse are told to stuff their feelings and "find their own part in it." They are not even allowed to feel angry about what was done to them. See the file on 12-step Snake Oil for more on that subject.

Bill Wilson declared in his second book that,

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about "justifiable" anger? If somebody cheats us, aren't we entitled to be mad? Can't we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us in A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 90.

["Gee, duh... somebody just shot my friend dead in the middle of the street, and raped my girlfriend, and kicked my dog. But I'm not going to get disturbed about it, because Bill Wilson says that if I did, it would axiomatically mean that there is something spiritually wrong with me... Duh..."]

The Big Book teaches this rationalization for not feeling anger:

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.

[Ah... So it was God's will that all of those bad things happened, huh? And I should just accept bullies killing my friends, raping my girlfriend, and kicking my dog because it is the Will of God, huh?]

[And I suppose that it was also just "God's Will" that some terrorists crashed jet airliners into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, right? Well, that's what they said.]

In A.A., the statement that "You have a resentment" is such a standard put-down that I have a long list of such accusations, here:

69. The group takes over the individual's decision-making process.
A.A. scores an 8.

In A.A., it's called "getting a sponsor". And it is also letting the group do one's thinking. Remember how Bill Wilson declared (above) that using your own intelligence and will power to take care of yourself and run your own life was "playing God". According to Bill Wilson, the properly-behaved A.A. member never manages his own life. He confesses that he is insane and powerless.

  • Step One says,

    1. [We] Admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
    — which means that you are incapable of managing your own life.

  • Step Two says,

    2. [We] Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    — which means that you are insane, and obviously not competent to manage your own life.

  • Step Three says,

    3. [We] Made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.
    — which means that Somebody or Something Else will control your mind and your life. And Bill Wilson even wrote that your "GOD" could be your "Group Of Drunks", which is really letting the cult take over your decision-making process.

Bill Wilson declared that your entire life — not only your actions, but even your very thoughts — should be dictated by Someone Else, because you are allegedly incapable of running your own life.

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good.
The Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 60.

We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 68.

And then there is Bill Wilson's outrageous declaration that you do not even have the right to think for yourself:

How persistently we claim the right to decide all by ourselves just what we shall think and just how we shall act. well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 37.

Bill Wilson declared that you must quit trying to manage your own life and take care of yourself — which Bill called "playing God". Bill insisted that you must let a dictator run your life:

First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn't work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, "How It Works", page 62.

Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 100.

The "Higher Power" dictator is ostensibly supposed to be "God" but again, the dictator "G.O.D." might just be your A.A. "Group Of Drunks", or your sponsor, or any Golden Calf of your choosing.

If you want to give a political label to that program, it is called "fascism", where you are reduced to being just a faithful obedient slave of Der Führer. (It also somewhat resembles "Communism", where you are reduced to being the obedient slave of a Fearless Leader, but A.A. lacks the communal property aspect of Communism.)

And A.A. takes over the newcomer's decision-making process again in Step Eleven:

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

So you practice Step Eleven, and listen for God to dictate some orders to you. But then you have to check your Guidance with your sponsor or other group elders, and seek their approval, to make sure that you heard God correctly. As mentioned above, Bill Wilson declared that you could not trust your own mind, or your own received Guidance, because you may well be deceiving yourself again:

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?   ...   Going it alone in spiritual matters is dangerous.   ...   While the comment or advice of others may be by no means infallible, it is likely to be far more specific than any direct guidance we may receive while we are still so inexperienced in establishing contact with a Power greater than ourselves.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 59-60.

So your sponsor or the group elders will be the ones who actually decide what God is really saying to you. They will really be the ones who are telling you what to do, and making the decisions. They get to speak to you as the voice of God.

Which leaves the giant question: Who bossed Bill Wilson around for his own good, and told him what to think and what to do? Nobody that I can see. That's another standard cult characteristic:
Everybody else needs the guru to boss him around, but nobody bosses the guru around.

How many A.A. members does it take to change a lightbulb?

One, but he has to ask his sponsor first.

70. You Owe The Group.
You owe everything to the group. The group says that it made you what you are, and gave you everything that you have, so now you are obligated to the group.
A.A. scores a 10.

First off, A.A. obviously claims that it and Bill Wilson's 12-step program made you quit drinking and saved your life, and gave you "spirituality", so you are obligated to go recruiting for A.A. for the rest of your life so that you can similarly "save" others, and make them into good A.A. members, too. Likewise, you are obligated to keep coming back to meetings forever, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of the newcomers.

In A.A., you are not allowed to claim that you quit drinking by yourself, or that you used your own will power and intelligence to save your own life; you must "admit" that you are powerless over alcohol, that your situation before quitting was hopeless, and that only A.A. and God could have saved you. So you owe them your life:

Why am I alive, free, a respected member of my community? Because A.A. really works for me!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 421.

I am grateful to A.A. for my sobriety...
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 383.

I owe everything to A.A.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, the story "Lifesaving Words", page 344.


1) The A.A. slogan is "Let Go Of Old Ideas."
Oh really? What about these old ideas?

  1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be known as the children of God.
  3. Thou shalt not kill.
  4. Thou shalt not lie.
  5. Thou shalt not steal.
  6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife...
  7. etc....

to answers 71 to 80.

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Last updated 13 February 2015.
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