Alcoholics Anonymous as a Cult
Scorecard, Answers 91 to 100.

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

91. Use of the Cognitive Dissonance Technique.
A.A. scores a 10.

Behavior, attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings are interconnected, and people want to keep them all in harmony. If you force a change in one, it will cause a change in the others. For example, if you force a change in behavior, it will cause a change in attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs.

Adam Rafalovich wrote an exemplary piece of pseudo-intellectual bull that attempted to posit that Narcotics Anonymous meetings actually work and have positive effects on ex-addicts. It clearly demonstrated the effective use of cognitive dissonance techniques on newcomers:

Embedded within the interplay of these moments of recovering-addict identity is a technique of identity transformation I refer to as false working. False working denotes a mechanism by which NA members are given permission to "act as if" they truly believe in the NA message regardless of their real sentiments. This technique is exemplified by the aphorism Fake it 'til you make it. False working proves to be a crucial component for the NA organization to maintain long-term membership and recruit new, skeptical members.
Keep coming back! Narcotics Anonymous narrative and recovering-addict identity, Adam Rafalovich, Contemporary Drug Problems, Spring 1999, v26, i1, p131.

In other words, lie and fake it and pretend to be getting great results from "working the program", to fool the newcomers into believing that the voodoo medicine routine really works. Such deceit is useful for what the author calls "identity transformation" — converting newcomers into good cult members. Note that the author says that such deceit and fakery is even "a crucial component" in keeping the old-timers coming back. So everybody is deceiving everybody else, all of the time. Everybody is re-enacting "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Note the stilted language and disguised euphemisms. Instead of saying, "deception and deceit", the author uses the more scholarly-sounding phrases, "false working" and "permission to 'act as if' they truly believe in the NA message".

Rafalovich continued:

"Standing most significant in the literature today is the concept of narrative and its effect in creating group cohesion inside and outside 12-step meetings. It is believed in the study of 12-step recovery processes that the mutual disclosures of members fosters processes of belonging and commitment to the collective goal of drug and alcohol abstinence.   ...
In addition, the study of story presentation has been shown to be integral in developing moral attachments to a collectivity."
Keep coming back! Narcotics Anonymous narrative and recovering-addict identity, Adam Rafalovich, Contemporary Drug Problems, Spring 1999, v26, i1.

In other words, use the standard cult recruiting technique of Personal Testimonies of Earlier Converts to change the thinking of the newcomers and suck them into the cult. Much of the "sharing" is just sales pitches telling newcomers to join the group and Keep Coming Back.

"By examining the contents of common NA testimony, we can examine data that demonstrate that individual action is as much a result of the NA organization as it is a contributor to it. Therefore when positing a theory of the recovering-addict identity process, it is important to acknowledge the internalization of an organization as a result of becoming a contributor. Interestingly, NA members realize this theoretical notion. Contribution, for example, is a strong ethic within the organization; it is believed that to not participate in the narrative environment (i.e., not share during meetings) will harm one's chances of continued abstinence."
Keep coming back! Narcotics Anonymous narrative and recovering-addict identity, Adam Rafalovich, Contemporary Drug Problems, Spring 1999, v26, i1.

In other words, the way to become one of the group is to start talking the talk in meetings, and telling people that the program really is working for you — "Fake It Until You Make It." — "You can act yourself into thinking right easier than you can think yourself into acting right." The more you do it, the more it will warp your thinking and make you feel and act like one of the old-timers. Since you don't want to think of yourself as a lying fake, you will start to imagine that you really are getting some great results, just like you have been saying...

It's called cognitive dissonance. You will feel a conflict between the requirement to talk like the program works and your knowledge that it isn't doing anything. The feeling is one of dissonance — the same irritating, jarring, disharmonious feeling that you get from bad musical chords.

Your subconscious mind will struggle to minimize the pain of the conflict between believing that it is wrong to lie, and the group requirement that you say that you are getting great results from working the program — and the subconscious mind's answer to the problem is to "come to believe" that the program really is working for you and that you really are making great spiritual progress from working a strong program, just like you've been saying.

It's really a very common brainwashing and mind-control technique: "Makem' say it enough times, and they'll start to believe it. Make them go through the motions enough times and they will start to believe that such behavior is normal."

Also see Andrew Meacham's description of Reverse Denial for another example of how people get nudged into parrotting the standard speeches.

92. Grandiose existence. Bombastic, Grandiose Claims.
They can't just be normal good people; they have to be moral titans, playing out grand heroic roles in an epic cosmic moral melodrama.
A.A. scores a 10.

Bill Wilson had such outrageous delusions of grandeur that this cult characteristic becomes almost comical:

  • He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love.
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 4, We Agnostics, page 56.

  • Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense.
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 6, Into Action, page 85.

    (Carefully followed whose directions?)

  • We have come to believe He [God] would like us to keep our heads in the clouds with Him...
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, page 130.

  • We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 6, Into Action, page 75.

  • All A.A. progress can be reckoned in terms of just two words: humility and responsibility. Our whole spiritual development can be accurately measured by our degree of adherence to these magnificent standards.
    AS BILL SEES IT, William G. Wilson, p. 271.

  • See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 164.

  • And other A.A. proselytizers aren't too bad at it, either:

    ... Wilson's drinking had ruined his career, damaged his health, and caused agonizing pain and worry to his family and friends.
          But Wilson found a way out. He co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous, one of history's most important social movements.
    Clean and Sober: How Bill W. Founded Alcoholics Anonymous and Helped Millions, By: Frost, Bob, Biography, 10927891, Jan2003, Vol. 7, Issue 1.

  • ... I consider the AA people to be the most charming in the world.   ...
          They have found a power greater than themselves which they serve diligently. And that gives them a charm that never was elsewhere on land and sea. It makes you know that God Himself is really charming, because the AA people reflect His mercy and His forgiveness.
    ... when they have found their restoration, their sense of humor finds a blessed freedom, and they are able to reach a god-like state ...
    Where Did Everybody Go?, Paul Molloy, pages 187-189.

    God-like? Will being a booze-hound really get you that much good stuff?

  • Jack Alexander, a famous writer for the Saturday Evening Post magazine, and closet A.A. convert, alledgedly (Bill says) analyzed Bill Wilson's writing style in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions like this:

          "The Twelve Steps script is fascinating. Only trouble with your writing style is mechanical; you rely too often on the clause or phrase set off by dashes.   ...
          "Otherwise, the text is splendid. It has real authority and conviction, and I stayed with you to the end, which is more than I can say for Hemingway's 'Old Man and the Sea.'"
    'PASS IT ON' The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. staff, 1984, page 355.

    (So Bill Wilson was a better writer than Ernest Hemingway? Bill Wilson's delusions of grandeur just never cease.)

  • An enthusiastic A.A. missionary grandly declared:

          I believe that in a hundred years historians will look back and pinpoint this milestone as the single most important event in the twentieth century. This milestone was the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio, in June of 1935.
          Besides the invaluable gift of sobriety that AA has given to millions of Alcoholics, it also started a revolution in Spiritual consciousness.
          The dramatic success and expansion of AA facilitated the spread of a radically revolutionary idea which has traditionally, in Western Civilization, been considered heresy. This was not a new idea but rather a reintroduction and clarification of an old idea, coupled with a formula for practical application of the concept into day-to-day human life experience.
          This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.
          I Truly do believe that the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous could be viewed as the most important single event of the Twentieth Century. That is because the twelve step recovery program has not only proven such a literal life saver for millions of people, but it also provided a formula for countless individuals to learn how to live life based upon spiritual principles that align with the metaphysical laws that actually govern the experience of being human - instead of the twisted black and white beliefs of shame based organized religion.
    Robert Burney, "Codependency",

    Notice how that A.A. promoter also knocks regular organized religions: "...the twisted black and white beliefs of shame based organized religion." That is the standard cult characteristic of Denigration of competing sects, cults, and religions.
    And the author also indulges in hypocritical Reversal of reality — A.A. is one of the most guilt- and shame-inducing confessional religions around, and it is heavily into Black And White Thinking, too.

  • And "The Big Book Unplugged", a rehash of the Big Book that is intended for youths, tells this story about a new young stepper:

    The turning point for her came when she told her story at her second AA meeting. She peered over the podium and saw the face of AA listening to her. She saw the face of understanding, empathy, and love. She saw the face of God.
    Big Book Unplugged; A Young Person's Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous, John R., page 83.

93. Black And White Thinking
A.A. scores a 10.

Another aspect of A.A.'s irrationality is its love affair with absolute terminology. True believers love absolute truths, and dislike having to think rationally. Read the Big Book and other A.A. literature, and you will see that it is loaded with absolute statements containing words like "always", "never", "all", "none", "everything", and "nothing" which are the vocabulary of irrational black-and-white thinking:

"Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, page 33.

We are convinced to a man that alcoholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, page 30.

"Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, page 42.

'Resentment is the "number one" offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease...'
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, How It Works, page 64.
So what are all of the other forms of spiritual disease, anyway?

"... ask him if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 7, Working With Others, page 90.

(Bill Wilson's advice to wives:)
The first principle of success is that you should never be angry.   ...
Our next thought is that you should never tell him what he must do about his drinking. If he gets the idea that you are a nag or a killjoy, your chance of accomplishing anything useful may be zero.   ...   This may lead to lonely evenings for you. He may seek someone else to console him — not always another man.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 8, To Wives, page 111.
(Console him for what? Being told that he should quit drinking?)

We never, never try to arrange a man's life so as to shield him from temptation.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 8, To Wives, page 120.

"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.

We all had to place recovery above everything...
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Henry Parkhurst, Chapter 10, To Employers, page 143.

For us, material well-being always followed spiritual progress; it never preceded.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 9, The Family Afterward, page 127.
Meaning, A.A. comes before getting a job and supporting your family. A.A. even comes before your family.

...we know we have an answer for you. It never fails...
Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!
--A.A. co-founder Doctor Robert Smith, writing in The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Doctor Bob's Nightmare, page 181.
(But who says that God is going to do the A.A. program, and Work The Steps, and make me quit drinking, and deliver miracles on demand? I mean, God let me drink all I wanted to before...)

"You've been trying man's ways and they always fail," he told me. "You can't win unless you try God's way."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Chapter B5, The European Drinker, page 236.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake.
The A.A. Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict, page 449.

Either you are dealing with a man who can and will get well or you are not. If not, why waste time with him?
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Henry Parkhurst, Chapter 10, To Employers, page 142.
(That's an example of the propaganda trick called "the Either/Or technique".)

"For myself, I have an absolute proof of the existence of God."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Chapter C6, Physician, Heal Thyself!, page 350.

"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today."
(Italics in original.)
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Chapter B17, Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict, page 449.

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

An alcoholic who has recovered, but holds a relatively unimportant job, can talk to a man with a better position. Being on a radically different basis of life, he will never take advantage of the situation.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Henry Parkhurst, Chapter 10, To Employers, page 146.
[Henry Parkhurst was delusional, too, but he got a rude awakening when Bill Wilson cheated him out of all of the Big Book money. Then Hank found out that Bill Wilson was not "on a radically different basis of life" at all...]

"God ought to be able to do anything."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, Wilson G. Wilson, Chapter 11, A Vision For You, page 158.
Yes, God can do anything. But where, true believers, does it say that God will do anything for you?

The favorite A.A. slogans are equally loaded with absolute terminology. Just to list a few:

  • "Sobriety" is "a special state of Grace gained by working the Steps and maintaining absolute abstinence."
  • Work the Steps or Die!
  • We must always accept things the way they are.
  • I am powerless over everything.
  • God never gives you more than you can handle.
  • There are no coincidences.
  • The fellowship isn't perfect, but the program is perfect.
  • The program never fails anyone. People just fail the program.
See the item on Thought-terminating clichés and slogans for many more examples.

94. The use of heavy-duty mind control and rapid-conversion techniques.
The street version of A.A. scores a 0.

They just don't do this in regular meetings.

But the institutional version of A.A., where they run detox centers and treatment centers, and take prisoners, scores a 10. They do almost everything in the brainwashing book to convert people to the A.A. religion: total immersion; isolation from outside contacts; restricted reading materials (the Bible and A.A. literature); constant meetings and "group therapy" sessions, which are just more A.A. meetings by a different name; confession and self-criticism sessions, making people learn and constantly repeat A.A. dogma and slogans as the answer for alcoholism; the use of drugs to make people more cooperative and amenable to conversion; the use of other patients as snitches to inform on those who are bad-rapping the program behind the counselors' backs; and the punishment of dissenters by a variety of means, including putting them in the "hot seat" and shaming or bullying them for hours...

The counselors and therapists are quite open about the goal of this treatment being to forcefully convert people to a new belief system, the A.A. system. They rationalize it by saying that it will save the patients' lives. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why A.A. true believers over-react when someone says that the Twelve Steps don't work — if they don't, then this abusive behavior is unjustifiable.

95. Threats of bodily harm or death to someone who leaves the group.
The street version of A.A. scores a 5.

A.A. does not threaten to assassinate dropouts and defectors. People leave every day, almost everybody leaves, which creates A.A.'s abysmally low retention rate, and no one threatens them. A.A.'s own literature says that the specter of John Barleycorn threatening sickness, insanity, and death does far more to enforce the A.A. rules than anything A.A. could ever do.

But leaving may not be totally without consequences. The Big Book hints that your sponsor is not supposed to blab your most embarrassing personal secrets all over town after you do your Fifth Step and confess everything to him or her, but they've been known to do it anyway. Some sponsors did it to punish people who dared to leave A.A.. (See: A.A. Horror Stories, Rebecca Fransway, pages 116, 139, and 232.)

And ostracism is another usual consequence. Your A.A. "true friends for life" will suddenly not like you any more if you stop going to meetings.

The really intense A.A. death threats are the often-repeated claims that people who quit A.A. will relapse and die drunk in a gutter, or go insane, or become a "Dry Drunk". A.A. has lots of slogans like:

  • "You must Work A Strong Program, or else your fate will be Jails, Institutions, or Death."
  • "If you drink, your fate is jails, institutions, or death."
  • "If you leave A.A., your fate is jails, institutions, or death."
  • "I've been in jails; I've been in institutions; there's only one more place to go."
  • "The bottle, big house, or the box."
  • "Death, insanity, or recovery."
  • "Always remember the insanity... Be thankful for the pain... But most of all be thankful for the days that remain."
  • "The choice I have today is either to be Contented or Demented."
  • "It's Bill's way or the you'll get killed way."
  • "It's Our Way or the Die Way."
  • "Work the Steps, Or Die!"
  • "Do The Steps or Die."
  • "Share Or Die."
  • "Talk Or Die."
  • "Change Or Die."

Bill Wilson wrote:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [Bill Wilson's 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 spiritual principles [Bill Wilson's cult religion practices].
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 174.

Also see the Cult Test item The Group Implants Phobias for much more about Alcoholics Anonymous instilling fear of insanity and death if people leave the cult.

Institutional A.A. is another story entirely. When people are forced to attend A.A. meetings by a treatment program, an E.A.P. (Employee Assistance Program), a judge, or a parole officer, there are very real negative consequences for leaving A.A., for not attending meetings, or for not performing satisfactorily in "group therapy".

  • Homeless people who are housed in shelters while in treatment programs face a return to being homeless in the streets for not going to 12-step meetings.
  • Employees who were sent by an E.A.P. face loss of their jobs for failure to complete the program.
  • Those sent by a judge or parole officer face jail or prison for leaving or unsatisfactory performance.
  • Other people, like lawyers or doctors, are often forced into A.A. by their professional societies' diversion programs, and their only choices are attending many dreary meetings and yammering a lot of cult slogans, or professional decertification, which destroys their career.
  • See the next item, threats for criticizing, for even worse examples, like death threats.

Give institutional A.A. a 10.

96. Threats of bodily harm or death to someone who criticizes the group.
The street version of A.A. scores a 0.

The meetings themselves aren't too bad. People are strongly discouraged from criticizing the program during meetings, but not threatened.

However, people who publish negative reports on A.A., or who openly, publicly, question A.A. dogma, or who publish medical or scientific papers challenging the effectiveness of A.A. treatment or its principles, face all kinds of sanctions: loss of reputation, loss of employment, being black-balled from the treatment industry, and being blocked from further publishing or speaking.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Schaler, for example, lost his teaching position at Chestnut Hill College when he published his book Addiction is a Choice that only mildly criticized the beliefs and tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • When the husband-and-wife team of Mark Sobell and Linda Sobell published their work on teaching moderate controlled drinking to alcoholics, they were so villified by the A.A. pundits that they had to move to Canada to continue their research. (See: Sobell, M. B., and L. C. Sobell. 1973. "Alcoholics Treated by Individualized Behavior Therapy: One Year Treatment Outcome." Behavior Research and Therapy 11:599-618.)
  • Hospitals with inpatient treatment programs that included non-12-Step modalities have found themselves blackmailed by the local A.A. organizations into dropping the non-12-Step programs, or else A.A.-dominated organizations and clinics would not refer any more patients to that hospital.

A.A. members will launch vicious smear campaigns to discredit and destroy their critics, while hiding their A.A. membership. A.A. will use its front organizations like ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine), NCADD (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and NAADAC (the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors), and also its immense network of addiction treatment professionals, to attack the critics, while they all hide their A.A. memberships.

A.A. practices blackmail: They threaten to involve any organization that publishes negative information about A.A. or its treatment program in such shrill controversy that most of them feel that it just isn't worth the bother to open that can of worms. They have even blackmailed hospitals that were starting alternative treatment programs, like teaching controlled drinking, by threatening to stop referring patients to the hospital's lucrative inpatient treatment program.

And institutional A.A. is even worse. Institutionalized people who refuse to be indoctrinated into believing in A.A., or the Twelve Steps, or the disease model of alcoholism, and who criticize those things, face threats like: 1) Incarceration until the insurance money runs out, with endless "treatment" or "group therapy" sessions where they are bullied, browbeat, and shamed, or 2) Expulsion from the treatment program, which may cause violation of probation and reincarceration in a prison, or job loss or professional decertification for failure to complete the program, or great financial expense — some health insurance plans make the patient pay for the full course of alcoholism treatment if he doesn't complete the program.

In extreme cases, like when A.A. members run organ transplant centers, the threat is death. Dr. Clifton Kirton reports that when he needed a liver transplant, and resisted A.A. indoctrination, and said that he felt that A.A. was a coercive religious cult with medically incorrect dogma, he was told:

"If you think that's what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about, you're really missing the point. Religion has nothing to do with it. Your higher power can be anything. You are not being coerced. Your participation in A.A. is entirely voluntary. I must caution you, however, that your failure to internalize recovery concepts will place your transplant candidacy status in great jeopardy."

(In other words, join A.A. or die. "Voluntarily", of course. Dr. Kirton continued:)

These statements were made by Judy Stowe, Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor and coordinator of the Organ Transplant Chemical Dependency Unit at The Cleveland Clinic, an internationally respected tertiary care facility. The fact that the 12 steppers have achieved high status at such a prestigious medical center emphasizes the scope of the cult's influence at the highest levels. It is of further crucial importance that, according to Ms. Stowe, chemical dependency "rehabilitation" is mandated by the state of Ohio, although she refused to provide anything to this effect in writing.
The Semantics of the Twelve Step Neurosis: Surrender, Disease, Denial and other dysfunctional 12-step pathways to personal dis-empowerment and cult dependency by Dr. Clifton W. Kirton

Institutional A.A. scores a 5.

97. Appropriation of all of the members' worldly wealth.
A.A. scores 0 again.

A.A. passes the hat at each meeting, and that's all. Since many people come into A.A. in ragged shape, fresh out of detox, unemployed and penniless, nobody thinks twice about someone who doesn't donate. A.A. even has a seldom-mentioned rule of thumb to the effect of "you aren't supposed to donate more than $1000 per year when the basket is passed around."

The situation with institutional A.A. is becoming suspicious, however. Institutional A.A. is usually happy to just suck up people's health insurance money until it is exhausted, but there are stories of people having to sell their homes and give the money to the treatment center to keep running Daddy or Grandma through the same A.A.- and 12-step-based treatment program over and over again... I'm still scoring institutional A.A. with a zero here, but this situation bears watching.

Please note that I have specifically restricted this item to robbing members. Another list of cult characteristics that I was looking at used a different criterion: just "economic exploitation." That writer found institutional A.A. guilty of robbing the health insurance industry on a massive scale. True, but I'm going to let that one slide. Lots of other businesses, even a few corrupt doctors and hospitals, do their best to steal all of the money that they can get their hands on, too — Medicare fraud is common — but that doesn't make them evil religious cults. It just makes them some more very ordinary, boringly common, greedy thieving people...

98. Making cult members work long hours for free.
A.A. scores a 1.

This one is tricky. At first glance, you might think that nobody works at anything. People may volunteer for some tasks at some centers, but there is no great pressure to do so. There are no cult-owned businesses where members do slave labor all day. Nobody stands on the street corner, selling books or flowers. Nobody goes door to door, soliciting donations and new members. So you might think that nobody works for the organization for free.

But that isn't so. The first big requirement is that members have to spend a lot of their spare time attending meetings. Nobody pays them for all of those hours. Even if they don't feel like attending, or feel that it is helping them, they are supposed to be there for somebody else, to "help others" by making sure that the meeting is well attended.

Then, good members have to do recruiting. It's called "Twelfth Step work", and nobody gets paid for it. Members believe that they have to do Twelfth Step work if they are to maintain their own sobriety — that they can only stay sober by helping others to get and stay sober.

Then the more senior members have to become sponsors, and indoctrinate and supervise the newcomers. That can often be very time consuming, to the point that some members spend all of their spare time on A.A.-related busy-work, and nobody gets paid for any of it. The only people who make money are the ones at the top of the pyramid, the ones who print and sell the books, AAWS, and who run the GSO.

The slogans in A.A. are,
"We can only keep that which we give away."
"We should freely give away that which we have been freely given."

So eventually, most of the old-timers work for free, at least a little bit.

99. Total immersion and total isolation.
The street version of A.A. scores only a 2.

A.A. does not lock people away in communes, or prevent them from communicating with non-A.A. people.

  • They do, however, make a fair attempt at saturating beginners with 90 Meetings In 90 Days, and they strongly encourage beginners to spend most of their spare time in the company of other A.A. members, or studying A.A. literature like the Big Book.

  • They also encourage newcomers to get a sponsor who will keep them busy with indoctrinating projects.

  • Also, new members are definitely encouraged to avoid socializing with former drinking buddies, for obvious good reasons. Often, that rules out almost every former friend, because some alcoholics just didn't have any other friends than drinking buddies. So they end up just socializing with other members.

  • There are also "clean and sober recovery houses" where new A.A. members are encouraged to live, where they will be exposed to non-stop A.A. indoctrination, and they will only associate with other A.A. members, and they will attend at least one A.A. meeting per day, and they will be encouraged to read only A.A. council-approved literature.

  • The harmful social isolation of AA is most obvious in the ban on sexual or love relationships outside of the "fellowship". A giant red flag is the so-called "recommendation" that you not date or start any new relationships for the first year of your eternal recovery, and then, when you do have relationships, they should be with other A.A. members, who "understand what it is to be in recovery".

But that still isn't total immersion, and it is not total isolation.

Institutional A.A. is quite a different story, however. There, they really do lock people away in detox centers and rehab facilities, and limit or block their communication with people outside of the center, and control their access to information. It is very common for them to restrict reading materials to the Bible and A.A. literature, and to occupy all of the patients' time with A.A. meetings and "group therapy" sessions that are really just another form of A.A. indoctrination. And friends and relatives can only talk to the patients when the staff permit it. And of course when people leave the rehab facility, they are strongly encouraged to enter a "half-way house", or "recovery house", as described above. Institutional A.A. scores a 10.

100. Mass suicide.
A.A. scores 0.

The odds of A.A. committing mass suicide are less than the odds of the Roman Catholic Pope suddenly converting to Islam and marrying a harem of beautiful young women.

So what's a passing score? That's a good question. Considering just how nasty all of the characteristics in that list are, I'd consider any group that scored 50% or more as both obnoxious and dangerous.

And how does A.A. add up? Like this:

  • The first 93 items are applicable to just about any old ordinary, average nasty cult. There, A.A. scores 855 out of a possible 930. That's 91 percent. Most teachers will give you a plain old, full-blown, unqualified, gold-star "A" for a score of 91.

  • The last seven items are applicable only to the really crazy, nothing-but-enslaved-zombies type of cult. Nevertheless, including those items, the street version of A.A. still scores 863 out of a possible 1000, yielding an 85 percent score. That's a solid "B".

  • But institutional A.A. scores 894 out of a possible 1000 there, yielding an 89 percent score. Any teacher will give you a solid "B plus", or maybe even a forgiving "A minus" for an 89.

So, in my opinion, the street version of A.A. will easily pass the test for being an ordinary, run-of-the-mill irrational cult, and will even pass the test of being a hard-core cult. The institutional version of A.A. easily passes the test of being a very dangerous hard-core cult. Welcome to One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it just might be a duck.

If it looks like a cult, walks like a cult, talks like a cult, recruits like a cult, brainwashes like a cult, punishes like a cult, and like all cults, pretends it isn't a cult, then there is a pretty good chance that it's a cult.

Just one last parting comment: A cynic will ask, "What's the difference between a respectable religion and a crazy religious cult?" And the answer is, "About a million registered voters."

The biggest cults are called "mainstream cults", and the politicians don't call them cults at all. They don't have the guts. You can believe any crazy thing you want to if you have a big enough voting block to back you up. The Mormons are the premier example of that. The Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses aren't doing badly, either, and the Twelve-Step religion is okay, too. The Native American peoples, or "First Peoples", on the other hand, have seen the Supreme Court rule their religious Peyote Ceremonies illegal, because they eat a cactus with a kick. The real reason is simply "Not enough voters." The Roman Catholic Church in the USA never had a problem with the Priest having wine for Mass, all through Prohibition.

One man's illegal drug is another man's holy sacrament, if you have enough voters. And apparently, the same rule applies to alcoholism and drug addiction treatment: one man's crazy whacked-out superstitious faith-healing nonsense is another man's respectable medical treatment, billable to your HMO, if you have enough registered voters.

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Last updated 31 October 2014.
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