Further Reading

Please write if you left AA

Dear Stanton:

Congratulations on an excellent website. It is comprehensive and it is well put together.

I have been in AA for 13 years, and I have been an addictions professional for 9, I have just this year been exposed to Miller and Marlatt. I am blown away by the possibilities.

I wonder if any research has been done on people who have sobriety in AA, and then left, not to return to drinking, but because AA ceased to respond to their needs. I would ask that these research references not include "converts" to other forms of treatment, as their points of view tend to be just as skewed. I seek folks who have gone on in life without formal treatment, and have no axe to grind.

Thank you so much for your amazing work.

Randy Markey

There's a mailing list for former 12-step members. Join by sending a message to listserver@toast.ml.org with the text subscribe XAA-L yourname

Dear Randy:

The point you express is a very important one -- people who go it alone, either initially or after leaving AA or other treatment, have no acknowledgement or reference group. The problem is that we need to learn about and from them. I will list this as an FAQ at my website.

Best wishes, Stanton


I read with interest your e-mail to Dr. Peele on his web site. I would be interested in corresponding with you as I think the phenomenon of individuals leaving AA, especially those forced into it while adolescents (myself included), is much more widespread than acknowledged. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen friends I met in AA who are no longer members. Some are drinking without problems and some are still abstinent, but all experienced essentially what you described: AA failed to substantially add anything meaningful to their lives.

I too left AA after over 11 years of membership. I became disenchanted with the religiosity and anti-intellectualism of the program and I never really bought the disease concept, even after 30 days of high-priced "disease-model" treatment that I was forced to receive at age 19. But I suppose my real motivation for leaving was boredom with the meetings: sitting down for an hour and a half and listening to people take turns discussing themselves (usually in a tedious and familiar fashion) ceased to be a productive use of my time.

Though I don't think I have any axes to grind, I am not shy in my criticism of AA. I am not a member of any alternative program though I have read the new Rational Recovery book and feel it has a lot to offer. I have studied much of the addiction literature, while as an undergrad at University of Washington and, currently, as a second year law student at NYU. I am very interested in the legal implications of forced AA attendance and the effect the acceptance of the disease model has had on the law, particularly civil commitment statutes.

Like you, I am also intrigued by those who decide to leave AA. From reading your e-mail, I gathered that you are considering doing research in this area. Is this correct? Please let me know as I would be happy to assist in whatever way I can, time permitting.

John Reisinger

Mr. Markey:

I saw your letter in one of Stanton Peele's FAQ pages.  If you still consider the concern current I would like to weigh in as someone who was helped with a drinking problem by AA and who subsequently left.

Having been exposed only to the disease model, I joined AA in 1983 at age 30 and I still must say that following the disciplines set forth turned my behavior around and set me up for much growth.  Perhaps the biggest revelation was that, in spite of supposedly being afflicted with something I couldn't control, others expected me to be responsible for my actions.  Nevertheless, after ten years or so I grew tired of hearing the same slogans repeated ad infinitum.  If it was spirituality it was very limited spirituality, and I could do better in that department.

At about the same time I grew very chary of identifying myself as an alcoholic, even to my doctor, who obligingly changed the language in my records.  I said that I had never been diagnosed as alcoholic, nor received treatment.  The attitude of personnel departments toward recovery seemed to have changed in the era of murderous downsizing, from benevolent acceptance to the possibility of using a past drinking problem to "trump up" a reason for termination.

These days I get along fine without AA or any other programmed approach to maintaining sobriety.  In fact I have ceased thinking of myself as alcoholic, as AA sees that condition: something that resides across a line that, once crossed, removes choices from people and forever marks them as ill.  If the treatment establishment sees alcoholism as a disease, some in AA still seem to see it as demon possession, and that isn't my style at all.

Please feel free to contact me if I can provide any further information.


Ken Lott


Very interesting letter.  I think some in AA would find your letter highly challenging, more so than one highly antipathetic to that organization, since you think AA helped you but you nonetheless feel you have outgrown the alcoholic designation.