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How to Deprogram From the Cult of Alcoholics Anonymous

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Over the course of the last ten years there has been greater public awareness that Alcoholics Anonymous is a harmful cult. Many who’ve had this realization are asking for a safe and effective path out of its grip. That’s the thing about cults; the fear tactics and the fear of leaving are the glue that keeps you trapped. So the question is how to let go of these fears and move on. Here’s the good news – there is a way out, and the people who can help guide you are all people who were once indoctrinated into the cult themselves and who’ve since found freedom. I know because I was one of them.

My Path Out of the Cult

My path out of AA began in late 1989 and ended in 2001 when I went to my last AA meeting. By that point I’d been to more than 3,000 12 step meetings. But throughout all of it, I’d been an addictions researcher and my skeptical nature kept me from becoming completely lost in the cult, and the facts and research saved me from becoming a lifelong believer. It took me those 12 long years to fully extricate myself from the AA meeting structure and let go of the fear that motivated my “needing” them. It does not have to take you that long. To make it easier and more efficient to leave AA, we wrote the official AA Deprogramming Guide in 2017. This manual is entitled, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap.

Leaving AA for good begins with a fundamental understanding of two basic myths that AA created in the 1930’s that are essential to keep your fear whole. With your fear of alcohol and drugs intact, you will always be in need of treatment and/or recovery (AA). This is the foundation of the destructive recovery trap:

1. Substances contain pharmacological powers that relieve stress, anxiety, depression and trauma, and thusly they are a necessary tool to solve or stave off these issues.

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a. Fact – Substances do not contain problem solving capabilities nor do they pharmacologically mask or relieve the struggles of the mind. Substances don’t think, don’t have motives, and cannot problem solve for you.

2. Loss of control of substance use is objectively real.

a. Fact – No one loses control of their substance consumption.
b. Fact – Barring overdose and unconsciousness, an individual is always choosing their consumption and are in full control of it.

Between these two myths are a whole host of other myths that support these first two. By deconstructing these recovery myths through credible research, one can move past their addictions incredibly efficiently and effectively. This can be accomplished by reading The Freedom Model for Addictions and learning the facts that can set you free.

The 12 Steps are Harmful

Now before I go on, it’s important to understand that many reading this may not fully understand just how harmful organizations like AA are. When I went to AA and NA, I went because there were no alternative “solutions” to help me solve my substance use problem – the 12 steps were it. You either went to the meetings, or you went through rehab and then went to meetings. Either way, all roads lead to Rome as they say. I went simply because it seemed the better of two miserable options: I could continue to drink and risk my life, or I could feel trapped in recovery and AA and have the belief in a meager chance at something better. In AA the assurance that it “gets better” is called the “promises” and I bought in to the idea that they may come true for me. Problem is, the promises never actually materialize, it’s all lies designed to keep you “coming back” to the meetings, and keep you putting that dollar or two in the donation basket every day. With over 2 million members worldwide, some who attend multiple meetings in a day, you can see how the cult makes its millions every year.

Here is the rub; I never actually felt better in AA, and neither do the vast majority of people who attend. (Only 5% of AA members stick around past one year.) During my first year in AA I became severely depressed, I hated that I had to continue the powerlessness mantra daily, and I felt my entire existence stagnate into a deep depressive state. I’ve since met tens of thousands of people over the course of the last 31 years who feel exactly the same way. Convincing yourself that you’re a hapless victim of a metaphorical, progressive, incurable disease has no upsides. (Never mind the fact that addiction is NOT a disease!) Adherence to falsehoods is believing in magic. Last I looked, magic is not a very scientific approach. Believing and applying myths as solutions to real objective life problems – especially one that can end with a tragic, unnecessary death – can never be a sound solution to such dramatic issues. It can only make you feel bad about yourself and the cruel world around you that it portrays. In AA, you never feel in control, and the only control you do have is to continue to spread the word that AA is the “only answer to addictions.” This last part was the piece that to me, exposed the cult for what it is. Every cult has its pyramid scheme, and AA has that process in spades.

Hope for a Better Way

Myself and my team of researchers have spent the last three decades creating the path out of the AA cult. If you find you are struggling with the realization that AA is not working for you, but you’re scared to let it go, then I recommend getting a copy of our deprogramming guide. I realize you might be afraid to change your current relationship to AA. I understand that, I truly do. I was afraid too. But I wasted many years hanging onto empty promises and a past filled with trauma and misery. It was time to let go of all of that, learn the truth of how to be a chooser of my own destiny, and learn how to truly move on. Know this – You can too!

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If you or someone you love are ready to break free from the addiction and recovery trap and move on, call us at 888-424-2626.

For more information about The Freedom Model go to

Mr. Mark Scheeren is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, as is co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, the original Non-12-Step approach for people who struggle with serious substance use issues. Mr. Scheeren and his staff of Researchers and Instructors have helped many thousands find permanent solutions to their drug and alcohol problems.

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