Do Alcoholics Anonymous and Similar Programs Create Permanent Victims?

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Is it helpful to believe that you are never cured?

Alcoholics Anonymous and programs similar to AA lead members to believe that they are never cured. Is this a helpful or harmful way to look at their addiction?

I have known several people who had addiction problems, ranging from gambling to alcoholism and drug abuse. Some of them beat their addiction on their own or with the help of friends and family, others used programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. The people who beat addiction on their own consider themselves to be cured, whereas the ones who used AA and similar programs believe that they are never cured.

I have spoken with several people, particularly in AA, and I find their mentality baffling. The AA program has taught them that they are never cured of their addiction. They continue to call themselves alcoholics, even though they have been sober for years, in some cases decades. How can it be helpful to tell people that they are always a victim of an ongoing condition?

I have also noticed that people in Alcoholics Anonymous and similar programs are encouraged to never have the substance of their addiction in their homes, never to go places where the substance may be present, and limit or avoid completely any contact with people who partake in the substance, whether it be responsibly or in an addictive manner. People who have found help outside of AA do not always put such high restrictions on themselves.

From the people I know who have handled their addictions on their own or with therapy from professionals or family, they consider themselves to be cured. They are no longer addicts. As their time without partaking in the addictive substance increases, so does their pride in their achievement, and their ease in daily life. I have seen self-cured alcoholics and drug addicts who are able to be around people partaking in these things without any temptation or fear. Some even drink responsibly and have liquor in their homes. They do not fear relapse.

On the flip side, people I know who are using AA or NA consider themselves to still be addicts. They believe that without the program they will not be able to maintain sobriety. They fear being anywhere near addictive substances or people who use them, even if those people can use them responsibly. I have even known some of them to refuse association with former friends or family that partake in any potentially addictive substances.

It seems to me that telling people that they are never cured is counterproductive. To make an analogy, imagine you are working at a company, and your boss tells you every day “You are not good enough for a promotion”. Would you even bother doing more than the minimum? Would you even try at all, or just move on to another job where your boss tells you that you can become good enough for a promotion? Apply that thought to AA, NA and the like. If you’re always an addict and you will never not be an addict, why be a sober addict when you can be a high or drunk one?

One might wonder if the religious aspect of AA and similar programs has anything to do with this way of thinking. The “sinner” mentality may be bleeding too heavily into the supposed aid that the programs offer. Many people believe that AA and its sister programs are nothing more than cults, and due to their unregulated nature and low success rates, they are simply doing more harm than good to the people who attend their meetings. (It may be worth noting that I have actually met a couple that are non-Christian and credit AA with their sobriety.)

Personally, while I have seen people who found sobriety with AA and similar programs, I don’t see it as being the healthiest way to deal with an addiction. People who have dealt with their addictions personally or with the aid of health and mental health professionals seem to have a better quality of life, in great part due to their feeling that they are cured. Those who have used AA and the like seem to have greater social issues because of the program’s permanent addict teachings.

Now, whether there actually is any such thing as being cured from an addiction or not is up for debate. That depends on whether one falls on the belief that addiction is a compulsion, a mental disorder or a genetic predisposition. In any case, feeling that you have overcome an addiction and have control over it seems to be a more positive and productive way to think than to believe that one is forever a victim to it.

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