Why AA Couldn’t Keep Me Sober

Am I an alcoholic? Does AA work? Is Alcoholics Anonymous a cult?
Photo by Vaughan Willis on Unsplash

I’ve been a rule-breaker (or at least a bender) my entire life. I tend to “cherry pick” the best bits of books, programs, classes, and advice. And then move on.

As my mother always used to say…

Take the best and leave the rest!

Life’s too short to follow blindly, am I right? But for some reason, I had a hell of a time doing that when it came to dropping the bottle. I just kept trying the same old way to get sober.

Chances are pretty good that you already know I’m talking about Alcoholics Anonymous. After all, I haven’t exactly kept my thoughts on AA and its lack of effectiveness (for me, at least) a secret.

I can genuinely say I tried my hardest to follow the AA mandate. I dumped out all of my booze and pill bottles. I got a sponsor. I followed the steps. I went to at least a meeting every day. I fellowshipped with other alcoholics.

You know — I did the whole drill. But at the end of the day, I kept giving up and giving in to my old ways. I’d find myself drunk, yet again, and wondering what the hell went wrong this time.

I was already sick and tired when I got to AA. It was supposed to help. So,why the hell did I feel even worse walking out of meetings?

I’d kick my own ass about what I’d done to screw things up. And in the end, that’s why AA couldn’t keep me alcohol-free for longer than 90 days. It kept me looking for a magic formula to fix myself.

AA kept me distracted and disconnected from myself. And for me, that’s where the real issues lived. It was a bad neighborhood in my head, and I was never going to stop drinking if I was too afraid to visit my own mind.

Oh sure, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing when working the steps. I just couldn’t seem to allow myself to do more than scratch the surface of my thoughts and memories. There was some pretty dark stuff in there, you know?

In my experience with Alcoholics Anonymous, there was a LOT of “Do as I say, not as I do” going on in the rooms. And I never could seem to find a sponsor who was willing to walk me all the way through the 12 steps.

I was in a place where I didn’t want to confront my drinking demons, and my sponsor didn’t want to encourage me to do it. So, it just didn’t get done.

Luckily for me, I was finally able to apply the “take the best and leave the rest” rule to my drinking. I found some life-saving books on alcohol addiction, like This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, and I was on my way to freedom.

But what about the stuff I drank over in the first place? There had to be a better way to make friends with my mind, and stop beating myself up all of the time.

The first thing I did was make a solemn vow to myself…

Do no further harm, no matter what!

I did NOT want to have to pick up a drink over anything I did ever again, and I knew that meant not creating any new embarrassing messes in my life.

After that, I went on the hunt for an alternative to the 12 steps. I knew there had to be a way to make peace with my past without dragging myself over hot coals, which seemed to be the standard practice from what I was shown in AA.

What I found was something called Shadow Work.

I was able to peel back the layers of shame and alcohol-fueled dysfunction to find the real me. And I was able to do it in my own way, at my own pace — steadily and gently.

Please don’t think I’m warning you off of AA. I absolutely believe it’s a program that does work for some. But it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

What I’m suggesting is that when it comes to sobriety (or anything else) you try a little bit of everything out there. And remember to be kind to yourself!



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Amanda M. French

Amanda M. French

Lover of flip-flops and open minds. Writing on Alcohol-Free Living 💁‍♀️ Spirituality ✨ and Self-Empowerment 💪