Walking Away from AA

After being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 21 (almost 22 years) I’ve made a decision to walk away from AA.

I don’t have a desire to drink – really I don’t.

This is really about the AA programs “suggestion” that you believe in a power greater than yourself that will help you to stay sober. The Big Book itself states about itself:

“Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.” We Agnostics p.45

That idea and notion don’t work for me and I’ve tried.

I’m going to try to have this be a post about me – it is not my intention to bash AA or insult those of you that happen to believe in a power greater than yourselves – some of the people I love (my sponsor, best friend, family) have very strong faith and it doesn’t make me love them less… it’s just a part of them I don’t relate to… I happen to like men, many people don’t understand that but still love me anyway… many people hate me that don’t know me simply based on that one little thing….

When I first arrived in AA the notion of believing in God was an an anathema – I wanted nothing to do with the Christian idea of God (and being from a small town in WI that’s all we were exposed to). AA taught me to be open-minded and tolerant of such and idea. You hear newcomers told frequently “Fake it til you make it” or “pray to the God you don’t believe in” or even “be willing to be willing to believe”.

And I tried to believe, I wanted to believe for many, many years… but then other AA ideas came into focus that seemed more important than praising someone else’s imaginary friend. I even write about it well – this blog is 11 years old and I’ve written several posts about recovery and believing look at my archives…

Honesty is the big one – knowing there wasn’t anything there for me but continuing to do the same things over and over again expecting a different result (that’s the definition of insanity in AA). I needed to be honest with myself and with others… it wasn’t until a few years ago I even came out as an atheist. Coming out though gave me a better feeling about myself.

The foundation of AA is the carrying of it’s message one alcoholic to another. Its message is that a power greater than yourself is necessary to recovery. As a non-believer it’s hard to carry that message, difficult to speak from the podium or in a room of drunks and emphasize that it’s “God” that got me through it. I can lie about it, I can share about it, but inside it isn’t true.. and again, honesty is important.

I did attempt to go to some agnostic/atheist AA meetings, but those meeting all came across as AA or God bashing. If that’s what keeps you sober have at it, but I need something more.

So I’m going to see what else is out there – believe it or not many people have left AA and found happiness outside the rooms without alcohol or other drugs, just because they don’t hear about them in meetings doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Here’s a blog post from another that I liked:


I’ve been to a couple of SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) meetings online already – there is a lot of AA bashing and a lot of rules about what not to do… there are in larger cities real meetings and I plan to attend some and see what’s going on. It may or may not work for me, but I’m open-minded about it (AA taught me that).

I do not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it (I hate that over-read part of the book) and know that AA will likely always be there if I decide I need to come back – and I have thousands of people that I met there and love… well, like at least.

AA has given me some important tools to live that I continue to use and treasure:

  1. Honesty (if at all possible)
  2. Help Others (get out of self)
  3. Meditation (center yourself)
  4. Self-Supporting (pay your own bills)
  5. No opinion on outside issues (mind your own business)
  6. Love (certainly not everyone – just those special gems that shine brightly… maybe this is really greed)

Maybe if I can’t find an acceptable alternative to keep me sober I’ll start my own group of heathens out to stay sober together. I just know that right now my path is leading away. 

My thanks to Flo and Suzanne for loving me and supporting me – they both believe in something and still love me. I’ve shared with them in a general way of my intention to leave and they support me.

I’ll write more about what I find on this alternative path and maybe people like me, who struggle with that part of the 12 step program can find something that works for them.

I copy pasted the below from another site:

Here are some links to other related posts on leaving AA




Here is a link to a piece about alternative methods of recovery


The categories in the side bar also lead to solutions such as the Sinclair method and Smart Recovery.


14 thoughts on “Walking Away from AA

  1. My partner William, was at AA for a couple of years and I was at AlAnon as well. William left AA because of the politics and the people diverting away the 12 steps and the real reason for going, to remain sober. It’s been 6 years of a sober Partner and sadly without AA people but sober because if the 12 steps. All I can say is remain sober and that can be done with AA meetings. Good luck and great post. Ivan.


  2. Just wanted to say good luck with everything and I am glad you found my site http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com helpful. I certainly made use of the fellowship of AA but was never committed to the religious side and moved on after a while, but have remained sober. It was a big step to leave AA and I was prepared to go back if things did not work out, but it has not been necessary. I think it is important for those of us that do move on or have issues with the program to talk about them as others can learn fromthe experience.
    Best wishes for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really found your site very useful, thanks for putting that stuff out there. I see a bunch of folks have clicked on your site from mine, so I hope we get more people interested. On Facebook a ton of my “AA” friends have commented feeling the same, but are afraid to leave.

      Thanks again.


  3. Hi Jamez. Thank you so much for sharing that. What a truly great post! I identified very strongly with everything you wrote -specially the need for truth and honesty in recovery. I walked away from AA for much the same reason as yourself after 13 1/2 years. That was over two years ago, and am now 15 1/2 years sober. I rediscovered my pre-AA atheism and feel much more connected to reality. I’m not resentful towards AA, but feel there are other options that people need to hear about too. The internet’s a game changer here. I still communicate with AAs on FaceBook – but I’ve also met a whole lot of other abstinent people as well, and their recovery is just as valid. I learned a lot of good stuff in AA, and passed a lot of that on to others in my step work; but, you know, it’s also OK to move on. There is life after AA. Congratulations. I wish you well. Jon S. “Leaving AA Staying Sober” at http://jonsleeper.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jon, I loved what you wrote in your post – I’m going to share it in a few places in the next day or so so others can see. Thanks for leading the way.


  4. Hi Jamez. I ran across your post through a Facebook share and just wanted to offer you as much encouragement as possible that indeed, one can become and remain sober in other ways and places besides “The Rooms” (unless of course that’s what works best for you). 😀

    As you’ve already discovered, you’re most definitely not the only one who’s decided to seek a different path, and I can also assure you there a lot more of us than you might think! I’m an AA flunky who thought I was doomed until I found a secular recovery group in LifeRing that offered online support, and found my recovery home in eMail groups in the Fall of 2007. Here I am, sober 8+ years and still very much a work in progress, but in a way I never was nor could have ever been when I was drinking! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and now I have a life when before I no shot at one.

    There are more than a few folks like yourself I’ve come across of late especially, including Jon Sleeper – not hating on AA by any means, but just realizing the God/HP stuff in particular has always been a tough pill for them to swallow, and deciding that maybe they really don’t **have** to keep trying to anymore!

    One thing about it, too, though: You can always go back if you don’t find what you need, and you can also do both – I know lots of people who do that, too, and it works for them. And that’s the point, really, that it’s not about what a program wants or requires of you for your recovery to be authentic – it’s about you, what works best for you, and having choices and options is a good thing!

    Anyway, wishing you all the best and will follow you now so as to see how you’re doing! Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jamez –

    You are not alone. I left 12 step programs in 2010 (after being ‘in program’ for over 5 years). Unlike you, I was not abstinent from my drug of choice when I left. It took some time, but I found my way and now live free of addiction.

    The first year out of program was the loneliest – most of my AA friends only wanted to associate before, during or after meetings. Then a friend who also left program called and said “we should hang out.” I took him up on his offer. Others followed and over time I found myself within a community of people who, like me, had left 12 step. This was important because they understood my history and experience and could talk about anything related to addiction and recovery pre-, during, and post-AA.

    I’ll be interested to read about your experience after 12 Step. Please continue to share your story!

    Several colleagues and I are in the process of creating a site and blog for people who have left program. We are also conducting research with this group to uncover strategies and tools they (we) use to remain sober. Our goal is never to bash AA, but rather to share information to make it easier for those who come after us. The site, blog and research is in the works, in the meantime, we are on twitter as @Beyond12Step. Please be in touch! We are just getting started.

    “Not all who wander are lost.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien


  6. I’m starting a phone meeting for people who feel they need extra support in leaving AA. (Or who aren’t sure if they want to leave). I’ve been sober for 28 years through AA, but feel I need something a little different and haven’t found it in the alternatives. We’ll also talk about how we stay sober today. So, it’s a sobriety meeting too! : ) For details, please email me at meredith.mk10@gmail.com


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