How Carl Jung Inspired the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous

There may be as many doors into Alco­holics Anony­mous in the 21st cen­tu­ry as there are peo­ple who walk through them—from every world reli­gion to no reli­gion. The “inter­na­tion­al mutu­al-aid fel­low­ship” has had “a sig­nif­i­cant and long-term effect on the cul­ture of the Unit­ed States,” writes Worces­ter State Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy Charles Fox at Aeon. Indeed, its influ­ence is glob­al. From its incep­tion in 1935, A.A. has rep­re­sent­ed an “enor­mous­ly pop­u­lar ther­a­py, and a tes­ta­ment to the inter­dis­ci­pli­nary nature of health and well­ness.”

A.A. has also rep­re­sent­ed, at least cul­tur­al­ly, a remark­able syn­the­sis of behav­ioral sci­ence and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty that trans­lates into scores of dif­fer­ent lan­guages, beliefs, and prac­tices. Or at least that’s the way it can appear from brows­ing the scores of books on A.A.’s 12-Steps and Bud­dhism, Yoga, Catholi­cism, Judaism, Indige­nous faith tra­di­tions, shaman­ist prac­tices, Sto­icism, sec­u­lar human­ism, and, of course, psy­chol­o­gy.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, and often in prac­tice, how­ev­er, the (non)organization of world­wide fel­low­ships has rep­re­sent­ed a much nar­row­er tra­di­tion, inher­it­ed from the evan­gel­i­cal (small “e”) Chris­t­ian Oxford Group, or as A.A. founder Bill Wil­son called them, “the ‘O.G.’” Wil­son cred­its the Oxford Group for the method­ol­o­gy of A.A.: “their large empha­sis upon the prin­ci­ples of self-sur­vey, con­fes­sion, resti­tu­tion, and the giv­ing of one­self in ser­vice to oth­ers.”

The Oxford Group’s the­ol­o­gy, though qual­i­fied and tem­pered, also made its way into many of A.A.’s basic prin­ci­ples. But for the recov­ery group’s gen­e­sis, Wil­son cites a more sec­u­lar author­i­ty, Carl Jung. The famous Swiss psy­chi­a­trist took a keen inter­est in alco­holism in the 1920s. Wil­son wrote to Jung in 1961 to express his “great appre­ci­a­tion” for his efforts. “A cer­tain con­ver­sa­tion you once had with one of your patients, a Mr. Row­land H. back in the ear­ly 1930’s,” Wil­son explains, “did play a crit­i­cal role in the found­ing of our Fel­low­ship.”

Jung may not have known his influ­ence on the recov­ery move­ment, Wil­son says, although alco­holics had account­ed for “about 13 per­cent of all admis­sions” in his prac­tice, notes Fox. One of his patients, Row­land H.—or Row­land Haz­ard, “invest­ment banker and for­mer state sen­a­tor from Rhode Island”—came to Jung in des­per­a­tion, saw him dai­ly for a peri­od of sev­er­al months, stopped drink­ing, then relapsed. Brought back to Jung by his cousin, Haz­ard was told that his case was hope­less short of a reli­gious con­ver­sion. As Wil­son puts it in his let­ter:

[Y]ou frankly told him of his hope­less­ness, so far as any fur­ther med­ical or psy­chi­atric treat­ment might be con­cerned. This can­did and hum­ble state­ment of yours was beyond doubt the first foun­da­tion stone upon which our Soci­ety has since been built.

Jung also told Haz­ard that con­ver­sion expe­ri­ences were incred­i­bly rare and rec­om­mend­ed that he “place him­self in a reli­gious atmos­phere and hope for the best,” as Wil­son remem­bers. But he did not spec­i­fy any par­tic­u­lar reli­gion. Haz­ard dis­cov­ered the Oxford Group. He might, as far as Jung was con­cerned, have met God as he under­stood it any­where. “His crav­ing for alco­hol was the equiv­a­lent,” wrote the psy­chi­a­trist in a reply to Wil­son, “on a low lev­el, of the spir­i­tu­al thirst of our being for whole­ness, expressed in medieval lan­guage: the union with God.”

In his reply let­ter to Wil­son, Jung uses reli­gious lan­guage alle­gor­i­cal­ly. AA took the idea of con­ver­sion more lit­er­al­ly. Though it wres­tled with the plight of the agnos­tic, the Big Book con­clud­ed that such peo­ple must even­tu­al­ly see the light. Jung, on the oth­er hand, seems very care­ful to avoid a strict­ly reli­gious inter­pre­ta­tion of his advice to Haz­ard, who start­ed the first small group that would con­vert Wil­son to sobri­ety and to Oxford Group meth­ods.

“How could one for­mu­late such an insight that is not mis­un­der­stood in our days?” Jung asks. “The only right and legit­i­mate way to such an expe­ri­ence is that it hap­pens to you in real­i­ty and it can only hap­pen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to a high­er under­stand­ing.” Sobri­ety could be achieved through “a high­er edu­ca­tion of the mind beyond the con­fines of mere rationalism”—through an enlight­en­ment or con­ver­sion expe­ri­ence, that is. It might also occur through “an act of grace or through a per­son­al and hon­est con­tact with friends.”

Though most found­ing mem­bers of AA fought for the stricter inter­pre­ta­tion of Jung’s pre­scrip­tion, Wil­son always enter­tained the idea that mul­ti­ple paths might bring alco­holics to the same goal, even includ­ing mod­ern med­i­cine. He drew on the med­ical opin­ions of Dr. William D. Silk­worth, who the­o­rized that alco­holism was in part a phys­i­cal dis­ease, “a sort of metab­o­lism dif­fi­cul­ty which he then called an aller­gy.” Even after his own con­ver­sion expe­ri­ence, which Silk­worth, like Jung, rec­om­mend­ed he pur­sue, Wil­son exper­i­ment­ed with vit­a­min ther­a­pies, through the influ­ence of Aldous Hux­ley.

His search to under­stand his mys­ti­cal “white light” moment in a New York detox room also led Wil­son to William James’ Vari­eties of Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence. The book “gave me the real­iza­tion,” he wrote to Jung, “that most con­ver­sion expe­ri­ences, what­ev­er their vari­ety, do have a com­mon denom­i­na­tor of ego col­lapse at depth.” He even thought that LSD could act as such a “tem­po­rary ego-reduc­er” after he took the drug under super­vi­sion of British psy­chi­a­trist Humphrey Osmond. (Jung like­ly would have opposed what he called “short cuts” like psy­che­del­ic drugs.)

In the let­ters between Wil­son and Jung, as Ian McCabe argues in Carl Jung and Alco­holics Anony­mous, we see mutu­al admi­ra­tion between the two, as well as mutu­al influ­ence. “Bill Wil­son,” writes McCabe’s pub­lish­er, “was encour­aged by Jung’s writ­ings to pro­mote the spir­i­tu­al aspect of recov­ery,” an aspect that took on a par­tic­u­lar­ly reli­gious char­ac­ter in Alco­holics Anony­mous. For his part, Jung, “influ­enced by A.A.’s suc­cess… gave ‘com­plete and detailed instruc­tions’ on how the A.A. group for­mat could be devel­oped fur­ther and used by ‘gen­er­al neu­rotics.’” And so it has, though more on the Oxford Group mod­el than the more mys­ti­cal Jun­gian. It might well have been oth­er­wise.

Read more about Jung’s influ­ence on AA over at Aeon.

Note: Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2019.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Jung Offers an Intro­duc­tion to His Psy­cho­log­i­cal Thought in a 3‑Hour Inter­view (1957)

Take Carl Jung’s Word Asso­ci­a­tion Test, a Quick Route Into the Sub­con­scious (1910)

Carl Jung’s Hand-Drawn, Rarely-Seen Man­u­script The Red Book

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (60)
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  • Ben L. says:

    Spir­i­tus con spir­i­tum~~~

  • Ken says:

    Thank you. You left out Ebby Thatcher.Also, when you revise this, please adhere to ref­er­ences with author, date, arti­cles or book name and page num­ber if using “quotes” Thanks Dr Ken. AA researcher

  • Ken says:

    Thank you.Also, when you revise this, please adhere to ref­er­ences with author, date, arti­cles or book name and page num­ber if using “quotes” Thanks Dr Ken. AA researcher

  • Kurt Reitze says:

    As a recov­er­ing alco­holic I can tes­ti­fy that “the solu­tion is spir­i­tu­al in nature”. I replaced the spir­its in a bot­tle with the spir­it of God’s will. For that I am eter­nal­ly grate­ful. Kurt R.

  • Hb Strasbourg-Thompson says:

    I have read that Bill Wilson’s sec­re­tary was a rel­a­tive of Carl Jung.

  • Ben says:

    I am 35 years sober
    I have lost very down on the
    Fel­low­ship there are a group
    Of men in the Hunter Val­ley n.s.w Aus­tralia
    That pray on new female mem­bers
    It’s a back pat­ting group
    It seems be let go because some
    Are very wealthy and pow­er­ful
    Since my 30 birth­day in sobri­ety
    I have done 5 meet­ings I’m very
    Dis­heart­ened and loost respect for

  • Julie Eddy says:

    I have been sober 15 yrs.
    The AA mot­to is, when you attend meet­ings, Take what you want, and leave the rest.

    I dont do meet­ings any more, but I prac­tice the 12 steps in my dai­ly life, with­out these 12 steps which are the tools for us alco­holics to get sober and grow in our spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.
    One Day at a time.

  • Kari says:

    I am 14 years sober and I attend aa meet­ings every­day. I work with oth­er women in the pro­gram. I am to fit myself in life and be of ser­vice. I love AA!

  • Samuel R says:

    Don’t despair over that Ben. AA is not men­tal health olympics but to help the alco­holic that still suf­fers. Prin­ci­ples before per­son­al­i­ties. The per­son­al­i­ties as you can imag­ine are dif­fi­cult, com­plex, dis­heart­ened, abused, trau­ma­tized, ego dri­ven all the way to the abyss. But with the help of AA we get direc­tion, spir­i­tu­al steps, sobri­ety, good liv­ing.

  • Samuel R says:

    Right on!

  • Marco Romano says:

    Yes Ebby Thacher was Bill Wilson’s drink­ing bud­dy and “spon­sor”.

  • Ann west says:

    Yes I think take what you want and leave the rest, I was told AA is not per­fect because there’s peo­ple in it, but you can’t fault the pro­gramn

  • Ranger Steve says:

    Keep com­ing back, it works if you work it
    (And hurts if you don’t)

  • AI says:

    Peo­ple should know that AA has a mas­sive fail­ure rate. Here’s a quote from the book, “Man­u­fac­tur­ing Vic­tims:”

    ‘Dit­man stud­ied three groups of alco­holics who had been
    arrest­ed and charged with alco­hol-relat­ed offences. The court had assigned these indi­vid­u­als to AA, an alco­holism clin­ic, or a non­treat­ment con­trol group. A fol­low-up found that 44 per cent of the con­trol group were not re-arrest­ed,
    com­pared to 31 per cent of the AA group and 32 per cent of those treat­ed in a clin­ic; those that received treat­ment did worse than the untreat­ed. “Not one study,” Peele asserts, “has ever found AA or its deriv­a­tives to be supe­ri­or to any
    oth­er approach, or even to be bet­ter than not receiv­ing any help at all. Every com­par­a­tive study of stan­dard treat­ment pro­grams ver­sus legal pro­ceed­ings for drunk dri­vers finds that those who received ordi­nary judi­cial sanc­tions had few­er
    sub­se­quent acci­dents and were arrest­ed less.”’

  • AI says:

    Per­son­al­ly, if I had an alco­holism prob­lem (which I don’t), I would just do deliv­er­ance prayer in Jesus’ name. Deliv­er­ance prayer brought me pro­found and last­ing relief from bad depres­sion, an eat­ing com­pul­sion, and a weird wan­der­ing com­pul­sion — prais­es to Jesus!

  • TT says:

    AA is a reli­gion in denial. It’s roots are in the fas­cist Oxford pro­gram. Its founder was schiz­o­phrenic and a user of LSD. The rooms are chock full of emo­tion­al, phys­i­cal and sex­u­al preda­tors. It’s suc­cess rate is no bet­ter than no treat­ment at all, despite their grandiose claims to the con­trary. The soon­er this cult dies, the bet­ter.

  • Jim says:

    Con­grat­u­la­tions!!! You have COMPLETELY missed the point. AA does indeed have a “mas­sive fail­ure rate.” How­ev­er, pri­or to AA the “fail­ure rate” was 100%. Such is the nature of the dis­ease.

  • Chuck S says:

    Unless you lived this way of life to the best of your abil­i­ty you would hav no idea how your life would change for the bet­ter . You admit­ted that you were alco­holic . Find a high­er pow­er clean house and help oth­ers , it’s the best way of life for me and count­less oth­ers. If you think you have a prob­lem with alco­hol then try this pro­gram . My father has 45 years and it still works for him, liv­ing proof in my eyes
    Thank you Alcoholic“s Anony­mous

  • Peter says:

    The spir­i­tu­al mal­a­dy that plagues every human being, alco­holic or not is the source of all con­flict and suf­fer­ing. My expe­ri­ence has been that AA is one effec­tive way to solve the drink prob­lem and,in turn bring peace of mind to the indi­vid­ual.

  • Maria says:

    Very well said.

  • Alberta says:

    Very inter­est­ing arti­cle. Clear­ly the influ­ences that com­bined to cre­ate AA are com­pli­cat­ed, and Jung is not the only one. I was not in AA but in Overeaters Anony­mous and can attest that it works as I am almost 30 years sober. Eat­ing dis­or­ders are slight­ly dif­fer­ent from oth­er addic­tions, since you can’t stop eat­ing entire­ly, so are always poten­tial­ly on a slip­pery slope to break­ing absti­nence until you can fer­ret out exact­ly what things trig­ger you, and what is safer. So attend­ing meet­ings and hear­ing the wis­dom of the group is as essen­tial as work­ing the steps. I have heard from many peo­ple that the AA method is a gift from God, and I am inclined to agree. I would say this: if you can­not be hon­est with your­self and with oth­ers, the AA method will not work. So cul­ti­vat­ing hon­esty must be a top pri­or­i­ty.

  • Maria says:

    I been sober 20 years.After being a mem­ber of aa I became a licensed ther­a­pist and yes I learned In aa and my spon­sor of 20 years to not share romances or oth­er words prin­ci­ples before per­son­al­i­ties. I attend meet­ings for me.…not to be look­ing for romances.

  • Gilbert says:

    On Page 420 4th edi­tion Big Book in the sto­ry accep­tance was the answer. Last para­graph States “I must keep my mag­ic mag­ni­fy­ing mind on my accep­tance and off my expec­ta­tions, for my seren­i­ty is direct­ly pro­por­tion­al to my lev­el of accep­tance. When I remem­ber this, I can see I’ve nev­er had it so good. Thank God for AA!”

  • Ganesh M. says:

    I always enjoy read­ing the his­to­ry on the par­tic­i­pa­tion and involve­ment of the non-alco­holics that played such an impor­tant and inter­gral role in the for­ma­tion of Alco­holics Anony­mous. Even today there are many who still serve the fel­low­ship in their respec­tive ser­vice posi­tions that ensures the progress of AA.

  • Rahm Rojas says:

    Thank you for your share.
    Prayer is a cru­cial com­po­nent in main­tain­ing sobri­ety and your come t led me to research the prac­tice of deliv­er­ance prayer in the name of Jesus Christ

  • Cajun wherllhouse says:

    Its progress not per­fec­tion. Trust GOD clean house and help oth­ers.

  • Daniel says:

    52 years sober,athiest,stauch advo­cate of odaat. Have lived a hap­py, long life with damn few regrets. Ear­ly mem­bers stressed a 24 hour pro­gram and after many months of recov­ery­ing, it became a way of life. Some years ago I am try­ing with difi­cul­ty to find and live with an hon­est grip on spir­i­tu­al­i­ty only hav­ing minor suc­cess. But as a mem­ber of AA I have hope. A hap­py mar­riage for 50 years until she passed 10 years ago. Don’t drink and go to meet­ings odaat.

  • Tisha Rose Lopes says:

    Well said!
    By the way, I wish to share grat­i­tude for tra­di­tion three which states: THE ONLY REQUIREMENT FOR A.A. MEMBERSHIP IS A DESIRE TO STOP DRINKING.
    Thank God for The Tra­di­tions guys!

  • Linda Campbell says:

    A study just came out, Google AA and long term sobriety,that found AA’s suc­cess rate, based on long term sobriety,was high­er than oth­er “out patient“therapies. Focus­ing your num­bers on the out­comes of DUI is severe­ly flawed. One it’s com­mon for Judges to “sen­tence” them to attend AA meet­ings. As AA is a pro­gram of attrac­tion not pro­mo­tion, the hope at min­i­mum a seed will be plant­ed.

    Next the assump­tion that all AA mem­bers enter the pro­gram through DUI, is plain BS. That is one way,but its not the major­i­ty. I was 55, when I came in and not one DUI. But I almost killed myself drink­ing.
    There are many paths to AA,just like there is every kind of human Being in the rooms of AA. It’s because its a Glob­al genet­ic nuero­log­i­cal dis­ease. It’s also self sup­port­ing, No due or fees. Just ask for cou­ple of bucks to
    keep the doors open and cof­fee in the pot.
    In the last 13 years of my sobri­et, as a well edu­cat­ed let­tered Alco­holic, I have dis­cov­ered those that critize AA, have a dif­fer­ent way to “cure” Alco­holism. All for a fee. One there is no cure,like being left hand­ed, you either have it or you don’t. But it does­n’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly mean you’ll become a chron­ic alco­holic. There’s many vari­ables that can hap­pen to stop the pro­gres­sion. But usu­al­ly involves the peo­ple stop drink­ing alco­hol.

    In my case, I had con­trol until I did­n’t. After my spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing, that Jung describes in Arti­cle and AA Big Book,the obses­sion was lift­ed. I real­ize I’m in remis­sion and my addic­tion is one drink away. It’s why keep doing the work. I lit­er­al­ly could­n’t stop drinking,it was like com­mit­ting sui­cide in slow motion.
    That’s a sce­nario I nev­er want to face again.
    Also AA does­n’t claim to be THE solu­tion, but it works for me.

  • Chris says:

    Absolute­ly the best response on this thread. I knew if I kept read­ing the posts after that flawed DUI arrest to suc­cess rate igno­rance, I would hear a share that rang true in my soul. So yeah, have a sip of cof­fee, through in a few bucks to help keep the doors open, find the sim­i­lar­i­ties and what moti­vates you, then leave the rest behind and keep com­ing back. Thanks to AA, the rooms with peo­ple that think like me and shares like the one I replied to, I will take anoth­er 24hrs of sobri­ety.
    Before I had to have one thing, no mat­ter what, and gave up every­thing. Now, I can have every­thing I choose just by not choos­ing that one thing.

  • Coy m says:

    AA is not per­fect, but bet­ter than any­thing I’ve ever had. at 75 I can only imag­ine what kind of mess I would be in if I was still around. I got here in 93 and haven’t found it nec­es­sary to con­tin­ue my insan­i­ty. I’ll keep com­ing.

  • Tony says:

    I’ve been in and out of AA for over 20 years. I’ve relapsed many times and had sobri­ety many times. Peo­ple could say that AA did not work for me but that would not be an accu­rate state­ment. I did not work AA. My expe­ri­ence is that the group of Alco­holics Anony­mous works for those who work it. UNITY — RECOVERY — SERVICE
    ‑Tony H

  • Joseph A Valaske says:

    The twelfth step of aa says” hav­ing had a spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing as a result of these steps..” Not a reli­gious con­ver­sion. After almost 38 years in recov­ery I find that I still have no clear idea of God, nor do I need to. Try­ing not to live these prin­ci­ples in my life has made me a kinder more under­stand­ing and com­pas­sion­ate per­son and brought me a con­tent­ment I had nev­er thought pos­si­ble. I am able to intu­itive­ly han­dle sit­u­a­tions which used to baf­fle me.
    Though I rarely think about hav­ing a drink or drug, I still attend a cou­ple meet­ings a week where peo­ple shar­ing hon­est­ly shows me that we are all human strug­gling with the prob­lems of life , and help­ing oth­ers and accept­ing help is more sat­is­fy­ing than tem­po­rary escape .

  • J A V says:

    Try­ing to ( it was sup­posed to be)

  • Joni H says:

    AMEN 🙏

  • Daryl says:

    Sweet says it all! Noth­ing left to say

  • Wes Fritz says:


  • Glen says:

    In the ear­ly days of my sobri­ety reg­u­lar AA meet­ings helped a lot. Got a spon­sor, did the men­tal leg­work of going through the book. Shared my expe­ri­ence, strength, and hope to many both in the rooms and at events. I did ser­vice up to Inter­group lev­el and then one day I just decid­ed that I’d had enough of recov­ery and decid­ed I had recov­ered and stopped being an active mem­ber. 10 years on from that I still haven’t drunk. I still find myself help­ing oth­ers by way of approach­ing active prob­lem drinkers and gen­tly let­ting them know there is a way out of their predica­ment but meet­ings are not for me any­more, in my area they have become a dump­ing ground for the jus­tice sys­tem and free cof­fee and ther­a­py for peo­ple who can’t access men­tal health ser­vices. Like so many things these days the Only require­ment for mem­ber­ship isn’t adhered to for fear of los­ing face.
    Is it a reli­gious cult? Could be
    Is there only a 3% long-term suc­cess rate? Prob­a­bly, we are deal­ing with addicts after all.
    Is it flawed? Absolute­ly, noth­ing run by humans is per­fect.
    Does it work? Only if YOU work it!

  • Happyday says:

    100 per­cent of life is rela­tion­ships. me with me and me with you and me with what­ev­er is run­ning the show. I need to be a part of all three of these or I will fail at growth as a human being. I find all peo­ple are in need in this. Alco­holism and AA have helped me come to this con­clu­sion. The pro­gram of AA HAS GIVEN ME A PLATFORM TO GROW if I choose to.

  • Patricia Orr says:

    God/spirituality is the answer.
    Death is the alter­na­tive — spir­i­tu­al­ly, men­tal­ly, + even­tu­al­ly phys­i­cal­ly w/o the need­ed sur­ren­der. H.h.

  • Joseph A Valaske says:

    The twelfth step of aa says” hav­ing had a spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing as a result of these steps..” Not a reli­gious con­ver­sion. After almost 38 years in recov­ery I find that I still have no clear idea of God, nor do I need to. Try­ing to live these prin­ci­ples in my life has made me a kinder more under­stand­ing and com­pas­sion­ate per­son and brought me a con­tent­ment I had nev­er thought pos­si­ble. I am able to intu­itive­ly han­dle sit­u­a­tions which used to baf­fle me.
    Though I rarely think about hav­ing a drink or drug, I still attend a cou­ple meet­ings a week where peo­ple shar­ing hon­est­ly shows me that we are all human strug­gling with the prob­lems of life , and help­ing oth­ers and accept­ing help is more sat­is­fy­ing than tem­po­rary escape .

  • JQ says:

    To those try­ing to prove A.A. is a reli­gion, cult, does­n’t work, ect…

    Here’s the thing… Pro­grams don’t work… Unless I do the work the pro­grams sug­gest. If I don’t do the work, then has the pro­gram failed?

    If I set out to prove my own point of view, of course there will be facts to back me up. But if I am tru­ly set out to learn, or unlearn my behav­ior, I will see that peo­ple have opin­ions that are oppo­site of mine, will also have facts and num­bers to back them­selves up.

    So in the long run… Here’s my question…Exactly what are we try­ing to prove?

  • JQ says:

    Also, I’m a believ­er that if some­thing isn’t the right fit for me, then I find some­thing else that is. I don’t just stop and say “well noth­ing works”
    After being in AA for some­time @ 3 years, I had been invit­ed to a church recov­ery pro­gram. It was amaz­ing. How­ev­er, what hap­pened was I start­ed going to this par­tic­u­lar church every­time the doors were open, because:
    #1 the same peo­ple from the church recov­ery pro­gram went every time the church doors were open
    #2 I had this assump­tion that just because I was in a “house of God” I was ok. What could pos­si­bly hap­pen?

    Well here’s what hap­pened. I quit doing what was orig­i­nal­ly work­ing for me. I quit going to AA. I quit read­ing the big book. I hard­ly spoke to my spon­sor or my net­work.

    I did NOT drink but with­in a year, I got so spir­i­tu­al­ly sick that I tried to com­mit sui­cide. I was doing every­thing that the church recov­ery pro­gram was telling me to do. If I had a prob­lem, I was to pray and read my Bible, then we would talk about it, read the Bible some more, and pray more.

    Now hun­dreds of peo­ple go to these church recov­ery pro­grams. Does that mean every sin­gle per­son is going to have the same expe­ri­ence I did? That’s absurd to think in those terms.

    Before I came into AA, I prayed and asked God to bring me to a place I belonged to. I did­n’t real­ize I was an alco­holic. Three days lat­er, I was being invit­ed to the rooms of AA. I had no idea what AA was, until some­one told me what it was. I knew right then that God had answered my prayers.

    I was­n’t thrilled about being in AA at 20 years old (a month before my 21st birth­day) But I stayed.

    Here it is almost 23 years lat­er and I have had my expe­ri­ences but I haven’t tak­en a drink nor a drug.

    I still go to meet­ings. I have a spon­sor, my priest. And I spon­sor oth­ers.

  • Gerry H says:

    AA does not fail. Some peo­ple fail. That’s what peo­ple do.

  • Josh says:

    Wow you could­n’t be more wrong. I’m bet­ter off just to let you 5hink what you want.

  • David Brown says:

    He real­ly did­n’t you know.

  • David Brown says:

    See the link below for more, you will need to unpick it as this site treats the link as spam:

    https colon slash slash www dot orange-papers dot info slash orange-Jung dot html

  • Drew h. says:

    Yes. The AA mes­sage. Jung s let­ter speaks of how friends can be a con­duit to spir­i­tu­al aware­ness. That is my expe­ri­ence. Union with God. Max­i­mum ser­vice to oth­ers

  • Kevin O says:

    Great arti­cle. Thanks. My take is AA is like base­ball: you’re con­sid­ered a very good hit­ter if you get a hit 30% of the time. I try to avoid the think­ing that it’s only worth doing if it’s guar­an­teed or works 100% of the time. That kind of think­ing pre­vents me from try­ing new and cre­ative things. But I also have to remem­ber all things car­ry the risk of “fail­ure” and mak­ing mis­takes (but remem­ber thats why there’s a 10th step), and AA has plen­ty of mis­takes. But I get it, some peo­ple don’t like Base­ball or AA and that’s ok. There are many ways to recov­er. The point may be that there is mean­ing sim­ply look­ing for mean­ing and not doing so under the influ­ence. Jung once asked his audi­ence, “what is your task?”. AA can pro­vide a place to explore this ques­tion but it’s not a Val­hal­la and peo­ple due get hurt and some do not heal. But it can work for some of us.

  • Craig Meier says:

    In the Dr.‘s opin­ion, Dr. Bob refers to alco­holism as an ill­ness, not a dis­ease. I men­tal­ly, emo­tion­al­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly can NOT drink, I get drunk every time no mat­ter how often I drink. Infi­nite GOD and AA togeth­er are insep­a­ra­ble. Not a “cult.” Cults require a per­son fol­low a leader and give their lives to that leader. AA does not require that. I have been sober for over 3.5 decades, only by the grace and mer­cy of GOD and con­tin­ued help from friends in the fel­low­ship. Still go to sev­er­al meet­ings a week to stay sober and help oth­ers along the jour­ney. What my incred­i­bly awe­some GOD wants me to do.

  • Christine Hall says:

    I love all these opin­ions. Like it is said “Every­one has one” here’s mine.
    Next month (odat) I’ll take 41 years of sobri­ety always with the help of my High­er Pow­er, AA, and the peo­ple in it.

    Yes, we have peo­ple in it sug­gest­ed by the courts and now, More often than not in my group, some men­tal­ly ill, but then we have the Ones work­ing the pro­gram and shar­ing the pro­gram with all who want it. Some slip and slide, some come back some don’t,some find oth­er means, some white nuck­le it, some die.

    But it is a seri­ous pro­gram you have to do the work. Just like any­thing else the qual­i­ty of your life depends on what you put in to it. If you work the aa pro­gram, the 12 steps and keep try­ing to find a belief out side you­self, your life gets bet­ter. Time takes time. It does­n’t work over night but it does work.
    I have friends who have more sober time than I do , I have friends with less sober time than I do and I have friends who strug­gle every day just to not take that first drink that day. But we are all in the rooms of aa togeth­er for the one safe hour or hour and a half not tak­ing that first drink that always gets us drunk. Togeth­er we do it. Just like Bill and Dr. Bob who start­ed the aa pro­gram June 10, 1935.
    It works it real­ly does. One per­son at at time one day at a time if you let it.

    I real­ly appre­ci­ate the arti­cle. Thanks. I am real­ly glad I read it. We have numer­ous books on the his­to­ry of AA. “AA come of age” Is one of them “Dr Bob and the Good old­times” is anoth­er, if any one is inter­est­ed. They ref­er­ence DrJung , Roland, Ebby and let us not for­get Sis­ter Ignatius.
    Thanks for lis­ten­ing.

  • Andrew mestas says:

    Give aa a chance always go back to what u have been doing

  • Renee says:

    SIGH… Yeah, we have that prob­lem here, as well. I avoid those meet­ings, if pos­si­ble. I hope there are oth­er meet­ings in your area that you can attend. OR, if not, dude get up in there and be vocal about it. Maybe cor­re­spond with those who hold posi­tions in AA. With 35 years of sobri­ety, you have some­thing to offer new com­ers. Maybe focus on that aspect. Much love to you from the US of A, state of Geor­gia!

  • Judy says:

    Find a dif­fer­ent meet­ing There are many. Just because some­one is in AA does not mean they are well. I learned the hard way. I got sick­er before I got bet­ter.
    Take what you need and leave the rest. Obvi­ous­ly you did­n’t check oth­er meet­ings enough. I’m sor­ry for your take on AA.

  • Kevin says:

    I believe that AA’s “how it works“is exact­ly how it works. And if you find a spon­sor, read the Big Book, and go to meet­ing you have a bet­ter chance of Alco­hol Absence. And espe­cial­ly if you work the inven­to­ry steps of the twelve, num­ber four and five. A spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ence may or may not hap­pen at first,though you’ll be fac­ing life on life’s terms with the abil­i­ty to choose how to live. AA has had a num­ber of great thinkers in the past,and I am sure that there are some even today and will be tomor­row. Hap­pi­ly sober 34 yrs.

  • Robert says:

    I think your sta­tis­tics are prob­a­bly cor­rect even though you don’t site spe­cif­ic sources that are peer reviewed, , but giv­ing you the ben­e­fit of the doubt I’d con­cur with your premise.

    How­ev­er, you’ve over­looked one key indi­ca­tor that your data doesn’t account for. From what I under­stand, AA pro­pos­es to only express effi­ca­cy for peo­ple who self iden­ti­fy and vol­un­tar­i­ly engage in their recov­ery pro­gram. Your data how­ev­er, admit­ted­ly only accounts for peo­ple who were court ordered or oth­er­wise man­dat­ed to attend AA. The para­me­ters of the stud­ies you report­ed either didn’t account for those con­trols or you left them out of your the­sis.

    Fur­ther­more, I think the arti­cle you are com­ment­ing on either express­ly or indi­rect­ly empha­sizes the require­ments of the alco­holic to be in a state of hope­less­ness and will­ing­ness to place them­selves in an envi­ron­ment of accep­tance to new principles/ideas. The study you cite seems to con­sid­er the alco­holics in the study as mono­lith­ic and doesn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate between their var­i­ous stages of addic­tion or the lev­el of will­ing­ness on the part of the par­tic­i­pants to engage in the solu­tion or whether or not they are even alco­holic or not.

    We don’t even know if the mem­bers of the study self iden­ti­fied as being alco­holic, or if they were adju­di­cat­ed as such by a third par­ty. It would be hard to imag­ine that any pro­gram designed to help alco­holics recov­er would have any effect on peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly con­sid­er them­selves as alco­holic. The peo­ple who the courts man­dat­ed to treat­ment are con­sid­ered alco­holics by the para­me­ters of the study but the actu­al peo­ple being stud­ied are high­ly like­ly to not iden­ti­fy as alco­holic. So which char­ac­ter­i­za­tion are we to believe?

    I’m sure you are sin­cere in your post and I’m not attempt­ing to cri­tique any of the out­comes you’ve pre­sent­ed. Rather, I think there are oth­er key fac­tors that the arti­cle dis­cussed that are not includ­ed or rep­re­sent­ed in your con­clu­sions.

  • Rodney W says:

    Almost 39 years of total absti­nence and real­ly pro­pelled my growth when I had spir­i­tu­al­i­ty defined to me “as that which brings me life”. No reli­gious zeal on my part,(thank God),just a lot of iden­ti­fy­ing with mem­bers and doing this one day at a time.

  • Beverly Grigsby says:

    After your length of sobri­ety sir, I would hope you would place the dis­re­spect of AA not on AA but on those respon­si­ble for their actions. I hope you have found anoth­er group or groups to draw strength from. There are pro­ce­dures and avenues avail­able for any mem­ber to seek through the GSR and up to GENERAL SERVICE which I know you are aware of. My hope and prayer is for you to con­tin­ue to share your strength, hope and knowl­edge with oth­ers.

  • Stefan Steudtel says:

    to the gen­tleper­son that was unhap­py about the rooms; my take is if you don’t like the atmos­phere, top­ic or what­ev­er… change the room by your voice and shar­ing on your belief on hoe the room is run. Fail­ing that, change rooms — there is more than one. … and if not, cre­ate your own.

    What con­sti­tutes a “room” in AA, two or more peo­ple will­ing to work on their prob­lem — the cof­fee pot is option­al…

  • Jordan says:

    Find anoth­er meet­ing. Ivepeo­ple with term sobri­ety go back out

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