Posts Tagged ‘cult’

Is Alcoholics Anonymous A Cult??

Some patients say they object to the “cult” atmosphere of AA or NA. From my own observation, 12-step groups bear little resemblance to cults. Cults have a charismatic leader, who wants all of its members’ money, and he or she attempts to control the lives of cult members.

But in NA, there is no leader. Every recovering person is considered an equal in the group, regardless of the amount of clean time. There is no “Head Addict” or “Head Alcoholic.” Responsibilities for chairing meetings, making coffee, and setting up the meeting rooms are shared by the whole group. The people who lead meetings are considered “trusted servants.”

Twelve step groups don’t ask for all your money, like cults do. In fact, it’s optional to place a dollar in the basket that goes around at most meetings, which is collected to pay for coffee, supplies, and rent. Some groups pointedly ask newcomers and visitors NOT to put any money in the basket.

Every addict is treated with respect, and newcomers are told that they are the most important people at the meetings. It’s through helping new addicts that the members of NA stay clean themselves, and contact with new members prevents older members from getting complacent about their disease. Recovering addicts in NA don’t give advice, but rather share their own experience, strength, and hope with the expectation that this will help other recovering addicts, struggling with similar issues.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous do not recruit members, as cults do. No one forces membership upon anyone. In fact, one of their traditions prohibits this. “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion…”

To me, it appears that 12-step groups are the exact opposite of cults.

But don’t go to a meeting expecting saints, either. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings are not” bastions of mental health,” as a close friend put it. These meetings are filled with people who have been ill with a potentially fatal disease. Some members may also have severe mental illness. Some may still be physically shaking from withdrawal. Some may be warm and welcoming, and others may be just plain mean. These people are like people anywhere. They are imperfect, but trying to get better. But if you want to know how to make it through the day without drinking or drugging, while retaining peace and serenity, these people can help you.