Only I Make My Recovery My Own: Leaving AA

You guys - I’m tired. I really am. Like my sister said today, I feel like Leah Remini and I just left Scientology. Haha! I’m tired of a lot of things, but mostly of the fact that no writer on the internet can talk about AA without being verbally attacked. Last week I published a personal piece about my choice to stop attending AA meetings. And oh boy, did my words kick up a fuss. To be fair I knew they would because I’ve written about AA before and I’ve shared other writers’ work who are critical of AA and its themes. When I wrote about reaching my second year in sobriety I published a piece on the Huffington Post about what I learned and I casually mentioned that AA helped me with some issues I was experiencing. This was before I ever knew you weren’t supposed to allude to the fact that you’re a member of AA at the level of press, and also before I knew that as a writer as long as you write “12 step,” instead of “AA” you aren’t breaking any rules (I still think that is incredibly stupid by the way). That was the first time I was on the receiving end of the backlash from the AA community. I received a slew of comments and emails telling me NOT to break anonymity and to have respect for the traditions of the program and to get with my sponsor IMMEDIATELY because I obviously didn’t understand how important it all was.

I knew that when I published my post last week it would be controversial. I knew I would probably receive some messages and comments. I am not new to controversy and I’m also not new to telling my stories. Let’s not forget when I shared about my abortion and anti-choice websites stole my narrative and my photos from social media and made up their own story about why I chose to terminate my pregnancy / called me a murderer. Yes, the internet can be a scary place.

Today I am addressing the comments and emails I’ve received over this last week in regards to my piece about no longer attending AA. Let me first say that only I make my recovery my own. The same goes for you, you make your recovery program and it can consist of whatever you want and have many components, including or not including the 12 step fellowship. That is the beauty of recovery and anyone who tells you that AA is the only way, or that you aren’t doing it correctly if you aren’t going to meetings or aren’t doing the steps, or that you won’t be sober or that you’ll die - they’re lying. Don’t believe their lies and their fear mongering. There is not one way to get sober and there is NO right way to be a member of AA! The only requirement for membership of AA is the desire to stop drinking - not doing the steps, not passing on the message, not trolling people on the internet, or defending the "honor" of AA.

What I can’t for the life of me understand is why people think it’s appropriate or ok at all, especially with the knowledge they were taught in the rooms, to send me messages and comments saying that my experience isn’t valid, that I shouldn’t be sharing what I feel and think, or that I’m in some way damaging the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’m going to go through some of the comments I received here.

Straight up insults/assumptions of failure.

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Yes you read that correctly, I’ve been called insane, told to relapse, and been advised to let the other dude know if this works out for me because he’s never heard of someone staying sober outside the rooms, which I conclude means he lives under a rock. Why is it that these people (and many others) automatically wish the worst on someone when they aren’t choosing their exact same recovery path? Because I shared my experience about no longer wanting to attend AA meetings I am told to go out and use drugs/drink and that I’m a failure. These responses go against everything I myself learned in the rooms of AA and are devoid of love, tolerance, and compassion. 

Again, there are countless recovery programs and ways to get sober, AA has not been and is not the only way. Just because you choose not to go to AA, or you don’t get sober in AA, does not mean you will fail. I will remind everyone again that I never got sober in the rooms of AA, I only attended meetings for 2 out of my 4 years of sobriety.

Being told I’m selfish.

If you know anything about 12 step programs then you’ve probably been told that you were selfish and self-serving in your addiction and that you need to deflate your ego. I was shocked when I received several comments on my blog from last week that told me I was being selfish by choosing not to go to AA anymore.

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I am being told that I am on a soapbox even though I am just sharing my experience. I am being told because AA no longer serves me and I choose to not go, I am being selfish and not giving back. This linear thinking is what perturbs me the most. Guess what? Wanting to make my recovery MY OWN is not selfish, it’s empowering and it keeps me sober. I am listening to my intuition and the universe when making my decisions.

Let’s talk about the 12th step of  AA, “carrying the message.” I’ve told my recovery story at countless AA meetings. I’ve taken meetings into rehabs and detox centers. I was even secretary of my home group. And as you all know, I write about my recovery here on this blog, I help other people get sober every day by answering messages, emails, and studying recovery coach certification. Recovery is my life and to be accused of stopping AA meetings because I’m of the mindset “what’s in it for me?” is frankly laughable.

The unexplained personal hurt experienced when AA is critiqued.


There’s so many things tangled up with this comment I’m not sure where to begin. Again, this person’s recovery path is different from mine and that’s ok! I don’t understand why this person and many others feel that writing about my life and experience somehow diminishes the 12 step community. I think AA is a wonderful resource, which I wrote in my blog last week, and it has helped me and many others, and it will continue to do so regardless of what critiques it receives. But its members should not feel like they have to stay in the program only to “give back,” or “pass on the message,” or “help the newcomer,” there are other ways to do this! If you feel like AA is no longer serving you, you should not feel guilted into or shamed into staying. Also if this person doesn’t understand what we writers do to recover she should read our writing. The fact that there are so many new recovery programs emerging and they are all being talked about and critiqued online is a beautiful thing - it’s a sign that our society is progressing.

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I will never be silent about my experiences. This is what I’ve done since I started my blog in 2014. I talk about my experiences, including different pathways to recovery, different resources and literature, and current events that have to do with recovery and my life. People do giving a flying fuck because they read my writing and they write to me and they ask for my help. I will not live in the dark and keep quiet like the patriarchy loves to tell women to do. My experience is not unique you guys, and AA is not perfect. There is nothing wrong with healthy criticism. I even got some passive aggressive well-meaning comments about how much people loved the program and that my words reminded them just how important it is for them to get back to a meeting. I would recommend these people not take my writing so personal.

Being told I don’t understand AA.


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I understand the program of AA very well. I attended, I had a sponsor, I went through the steps. I read the Big Book, Living Sober, 12 steps and 12 Traditions, The Women’s Way Through the 12 Steps, and countless other pamphlets. But it seems like every time I share my opinion and experience, I am told that no, I don’t understand it, or that it’s not correct. Of course, there is always more to learn, but I am also a smart, capable woman who can make her own decisions and form her own opinions based on her own experiences and knowledge. These comments are providing me with unsolicited advice about what they think I did not do/should be doing with the undertone that I must be the one doing something wrong because the program cannot be wrong.

I am being told I’m a heavy drinker, not a true alcoholic. I’m being told I’m pigeonholing all of AA (wow who knew I was so powerful?). I am being told my character defects are running riot. I am being told I should grow up, shut up, stay quiet, keep my opinions to myself, stop bashing AA, my sobriety is in question, I’m on the road to relapse…

These comments and messages I received perpetuate the exact kind of dogma I’m trying to get away from. It’s hypocrisy and fear-based behavior.

This is not how you treat people. This is not the kind of behavior I learned in the rooms. I define my recovery, and only me. You don't get to tell me my experience isn't valid.

As sober people we all have the same goals and those are, to live in recovery, break the stigma of addiction and recovery, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

I know that each person will receive my words where they are in their own journey, what they take away from it is up to them and it has nothing to do with me. Not all the comments I received were bad. I want to say thank you to the many people who left a comment, sent a message or an email to tell me that my words did resonate with them, to thank me, to tell me you know what, “me too,” to say, “Kelly you took the words right out of my mouth,” or to say, “that is not my experience, but I respect yours.”

In the end, the negativity does not affect my goals or my recovery. I will continue to do what I know in my heart is right. I know that I am helping others and I am on the right path. The only thing I can do is find compassion for people who are filled with fear because I've been there myself and I wish them light and healing on their journeys.