I love the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most of the friends I have made in my adult life I met in the fellowship. It was in AA that I learned to make friends again. AA didn't get me sober, but it helped me stay sober. Does AA help people? If you ask my wife and daughters they will tell you yes. Lacking a higher power it was often their voices that told me I needed a meeting. They were very aware of the transformation that occurred during the time I went to a meeting and the time I came home. AA helped me be a better version of myself.
The 12 Steps... I'm not so thrilled about. I'm a nonbeliever and white I can manage "higher power" as a metaphor I don't believe in the power of prayer. I love books, but I don't like to live my life according to the contents of a book. If I do it's by chance, not design. I have multiple copies of AA's Big Book, I haven't touched any of them for over a year. I went to AA for 7 and 1/2 years and will likely hit a few meetings in the future but I never did the 12 steps. Maybe step 1, but I've since reconsidered it. I learned from the steps, I learned to try and make amends and that doing so requires more than saying "I'm sorry." So what is my problem with AA?
This was/is my personal experience. It's an experience colored by my life situation, socioeconomic status, education, and white male privilege. Even as an atheist I found I was able to be an open atheist surrounded by believers yet I didn't feel like an "other" or "outcast." Because I have supportive parents, because I have a supportive spouse, because my children are heathy and I could get financial support when I needed it I was able to approach AA at my own pace and on my own terms.
Luck, really good luck played a role. My first sponsor didn't stick but my second (hope he's still reading this) was a perfect match. When I said I wasn't comfortable with the Big Book or with all 12 steps he said "if you don't like 12 Steps, do 3. 1) don't drink, 2) don't think, 3) go to meetings. This 3 step approach worked very well for me.
So though I may sound critical of AA in some of my posts I don't really have a problem with the program itself. AA kept me alive for years, it was there for me when I needed it and it gave me what I needed.
What I have a problem with is this:
1) Court mandated AA. I think the founders would not have liked mandatory meetings either.
2) no training for sponsors. I had/have a great and ethical sponsor, but that is not always the case. Sponsors that are not ethical answer to no one.
3) AA in a clinical setting. AA is free. Anyone in any city in the United States can get free 12 step work. So why would 12 step work be part of a $50,000 treatment stay?
4) The rejection of medication assisted recovery. I don't think AA has an official position on methadone. However, the influence of the 12 step movement has been a barrier for people who need methadone and other medications in treatment. Again this is not AA's fault, it's the fault of treatment programs.
If asked about AA in a professional setting I treat it like church. Are you going? Do you think it helps? If yes, keep going. It should always be a choice.
The reason I rarely attend AA these days is also personal. Where I lived in Minnesota AA was pretty much all that was available. SMART Recovery meetings existed but they were few and far between.* after moving to Rhode Island and checking out several AA meetings that didn't quite feel right I went to my first SMART Recovery meeting. I've been going to SMART for a year now and I find it better meets my needs. If things go right I will soon be facilitating my own SMART meeting soon. I also don't have a problem with using SMART tool professionally. They are REBT tool that are very appropriate for a clinical setting and will work for people of any or no faith. Still I know I haven't attended my last AA meeting.