Here’s Why I Stopped Attending 12 Step Meetings

Photo credit: Scott Webb on Unsplash

I’d like to acknowledge the fact 12 step programs probably saved my life. If they didn’t, they no doubt gave me one worth living back.

I choose not to name which specifically because although it’s a tradition I see broken all the time on the internet, my understanding of the eleventh tradition is that Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.

Actually, that’s not my understanding, it’s the eleventh tradition, word for word. The internet may not be the press but it’s a media outlet. The tradition itself was written long before the internet came along. I imagine if it had existed at the time it was written, the web would have been included on the list. However, since it wasn’t — this is a tradition I see blatantly broken, almost daily. People who lend the name, in an effort to prove themselves righteous and morally fit, as they shamelessly promote themselves as a member of a program for no other purpose outside of a proverbial pat on the back. I find it appallingly gross. It’s behavior such as this that drove me right out the door. Am I resentful? No, I just have a low tolerance for other people’s egos.

I’d also like it understood, I’m not suggesting anyone struggling with alcoholism or addiction make a go at it alone. Help is out there and there are wonderful people in the rooms who truly live to help others find a new way of life. These people are the shining examples of what these programs are truly about and I commend them. It is people such as them who kept me coming back regularly for almost three years and I’m forever grateful to them and the program as a whole.

I’m a stubborn, hard headed, positive thinking em-path and introvert. I have a tendency to pick up on the energy around me, I always have. It’s just how I’m wired. If I’m being completely honest, I never got comfortable sitting in a church basement with a bunch of strangers, discussing our collective problems. I think part of the problem is I seen too many people living in their problems rather than searching towards solutions. I heard too many mindlessly petty complaints, I watched too many people I knew lived dirty claim they lived clean and be commended for it. Some of the most manipulative, vindictive and self centered people I have ever met are held in the highest esteem in these circles and I just kind of got tired of trying to find a new circle. I’m not bitter, I just no longer want to be bothered.

While I have no issue with people who view addiction or alcoholism as a disease and acknowledge myself it is no doubt a mental, physical, spiritual and emotional condition or disorder of sorts, much a long the lines of depression or anxiety — I’m a big believer in the power of the subconscious mind. What we tell ourselves, about ourselves is what we come to believe to be true. I never saw the benefit of telling myself I had an incurable and fatal disease everyday as I awoke and never took this approach. When I was caught in the grips, my thinking was as sick as the next person’s. That’s not surprising considering we had the same problem and were resorting to all of the same lows. But to tell myself I had a disease that could only be reprieved by frequenting elementary school gymnasiums and drinking too much coffee is not an idea I ever bought into.

I watched too many people use the disease card as an excuse for the bad decisions they made consciously and coherently after they got clean or sober. Again, disgusting. It’s degrading to everyone in the room and gives newcomers the idea they can do whatever they want and just blame a disease for their actions. It can leave impressionable and emotionally vulnerable people feeling like maybe they shouldn’t expect a lot from themselves — considering they’re diseased and all.

I instead decided to wake up everyday and tell myself things that empowered and strengthened me. I still do and I recommend anyone who struggles with their own thoughts try doing the same. I know it feels like bullshit at first but if you tell yourself anything long enough, I assure you you’ll come to believe it to be true. So choose wisely.

I understand all of this comes off strongly, I genuinely don’t mean to be overly critical, it’s simply how I feel. I am not trying to encourage a single person to not get the help they need or leave the rooms of their chosen twelve step program. Truly miraculous new beginnings are born in them and through them and they’re available to anyone who genuinely wants to work towards one. My message is to do what works for you and not take every opinion — including mine — as fact or gospel. Find an approach that works for you and more importantly, find a friend and something greater than yourself to believe in.

I may not attend meetings but I still practice a program. I still read the literature. I still have principles and steps I apply in life on a daily basis. I have a God today. One I believe in with an unwavering faith, that I have the program to thank for helping me once again find. The truth of the matter is writing helps me. It’s kind of how I deal, it’s how I sort the mess out. Meetings are also not something I’ve strongly sworn off and vowed to never return to. This is just where I’m at with it right now and I’m okay with that. Thanks for letting me share.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Brian Brewington

Writing About the Human Condition, via My Thoughts, Observations, Experiences, and Opinions — Founder of Journal of Journeys and BRB INC ©