Common Lies About Twelve Step Programs

Lies About Twelve Step ProgramsUnfortunately, there are a lot of common lies about Twelve Step programs from people who know very little about recovery. Below are some of the most common objections from people who try to discredit it.

Perhaps the biggest is the claim that it does not work. Tell that to the millions of people throughout the world involved in various Twelve Step programs! In AA alone, the worldwide membership as of January 2013 was estimated to be 2,131,549. Keep in mind, this is an estimation; it does not consider those who have been exposed to The Steps and used those same principles and philosophies outside of The Program.

Another common lie about the Twelve Steps is that it is a scam. This just is not true. For it to be a scam, there needs to be a benefactor. Benefactors are usually an individual, organization, or other oligarchy. In Twelve Step programs, there is no hierarchy. While members are encouraged to contribute financially, newcomers in particular are not expected to do so, and it is not to prop up some figurehead.

Perhaps the most controversial claim is that you have to believe in God. While many people find that a relationship and a belief in God develop over time, the Big Book of AA (which is the basis for all other Twelve Step oriented programs) clarifies the “spiritual experience” of The Program in Appendix II. That clarification essentially says a person simply be open-minded to the possibility it could happen. That’s it. One need not “believe” at any point—one simply needs to be “willing to be willing,” whatever that may look like.

There is another common accusation, and that is that it is a cult. When people say “cult” nowadays, what they usually mean to describe is a “destructive cult”—otherwise every religious, spiritual, political, or organized cause could be considered a cult. Recovery is not a destructive cult. By definition, it cannot be. According to psychiatrist Robert Lifton, the world’s foremost authority on thought reform (aka “brainwashing”) describes destructive cults as having three characteristics:

  1. A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power.
  2. A process [is in use] call[ed] coercive persuasion or thought reform.
  3. Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Only number two could potentially be argued, but using Dr. Lifton’s own criteria for thought reform, even this is quickly refuted. If a person is attending a group that falls into categories one or three in any way, run! Seriously!

One more objection people use to try to refute Twelve Step programs is they are not scientific. Setting aside the obvious fact that the Twelve Steps were never intended to be a scientific process in the first place, the logic behind such a claim is flawed from the get-go. The assumption is that only scientific things produce results. However, this is not true. If it was true, we would have to re-examine almost everything that makes up our policies as a society.

Lies About Twelve Step Programs

What are some of the untruths and lies about Twelve Step programs that you hear? Let us know in the comments!

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