This is a continuation of parts one, two, and three, of a series of articles critiquing Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-Step model.
Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
This positive step continues from previous steps by encouraging personal responsibility, honesty, and taking action when necessary.
Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Again, the model returns to God, and this time it explicitly says how to communicate with the Higher Power: through prayer. I have already expressed my beliefs about the Higher Power aspect of AA’s model, so I won’t elaborate here. But, there are obvious contradictions within the AA twelve-step model, which tell you both to put your faith in a Higher Power and admit you’re helpless, while also telling you to take responsibility for your life. These contradictions must be confusing to AA members and I wonder how they are reconciled.
Step Twelve: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
If “spiritual awakening” means a new awareness of one’s responsibility for one’s own life, and the commitment to live a productive, healthy, and happy life into the future, then I would agree wholeheartedly with this message. But, as evidenced from the previous steps, “spiritual awakening” most likely refers to giving oneself up to God or a Higher Power and admitting one is powerless to alcohol. This I would not agree with for the reasons stated in the previous articles in this series.
In summary, while AA’s 12-Step approach contains some positive aspects, such as encouraging self-responsibility and making amends; it also conveys (more predominantly) the contradictory message that problem drinkers are powerless over alcohol and dependent on an external Higher Power for attaining and maintaining sobriety. In addition, not mentioned in this critique (although somewhat implied) is AA’s view that alcoholism is a disease, which in essence means: once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, no matter how long you’ve been sober. AA also uses an abstinence-only approach to recovery. Addressing these latter two points requires another article (or two), so I will leave it to readers to ponder these additional aspects of AA on their own.
(Originally appeared on Examiner.com)