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12-Steps Series, Part III: Are 12-Step Programs a Cult?

In the last couple of posts, we looked at the value of 12-step groups as well as alternative groups that can provide the support you get from Alcoholics Anonymous without some of the rules or restrictions. But what happens when you get so overwhelmed by the value of 12-steps that you become almost a cult follower?

It’s happened to thousands of people and, as a result, many refuse to go to 12-step meetings for fear of inadvertently choosing a group that is more about the “cult” of AA than the power of community support in recovery.

Is AA a Cult?

Alcoholics Anonymous is a group the emphasizes membership by choice, holds regular and frequent meetings, has religious overtones, and utilizes clichéd language to illustrate points and principles. Cults have all of these characteristics, too. However, 12-step groups have the 12 Traditions that effectively serve to protect participants from crossing that line.

For example, cults depend on the power of word of mouth to recruit new members but the concept of anonymity is prioritized among 12-step goers. No one is allowed to talk about their involvement in 12-steps to the media or promote the group in any way.

Yet, still others define anonymity as “secrecy” and that the mystery only serves to promote the cultic nature of the group. Ultimately, the answer to whether or not 12-step groups are cult groups is defined by the experience of the individual who takes part in them and the dynamics of the meetings attended.

Are 12-Step Meetings Right for You?

Not everyone who tries Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step meetings have the same experience. Some use it to stabilize for a few months after getting out of rehab, others only attend meetings while they are actively in addiction treatment. Still others develop a lifelong relationship with the 12-step program, using it to manage every aspect of their lives and attending meetings for decades.

Whether or not 12-step groups are right for you is a personal decision. It is recommended, however, that everyone attend meetings after leaving rehab as they go through the process of creating a new life without the use of drugs and alcohol. It can be difficult and the support is crucial. Whether you feel stable enough to stop going months later, years later, or never, it can be an excellent resource when you’re first starting out.

At The Orchid, we can help you get started on your personal story in recovery. Call now to learn more about our options in drug addiction treatment for women.

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