Your site is invaluable and I'm so relieved I've found it. The development of cult-like behaviour and practices in AA is deeply concerning and I've seen the effects on vulnerable newcomer members first hand. I have a new meeting for your list, it's the 6pm Brick Lane Big Book Study Saturday meeting, in London.
The sponsorship and ideology that happens there is fundamentally cult, not AA. Newcomers are asked to find their part in things such as childhood abuse or domestic violence, told to cut off from old friends and family completely, mandated to attend certain meetings and if they don't, they're dumped as sponsees, and mandated to street step very early in the morning. They are made to work from a computer on worksheets and if they don't have Internet access or word processing programs they're told they don't want recovery enough. They're told to come off all their medications, and if seeking work, they have to run the jobs they're applying for past their sponsors first, as well as all other life changes. They have to check in with their sponsors multiple times a day, which again for destitute newcomers is impossible, as that requires phone credit. They're discouraged from attending meetings viewed as not strict enough or not carrying the AA message (in other words, all meetings apart from their meetings). They are silenced from sharing about depression or suicidal thinking as it is viewed as 'carrying the mess, not the message'. The people who have talked to me and other concerned members have found it incredibly hard to disclose, as the gaslighting and guilt tripping that goes on is deep and pervasive, such as being told they'll make people ill, destroy AA due to self will run riot, deny recovery to newcomers, and/or relapse and die, etc. Most members in East London who have been around long enough are aware of the practices in this group, and they even have a nickname. We suggest alternatives that occur at the same time, if newcomers express an interest in attending this meeting. Luckily, in London, we have 700+ meetings a week to choose from, but I feel extremely sad for members in other parts of the country who don't have as much of a choice, and just need a meeting.
This group frequents and run the service board for at least another two meetings in the East London area, and recruit from there too. I have only been to one of those meetings, in my early days, and I do not remember the message carried, but I do remember being denied a service position - it has since become clear that they fill service positions in their cult groups from within their sponsorship structure, and I already had a sponsor, therefore was more than likely viewed as not being one of the group (which I am now very grateful for). I have attended the Brick Lane one several times, however, and it seems evident that this is the mothership meeting for their practices.
I hope this meeting can go onto your list. I am happy to send the other two meetings as well if you think this is appropriate.
A grateful and concerned AA member”
Comment: The above pretty much summarises the activities of cult groups in AA. They come in a number of shapes and sizes ranging from the local 'guru' (usually self appointed) who's set up shop peddling his/her profound (?) insights into the AA programme based more often than not on an entirely idiosyncratic, overly literalistic, highly selective (cf. Tom and Jerry's …. sorry …. Joe and Charlie's daft series of lectures on the subject .. whatever did happen to Chapter 8 Working with Others ???) reading of the tome …. to complete franchise operations like the Road to Recovery, Primary Purpose and not forgetting of course (who could) Back to Basics (which is a nice little earner for its chief proponent Wally P) These aberrations are usually personality driven (see Tradition 12) propped up by an abusive 'sponsorship' hierarchy and entirely fear based. Should a new 'prospect' fail to comply with their new 'sponsor's' “suggestions” (?) the ultimate sanction is invoked ie. you'll drink again!! This is usually sufficient to bring them back 'into line'. Of course there's nothing mysterious at all about how AA works. Belief in any kind of divinity is entirely optional. The fundamental driving force behind AA is quite simply the fellowship, and the most evident example of AA's efficacy is the fact that people not only get sober but REMAIN sober for their entire lifetimes. This is an empirical and undeniable fact. The real power behind AA is the power of EXAMPLE... and preferably good example. Stick around people who stay drink free and who conduct themselves in a reasonably civilised fashion (ie. don't spend their time throwing their weight around and lecturing everyone in sight) and the chances are pretty good that you'll stay off the sauce as well. It really is that simple. How you practice the program or even which version you adopt is pretty much irrelevant. Being able to recite bits out of the Big Book really impresses nobody. It's a nice party trick perhaps but slightly boring after a while. Just put the drink down and get on with your life the best you can.. that's it!
The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)
PS Thanks to our correspondent