What AA Has All Wrong About Being An “Alcoholic”

Why the 90-year-old program desperately needs updating

Dave Tieff


I’ve been a critic of AA, but in case you haven’t read any of my previous articles, let me take a second to tell you why:

Alcoholics Anonymous — the most widely known and used support group for alcohol abuse — has an 8–12% success rate by its own best guess estimates.

It’s also the foundation for roughly 90% of the rehabs in the US and utilized by most state courts.

When 90% of the recovery system uses one program with an 8–12% success rate — that’s a big problem.

The need for multiple methods of recovery — therapy, medications, secular support groups, etc. — promoted equally is paramount if we are ever to see the sobriety success rate climb.

I may be a foolish optimist, but believe it can be done. Provided enough people speak up.

Here are 3 myths that AA perpetuates:

3. You’re either a “real alcoholic” — or you are not one.

It’s an idea that is patently false — as well as dangerous.

It prevents a large number of people from examining their alcohol consumption before it’s too late.

They compare themselves to people whose drinking problem is much worse than their own, therefore, they must not have one.

Even the word “alcoholic” is without a proper definition. It’s just a colloquialism, like “drunk” or “lush.” It’s not something that any doctor worth their salt would use as a diagnosis.

The proper term, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), exists on a spectrum. AUD is never a black-and-white issue or an either/or proposition. You could be anywhere from mild to moderate to severe on the spectrum — with a potentially unlimited number of levels in between.

No two drinkers are alike, so dividing everyone who drinks alcohol into two groups paints a very misleading picture.



Dave Tieff

Alcohol Free (AF) singer-songwriter & cyber journalist. Here to discuss everything sex, drugs, rock, and culture🤘🍄🎙💋 www.davetieff.com