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Blaze News investigates: Alcoholics Anonymous groups and the infiltration of woke ideology
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Blaze News investigates: Alcoholics Anonymous groups and the infiltration of woke ideology

Attempts at inclusivity may have led to some erosion of AA principles.

For nearly a century, the program known as Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping thousands of desperate people regain sobriety and recover their lives. Unfortunately, woke ideology has infiltrated some AA groups, particularly those geared toward younger generations, possibly preventing some on the right from seeking much-needed help and convincing others already in the program to walk away.

Blaze News spoke with four people who once regularly attended AA meetings but who have largely stopped on account of leftist takeover. All four are men between the ages of 30 and 45 who have been sober for anywhere from six to 15 years. Don and Tommy live in Georgia, Russ lives in Michigan, and Dave lives in Texas. In keeping with the spirit of AA, Blaze News is sharing only their first names.

'Neither endorses nor opposes any causes': The AA structure

Alcoholics Anonymous is a largely decentralized organization comprising loosely affiliated groups at the city or county level all across the country and even other parts of the world. Insofar as a group adheres to the principles and the 12 steps laid out in the book entitled "Alcoholics Anonymous," first published in 1939, a group can consider itself part of AA, though an umbrella administrative office in New York City does help ensure the program more or less continues as originally intended.

'The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.'

As the name suggests, Alcoholics Anonymous is, in theory, focused exclusively on accomplishing one task: helping alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety. Publicly available information attests to this laudable goal.

A preamble posted to the website for AA Area 33, which covers several counties in southeastern Michigan, notes: "A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes."

"The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking," the preamble also avers.

"Three people together with the book can be an AA meeting," Russ explained to Blaze News.

'No longer welcome': Sensing political tension at AA meetings

Most of the men who spoke with Blaze News indicated they actively participated in AA meetings and events for years without giving a thought to political ideology or wondering how other group members voted. But they said they slowly became more aware that some of their conservative opinions might not be welcome, especially in recent years.

Russ said he was taken by surprise when he was asked to referee a misgendering incident involving two other group members. He also claimed that in 2019, his then-girlfriend, who was not in AA but who nonetheless occasionally attended open AA social events, had an awkward encounter with a program man who kept badgering her about whether she supported Donald Trump, who was president at the time. She dodged the man's questions and left the conversation as tactfully as possible, he claimed.

Don told Blaze News that he learned to steer clear of meetings held in liberally minded cities. "If I were to personally show up to one of those meetings in more left-leaning areas, where they know me to be a Trump supporter, there would be very much hostility at these meetings," he said. "I just avoided those and stayed close to where I felt comfortable."

'I wanted to, like, keep living life': AA and COVID shutdown

During official meetings, AA group attendees do generally avoid politics and concentrate only on issues related to sobriety, the men who spoke with Blaze News said. However, they added that COVID-related government shutdowns did bring political opinions among AA members to the fore.

He attributes the apparent animus against him to his attempts to defy the government shutdown and maintain in-person AA activities and meetings as well as some of his pro-Trump posts on his personal Facebook account.

Tommy noted that with the rise of masks, group members were suddenly wearing their political opinions "literally on their face." These "physical markers of their political persuasions" led members to make assumptions about others, especially those who resisted mask mandates and other forms of government overreach, he said.

"It was no longer, 'Who do I think you might have voted for.' It was: 'Do you wear a mask or not? Do you want remote voting or remote meetings? Do you want lockdowns and for everybody to be staying at home? OK, then you're voting for this person and that makes you evil.'"

Dave claimed that members' stubborn fixation on masks was wildly out of proportion to the risk posed by COVID, especially considering the heavy and painful stories so many of them share during meetings. "Some people have literally killed people in their cars, killed their children with pills they've left out, and you're telling me to put on a mask to be allowed in a room?" he said, bewildered.

Don told Blaze News that while he considered himself relatively apolitical or perhaps even left-leaning before COVID, fellow AA group members immediately branded him a right-winger when he advocated to keep the local AA facility open.

"I wanted to, like, keep living life," he said. "[But] half of the people were like, 'No, we can't have meetings.' It was just constant fighting and bickering."

Among a group of AA-affiliated committees on which Don served, the name-calling was even more intense, he said. "We were considered the 'conservative committee' ... because there was a handful of us, five or six, that really pushed hard to be throwing in-person events like bonfires."

Some who attended those in-person events would then turn around and disparage them in private Facebook groups. "I can't believe I showed up to this event, and people weren't wearing masks. I felt so gross," people would write, Don said.

After the shutdown began to abate and people wanted to attend more AA-related events in person, some still insisted that everyone show proof of vaccination before they could participate, Don said.

Don was eventually voted off the service committee, and he attributes the escalating animus against him to his attempts to defy the government shutdown and maintain in-person AA activities and meetings as well as some of the pro-Trump posts that he later made on his personal Facebook account.

"This was two straight years of literally dedicating 20 to 30 hours a week to throwing events, raising money, fundraising," he said. "And then I basically got my knees chopped off."

"All because of how I lean politically."

'Except for a straight white man': AA-affiliated conferences

Those who join AA are often in need of new social circles since so much of their previous social life revolved around alcohol. To that end, AA-affiliated groups regularly schedule conferences where members can meet more people of like mind and engage in fun recreational activities without the pressure to consume alcohol. Unfortunately, many of these conferences have manifested a leftist ideological bent as well, the men told Blaze News.

'If Hunter Biden is sitting there trying to get sober, I'm there for him, too — because he's trying to get better.'

In 2017, Tommy attended a conference in Chicago, and he claimed that those chairing the committees of that conference represented every identity group "except for a straight white man." "That's statistically impossible," he noted.

Dave, a comedian who once worked for a high-profile conservative pundit, had an even worse conference experience. Because he is a familiar face to some, Dave has been invited to speak and share his story at many AA-related events and conferences. Such was the case for a conference in Wisconsin a few years ago.

However, when some conference coordinators got wind of Dave's association with a known conservative, they tried to throw up road blocks to prevent him from speaking, he said. "How do we really know that he's sober? Do we have proof that he's sober? How do we know where he goes to meetings?" they demanded to know even though such questions run counter to AA principles.

Eventually, Dave was disinvited from speaking at the conference altogether, a crushing blow to a man who shares his story as often as he can in the hope of helping others. "That's how I give back," he said.

"I'm not even this far-right guy that so many people assume that I am," he explained to Blaze News, though he said political opinions should never matter considering the severity of the stakes involved. He then gave a poignant hypothetical to demonstrate his point.

"I think that a lot of the stuff Hunter Biden has done is completely disgraceful and evil," he said. "But if Hunter Biden is sitting there trying to get sober, I'm there for him, too — because he's trying to get better."

'Gay or trans or gay-trans-adjacent': AA-affiliated drag shows

These AA-related conferences have other problems aside from the seemingly leftist ideologues in charge. Many of them also offer extracurricular activities such as drag shows that are likely to turn off or perhaps even offend conservatives and traditional Christians. Three of the four men who spoke with Blaze News confirmed that they had attended or known about a conference that included a drag show.

Russ, who considers himself a Christian, told Blaze News that such drag shows "went too far" and made him uncomfortable. "Even though it's all adults — it's not like there's minors at it — I just didn't see what the appeal was. I just thought it was stupid. I thought it was vulgar," he admitted.

Screenshot of conference flyer shared with Blaze News

'It has nothing to do with recovery at all.'

Tommy believes that such shows slowly change the AA culture to exclude political and religious conservatives. "The people who are all about drag shows — whether they think it's funny, whether they think it's empowering, whether they think it's just cool or whatever — they'll go, and the other people just won't attend. And then it becomes more and more centered around that, and you have eight out of ten activities at a conference being gay or trans or gay-trans-adjacent or whatever."

"It seems like more than the majority of the conference is going to be stuff that's just not for me, and it has nothing to do with recovery at all," he added.

Don was careful to note that AA-related conferences are not, strictly speaking, AA meetings and can include many ancillary events and activities — including poker tournaments and live music as well as drag shows — that do not relate to sobriety or sober living. Still, he said he avoids the drag stuff.

"I don't think drag shows have anything to do with AA," he said.

'Doesn't like the God concept': AA and growing tolerance for atheism

Many of these AA-related conferences, which are usually directed at young people, also offer sessions for professed atheists and secularists, and some local AA groups even accept atheism in defiance of AA's most basic principles, the men told Blaze News.

To keep from scaring the newbies off, he said, veterans won't press the issue, more or less allowing people to cling to their old ways and the former mindset that led them to addiction in the first place.

Indeed, God features prominently in nearly all 12 steps of the AA program. In fact, the AA book summarizes the 12 steps for recovering alcoholics thusly: "(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. (b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. (c) That God could and would if He were sought."

The men clarified to Blaze News that many in AA struggle with God and belief in a higher power, and such struggles are not antithetical to AA but instead are a constitutive feature of what members call "working the steps."

Yet, coming to terms with God is important for achieving sobriety and maintaining it long term, the men said. Nevertheless, in an apparent attempt to be more inclusive, some groups have de-emphasized the spiritual component undergirding AA.

"What ends up happening is somebody who doesn't like the God concept comes in. They're listening. They decide that they finally have something to say, and their opinion inevitably ends up being that AA feels exclusive, that you're making people take on this God concept when that may not be what they believe," Tommy said.

Such newbies sometimes accuse more seasoned members of acting "cult-y" and "gatekeeping" the way to recovery by focusing so heavily on God, he continued. To keep from scaring such newbies off, he said, veterans won't press the issue, more or less allowing people to cling to their old ways and the former mindset that led them to addiction in the first place.

This trend away from God and spirituality seems to have spread to other aspects of AA as well. Russ claimed that meetings routinely used to close with a group recitation of the prayer commonly referred to as the Our Father or the Lord's Prayer. However, in recent years, the closing prayer has sometimes been omitted, he said.

"A lot of young people were staying silent during it."

Screenshot of conference flyer shared with Blaze News

'Unwelcome': Other sources admit AA has a problem

The four men who spoke with Blaze News are hardly the only ones who have noticed politics taking over some AA groups.

Not only were press releases marketed specifically to Hispanics and 'LGBTQ+ individuals,' but the first line of a press release on spirituality reiterated that 'A.A. welcomes anyone seeking help for a drinking problem and is not aligned with any religious tradition or beliefs.'

In fact, earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report published an article that lamented the racial disparity in overall AA membership. "AA Programs Turn Lives Around, But Most Members Are White: Study," the headline read. The article likewise suggested that "young adults may be turned off by the religious nature of the meetings."

But even some left-leaning members committed to AA's principles are becoming increasingly concerned that politics has alienated people who would otherwise reach out for help. In a column published in UnHerd, author Ben, who once described himself as a "radical progressive," admitted that in the last few years, national politics have sometimes trumped sobriety and recovery at regular AA meetings.

"Particularly after Donald Trump was elected ... members started sharing about a fight they’d had that day with their idiotic, MAGA-hat-wearing uncle on Facebook — apparently unaware of newcomers, desperate to get sober, who might now feel unwelcome because they had voted for the wrong guy," he wrote.

Even press releases from the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous in NYC, issued within the last two years, cater to identity politics and spiritual atheism or agnosticism. Not only were press releases marketed specifically to Hispanics and "LGBTQ+ individuals," but the first line of a press release on spirituality reiterated that "A.A. welcomes anyone seeking help for a drinking problem and is not aligned with any religious tradition or beliefs."

Blaze News reached out to the general office to find out whether administrators are aware that political ideology has crept into many AA groups and affiliated conferences, and we were encouraged when we received a response that invited us to partake in a "quick call." We made multiple attempts to arrange such a call but never received a follow-up reply.

Misha, the AA general office representative who emailed Blaze News, included preferred pronouns in her email signature:

Screenshot of email sent to Blaze News

'When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help': Hope for AA's future

The men who spoke with Blaze News seem both sad and frustrated that Alcoholics Anonymous — the program that all four said had "saved" their life — has, in some respects, fallen victim to woke capture. Though all four maintain a sober lifestyle and continue to follow AA precepts on their own, just two of them said they still attend meetings and only infrequently.

'It wasn't really until I had a spiritual experience through the 12 steps that I found out who I really was and what my true values really were.'

"I do not attend meetings like I once did," Dave stated. "I go when I very much need them. I will go if I need to help somebody get into a program and help them get into recovery."

"Unfortunately, it's become politicized where people are no longer welcome," he added.

All four also said that they would like to see the AA program return to a greater emphasis on God and the overall political neutrality that has made people of all ages and from all walks of life feel welcome.

"It wasn't really until I had a spiritual experience through the 12 steps that I found out who I really was and what my true values really were," Don said. He claimed he would always want to help others have a similar experience of self-awakening.

Yet, all four still expressed a sincere belief in the core AA program and would still recommend young AA groups for people in their 20s and 30s who believe their lives have become unmanageable because of alcohol.

Tommy believes young AA groups are important because of issues of trust. Young alcoholics will usually trust people their age, he said, but harbor an instinctive distrust for members of older generations. "It doesn't matter that this old guy knows what he's talking about or that he was exactly where I was," he explained. "It's that he's telling me what to do.

"He doesn't get it the same way your parents don't get it."

Russ said he would steer young people in need to both young AA groups and mixed groups so that they can benefit from the wisdom and experience of those with decades of sobriety under their belt while at the same time make connections with people their age who understand their struggles.

Despite current problems with AA, Donny, Dave, Tommy, and Russ remain AA members in spirit. As such, they still abide by AA principles and still adhere to the "responsibility statement" they faithfully made when attending regular meetings:

"I am responsible, when anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that I am responsible."

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Cortney Weil

Cortney Weil

Sr. Editor, News

Cortney Weil is a senior editor for Blaze News.
@cortneyweil →