Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step groups recruit with assistance from jails, rehab centers, and the courts. As you may recall from one of the earliest posts in this series, this practice pre-dates AA. The man who recruited Bill Wilson into the Oxford Group, Ebby Thacher, was spared a prison sentence for public habitual drunkenness when he was remanded into the custody of Oxford Group members for rehabilitation instead.
Bill W. enjoyed the psychedelic 1960s, experimenting with LSD and postulating it might be a cure for alcoholism, even while categorizing aspirin use as a “sobriety slip”. Those gave way to the War on Drugs and an influx of federal funds for addiction treatment. Rehabilitation centers using the twelve steps like Hazelden profited directly, as employers, private insurers, and the legal system sent patients to them. AA and its daughter group Narcotics Anonymous benefited too.
Because AA does not directly charge the government for having parolees and people on probation attend meetings, have a sponsor, use the phone list, or sign meeting attendance papers, it is a popular suggestion in cash strapped jurisdictions. Treating the underlying depression or trauma that often contribute to drinking problems requires paying for real medicine and real doctors and therapists.
The State compelling someone to attend twelve step meetings, without providing a secular alternative, is a violation of first amendment freedoms. This has been the ruling of numerous judges in multiple cases brought by alcoholics and drug addicts. The Establishment Clause is violated by requiring AA attendance, because AA is religious in nature, dogma, and practice. Sadly most who are compelled to attend these cult meetings either do not know or lack the means to defend their rights.
There are secular peer support and accountability grous, meeting in person and online. In a future post I will be including available information about these alternatives. However, as I have not personally attended these meetings, nor analyzed their writings and history as I have with Alcoholics Anonymous, I cannot endorse any or give a certain opinion as to their safety, confidentiality, tolerance of various faiths, efficacy, cult status, etc.