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For a while, I followed around one of those so-called recovery cults. In all honesty, it wasn’t because of the recovery—it was because of the females in the group. That group wasn’t one of the big recovery cults, but it still had all the hallmarks of the big-boys. Here are four dead-giveaways of these types of groups.

Recovery Cults Indicator #1: No one group has all the answers

Any one group claiming that it is the only real way to get clean and sober is full of it. AA (cannot comment on NA, CA, or any other group just because I never got familiar with their respective literature) says outright that they do not have the monopoly on people getting sober, and even that we should be celebrating anyone’s sobriety, regardless of how a person’s sobriety was attained.

The recovery cults, though, either say outright or implicitly that the only “real” way to get clean and sober is following their specific brand of “recovery.” My experience was their brand of recovery was isolation from other people and groups within AA, hypercritical judgment, and fulfilling the personal interests and needs of the guy who was sponsoring all of the people in that group.

Recovery Cults Indicator #2: Leader seems largely motivated by self-interest

Speaking of personal interests, it was amazing to see how the leader of that particular recovery cult made it the implied duty of all his sponsees, grand-sponsees, and great-grand-sponsees, to do for him what he wouldn’t do for himself.

That meant pay for his meals whenever the group went out, which was at least once a day, despite the fact he always wore brand-new clothes. Whenever we went to the movies, it was always implied that one of his sponsees would foot the bill for him and for anyone else within the group who couldn’t pay.

Part of his justification for that behavior was his “need to be an attraction” for the new people in AA, and therefore had to focus all of his pay on looking as good as possible.

Recovery Cults Indicator #3: The “leader” doesn’t have a discernable sponsor

Strangely enough, though, the leader of this group didn’t have a sponsor, despite the heavy rhetoric that recovery was not possible under any circumstances without constantly working with said sponsor.

I somewhat take that back; he had no discernable sponsor. There was a guy at one meeting he went to, whom he called his sponsor. The thing is, none of the group ever heard or saw him with that sponsor since he was always busy with his own following.

Recovery Cults Indicator #4: Blackballing people who disobey the leader

Fortunately, I was never really a member of that group because I’d been around long enough to see that what this group was practicing wasn’t “real AA” as they claimed.

At the time, I didn’t have a sponsor after my first one moved. After I asked someone outside of that group to sponsor me after being something of a hang-around, the calls to hang out stopped. Suddenly, there was no interest in me being a part-of. No one in that group, despite establishing what I thought were real friendships, would so much as speak with me.

I’m writing this blog on these recovery cults because—and I cannot stress this enough—this is a far, far minority within the greater addiction recovery community. There are people out there who work the program as laid out in the literature, as intended—rather than some ego-maniac trying to build a legion of followers for his or her own self-interests.

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