Exiting Alcoholics Anonymous disappointed: A qualitative analysis of the experiences of ex-members of AA

Hannah Sally Glassman*, Paul Rhodes, Niels Buus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an NGO designed to support anyone who identifies as alcoholic to stop drinking alcohol. Existing qualitative research in this field has primarily reflected the experiences of those who have conformed to AA ideology and had positive experiences in AA. To address this, the current study aimed to explore the perspectives and experiences of individuals who have left AA with some degree of disappointment. The study involved semi-structured interviews with 11 ex-members of AA from America, Australia, and England, who were recruited from several private social media platforms. The study used an interactionist conception of social career involving conversion and deconversion, and data were analyzed thematically. Findings included that while participants experienced some genuinely positive aspects of AA, they retrospectively believed that they remained in AA because they had been indoctrinated into a particular way of understanding themselves. Moreover, findings highlighted participants’ concerns with the people, ideology and practices within AA that ultimately led to their dissociation from the community. Our findings demonstrate a disparity between the idealistic principles in AA and the actual experiences of participants, and this is discussed in relation to the breadth of possible experiences across varying groups and AA’s unregulated peer-to-peer framework.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth (United Kingdom)
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)411-430
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • conversion
  • deconversion
  • peer-to-peer
  • qualitative research
  • Alcoholism
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Emotions


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