Shaming and Blaming the Alcoholic was Never the Intention of AA

Two experts in our film Wasted likely have more knowledge and wisdom about Alcoholics Anonymous than anyone else in the world. They set the record straight on key beliefs about AA. Here Dr. Bill Miller explains how the founders of AA never wanted to shame anyone with a drinking problem.


Dr. William R. Miller is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, where he joined the faculty in 1976 after receiving his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon. He served as Director of Clinical Training for UNM’s doctoral program in clinical psychology and as Co-Director of UNM’s Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions (CASAA). Dr. Miller’s publications include 40 books and over 400 articles and chapters. He has focused in particular on the development, testing, and dissemination of behavioral treatments for addiction. In recognition of his research contributions, Dr. Miller is a recipient of the international Jellinek Memorial Award, two career achievement awards from the American Psychological Association, and an Innovators in Combatting Substance Abuse award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He maintains an active interest in pastoral counseling and the integration of spirituality and psychology. The Institute for Scientific Information lists him as one of the world’s most cited scientists.

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George Pratt

In 48 years of maintaining sobriety through AA, I have attended literally thousands of meetings. I have never seen any other member resort to ‘shaming’ as a tool to induce recovery from the addiction of alcohol. It is just not part of the AA culture—nor would we last long if it were. To infer that ‘shaming’ is part of the AA recovery program is patently spurious. If the creators of ‘Wasted’ had read any AA literature (it sounds as if they haven’t) they would have discerned that AA as such does not engage in any controversy; hence, this is a personal observation from an alcoholic who recovered because of AA.


George, thanks for your input. I’m so glad your experience of AA has been supportive. Mike has been to hundreds of meetings. The vast majority in this one particular location were very shaming. Mike has read much AA literature, likely memorized the Big Book and I’ve read some. That bit in the Big Book about “being constitutionally incapable of being honest,” describing people who can’t make the program work… geez, sounds kinda shaming to me!

Except for that, I do know, as we say in the film, the founders of AA never intended for their program to be shaming. It’s not the programming itself that shames, it’s the way some people in the program are treated by other members. And sadly, we have received dozens of emails since the documentary aired, validating that shaming and humiliating. If you go to our blog you’ll see several little video outtakes from the film (, where the film experts provide insight into AA. Dr. Bill Miller and Dr. Kevin Humphreys are both big supporters of AA, yet they also feel it has some challenges. Go into the January archives of the blog and see several more.

We support AA too. Mike and I have been to very loving and supportive meetings too.

– Maureen


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