Alcohol, Cannabis and AA

Here is a comment from a blog reader that I felt I should share and comment on regarding Medical Cannabis use and Alcoholics Anonymous.

“This is a very interesting topic. I was sober in AA for 13 years and very active in the program. I moved to NorCal and started working with medical Cannabis. I was going to AA and had a sponsor and still very leary about crossing the MJ divide. I was making MJ cookies and just had to taste them. What happened was it started a whole experimentation period. I now use cookies about once a week and smoke a little a few times a week. I no longer go to AA because I feel conflicted. I do not consider myself sober as I have gotten hella stoned at times and I DO think it affects me from the neck up big time. I have been using MJ for about 7 months now and have not had a drink. I feel as if my time in AA has been fantastic and I have a clear picture of what an alcoholic is and that I am one. I know that to drink for me is suicide. I thank AA for being there when I was in serious trouble and changing my life, however, after 13 years of being deeply entrenched in AA recovery, I feel I’ve got it now. I am not happier or living a more productive life now than I was in AA, and am considering getting back to basics. But one of the things I do like is that I am no longer steeped in judgements, I feel as if I am finding my own way and not living in fear.

I have written a few times regarding medical cannabis and AA. I personally believe that if “Bill and Bob” the AA founders were alive and aware of the harsh judgements being made against physician and medication involvement in AA, they would feel sad. Addiction is currently defined as the ongoing use of a substance or behavior whose SIDE EFFECTS are ruining ones life. It does not matter how frequently someone uses a medication; it matters how it effects them and those around them. If all is good and the person is productive the behavior is not be considered an “addiction”. To the best of my understanding, this is the new/current definition of addiction and using medical cannabis under the direction of a physician, can be positively done in AA.

We now know that patients with substance use, nearly always have an area of their pre-frontal cortex that “lights up” differently that others. Substance “USE”, has many facts, but much is biological and this must always be remembered. Judging these patients just pushes them away from support and care. Placing patients in jail who have a medical condition they are struggling with, of course will be seen in the future as being a very, very dark time.

It is not a simple issue; I am not saying it is. We just don’t know all the answers and ANY group that believes they know it, I believe is fooling themselves. I am also not saying that AA has not helped millions of patients, such as the one above, but perhaps it is again time to review?

How about us at least TRYING to get a small group of AA members who wish to have a meeting that includes discussion of how cannabis has helped them stay sober? Why not check it out?

To this end, if I ever receive a small handfull of cannabis patients in the LA area that would like to have a meeting that does not judge medical treatments, but just openly discusses them, write me and I will set one up and provide juice and cookies.

Just to be very clear, this will not be a smoking meeting.

18 thoughts on “Alcohol, Cannabis and AA

  1. I live in Hayward CA i believe in cannabis just like you, im also a member of AA, im affraid to talk about cannabis use because of confrontations, i would like to have a meeting just like the one you mentioned so i can feel more comfortable, and free to speak my mimnd.

  2. Was there ever success in creating this meeting? Online or at your offices? I was moved to view these posts in response to the first gentlemen. It touched me to not feel alone. I don’t typically take ANY pharmaceutical. I do not judge others that do. As is true of alcohol. Alcohol was creating such sadness within me, within my life. I went to AA for help. I found my Savior in the eyes of those people who shared, honestly. It has saved my life. I smoke marijuana everyday. I have done this for nearly 20 years. I suffer from depression and anxiety. Marijuana affects me, seemingly, differently than others. I am focused, calm, active, participatory, creative, kinder, social, not lazy or hungry. Different than it affects my best friend. She becomes anxious and anti-social. She’s eventually hungry and tired. So, she doesn’t smoke it. She also suffers from depression and anxiety. She is also an AA member. She takes anti-depressents to combat these things. She is accepted as “sober” within AA, but, I am not? Pot does not appear to have any harmful affects on my life. It helps me join in life. I want to attend a meeting where I do not have to argue the issue of marijuana as medicine.


  3. Glad I found this post. I have been sober 2.5 years and in that time have developed severe insomnia that has really affected my life. I have tried a good number of sleeping pills and even benzo’s that Dr’s perscribed with no luck. My doctor is now recommending I go on a low dose of anti-depressants for the sleep, but I worry overtime my tolerance will increase and that dosage will go up. As an ex-oppiate addict who has a desire to remain sober, I do not want to take any meds regularly, including anti-depressants. I really believe marijuana will help me sleep great based on past experience, but don’t want to give up going to AA.

    Thank you all for sharing you story of marijuana and AA. I am really struggling now between taking medication regularly or smoking marijuana in the evening for sleep. Can anyone with experience with this please email me at ? It would be very, very much appreciated!

    Thank you!

  4. We got to have a meeting! Lisa G. said it all. His will not mine….whenever possible, lol.

    A friend of mine in AA who knows about my smoking pot and who has 24 years sobriety always tells me “if you can survive the fellowship, you have a chance to make it”. In some ways I think those like us need to keep that in mind.

    Bill and Dr. Bob pushed for love and tolerance. Be open minded and teachable always. Bill took LSD and Vitamin B therapy in his later years, allegedly, as part of his life seeking a spiritual way of living.

    Rob B.

  5. It is interesting that I have received a number of comments in the past week alone from patients such as yourself. If someone will take on the organizing part, I will provide my office as a location for a first “trial” meeting. It does not have to be “official AA” nor “official” anything. Just people with similar problems sharing their experiences with others. Very simple. In this meeting however, we would mostly focus on how different types of cannabis can be used in harm reduction management.

  6. Hi,

    Cannabis use is a staple in my life. Its use is the only way this alcoholic has been able to keep sober,happy and want to live.

    My personal experience with medical has been fabulous. I used to be in unbelievable pain ,sober and miserable. No thank you.
    I use edibles, oils and buds since 2005 and since, I have been able to overcome other addictions and change offending and dangerous behaviours.

    That all said , in addition to doing my best to live well , pray and meditate and practice self-care,my aim to align my will with his has changed everything.

    Everything is going to be OK despite what my mind tells me.

    Peace and Many Blessings,
    Lisa G

  7. Yeah, AA at it’s core embraces a Spirituality of Imperfection. We are not good or bad, we are good and bad.

    When you hear your story, your are healed.

  8. Often we hear people say at meetings that they always hear what they need in our fellowship. I am reading it here with real gratitude. As a 45 year old with 3 years alcohol-free (yesterday) after 34 years of drinking I have been able to embrace work (my masters in education) that I could not have while vodka was my sidekick. The ‘nuances of unmanageability’ mentioned in an earlier post here speaks volumes to me.
    My desire to stop drinking set the stage for positive, vital growth that unfolds in so many ways on a daily basis. Thank you all for sharing your understandings, struggles with guilt, and the refreshing honesty that is so empowering.

    Namaste new friends.


  9. I have received scattered interest but geographically, so far the folks interested in such a meeting just have not followed up. So, here is my offer if you can help me? :)

    Bring a couple/three friends who are like minded and I will be happy to host a small first meeting and discuss going forward. I believe this is an extremely important topic but it has been so difficult to get some traction going. In part, this is because I am probably dipping my fingers in too many pies, but this “pie” of harm reduction and acceptance of treating substance USE (not abuse) as a clearly biochemical disorder. Of course, there is “choice”, but we are all just mortals and we need to be offered other perhaps healthier choices.

    Allan I Frankel, MD

  10. Hello!
    I am so glad I stumbled upon this site/ post. I have been wanting to find an AA group that is welcoming to medical marijuana patients for months and months now! I have a gnarly story regarding drug abuse- most all of the opiate drugs having been over-prescribed by multiple doctors for an autoimmune illness (lupus) that was induced by vaccine that I had gotten. I got off of opiates about one year ago after they destroyed my life, caused severe addiction, made my illness worse and resulted in me having to take a medical leave from graduate school for two years where I was a straight A student. I just started going back to grad school last semester, Fall 2011 and re-took the class I dropped out of in 2009 and claimed my A. This very recent great triumph would not have happened if I stayed on the path of treating my illness with addictive opiate medication. Even though my lupus was eventually diagnosed as “vaccine induced”-meaning that it is NOT permanent and that symptoms will fade over the next year or so- I still experience great physical pain in my joints and muscles. Medical marijuana has helped greatly with the pain and also my anxiety and daily stresses of what I have been through these last three years. This medicine also helps me to relax into the moment and gives a sense of inner peace. I am an artist and art is my life. I have tendinitis and nerve problems in my arm from the illness and the marijuana helps the pain so much, extending the amount of time that I can spend creating art.
    I have tried AA and like the concept and the goals and the ideas but I am torn up over the fact that I am not welcome or accepted and that I will be judged for my medical marijuana use. I had a really difficult holiday- the first year I have been sober from opiates in years. I would have greatly benefited from a meeting but didn’t feel welcome at the standard AA meetings. I had a minor slip when I was put in an awful situation that could have led to a full-blown relapse(but thankfully didn’t) and it has really shaken me. The point is that just because we choose to medicate with a natural herb that grows from the earth -as opposed to mind and mood altering harmful addictive narcotics,antidepressants, etc. that have a million adverse side effects- doesn’t mean that we don’t strive for healthy, rewarding, respectful, meaningful and productive lives. We deserve programs/meetings that reinforce this fact and would love to know if and when such a meeting is organized.

  11. Thanks again for your detailed reply. I think your idea of an online “meeting” that focusses on issues related to patients in AA who also use cannabis. We could in this manner avoid the very significant, but sad in my opinion, chance of someone’s “sobriety” being challenged in a not so anonymous manner. People could decide to participate just verbally, or it is possible that an online medical platform I have been looking at, might also a very cool “skype” like meeting with or without video.

    Stay in touch.

    Allan F

  12. Thank you for responding. I want to be clear that I do not recommend replacing alcohol or anything else with marijuana. I had always done both and probably still would because I’m an alcoholic but by the grace of God I found AA and it really has saved my life. I honestly had no desire to stop smoking until AA people made me feel guilty. But I feel that I am Spiritually fit enough now to accept their opinion. I have really been helped by AA and do not intend to stop going due to some useless resentment. I follow the program which includes going to meetings.

    Too many people think their lives need to change into a Cheech and Chong movie because they smoke pot. Believe me, I don’t look like Cheech and don’t act like Chong. I think the people that turn it into a lifestyle should stop for many reasons one of which is that it is immature. While I smoke pot almost daily, it is purely recreational in nature. I think there are many like me but it is the few immature ones that, in my opinion, don’t help the general public opinion regarding marijuana. Quite frankly, they are ruining it for us true recreational types not to mention the untapped medicinal and commercial values.

    I didn’t go to rehab but it seems like the majority of people in AA that say a drug is a drug is a drug did go to rehab. I really thought AA was just for alcohol but am actually happy I didn’t know about the anti-pot attitude otherwise I might not have gone or stayed very long if I did.

    Again, thanks for your comments. “Not broken, don’t fix it” seems like the right answer to me. I don’t live in California so would not be able to attend a meeting in person if you start having them so I hope that you could somehow make it available online as well.


  13. I totally understand and agree. People all around the world use all sorts of medicines, herbs, drinks, sex acts, etc to help them feel better. It is universal. It is not a matter of right and wrong but that is the labeling that is generally applied. Harm reduction therapy, i.e. using cannabis to replace alcohol just makes sense. There is plenty of data to support it and personally I cannot be the judge of what is “right and wrong”. I am a physician and am better at deciding what is safer or more effective. When one applies this logic, there is no question that cannabis is safer. You don’t need any studies to prove this, although there are plenty. The fact for you and for many others is that your life is now in control and you are doing well; before, with alcohol, your life was unmanageable as you state and now it is manageable. Pretty simple. Not broken, don’t fix it.

  14. This discussion is interesting. I have smoked pot since I was 12 years old and started smoking daily when I was in my mid 20s. I am now 45. I have not had a drink in more than 2 years now but never once thought about stopping pot when I first went to AA. I don’t condone it as a way to “get sober” as I don’t think pot is for everyone. I became pretty uncomfortable at AA once I realized that everyone else considered it the same as alcohol. As I have done my whole life, I don’t tell people that I smoke pot, including AA people. I have told a couple of people I trust in AA to get it off my chest and see what they would have to say about it. They were supportive to varying degrees but suggested I keep it to myself.

    As you pointed out I came to AA because I am powerless over alcohol and it absolutely made my life unmanageable. It has taken 2 years away from everyday drinking, heavy drinking, to realize all the nuances of unmanageability. I do not believe my life is unmanageable because of pot, caffeine, nicotine, jerking off or anything else. The booze was killing me and ruining every relationship I have/had. Pot makes me less anxious and want to watch TV. I like pot. I like the way it makes me feel. Maybe I’m in denial but I have thought a lot about it and other than it being illegal I don’t see anything harmful for me.

    I can understand how trading pot for alcohol is absolutely not the way to stop drinking but I’ve always smoked and always drank. I knew I had to stop drinking or else. I’m not so convinced about pot.

    As I told my AA friend – on Nov.2, 2009 I would have gone to a meeting for pot smokers with a desire to stop drinking if there was one. So, I want to AA instead.

    If you ever are able to arrange a meeting and can make it available online, I would like to attend.


  15. I do believe that it has been shown that using Cannabis for “harm reduction” with substance use issues works very well for many patients. Bill and Bob from the birth of AA in the 1930’s would most likely roll over in their grave, at least in my opinion, if they saw how anti-medicine AA has become. Their position was to take their physician’s advise with regard to medications. That is not to say that doctors always prescribe the best medicine. This is true due to lack of dosable cannabis medicine and cannabis with so much THC that it is so mind altering.

    As i my blogs, I would be happy to help organize a weekly meeting that is certainly “smoke free”, but is very open to discuss patients use of cannabis in helping secure their sobriety. Can you help?

  16. Hiya

    I joined AA 17 years ago after nearly killing myself with alcohol – a low bottom drunk – and I’ve been very active in the program ever since. While doing the Steps the desire to drink was removed and it hasn’t come back, in the slightest. I’m productive, reliable, and happy, joyous and free. And yes, I have a little smoke most evenings.

    It’s important to note that AA has no opinion on outside issues. When people say that cannabis use is not sobriety (and yes, most AA members would say that), that’s their *opinion* only. I’ve never been able to find anything in any official AA publication (Conference approved literature) that warns against the use of drugs other than alcohol, or states that cannabis is incompatible with sobriety.

    What’s more, I do think cannabis has been a very beneficial influence in my life, particularly in the first months without alcohol.

    If an alcoholic asked my opinion, I would say that if cannabis leads you back to alcohol, avoid it all costs. That’s my opinion.

    Once again, AA most definitely has no opinion on cannabis!


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