Kate's Blog

An Alternative To AA – Why My Approach Is Different

There’s one topic I tend to tiptoe around in my videos.

I’ve been reluctant to talk about AA, for fear of upsetting anyone.
Yet it seems increasingly important to point out the obvious: Alcoholics Anonymous isn’t for everyone.
(It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea).
For many people, there’s something about it that just feels… ‘off’ 
If you’re looking for an alternative to AA, I thought it was about time I explained why my approach is different.

Key points

If AA works for you, stick with it

I believe anything that helps people quit drinking is a good thing, so if the 12 step approach works for you, then great. But don’t let anyone tell you that you ‘should’ go to AA, get a sponsor or declare yourself an alcoholic. (You don’t need to use that word, as I explained here). 

Lifestyle upgrade vs lifelong battle

When I quit drinking, I knew it would only last if I could figure out a way to feel good about sobriety. I didn’t want to rely on willpower or feel deprived for the rest of my life. The idea of having to continually attend meetings felt depressing.
Nowadays, one of my biggest goals with The Sober School is to show women that alcohol free living isn’t a punishment – it’s a lifestyle upgrade. It’s not a stone in your shoe or a cross to bear because you failed at drinking ‘normally’. 

There’s nothing wrong with you

The 12 Steps of AA (which you can read here) focus on correcting your character defects. This is where my approach alters dramatically. I don’t think there is anything wrong with you – becoming addicted to an addictive substance is entirely predictable. You aren’t weak, broken or defective. 
If you want to change your relationship with alcohol, you need to learn how to change your response to your emotions. Most of us haven’t been taught how to do that. And when you’re consumed by all your supposed failings, the chances are you won’t ever do that work.

Looking for an alternative to AA?

We’re all just doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us. If you’ve decided that alcohol is a tool that’s no longer working for you – and you’d like to learn how to handle life a little differently – details of my online coaching programme are here

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


50 Responses

  1. I loved your course (life changing!) and fully embrace the lifestyle upgrade definition. I also appreciated very much your lesson on labels and how we define ourselves – very positive and helpful

    1. Hi Kate, I would really like to register for your next course if possible, but I have 2 kids at home full time with homeschooling etc, just wondering how much time per day would I need to set aside for your course?

      1. Hi Jenn, the course takes approx 20 minutes a day to do. Most people find that the time freed up by not drinking (and not feeling sluggish) helps them fit the lessons into their daily routine. I’ll be sharing more details about the course towards the end of this month 🙂

  2. Totally agree. I am so glad to have found you and your course Kate – I came away feeling empowered and inspired. I’ll be celebrating one year alcohol free in July and rarely think of alcohol now.

    1. That’s fantastic! Congratulations Alexandra – it’s been a pleasure seeing you go from strength to strength 🙂

      1. You have hit the nail on the head Kate, alcohol free life is a wonderful upgrade.I used to imagine sobriety would be a sad AA meeting existence and was horrified, but I quit drinking last September and life hasn’t been this good for a very long time, no sad missing anything just a much happier, calmer, healthier better existence . Your tips and videos are great. Thank you.

  3. Kate,
    Thank you for discussing the topic of AA. I attended AA meetings regularly for about two years. I tried my hardest to buy into the program out of fear, that if I didn’t I would drink again. I found that some of the old timers were kind, but preaching the AA lifetime approach. Too many of the members were also abusive, narcissistic and willing to take in a new comer to take advantage of their vulnerability. This was my experience and it caused extreme anxiety, depression, and made me question if I was going crazy. I could not get sober. The addictive properties of alcohol and stages of change were never mentioned. Shame, failure, and “you must not want it bad enough” was the mantra. I went to several different meetings to try to find a healthy group; none were to be found. It was all degrees of disfunction. I got sober by attending your class, increasing healthy activities (singing, gardening, swimming) and reading positive books about sobriety. I still receive your emails and videos which I cherish. Thank you for helping me get and stay sober. It has been years that I have been AF. I do no’t miss drinking, I don’t even think about it. I love the AF life. If you are struggling, please be kind to yourself. Never give up, you are worth the work to achieve AF living!

    1. I’m sorry you had such a disappointing experience there Diane, but I’m glad things finally clicked into place for you! It’s lovely to hear from you after all this time and know all is well. Congratulations ❤️

  4. Great explanation of how one size doesn’t fit all. Your course gave me the tools and confidence to break free of my addiction to wine. I just celebrated two and a half years alcohol free. Life has never been better. Thanks Kate!

  5. For years – literally, years – the idea that AA was the only way I could address my relationship with alcohol kept me from doing exactly that. The fact that I was supposed to admit that I had no control over it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I believed I had no control over it, well then, I had no control over it! There was nothing I could do. I had to wait for whatever horrible bottom was finally going to befall me and then I would have to fight against the cravings for the rest of my life! Only when I started finding other women who talked about how we could choose what kind of relationship we wanted with alcohol did I find something that helped me. It was a godsend. And realizing that the substance is designed to make it hard for to just leave it allowed me to leave shame behind along with it. I do have control but I also had to do the work around why I needed to numb out of my life so often. AA obviously works for some but it is not the only way to find our way out of a bottle.

    1. I’m so glad you were able to turn that perspective around and see things differently after all those years. Congratulations on your sobriety Linda!

  6. I’ve not started your course, Kate, but watching this video about it’s difference to AA was so helpful. I literally felt lighter, happier and hopeful.

    1. I’m glad to hear it resonated with you Jen. No matter what you’re feeling… you’re not alone 🙂

  7. Hi Kate, this is a really important topic. I feel like for the longest time there was an idea that only AA could help a person get sober. The only game in town. That kept me drinking for a long time, almost killing myself in the process. I went to one AA meeting, and got an unpleasant vibe from the all-male older group. That said, I went to one online AA meeting, and they were all lovely. There are steps that I think are counter-productive – it can re-traumatize others by making amends. And what’s with labelling ourselves alcoholic.? I gave up drinking diet coke a few years ago, am I a dietcokaholic? Makes no sense. Thanks for your wisdom!

    1. I agree, the message that AA is the only way to do it (or the ‘right’ way) is particularly worrisome. I get enough comments on my blogs and social media to know that that line of thinking is still what some people believe!

  8. Sober School graduate of Jan 2021. This course is the most positive way to quit and become the person you were meant to be. Thank you Kate and all the

  9. I’ve been attending AA meetings for over 3 years and remained sober but I do feel humiliated and defective, your commentary does resonate with me. I’m frightened to stop going because I’m convinced I will ‘relapse’. I am a professional, successful single mum but I do beat myself up and I would love to feel more positive.

    1. Congratulations on your sobriety Sarah! That is brilliant and should be celebrated. My online course is aimed at women who haven’t yet quit, but every time I run it I have a few people in your position who join in order to work on the mindset piece of this. You can find out more about the course here: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
      I would also recommend reading David Hamilton’s book, I Heart Me, as I think it might help you with where you are right now.

      1. I took Kate’s course in Oct’20 after 1 1/2 years sober. It was fantastic! It helped me stop longing for what I thought I was missing, and instead focus on how great AF life really is! I will always be so grateful for Kate and the course!! Just passed 800 days happily sober 🙂

  10. Exactly Kate! I did not want to buy into the powerlessness and character defect mentality. I wanted to be empowered, to find tools and strength over this addictive substance. I honestly never felt like I wronged anyone but myself when drinking, so the making amends thing also was sticky. One other point I want to make is that often AA meetings are attended predominantly by males. Sometimes women with alcohol problems also have some abuse issues in their past, and attending a meeting with a room full of men may be intimidating.
    I am so grateful to have found you, and your supportive, informative, sensible course. 18 months AF, some of that time spent before finding you, which was uncomfortable, then afterwards feeling infinitely better. As always, thank you, thank you, thank you!

  11. I tried AA but could not buy into the mantra that I was powerless over alcohol. AA felt like replacing one addiction with another – instead of breaking free altoehtehr. AA wants you to be hooked on them not alcohol. I want freedom and self-reliance – not addiction.

      1. Hi Kate
        I am still struggling but I know alcohol does nothing for me but I am hard wired. I am trying again and really. don’t want to feed the monster any more. Your positive approach is very helpful

  12. I was about to go to AA tonight but decided to go for the July course. Sounds much more me. So..I’m taking some time out of work for a bit to get me started and be a bit kinder to myself.

  13. AA meeting were not for me, although, I love the big book and I feel every Alcoholic should read it. I also believe the 12 steps is important for people that have a lot of shame from their abuse of alcohol. Once I had process AA and realized I wasn’t a piece of crap, meeting were depressing to me and sometimes felt some people were marinating in self pity.

  14. I was not interested in AA for reason of being thrust into a group of strangers that I didn’t think I’d feel a part of and the time commitment of going to meetings. But, I did want to stop drinking. Your class was life altering for me, I don’t think I would have quit on my own-or I would have thought I was missing out if I had. I learned so much, have zero desire to drink, and feel like I have the strength to control my life versus letting it knock me over. I am so glad I stumbled upon your site. Your videos were something I looked forward to every day during the 6-week class. Thank you Kate!

    1. I’m so glad my class resonated with you Jen and helped you on this journey. Thank you for your lovely comment and congratulations on making this shift to alcohol free living! 🙂

  15. It was so refreshing to finally realise that I’m not alone in starting this new journey in my life. I had been binge drinking for a couple of years after I lost my brother to cancer. I know he wouldn’t want me wasting my life from inside of a bottle. I am so looking forward to being able to joining your next class if you will let me.

    1. I am sorry to hear about your brother – these past few years must have been tough. However I think it’s brilliant that you’re reflecting on what he would want for you… and the reminder that life is short. I’ll be sharing more details about the July class at the end of this month, so keep an eye on your inbox. I look forward to working with you 🙂

  16. I’m a happy person who likes to squeeze every bit of life out of every day, and alcohol was stealing hours of my life. Your course made me realize that alcohol was not adding one thing to my life and there was no need for it at all. I didn’t want to feel miserable or deprived or like I was “missing out” on something, and your approach is perfect for that. It also helped me to stop beating myself up about the fact that sometimes I couldn’t control my drinking, because that is the nature of alcohol. Being clear-headed for the past 18 months 24/7 is the best gift I could have given myself, and your course was perfect for me.

    1. Thank you Dove – and congratulations on your 18 months! It’s a pleasure to see you rocking your sobriety 🙂

  17. I don’t want to sound negative and I have watched many of your tutorials. I have managed to be alcohol free for many months one of my times was almost a year. The longer I am free of alcohol the better I feel about myself but the longing for a glass of wine never leaves me I just can’t get away from the thoughts of wanting it. I tell myself I like waking up clear headed and it’s something I don’t need but the longer I abstain the more appealing it seems to me how am I ever going to switch that off and not want it anymore

    1. Hi Desiree, thanks for sharing what’s coming up for you. It sounds as if you might be quitting drinking using willpower alone, and not doing any of the mindset work? This strategy can leave you feeling like you’re missing out and eventually the urge to resist gets too much. I’d love to work through this and get to the bottom of what you believe you’re missing out on when you’re sober. The best way for me to work with you is via my online coaching programme – the next class starts soon: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

  18. Thanks Kate, that was so enlightening, I have no problem with AA, but I knew 20 years ago that it wasn’t for me. I find finding fault with yourself is not the answer. Punishing and begging forgiveness is not the way out of this mess. I recently started attending a meeting, recommended by my cousin in Lanzarote, founded by a Galway man, where I’m from. Self-loathing, self-hatred, self – you name it, almost make you to go out an have a drink! So it’s great to hear talk about how I feel about AA. Just now for me.

    1. I’m glad it resonated with you. I know these meetings work for some people and that’s great… but for many others, it’s simply not the right fit.

  19. Thanks, Kate! Finding your course was one of the best things I could have ever done, after over 30 years of drinking. AA wasn’t for me, because it precludes a belief in a higher power. I know many people share this belief but I am not one of them. Learning that I am in control of my alcohol intake and that I now “choose“ not to drink as opposed to can’t because I’m “defective” and “unfortunate” has been amazing. Learning about the science of alcohol, the marketing, the reason so many of us get addicted, amongst many other things was eye-opening for me. AA was founded by white male Christians, and though it has diversified over the years those fundamental beliefs are still there. If you believe in “giving yourself over” to a higher power it may work, but your approach is the one for me…and works for hundreds of women like me.

  20. Hello, I love your videos and they really resonate with me. I’ve been in AA for 8 months and it just doesn’t fit with me. I’m at a point where I miss alcohol and have had a drink or two. I don’t know whether now drinking will be different for me after everything I’ve learnt (AA has scared me) or whether I am on the right path. We have a big wedding next year in ibiza and I’m so scared to go as can’t imagine not drinking when everyone else is, but also don’t want to miss out on an opportunity of a holiday somewhere I’ve not been. I am on your waiting list.

    1. Hi Sarah, I’d love to help you get to a point where you think, “Wow – I can’t wait to go to Ibiza and experience it hangover free and alcohol free.” That’s how I’d be thinking about it… and you can too. Being sober for that would be so much fun. I’ll be sharing more details about my July class soon, so if it sounds like a good fit, it could be a good next step for you 🙂

  21. Hi Kate, I am really interested in joining your next course. I have tried AA and even had a sponsor but it wasn’t for me. It focuses too much on the negative and made me even more stressed. I watched your video and your way really appeals to me. No silly steps in old fashioned language but a modern fresh approach. I really like the idea.

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