Hi, I’m Anon and I want to leave my 12 Step Program. How?
September 30, 2013 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been a member of a 12 Step program. I've successfully quit my addiction and now I want to leave the group as quickly and painlessly as possible. How do I do that?

I’ve been a member of a Nicotine Anonymous group for a little over a year. I joined the group to have support while quitting smoking (haven’t smoked in over a year) and I don’t work the steps. I have an issue with NicA in that its emphasis seems to be on the steps as opposed to helping people quit smoking and staying quit. Trevor, one of the old timers with 13 years smober said as much, he said the steps are a guide to how to live your life and not a guide to quitting smoking.

But last week I got a frantic call from an unknown number and it was Maude, another old timer who was upset that I missed a meeting where we were having a group conscious (12 step version of a hive mind) about who would lead our meetings for the next three months. I wasn’t able to think fast on my feet and I got roped into it. Also, we have a small group (typical attendance is 4-5 people) and she was worried that this group could fold if I didn’t attend meetings. Of course Maude has my number and she was sure to call me before last week’s meeting to remind me to attend.

I’m glad the group was there when I needed support, but I have come to really dread going. I was hoping to cut back my meetings to once a month and then to none. The prospect of meeting with Trevor and Maude for three more months just gives me a headache. I can’t fucking stand “sharing” (in a 12 Step sense), circle hugs, and the Serenity Prayer.

I want out of my 12 Step group and I want it in a way that won’t have Trevor and Maude ringing my cell phone sweating me to attend meetings. How do I do that?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just don't go and use Miss Manners "I'm sorrry, that won't be possible"

Memail me.
posted by asockpuppet at 9:09 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also, we have a small group (typical attendance is 4-5 people) and she was worried that this group could fold if I didn’t attend meetings.

This is the heart of the issue; it sounds like she doesn't want to give up her candy, and is trying to put the burden on you. Boo hoo for her.

You'll need to say, "I'm sorry, but I won't be attending these meetings anymore," and keep repeating as necessary as she steps up the guilt in attempts to hang on to you for her own purposes.
posted by Melismata at 9:10 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pressuring people to do something they don't want to do is rude. And, to paraphrase Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H, it's not rude to be rude to the rude. So just tell them no, you won't be going anymore, and then hang up.

Then never think about it again.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:18 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you have a smartphone you can get the Mr. Number app and set it to automatically pick up and hang up on all of their phone numbers.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get a present for the group (e.g., cookies). Go to the next meeting, and before it starts, say, "I want to thank all of you for being here for me and helping me quit this horrible, destructive habit. I haven't had smoked for more than a year now, and I will always be grateful to you for that. Here, have a cookie. I won't be coming around as much, because I've overcome the reason for my being here, but please, feel free to call me if I can help any of you in the future. Thanks again." And put the cookies on the table and walk out and don't look back.

If Trevor or Maude calls you, ignore it. If someone else calls you for help with quitting, just remember that you needed help once, and they do now, and be kind. Within a month or so, there will be new people for them to call, and you won't hear from them again.
posted by Etrigan at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2013 [20 favorites]

They can't read your mind. You wanted to do the slow fade, but they thought you were a key part of the group.

Write them one email saying you've been grateful for the group, but you have decided to stop attending the meetings at this time. You wish them the best but no longer want to have any ongoing contact. Let them know this will be the last communication from you.

Set their phone numbers to go directly to voicemail without ringing. Just delete their emails or set a filter so they go straight to the trash.

It'll be much easier than trying to hope they pick up on your desire to leave. Be a grown-up and make it clear.
posted by barnone at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a smartphone you can get the Mr. Number app and set it to automatically pick up and hang up on all of their phone numbers.

That's an Android-only option. But with iOS 7, both major smartphone OSs have the option to block numbers outright at the phone level.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2013

I have an issue with NicA in that its emphasis seems to be on the steps as opposed to helping people quit smoking and staying quit.

This is the case with all 12-step groups. It's the reason many people call 12-steppism a religion (and a proselytizing religion at that). The 12 steps (in which you find a god who saves you from your problem) are identical for all of the hundreds of supposedly different "fellowships" -- AA, NA, Gamblers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, etc., and as you've seen, Nicotine Anonymous -- and also the "fellowships" for people who don't themselves have an addiction problem, but merely know someone who does: Al-Anon, Gam-Anon, etc. And the 12th step is to "carry the message to others" -- iow, bring more people into the fold, and get them to believe.

Just leave, if you've had enough, and tell any members who call that you do not consider yourself a member any more and will not be coming back. It will not make you "relapse", and you have no obligation to the "fellowship", particularly if you don't believe in the ideology.
posted by RRgal at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

People in 12-step programs who are calling you etc. are calling you because they genuinely care about you. They are not calling to annoy you. But you will have to be very clear about what you need them to do (or in this case, not do) when they call. I'd recommend a script like:

"Thanks for calling, Maude. It's very nice of you to think of me. I won't be attending Tuesday night meetings anymore except sporadically, but I'm so grateful for everything they taught me. I'd really appreciate it if you don't call anymore, because I know when and where the meetings are, and if I can make it, I will. Constant reminders will only make me feel bad. Have a great evening."

That's the honest truth. Repeat as needed. If you have to repeat more than twice per person, save their number in your phone and set the ringer to silent. Then think no more of it. People who are members of anonymous fellowships are often more fragile than others, and it is kind to be extra-specific about expressing our needs to them. Not mandatory, of course, but I think it's generally kind to take peoples' circumstances into account, at least at first, when expressing myself. YMMV.

Congrats on quitting smoking, by the way!
posted by juniperesque at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2013 [7 favorites]

Quitting smoking is awesome, congrats.

Also, you have my permission to leave the group. I love the cookies and announcement method Etrigan suggests. "Here are some snickerdoodles and I'm outie!"

Thank your sponsor thank the group and leave.

12-steps isn't for everyone and for some folks, it's not forever.

It's always there if you want or need it. And sometimes you do change meetings for a host of valid reasons.

It's okay, you're allowed.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Use a white lie, if you prefer to be non-confrontational:

"Sorry, Maude. I've moved and won't be attending the meetings any longer." In a way, it's true; you have moved, moved on, and no longer wish to attend. That's 100% your prerogative and you shouldn't feel guilty about it.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:26 PM on September 30, 2013

To quote Nancy Reagan, "Just say 'No'".

You have no obligation. I've been to larger 12 step meetings and no one even noticed I stopped going.
posted by chairface at 12:48 PM on September 30, 2013

I would agree with Etrigan's approach. While you don't owe anyone anything, I think it's kind to the group to acknowledge the bond you've built together, and to say a proper thanks and goodbye.

I don't think it's necessary to open yourself up to phone support duties -- I would be leery of people not respecting your boundaries, or drumming up drama to suck you back into the group dynamic -- but if you feel that is something you can offer them without jeopardizing your own peace of mind (and nicotine-free status), it's a generous thing to do.

My hesitation in offering phone support is: 12-step folks can sometimes have an unfortunate belief that if you leave your group, you are doomed to failure. This belief is not one you need to internalize, or engage with if it is presented to you. I think it's easier to draw a firm boundary by disengaging fully.
posted by nacho fries at 3:17 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Congrats on the quitting smoking!

If repeatedly telling her some version of "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible" doesn't get through to Maude, try simply ignoring her calls --- just because someone calls, that does NOT mean you are required to *answer* that call: voice mail is a marvelous invention. Ditto for email communications: "that won't be possible" followed by radio silence and no replies.

Don't let them guilt-trip you into continuing to attend the group's meetings if you don't want to; sure, it's possible that, because of the small membership, the group may fold without you; but it's also possible for people to attend *other* NicA meetings --- and also possibly, this particular group is in danger of folding because Trevor and Maude and their high-pressure tactics have chased other people away.
posted by easily confused at 6:27 PM on September 30, 2013

"You know, I wasn't thinking clearly when I agreed to help lead. I'm sorry, but it looks like I won't be able to help out after all- in fact, I won't be coming anymore. Good luck with everything".

Don't explain why you won't be coming, or you'll get roped right back in. Just keep saying "because I won't be able to". If anyone pushes hard for a "but whyyyyyyy", say "I think I've been clear. I won't be coming. Have a great day!" And hang up. Be firm and direct, it's the only way.
posted by windykites at 8:27 AM on October 1, 2013

« Older What is the best interactive anatomy atlas for OSX...   |   my boyfriend's ex accused him of abuse; how to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.