When my paper (http://www.morerevealed.com/devin/attending-a-gamblers-anonymous-meeting.html) was returned from my addiction studies professor with comments, there were some that I felt were rather interesting. I wrote, "Though limited and shallow, there is a built-in social network that goes with these organizations." This was responded to with, "Many 12-step folks have told me that the relationships in AA etc are incredibly deep (much more so than family etc.). How do you know it's shallow?"
Even after an hour-and-a-half discussion with this professor in her office, this is one of the many things that I never got around to talking about. So I will write about it here.
It's ironic that she used the example she did and believing that she was defending AA. "My relationships with other members are incredibly deep," of course they say that. Most cult members say that. You will hear the same statement from members of The Unification Church (the Moonies), Scientologists, and I have no doubt that the members of Heaven's Gate would have said the same thing before their mass suicide.
The relationships that people develop with other AA members are shallow and limited because they relate to each other only within the context of the cult. There are areas of conversation that are restricted. They will not question the cult's doctrine, they will not criticize the program, and they will be very conscious of other members' rank in the organization and act accordingly. The real test comes when someone leaves the group. Do these "incredibly deep" relationships continue after someone walks away? No.
These relationships are based on each person's relationship with the cult not each other. There are some reports of people maintaining friendships after leaving the organization. In these cases the people manage as long as the 12-step program is never mentioned. Most people who leave the program find it difficult, almost impossible to relate to group members after being gone a while.
After I left the cult I found that I could no longer identify with my former cohorts who were immersed in their endeavor of eternal recovery. The program tends to bring out the worst not the best in people at both ends of the ego spectrum. Those who had low self-esteem to begin with often become worse after a stint in recovery. The will refer to themselves with demeaning monikers. They will put the needs of the higher-ranking cult members above their own. Their sense of self becomes entirely diminished and they cannot function without the cult.
Those who were self-centered, egotistical, braggarts to begin with become much worse. The terms "step-nazis" and "Big Book thumpers" refer to these paper tigers who dominate every step meeting and with God on their side tell everyone else what they are doing wrong.
One of the problems with these blowhards is that they are not very interesting. That is exactly why I left AA. I just got tired of hearing the same thing over and over. I was no longer interested in maintaining these "incredibly deep" relationships.