Archive for March 2009

Sicker than Others


Twelve Steps To Nowhere

Here is a short article by J. Timothy Hunt titled “Twelve Steps To Nowhere”, which originally appeared in Toronto’s Saturday Night magazine:


Blamethenile's New Video: Alcoholics Anonymous – The False Myth

Even though we’re supposed to be cranky with YouTube, I’m sending you over there to view the new video by Blamethenile. Also make sure you subscribe and view the rest of them while you’re at it.


Youtube have lost the plot – JREF account suspended

The James Randi Educational Foundation YouTube account was suspended.


It seems that no one knows why, so maybe it’s just a mistake, or some hyperactive self-policing from YouTube, that will be resolved presently. Whatever the case, James Randi is an important advocate for plain rational sense in a world where we seriously run candidates who perform exorcism and are protected against the stinkeye by witch doctors — and where our gold standard for addiction recovery is some kind of theological bumper sticker quackery.

So, there’s a campaign among the skeptic community to mirror this video, and if you want to complain to YouTube, go here, scroll to the very bottom, select “new issue” then select “suspended account” and give ’em holy hell.

Also, you can download the video from mediafire.

So interesting! I wonder what’s going on…


More Exceptions

Jeez, why didn’t someone just tell these people to check out different meetings, till they found a home group they like?

Man to be sentenced Tuesday in 2007 Ice-Pick Slaying (March 30, 2009)

Charges Pending against Man Who Went to Alberta AA Meeting with Two Guns (March 25, 2009)

AA Hotline Volunteer Acquitted in Rape Case (February 25, 2009) Hat tip: EFTCoaa

After a 2008 DWI conviction, and a year in A.A., an ex-judge is arrested again, for another DWI. He is sentenced to….. more mandatory A.A., because it works. (March 19, 2009)


Drunkalog: A long story, told at a 12 step meeting, that concentrates on the days of the speaker’s active addiction

Ever sit in a room, listening to someone talk, checking your watch every two minutes, praying to God that Dr Kevorkian might miraculously walk into the room and put you out of your misery? If you answered no, then you haven’t heard a drunkalog. Drunkalogs can be fairly brief, but the really good ones are given by old-timers who have honed their skills at telling the same story over and over and over and over and over….and over, again. The same jokes, the same pauses for effect and same trite slogans. Listen to them enough, and you begin to feel like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, where he relives the same scene over and over again. That is, of course, if Groundhog Day were set in a cliché factory.

Every drunkalog is different, because each person’s history is unique, but there are some common components to every one of them: 1) person starts life, and life is either good or bad, but either way, that is the reason the person drank; 2) drinking solves a problem by providing relief or escape or loosening a person up or making them feel better about themselves or whatever; 3) drinking becomes a habit, but the person did not want to admit to the habit 4) person loses job, and/or family, and/or drivers license; 5) person thinks they are in control; 5) person fucks up worse, finds themselves in AA; 6) person does not like AA, or is skeptical about the steps, or didn’t “get it”; 7) person eventually gets it, and life is better thanks to AA. Typically a drunkalog includes a before and after routine – “Before AA I was a selfish, angry, prick; but now I am at peace”.

Drunkalogs are torture beyond anything the folks at Guantanamo Bay could dream up. Personally, I would rather be water boarded than subjected to old timer Ray’s forty-minute rant one more time. If you are looking for one reason to avoid AA meetings, drunkalogs are it.

"There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem"

Bullshit slogan of the day:
“There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem.”

This is one of AA’s more ironic clichés. They profess alcoholism to be a disease, and then go about treating it as a moral failing. The Big Book was written in 1939, and since that time science has improved the treatment, or found cures, for just about every imaginable disease. Treatment for alcohol addiction is the lone exception, because it is the only disease where the primary means of treating has been a spiritual means. It is also the only form of treatment where those in charge are not interested in advancing and refining the status quo. This is understandable, because only science changes with greater understanding – religion does not.

The use of any prescription drug is frowned upon by hardcore AAs, who will tell a person that they are simply replacing one drug for another. Although there is a percentage of AAs who continue to take their prescribed medications, many are talked into giving up on their medication against medical advice. This might make little sense to those looking in at this from the outside, but for those within the bubble of AA (and those who have been there), it makes perfect sense. Once a person has gone through a proper amount of conditioning through Big Book study, 90 meetings in 90 days, following the teachings of a sponsor with no counseling qualifications and having the idea that the steps are infallible if a person simply “works them” – any questioning of the dogma (and yes, relying on means of recovery other than the steps is a form of questioning) is tantamount to heresy. There is a reason AAs are told not to think, and it is because reliance on an invisible higher power to rid them of their addiction makes as much rational sense as faith healing.

There are obviously psychological reasons for alcohol abuse, and there are certainly psychological consequences to it, as well. Those should not be discounted, but to say that alcoholism is not largely – and perhaps mostly – a chemical problem is ignorant. There are correlations between certain ethnic groups or within families, and alcoholism – and though we don’t necessarily know the specific cause of each of these, we won’t get closer to that cause if we simply acquiesce to the idea that entire populations of people have a collective character flaw. Native Americans have the highest percentage of alcohol abuse, but to say they are more morally flawed than other groups is as absurd as saying that Jews are cheap and black people are lazy. Yet, the approach that AA takes with their group that meets on the Native reserve ten miles from my home, is to tell them it is their moral failings, not their body chemistry, that are the culprit.
The operative word in understanding this cliché is the word “problem”. I have often heard that the first step is the most important, because without it, the other steps are meaningless. I agree with this. The need to quit drinking is the nexus of Alcoholics Anonymous. Without it, AA would be…well, the Oxford Group. So, alcohol addiction brings people there, and brings them back when they fall off of the wagon. It is the one commonality all members have, and it is also an ingenious tool to bring people into a cult. Most alcoholics, like myself, won’t address our problem until it has had a negative affect on our lives. We arrive to AA already compromised, at least some degree, so half the battle in turning a person over to the beliefs of the group are already won when a person walks in the door to their first meeting. There is no need for tactics like starvation or sleep depravation to help beat a recruit down, as many have likely done that to themselves already. The first step becomes the easiest, but after it is accepted, it becomes an afterthought, because drinking is not the “problem”, and step one is the only one that mentions the word “drinking”. The problem, and the primary objective of the group, rests in the next ten steps.

Bill Wilson discovered this almost by accident, as his original objective in joining the Oxford Group was a religious one. His motive was to adhere to the tenets of the group to rid himself of his moral failings and defects of character, and alcoholism just happened to be one of his. It also happened to be the failing that others within the group had, and like minds tend to gravitate toward each other. Alcohol addiction may have been their common trait, but recovery from that addiction was not their primary purpose. It was simply their moral failing of choice, their best recruiting tool, and the catalyst that morphed their branch of the Oxford Group into Alcoholics Anonymous.

The AA of today is no different, and though alcoholism is what brings people through the door, it is considered by those who run the show to be a symptom of the primary disease – that being original sin. Alcoholism is simply a symptom of our inherent moral failings, and treating the symptom is analogous to suppressing a cough and believing that it cures the flu. There is a cousin to this saying: “take the alcohol out of the asshole, you still have an asshole”. I think they should change AA to mean Assholes Anonymous. It just seems more fitting.

The 11th Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.”

I am always amazed to hear an AAer state that they are an organization based “on attraction, and not promotion”. This is bullshit on many levels.

Courts throughout the United States compel people to attend AA meetings, partly because of a general ignorance as to the ineffectiveness of the program, and partly because in many places, there is simply no treatment alternative. Additionally, treatment centres are the life blood of AA, as they model their treatment on the 12-Step approach, and they use AA as their aftercare program. Finally, the largest purchaser of AA official literature; and the largest publisher of AA based, 12-Step literature is Hazelden.

From The Orange Papers:

First, it’s just a quiet, confidential program of attraction, then it’s a tough-love program of steel-fisted coercion and promotion.
• They begin every meeting by reading aloud Tradition Eleven, which says:

“Our public relations policy is based on attraction, rather than promotion….”

• But later, they tell you to do everything you can to use the health and criminal justice systems to force people to join the 12-Step religion. The Little Red Book of Hazelden — a clone of The Little Red Book of Chairman Mao — specifically teaches recruiters to indoctrinate judges, doctors, and other officials as part of the proselytizing work. It says that faithful A.A. members can carry the message by:

“By telling the A.A. story to clergy members, doctors, judges, educators, employers, or police officials if we know them well enough to further the A.A. cause, or to help out a fellow member.”
The Little Red Book, Hazelden, page 128.

Then that book even goes on to tell recruiters to teach the judges, police, doctors, and other officials just what kind of people A.A. wants coerced into attending its meetings:
“By educating doctors, the clergy, judges, police officials, and industrial personnel regarding the type of people A.A. can help, we will avoid flooding our ranks with an unwieldy preponderance of non-alcoholics.”
The Little Red Book, Hazelden, page 137.

So much for the excuses that A.A. can’t help it if the judges, parole officers, and counselors force people to go to A.A. meetings. And Hazelden is merely echoing Bill Wilson’s instructions. In a 1939 letter from Bill to Earl T., a founding member of the Chicago A.A. group, Bill wrote:

“By educating doctors, hospitals, ministers along this line, you will surely pick up some strong prospects after a bit.
PASS IT ON, The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., pages 225-226.

Let’s examine this cycle a little further. This is a win/win/win situation for AAWS, Hazelden and local AA groups. Hazelden publishes the approved AA literature, Hazelden supplements the literature with their own publishing arm, and the local groups are fed an endless stream of recently graduated rehab patients.

The patient/AAer is the only party who is victimized. How? The findings of Project MATCH concluded that in-patient rehab is no more effective than either just going to AA, or a person quitting on their own. This insures that 95% percent of rehab graduates will fail, and a good percentage of them will go back into treatment – which is not cheap. Alcoholics who fall off of the wagon are led to believe (along with their families) that they failed the only program that can help them. Multiple rehab stints can literally put a family into financial ruin.

OK. Here’s the Thing about Alcoholics Anonymous…

I recently wrote this post on another message board, but thought that it might be relevant to repost it here on this blog, to explain why this subject is important. It’s easy for AAs to dismiss people who spend time trying to shine a light in there — trying to warn people and offer options — as cranks, disgruntled AAs with resentments, vicious people who don’t care about that one alcoholic who might be saved… I always want to ask these people what, exactly, they think we’re doing. Do they think that the criticism is completely random? Pointless? Without foundation?

I’m never gonna get an answer to that question. But, by way of explaining myself here, I thought I’d copy this post.  Some of my opinions have changed slightly, and names have been changed to protect the innocent. –ftg

The issue that some of us have with AA and 12-step “programs” is not their spiritual component or the fellowship it involves. You will notice that no one denies anyone their spiritual fortification in this fight [against addiction]. No one scrutinizes your church, say, or takes issue with anyone who would use their personal spiritual path as a foundation for their sobriety. It has to do with the 12-step industry – and despite the fact that meetings are free, this is a powerful industry that makes money, and the conventional wisdom is that it is a sound treatment for alcoholism. There are many addictions therapists trained in 12 step. There are rehab facilities that rely on it exclusively. Courts order people into AA. Therapists who have no training in addictions will recommend AA to their clients.

As I said before, it is the standard, but it is not held to any of the standards that other disease treatments are held to. I hope that this distinction is clear. It is not about any one person’s personal experience with AA. Consider, for instance, the many times you have heard from people who have had negative AA experiences (myself included). The typical response from AAs is to say that the negative experience is an exception. In other words, anecdotes, in these negative cases, are brushed off – while positive anecdotes are treated as all the proof one needs that it works.

In fact, because AA is both an industry and a spiritual fellowship, there are many contradictions that members have to get right with. It demands cognitive dissonance. For instance, they will say that you can take what you need and leave the rest; no one is forcing you to do anything — but at the same very same time, will say that “there’s no middle road” as far as taking the First Step is concerned. These contradictions are endless.

Now, the thing is that, in order to perpetuate itself, AA must maintain a certain fundamentalism. In that sense, it operates like a Multi-Level Marketing outfit (which also has “sponsors”). It has to be able to be duplicated on the lowest levels of the company, scripts must be followed — like a franchise. You have to be in it to win it. As they say in MLM, you can’t fail if you work your business. They say that the whole point of the MLM (like Avon, say) is “women helping women” (or alcoholics helping alcoholics, see?). They will tell you that you are free to manage your business as you see fit, because it’s your business; but at the same time, they push the idea that if you actually want to succeed, you will follow the plan.

If it were a free-form spiritual fellowship community, and if the 12 steps (and all the jargon, slogans, traditions, etc) were merely a guideline, this wouldn’t be the successful industry that it is. Similarly, most of the people who join an MLM are going to fail at it — just as they will at recovery with A.A. They haven’t worked the program. The business model is sound. It cannot fail; it can only be failed. If you don’t succeed it’s because you didn’t commit to the clear plan laid out for you. And the bottom line of an MLM is to duplicate itself as many times as it can.

Anyway, there are many things I think we can agree on. I think that we all want to see people succeed in their fight against their addictions; we want to see innovations in addictions treatments; we care about each other here, and wish only success for each other. We respect each others paths and personal spiritual beliefs. We also do not disagree that spiritual fellowship with other alcoholics can be the foundation of one’s recovery, if it jibes with one’s belief system. We agree that A.A. can provide something important to some people. Those of us who question it are not trying to discourage people from going.

What we are trying to do is point out that the fact that, because AA is not considered spiritual fellowship, but is treated as a program, and not just a program, but the program, 1. people’s expectations of AA and themselves are distorted (“It works if you work it.”), 2. as long as it is treated as the program, then courts, lay people, therapists, and families, will continue to insist upon it, and 3. addicts will see it as their last hope for recovery, and statistically speaking, they will fail, as will their hope.

How about if we get real about what AA is? A few people are concerned with that one alcoholic who might have pinned his last shot at sobriety on AA, read this thread [which turned into a debate about the effectiveness of A.A.], and throw in the towel. However, if we are honest about what it is — if A.A. were honest about what it is — there is no reason for this to ever be the result. As long as A.A. is considered the last hope, it is just as likely that this one person, who pinned his last hope on A.A., ends up finding that it just isn’t for him, and loses all hope for recovery.

If we could lift this taboo, shine the light on AA, show what it is and what it isn’t, which would allow addicts, counselors and families to make an informed decision about it and to be realistic about what it can (support) and can’t (treatment, cure) offer them, perhaps both hope and innovations in actual treatment could thrive.

One major contradiction I see here is that people who are invested in A.A., and who insist that it is not treatment, not a program, but rather a spiritual fellowship, get very upset when it is pointed out to them that — they’re right — it is not effective treatment. How can you both deny that AA is treatment and then get upset when studies show this very fact? If you want to say that A.A.“works” then you have to deny that it’s a just a spiritual fellowship. But when it is pointed out that it doesn’t “work,” then the hackles go up, and the response is that it’s not supposed to “work;” it’s just fellowship. And I’m really not understanding why scrutinizing A.A., in light of the conventional wisdom about it, should be threatening at all. The scrutiny does not effect, one way or the other, whether it is meaningful or appropriate for you. But the scrutiny would certainly effect approaches to addiction treatment positively in the recovery industry, which is what we all want, I think.

"There are none too dumb for the AA program, but many are too smart."

Bullshit slogan of the day:
There are none too dumb for the AA program, but many are too smart.

Translation: Don’t question the absurdity of what you see, regardless of how batshit crazy it happens to be.

This saying, along with its ugly cousins like – your best thinking got you here, stinking drinking thinking, take the cotton out of your ears and put it into your mouth; and, don’t drink, don’t think and go to meetings – are used to shut someone down who might have an original thought. This poor guy below us had the nerve to ask why the Lord’s prayer is used in an a meeting that is spiritual, not religious.