Archive for 16 April 2009

Drinking Mermaid


Bollocks of the Day

Today’s Bollocks was culled from an older post on the Vh1 Celebrity Rehab 2 message board (where I’m spending a little too much time). The post is about a month old, and is in response to a discussion about a member who has been clean for 11 years. He is, however, on a Dr. prescribed pain medication for some debilitating back pain. Another member there snarkily challenges his claim to being “clean” and ends the discussion with this observation:

“If a technician examined [his] blood he’d say “this person is not clean, he has opiates in his system.”

The reason I want to address this is that there are a lot of assumption packed into this one little sentence, and they’re the kind of assumptions that can really fuck with a person’s head.

The first, most obvious one (obvious to anyone whose brain is not a stew of dogma and slogans) is that no technician would ever make a judgment about whether or not someone is “clean.” “Clean” is not a technical or scientific term; it’s only a value judgment, based on someone’s interpretation of the results – and utterly irrelevant in a lab.

The second is that since “clean” – as nothing more than a value judgment – is based in the religious dogma of AA, it has absolutely no meaning outside of this context. Apart from this very narrow scope, “clean” and “unclean” have no more relevance than does “sin,” outside of a particular fundamentalist religion. For instance, unless your belief system condemns homosexuality, the threat of hellfire and damnation is irrelevant to you. All the proof a fundie needs that a homosexual will burn for eternity is the very fact of his homosexuality. And all the proof this poster needs that someone is unclean is the fact that there are opiates in his blood.

For these dogmatists, the fact of one’s opiate use (or one’s homosexuality, say) is inextricably fused to their beliefs about uncleanliness (or sin). Therefore their value judgments about the facts (opiates in the blood or homosexuality) seem like straightforward obviousnesses (“not truly sober” or hell) to them, instead of what they are: interpretations of the facts that are not objective truths by any means.

The fact that this poster cannot untangle this in his own mind, and presents his interpretation as if it were a plain truth – even to the point of assuming that a lab tech would say “this person is not clean,” and, in other instances on the board, insisting that those who are not “clean” admit it – is a great case in point for those wondering whether AA is a mindfuck.


According the latest AA Triennial Survey, the average length of sobriety is 8 years. This sounds about right, but it includes only current members, and not those who drop out in disgust. Count those, and the average length of sobriety is closer to the one year mark. Walk into a decent sized meeting, and the majority in attendance have been there for less than a year, or are on their umpteenth kick at the sobriety can. There are a number of reasons for AA’s revolving door of new attendees, but nothing higher on the list than the old-timers.

AA’s only membership requirement is a desire to quit drinking, or being forced into attendance by a judge. There is no screening or background checks of members. Bank robbers, pedophiles, sociopaths, narcissists, wife beaters, peeping toms, child abusers and any other person is welcome – and all will thrive within the culture of AA if they simply adhere to the program. In fact, many of those who were failures at everything else in their life will be looked on with reverence in AA, simply by meeting the two prerequisites of becoming an old timer – don’t drink, and don’t die.

It takes a certain type of person to be able to stomach the dogma of AA for any length of time, and those who have been in the program for ten plus years are a special breed. They are the high priests of AA who set the tone of a specific chapter, become the sponsors, and help to create such a mind fuck for newcomers. One of the more special moments in a share meeting, for example, is when an old-timer uses the platform to lecture, typically using terms such as “some people”, as though they are speaking in general, really they are making reference to some poor sap who may have had the nerve to question something. Such as – “Some people think they can just show up, continue to bullshit themselves, and everything is going to change”. This is a tacit way of saying the poor schmuck who spoke earlier was not “being honest with himself”. The other old-timers will nod in agreement, and poor bastard who had the nerve to have an individual thought, is left sitting in shame.

It isn’t uncommon for an AA members to revolve their lives around the fellowship. Everything in their lives, from their belief systems, to the way they talk, to their circle of friends, is Alcoholics Anonymous. Old-timers thrive in this atmosphere, and after a few years of living in the insular world of AA, they become insufferable. Add to that touch of sociopathy and narcissism, and they become your worst nightmare.

Anti-addiction pill blunts craving

Anti-addiction pill blunts craving

Seems to block release of certain brain chemicals

I don’t think naltrexone is a news to most of the people who read here… Here’s the article. 

And this is an enormous surprise:

Despite studies showing effectiveness, established rehab programs have been slow to adopt the use of medication. At Hazelden in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a small proportion of patients receive anti-addiction drugs, but medical director Dr. Kevin Clark says the traditional model — based on intensive therapy and the 12 steps popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous — is still best. “It is a disease of the brain, but it’s a multifaceted disease. It has a spiritual component, a behavioral component to it,” says Clark. “Our experience tells us that having the network of support and recovery is what really makes the difference.”

John Schwarzlose, executive director of the Betty Ford Center, echoes that but takes a more stringent approach. No patients at Betty Ford receive anti-addiction drugs as part of treatment, although a handful of long-time addicts may be referred to a prescribing physician once their stay is over. “Where we battle with [the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse] is when they say we have trials of a new drug, and then proclaim this is a treatment for alcoholism,” says Schwarzlose. “They’re smart people, but they’re missing how complex this disease is.” Schwarzlose argues that Willenbring and Johnson are using the wrong measure of success. He says abstinence is the only true measuring stick — that an alcoholic who is drinking less is just at a way station on the road to relapse. “Naltrexone has reduced drinking, but once you’re addicted, there is no such thing as ‘OK’ drinking. This is one of those cases where there’s a real schism between the research and actual practice.”

This attitude frustrates Willenbring, who estimates that in the United States only one addict in 10 has even heard about medication options. “In most cases, the treatment is entirely nonmedical. Most people are not even told about the medications that are available for treating alcohol dependence, and I think that’s a crime.”

Now, I’m not a big cheerleader for pharma — companies that invent maladies that you never hear about, didn’t even know you had, until you hear about the brand new pill that will change your life.  But I find the unwillingness to explore, examine, and re-think approaches to addiction that have not been working, by self-righteous, 12-stepping know-it-alls, who utterly dismiss other options, discourage innovation, and withhold information from their clients, to be motivated by exactly the same kind of greed.