Archive for 20 April 2009

Criticism as Deviance and Social Control in Alcoholics Anonymous

Heath C Hoffman is a professor of sociology at The College of Charleston. He wrote published as sociological study in the the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography titled Criticism as Deviance and Social Control in Alcoholics Anonymous. The full PDF file of the paper is linked below, but I thought I would take a bit from this paper to show how the AA manipulation works. In the article, the author discusses various types of criticism and cites examples of how they work within the AA culture. The example here is “Direct Criticism”. We will take a look at some of their other methods of control, as observed in this paper, on later dates. Here is Part I.

Criticism as Deviance and Social Control in Alcoholics Anonymous

The block quotes are taken directly from the paper. Everything else is my own commentary.

Direct criticism occurs when a member overtly challenges or denounces
a member for his behavior, thoughts, or presentation of self. I documented
eight cases of direct criticism during my research. Of those eight cases,
seven involved the direct criticism of a lower-status and/or marginal
member by a higher-status and/or integrated veteran member. The eighth
case moved laterally between members of equal status. The following case
illustrates the direct criticism of Glenda by a more senior member. First,
Glenda spoke to the group:

“. . . I’m Glenda and I’m an alcoholic . . . I am on house arrest now and I wait
by the phone for the telephone call at 10:00 [p.m.]. Then I think that I could
drink between calls from 10 [p.m.] to 3 [a.m.] . . . I have a sleeping disorder—
I’m an insomniac. I take sleeping pills for that and my son held an intervention
for me because he said that when I take those pills late at night, I talk all this
gibberish and then I wake up the next day and I don’t remember any of it. I’m
supposed to get my prescription filled today and I’m not sure what to do. . .
I go to a psychiatrist—I’m bipolar . . . I take medicine for that. I’m just
having a really hard time. My son wants to keep the medication for me and give
me a pill each night at 10:00 so that I can sleep. I feel so bad that he has to go
through this again. It just makes me cry to think of what I am doing to him. He
is fourteen and I’m his mother and he is holding my sleeping pills for me . . .
The problem is my husband right now. He’s so controlling. The other night he
told me to get out of bed and finish my Fourth Step.4I couldn’t finish it because
I just wasn’t ready yet. He didn’t talk to me for the whole next day. I guess that’s
it. Thanks for letting me share.”

Glenda’s presentation of her problems is deviant because she adopts the
role of victim, challenging the belief among AA members that when they
are upset, “no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If
somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also” (AA [1952]
1981, 90). Glenda challenges the communal nature of the AA program by
suggesting she is different than other members because of her insomnia,
bipolar disorder, and controlling husband. This implies that the regular AA
program does not work for her and she requires special considerations and
is not “just another alcoholic,”as is prescribed in AA’s culture. This is not
surprising since Glenda is seeing a psychiatrist and the psychiatric model
treats the client’s problems as stemming from the unique circumstances and
experiences of the individual (Horwitz 1982, 180-81; 1990, 216).

In AA, there is no justifiable cause for anger, regardless of the cause. The author referenced this quote from The Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions:

“It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.”

He did not include the balance of the paragraph. In AA, the individual is always accountable:

“But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are Continue reading Criticism as Deviance and Social Control in Alcoholics Anonymous

"A.A.'s 'Big Book' celebrates 70 years"

Here is an article from the Akron Beacon Journal about the 70th anniversary of the ‘Big Book’.

Here are some interesting quotes from a couple of folks from the AA flock about the ‘Big Book’ from the article:

“It is ”God’s story of his love for the alcoholic.”

”To me, the Big Book is an inspiration of God.”

”You see its enduring, life-saving value and you know it had to be more than two recovering men that were that brilliant that put something together. It had to be in God’s hands.”

They forgot to mention that the book is “spiritual, not religious”; and these words from God are “just suggestions”.