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 dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.”

Greg, the chair of the meeting, placed boundaries around Glenda’s problems, saying, “it sounds like you’re getting outside help for some of your issues,”but he told Glenda that her addiction to alcohol was more important than her insomnia, bipolar disorder, and her controlling husband and was the only problem that should be discussed in an AA meeting. After establishing this, Greg asked the group,“Who’s next?” Wayne, a three-year AA veteran, was the first to respond to Glenda’s remarks.:

“My name’s Wayne and I’m an alcoholic. You know, I was listening to you speak and it seems that you have an excuse for every reason why you can’t work the program. When I came into this program, I was wasted. I knew I could not drink anymore or I was going to be fucking dead. I had to be completely willing to give myself to this program and admit that I couldn’t drink anymore. They say if you think you can drink you should go sit in a bar and take a drink and see what happens. Hell, if you want a drink, you should go out and fuckin’drink. You know how many people I’ve seen come in here and go back out and die? We just buried three last month. Do you think one more’s gonna matter? . . . You have to figure out whether you really want to get sober. You can fuckin’drink—you might fucking die—but you gotta fucking decide where your priorities are. You can’t just fucking make excuses—there are no excuses for drinking. If your ass falls off, you pick it up and get to a fucking meeting. If I drink today,I fucking die. That’s all there is to it. All those excuses are a bunch of shit . . . That’s all I got. Thanks.”

This little speech has it all: pop psychology, self-righteous indignation, threats of death if Glenda doesn’t follow the program. Then he tags Dale, an old-timer, who steps into the ring and really begins to assault this poor girl:

After Wayne finished speaking he collected his cigarettes and lighter and left the meeting. In his response, Wayne reduces Glenda’s problems to the “lowest drink-related denominator”(Bean 1975, 8):either drink or work the AA program and take responsibility for your sobriety. Another veteran member, Dale, joined Wayne in criticizing Glenda.:

“My name’s Dale and I’m an alcoholic . . . In “How it Works,”5it doesn’t say anything about going to therapists, or taking pills, or even working the Fourth Step. It works, and it says it right in there, by being fucking honest. That’s it. It says in there that there are those who have mental disorders, but they can get well too if they have the capacity to be honest. Honesty is all it takes.”

This the standard practice of pulling the person away from any outside help, and convincing the person that they don’t need to take their doctor prescribed medication. To hell with professional advice. According to Dale, all Glenda needs is “honesty”, as defined by AA. In AA honesty is defined as admitting to moral failure. He continues:

“Now, you have to decide whether you want to stay sober or not. If you want to drink, go out and drink. You have to really want this. It’s not easy. That’s why so many people go back out [and drink] . . . No one has ever died from insomnia . . . If you stay up long enough, eventually you’re going to sleep. That’s a fact … I don’t know about medications and all of that, but I know one woman we had in here. She had 19 years sober in the program—19 years dryin’ the program—and she was using pills and had all sorts of reasons to take medication. She got so crazy you couldn’t understand a word she was saying in meetings. We had to kick her out of here because nobody wanted to be in the same meeting with her. I don’t want that. Do you want that? I don’t want that for me. People think they can just take a pill and everything will be better. I don’t buy that. Hell, if there was some pill that could make me feel better, why the hell would I come back here? I’d say screw you all. “

Glenda interrupted Dale and said, “Yeah, but I have rheumatoid arthritis . . .” By interrupting a member who is talking to her, Glenda engages in “cross-talk.”As a result, Greg, the meeting chair, stopped Glenda from finishing her remark, saying, “Just listen. Don’t talk.” Dale continued his criticism of Glenda.

Dale is not qualified to give out medical advice, and he knows nothing about Glenda’s conditions that caused a trained physician to prescribe medication to her. His only qualification in dispensing this advice is a lot of time in an organization that promotes the idea of God (or doorknob) healing all that ails a person. What he is doing here is promoting faith healing. He continues:

“. . . I know [Dale says sarcastically with a slight grin on his face]. You’re different. I was different when I came in here, too. I had special problems and worries that other people didn’t have . . . I’m also curious why you gave your fourteen-year-old son your pills to distribute to you. If your husband is so controlling,why don’t you give the pills to him? I bet I know why. Your son will actually give you one each night. Your husband won’t. The truth is you really want those pills. That’s why you gave them to your son. . . No one can make us do anything. We each make those decisions to let people control us and make us feel certain ways . . . You said that your husband made you work the Fourth Step—nobody ever makes us do anything. We give other people that control over us. I don’t know if your husband is your sponsor or if he is a member of AA, or not. [Glenda interjected that her husband is not her sponsor.] I know I sure as hell wouldn’t want my wife to be my sponsor. When we aren’t getting along, the last thing I want is for her to be giving me advice . . . [Dale asks Glenda] Are you happy? Are you sober? Glenda responds, “Yeah, I’m sober and I’m happy that I’m in a meeting today.”Dale continued, “Well, maybe your husband has something to offer that none of us in these rooms could do for you, but I seriously doubt it.”

Her husband has less to offer her than this AA group does. They, not her husband, have her best interest at heart.

There are some great women in these rooms with a lot of sobriety. And it’s free. You shouldn’t worry about bothering them—that’s what they’re there for….You need to get one of these women to be your sponsor and you need to call that sponsor every day and when you’re feeling bad or feel like drinking you need to get your ass to a meeting… I hope you stick around.”

The rant ends with “don’t call your family, don’t call a medically trained physician, call someone in this group”. Whoever she calls will echo exactly what Dale just told her.

While Dale’s response to Glenda is relatively critical, by the end Dale tries to reintegrate Glenda into the group and encourage her to work the AA program by getting a sponsor, calling that sponsor, and going to meetings when she feels bad or wants to drink alcohol. Dale’s criticism of Glenda is based on the assumption that all alcoholics are alike—Glenda is not special or unique and she must practice the same AA program as every other member. It is in this way that criticism is more than just a punitive response to a deviant AA member but a means of reintegrating the member into the group by explicitly telling her how she should act differently to conform to the assumptions and rules of AA. While Wayne and Dale were critical of Glenda, other members voiced empathy for her, describing how they also experienced the urge to drink while on probation. Others relayed their experiences of being alcoholics who use medications to treat their psychological disorders. One member even came to Glenda’s defense, criticizing other members for offering advice rather than “experience, strength, and hope”as is prescribed. “My name is Harley and I’m an alcoholic. We can sure give a lot of advice in here, but that’s all it is— advice. I don’t know what’s going on in your [Glenda’s] head and you don’t know what’s going on in mine. We are all different in similar circumstances. People in these rooms can give you all the advice in the world, but they don’t really understand what’s going on in your life….”In this instance, Harley becomes a partisan supporter for Glenda, challenging the moralistic comments of Dale and Wayne, helping Glenda to save face (see Arminen 2001, 244). Members do not generally exhibit or attract this degree of criticism in meetings. In fact, AA newcomers are often given some latitude in their speech events. However, Glenda was not a newcomer for she had already compiled eight months of sobriety. Glenda was not closely tied to AA members in a social network outside of meetings because, even though she had a sponsor, Glenda had never called her because she did not want to “bother”the sponsor. Having challenged the AA program and its universal treatment regimen, Glenda’s marginality to the AA group left her unprotected by long-standing and deep social ties to other members.

“Having challenged the AA program and its universal treatment regimen, Glenda’s marginality to the AA group left her unprotected by long-standing and deep social ties to other members.”

The above quote by this sociologist is important, because it shows what happens when a member does not subscribe to the program. AAs can say “these are suggestions” until they are blue in the face, but in practical terms they are not suggestions. There are consequences to not following lock-step with the group. This dialog is also a perfect example of who controls the AA group, and more importantly, how they control the group.

End of part I

  • speedy0314

    MA,

    as always, cogent & even-handed 12X12 critique. the source paper is objective & (from my experience — especially since the research comes from nyc meetings) accurate. the author practically bends over backwards to be deferential to AA's overall 'helpfulness' — unnecessarily (again, just one man's opinion).

    that said, you know what the typical stepper response would be to this. (hint: think, "i know you are but what am i?") even the greater than average 12X12 'go along/get along' type wouldn't give the paper an initial read. they don't want their 'faith' (in … whatever) shaken to even the slightest degree. everything gets viewed through their 'make it up as you go along but make at least a tangential connection to the program' rose-colored eyeglasses.

    for me, frankly, it's tremendously ennervating & more than a little exhausting. AA/12X12's literature & rhetoric on the whole is pure self-denigrating psychological/theological poison. still, i find myself i stuck at the hip-hop proposition, "don't hate on the playah, hate on da game" when i consider my AA experience.

    what kept me sober for 3 years in AA wasn't the 12X12 or virtually any of the rhetoric (though some AA aphorisms are just plain common-sense & are re-written [sometimes very poorly] buddhist or [outwardly non-denominatonal] christian ideals — e.g., keep it simple); it was hanging around with a veru select group of people who had that same goal in mind. when the cognitive dissonance started to vastly outweigh that experience, my 'smart feet' walked right the hell out of the meetings.

    the situation you quote is just such an example: either get beat down & 'give up/surrender to 'the program' & the narrow, uninformed worldview of these two bullying imbeciles; just kind of mentally 'go off' into your own little world & wait until after the meeting to find more sympathetic, empathetic, sensible ears; or stand up & fight the fuck back.

    i'm inclined to fall in the later category — a 'character defect', i know.

    most people don't need a support group to stay sober, but most people DO need OTHER PEOPLE to sane, socially aware, & empathetic. there's a book or paper orange refers to called "Becoming Alcoholic" published in the 80's that explored the same phenemenon as this article.

    when i was in my 'AA … maybe, just maybe' phase again a few months ago, i used to repeat over & over: "'people sharing their experience, strength, & hope' to accomplish anything is humanity at its finest." i came to that notion when i first walked into AA 6 years ago & it's what kept me giving it 'one last shot time & again.

    i still believe that ideal. i'm just convinced by & large it is fairly practiced by AA as an organization or at the grassroots level — in the meetings. a select few, yeah, sure. but enough for me to look to trad 3 & try to block out all the hateful, spiteful, bullying noise.

    • speedy0314

      "i’m just convinced by & large it is fairly practiced by AA as an organization or at the grassroots level — in the meetings."

      that line should read: "i’m just convinced by & large it is NOT fairly practiced by AA as an organization or at the grassroots level — in the meetings."

      a pretty significant typo, i thought.

      speedy

  • the coercion and bullying is spot on. how many times, how many, did i just shake my head ruefully at the lineup of fools and ignorant and cruel types running the show.

  • Barton

    I've been researching AA alot lately. My husband is consumed by this cult. It is destroying our marriage and family. I'm experiencing the …forget them, we're your family… line that AA is feeding him. What worries me most is that it was a Government approved rehab centre that introduced him to AA.

    I need to find something that will shock him into rational thinking and make him realise that he has no control of his life. Something that will make him realise that he needs "Rational Recovery" not "pray for guidance" which is what AA is feeding him.

    Any suggestions??

    • mcgowdog

      Maybe he's not an alcoholic. Think maybe he was hustled into A.A.?

      Maybe he's just a situaltional drinker. What's the situation in the bedroom lately?

    • Zee Ncayiyana

      have read all the comments.. Some interesting stuff… I have been a member of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous for over 3 years. i recently decided to leave.. My reasons are as follows..

      1. NA/AA meets all the relevant criteria of a cult. My main problem with NA/AA is that there is no out. Whenever I talked about leaving people are always trying to convince me to stay.

      I get told the NA program is perfect its me who needs to change. The fact is I wasnt happy in NA.

      2. To Me NA is extreme religion used for treating addiction. Even Bill W knows that he took the program from a sect of christianity from 'Buchmanism".. Which basically stated that we are all sinful therefore we have to surrender to a higher power and confess our wrong doings in order to be saved.

      3. NA pushes many slogans.. one of them is being open minded. But this is not real open mindedness.. You have to be open minded to the 12 steps. You are not supposed to be open minded to other forms of treatment.

      4. In christianity if you dont accept jesus as your savior you go to hell.. In NA/AA if you dont work the steps you will relapse and Die. That doesnt sound like much of a choice to me.

      5.The ultimate aim of NA is to carry the mesage to the addict who still suffers. This translates simply into recruiting more cult members. You can only keep what you have by giving it away… Again.. You have no choice.. if you dont recruit more members you will lose what you have..

      6.Sayings such as "I can never trust my own thinking".."My life always goes better when I listen to my sponsor" is not the talk of free people.

      I have been in NA for awhile and I have been one of those people who follow the program to the T.. Out of fear of relapse… Hang out with the winners I was told.. Which basically means I ostracised people who werent working the program propoerly..

      Fact…. Being in NA/AA is a sentence.. u need to go to meetings for the rest of your life.. period… To me thats a sentence… As far as the disease thing goes.. Lets look at an analogy.. If I have had cancer and fought my way through it and made it.. Why would I want to live the rest of my life through this experience.. Im cured I wanna move on and focus on my new life…

      Fact.. it is not helpfull to constantly live your life through your past addiction… The pin dropped for me when I realised I am free.. I do not have to pick up.. twelve steps or not its my choice now if I pick up.. Mine alone.. I dont have to worry about all the steps and live in fear of relapse…

      Also lets be real here..In NA/AA you are not allowed to question the basic text… Why? Free thinking is not encouraged remember "your thinking is what got you here in the first place" Thats totally crazy.. The AA big book was written by a man not God.. I can question it if I want,, Thats the manipulation in AA/NA very subtle but there…

      And you know what,,, I dont want what Bill W had.. He was a narcissit who treated his wife terribly.. He swindle the copyright for the Big Book and lived off the proceeds.. never working a day again in his life… He was a chronic smoker and justified this in the Big Book..If you read the big book he makes AA sound like a boys club..He states that families should be grateful that their husbands are now sober.. dont ask to much of your husbands now.. Just let him go to meetings. He experimeneted with LSD as a way to increase his contact with his God.. this doesnt sound like the kind of life I want!

      What AA/NA does is replace one shackle of Chains with another… I have seen people who work the program hard and to be honest the scare me.. they seem eery and creepy to me.. they have this glint in their eye that screams blind submission…

      And finally are we really powerless. I most certainly am not… At the end of the day Its my choice to choose to pick up and drink or use,, not god… And If you know anything about quantum physics you will know that human beings have the potential to be infinitely powerfull in terms of manifesting the life they desire…

      Yes treat addiction.. I agree.. But the treatment of the addict should be more important than AA/NA Not vice versa..

      • Cuda

        Simple answer. Next time there's a meeting that the rest of the "Cult" demands that you attend, don't go!
        Turn on American Idol instead.
        If for some reason you think that the people in AA/NA are going to keep you in there against your will you need more help than can be provided by AA/NA.
        "Just don't go"
        There's really nothing more to it.
        Then you can go write a book about how you escaped the "cult" just like the dozen that are still in hiding because they escaped Jonestown.

        • M A

          You are dismissing the idea of AA being a cult because they don't physically restrain people. The tactics cults use that AA employees is mind control, not physical. The things you just wrote is the same stuff cult members do all the time. It's funny how you AAs are fond of using the phrase "contempt prior to investigation" to sucker people in. "Go at it with an open mind" you say, but when they actually do look at AA openly, and conclude it is indeed a religious cult, you dismiss them like you did here. I know it isn't your fault, Cuda, because you are under the spell – but it is sad.

          What do you think about this actual blog post? Does this sociologist also have it all wrong?

      • Jonathan Riley

        Very well said in every aspect. I could quote this all day. I think though, you'll find that there are addicts/'alkies out there that share this view, like me to a degree, but still find comfort in meetings. For one, when I first gave up drinking I had a great deal of time to kill, particularly around 7.30pm to 9.30pm, the time in wich I would invariably be in a pub moaning about everything and everyone in the world. I still find I can share hope and experience with other folk without resorting to the stuff you refer and I do believe helping others stay sober keeps me well.

        • friendthegirl

          Jonathan, I have a couple of questions for you: Considering that what you seem to be getting from your meetings is something to do besides drink, and a place to meet and hang out with other people who are doing the same thing… why bother calling this AA at all? I mean, isn't this just a social or support group? For you, it's not a program at all. You can do all this stuff pretty much anywhere…

          AA really is a program. It's the gold standard of addictions treatment in this country. It is all the "stuff" we refer to here. It's very hard for me to understand how you can say it's not.

          Just to riff off the religion analogies we've been using around here, what you're saying reminds me of people who belong to a church, and then deny the legitimacy of the whole belief system of that church — as if it were up for debate. I mean, you can't, for instance, go say you're a member of the Catholic church, and then sit out communion because you don't believe in it. Well, I mean, you CAN do that, but it wouldn't make any sense.

          • Cuda

            This should be required reading. It's a long read so you might want to print it out and take it to the bathroom.
            Then after reading it we should have an AA Entrance Exam. http://www.barefootsworld.net/aagreshamslaw.html

          • Jonathan Riley

            I think to a certain extent you have hit the nail on the head. As I've said before AA to me is the preamble. How I stay sober is up to me, but I share my alcoholic experience in the rooms. I also hear a great deal of similarities to my own story. I don't see why you have to "rise" to my going by saying "why bother etc." I'm happy, with my lot here. My argument was with AA members saying unless you do the 12 steps as per the BB you'll die.
            I'm not religious in the slightest and I don't know why you're drawing conclusions. And, I can say whatever I like actually, as long as it's not harming other people. Why all the aggression and negativity. My participation in this manner makes perfect sense, This is a common theme throughout the deabate. To be in AA "you must do this" or "you're not really in AA you're in a middle class bullshit social etc." Well that's not the case at all. You can go into a car showroom, express an interest and enjoy the experience without buying the car !

          • friendthegirl

            I’m not religious in the slightest and I don’t know why you’re drawing conclusions. And, I can say whatever I like actually, as long as it’s not harming other people. Why all the aggression and negativity.

            Are you referring to my questions to you?

            I didn't assume you were religious at all; I only used religion as an analogy. You know, I'm curious about why you call what you do "being in AA."

            To use your car dealership analogy — then — are you the guy who hangs out at the Chevy dealership, and then announces that you're strictly a Ford man?

            Look, I'm not trying to get all up in your grill, here. I'm just genuinely curious about your position on AA, and wonder why you'd take issue with the 12-Steppers there, when, yanno, that's what AA is all about.

            Do you take any of the "suggestions"? Do you find any of them to be essential to sobriety? What do you do when people are talking about their step work or reading from the BB, or reciting the serenity prayer or the Lord's Prayer? Do you sponsor others?

            I happen to find that building community with people on the same path as you are is a fine thing. I'm not dissing support groups when I use the term.

          • Jonathan Riley

            Ok. Here's a better answer for you.
            The point with the car thing. Yes I might be a Ford man. But what I was trying to say was I can still have my opinion and visit the place and enjoy it. I don't have to be converted to a Chevy. Can't we use Ferrari and Porsche ? Ha !
            I do take on board some of the suggestions, which are of course, as everybody knows, common sense. They're not particular or unique to AA but AA likes to think they are.
            My main issue is the delivery of our opinions. A confused newcomer arrives in the room to be bombarded with "the unless you do this etc" approach is wrong. I got sober using AA. but luckily I had a good network of friends within my group who used the rooms for discussion and support without use of the programme as laid out. It may be that you don't call what I do AA and that's fine. There are plenty of groups who do only big book study, promises or traditions and I wouldn't go to these meetings. It's very clear to see which people have succeeded in making a recovery and those who use AA because in their own language "they can't live life on life's terms."
            I love AA for what it has given me and I will carry on using it when I need to get issues off my chest which previously I would have got pissed on. That's all really. It doesn't by any means solve all of my life problems and in many respects things have got a lot worse in sobriety but I can cope now. Unlike many alcoholics I don't blame everything that's happened to me on being an alcoholic or because of my drinking. I think you said "I am powerful etc over my addiction." That is how I feel and about AA. I can chose what to process, whether to listen etc. Vunerable newcomers can't get scared, live in fear and often don't come back and die.

  • H

    Have you tried talking to him about this?

  • Uberdog

    Most people figure out AA is bullshit within the first 90 days, thus much importance is placed on 90 meetings in 90 days.
    It's most effective on people who's family or friends are substance abusers. Loneliness is a powerful motivator exploited in the rooms.
    Confrontational tactics are more likely to send the recruit back for more indoctrination as they attempt to aviod conflict.
    Do some homework . Call counseling services and find out who is not 12 step afilliated. Make an appointment for yourself and discuss your situation before going together. Ask questions of him in an inquisitive rather than accusing manner, lead him, rather than command him to the solution.
    Suggest doing things he likes to do on meeting nights and do them with him. Since he has chosen to abstain from drinking his social circle will change and he has much more time on his hands than before. Find new interesting people and activities to entertain the both of you.

    OR

    If all else fails ask him how his fourth step is going, when is he going to start it, why he hasn't he finished it yet and why won't he let you read it.

    Best of luck!

  • mcgowdog

    Yeah, try something else. I think that Malibu Passage Rehab is good (http://www.passagesmalibu.com/?gclid=CPHhyJiL_54CFQmbnAodxyclIQ).

    The book is only $18.00 and the treatment costs about $80,000.00 or something. Must be worth it if it costs that much.

    As far as reading his 4th Step, thats a good idea. Here's an example of that;

    Column 1; Resentful at uberdog

    Column 2: the cause… he's a milk-fed momma's boy with no balls.

    Column 3: Self esteem… I am sober, Mr. A.A., a real man.

    Security… I need uberdog to grow up.

    Ambition… I want to give uberdog balls.

    Personal Relations… men defer to real men.

    Pocketbook… N/A

    So yeah, if you want to read someone else's inventory, I offer you this little smidgeon of advice; Once you read it, you're responsible. Good luck with that.

  • H

    A link to the brilliant web site of the boneless wonder, mcgowdog http://mcgowdog.blogspot.com/2009/12/continued-co

    he sent his, attack puppy, Tony J, as reinforcements..

    next, he will send, his mighy dog, fluffy, in for the kill.

    These people are very serene, are they not?

  • Worth mentioning, to those relying on Orange Papers, that much of what is written there is incorrect or exagerated, Agent Orange has a big grudge, although he doesn't say why. Have a read of http://www.green-papers.org a great site which checks over some of the references which Orange Papers has misquoted.

    • M A

      Hi, Green.

      I have read your site. I'm not going to argue with you, because that will not do any good. It would be nice if you had a comment on this particular post. Here is the Orange response to your letter to him, and to your site:
      http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-letters90.htm

  • mikeblamedenial

    Why are my responses being discarded as soon as I try to post them?

    • M A

      I do not know.

      • mikeblamedenial

        One link per post, it appears.

        • friendthegirl

          The spam filter has a mind of its own… I can't figure out why certain posts get held for moderation. Sorry your posts have been getting hung up in there. We don't have any rules set, so I have no idea why it's so fussy.

          • friendthegirl

            weird. i just looked in the filter, and we have it set to allow up to 10 links in a comment.

            Maybe someone switched our spam filter with a serenity filter.

  • mikeblamedenial

    OK, I'll try it like this:

    "Agent Orange has a big grudge, although he doesn’t say why."

    You can't even get that right. He says why often. Here:

    http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-intro.html

  • mikeblamedenial
  • mikeblamedenial
  • Cuda

    The correct response by a rational person would be
    "No Thanks, that doesn't interest me" or "I believe something else would work better"

  • friendthegirl

    Whenever I see the title of this post, it makes me think of Post Modern Feminist Theory class, or something.

  • Dana

    Zee,
    I really like your response good for you ….Isnt great when you realize that your are free and you can choose freedom not bondage of the CULT AA/NA
    BRAVO!!!!!!!

  • Gribble

    As a consequence of attending 4 meetings, two of them with new young female alcoholic and another with a female recovering “user” presumably drugs of some kind, I have elected to blow the whistle on A.A. for its deliberate neglect to act upon the medical needs of such persons. Both individuals are in dire need of medical help by a physician, not groups who are stuck on their past.

    I made this report that Alcoholics Anonymous has many problems that the State of California Drug and Alcohol Department should become aware.

    1) AA does nothing to direct “new members” to appropriate medical personnel or organizations to address their possible withdrawal symptoms if the member is going to go “cold turkey.” In just 4 visits to varied A.A. meetings in the Santa Clara County, I discovered two women, in desperate need of medical attention due to their abuse of alcohol or drugs or both.

    2) AA does not provide any medical information whatsoever about the biological facts concerning alcohol abuse. Thus, it cultivates rationalizations such as “I have an allergy to alcohol” to account for their long time belief that an allergy caused them to drink uncontrollably. There is no such allergic condition, where a human body produces chemicals specific to fight an allergy.

    3) AA is an evangelistic society, not a neutral non-sectarian society. It evangelizes God as an alcoholic's redeemer and does not question the idea of a God. It pushes a concept that God is responsible for their recovery, not the individual. For A.A. it is a SUPREME BEING, a higher power, a God, that wants them to do abstain from alcohol consumption, and will give them GRACE, a blessing to do so. God wants this or that for them.

    Instead of supporting members for their reality, they read and recant their old drinking traumas. They compound and relive their past lives as drinkers rather than staying away from trauma.

    4) AA does nothing to promote physical health and well being. Its members are addicts of all kinds, tobacco’s many toxins including the most addictive substance, nicotine, foods, such as sugars, and possibly cannabis, now that allegedly it is legal. Many attendees, at the meetings are disheveled, unshaven, obese in many cases, not all, bruised and some display the signs of bulimia (blackened nail of the third right hand middle finger) – in conjunction with being underweight.

    In conclusion, Family Law, Criminal Drug Diversion and Traffic Criminal Courts that concern itself with DUI offenders are mistaken and ill advised to order offenders into AA as part of the jail diversion program. They are mistaken to believe that Alcoholics Anonymous will provide the necessary group support with which alcohol and drug abusers need to examine their motivations for becoming chronic and dependent substance abusers. Most of the drug users I witnessed at the AA meetings did not in any way appear to be alcoholic; they offended drugs and in doing so, they were caught by the criminal justice system. That criminal justice system as part punishment, removed their children from them.

    It seemed that one woman after the other stood up and addressed the AA group as if speaking to a Judge in Court, pleading that “the program works.” and then more to the issue about hoping to get a job.

    Alcoholics Anonymous is not a psychology group; it is a religious group pushing – without tolerance – religious dogma, not ideas or philosophy but intolerance.

    At the conclusion of one meeting where I attempted to make contact with a young woman with serious alcohol toxicity symptoms, and advise her to seek a doctor, the other members, female in Palo Alto, California, an affluent group, obstructed me from doing so.

    A “member” attacked me verbally for stating that I was a Buddhist, with years of training, and that Buddhists do not believe in God, a god or any gods. I stated a refrain of a Buddhist Teacher who was hired by George Lucas in the Stars Wars Trilogy. The phrase was “the force is with you.” Mr. Lucas changed it and other Tibetan words, to MAY THE FORCE be with you. I make no claim to enlightenment, but I do not want to say the Lords prayer twice in a meeting, when I am not a Christian. Outside after ridiculing me, she told me not to come back.

    I called the A.A. NY Office to report the above but they were hostile to me. They refused 1) to identify themselves 2) to listen to me that they as an organization violate the Ralph and Unruh Act which prohibits discrimination based on religion and by hostile acts committed by an AA “member” against a person, me, of another “faith.” The woman who verbally attacked me, stated that I should not come back, and then struck at my face, her raised-middle finger after I stated that this AA group violated the law.

    A.A. shields itself as a no organization – organization. It colors itself as a gray quasi organization in order to not regulate, and has evolved into a purely, sectarian, group think organization. It believes that its policies of anonymity immunizes itself against scrutiny, evaluation, change or review by outside agencies that rely upon it as a tool to prevent “relapses” or to enforce alcohol abstinence.

    In this regard, I am a whistle blower. That is my role and general function. I am proud to be a Buddhist, it was not easy for me to be a Buddhist, but being Buddhist means, I take responsibility for everything, though others may hurt and injure me intentionally, how I proceed after injury, insult, obstruction, delay, or loss determines my connection to my spirituality.

    The relief KEY in Buddhism, that allows the spirit to flow, is the belief that everything is impermanent. all of it, and that you can never separate the bad from the good. Good and bad are continuous.

    The other thing Buddhism instructed me about is groups and cults, and that a group is a dangerous thing because it can go along operating with sets of delusions, and without reference to individual’s identities, needs and their perceptions, which in fact conflict.

    A group be a friendly neutral happy, cheery, cooperative meeting type but develop or descend into a nasty back stabbing, friction and fur flying everywhere, gossip mongers group, quickly, if rules of conduct are not established.

    Buddhists could never become communists, it is not a collective religion, essentially everyone is on their own but it helps to meditate with others just like exercising together.

    The belief that “alcoholism” is a dark hole of magnetized addiction that originates in genes is wrong.

    The “tendency” towards alcohol abuse and dependency is poly-genetic, more than one gene, not just a gene from a Dad or two genes, one from Dad another from Mom.

    In Europe, drinking is alcoholic. In Germany, men drink at the dinner table in a restaurant, soused from many large – very large glasses of beer – more than a 6 pack, in 2 hours max, while eating and smoking at the table coughing, near their kids. All of Europe drinks daily.

    It is cultural. Two glasses a day of wine totaling 13 oz, 4 times a week is defined as maintaining alcoholism if you are a woman.

    America just does not know how or processes alcohol differently. In Japan, though, workers start work intoxicated and barely are able to stand, because they drank the entire night before together.

  • Figaro the Barber

    @Gribble:"The “tendency” towards alcohol abuse and dependency is poly-genetic, more than one gene, not just a gene from a Dad or two genes, one from Dad another from Mom."

    This meme or trope has spread like wildfire in the Western popular media, but it's a dubious claim at best.

    I recently read an interview with one of the lead scientists from the Human Genome Project; he's been one of the world's most erudite, well-informed and knowledgable geneticists for decades. Which is, of course, how he wound up leading a team for the Human Genome Project. Anyway, in the course of the interview, which covered a lot of ground, the journalist had asked him in passing what he thought about the "genetic hypothesis" of alcoholism and drug addiction.

    His answer was that reductionistic explanations of profoundly complex systems almost always turn out to be badly misguided, and that, in his opinion, explaining an acculturated behavior in terms of one or two chromosomes was absurd on its face. He qualified this by saying that, yeah, sure it's possible that there may be a tiny bit of genetic influence at work in chemical dependence and/or addiction, but that when one considers how very few instinctual behaviors humans actually exhibit, the "genetic model" looks to even a marginally scientifically literate observer like a badly flawed hypothesis that just can't stand up to scrutiny, and which has, so far, been strongly refuted by epidemiological data.

    (In academic anthropology, the received wisdom thus far, is that maybe 3% of human behavior is explainable as instinctuality; the remaining 97% of what humans do is either acculturated (and therefore subject to change via free will and informed choice), or, occasionally, a genuinely spontaneous act of creativity (true creative talent in any field is relatively rare, which is why it's valued so highly, whether one is a piano player or a physicist).

    I speak English, and have done so for so long as I can remember. So did my father, and my grandfather. The same goes for my mother's side of the family tree.

    Using the same logic by which it's argued that addiction is caused by bad genes, I can say confidently that I learned to speak English because it's in my DNA to do so. It's a simple case of little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

    Transposing the logic into another situation makes it stand out for the absurdity that it is. I learned to speak because adults taught me how, by instruction and example. So did you, so did everyone reading this.

    Heavy drinking's the same way. That which has been learned may be unlearned, given introspection, self-discipline and hard work.

  • tintop

    Figaro, I agree. Heavy drinking is learned behavior. There is no reason for me to think that there is a significant genetic component.

  • chronicallyable

    A few years ago, I had been going to meetings for a few weeks and I was talking to another member on the phone who was a woman, about some problems in my marriage and specifically some of my husbands behavior. She basically implied that it was my fault, and that alcoholics have problems with relationships, and that relationships weren't really all that they were cracked up to be any way. She said something like, "women always think they need to be in relationships." Now mind you, I was married and pregnant! Shouldn't she have been trying to support staying together? This was one of my first red flags…

    • disqus_o3zZFs3fEU

      I think AA is VERY anti-marriage. It has gotten worse over the years. Actually, I believe they have a double standard. The men are told, rightly, to be better husbands to their wives. The women are told that their “unhappy marriages” are the main cause of their substance abuse problems and sponsors encourage them to leave their husbands. Rehab groups seem to be tailored this way too; I work in a law office and I have read the literature for court-ordered “treatment” programs. Never mind that an unnecessary divorce might be devastating to the children in the family, plus the poverty of paying for two separate households, etc….

  • Mike

    @chronicallyable, my experience with people giving advice like that woman did is that they are either (1) miserable failures at relationships themselves, hence the projection or (2) hoping to get in your pants at a later time by gaining your trust (yes, men with men and women with women can lead to such things, horrors!).

  • chronicallyable

    Well, she was quite a bit older than me, and she lived alone with her cat. So, point number one–probably on the money…!

  • Clyde Strunk

    I am to AA what Martin Luther was to the Catholic church.I learned about critical thinking a long time ago. AA engenders “Peanut-Brainism” & hypocrisy. Cultivates, teaches learned helplessness. The “suggestions” are all hard, fast demands. It’s a schmooze job. The claptrap mechanism of the”First Hundred & Sixty-Four Pages” and their Twelve Steps – thinly disguised old-time bible thumpin’ tent-revival salvation through confession & atonement – Meetings begin with the readings, acting as hypnotic suggestion, turning the cognitive parts of the mind off, then the B.S. begins. Nothing progresses. Everybody jacks each other off with gratitude, humility (humility in AA is the thin guise from behind which the egotistical, manipulative, controlling borderline personality operates. Some slick, smooth, some funny guys, some soft-spoken & apparently harmless, some time bombers : “I’ve been sober now for 33 yrs., 5mos., & twenty – three days” …Don’t mean shit!… One half- shot of whisky’ll take care of that problem. Impresses NOONE. (The AA’rs excuse for his boast: “To prove to the newcomer…” – only pisses the newcomer off.

    . Nobody in the whole of AA is more sober than I am. I got twenty-four hours, Don’ ‘cha know?
    Now, what about this Bill dubbayah charactor…Crackpot. Nuttier than a carload o’ bedbugs. So, let’s say there IS a god, kinda like the American one of the late 1930’s….
    Where does this Dubbayuh guy get off telling that (or any other) god just exactly how god is gonna do what Dubbayuh wants god to do, and when! :”OK, OK, now lissen ol’ goddie, I want you to deliver this guy a spiritual awakening…but, now, don’t…don’t get ahead of me here…I want you to send him his spiratchul awakening exactly after he completes his Eeleventh step. O.K.? Now, can I give you any other pointers on how ta run yer liddle ol’ universe here?…Helpin’s my game, y’know. ‘f I don’t go around helpin’ people, nobody’s gonna be able ta do anything! I’m teachin’ ’em all to stop thinking! Don’ ‘cha know. …wooo-hoo!

    Then there’s a bunch of other crazy-ass things that AA is – and isn’t. Is there anything that can be done to fix humpty-dumpty? Bronze that big book. make an ash tray out of it like all the bronze baby boots I used to see in people’s houses in the 50’s. Encase it in 12 ” of plexiglas & send it to be enshrined in Reverend Schuller’s glass cathedral. Charlie Sheen! Charlie Sheen! Keep pullin’ on them covers! It’s time! Let’s go! c’mon. There’s thousands of good books fulla good ideas out there! Start lookin’ at em look at the enlightenment there. & When all else fails, use your beautiful mind. Hank Williams was right. It ain’t there just ta hold your ears apart. Ya know everything ya need ta know anyway, It’s fun getting reminded in different ways, Uh, oh, yeah…Drinking,,,If Drinking alcohol is a problem for you, remember YOU picked it up & poured it down your throat, & as long as you refrain from doing that, is as long as you’ll stay sober. Ain’t no god ever wiped anybody’s ass for ’em,

  • I love what “Figaro” said above, the bit about “a little knowledge being a dangerous thing”. And to see anthropology finally even mentioned in a discussion on this topic (ok, I’m a horribly thrilled new–ok, I’m not going to call myself a “newcomer”, let’s just say I just discovered this blog)!

    This was for me personally the most destructive aspect of my treatment experience, and seeing it aimed at others right in front of me really drove home our collective sense of horror at being told we were, well, it’s all in the OP, really.

    I did have to (yes, I was inspired so I wouldn’t just vomit up rehab/meeting stories endlessly in comments here, actually!) start a blog for these strange tales, but I just must relate briefly one I will write up fully & more humorously soon. OK, I still cannot get over this one, which is part of the above post (the first time I personally have even seen a critique of the AA false-concept that: “In AA, there is no justifiable cause for anger, regardless of the cause. ” is above, to be honest.

    Long story remarkably short, I was somehow rediscovered after being ID thefted/bank card frauded of over $20k by the rehab crowd (who had introduced me to the duo who did the thieving–for METH!! What fun people I got to meet!) who were very concerned that I would–call the cops? No. Hire a bounty hunter? No. Use drugs? Not even really that. Be angry that I was robbed? YES! The 2 ensuing days of calls, IMs and threats (yes, threats) to call my family all involved me checking into a psychiatric hospital detox unit. Nothing in my system, certainly didn’t want anything in my system either, I needed to be on top of things, but this place had “solved their problems”. OK…no mental illness, not even an SSRI in my system, and this place does test for which substances….. so for once I’d have been let go by these shills? Not worth the risk. New phone number? Absolutely. (3rd in a year, since I’d had 2 already stolen by rehab patients)

    Will I write this up humorously? You’d better believe it. But thank you regardless for even letting me post.

    Ahh, and Agent Green, about grudges? Yes, WELCOME to my grudge. Sit back and read, all I can say. I’m no expert, no Agent, but grudge? Yep. And it’s proving rather fruitful;)

  • WatchSurvivingStraightInc

    Hello Persephone! I’ve just been reading your blog. How did you find stinkin thinkin?

  • Hey Watch, I’m already amazed at what I’ve learned through this. And how quickly I made the comment above. Apologies, I do associate ethnography with those I know who work in that field whose background is cultural anthropology, but that in no way makes up or defines the field. Sorry I jumped to that conclusion!

    I actually found this blog after watching some of the videos on YouTube on the “blamethenile” channel. I was led to those, in turn, from the sidebar of related videos after watching several by Stanton Peele there. Oddly enough, I had googled the “disease model” after reading comments on several Amy Winehouse videos and was frankly very confused. I had always doubted everything, to be honest, and have felt so horrible about my experiences that I simply left it alone and never said a single word about it.

    I didn’t know what to do with those comments though, and after reading much here and elsewhere I’m shocked at how much I bought the “disease” malarkey. I was angry at those comments stating horrible things not just about someone with “my disease” who was now dead, in itself really rude, but the blame on her for her death. Which seems horrible if one believes this is something the addict/alcoholic cannot help in any way. OK, that and the comments on a NYT article about Nora Volkow relating to “disease theory”, etc.

    What?!? There IS a debate? I had to look this up. Honestly, I have gotten a bit too angry about it the last few days (not “too angry” in step speak, but too angry for my own taste) and am trying to temper it all personally. Yes though, I think the message is getting out, which is kind of sad considering how long Dr. Peele has been writing on this, and anyone curious about their own experience with this is left wondering what the “disease model/theory” even is, as the only alternate theory I’d ever heard was at Florida Detox, which has it’s own rather odd theories (which I should just not go into here).

    I hope that helps with the blog traffic ideas. Actually, this blog comes up fairly frequently on Google searches.

  • Duncan Walsh

    As an ex AA, it is unfortunate to say the least, that one is not invited to speak freely from the beginning, as a way to establish a kind of psychological momentum, which may act to insulate the individual against the only too evident problems inherent to AA.

    People who responsibly critique AA / 12 step are found here and in many other places online, and I have recognised a pattern I have not heard explicitly mentioned elsewhere.

    Namely, that we are being rational and reasonable in our problem with erroneous logic and absurdities, therefore, we have a problem with cognitive dissonance.

    Q: Who are the people who remain in AA, who can somehow tolerate this dissonance?
    A: Sociopaths

    Q:Who was AA designed as a program of recovery for?
    A: Sociopaths

    Therefore, the rest of us struggle with AA BECAUSE of our moral integrity and conscience, which sociopaths lack (the research in the area of the sociopath is extensive, and reflects what i am stating)

    I wish someone had been able to tell me this before I ever entered an AA room… It is probably true that we at any time, could go into an AA room, and pick out probable sociopaths, from probable VICTIMS of sociopathic behaviour, and divide the room accordingly. And what better thing could be done for us than to bring us all lovingly together through AA…

    This aspect of AA, which is surely done knowingly, or is being wilfully ignored, I consider criminal negligence. Furthermore, I suspect that the reason many of us recoil from AA, is connected to this sense that our perpetrators are too close for comfort.

    This perception in combination with the dissonance, may act to unnerve us to the extent that we reject out of hand the entire AA deal, when actually, there is the potential for some of the more positive aspects of AA to help us, if only it were less threatening, and more accepting.

  • zee ncayiyana

    This is response to my post of Feb 17th 2010

    I did leave AA thinking that I was doing the right thing. As a result I slowly deteriorated spiritually. Until I ended up relapsing in October of 2010. A year of pure hell ensued.

    I don not want to go on and on. The simple truth for me is that the 12 steps have set me free. I think what we need to remember about the above article is that the old timers are alcoholic. They are self centered flawed people. I am grateful to AA. The 12 steps have given me my life back

  • Anonymously out

    NA and AA are cults. I’m just going to say it and start out with that. Anyone who does not look into the history behind these groups is leading down a dangerous path. If you don’t know where to look, look up the Oxford group. I was a member of NA for over 5 years. After doing my research and realizing what I was a part of I was horrified. Success rates are not high, as they both claim. I’ve never seen so many people “in recovery” die. When I did finally leave, members came to my home, twice, shaming me, guilting me and questioning my reasoning. I realized it wasn’t me that was scared of living a normal life. It was them. Speaking out against one of these groups was scary; seeing how I was only supposed to associate with other addicts and drunks was scarier. My life wasn’t better during my time “in recovery “. , it was worse . I was made to feel less than, many times hopeless , and after I left I was isolated. My life today is far better. Yes I have the occasional drink , but I’m not a drunk. I socialize with friends and I haven’t gone to jail, an institution , and I’m definitely not dead . I have a great career and I didn’t lose it when I left . I made new friends. People will tell you that you can’t make it without a program. You are made to believe you are fully reliant on others in the program , and that you are different from “normies”. Well I can say I’m not. Being in that cult for 5 years , I was broken down by them, revealing things I shouldn’t have, and didn’t need to and being made to relive them over and over. I think at some point, people need to move on from the past and look toward the future in a positive manner. I started when I was 25, left at 30. I’m speaking out because I know these groups can be dangerous. You can be preyed upon for your money and if you are a woman , it is especially dangerous. People don’t talk , and aren’t allowed to, because what said here stays here . That’s bs too . I need to say that if someone you know , or yourself, has an issue with addiction , there are others ways than becoming addicted to a cult , giving your will and your life over ( their words not mine) and being in blind faith. They make you feel as if all your choices are misguided unless another addict ( your sponsor ) says it’s ok . Which is ridiculous . People , esp those in one of these cults , will disagree with me in every way . But look, NA and AA are not cure alls . I had my time being made to feel different than those who didn’t use ever, and that my choices were wrong, that I needed to make amends for every action every done in my life . Most people didn’t care or remember when I apologized . I’m all about being a good and honest person . But when I left they were threatening , accusatory, and suspicious of me. and made me feel like I was making the worse decision of my life. Turns out that getting out of the cult was the best thing that ever happened.