Unofficial, Unoffical AA Slogans

[This goes under my new category: Gratuitous AA Bashing. Alternately: kiss my ass.]

pollution sunset

pollution sunset

After having participated in many discussions with AAs, I have noticed that, while they often disown and dismiss their slogans, they also tend to be Carbon-Based Random Slogan Generators in their own right, responding to any given argument by stringing several slogans together in response to any criticism of their program.

A good case in point is the AA’s response I received in the comments to my Stinking Thinking post, in which the commenter politely handed me my ass for assuming that AAs treat these slogans as gospel, when, in fact, they are just guideposts — even while he unconsciously uses nonsense slogans to make his point, specifically: a variation on “None are too dumb for AA, but some are too smart,” and “One might accuse groups of ‘brainwashing,’ but the fact is, lots of brains NEED a good washing…” Using only two slogans in five paragraphs shows uncommon restraint, and I commend that. But I’m gonna address these.

Being smart isn’t anything to apologize for, as I’ve mentioned before. Neither is there such a thing as “too smart.” Smart is just a thing you are, like blonde or funny. Imagine telling a toddler he’s “too smart.” Not that I don’t get what they’re trying to say: AA works, but not if you sit around trying to analyze it until you suck all the God out of it, like taking the magic out of awe-inspiring sunset, by explaining that all the brilliant colors are generated by pollution.

And clever as it sounds, the brainwashing slogan is just bullshittery on so many levels, no matter how you interpret it, which could be a few different ways: First, “I’d rather be brainwashed than drunk, in jail, institutionalized, or dead.” (That’s a false dichotomy.) Second, “The antidote to my brainwashing is more brainwashing.” (Another false dichotomy.) Third, “Ha ha! So what if I’m brainwashed? I like it!” (“I know you are, but what am I?” To which there is no response, except “Honey? Hide the kids now.”) Fourth, they are making some kind of distinction between brainwashing (which is real) and washing one’s brain (which is not), which sounds kind of Yodaesque, but doesn’t make any sense at all if you’re smart. My gut feeling is that this slogan is simply damage control – a way of offering up just enough of the truth, in a light-hearted way, to diffuse further inquiry.

OK, so I got that out of my system.

What I wanted to focus on here are the unofficial, unofficial slogans of AA, which I have run across time and again in my conversations with AA members. These are sayings that you will never find on any bumpersticker or plaque or engraved silver bauble or in a signature line, but they are just as prevalent. These are the slogans that AAs use when their backs are against the wall. Here’s my list so far. Please feel free to add your own:

Try another Meeting. If you google this phrase, you’ll find that a vast majority of the top results are in reference to AA meetings: So, the meeting you went to sucked in definitive, widely-reported, stereotypical ways? Why don’t you try another one?

That’s Not AA. You’ll hear this in response to anything that AAs can’t deny actually happens predictably, as a matter of course, in meetings, but want to disown, and thus dismiss. I don’t know where you heard that, but that’s not AA. (This will be used to dismiss even quotes from Bill Wilson.)

Get a New Sponsor. When someone offers their story of whackjob dysfunction in their relationship with a sponsor, you’ll never hear an AA question the multi-level marketing structure of AA that fosters these random, unregulated, unaccountable, irresponsible pairings. Rather, they will put the responsibility for finding the correct sponsor on the “pigeon” (not the sober person), who, at the same time, is supposed to shut up and listen, take the cotton out of their ears, do what their sponsor tells them to do and not think…

No one ever said that AA is perfect. Well, of course AA isn’t perfect. It’s a loosely organized group of drunks leading drunks, har har! It’s the blind leading the blind! Oh, we’re whacky! Snork! We’re alcoholics! Hee hee! Not a glum lot! Just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean that it needs to be fixed or held to any standards in order to move toward perfection. Ha ha ha ha!!

I’ve been in AA [however long] and never heard that at a meeting. Despite the fact that stories of people being told to go off their doctor-prescribed meds are overwhelming, most old-timer evangelizers have never heard of such a thing. Did someone tell you that if you left AA you would die? Sorry. Never heard of it.

Statistics prove nothing. Anecdotal evidence is all they need, unless they are chin-deep in negative anecdotal evidence, in which case, AA has a proven track-record.

It’s irresponsible to criticize AA. Alcoholics will die if they listen to you. OK, look, I can’t refute what you’re saying, but don’t you even care that, even if you’re right and we’re wrong, the one alcoholic who takes your criticism to heart might just be one of the people for whom AA would work? And you have killed him. Nice work. Murderer.

AA isn’t supposed to get you sober. Where did you get that idea? What makes you think that AA promises to get you sober? Who said that? It’s not a program. No. AA is just supposed to help you stay sober, once you’re sober. See? You have to make the choice to abandon alcohol, and THEN you come to AA, where you admit that you’re powerless over alcohol.

More power to you. This is passive aggression: Oh, you’ve found something that works for you that’s not AA? Well, yeah, good luck with that. I sincerely hope that works out for you. Seriously, I wish you all the best. I’m happy to hear it. Very happy for you. Honestly. Woohoo! I wish you all the best. With that. (And we’ll be here when you hit bottom.)

Do I sense some resentment? This is what you say when someone responds with appropriate indignation to your ad hominem attacks. While AA’s gaslighting doesn’t work outside of AA, it can serve to effectively drive sane, sober people straight up a freaking wall and derail any discussion, if you use it correctly. You can maintain this rhetorical strategy as long as you pretend not to understand what ad hominem means. This is critical: under no circumstances are you to understand what ad hominem means,  no matter how many times people give you the definition. As far as you’re concerned, science and statistics are a direct attack upon your very soul, but when you call someone angry, resentful or a dry drunk, you’re just making an objective observation.

My AA group is different. Your word against mine.

What are your real motives? You clearly have some diabolical agenda that I can’t fathom, because I can’t think of one that makes any sense. But, clearly.

How’s your sobriety? Mine’s great! You’re probably drunk.

If you’re too stupid to get out of an abusive group, then that’s your responsibility. Booyah! Give ’em some good old fashioned Tough Love: Don’t listen to the old timers; don’t listen to the group; trust your addict thinking; decide what’s best for you, no matter what the group says; think for yourself. Oh, and: fuck you. Before you say this, make sure that you express that you’re sorry they were raped, manipulated, taken advantage of, gaslit, pressured, etc., and word it appropriately. As an AA, you can’t actually say “fuck you,” but you can imply it, and no one will be able to call you on it. If they do, ask them how their sobriety is going.

  • Winter

    How about, “You’re angry, you might want to watch that”.

    I love this blog. I hope you’re getting paid some way for your writing, here or somewhere else.

  • friendthegirl

    Thank you, Winter! Oh, I hate the "you're angry" one. That should go at the top of the list. it pisses me off.

  • speedy0314

    ftg,

    another winning post.

    over on YouTube there’s a stepper who goes by the handle ‘Phorph1’ who has resorted to just about every single one of the techniques you’ve listed. he/she puts an interesting twist on the ‘statistics can’t be trusted’ (even if they’re officially touted by AAWS) line by citing what i’ve come to refer to as “the amazing invisible AA” or “the world according to phorph”.

    in short: he’s been in the program since just after the big bang, gone to a zillion meetings (the vast majority of which are not officially listed), & never seen any of his fellow AA’s fill out & turn in a survey form. therefore, AAWS’s published estimates & percentages are off by a factor of … oh, let’s say … infinity. and although, the published figures show a relative flat-line or steady decline of membership in areas — he knows new groups are just popping up all over the place & new-comers are finding solace & safety there.

    “there’s no place like home. there’s no place like home. there’s no place like home.”

    you can’t reason with that kind of mindset. and, you’re right, rather than trouble the stepper, the attempt at debate is more likely to drive the ex-AA completely over the top.

    angry? you’re goddamned right i’m angry! and if i could somehow reach through YouTube & crush your serene fucking windpipe i would do it. in fact, that would bring me a tremendous sense of ‘happy, joyous, & free’ … of your braindead bullshit.

    my last go at AA ended in the middle of last may. i often say that i met a lot of caring, generous, good people there — sprinkled in among the larger herd of nutcases. but now as i reflect back on those relationships/friendships, i feel an incohate weirdness about them. they believe in a text, a ‘program’ [???], a lexicon, & lifestyle that at best is semi-benevolent mumbo-jumbo & at worst self-abnegating quasi-religious maliciousness.

    that more often than not doesn’t keep people sober or help others to achieve sobriety.

    the cognitive dissonance doesn’t end even after you’ve rejected AA & it’s 12X12 hokum. i’ll bump into a former ‘meeting buddy’ & think to myself, “what in the world ever made me think we had something very deep & incomprehensible in common just because we sat in the same meeting where the same bullshit was being repeated time again?” the insta-intimacy of the AA facade is shattered & i’m left wondering why i’m even talking to this person.

    sorry for the tangent. just something that popped into my head while writing & reflecting on your post.

    later,

    speedy

    • friendthegirl

      Morning, Speedy!

      There is no debating these people, and really, there’s no point in it, except to exercise our chops and keep the conversation going. The conversation is important, I think only because the more “conversations” we have, the more others will see it, join it, the more they’ll realize that there are options, and perhaps the sooner AA will start occupying a more appropriate niche in the world.

      Also the anger is correct and normal. One thing that’s really sad is the facade the steppers must maintain. Even if everything sucks ass, they can’t just say that. They can’t just have a little tantrum, blow off some steam, and then move on. They have to say, “Things sucked, but then I said the serentiy prayer and went to a meeting, and I got off my pity pot…” Like you say, self-abnegation. I guess that’s why they throw out the anger and resentment accusation so regularly. What they don’t get is that, once you’re out, those things don’t mean anything more than just another normal thing humans feel, a normal emotion that flows in and flows back out again.

      -ftg

  • H

    There is a good talkboard:
    xsteppers.multiply.com
    It is a good place. Folks may want to go see it.

  • M A

    Any time I hear "look for another meeting", I'm reminded of something I once heard from an old baseball coach of mine:

    You know what that white stuff is in chicken shit?

    More chicken shit.

    • speedy0314

      ma,

      perfect.

      another response to the 'find another meeting' farce (at least here in nyc) is:

      you don't like this starbucks?

      try the one just two blocks away.

      or, better:

      you don't like this mcdonalds?

      try the one around the block.

      best,

      speedy

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  • jj142

    …….you're higher power and mine are different, now shut up and listen!

  • joedrywall

    I heard someone say once, when we used to sugar coat the program to newer people; "If the God talk drives them out then the booze will drive them back in".
    Then a day or so later I went in a 12 step chat room and heard the same comment.
    Wow what anti-intellectualism, I mean really that comment is doesn't even make sense.

  • I left Al-Anon nearly 3 years ago. It was and is a cult, no matter how aw-shucksy and "take what you like, leave the rest" they try to make it sound.

     

    Keep up the good work cult busting.

  • Welcome, Angie! It's great to see you here, especially since I was just watching your videos the other day!

    (Hey, there are a couple of posts up on the subject of AA on the front page of Angie's blog.)

     

     

  • tallmike

    That “You’re angry!” doesn’t just come from people in AA. It can come from a pompous psychotherapist who has issues with a counselee disagreeing with the therapist’s “one size fits all” pro-12 stepper position.

  • The overwhelming (anecdotal) impression I get is how keen the newih kool-aid drinking members resort to sloganise. There is an answer for everything. Including an instruction not to think.

    For morale boosting, could we refer to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as much as possible, Please.
    ‘Don’t look behind the curtain, Dorothy’.
    I have suggested to ftg that whenever someone logs on for the first time, they should be greeted with ‘Climb Every Mountain’, from the Sound of Music, but she has presumably ruled that out.

  • jcal

    My sponsor used to say ‘whatever is said behind your back is none of your business’ He really liked that one because he talked behind my back and others quite a lot. lol

  • Clyde Strunk

    I was fishing off the pier down in So Cal & when a couppla young tweakers rode by on their bikes. They were talkin about the “program.” One says to the other: “Oh, no…I’m still workin my program…I’m just in a relapse phase right now.”…Hearing that was just one more humorous mini-epitomization of the folly of 12-step foo-foo.

  • Martha

    People in the rooms would be just fine with that attitude, but if you told them you were abstinent and had a life long commitment to abstinence you would incur their wrath.

  • AnnaZed

    @jcal [who says] ~ “…My sponsor used to say ‘whatever is said behind your back is none of your business’ He really liked that one because he talked behind my back and others quite a lot….”

    I used to get that admonition a lot from one of my various sponsors and yes it developed that she was one of the most vicious gossips on the planet. She made the varsity cheerleaders at my old school seem like pikers compared to her. Her words specifically were “what other people think of you is not your business.” Like a fool I took this peculiar aphorism mightily to heart. I was told that it was a spiritual failing of mine if I reacted in any way or was concerned if people talked about me or took sensitive information from a 4th step (spread by her) and conflated it and spread nasty stuff about me or if people just plain made stuff up.

    I spent years practicing this principal. Needless to say, these were pretty frustrating years. I was actually condescended to by one stepper guru lady who said “…blah, blah, blah… God … blah, blah, blah … spiritual connection … that’s alright Anna, we’re all impressed that you have come such a long way. I mean it’s not many people who can forgive themselves for prostituting for drugs while their kid slept in a car….” IN A MEETING. I mean, wtf? I never came within a mile of doing anything even remotely like that, not by any interpretation of my history.

    My sponsor just said that I was not practicing spiritual principals when got really, really, really mad. Turns out that she had decided that I thought I was too smart for the program so I needed to be taken down a peg or two. Her solution to my too smart problem was to create this libelous fiction then tell others that she heard it from me herself. She told her other sponsees that my outraged response was an indicator of the level of my denial, which they believed.

  • causeandeffect

    GASP! OMG Anna! That’s atrocious! I’m so sorry that happened to to you!

  • AnnaZed

    @causeandeffect

    The insidious thing is that I continued to take the advice about practicing not reacting to what other people said about me for a long, long, long time after I got a different sponsor and moved to another meeting.

  • limestoneblocks

    Don’t know if this is official or not but “comtempt prior to investigation” drives me up the wall. I’ve been in AA for almost 2 years (regrettably)… I’m hardly judging something from afar. I guess because I only did up through my 5th step I have no business criticizing the program. ugh.

  • BusBozo

    LimstoneblocksL
    I think that quote is used around the roomz enough to qualify. Usually used by steppers as a “retort” to anyone questioning any part of the holy book (er, Big Book). Used by Bill W to encourage atheist and agnostics not shun the “spiritual recovery”…aka God. That the original quote was made in a very different context, seems not to matter because the principle is a sound one. Yet the AA use is really anti-rational, anti-intellectual. So it goes.
    http://orange-papers.org/orange-letters3.html

  • Robertoa1a

    Arguing with idiots is pointless. They will only attempt to drag you down to their level where they are experts.

  • Here’s one: “Are you noticing A pattern yet”? State THAT to the “returning relapser” who continues to relapse IN SPIT OF going to 12-Step meetings! Maybe THEN they will make the connection that the 12-Step meeting is MORE A CAUSE of their relapsing then their desire to stay addicted is! Then again, I am being LOGICAL HERE!

  • Swamibedpan

    @John
    Yep. The studies are there that show exposure to 12 steppism can increase bingeing by up to 5 times as much and increases the death rate and results in more expensive treatment eg. hospitalisation, later.

  • Damn, ftg, I these are such great posts! YES!
    This may fall under many categories, but this is one I cannot stand regarding those who are more angry, usually chronic relapsers (but not always) who give aa/na at least the verbal middle finger:
    “Human train-wreck”: as here applied to describe Charlie Sheen, I’ve heard this one too many times:
    “The human train wreck formally known as Charlie Sheen is a common sight in the AA meeting halls. The only difference between Mr. Sheen and other self-absorbed, delusional, frantic addicts is the size of the audience to which they rant. These people do not last long in AA. They mock the Fellowship and the 12 Steps (PDF) as too religious or simplistic. AA is beneath them.”

    PERFECT. Not only are these people not willing to be brainwashed, but “delusional”. File under many definitions above, but this seems to be the catch-all insult for anyone opposing more vocally the precious ‘ickle program.

    from here: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/03/05/7-reasons-charlie-sheen-may-hate-alcoholics-anonymous/

  • Swamibedpan

    @PinE
    I see that Charlie is currently happily clean and sober without the fellowship, meetings, steps and the rest. Looks like he just quit same as everyone else who quit. But the recovery industry doesn’t want anyone to know that you can do that.