Archive for September 2009


Hey, it’s Labor Day! It’s time for the serious news to remind us all about the serious subject of drunk driving and alcoholism, with puff pieces on AA.

"Safe Haven"

I have been making reference in the comments to an opinion piece in the August issue of Grapevine, which is titled: “Safe Haven, Keeping the rooms free of predation: Whose responsibility is it?” and I think it’s about time I actually put it up here. It’s not available online, and it’s rather long, so I’ll transcribe some of it.

It begins:

How safe is your AA meeting? Have you ever personally not felt safe? Have you ever had someone give you a hug and walked away with an uncomfortable feeling?

I ask these questions because I view with concern the sexual predation that I’ve seen in AA meetings. I have seen it happen in all gender relationships, but my personal experience is as a woman being preyed upon by men.

I know what many of you are thinking, “Well, that’s an outside issue,” but I disagree. How can it be an outside issue if it affects my safety in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous? Continue reading "Safe Haven"

Michelle Huneven writes on anonymity for the L.A. Times.

Huneven has a new novel out, called Blame. As she describes:

The book tells the story of a young history professor who wakes up from an alcoholic blackout in jail to the news that she ran over and killed two people. She goes to prison, gets sober, rebuilds her life.Breaking the ice on AA’s anonymity.

Here is her opinion piece, titled “Breaking the Ice on AA’s Anonymity,” with the subtitle: “There are several good reasons the organization wants its members to avoid the spotlight.”

What do you think?


Keep Coming Back! The Dr. Vatz Installment

Councilman Moxley

Councilman Moxley

I was poking around on the Baltimore Sun website the other day, and found a “Keep Coming Back” type story about Baltimore County Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley. This is the second time in 4 years that the man has caused an accident while driving drunk: Go read the story. You’ll notice that at the end of the article, the reporter quotes Moxley as saying, “I’ve got a problem.”  “I am powerless over alcohol.”

After reading this article, I found this response from a reader:

As is usually the case, I totally disagree with Richard E. Vatz . In his piece in The Sun of September 4 (Readers respond) he says that Baltimore County Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley’s statement that he is “powerless over alcohol” is a self-serving claim that he has no moral or legal responsibility for his drunken driving. To the contrary, it is the First of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which says “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This admission is not only the first, but the most difficult, and the most essential step to start on a road to recovery.

It is not a cop-out, or an avoidance of responsibility, but rather an admission of a need for help in a fight against alcohol addiction.

Well, of course, if AA says so…

I couldn’t find the letter she was referencing, from Dr. Richard E. Vatz, so I started googling around to see if I could come up with it. Since our readers tend to be much more informed than I am, you probably recognize the name. But I didn’t;  and ended up discovering that Dr. Vatz writes extensively on the subject of psychological rhetoric, and his CV lists several articles on the disease model. I emailed him to ask him where I could find the letter this commenter was referencing, and he told me that it had appeared in the print edition of the paper, and sent along a copy of it, with permission to reprint. So here’s what he wrote:

To the Editor:
     The Sun is making the same error that most media make in cases such as this: the inference that saying one is an “alcoholic and needs help” is an “admission” rather than a self-serving declaration.

     An admission is an honest, shameful confession; a self-serving declaration is a claim made to benefit someone, such as to avoid a greater punishment.  Mr. Moxley’s public assertion that he “is powerless over alcohol” is a claim that he had no moral or legal responsibility for his drunken driving, which for the second time threatened life and limb of innocent citizens.
     Baltimore District Judge H. Gary Bass swallowed the admission hook line and sinker and ordered Moxley to do community service, see a psychologist and attend an alcohol treatment program. 
     Moxley’s rhetorical “admission” saved him from jail and probably losing his seat.

     Some “admission.”

Richard E. Vatz, Towson 
The writer is a professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

Dr. Vatz also, generously, sent me a couple of his articles, which I have yet to read. I don’t want to comment on what I understand so far about his ideas, because I don’t want to misrepresent or simplify him. But I am extremely interested in this subject as it pertains to the 12-Step industry, and the kind of bullshit that is taken for granted as conventional wisdom in this arena.



Recently, the Huffington Post has been needling Glenn Beck (gratefully recovering aloholic) by documenting all his whackadoom conspiracy rants. One recent display of lunacy is his art history class, proving that the artwork in Rockefeller Center is communist/fascist [someone needs to open a book] propaganda, and therefore… idunno oil companies are… something… and Rockefeller is a progressive commie fascist.


This made me laugh, mostly because it’s funny. I mean, Beck is on the verge of an epic meltdown, and I can’t tell you how much it delights me to watch spontaneous human combustion in slow motion. (Yeah, I know. I’m not raising the dead in the marketplace yet, so take your own inventory.)

The other reason it made me laugh is that Beck is a man who owes his life to John D. Rockefeller, who was a patron of Bill W.’s and Dr. Bob’s, and also funded the publication of The Big Book. The money JDR donated to these two men paid their mortgages, and supported them financially, while they expanded AA. Look it up: Rockefeller + Alcoholics Anonymous).

And of course, aside from his teetotaling ways, it was his progressive sensibility (the one Beck is fah-reaking out about) that inspired Rockefeller to donate the money to this cause, and, yes, also to add the stipulation that this money was to be used to make AA self-sufficient. Despite my feeeeelings about AA, this is commendable.

Sometimes, you give a person a few fish AND you also teach them to fish, so they have something to eat while they learn to fish. These guys did that. (But then, sometimes you give a person a few fish because you want them beholden to you… Give someone a fish, and you own the poor sucker.)

I know that our readers are generally averse to seeing political discussion here on Stinkin’ Thinkin’. If you’re one of those readers, I hope you’ll indulge me. I’m an unapologetic long-haired-hippie-type-pinko-fag. I just couldn’t help but draw some parallels here.

There’s no way to quantify this, but it seems to me that, generally, AA old-timers are very conservative people. I’m sure there are exceptions. But, as I’ve gone on and on about here, an authoritarian mindset seems to be a prerequisite for making AA “work” (and I’m talking in the conventional sense of AA, not the By the Book way). I’m not saying that AAs are all authoritarian types, however. For every one who embraces their inner panty-sniffer, there are even more who will submit to their authority. These submissive types also have an authoritarian mindset; they just inhabit the other side of the coin.

It’s so odd how they, and the political conservatives, lay claim to an ideology that, in principle, is very generous, and somehow manage to use it to make selfishness a virtue.  Here’s an interesting example.

And here’s just something funny.

PS – This is aslo funny: I actually went to Beck’s website to very sweetly let him know that Rockefeller funded AA, and his anti-spam-fill-in-the-secret-code word was “PREACH.” As MA says, I shit you not.

Keep Coming Back! The AA Is Appropriate for Teens Edition

So, this guy drinks enough vodka and beer to wind up comatose in the hospital. He comes to, and rubs his naked ass on a nurse’s arm and then tries to pull her breast off. Of course, he ends up in court, and his defense attorney offers this up:

Mole was so drunk he could not remember what had happened, and was now attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

The judge ordered him to 18 months “supervision” (not sure what that means in UK) and alcohol counseling (which our Stinkin Thinkin friend, K, has informed us does not mean AA/12-step as it does here in the US), plus he has to write a letter of apology to the nurse, which will probably go something like this:

“Dear lesbian nurse, I regret that you’re such a prude. I am also sorry that I violated your delicate virgin arm with my hot ass, even though I know you wanted me. Plus, if your ta-tas were a little more licious, I wouldn’t have had to pull so hard, so I’m sorry about that. Anyway, I don’t remember a thing, which you probably hear a lot.”

This man wasn’t ordered to attend AA. He is going to AA to mitigate his sentencing. The fact that people go to AA before they go to court is another aspect of AA that ought to be looked at more closely. There’s not a single drunk that isn’t advised to attend AA before presenting themselves to a judge, in order to demonstrate a commitment to change. These are people who are not required to have their attendance slips signed. They’re people following their lawyers advice because it plays well in court. “But judge, since this unfortunate event, which my client can’t even remember, he has been attending AA.” And no one can vouch for that.

AA is actively recruiting youngsters — highschool kids. They have ACOH for tots, even. We’ve had AA members here on the blog insist that AA is a safe place for kids. Forget about the court-ordered members and the regular predators who latch on to AA because it’s a great place to find vulnerable people. How about people like this, who go to meetings before their sentencing in order to make their case?