Humanspirit just posted this in the comments, but I want to turn it into a front page post, because it is an important perspective that’s been missing from this blog. Thank you, humanspirit. –ftg
My name is humanspirit, and I’m not an alcoholic. But I am appalled at the way the AA 12-Step program is allowed to stand in the way of anyone’s attempts at get real help for alcoholics or addicts. It is disgraceful that AA, with its worse than useless program and cod religion, has managed to establish itself as the only organization to help alcoholics or addicts.
So, not being an alcoholic, why do I feel so passionately about this? It’s because the man that I love descended so deeply into chronic alcohol addiction that he could hardly function. Because he knew he was dying, and would die if he carried on much longer and was crying out for help – any help – which wasn’t forthcoming despite our best efforts. It’s a long and very sad story. I moved out of our mutual home because there was no way I could cope with it and could still carry on going to work, etc. He wasn’t violent; he wasn’t nasty – just hopelessly addicted. The sight of him, sitting in the garden in the early morning light, clinging to his bottle of wine in a silent, confused daze, day in, day out, absolutely broke my heart.
I went to an Al-anon meeting, naively hoping to find some support, and maybe some practical suggestions. Forget it. The first 20 minutes were spent with each attendee reading out one of the 12 Steps and 12 traditions in turn, as though we were 6-year-olds just learning our ABCs. There was no discussion or questions allowed about the 12 Steps or traditions themselves. Then there was an incredibly trite reading about ‘live and let live’ (in my case, and at that point, it was literally ‘live and let die’, i.e., if someone didn’t do something soon, my partner would die). And then there was a discussion in which each person was allowed exactly five minutes to whine about how hard it was to live with the drinker in their lives and then to declare how the 12-Step program had made them incredibly happy. Fine, but it was all TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to the issue of helping people overcome addiction.
I talked to some Al-anon people on the phone, out of desperation. My concern for my partner was dismissed as either ‘controlling’ or as ‘co-dependency’ (whatever that very odd concept might be). ‘Live and let live’, I was told again. Well, this is a reasonable principle to follow in everyday life and in normal circumstances. But in this case, such an attitude was hugely unhelpful. I tried to do all the mind-fuck rationalizing I could for a short time, hoping that in some way it could make any sense and could help. But then I just cut through the crap, did the age-old trick of putting myself in the other person’s shoes, and asked myself: If it was me in this situation, where I really couldn’t help myself, wouldn’t I appreciate having some loving people around trying to do something? Instead of those people just having the indifferent attitude of ‘live and let live’ and then leaving me to die? The answer is obvious to any normal person with an ounce of humanity.
But clearly, this is also a hugely dishonest attitude on the part of Al-anon. The idea of anyone trying to ‘help’ an alcoholic is treated with absolute derision, unless your desire to help leads people to AA and their ridiculous programme. You’re definitely allowed to ‘help’ in those circumstances – none of this ‘let and let live’ crap applies then. And once you’re in their clutches, absolutely no-one allows you to ‘live and let live’. You are not even allowed to define yourself or your loved ones in any way that makes sense to you or gives credit to your own experience. I was told I was ‘in denial’ about my partner being an alcoholic (er, no, actually) because I mentioned what a great guy he was in the majority of years I’d known him when he wasn’t drinking too much. I was assured I was kidding myself. He was an alcoholic who hadn’t found the 12-Step program and hadn’t had a spiritual awakening, so how could he ever in any way have ever been a ‘great guy’? Ever. In his whole life. (They didn’t think to ask why on earth I would have been in a relationship with him in the first place if he wasn’t.)
I was told by Al-anon members that I should ‘detach’ myself (as if moving out, at huge regret and extreme sadness to myself, wasn’t ‘detachment’ enough). But the thing that really got me about this mind-fuck was that I was told that if I still cared about my partner, I had an ‘obsession’ myself. Whatever happened to the idea of pure natural human love and compassion for a fellow human being? AA defines such love and concern as a ‘disease’. If the person you care about is an alcoholic, you are as ‘diseased’ as the alcoholic himself, the line goes. And the only way you can cure yourself of this disease is by (surprise, surprise, folks!) entering into the 12-Step programme and practising the steps for life!
Which would all be absolutely fine if it had any effect whatsoever on anyone’s drinking and would help them overcome their addiction, but it just DOES NOT.
Where exactly is the bit in AA’s big book or in the 12 step programme that gives any advice on how to stop drinking? Please let me know, because after several readings I still can’t find it.
I’m sorry about this long rant, and thanks for anyone for reading it. I’ve posted at other times about the rehab place we eventually managed to get my partner into and how I was absolutely terrified that, after all we’d been through, all the religious rantings he was then subject to would seriously hamper his chances of recovery.
And yes, I’m fucking angry. Because this was to me a serious matter of life and death. Far too serious a matter for it to allow a bunch of fringe religious nut-jobs to even get a look-in, let alone rule the show.