Attraction Shmattraction

I like to think I’m a quick study, but it’s taken me over a year to realize that whenever I troll around the tubes for AA news, I always land on the Desert Sun‘s website. There’ always some piece of AA fluff there that is just like more AA fluff, and so I usually navigate away (not always). It’s always obnoxious, but not usually interesting enough to post about. I just landed there again tonight, and I said to myself, “Jeezo, why do I keep ending up here?”

You’d think I have asked and answered this question for myself sooner.

Turns out the reason I keep landing there is that Dr. James West writes a regular column for the Desert Sun. He is a retired Betty Ford Center out-patient medical director. He is also the author of The Betty Ford Center Book of Answers (which has a lovely cover), among other things. Dr. West is hard on to 100 years old, which really makes me feel like a shitheel for this post.

(Don’t worry about me. I’ll get over it.)

Upon his retirement from the Betty Ford Center in 2007 (at 93), he said:

What I’m most proud of is that we have not moved one iota from the principle that treatment here is based on the 12-Step program. That was our foundation back in 1982, and it remains our foundation a quarter-century later.

It’s really hard for me to hold anything against a 97 year old person. I visited my grandad when he was 97, and the last thing he ever said to me was “My dear, I want to tell you something. I’m so glad you came to visit. But I am so goddamn glad to see you go. No offense.” People that age like their routine.

I hold it against the people who spotlight Dr. West’s old man routine to support their refusal to evolve.

  • Anonymous of Course

    Here's A young Robin Williams. He mentions he Betty Ford clinic. I thought the routine was funny. I'm not sure if this is the way to do it, I'm trying to embed the video. if that don't work, heres the link:

  • Rick045

    A few years ago, one of our biggest local AA icons was interviewed on a local TV show about addiction. He's a retired MD, and probably up in his eighties. I kind of felt sorry for him when he started prattling on about spirituality, and I think the young doctor doing the interview felt the same way. There was an obvious deference being shown simply because of his age. Dr. West seems to present himself better than that guy did, but it was a very similar situation.

  • LUCY

    The accused Nazi guard (who died just before his trial) was 89!

    Old age does not necessarily convey kindness, wisdom or insight. One might ask Dr. West why the Betty Ford Center, for example, charges so much if indeed everything on which its services are based comes from a book that can be purchased for less than $10.

  • DeConstructor

    This kind of reminds me of an online argument I am in right now.

    This dude, aka SL Cabbie, is another heavy duty AA can do no wring evangelist, who cannot get his facts straight. The forum is, which I post at occasionally due to the fact the AA faith and the LDS faith have nearly identical histories, full of lies, financial deception, power trips, and a whole lot of sexual exploitation.

    Perhaps some of you may want to enlighten him on some facts, and by the way the board has banned the words stinkin-thinkin, and that word will not get by the filter.

    I have posted under the moniker Youtube Legion Twelve, out of respect for those who have posted the Legion Twelve video.


  • DeConstructor
  • LUCY

    @DC – I worked for a Utah-based LDS company for several years while I was in AA. I enjoyed my business trips with my colleagues because they didn't drink, but I so agree with you about The Church.

    It's really hard to understand how much influence it has on its members unless you are either "exmormon" or a gentile who works for them. Utah is a theocracy, not a state.

    I knew that it didn't matter how good a job I did for them. I would always be a woman who wasn't going to heaven and should be at home with her kids.

  • Mike

    @AOC, OMG!!! I got half way through the Robin Williams skit where he's talking about the morning after a binge, where someone says he took a dump in their tuba…pretty funny. Well here's the weird thing. I'm at a meeting a few months ago (I do still go once in a while) and some old-timer with 29 years tells a story about having done exactly that. I actually walked out shortly after he shared, thinking he's full of shit. I'm getting the feeling now that he just took this from William's script and incorporated it into his drunkalogue. I mean, he also shared that he went to Harvard but ended up working for Massachusetts Electric. What really scares me is that I think a lot of these fools believe what they are saying. It is friggin' scary.

  • AnnaZed

    Yeah Mike, ya think (I'm not surprised anymore).

    It took me an embarrassingly long time to comprehend that a large percentage of the garbage that I heard in AA meetings was just complete fabrication, and given that the fabricators are themselves so stupid, lifting movie plots and bits from stand-up comedians is just par for the course. The thing is that they are never confronted, never outed, never exposed; it just goes on for (literally) decades.

    The AA meetings themselves have an ever changing 95% of the attendees that are just an abstract audience to these guys for their little performances. The few that hang around for longer are a bit more of a challenge to bull-shit, but it's not that hard given that the context is a place where you don't have to give your real name and you only interact for a few hours at a time most of which is spent mouthing and reading dogma. Occasionally these guys will get caught in a lie, but not often enough to dissuade them because there is no mechanism by which anyone can check anything.

    When I was attending in SoCal there was a guy that claimed that he had once been some sort of successful car salesman. Given that it is a widely accepted cultural joke (fact) that only extremely gullible people trust anything that a car salesman might say even at the best of times, I always thought that was pretty funny. He was working the AA guru game for full value with his little posse of minions chauffeuring him from meeting to meeting every single night. He lived in a made-over garage behind a house where his wife and her mother lived (lord knows what that was all about, I imagine she was sick to death of his lying bull-shit). He was (still is, I guess) disabled and retired and riding the bus to dialysis but come evening and every weekend the sponsees were catering to him, driving him to meetings and hanging on his every word of wisdom. Of course having an essentially captive audience of young men he simply couldn't help himself he had to impress them. The stories of his success before cunning, baffling alcohol caused him the "live in his disease" became more and more grandiose until he had these fools repeating in awe that he had once owned a Maserati car and vast tracts of property around Las Vegas. One look at his shifting eyes and the reality of his circumstances living in a garage in a slum would tell even the most obtuse that these were absolutely stupid lies, the kind of lies that little children tell, yet the sponsees believed his every utterance.

    I know that I have told the Maserati story on this site before, but it is so typical of my AA experience that I am compelled to revisit it when I come here. What does it say about a person that they need to present themselves to rooms full of strangers and sycophants several days a week and tell them lies about themselves? What does it say about AA that it creates a perfect structure for a person with this very particular type of mental aberration (which is not particularly rare and not confined to people who have abused alcohol) to thrive?

    Mom, what’s your take on this? Or are you going to tell us that in 10 years on AA you have never heard a ridiculous bull-shit story in AA?

  • Mom

    Nah…Ive heard a few. 😉

    Some of them were mighty entertaining…..

    I also hear them at work, at my uncles house, the grocery store, at school, on tv, on the radio….heck, I think I may even have heard a doozy or two on here! 😉

    • MA

      Yeah, but in real life, people are called out or looked down on if they pull that bullshit. In AA, it is encouraged.

  • Gunthar2000

    If your uncle tries to get you to turn your life and will over to the doorknob, run for the hills! He's in AA!

  • Gunthar2000

    Imagine if you had never met your uncle before, and the first thing he said to you was, "I'm your uncle, and I'm a liar, a cheat, and a thief".

    You'd think that was pretty deranged… Right?

    I used to hear crap like that in AA all of the time.

    Mom, your argument that AA members are no more screwy than anyone else, "the grocery store, at school, on tv, on the radio" is nonsense to anyone who has ever been to a few AA meetings.

  • Here's a little cognitive dissonance for you.

    New members are instructed that their best thinking got them there, so they shouldn't trust themselves. They're instructed to trust their sponsor and the group. If they don't believe in God, then they should be able to believe in GOD (Group of Drunks). But, when something goes wrong, AAs put the onus on the new member for not approaching AA as they would a barroom or a back alley — or the grocery store — or anywhere else people are not routinely instructed to suspend their disbelief and or their judgment.

  • Mona Lisa

    Question: What is the difference between the grocery store, school, tv, radio…and AA?

    Answer: Nobody is ever told they will die drunk if they don't go to the grocery store or school, listen to the radio or watch TV. And if somebody lied in those places and you called them on it, nobody would tell you to "keep comin' back!" to "keep your own side of the street clean" or drone on about "principles not personalities".

    There are some decent people in AA, Mom…but a large proportion of them are loons.

  • Anonymous of Course


    There are always people in meetings that want to appear to be wise or have a funny tale to tell and will have the tendency to embelish a tad bit. I'm going to admit right up front, in meetings, a person needs to have a good BS filter. Not everything you hear is the truth or even makes sense. If you think about the Tuba stunt, that would be quite a trick sober, I'd say it'd be quite an achievement drunk. No matter if it is a straight up tuba or a sousaphone, you'd have to be some sort of a contortionist to pull that off. If someone was that drunk and pulled it off, how in the world would he remember it? I would say that drunk a logue you heard probably came from this routine. The clip had to be from the very early eighties, robin williams was quite young.

    The reason I posted the clip was that Robin mentions the Betty Ford Clinic and this article was about someone from the Betty Ford Clinic. I liked the clip and Robin sure could describe a hangover.

    • MA

      There are always people in meetings that want to appear to be wise or have a funny tale to tell and will have the tendency to embelish a tad bit. I’m going to admit right up front, in meetings, a person needs to have a good BS filter. Not everything you hear is the truth or even makes sense.

      So how does this fit in with 'rigorous honesty'?

  • tintop

    All this is pretty sad. Sad to think that people think so little of themselves; have so little dignity and self respect that such a place is acceptable long term. Maybe thay are so beaten down that this is best that they can do. Perhaps, for some, it is. For most, it is not; or, should not be.

    Again: the key is motivation and determination. The motivation and determnation to turn life around ; to get sorted out. That comes from the individual; their motivation and their determination. It is the purpose of a self help organization to: encourage, foster, augment, support and help develop those needed qualitites.

    failure to do that means that the organization is iatrogenic..

  • DeConstructor

    Somewhere between the BS filter and "take what you want and leave the rest" the REAL medical community should stop the credibility that the AA faith wrongly claims.

    One should also be informed that in "treatment", insurance companies are paying hundreds of dollars a day for people to be forced to listen to this garbage….

  • Anonymous of Course


    So how does this fit in with ‘rigorous honesty’?

    It don't. Going to AA doesn't make you rigorously honest. If AA was all good and made everyone that went their sober saints, there wouldn't be stinkin-thinkin. Fact is as this blog points out, you're libel to run into some folks that are far from sainthood and wisdom.

    I am rigorously honest . . . when it's convenient.

  • MA

    I appreciate the candor, AOC.

    Do you see anything wrong with being told to not think, not trust your instincts; while at the same time being told to have a good BS detector? Is that not a contradiction to you?

  • Rick045

    "I also hear them at work, at my uncles house, the grocery store, at school, on tv, on the radio….heck, I think I may even have heard a doozy or two on here!"

    Treatment centers don't send vulnerable people to grocery stores, they send them to a program that demands rigorous honesty. Those people in the grocery stores don't pretend to be experts on treating a disease. They don't claim to have answers for how anyone else should live while hiding behind the guise of sponsorship. If a person encounters abusive behavior in a grocery store or school, complaints can be taken up with management, and something will likely be done about it. They wont be told to simply find another grocery or school.

  • Rick045

    @tintop, one positive thing to consider is that very few actually do stay long term. That changes nothing about the thing itself, and it's a shame that it ever got this far, but I hope it says something positive about the resilience of the individual. Some people do grow, in spite of AA.

  • AnnaZed

    Mom, you are going have to improve on these two tired variations of the AA indoctrinate’s playbook if you are to be Rigorously Honest® in your efforts to engage in real thoughtful conversation about truth. This would go for any truth really, but the one we are discussing here is the intrinsically false and manipulative practices of a secret organization of which you are a part that controls the multi-billion dollar American alcohol and drug treatment industry. Simply propping up these two tired easily decimated straw dogs is simply a disappointment. Perhaps you can do better.

    While it is certainly true that one meets mendacious manipulative people in all walks of life, no citizen of our nation was ever mandated to visit your uncle’s house 90 times in 90 days under threat of incarceration, of that I am certain. No social worker has ever required signed proof that a fellow citizen of this nation has punctually gone to the grocery store and listened to religious dogma and been lied to and manipulated for an hour or so every day as a condition of keeping custody of their child. The grocery store was a very poor example (people don’t even converse there much really) but I expect that you are new at the sad game of 12-step defense and are already grasping at straws. One might better say that you are as likely to meet liars and manipulators or even criminals in church, since after all a church is what AA is, but again you would have to explain under what conditions citizens are required to attend a certain church and become initiated into a given religious sect; which of course outside of 12-stepcoercion you can’t.

    These are things that you perfectly well know, but you are being defensive and already finding your AA logic toolbox curiously under stocked and are starting to blather. We are familiar with this. It happens a lot around here.

    Do not think that it escaped my notice the first time that you called posters on this site liars or that you have repeated this unsupported charge again today. It is amusing that you are throwing this insult out as a defense against accusations that AA sponsors and AA speakers continually use AA’s well established and inviolate power structure to manipulate and lie to vulnerable people sent there by people in authority seeking help with a dangerous and intractable problem. Don’t you find that oh so funny? The poor frightened detoxing souls wash up on AA’s shores where you tell them crazy lies and twist reality for them. How nice.

    After the obligatory telling you to go fuck yourself; I ask you again to explain how on earth it would be that repeatedly returning to a place where a bunch of strangers repeatedly tell bald-faced lies might in any way be considered therapeutic or even helpful to anyone in any condition. That was my question, the one that you have not actually addressed.

    Back to the crazy lying that goes on in AA, the actual topic of our conversation. AA’s structure (given that it was created to accommodate a manipulative liar in Bill Wilson) is specially suited to nourishing this type of antisocial behavior. You know this, you concede this, yet you offer no explanation as to why this environment of mendacity would offer any person any help with any condition at all let alone the condition of extreme alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. So, on that point I am still waiting.

    Oh, and could you please drop that cutesy corn-pone act with the “gosh” and the “heck” and the smiley faces. It’s annoying.

  • Gunthar2000

    Imagine this…

    You go to the grocery store to buy some yeast to bake bread.

    The clerk at the grocery store insists that you don't need yeast… in fact, yeast will screw the bread up entirely. The clerk then tells you that what you really need is spiritual enlightenment, which can only come from working the 12 step program.

    You go home… work the steps… make the dough, but it won't rise.

    You return to the grocery store to tell the clerk what happened, and the grocery clerk tells you that you didn't work the recipe the way it's laid out… You're only as sick as your secrets… and you shouldn't quit before the miracle happens.

  • Ben Franklin

    I noticed too ,Mom, that you called some posters here liars. Please give examples. It would be nice if you focused on one lie at a time. Explain why it is a lie and offer evidence for why it is a lie. "My sponsor says so" is not legitimate research. Humphrey and Moos (whose research is analogous to: birthdays are good for life extension because people with long lives have more of them) is not legitimate research. The big book is especially not legitimate research. Fire away.

  • Anonymous of Course


    Do you see anything wrong with being told to not think, not trust your instincts; while at the same time being told to have a good BS detector? Is that not a contradiction to you?

    Yes I see something wrong with being told not to think. I don't know if anyone ever told me that, but if they did, I would have to think about it. One of the placards in the meeting room I attend says Think.Think.Think. If someone tells you that you can't think for yourself, they must be wanting to do your thinking for you. I know there are phrases like, "my best thinking got me here". I went into AA with an open mind. It wasn't opened to things that were beyond common sense. And let me tell you there are things said in meetings that are beyond common sense. A lot of times I don't even hear what all is said. Some people go to rattling off and I day dream about something else unless they say something that is so outrageous, I have to speak up. The morning of 9/11/2001 a couple of hours after the WTC attacks, some Jackass started talking about "forgiveness" in a meeting I was in. I didn't jump at the guy, but I was fired up and let every know that forgiveness is this case wasn't our job. It was time to kick someone's ass. That was an outside issue, but the word forgiveness really pissed me off and I knew this fellow was pretty screwed up.

    The attitude that I'm not going to think and find someone that can tell me each time I need to scratch my ass is an attitude that will make you someone's patsy in any situation. Stinkin Thinkin does a good job of pointing that out. AA, sober houses, treatment centers all have a better than average potential for someone to take advantage of a vunerable person. There are those that work in soberhouses and treatment centers that have good intentions. Mostly though, people that choose this line of work think they have so much knowledge about staying sober and are often arrogant and controlling. These are the ones that will tell you not to think. This attitude comes into the AA rooms also.

    I've had two sponsors in AA. My first one passed away. My second one is still around. I never confessed all my wrong doings to these guys. We never talked about God. I didn't spend all my time trying to fix everything i screwed up and make amends. The main thing for me was to be rigorously honest with myself to see what my drinking was doing to me and my young family. That wasn't an easy task. I was quite fond of drinking and I could figure out an excuse for every problem I had and it had nothing to do with my drinking until I got honest with myself. Neither one of my sponsors were control freaks or wisemen. They were guys that have stayed sober and I hung out with them. I know that sounds simple, but that was one of the phrases I kinda took too. Keep It Simple. Is AA the only way to do this? Hell no. People were sobering up way before bill w. was a twinkle in his father's eye.

    I have a lot to be thankful for. I haven't been a drunken asshole for twenty years. I've been a sober one. I'm in my second year of surviving throat cancer. (Thank you God and Shands at the University of Florida.) I have seen my first grandson this year. My job has been the securist it's been in my career even in this bad economy. My last child has left the house and is gainfully employed AND NO MORE TEENAGERS ON MY CAR INSURANCE!!!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving All.


  • AnnaZed

    @AOC "…I never confessed all my wrong doings to these guys. We never talked about God. I didn’t spend all my time trying to fix everything i screwed up and make amends…"

    So basically you didn't do step work and for all practical purposes are not doing AA.

    I'm glad that working out for you, and am most sincerely happy to read about your stabilized health and life situation.

    There are some who can sort of hang around AA for years and derive benefit from simply being around sober people. I say that those people are few and far between. I also can't imagine how you get in and out of an AA meeting without talking about God since God is evoked on every single page of the big book, in all most every step, in all of the readings and in the ending prayer. How does that work exactly? Do you sit with your arms folded at the end of the meeting refusing to pray? Do you refuse to do the readings? How?

  • Anonymous of Course


    I was talking about my two sponsors. There were some in meetings that were almost evangelical. "My higher power whom I chose to call God" and that kind of stuff. My sponsor has a bumper sticker that says "God, protect me from your followers" along with a couple of AA bumper stickers.

    Religous beliefs are a personal matter and I kind of get offended when some tries to tell me what God's will for me is. For me, when I got to the fellowship, there were quite a few guys I already knew from my earlier drinking days. I'm not religous, but I'm not athiest. It doesn't bother me when someone talks about their beliefs as long as they don't attack mine and try to force theirs down my throat. I pray, I just don't do it in church and I'm way behind on my tithing. The one thing I hear in the readings is "Spritual growth instead of Spiritual prefection" and that where I'm at. I still have quite a few charactor defects I'm quite fond of.

    Happy Thanks Giving, Anna.

    PS I'm not trying to change people minds here or deny there are some abuses in AA. I don't much care for professionals in rehab. Rehab didn't do as much for me as the 3 days in jail did before I got there.

  • DeConstructor


    That is the real problem with the AA faith. Persons are REQUIRED to pray to the AA god.

    This AA god is VERY specific, grants specific miracles on request, and requires specific prayers and methods of worship. It is actually very poorly thought out theology. William Griffith Wilson should have found a better religion to steal.

    Ironically, as AA is really an American invention, and international numbers and membership is overstated, the faith, particularly forced and coerced participation and conversion to the faith, goes against accepted American principles.

    However, everything gets hijacked. Perhaps AA did by the recovery industry cartel.

    I have just read how Thanksgiving has been hijacked by the teabaggers to promote their political goals. Here is a "suggested" prayer that I just read on a teabaggers blog.

    WARNING. If you read this, you will lose your appetite for a Thanksgiving meal.

    "O God, our Father, how grateful we are this Thanksgiving that Thou hast seen fit to answer the prayers of the righteous concerning our Republic. Father we ask Thee that Thou wouldst continue to assist us as we seek to right the ship of State and restore our Republic to the glory that Thou gavest us through the Founding Fathers. We pray Thee to continue to help us thwart the efforts of the Progressives to turn our Republic into a Welfare Socialist State. We pray thee that Thou wouldst keep us eternally vigilant these next two years as we consider all elected to serve We the People. We pray Thee, Father, that Thou wouldst continue to heal our land.

    Father we also acknowledge Thy hand in all things and recognize; that Thou hast given unto us our loving spouses and goodly parents; that Thou hast provided home and clothing to shelter our family from the storms of life and a bounteous harvest with which to provide for our needs; that Thou hast granted unto us personal strength and charity that we might serve Thee and our neighbor, who may be sick or afflicted, poor or needy, or who may have cause to mourn. In the blessed name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and the Redeemer of the World. Amen."

  • DeCon, that made me laugh — delightful! The prayers of the righteous! "Goodly parents"? If anyone at my dinner table recited that prayer, I would be snork-laughing tears onto my plate.

  • That is just begging for a Dramatic Reading

  • Mona Lisa

    DeCon: You're right, that destroyed my appetite. I will have to read it every day during the holidays so I don't gain any weight this year.