Here’s Stinkin’ Thinkin’ in its museum incarnation. All the posts and comments are available to read, but it’s no longer active. We won’t be posting (unless we have a really good reason or feel like it) and the comments have been disabled. You can read our goodbye post here.
Again, thank you all for everything you have contributed. As many know, I have never been an AA member, which might make it seem like I don’t have a dog in this fight. Like anyone else who’s faced an addiction, I have navigated the 12-Step world. I tried to work the steps, but I am absolutely “constitutionally incapable” of doing it. It goes against my fundamental belief that no matter how much bigger, stronger, or mysterious something is — nature or the universe, for instance — nothing has more power than I do to make changes in my life for me. But, while I was navigating this world (where I met Mark), I saw things that horrified me: quackery, passive-aggressive abuse, coercion, dysfunction, bald-faced lying, and so much insane behavior — all coming from the spiritually awakened sober people. And I saw the relapse, debasement, and confusion of people who believed that there is only this one way to really get well — and not be a “dry drunk” or a spiritual derelict. Even having made a conscious decision not to do AA, I found it most shocking that I had actually internalized a lot of insane ideas that came directly from 12 Step culture, like “permanent progressive disease.” I didn’t recognize slogans as slogans and took them to heart when good friends advised me with things like, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” I had no idea that — when I was at my most vulnerable — they were repeating aphorisms they got off the crazy cat lady at their meetings.
Mark and I began to pay more deliberate attention to what was going on. Any questions we asked were met with an over the top ferocity. Alcoholics clinging to their last hope might see what we said or start asking questions, and they’d die of it. We were literally murdering alcoholics by asking questions. Nothing that wields as much influences as AA does should be immune to scrutiny. It is never, ever going to change, but I believe that it can be “right-sized” if people know they have permission to ask obvious questions.
I have been so honored by so many brilliant contributions from everyone, and they will last here for the benefit of everyone who lands here wondering if they are the only ones who see that the emperor is bald ass naked (and crazy as hell).
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions, and ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them. That summarizes what Ilse and I had in mind when we started ST. It wasn’t started as a movement, but as an outlet; and the more I found my way into the abyss, the more I believed that a movement to change AA is fruitless. Ilse wrote this piece, in which she analogizes AA to a rhizome, which I think is the perfect analogy. Whatever AA is, its ideas are far from distinct. AA is too many things, and exists in too many forms. It’s impossible to effect change in an entity with no head, composed of vapor and disparate ideals. AA won’t change, but that’s fine. The sea-change in addiction recovery is happening, not with AA’s demise, but with its relevance.
When we started ST, there were few platforms for open dialogue. Like much of the AA vernacular and belief system, the restriction on cross-talk or the questioning of the program made its way elsewhere, and was adopted as proper etiquette within the rest of the addiction recovery community. It’s bad form to mention the emperor’s (lack of) clothes. This includes the one into which Ilse and I had landed, which consisted of only a few current AAs, a good many more who had previously ground their way in and out of the twelve-step treatment mill; and majority who had wandered in with no experience from either a recovery program or a support group. It takes little AA influence to poison a well, and within our secular group, the tradition against self-examination was twisted into an ecumenical-like idea that any and all treatment modalities or support models should be immune from criticism or accountability. Our vision was to provide a platform for dialogue and put a little sunlight on the crazy.
I hope we were able to help a few people along the way.
- Ilse and Mark