The New Republic review of Anne M. Fletcher’s Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction Treatment-and How to Get Help That Works
My favorite two sentences in the Alcoholics Anonymous literature are: “Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe anything. All of its twelve steps are but suggestions.” When a drunk at the end of his tether, Bill Wilson, founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930s—a spiritual program based on meeting with other addicts—there was a fundamental humility to his ideology: It might work for some.
But that sentiment is often forgotten in the rooms of AA itself, where I spent a lot of time getting sober. There I found that what are suggestions to some are fundamentalist Scripture to others. In the rooms of AA, suggestions and traditions can sometimes feel more like ironclad laws, and when I inadvertently trespassed upon those laws, I was humiliated and rebuked. The predominantly AA-based culture of rehab in America has become one of imposition and tautology: If the program doesn’t work for you, then you didn’t work the program. If you succeed in staying sober, then you did a good job working the program; ergo, the program works.