“Why Rehab Fails”

The New Republic review of Anne M. Fletcher’s Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction Treatment-and How to Get Help That Works

Why Rehab Fails: The dogma of AA has taken over

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.

Read the whole thing…

  • Ilse,

    The spiritual fellowship (AA) has been infiltrated, for the purposes of rendering it ineffective and worthy of criticism. It’s a known and predictable ploy. Another prime example is how that is being done right now, at the seats of our own government- so as to tear down and replace capitalism: 1) Infiltrate, redefine and ruin it. 2) Point and say, “See? It doesn’t work.” 3) Then step in as “Savior” with something “new”.

    The more AA becomes like the secular rehab industry, the bigger a spiritual failure it becomes. It may be just about there now. ~ danny


    (Is this site going again?) Say,Yes.” .

    • Hi Danny, Seeing as it took me a week to respond to you, I guess… No. We’re not really going again. I just have a little more free time to put things up now and again.

      Do you want to explore this a little? I do, if you have the time. I’m really interested to know what you mean when you say that AA has been infiltrated. Can you elaborate? By whom? Is there a ringleader? And, who are you talking about? Democrats or Republicans? What is the secular rehab industry, considering its over 90% reliance on 12 Step.

    • massive

      are you kidding me. AA is such BUlls**t just as it was, just as it is, yes it got worse with all the judges dumping sex offenders and violent criminals an of course the mass exidious of the last good peeps from the 70’s who were indoctrinated as I was in the wacko cult.

  • Just me:)…

    That is why it is so important to know what the literature SAYS for setting boundaries. I have learned that the hard way and I no longer put up with people’s bullshit(I accept it as that is how they are, I simply keep them at arms length and only let the sane ones close to me-the ones who have been sober over 10 years that I actually want to be like as I respect them as people, just act polite towards them when I see them). Someone gets pushy, just cut them off by not arguing with them and do the opposite of what they are demanding. They DEMAND that the fourth step MUST be in columns, on white paper, black ink, etc etc etc, go out of my way to do it on a computer. They say “you just want to do things YOUR WAY which is what got you in here” or “your best thinking got you here”, knowing that the Big Book makes it crystal clear that it was my inability to combat the first drink by THINKING which is an inability to think, NOT my best thinking, directly contradicts the literature not to mention that the Book actually praises logic and reason as well as faith in “We Agnostics” yet these people pretend that’s not in the book with their crusade against intelligence and logic. Wanting to do things my way is NOT the alcoholics problem according to the literature, playing God in my life and other people’s lives, pushing my will on everyone else, doing what I want at other people’s expense IS my problem, NOT just that I like things a certain way. Them saying that is ALL bullshit and it contradicts the literature. That is why I don’t have a sponsor, collecting all the pamphlets, reading the 12 and 12, taking notes, taking notes when people share, taking my inventory, inventorying what other people say(putting myself in their shoes imagining myself saying the same thing), all for the purpose of knowing what to listen to and what is bullshit. Heard one time that I have a GREAT bullshit detector, actually I have had a broken one which is why this is so important. Thanks to people speaking self contradicting gibberish and doing self analysis on myself, that helps me to debunk things out in the real world as well.

    • just me:), I believe that you’re account of your experience in AA is exactly what you say it is. And, I ask you try to shift your privileged perspective, from that of a 33-year male member of AA, to that of, say, a young addicted person, male or female.

      Would you feel comfortable sending your daughter, mother, or sister to a random AA group, knowing that domestic abusers and financial predators are routinely sentenced to attend AA meetings? Would you tell your daughter, mother or sister to turn their lives and wills over to G.O.D.?

      What would you advise a vulnerable newcomer that just so happens to be a relation of yours?

      • massive

        ilse- that’s right. AA and na are both very dangerous places today. Im so glad I left 2 years ago!!!thank you. cant wait to read your book.

  • violet

    great post, ils. thanks.