Geographical Cure(a.k.a Geographic ):
An effort to cure our alcoholism by getting a ‘fresh start’ in a new location. It doesn’t work. There is a saying around AA, ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’
I remember having about five years sober in AA and approaching my sponsor for guidance. I had done well and established a very successful business. In my success I started to look at property in an idyllic location where my family and I had always wanted to live. I had saved enough money to buy a house there for cash. My wife and I had picked out a house and were ready to make our move. Being a good AA I decided to check with my spiritual advisor and sponsor first. Much to my disappointment, he told me that it was dangerous for me to buy this house and move so far from my support group. Clearly I was brainwashed; AA and my sponsor had become my lifeline. I had such a lack of confidence in myself from working the AA program and listening to the rhetoric of the group that I was unable to stand on my own two feet. I was completely dependent on the program and fellowship. As someone who has disconnected from AA, I can look back and see what a shame this is. I see now that AA did not give me power but that it completely crippled me. I have not been living my own life but have been living the lives of others. I remember hearing how bad it was to move away from a persons AA group but never recall hearing anyone share about experiencing a move in which they drank. Members would share that if an alcoholic were to move away from their group they would drink. They would even share that subconciously it was probably an underlying reason for the move. Remember, the great obsession of every alcoholic is to drink normally.
Another factor that plays into the AA’s management of the geographic move is the God implication. Whether implied or by direction the AA seems to rely heavily on the notion that God will do for the alcoholic what he cannot do for himself. Live and let live and let go and let God would seem to directly conflict with any sponsors direction regarding a geographic change, unless of course the AA sponsor is a direct channel from God.
Bottom line; what business does any AA have meddling with the personal life choices and goals of anyone who wanders in their door? Have you been incapacitated by a sponsor who told you not to make a geographic change? Were you pressured to stay in your community? This may be the place to talk about it and share opposing viewpoints so that those who are still crippled by AA can gain insight and make their own decisions.
There are so many different angles from which to criticize the current state of addiction recovery. Not only is it a culture, a permanent lifestyle, and a religious institution, but it’s an enormously profitable industry that thrives on its own failure (relapse is big bucks). But it seems that people who are participating in the progressive conversation on the big stage aren’t aware that addiction recovery is a parallel universe that influences popular culture. It’s imperative that progressive voices genuinely begin to challenge it, and I’m going to try to appeal to different arenas of the activist sphere and make a case for why addiction should be part of the conversation. Right now, I am hoping to put recovery culture on the feminist radar by offering a condensed version of this twisted world and the culture it has generated. I don’t have much of a feminist pedigree, but I hope I can make a good case for its relevance to feminist activism.
I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog throwing tantrums about the fact that addiction gets no play among the skeptic and new atheist writers out there – people who actively combat quackery and religious influence in public policy. How does it escape these people that a whole branch of public health has already been handed over to the faith healers?
I have a few theories about that. But my favorite is that, despite their skepticism, they’re still a little superstitious about the topic: Addiction is such a complicated and elusive condition. Who wants to touch that with a ten foot pole? The reason addiction is such a mystery, though, is that our conventional understanding of addiction has its roots in religious philosophy – not science, psychology, or medicine – and it has not evolved at all in 75 years. Neither has the way we treat it. The vast majority of addiction facilities in this country employ the 12 Step program for spiritual enlightenment as the basis for their treatment. Things we take for granted about addiction, for instance that it’s a “progressive, fatal disease,” are completely unfounded, but they put the sharpest critical thinkers in a bind. Doesn’t everyone know at least one person who believes that their life was saved by accepting their powerlessness? How do you start challenging that if you think that someone could die of it?
“I’d be dead without AA” is one among many thought-stopping cliches that keep criticism of addiction mythology at bay. Add to this AA’s own persistent misinformation campaign, its unimpeached reputation as a benevolent organization, their noble insistence on anonymity, the public’s general ignorance, and the amount of time and effort it would take for someone on the outside to piece together a big picture. This mess has allowed a fringe religious culture to spring up around addiction and quietly influence the landscape in ways that I think would be of enormous interest to feminists. At least I hope I can make a case for it: Continue reading Why Addiction Recovery Should Be A Feminist Issue
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t know the difference between religious and spiritual. I know what people mean when they make that distinction. By spiritual, they mean something like a deep, unmediated connection to the universe and a sense of their place in it. And by religious they mean a that this connection to the universe has been corrupted by human mediation and codification.
I’m also not making a judgment about whether or not spirituality is real or correct – if you’re religious (and object to AA on the grounds that it betrays your beliefs), you shouldn’t take offense to my definitions. I’m just saying that I know what people mean, I’m going use that universal understanding to say why AA is not spiritual, but religious.
This slogan is really sticking in my craw lately. It is, without a doubt, the biggest cop-out for the ineffectuality of AA: It’s a deflection of responsibility; it’s utterly unprovable; and it’s crazymaking.
If you believe that AA worked for you because you worked it, then anything at all would have worked for you. Anything. There’s nothing about the 12-Steps that addresses addiction or recovery, which means that by the sheer force of your self-will you made a decision, fixed your intention, and followed through. Congratulations! But if AA were a program of standing on your head for an hour a day, that would have worked for you, too. The power of placebo is amazing.
“It works if you work it” is just as true about turnkey businesses, multi-level marketing, and fad diets. What all these things, including AA, have in common, is that they require you to continue “working it” — abdicating your right to self-direction — for the rest of your life. And their failure rates are just as high, for exactly the same reason: it’s soul killing.