Archive for the Anonymity Category

AA Sends Out Its Anonymity Letter

And Romenesko has picked up on it!

A day after a Romenesko reader noted that Roger Ebert was an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor for reporters, A.A. sent a message to journalists on its email list. It says that “our fellowship does not comment on matters of public controversy, but we are happy to provide information about A.A. to anyone who seeks it.”

Check out some of the comments.

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

Earlier today, I was returning home the back way, a seldom-traveled, narrow, lightly-populated road. I came around a curve and saw a tractor mower laying on its top, with the top half of a person visible. I stopped and ran over, and discovered the person was conscious, but pinned beneath the tractor. I was able to lift it off him long enough for him to pull himself out. I checked him for injuries, and other than being banged up and out of breath from his struggle to free himself, he was not too much the worse for wear.

He told me he had been pinned for what he thought was ten or fifteen minutes, and had been screaming for his partner who was working on another part of the property. The partner was operating a weed blower, and thus was unable to hear the shouts for help. I drove over and got him, told him what had happened, and we both returned to the man who had been pinned. Three of us were barely able to lift the tractor, but we did manage to right it.

The pinned man was understandably grateful for my assistance, and was beside himself thanking me for finding and helping him. His partner, who I did not recognize, was also quick to offer his thanks. Shaking my hand, he then asked, “Hey, aren’t you Mike B. from the AA meetings? I only attended a few times, but I sure remember you.”

Watters and Wine

Remember the Catholic Priest, Fr. Pete Watters, who was featured in the article about Toronto AA’s removing the agnostic groups from the roster (“Does Religion Belong at AA? Fight over ‘God’ Splits Toronto AA Groups“)? He was quoted in that article:

“People and agencies can help,” Watters says, “but the only one who can restore that person to permanent sobriety is God. But that’s the God of your understanding — that can be anything you want.”

How does a Catholic priest reconcile advising others to believe in whatever conception of God they want? Can God be whatever you want if you’re a Catholic? Do false gods work just as well in AA as Catholic God? According to his faith, isn’t Watters condemning people to both disease and damnation by encouraging them to pick any conception of God they want?

Is Watters really a Catholic?

The Toronto Star recently wrote an article commemorating Watters for his 50 years of sobriety in AA (“Priest Calls on His Own Demons to Help Others with Theirs“), and includes this detail:

And then, at 50, he felt a calling that rekindled youthful dreams of joining the priesthood that booze interrupted.

“So I went to the bishop and I asked him, ‘Are you taking any old men these days?’ The next thing I knew I was in the seminary,” he said.

He was ordained a few years later and even received dispensation from the Vatican to celebrate communion with grape juice, so he doesn’t have to sip sacramental wine, because “it’s pretty good stuff,” he laughed.

It seems that this priest has more faith in the tenets of AA than he does in Catholicism, though which the substance of the wine is transformed into the blood of Christ. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the truth — according to Catholic faith — is that the wine is no longer wine.  But it is for this priest.  It seems that he has more faith in AA’s disease model than he does in transubstantiation.

What’s his real religion?

Bonus Quote of the Day

An AA member responds to the Watters article:

I am writing to express my deep disappointment that the Star continues to provide a platform for this priest to dishonour the fellowship that helped save his life. AA is called Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason — we have a long tradition of anonymity expected of our members at the level of press, radio and films.

This is not because we are ashamed of being alcoholics. It is to ensure our humility and to enforce the fact that no one person has the right to represent AA to the world at large. Glory and grandiosity are very dangerous for recovering alcoholics, who are egomaniacs at the best of times.

By continuing to publish this priest’s full name and photo while associating him with AA, you are hurting his sobriety. I am very sorry to see a second article of this nature in three months.

Andrea O, Strathroy

 

Lewiston Sun Journal Explores AA Anonymity

Secrets kept, secrets shared — AA member’s murder revelation raises confidentiality question

LEWISTON — An Alcoholics Anonymous member’s story began with the arrival of a Lewiston police officer.

A uniformed cop trying to find somebody — apparently a suspect in a crime — marched into the middle of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told the group who he was looking for and asked if they’d seen him.

“This is an anonymous program,” the member told him. “No one’s going to tell you if he’s here or not.” A moment later, the frustrated officer walked out, and the meeting resumed.

The suspect had been there the whole time, seated in the front row.

“It was his choice to identify himself or not,” the member said. And each person attending the meeting chose silence rather than break with AA’s 76-year history.

People who attend are anonymous. And what’s said among its members is secret.

“It’s commonly accepted that you don’t go blabbing around what you’ve heard,” said another longtime member.

Yet, some secrets are bigger than others.

On July 11, an Alcoholics Anonymous member and sponsor, Floyd Nadeau of Lewiston, met with police.

He told police that his sponsee, Bob Ryder, 20, of Lewiston, told him he had killed a woman and buried her body in the basement of his 417 Main St. home, according to a police affidavit.

Within hours of Nadeau’s report, police found the body of 38-year-old Danita Brown. Ryder was later charged with murder.

Nadeau had known about the death for two weeks, according to court records. But he held onto the information, reluctant to come forward because of his belief in AA’s confidentiality. He finally went to police after talking with his own sponsor.

I’ve never seen the subject explored in the mainstream, so I’m not going to be too disappointed that the reporter didn’t connect all the dots. AnnaZed sent the article to me, and she observed some odd things, like:

Common practice and tradition, rather than law, keep their secrets, said a member who serves as AA’s public information chairwoman for Maine and New Brunswick.

“All we can do is ask,” said the woman, who did not want her name used. “Sponsors are asked ethically, by our traditions, not to divulge anything about a sponsee.”

Traditions don’t include criminal behavior, though.

“We warn newcomers, ‘If you divulge a criminal act, you’re putting yourself and everyone else in the room in jeopardy,’” she said. Most sponsors would go to police.

“By law, we would have to react,” she said.

Does anyone know what a “Public Information Chairperson” is? And has anyone ever heard that warning to newcomers?

Read the whole thing.

 

 

“Reassessing Anonymity in 12 Step Programs”

NPR’s Neal Conan interviews David Coleman and Marsha Linehan on Talk of the Nation. (Psst, NPR, here’s another reason to reassess anonymity.)

Many 12-step programs make a rule of preserving participants’ anonymity, but now some are challenging that policy. Opponents say 12-step programs have lost enough of their stigma for participants to be openly involved, while others insist on the value of privacy on the road to recovery.

Listen to the show, or read the transcript.

Why Addiction Recovery Should Be A Feminist Issue

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

Picking Cherries

David Colman just wrote a piece on anonymity in AA, in which he breaks his own anonymity [Challenging the Second "A" in A.A.]. I don’t really have a opinion on his opinion, other than to say that it is a thinly veiled puff piece that omits many of the ways AAs use or break  their anonymity in order to promote a specific agenda. I posted on a few of those ways here a few months ago. Of course, I could never make my point as well as our resident troll, JD, does when he wrote:

“You do have some idea how many judges and lawyers are solid AAs, right? They are a firewall against this kind of thing. And the members in all the media. Plenty more in government than you can imagine. Plenty in the medical and all science professions, lots of people highly placed throughout business, ect [sic]. Like any facinated [sic] groupies you keep track of entertainers, but there are a ton you’ve no clue about.”

At least with this New York Times writer, he was open about his affiliation with AA — although I wonder if he would have disclosed his AA affiliation had the subject of the piece not been about anonymity itself. As JD correctly points out, many of the stories promoting AA and 12-Step recovery are written by AAs who never disclose their AA memberships.

 

What interested me more than the piece itself, was this bit written in the comments section. Specifically, the second paragraph, which I have emboldened:

“As a member of AA for many years, I have always understood that keeping anonymity (especially at the level of press, media and films) is not only for the well being of single members, but for the group as a whole.

When an individual identifies as a member of AA in the public, and then proceeds to relapse over and over again or engage in other “bad” behavior (stealing, lying, cheating, hookers), people who do not understand the program will often use that individual as an example of how AA doesn’t work.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to defend the institution, which saved my life, because some celebrity decided to go blabbing about their “membership” only to relapse (like many of us do!) and have their mugshot splashed on the cover of a tabloid.

Although anonymity is unrealistic in this day in age [sic], and that at a personal level it is an individual’s right to divulge their sobriety, I still believe it should be an ideal to uphold—at least in the public eye.”

Now, anyone who has been around AA for long enough understands what this person will tell those people who don’t “understand the program”: The offending person is either not a real alcoholic™, in which case the program could not possibly work (it only works on real alcoholics, ya know). Or, they did not properly work the steps, which is the only explanation for someone who fails a fail-proof program. And, of course, it will be peppered with the usual buzzwords of “angry” and “resentment.”

What really caught my attention was the irony of this AA complaining that using a singular example is a fallacious way of judging the whole program. It’s the “few bad apples” argument: Sure, there are rogue members who are either not real alcoholics™ or did not properly work the program, that go out on occasion and pick up a hooker or slap their wife around or fall off the wagon; but these are isolated cases. What you should do is focus on the millions of people who bettered themselves through AA.

We’ve all heard this argument countless times, both in AA and from AAs commenting on this blog. It’s another example of AAs wanting it both ways: on the one hand, they don’t want us to point out anecdotal examples of AA’s failure; but on the other hand, they want to hold up anecdotal examples as evidence, and as proof that AA really works. You know…cherry picking and special pleading. It’s among AA’s most ridiculous arguments, which is saying something for a group who thrives on the ridiculous. The entire program is based on the anecdotal, from its ‘Big Book’ scripture to the way they carry the message™.

 

 

Keep Coming Back!

(hat-tip:  hulahoop)

Why do “our betters”… I mean,  AA members protect the anonymity of child molesters and rapists? Who benefits from that policy?

Rapist: Lifelong Restriction Order

ROBERT Foye, 31, raped a 16-year-old girl in Cumbernauld in 2007 while on the run from an open prison.

He was serving a ten-year sentence for the attempted murder of a policeman and had been allowed out of Castle Huntly open prison, Tayside, to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

He had been sent to the open prison after serving five years for driving at a detective, despite being classed as at high risk of reoffending and having previously gone on the run from jail.
Two police forces were involved in the attempt to track him down but six days after he was reported missing, Foye attacked the teenager in Cumbernauld.

The judge in the rape case decided Foye was so dangerous that he should receive an order for lifelong restriction, under which he could be detained until the parole board deemed it safe to free him.

The court heard that Foye had planned the sex attack for some time and prepared a “rape kit” to help subdue his victim.

It was also told that he had been guilty of a previous sex attack committed when he was 15, although all of those claims were denied by his defence QC, Paul McBride.

Foye was told that he must serve at least nine years before the parole board could consider him for release.

Sexual Device Assault

Carolee Bildsten is an AA in Illinois who pulled the “dine and dash” routine at a Joe’s Crab Shack. I supposed she figured that since she has given crabs to so many others, it is about time for someone to reciprocate. When the police found her down the street, and took her to her apartment to get some cash to pay her tab, she attacked a cop with – I shit you not – a vibrator:

Police say Bildsten is charged with theft and aggravated assault for walking out on a restaurant tab Nov. 9, then using the plastic sex toy to attack an officer who was trying to collect the money.

I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

Bond revoked again in assault case

Sex Toy Assault: Woman Attack Cop With ‘Pleasure Device’

alcoholicsanonymous.org

From ZDnet: AA Not Awarded .org Site

Owners of the AlcoholicsAnonymous.org Web site have fended off a bid by the national organization to snatch the domain name, saved in part by a wide-ranging disclaimer on the front page.

I thought this was funny:

Alcoholics Anonymous had filed a claim with the WIPO board, which has the right to transfer domain names from one party to another, alleging the site’s owners were violating the organization’s trademark and using the site in bad faith. AA also accused the site’s owners, who used a fictitious name, of providing false information when registering the site.

The board, however, sided with the current owners Dec. 28, saying they posted adequate notification that the site was not affiliated with AA. Furthermore, the board noted, AA encourages anonymity and a decentralized structure.