I just followed a blog link that AnnaZed provided, which reprints a BBC article about a study by Dr. Keith Humphreys from Stanford, which says that,
Problem drinkers attending the faith-based Alcoholics Anonymous groups are 30% more likely than others to remain sober for at least two years, according to research published this month. The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found their treatment also costs 30% less than conventional cognitive behavioural therapy. According to lead researcher Dr Keith Humphreys, based at Stanford University, this is because it requires fewer hospital visits and admissions.
These articles always publish “findings” without offering any relevant details of the studies: who are the participants? Are they people who have been through treatment and have joined AA as an aftercare program? How were they selected? At what point in their recovery does this study start? Are these “problem drinkers” different from “real alcoholics” as AA defines them? Leaving us with these questions is standard as far as these studies go.
So, as I was looking around for the answers, I stumbled into a regular column published in the New York Daily News, by Dr. Dave Moore and Bill Manville. This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself reading their creepy, watered-down, lifeless imitation of “Click and Clack” for the evangelical 12-step crowd. Their forced banter is utterly impossible to follow, because it’s not a real conversation and it has the same agenda every time (“OK, you say this and then I’ll say that, so that we can fit this slogan in and make it seem natural…”). But I guess that if they weren’t pretending to dialog, the column would look exactly like what it is: run-of-the-mill, bald-faced proselytizing for AA.
They have new column out today called “Religion Isn’t for Everyone, But Spirituality Can Help in Recovery,” in which they pretend to be interested in some current events (Eliot Spitzer’s sex addiction). If you’re versed in AA coercion, the title of this article will be enough to fill you in on exactly where they are headed: AA is not religious, it’s spiritual, and here, let us help you skeptics define spirituality in a way that doesn’t freak you out. It could even just mean connecting with other people – that’s spiritual, isn’t it (yes, they actually trot out the old GOD = Group Of Drunks slogan)?
BILL: Anna David, author of “Bought,” a story of high-class Hollywood prostitution, tells me an addict “is someone who feels ‘I can’t stand what I’m experiencing right now and will do anything to change it no matter how terrible it makes me feel later.’ So recovery isn’t only about subtracting dope from your life,” she says, “but more important, learning to deal with your life so that you don’t ever feel the desperate need to get out of your skin or die.”
DR.DAVE: Which brings us to AA’s notion of spiritual values, doesn’t it? There are two 12-step programs I can recommend: Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous. Both put the same strong emphasis on spirituality as Alcoholics Anonymous.
BILL: Which — despite the great lip service accorded religion in everyday life — keeps many away from any 12-step program.
DR. DAVE: Don’t suddenly go shy on us, Bill. Didn’t you start out like that yourself?
Yeah, Bill, c’mon, tell us all about how a skeptic like you finally “got it.”
Their previous column is called “AA Alternatives: Do They Work?” The answer is “No.” In response to an “anxious wife” named Maude’s email to them, asking if there are viable options to AA for her alcoholic husband, Dr. Dave responds,
DR. DAVE: First of all, getting the facts right is critical. And a good place for Maude to start is the forthcoming September issue of Al-Anon Outreach Magazine. It will carry an article called, “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2010.“ It’s about the need to do more than just pay lip service to the fact that alcoholism is a family disease.
BILL: Maude needs facts, not just hope and hype if she wants to help her husband?
DR. DAVE. And help herself. For instance, she needs to know that alcohol does indeed relieve anxiety – so do Valium, Librium and the other anti-anxiety medications. Second, there are indeed treatment programs other than those that parallel the Minnesota Model 12-step philosophy.
BILL: I never thought I’d hear you recommend anything like that to our readers.
DR. DAVE: Bill, slow down. By offering an alternative idea, Maude sidesteps her husband’s denial, and opens the door to discussion.
BILL: Thus giving him a chance to compare different paths to recovery?
DR. DAVE: The 12-step “friendly” Minnesota Model helps the addict through remembering the pain of drinking; which is called covert sensitization. One popular alternative is called Chemical Aversion Treatment –
BILL: Which the ads call, “a Medical Procedure to overcome your cravings.”
DR.DAVE: Sounds great until you realize that the procedure is for you to drink alcohol, and then chemically induce vomiting. Every other day for ten days.
Did you get that? They promote acknowledging alternatives to AA as a bait-and-switch tactic, “By offering an alternative idea, Maude sidesteps her husband’s denial, and opens the door to discussion.” And Maude, armed with the “facts” she has culled from her Al-Anon magazine, will be prepared to lead this discussion straight into AA: “So, armed with these facts, Maude can help her husband see that these ten-day cures will not alleviate his basic ‘sense of impending doom.’”
What’s more, the only AA alternative they discuss here is some Chemical Aversion Treatment — which Dr. Dave calls “popular” — which requires you to vomit every other day. This is plain horseshit. They may as well say that one popular alternative to AA is to flap your arms and fly into the sun.
They have a limited space in which to completely invalidate any other recovery option, so they choose the most heinous of these, and still cannot make it sound worse than AA. Dr. Dave says, “the CAT program includes coming back for two-day follow-ups every six months the first year? That’s really something the addict can look forward to, isn’t it?” Yeah, two days out of every six months in the first year is so much more of an imposition, compared with 90 meetings in 90 days, regular meetings after that — for the rest of your life — relentless working of steps, service work, pairing up with some tough-loving, panty-sniffing whackjob of a sponsor, and no hope of recovery.