“In A.A. we do not tell anyone to do anything….”
– From AA’s website.
To understand AA, one has to learn – or should I say re-learn – a whole new set of terms and definitions. They have a unique definition for so many different terms, it is sometimes difficult keep up. So, I thought it would be helpful to create a new “DictionAAry” category in order to help those not familiar with terms.
I thought that I would start with a term that with which we are all familiar: Stockbroker.
Stockbroker [stok-broh-ker] noun – a huckster who was never licensed to sell stocks, never bought or sold a stock, never had a client, and was never an employee of a member of a stock exchange or any securities firm.
AA Eddie: “Did you know that AA was created by a stockbroker named Bill Wilson after he was confronted by God?”
Doubting Thomas: “Really? I thought he was just some unlicensed shyster who took part in ‘pump and dump‘ scams, and he saw God during a belladonna hallucination.”
AA Eddie: “Yeah…whatever.”
“James Woods puts in the most magnetic performance of his career in this stunning neglected classic. Normally known as a tough guy,Woods is profoundly affecting, and heartrendingly vulnerable as the charming and brilliant young stockbroker who succumbs to alcoholism, before going on to found AA, and help so many to find the strength to stay sober….”
IMBD movie review of “My Name is Bill W.”
“A.A. had its beginnings in 1935 at Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon.” – aa.org website on “The Birth of AA.”
“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.”
– from the ‘Big Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 24
The above was written in 1939, at a time when we knew little about alcohol addiction. Sure, we knew how it manifested itself, and we knew the consequences of addiction – but we did not know the true nature or the cause of alcohol addiction. Because of our limited understanding, all that could be done at the time to address alcoholism was to treat the symptoms. There were only theories as to what caused alcohol addiction. At that time, it was a widely held belief that alcohol abuse was a character flaw, and that those who abused alcohol were simply exhibiting their weak moral constitution. This was perfect for AA, as they took advantage of his belief, which thy exploited and perpetuated, just as they do today.
AA fills in the blanks of addiction ignorance much like religion fills in the blanks of scientific ignorance. With religion, “God did it” is the default answer to that which we do not (yet) understand. It is fallacious logic at its finest, and is in a nutshell saying, “I don’t know, therefore I know.” With AA, “spiritual weakness” is the default answer. Why does Mary D. insist on drinking when it continues to ruin her life? Simple. Because Mary is “constitutionally incapable” of being honest. This quote from the ‘Big Book’ states that “for reasons yet obscure”, some people have an inability to stop drinking, yet the book turns around and states that a “spiritual awakening” or “an entire psychic change” will relieve a person of their compulsion. In other words, they are stating that they don’t know why some people can’t stop drinking, but the reason they can’t stop is because they are spiritually weak — “I don’t know, therefore I know.” It is just one of the many contradictions which is AA.
In 1939 we did not know the cause of addiction, or why some people could control their drinking, while others could not. This is one thing the ‘Big Book’ had right, and at the time the it was written, a ‘spiritual deficiency’ was as good of a hypothesis as any. Closer to the actual cause was the allergy theory set forth in ‘The Doctor’s Opinion’. The doctor was wrong, but at least he was on the right track, and it was as good of a place as any to start to find an answer. Fast forward seventy-five years, and much of the ignorance we had about the causes of alcoholism have been answered. Any answers we have found in that time, and any scientific advancement made in the understanding of addiction, has been discovered in spite of AAs fighting it at every turn. It is difficult to advance when the primary group available to help alcoholics is only interested in the advancement of their fellowship, and imposing their a set of arcane religious beliefs.
We now have an understanding of the physiological effects alcohol has on the brain, including how alcohol affects the brain’s pleasure pathways, which were not even discovered until twenty years after the ‘Big Book’ was written. We also know, for example, how alcohol affects the production of dopamine for alcoholics, as opposed to non-alcoholics; and it is this understanding that has led to breakthroughs in the treatment of alcoholism. Knowing the cause allows us to treat the cause, and not just the symptoms, of a disease. One thing we know for certain is that alcoholism is not a spiritual malady, and it is not an allergy. Not that there are not psychological consequences to addiction. Obviously, there are; and it is obvious, as well, that psychological problems often serve as a catalyst, and as a reason a person begins drinking in the first place — but the addiction itself is now understood. It is not obscure.
Drugs like Campral and Naltrexone, which have shown to be effective for many in curbing or eliminating cravings, work on these pathways that have been affected by alcohol abuse; and for most, prolonged abstinence will allow these pathways to revert back to their normal function. This happens regardless of whether a person is working religious steps. The “psychic change” that is referred to in the ‘Big Book’, and is so often repeated by AAs, is simply a consequence of abstinence. A person whose brain produces and transmits the proper amount of dopamine and serotonin will feel better, and any intervention by a faith healer, hypnotherapist or any other pseudoscientific practice, is simply a placebo. AAs believe in the placebo because their feelings of well-being correlates with their AA attendance. It is really no different of a mindset as with Native American tribes who once upon a time practiced “rain dances”, which were proven effective by their anecdotal experiences of seeing rain after these dance occurred. These people were not crazy, but were simply working out of ignorance of weather patterns. These dances may still be a part of Native American tradition, but they are no longer practiced for the purposes of actually producing rain. Why? Because the science is in, and we no know rain dances don’t work. That is what science does. It provides us with an improved understanding of things, so we can advance to the next step.
AAs do not, will not, discuss or educate its recruits on the science of addiction, and it will not update its practices to work in tandem with current scientific research. Regardless of what actual science shows, they hold true to the idea that their addictions are a consequence of moral weakness, for which the answer lies in moral re-armament. This is the nature of religion. The world is flat if the good book says it is flat, and nothing can be done to change this belief. A person in AA who fails, is believed to have failed because they did not work the program properly, not because of any physiological problem in their brain. The person who fails, and has been told over and over that “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again, and expecting the same results,” is told to start once again at step one, regardless of how many times they may have failed before. Real treatment does not enter into the picture, and is more often than not discouraged if brought up to fellow AAs. Get right with God, and you’ll get right with your quit. This is the answer. the only answer. Science be damned.
The site is a clearinghouse for self-promoting charlatans… I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Sylvia Browne is the managing editor of their Living section. Not a day goes by that there’s not some kind of 12-Step bullshit in the headlines:
These 7 characteristics of the “dry drunk” can hit the recovering alcoholic hard in the honest light of sobriety. Because they may not know how to handle these realizations, they may use you as a punching bag for their frustration and discontent.
- Resentment at a spouse, parent or whomever that has made them stop drinking.
- Realizing that because of their drinking, they may have not realized goals, dreams and potentials.
- Wondering if it’s too late, or if they are even capable of achieving those goals or dreams.
- Because of their drinking where unable to sustain a loving relationship with a partner and subsequently never experience having a family of their own.
- Having to accept the wasted years due to drinking.
- Anger at not being able to venture out or challenge themselves for fear of failure. The alcoholic may not have had any normal life experience with failure and success, which in turn would make them stronger and wiser. Instead those years were consequently shut out of dealing with life on life’s terms due to the alcoholic addiction.
- Jealous of others for their stick-to-it-ivity, perseverance and strength. Resenting the family member or friend for their dreams and therefore not being supportive, questioning their ability to pursue their passion and dampening their spirit for success.
First off, if you don’t do the steps of course you go back out. Heck, if you don’t get a sponsor, and won’t do 90 in 90, and won’t do the steps, you were never in! How can you go back out? How can you relapse if you never attain?
When I was taken through the steps I was told that AA required constant and unending spiritual growth until I died. I was told that the character building never ends, and that I was responsible when a suffering alcoholic put out his hand for help. But much more than what I was told, it was what I was shown. My sponsor and his circle of friends were all in their late 60s, and they were 12 stepping machines. You could ask them any day what they were building in their character, and they could and did come right back with the answer of what they were working on.
My sponsor once drove through a hurricane to do a 12th step. Believe me, he wasn’t crazy, just willing. The person he went to told me that he arrived moments before the suicide. On the night he died my sponsor went out on a 12th step at 9pm, and died at 2pm. I might add that he died in his sleep, sober, serene, and loved by very many.
My sponsor was always taking people through the steps. When ever he made an assignment of any kind for a sponsee he went and did it again himself. He said he had seen too many old timers falling into telling people to do things they had long since stopped doing. This approach to serving and character building kept him constantly recycling the steps, and it caused him to apply AA principles in all his affairs.
To the best of my knowledge, all the people he sponsored are still sober. It is my intention to keep doing the actions he took, that kept him sober, and that gave him such a clean and serene end.
From a response posted yesterday on a year-old thread over at Friends of Bill called “relapse is ‘stinkin’-thinkin'”.
The original post is some bonus crazy:
We are speaking of those who are capable of being honest with themselves. Relapse is caused by a lack of spiritual development and we believe in a spiritual solution that recovery is completely and directly dependent on the integrity of the individuals spiritual program. It is not based on support groups from finite man, ((b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism..) but upon the individuals spiritual fitness- how well one “trust God, and cleans house”.
From the message board, humanspirit directs us to a discussion going on over at The Guardian right now. The title of the piece, by Dorothy Rowe is: “There Is No Addictive Personality,” and the question up for debate is
Is AA Right about Human Nature?
The AA philosophy that teaches that alcoholics have a chronic illness which renders them incapable of looking after themselves, and so they must submit themselves to a higher power, prevents them from being able to value and accept themselves. Resolving not to drink again has saved the life of many people, but this is like the situation where a sailor manages to get from his wrecked ship to rocks above the stormy sea but lacks the courage to cross the rocks to solid land.
Thank you, humanspirit!
It looks like FTG scooped me by posting this same article two weeks ago. I’m not sure how I missed it, but maybe I should start cutting the prozacs in half. I’m going to leave my post here anyway, because repetition is the best way to learn a subject, and because my commentary is wittier and funnier than FTG’s.
Here is a story out of Sacramento, California; where a District Court judge ruled in favor of Barry Hazle, a parolee who was forced to attend a 12-step rehabilitation program. I noticed that this article is in the ‘Religion’ section. Maybe one of our AA readers should write the Sacramento Bee, and explain to them how AA articles should be in the ‘Spiritual’ part of their newspaper:
As a condition of his release, Hazle was ordered to attend a 90-day, inpatient drug treatment program. He agreed to the program but even before his release told prison officials he wanted to be sent to a “treatment facility that did not contain religious components,” federal court papers state.
Instead, he was assigned to the Empire Recovery Center in Redding, a 12-step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous and featuring a strong religious overtone, utilizing references to God and “a higher power.”
When Hazle asked to be moved to a program that was not faith-based, he was told – wrongly, as it turned out – there was none in Northern California.
Donald Quinn sent in this post he found on craigslist from a poster called “anylengths.” Hopefully it will give Murray his fix of I don’t want what they have for today.
Just wanted to top post something . . . < anylengths > 04/29 10:56:50
For the bigbookbobs, mrbullshits and moldysaras to recommend against and malign an organization which has by the testimony of millions has helped them to recover from the depths of hells they can’t imagine is the most hateful, spiteful and unconscionable act of evil one human being can perpetuate upon another.
Over half a million people have died horrible and pathetic deaths from alcoholism this year already partially because of the likes of mr. bull_shit and bigbookbob.
These guys are accomplices to the murders of some of these suffers who could have recovered and lead full lives like many of us here and I really feel bad for these hate mongers because the universe is going to give back to them what they put into it.
Many mostly anti-AA’ers like smurf, spa, daeg, starfodder and the likes have either found for themselves or witnessed the absolutely remarkable benefits of 12-step programs (or just the fellowship part) in their own lives or the lives of others and have given testimony to that here, and yet you call them all liars, I just don’t get it.
Now the bobs, moldies and mr.bullshits are trying for some kind of martyrdom here in this forum by calling all of these recovering and recovered people here fucking liars and telling them that their personal stories are lies and not real and AA/NA hasn’t and never did help any of them?
Well, the universe is watching and I wish them all the luck in their pointless hate and chaos campaign they’re waging against the good souls here trying to help alcoholics and addicts to recover the way they’ve been blessed with recovery.
AA saved my life, my family and my soul and you calling me and the rest of us liars doesn’t diminish these truths in any way.
Remember kids, there’s always a price to be paid.
Here is an interesting article from the New York Times about about belladonna and its use in treating alcohol addiction. Bill Wilson used it when he had his famous “white light experience”. For any AAs out there who are working those steps with rigorous honesty, and have still not had their spiritual awakening, you might consider tossing a bit of belladonna into the mix. That picture of Jesus or chia pet or pine tree or whatever you happen to be using as your higher power, is sure to come to life:
On the second or third day of his treatment, Mr. Wilson had his now famous spiritual awakening. Earlier that evening, Mr. Thacher had visited and tried to persuade Mr. Wilson to turn himself over to the care of a Christian deity who would liberate him from the ravages of alcohol. Hours later, depressed and delirious, Mr. Wilson cried out: “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!” He then witnessed a blinding light and felt an ecstatic sense of freedom and peace. When Mr. Wilson told Dr. Silkworth about the event, the physician responded: “Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it.”
Here is a story out of Winnipeg about an AA whose character flaws include raping and beating women. His first victim was his ex-wife, who he met at an AA meeting. Naturally, AA welcomed him back with open arms. The second victim was another woman he had 13th stepped in AA and started dating, and though they had stopped dating, she remained his friend, and drove to his home to help him when he phoned her in a drunker stupor. She was met with this:
The man put duct tape over her face, bound her hands and legs together and then sodomized her. He also demanded she call her 18-year-old daughter to come over so he could sexually assault her while she watched. She was repeatedly beaten when she refused. The man also threatened to hit her with a lead pipe.
I wonder why this woman’s higher power™, an all-knowing AA god who was kind enough to take away her shortcomings and keep her sober, would not keep her out of harms way by advising her not to show up at this guy’s home to help him in the first place.
Ask a true AA believer, and you will be told this guy was obviously not working the program correctly, or he would not have been drunk in the first place. Or, maybe he was not a real alcoholic, as the steps only work for real alcoholics. What I wonder is why his higher power™, who was standing idly by, waiting for him to really start working those steps properly, would not step in and intervene in this situation. It seems like if He (the higher power) were going to allow this guy to victimize a person, He would have forced this AA to grab a bat or a baton and sodomize himself. Now that would be a higher power™ I could believe in.