Posts tagged AA sayings

Tell Us Your Story

One common theme I have seen with former AAs is that there is often a moment of clarity when they finally agree with that voice in their head that something was amiss, and that the program that they had signed up for – a quit drinking fellowship – was indeed much more. Sometimes it is a single incident, like the actions of a sponsor, or something said by another member that was particularly absurd, that gave their head a shake. With others, it was simply the totality of it all, and they knew that if they were subjected to one more aphorism, or one more trite slogan, they felt like their heads might explode.

What was your moment? When did you finally have enough? Was it a particular event, or was it a process. I would be interested to hear from those who have left AA. A reverse drunkalog, if you will. What caused you leave, and what difference has it made for you.

Ninth Stepping With Tiger Woods

We knew it would come, and after three months of laying low, Tiger Woods has come out with his 9th step mea culpa. With all the sincerity of a guy who got caught, Tiger decided to make amends to those to those for whom he could give a shit before his harem of homewreckers came crawling out of the woodwork looking for their fifteen minutes. It was beautiful to watch. He listed out those he had harmed, invoked his religious philosophy, and with hand on heart, promised to keep it in his pants from now on.

It was a well crafted apology, hitting the points any good amends will contain, and though it didn’t include the required slogans and aphorisms – most likely because those editing it had not been conditioned by twelve-step programming – it was still unilateral,  as is any good amends letter, with reporters being disallowed from asking questions. Once Tiger begins to speak openly and off the cuff, the slogans should come rolling with ease of anyone subjected to 45 days on in-house rehab is able to do.

I must confess that I am ignorant of sex addiction treatment. Unlike standard 12-Step drug and alcohol treatment, sex addiction is not treated with complete abstinence. This would not be a problem for most guys in Tiger’s situation, considering the fact that he is married to a smoking hot Swede, and his trysts (at least the ones who went public) were with mostly butterfaced* skank. My guess is that Tiger would be a good candidate for Moderation Management. That might teach him that if he can’t keep it in his pants, he can at least keep it in his family — and he would not be subject to another humiliating episode of making a public amends.


*Butterface - Her body ain't bad, but 'er face needs some work.

A More Civil Discussion

One of our readers e-mailed us this link from of a couple of people debating whether or not AA is a cult. It was interesting, and included most of the points that have been discussed here ad nauseum. Of course, it was slightly different in tone, as neither person spewed any racial slurs or aphorisms.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

When Richard Heene, part time pseudo-scientist and full time wingnut, set his balloon adrift above the skies of Colorado and falsely claimed that his six-year old son was inside the thing, he did so with the expectation that he would not get caught. When he eventually did get caught, he made what appeared to be a heartfelt apology when, choking back tears, he said in court, “I want to apologize to all the rescue workers out there and the people who got involved in the community.” A month later he told Larry King, “It wasn’t a hoax.” He then went on to explain to Larry that his courtroom apology had been misinterpreted, and he wasn’t apologizing for trying to dupe the world, but was apologizing for causing people such an inconvenience. I’m not sure if this guy is a narcissist or a sociopath. I’m not a shrink, and there is a lot of wiggle room in diagnosing him. One thing I know for certain is that he is self serving, and his apology didn’t ring true to me, even before he pulled his 180 apology reversal on the Larry King show. Some things a person just knows, I knew that Balloon Man was only sorry that he got caught.

We see this type of public display of contrition with a lot with sports figures who get caught cheating, or public figures who get their hands caught in the cookie jar (or other their body parts caught in…well, you know). Mark McGwire, Eliot Spitzer, Mel Gibson, Lindsay Lohan, Charles Barkley, Ted Haggard, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart and John Edwards are among a long list of famous people who looked us squarely in the eye and told how sorry they were. Tiger Woods will be added to that list once he speaks to his handlers and public relations firm, who will advise him on how sorry he needs to be. The one thing they have in common is that they weren’t sorry until they got caught doing whatever dastardly thing it was that got them into a pickle in the first place. It is much like the time back when I was in grade five, and I got caught sneaking under Becky Johnson’s desk to get a peek up her skirt and at her unmentionables. Our teacher, Miss Scarborough, forced me to confront Becky and apologize. Sure, I was sorry – sorry that I got caught. Continue reading Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Unofficial, Unoffical AA Slogans

[This goes under my new category: Gratuitous AA Bashing. Alternately: kiss my ass.]

pollution sunset

pollution sunset

After having participated in many discussions with AAs, I have noticed that, while they often disown and dismiss their slogans, they also tend to be Carbon-Based Random Slogan Generators in their own right, responding to any given argument by stringing several slogans together in response to any criticism of their program.

A good case in point is the AA’s response I received in the comments to my Stinking Thinking post, in which the commenter politely handed me my ass for assuming that AAs treat these slogans as gospel, when, in fact, they are just guideposts — even while he unconsciously uses nonsense slogans to make his point, specifically: a variation on “None are too dumb for AA, but some are too smart,” and “One might accuse groups of ‘brainwashing,’ but the fact is, lots of brains NEED a good washing…” Using only two slogans in five paragraphs shows uncommon restraint, and I commend that. But I’m gonna address these.

Being smart isn’t anything to apologize for, as I’ve mentioned before. Neither is there such a thing as “too smart.” Smart is just a thing you are, like blonde or funny. Imagine telling a toddler he’s “too smart.” Not that I don’t get what they’re trying to say: AA works, but not if you sit around trying to analyze it until you suck all the God out of it, like taking the magic out of awe-inspiring sunset, by explaining that all the brilliant colors are generated by pollution.

And clever as it sounds, the brainwashing slogan is just bullshittery on so many levels, no matter how you interpret it, which could be a few different ways: First, “I’d rather be brainwashed than drunk, in jail, institutionalized, or dead.” (That’s a false dichotomy.) Second, “The antidote to my brainwashing is more brainwashing.” (Another false dichotomy.) Third, “Ha ha! So what if I’m brainwashed? I like it!” (“I know you are, but what am I?” To which there is no response, except “Honey? Hide the kids now.”) Fourth, they are making some kind of distinction between brainwashing (which is real) and washing one’s brain (which is not), which sounds kind of Yodaesque, but doesn’t make any sense at all if you’re smart. My gut feeling is that this slogan is simply damage control – a way of offering up just enough of the truth, in a light-hearted way, to diffuse further inquiry. Continue reading Unofficial, Unoffical AA Slogans

"Do I want to be happy, or be right?"

Bullshit slogan of the day:
“Do I want to be happy or be right?”

This saying is a real shutdown for anyone wanting to analyze the rationality of what they see in AA. Obviously, anyone attending AA is there because they want to be happy, but most people arrive fairly ignorant of how the program works. Until a person is fully indoctrinated into the collective thinking of the group, the contradictions and crazy behavior makes them think twice about what they have gotten themselves into. This is when a false dilemma like “do you want to be happy or right” comes in handy. It offers up only one choice, and implies that logic will make them unhappy. Then the recruit is told to “fake it ‘til they make it” because “pain is in the resistance”. It also helps to tell the person they are being angry and resentful. This keeps them on track as they work their way into the group conscience.

"There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem"

Bullshit slogan of the day:
“There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem.”

This is one of AA’s more ironic clichés. They profess alcoholism to be a disease, and then go about treating it as a moral failing. The Big Book was written in 1939, and since that time science has improved the treatment, or found cures, for just about every imaginable disease. Treatment for alcohol addiction is the lone exception, because it is the only disease where the primary means of treating has been a spiritual means. It is also the only form of treatment where those in charge are not interested in advancing and refining the status quo. This is understandable, because only science changes with greater understanding – religion does not.

The use of any prescription drug is frowned upon by hardcore AAs, who will tell a person that they are simply replacing one drug for another. Although there is a percentage of AAs who continue to take their prescribed medications, many are talked into giving up on their medication against medical advice. This might make little sense to those looking in at this from the outside, but for those within the bubble of AA (and those who have been there), it makes perfect sense. Once a person has gone through a proper amount of conditioning through Big Book study, 90 meetings in 90 days, following the teachings of a sponsor with no counseling qualifications and having the idea that the steps are infallible if a person simply “works them” – any questioning of the dogma (and yes, relying on means of recovery other than the steps is a form of questioning) is tantamount to heresy. There is a reason AAs are told not to think, and it is because reliance on an invisible higher power to rid them of their addiction makes as much rational sense as faith healing.

There are obviously psychological reasons for alcohol abuse, and there are certainly psychological consequences to it, as well. Those should not be discounted, but to say that alcoholism is not largely – and perhaps mostly – a chemical problem is ignorant. There are correlations between certain ethnic groups or within families, and alcoholism – and though we don’t necessarily know the specific cause of each of these, we won’t get closer to that cause if we simply acquiesce to the idea that entire populations of people have a collective character flaw. Native Americans have the highest percentage of alcohol abuse, but to say they are more morally flawed than other groups is as absurd as saying that Jews are cheap and black people are lazy. Yet, the approach that AA takes with their group that meets on the Native reserve ten miles from my home, is to tell them it is their moral failings, not their body chemistry, that are the culprit.
The operative word in understanding this cliché is the word “problem”. I have often heard that the first step is the most important, because without it, the other steps are meaningless. I agree with this. The need to quit drinking is the nexus of Alcoholics Anonymous. Without it, AA would be…well, the Oxford Group. So, alcohol addiction brings people there, and brings them back when they fall off of the wagon. It is the one commonality all members have, and it is also an ingenious tool to bring people into a cult. Most alcoholics, like myself, won’t address our problem until it has had a negative affect on our lives. We arrive to AA already compromised, at least some degree, so half the battle in turning a person over to the beliefs of the group are already won when a person walks in the door to their first meeting. There is no need for tactics like starvation or sleep depravation to help beat a recruit down, as many have likely done that to themselves already. The first step becomes the easiest, but after it is accepted, it becomes an afterthought, because drinking is not the “problem”, and step one is the only one that mentions the word “drinking”. The problem, and the primary objective of the group, rests in the next ten steps.

Bill Wilson discovered this almost by accident, as his original objective in joining the Oxford Group was a religious one. His motive was to adhere to the tenets of the group to rid himself of his moral failings and defects of character, and alcoholism just happened to be one of his. It also happened to be the failing that others within the group had, and like minds tend to gravitate toward each other. Alcohol addiction may have been their common trait, but recovery from that addiction was not their primary purpose. It was simply their moral failing of choice, their best recruiting tool, and the catalyst that morphed their branch of the Oxford Group into Alcoholics Anonymous.

The AA of today is no different, and though alcoholism is what brings people through the door, it is considered by those who run the show to be a symptom of the primary disease – that being original sin. Alcoholism is simply a symptom of our inherent moral failings, and treating the symptom is analogous to suppressing a cough and believing that it cures the flu. There is a cousin to this saying: “take the alcohol out of the asshole, you still have an asshole”. I think they should change AA to mean Assholes Anonymous. It just seems more fitting.