“…An alcoholic is different biologically, psychologically, and spiritually different than a normal person. There are chemicals in their brain that make them sensation seekers and predestined to addiction.* Their bodies’ metabolize alcohol and drugs differently releasing chemicals into their brain, which in turn makes them, crave more. Their perspective and view of reality is twisted and before the alcohol was introduced. My alcoholism, which still exists, was a symptom of the real problem. I knew what the consequences were, but I could not stop. I was beyond human aid, nothing I or anyone else tried worked for me. God has done for me what I could not do for myself….”
– Brian Vanderhook, an AA. In the comment section of Scientific American.
[This was in response to a comment by Raynsy, and it was so jaw-droppingly ignorant, I thought that I would highlight it here. Thanks, Ray.]
*Preddictionation [prēˌdikSHənˈnāSHən] noun – the divine foreordaining of a person’s alcohol addiction.
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
“Well I have done well with not drinking and working the steps has keep me sober for sixteen months. But succumbed to cigarettes when I found myself hanging with sober people who almost all seemed to smoke. I didn’t smoke before I joined AA….”
– Dime, An AA, commenting in the nicotine addiction forum at Sober Recovery.
OK, let’s try and follow this thread from Sober Recovery properly. “Dime” quits drinking in AA, with the help of his higher power™ and his chain-smoking sponsor. But he then starts a smoking habit with the help of his sponsor and peers in recovery, and he is now addicted. Now Dime wishes to quit smoking, and as luck would have it, he has to go no farther than the forum next door – where he is told his keys to quitting are in the hands of his chain-smoking sponsor, and his higher power™ who was so busy with his drinking problem that He/She/It neglected to keep him from getting addicted to nicotine in the first place. Here is Tony B’s sage piece of advice:
“Believe it or not…. Sponsor is the first place to start. He’ll keep you grounded in all this. Once you have a plan, then it’s all up to your HP to make it a reality.”
Here is an article out of the BBC about research out of the University of North Carolina. Scientists have found what they dubbed the ‘tipsy’ gene, which partially explains why some people feel the effects of alcohol more than others. There has been no word yet on the discovery of the ‘serenity gene’, but we’ll keep you posted:
‘Tipsy’ Gene Could Help Curb Alcoholism
I found an interesting comment on the story I linked a couple of days ago about Glen McGuire, the convicted con artist who is running a 12-Step rehab centre in Hamilton:
“Please excuse my ignorance but doesn’t Canada have a law that would prohibit an convicted person from running a treatment centre? Talk about the perfect situation for a criminal…bring valnurable people to them to get into their heads and exploit their weaknesses. Only in Canada. That is why criminals come to Canada.”
This is a legitimate point, and illustrates the ignorance most of the population has about who runs the show in AA and at treatment mills. This reader rightfully assumed, as anyone would, that felons like Glen McGuire and sex offender Lance Glock would be disallowed from running these places. The sad fact is that there is no oversight, no regulation, and no accountability for these sociopathic types. It is the perfect storm for someone wanting to exploit those who are often desperate and in need of help, and it is no different in Canada or the United States. In fact, in the U.S., AA is one of the very few places where convicted felons are allowed to congregate. It’s a breeding ground for these assholes.
“…A pill may in fact be able to help an alcoholic drink less…but will it make him stop lying, manipulating, cheating…maybe he’s still judgemental, scared of commitment, holding on to negitive things from the past that are crippleing him… You have fun with your pills…an opioid at that…the same substance found in pain killers that kill more people a year than cocain and heroin combined….”
– An anonymous AA member commenting on an article about Naltrexone in The Windsor Star.
Project MATCH, which stands for Matching Alcoholism Treatments to Client Heterogeneity, is the largest and most expensive ($27 million) multi-site clinical trial of different forms of rehab treatment to date. The idea of the study was to determine the effectiveness of matching specific forms of treatment to the individual characteristics of the patients. Three forms of treatment were studied: Twelve-Step Facilitation Therapy (TSF), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET). The finding of the study showed a positive result for all three groups, including TSF. Here is the original press release from the NIH. So, the study validated the hypothesis, and all was right with the world for those advocates of AA and the 12-Step approach.
Continue reading How Alcoholics Anonymous Lies With Front Groups: Project MATCH and Hazelden