Posts tagged Amway

Willy Loman’s Higher Power [UPDATED]

“What’s the toughest sales challenge you can face?  Denial.”

AA teaches that when someone is in denial, you can’t win them over with facts.  You can’t convince them with data.  Every time you try, the walls go up.  The ‘prospect’ says, “that’s not me.  I don’t have that problem.”  It’s the same thing that happens to you when your prospect says, “I don’t have a security problem on my network.”  Or, ”We don’t need better processes.”  Or, “We’ve got good visibility into our situation/data/environment already.”

From “What Alcoholics Anonymous Can Teach You About Messaging,” at CorportateVisions.

By the way, did we just get sucked into a black hole?

[UPDATE] It’s not just salespeople who can learn a thing or two about selling garbage from Alcoholics Anonymous. The church is also taking a lesson!

Alcoholics Anonymous, The Twelve Steps and the world of recovery at large represent an untapped and highly valuable resource for the Christian Church. Not only can the church learn a great deal from AA about the nature of addiction, but also about the reality of how God works in the lives of troubled people. In this sense, AA can help the church rediscover a great deal about itself, much of which has been sadly lost, at least in the majority of the church’s current mainstream expressions. Specifically, AA can recall to the Church its understanding of the human condition as intrinsically impaired, of God primarily as rescuer and of spiritual growth as a cyclical rather than linear phenomenon. AA also offers an extraordinary model for how those understandings play out on a corporate and organizational level. [Emphasis mine.]

AAmwaying the Alcoholic

Yesterday, one our readers wrote:

“As to “corporate AA”, I think it would be hard for me to care less than I do. I tried Amway about 15 years ago and ditched it when it became apparent that it wasn’t about selling soap; it’s about getting other people to sell soap for you. The analogy breaks down at that point because I don’t see a significant money trail in AA, but again, I don’t really care. The only money I’m expected to put into AA is the 50 cents in the piggy bank if I want a cup of coffee.

In my experience, AA meetings are a place where I can be with people who used to be desperately sad, hope-less drinkers who couldn’t stop their self-destructive behavior. And now we aren’t like that any more. And some poor schlub who is *now* where I was *then* might ask me how I got from there to here, and I can tell him.”

We appreciate the comment, and sincerity and thoughtfulness with which it was written. I wanted to highlight it, because I know that Amway has been compared to a cult, much like with AA. Cult expert Steve Hassan does not have Amway categorized as a cult (nor does he label AA a cult), but he does believe there are disturbing practices, and he shows how it fits into his BITE model. Like AA, it doesn’t meet all of the criteria, but it does meet most. Read through Hassan’s description of Amway, and see if you find any similarities.

I thought it would be interesting to compare Amway to AA, and in the process I found this analysis of Amway as a cult, written by a former Amway distributor. This person uses the criteria of a destructive cult, set by Robert Lifton. It is plain scary how similar the groups are to one another. Below I’ve taken some relevant parts of this analysis to compare to the AA experience: Continue reading AAmwaying the Alcoholic

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Any program where almost everybody fails is in need of an effective recruiting strategy in order for it to sustain any sort of growth. Walk into an AA Chapter that has been around awhile, and the room might look like a nice mix of a few old-timers, some people who have been sober for two or four or six years, and a larger percentage of people who are fairly new to the group. This is deceptive, and when an AAer says that they know the program works because they have seen too many people in their meetings, who have been sober for too many years for it not to be effective, then that person is most likely telling you the truth. Or, should I say, the truth as they see it. The problem is, they either have no understanding of basic statistics, or they have not made an effort to run the numbers.

To fully understand this, all one has to do is imagine a chapter that has been newly formed, that consists of 100 brand new members. Within three months, half will disappear; after six months three-quarters are gone; and after one year there is only five left standing. (source:aa_triennial_survey) There are three ways of keeping the rooms full to replace so many dropouts: one way of filling the rooms is with court ordered attendees, but is actually a small percentage of AAs; the other is to feed them in from 12-step rehab clinics; and the other is to use manipulative recruiting and retention tactics. The third way is how AAers utilize step twelve, and they do so with instructions right out of The Big Book that would serve Amway proud. Like Amway, AA instructs their members to be deceptive about the nature of the organization:

When dealing with such a person, you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice he may have against certain theological terms and conceptions about which he may already be confused. Don’t raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are.” The Big Book, Chapter 7

There is another curious quote from Chapter 7 of The Big Book that demonstrates AA doublespeak – “Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion”. Why would this be part of the recruiting instructions if this was not religion? Why not also instruct the AAer to tell the prospect they aren’t there to instruct him on football or weaving or politics? It specifically tells them to deny it is religion, and the reason is because it is religion, and that will be an obvious objection. The instructions continue:

Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer.” The Big Book, Chapter 7

How do they reconcile the the above with their 11th Tradition that states that AA is a program of attraction, and not promotion? They don’t. It’s just another contradiction with the big contradiction, which is AA.

Orange Papers on the deceptive recruiting tactics.

The Big Book, Chapter 7  Working With Others

OK. Here’s the Thing about Alcoholics Anonymous…

I recently wrote this post on another message board, but thought that it might be relevant to repost it here on this blog, to explain why this subject is important. It’s easy for AAs to dismiss people who spend time trying to shine a light in there — trying to warn people and offer options — as cranks, disgruntled AAs with resentments, vicious people who don’t care about that one alcoholic who might be saved… I always want to ask these people what, exactly, they think we’re doing. Do they think that the criticism is completely random? Pointless? Without foundation?

I’m never gonna get an answer to that question. But, by way of explaining myself here, I thought I’d copy this post.  Some of my opinions have changed slightly, and names have been changed to protect the innocent. –ftg

The issue that some of us have with AA and 12-step “programs” is not their spiritual component or the fellowship it involves. You will notice that no one denies anyone their spiritual fortification in this fight [against addiction]. No one scrutinizes your church, say, or takes issue with anyone who would use their personal spiritual path as a foundation for their sobriety. It has to do with the 12-step industry – and despite the fact that meetings are free, this is a powerful industry that makes money, and the conventional wisdom is that it is a sound treatment for alcoholism. There are many addictions therapists trained in 12 step. There are rehab facilities that rely on it exclusively. Courts order people into AA. Therapists who have no training in addictions will recommend AA to their clients.

As I said before, it is the standard, but it is not held to any of the standards that other disease treatments are held to. I hope that this distinction is clear. It is not about any one person’s personal experience with AA. Consider, for instance, the many times you have heard from people who have had negative AA experiences (myself included). The typical response from AAs is to say that the negative experience is an exception. In other words, anecdotes, in these negative cases, are brushed off – while positive anecdotes are treated as all the proof one needs that it works.

In fact, because AA is both an industry and a spiritual fellowship, there are many contradictions that members have to get right with. It demands cognitive dissonance. For instance, they will say that you can take what you need and leave the rest; no one is forcing you to do anything — but at the same very same time, will say that “there’s no middle road” as far as taking the First Step is concerned. These contradictions are endless.

Now, the thing is that, in order to perpetuate itself, AA must maintain a certain fundamentalism. In that sense, it operates like a Multi-Level Marketing outfit (which also has “sponsors”). It has to be able to be duplicated on the lowest levels of the company, scripts must be followed — like a franchise. You have to be in it to win it. As they say in MLM, you can’t fail if you work your business. They say that the whole point of the MLM (like Avon, say) is “women helping women” (or alcoholics helping alcoholics, see?). They will tell you that you are free to manage your business as you see fit, because it’s your business; but at the same time, they push the idea that if you actually want to succeed, you will follow the plan.

If it were a free-form spiritual fellowship community, and if the 12 steps (and all the jargon, slogans, traditions, etc) were merely a guideline, this wouldn’t be the successful industry that it is. Similarly, most of the people who join an MLM are going to fail at it — just as they will at recovery with A.A. They haven’t worked the program. The business model is sound. It cannot fail; it can only be failed. If you don’t succeed it’s because you didn’t commit to the clear plan laid out for you. And the bottom line of an MLM is to duplicate itself as many times as it can.

Anyway, there are many things I think we can agree on. I think that we all want to see people succeed in their fight against their addictions; we want to see innovations in addictions treatments; we care about each other here, and wish only success for each other. We respect each others paths and personal spiritual beliefs. We also do not disagree that spiritual fellowship with other alcoholics can be the foundation of one’s recovery, if it jibes with one’s belief system. We agree that A.A. can provide something important to some people. Those of us who question it are not trying to discourage people from going.

What we are trying to do is point out that the fact that, because AA is not considered spiritual fellowship, but is treated as a program, and not just a program, but the program, 1. people’s expectations of AA and themselves are distorted (“It works if you work it.”), 2. as long as it is treated as the program, then courts, lay people, therapists, and families, will continue to insist upon it, and 3. addicts will see it as their last hope for recovery, and statistically speaking, they will fail, as will their hope.

How about if we get real about what AA is? A few people are concerned with that one alcoholic who might have pinned his last shot at sobriety on AA, read this thread [which turned into a debate about the effectiveness of A.A.], and throw in the towel. However, if we are honest about what it is — if A.A. were honest about what it is — there is no reason for this to ever be the result. As long as A.A. is considered the last hope, it is just as likely that this one person, who pinned his last hope on A.A., ends up finding that it just isn’t for him, and loses all hope for recovery.

If we could lift this taboo, shine the light on AA, show what it is and what it isn’t, which would allow addicts, counselors and families to make an informed decision about it and to be realistic about what it can (support) and can’t (treatment, cure) offer them, perhaps both hope and innovations in actual treatment could thrive.

One major contradiction I see here is that people who are invested in A.A., and who insist that it is not treatment, not a program, but rather a spiritual fellowship, get very upset when it is pointed out to them that — they’re right — it is not effective treatment. How can you both deny that AA is treatment and then get upset when studies show this very fact? If you want to say that A.A.“works” then you have to deny that it’s a just a spiritual fellowship. But when it is pointed out that it doesn’t “work,” then the hackles go up, and the response is that it’s not supposed to “work;” it’s just fellowship. And I’m really not understanding why scrutinizing A.A., in light of the conventional wisdom about it, should be threatening at all. The scrutiny does not effect, one way or the other, whether it is meaningful or appropriate for you. But the scrutiny would certainly effect approaches to addiction treatment positively in the recovery industry, which is what we all want, I think.