Actually, Stanton Peele responds to David Brooks’ NYT response to Koerner’s Wired article, On the Huffington Post: “AA Isn’t The Best Solution: Alternatives for Alcoholics“
“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.
Ms. Elizabeth Peters is an arsonist. When she gets drunk, she sets fires. And in 2008, she burned down her neighbors’ houses. No, she didn’t go to jail for this. She got got to plea bargain, instead, because it turned out that her confession was inadmissible. So, what she ended up with is probation. And, naturally, according to the terms of her probation, she must not ingest any alcohol. (I wonder if she’s allowed to have matches.)
So, of course, she’s been drinking. She was hospitalized in October for drinking, and while there, admitted that wasn’t her first relapse. At this point, social workers recommended an inpatient treatment program, which she refused to attend (I don’t blame her for that). Now, the prosecutors want the terms of her probation to be honored — which would require her to spend five years in jail. In court, Ms. Peters admitted to violating her probation, and the judge decided not to enforce the mandatory jail time. Guess why. You get one guess.
Peters pleaded guilty Friday to the violation.
Den Uyl said that she technically had not admitted drinking, only refusing inpatient treatment. He noted that she spent seven days in the Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead in January and then completed a 26-day inpatient treatment program.
The judge noted that Peters has been attending weekly counseling sessions and daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“I am going to continue the defendant on probation, with strict compliance,” the judge said. However, he modified the terms of her probation to include random monitoring for alcohol use.
Obviously, Alcoholics Anonymous has not been working for this woman. Because. She. Is. Mentally. Ill. This is a woman who sets fires to other people’s houses when she drinks, and she is still drinking. And she’s going to Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every day, where people give each other phone numbers, socialize, and visit each other’s homes. Sounds like
Does it seem to anyone else that they are going about this assbackwards? So… the arsonist drinks, and that’s a big problem, of course, but not as big as the part about where she sets houses on fire. Seriously, there is something else going on there, right? She burns houses down. I don’t know what approach is appropriate for arsonists (long-term, intense, very specialized, psychiatric treatment — and keep her off the streets), but it seems like that should be the priority. This is clearly a case where the alcoholism is a symptom of some more enormous imperative. Forget the spiritual awakening: snap an alcohol monitor on her, and treat her for mental illness.
The founder of a California 12-step treatment facility has been arrested and charged with rape. Lance Glock, who owns the Johnson Sober Living House along with his wife, decided to take time away from her to have a sexual encounter with another AA:
The 27-year-old alleged victim was the only prosecution witness to testify at the preliminary hearing for Lance Glock, co-owner of Johnson Sober Living House.
The woman testified that in August she and Glock took a motorcycle ride into Azusa-Canyon, where she said he forced her to perform oral sex.
After leaving Azusa-Canyon on Glock’s motorcycle, the woman testified, Glock brought her to another one of his sober living homes in Azusa and raped her.
“I said, `No, you’re hurting me. Ouch. You’re hurting me. Stop,”‘ the woman said. “We think and we blame ourselves, but this is not my fault.”
The woman said she initially told the owner of a competing sober living home and another woman about the alleged rape during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in September.
Not knowing the facts of the case, I have no opinion as to whether this guy committed a crime or not, but I do know that at a minimum he abused his authority and status in AA in order to receive sex from an AA subordinate who was not his wife. Even if this is not rape, it is 13th stepping to the degree of which Bill Wilson would be proud. Of course, in true AA style, he paints a different picture of himself on his website:
“Lance believes a Sober Living community is an integral part of the process of recovery, and that sober living helped him to become a better person, teaching him compassion and concern for the well being of others. He says sober living houses offer viable, tangible solutions for homelessness, starvation, employment, and an opportunity to learn to care for the well being of others.”
This is standard AA nonsense, and this piece of shit – who boasts 23 years of being in Alcoholics Anonymous – is typical of the narcissistic jackasses who serve AA as old-timers and role models. The saddest part of this story is that it is not uncommon. I’d bet my dog that his isn’t the first time this asshole has done this sort of thing, but hopefully it will be the first time he is held accountable.
The Associated PressSaturday, May 15, 2010
WINSTON-SALEM — A North Carolina judge ordered the release of a man who spent 20 years in a mental institution after being found not guilty by reason of insanity of killing four people and wounding five others in 1988.
Judge Steve Balog ruled Friday that Michael Hayes can be released with conditions, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. Continue reading Keep Coming Back!
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!
Humanspirit just posted this in the comments, but I want to turn it into a front page post, because it is an important perspective that’s been missing from this blog. Thank you, humanspirit. –ftg
My name is humanspirit, and I’m not an alcoholic. But I am appalled at the way the AA 12-Step program is allowed to stand in the way of anyone’s attempts at get real help for alcoholics or addicts. It is disgraceful that AA, with its worse than useless program and cod religion, has managed to establish itself as the only organization to help alcoholics or addicts.
So, not being an alcoholic, why do I feel so passionately about this? It’s because the man that I love descended so deeply into chronic alcohol addiction that he could hardly function. Because he knew he was dying, and would die if he carried on much longer and was crying out for help – any help – which wasn’t forthcoming despite our best efforts. It’s a long and very sad story. I moved out of our mutual home because there was no way I could cope with it and could still carry on going to work, etc. He wasn’t violent; he wasn’t nasty – just hopelessly addicted. The sight of him, sitting in the garden in the early morning light, clinging to his bottle of wine in a silent, confused daze, day in, day out, absolutely broke my heart. Continue reading humanspirit talks about Al-Anon
One of our readers, Cuda, aka “Leadfoot”, who we regretfully had to ban from the site – participates in a forum largely dedicated to this blog, how they don’t care about this blog, and to dispelling some of the “myths” they believe we are perpetuating about AA. He took time out from his serenity and non-involvement in outside opinions, to ask this question, which is too lengthy and full of straw men to answer in a single post. It does, however, ask an important question about the constitutionality of forced AA attendance, so I thought that I would answer that part of it here it here, in the first of a multi-part series titled “Answering Cuda’s Long-ass Question”.
OK Dunces! You’re convicted of a crime. You drank and drove your car.
You were convicted. With your convictions you have forfeited certain “Rights” guaranteed by The Constitution.
We’re sorry you decided to accept the offer of AA or Jail.
Quit bitching! They made an offer and you took it.
Just for the sake of playing along with your game we’ll post the 1st Amendment and see if you can cipher it.
Here it is!
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.
So find it!! Where is sending you to AA a violation of the Constitution.
Now, I am assuming that by the word “cipher”, Cuda actually meant “decipher”. I mean, that would really be stupid to cipher it. Right? Sure. Of course, it doesn’t really require deciphering, either. It is written in plain English, and is very clear. I think what he wants us to do is to explain where in this amendment it is that forbids forced participation in AA. OK, I can do that. Continue reading The EstAAblishment Clause
Jessica Lobig tried to juggle parenting with a prescription drug habit, and that combination has landed her in jail. The probable-cause affidavit says that just before midnight Thursday, Boynton Beach Police found the 24-year-old mother passed out in her 2007 Honda pickup truck, sweating profusely, with tin foil on her lap and a plastic pipe in her mouth. Lobig’s 2-year-old child was in the back seat, also covered in sweat.
The affidavit says that police woke Lobig, at which point she told them she’d been “smoking blues” — the street term for roxycodone. Lobig told police that she’d come from an AA meeting in West Palm Beach but that she had pulled over after getting in a phone argument with her boyfriend. Police found Xanax, roxycodone, oxycodone, and marijuana in her car.
Lobig has been charged with child neglect and possession of illegal drugs.
Odds that more AA will be included in her sentence?
From the Associated Press: “When John Patrick Barton was in prison on his third drunken driving conviction, he was not among the thousands of inmates nationwide who undergo alcohol and drug treatment behind bars each year. 15 months later and out of prison, Barton is accused of driving drunk again. This time, authorities say he plowed his car into another, killing a woman and her teenage daughter in a Dallas suburb on Easter.”
This has caused a stir.
Not for lengthening the sentences of chronic drunks who drive. No for giving them expensive therapy in prison.
The backstory is that Texas has cut funding for addictions treatment programs in its prisons, and so John Barton, who served 15 months in prison for his 3rd DUI, didn’t receive any treatment.
Surber has a common sense solution:
Texas is looking to cut costs. I have an idea: Bring in Alcoholics Anonymous.
I’m just wondering what treatment program that woman and her daughter can go through to make them alive again.
Keep coming back!