Posts tagged grapevine

Picking Cherries

David Colman just wrote a piece on anonymity in AA, in which he breaks his own anonymity [Challenging the Second “A” in A.A.]. I don’t really have a opinion on his opinion, other than to say that it is a thinly veiled puff piece that omits many of the ways AAs use or break  their anonymity in order to promote a specific agenda. I posted on a few of those ways here a few months ago. Of course, I could never make my point as well as our resident troll, JD, does when he wrote:

“You do have some idea how many judges and lawyers are solid AAs, right? They are a firewall against this kind of thing. And the members in all the media. Plenty more in government than you can imagine. Plenty in the medical and all science professions, lots of people highly placed throughout business, ect [sic]. Like any facinated [sic] groupies you keep track of entertainers, but there are a ton you’ve no clue about.”

At least with this New York Times writer, he was open about his affiliation with AA — although I wonder if he would have disclosed his AA affiliation had the subject of the piece not been about anonymity itself. As JD correctly points out, many of the stories promoting AA and 12-Step recovery are written by AAs who never disclose their AA memberships.


What interested me more than the piece itself, was this bit written in the comments section. Specifically, the second paragraph, which I have emboldened:

“As a member of AA for many years, I have always understood that keeping anonymity (especially at the level of press, media and films) is not only for the well being of single members, but for the group as a whole.

When an individual identifies as a member of AA in the public, and then proceeds to relapse over and over again or engage in other “bad” behavior (stealing, lying, cheating, hookers), people who do not understand the program will often use that individual as an example of how AA doesn’t work.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to defend the institution, which saved my life, because some celebrity decided to go blabbing about their “membership” only to relapse (like many of us do!) and have their mugshot splashed on the cover of a tabloid.

Although anonymity is unrealistic in this day in age [sic], and that at a personal level it is an individual’s right to divulge their sobriety, I still believe it should be an ideal to uphold—at least in the public eye.”

Now, anyone who has been around AA for long enough understands what this person will tell those people who don’t “understand the program”: The offending person is either not a real alcoholic™, in which case the program could not possibly work (it only works on real alcoholics, ya know). Or, they did not properly work the steps, which is the only explanation for someone who fails a fail-proof program. And, of course, it will be peppered with the usual buzzwords of “angry” and “resentment.”

What really caught my attention was the irony of this AA complaining that using a singular example is a fallacious way of judging the whole program. It’s the “few bad apples” argument: Sure, there are rogue members who are either not real alcoholics™ or did not properly work the program, that go out on occasion and pick up a hooker or slap their wife around or fall off the wagon; but these are isolated cases. What you should do is focus on the millions of people who bettered themselves through AA.

We’ve all heard this argument countless times, both in AA and from AAs commenting on this blog. It’s another example of AAs wanting it both ways: on the one hand, they don’t want us to point out anecdotal examples of AA’s failure; but on the other hand, they want to hold up anecdotal examples as evidence, and as proof that AA really works. You know…cherry picking and special pleading. It’s among AA’s most ridiculous arguments, which is saying something for a group who thrives on the ridiculous. The entire program is based on the anecdotal, from its ‘Big Book’ scripture to the way they carry the message™.



Serenity Meltdown in Virginia

Darrell Robertson, an AA in Virginia, seems to have a bit of a temper:

RUSTBURG — A Campbell County man who went on a rampage in April 2009, burning down his sister’s home, then breaking into an ex-girlfriend’s home and beating her with a shotgun, was sentenced in circuit court Friday to 13 years in prison. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Beth Doucette called 40-year-old Darrell Robertson “an extreme danger to the community,” and noted he had previously knocked out his own mother’s front teeth in a fight and threatened to burn down her home, too. According to testimony in an earlier hearing, Robertson came to his sister’s home on Bear Creek Road on April 13 from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with a bottle of vodka, “dead drunk,” Doucette said. Robertson punched his sister in the mouth. When she left, he burned down her home.

This was the second time this jackass has gone into a serenity meltdown. The first time he received a suspended sentence, no doubt because he started going to AA and turned his life around. Now he can attend meetings behind, but he’ll almost certainly be back in the rooms when he gets out.

Keep Coming Back!

Campbell County man sentenced for beating, arson

Not God

Below is a response by FTG to a question posed by Pretzl, one of our readers. It is a fairly common question, and I thought the answer was particularly good. Others have suggested we highlight the answer, so I thought that I would post it here.

From Pretzl:

“I am curious… there seems to be a lot of “happy” people in AA.. not allof course but there are those who the program seems to be working for. Is it the G-d thing that bothers so many on this forum?

I’m asking because of the blanket statements made on here.. AA is bad..period. There has to be some happy folks doing it or how could it have lasted so long and the peple I see in there seem to be happy. Everyone on here acts like its all phony–can that be so?

Now if someone says, “I don’t like it because G-d is espoused then I can understand. But how about those who bel;ieve in a G-d–maybe it’ll work for them…seems as though it does.

I don’t know.. seems kinda strange that theres so much anger toward AA when all I hear are people who are living a much better life….”

FTG’s Response:

It’s not that people believe in God. We have no opinion about what people believe. The problem is this:

Of course, AA will insist that you need not believe in God. They say that you only have to believe that you are not the most powerful thing in the universe. There must be something out there in the universe that makes you feel humble. Now, that makes sense for a minute, until you delve into it a little. You might not be stronger, say, than a tank, or even just some guy with bigger muscles than you. And you might not be able to produce as much energy as the sun. You can’t generate a tidal wave by the sheer force of your will. So, if you don’t believe in God, you can at least believe that there are things out there that are more powerful than you. Right?

That is, if, by power, they mean sheer enormity, or the ability to kill you or to generate gravity, then the notion that you’re not the most powerful thing in the universe makes sense. It makes sense only until you get to the part where you must turn your will over to this power greater than yourself. Then you have to ask, “Is there any power greater than myself to make changes in my life?” A lightening bolt can split a tree in half, but it really has only that one schtick. Lightening can’t change your heart or mind or behavior in any meaningful way. You’re the one who does that. There’s nothing more powerful than you are to make decisions for yourself and take action in your life. Except God, if you believe in God.

So, let’s be real. They don’t mean Higher Power ™. They mean God. Nothing but God has more power than you do to direct your life. If a person in AA does not believe in God, they are led to God in deceptive increments.

And once you come to believe that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity, even if you can’t bring yourself to call this power “God,” the fact is that whatever you call it (doorknob, G(roup) O(f) D(runks), the tree in your yard, Buddha, your child, plate tectonics) — hear me, now — whatever you call it, it will have to behave the same as every other AA member’s Higher Power ™.

It will have to be able to restore you to sanity and replace your will with its own. Many people’s religious beliefs cannot abide this turning over of will. Even Christianity cannot reconcile this: God gave Christians free will so that they could choose to live in accordance with God’s will. Salvation depends upon self will. The God that Christians believe in does not expend his energy finding convenient parking spaces for them or sprinkling their oatmeal with cinnamon. And imagine going to church and being told that you can believe in your pastor or the congregation until you can believe in God. It’s straight up blasphemy.

I’m just using Christianity as an example, because many of us are familiar with it, but this is not the only spiritual tradition that is utterly incompatible with the idea that a person should reject the divine gift of self-will. So, the premise behind the imperative to believe in a power greater than yourself, whatever you want to call it, is disingenuous, at best, and intentionally deceptive at its core. In order to work the 12 Steps, your Higher Power has to do exactly what every other AA member’s Higher Power ™ does: it has to accept backsies on your free will and replace it with its own, upon request; it has to acknowledge AA’s conception of “character defects,” and have the inclination to consider removing them. You can call it what you want to – call it the Great Spirit, or call it nature, or Yahweh – it doesn’t matter. The choice of superficial characteristics is a distraction from the fact that it better do what it’s supposed to.

So, just to be clear: Yes, the “god thing” is a problem because there is a very specific AA god, and it is revealed dishonestly. If you want proof of this fact, read the chapter on Agnostics in the Big Book. It is a piece of unabashed bait-n-switch salesmanship.

And here’s another problem with the “God thing.”

AA has promoted itself – by deliberately violating their own Traditions – to the point where it has become just another sentencing option in the courts. In order to make AA work for you, you have to undergo a religious conversion. You have to have a spiritual awakening. The courts have no right to sentence people to that. In fact it’s a violation of the First Amendment, and it has been ruled thus by the 9th Circuit. AA has been deemed, by the courts, to be a religions organization, and it has no business in at all in public policy.

Regarding your question about the happy people in AA:

I’m not ever going to argue that there aren’t happy people in AA, or that there are people who genuinely believe that AA has saved their lives, and are personally fulfilled by giving back to the program. They’ve found something that gives their life meaning, and that makes people happy.

Then again, AA member’s happiness is not much of a standard for judging AA’s effectiveness. I mean, Jehovah’s Witnesses are all pretty blissed out when they knock on your door, too.