Posts tagged recovery

Alcoholics Anonymous and the Counseling Profession: Philosophies in Conflict

I was listening to Mike and Blame this morning on Massiveattack’s radio program, and Blame referenced this, originally posted in Journal of Counseling & Development. It’s an interesting read:

Alcoholics Anonymous and the Counseling Profession: Philosophies in Conflict

“Although AA believes in a medical cause for alcoholism, their treatment program is a nonmedical one that includes both social and emotional elements. At the core of AA’s treatment program lie the 12 steps. These steps were originally adapted from a Christian organization, the Oxford Group. The group emphasized changing one’s life and removing sin by passing through five stages known as the five procedures. These stages involved giving in to God, listening to God’s direction, checking for guidance, achieving restitution, and sharing (Kurtz, 1988). Continue reading Alcoholics Anonymous and the Counseling Profession: Philosophies in Conflict

Quote of the Day

“You too have a misconception of what AA is to it’s members,or at least to me. Alcoholic Anonymous is a way of life. Drinking is but a symptom of our disease….”

– Greg G. An AA, at the Daily Strength forum.


[You may also notice some comments in this thread directed at “cabledude,” (aka, JD; aka Mondotuna; aka Jerry) asking him to not be so snarky. He seems to have erased his comments, deleted his account and slinked into his troll hole. Don’t worry…we’ve got screen shots, and we’ll share his finest comments soon.]

A.A. Alfie: The Iron Man of Alcoholics Anonymous

A thread started over at the James Randi forum almost a year ago, and since that time “A.A. Alfie” has been trying to convince a group of skeptics that they aren’t seeing what they’re seeing, and that AA is not a religious program. They aren’t buying it, of course. I haven’t read through the entire year’s worth of comments, but Alfie seems to have knocked out multiple opponents with filibustering and quirky rationalizations. It’s an impressive display in stamina. He’s the Lou Gehrig of AA apologists.

I double-dog dare anyone to take this guy on. The first person to get him to concede a point gets a “One Day At A Time” serenity calendar, and my ever-lasting admiration.

Here is the original post that started it all:

Why Do People Insist AA Is Not Religious?

“I’m dealing with a spouse who has alcohol issues. His first therapist (social worker) told him to go to a Beginner’s AA meeting, and to “Keep An Open Mind.”

He went, and was instantly uncomfortable. Not only was Jesus Christ mentioned constantly as the Savior, but the meeting ended with, “The Lord’s Prayer.”

He related this to the social worker, who berated him for not going to a Beginner’s meeting. (Which it WAS listed as.) And then told him that, “The Lord’s Prayer” is not really religious, anyway.

My husband now sees a psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavior and doesn’t push AA.

Now I’m furious that MY new therapist is telling me that AA would be a good resource for my husband. “It’s not religious, it’s spiritual,” and “Your higher power can be anything at all, the ocean, even yourself.”

I’m not confrontational, and I tried to remember some of the advice I’ve received here about debating. I told her that I had done research on AA, that it had a 5% success rate, and that the Supreme Court had ruled that it was religious. Then I started to get emotional and told her that it was all based on a Buchmanite group designed to get people to accept Christ as the Savior, and that the Higher Power stuff was nonsense, since sure, it starts out as, “the ocean,” but ends up referring to God. And the “higher power” definitely CANNOT be yourself, since it has to be some outside force. As Henry Ford said of his cars, you can have any color you want so long as it’s black. Well, you can have any Higher Power you want so long as it’s God.

As former Catholics, my husband and I tend to get a bit touchy when religion is sold to us. It is very difficult to get away from, “Magical Thinking,” and I’ve been working so hard to restructure my thoughts, to think more critically, to learn about logic, and to question things. And it took a lot for me to “talk back” to my therapist about this, and I still feel guilty, like I should just accept it as good advice. Such is the mark that being a good little Catholic girl leaves on person.

I feel so angry that the majority of people don’t question AA at all.”

“My Name is Kyle, and I’m an Alcoholic…Oh, and I also Burn Down Buildings.”

An AA near Chicago has talked his judge into allowing him to attend his AA meetings while he is out on bond awaiting trial. It just makes sense that since his character flaws include burglary and setting buildings on fire, he should be focusing in on dialing down his drinking:

Libertyville man charged in arsons may attend Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings

“Kowal is accused of setting four fires and burglarizing the Picnic Basket Restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue during the morning of March 24.

No one was injured in the fires, which broke out separately in residences in the 200 block of Homewood Drive at about 3 a.m. and then about an hour later in the 200 block of West Cook Street, fire officials have said. Both of those homes sustained significant damage, authorities have said.

The third and fourth fires occurred sometime during the overnight hours in two unsecured garages in the 200 block of Homewood Drive and the 300 block of Laurel Avenue, causing minor damage to those properties, authorities have said.

Drobinski alleged that Kowal has admitted in handwritten confessions to setting the fires. Residents, including children, were asleep in all of the homes at the times the fires occurred, he said.”

I’m guessing his drink of choice was the “Flaming Moe.”

Getting out of Jail Free in South Bend

William C. Peterson is a sexual predator, but he is not a registered sex offender. Not yet, anyway. And as long as he continues his participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, he won’t be:

Former bank executive pleads guilty in sex case

The terms of Tuesday’s plea agreement require Peterson to, among other things, have no contact with the victim, continue psychiatric counseling, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, not reside within 1,000 feet of a school, youth program center or public park and not drink alcohol or use controlled substances. He must also report to the Adult Probation Department.

Bill P., in an interesting spin on steps nine and ten, pulled the “I was drunk at the time” excuse, and through his attorney, he expressed disappointment that the family of the victim would seek (through civil court) some amends:

“It’s very unfortunate they have chosen to go down this path where they have destroyed his life,” Pfeifer said.

Given Peterson’s alleged level of intoxication, “he can’t dispute that (the alleged acts) did or did not happen,” Pfeifer said.

What an assclown. But, hey…keep coming back!

Measuring Success

Steven Slate put up a really good post a couple of days ago over at his Clean Slate blog. I thought that I’d highlight it here for those who may have missed it. Read it, take notes, study it. There will be a test later:

Fake Success Rates: Retention and Completion

A Lying Toole

A former Pennsylvania judge and current member of Alcoholics Anonymous, with an aversion to paying taxes, is doing his darnedest to stay out of the joint – he is using the classic AA “abuse excuse” to to do so. Michael “I’m A Serenity” Toole, was caught giving preferential treatment to a litigant in an insurance arbitration hearing, in exchange for free use of a beach house:

Prosecutors say Toole helped Cardoni in an insurance case that was going to arbitration. Each side picks one arbiter, with the judge picking a “neutral arbiter.” Cardoni testified today that when he deliberately scheduled the hearing for a time he knew Toole would be the judge, and that when he approached the courtroom, Toole’s Tipstaff came to him and asked “Who do you want?” Toole then appointed the person Cardoni recommended as the neutral arbiter.

The government says Cardoni then rewarded Toole by letting him use a beach house in New Jersey the lawyer owned as an investment property, renting it out to tenants on a weekly basis. Cardoni testified Toole got free use of the house three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2008, though prosecution and defense both agreed the 2005 use should not be considered in the sentencing because Toole revealed it, not Cardoni, after being charged.

Prosecution says Toole seemed to Stalk Attorney Cardoni

Once he learned of a federal probe that might reveal his ill-gotten gains, Toole thought that he would cover his tracks by creating a fake paper trail:

Cardoni also testified that, in 2008, he began hearing about the federal corruption probe in the county and that he and Toole agreed they should create a “paper trail” to make it appear as though Toole were paying for the house. Cardoni said he estimated the rental value at $7,500 plus the $900 for the repair company, and that he gave that much to Toole in July 2008. After several failed attempts to get together, Cardoni said Toole met him in the parking lot of his office and that the judge gave him a check for $7,500 and a bank envelope containing $900 in cash. Continue reading A Lying Toole

Quote of the Day

“The deal with AA is that we don’t give a conception of God. Whatever conception you have is good enough to start. It is vital though, that one be convinced that they are alcoholic. Then we move on to the God thing.”

Jim, an AA and two-hatter, pulling the AA bait and switch routine on a “prospect.”

Trolling for Pigeons

A couple of years ago, Dexter Parker found himself in a bit of pickle. He was arrested for assault; or, as he put it, “I got into a little trouble with an ex-girlfriend.” I’m not sure if his girlfriend would characterize the incident in the same way, and I’m fairly certain she would not refer to it as “a blessing”, as did the author of this puff piece from the Lufkin Daily News in Texas.

In the two years since his arrest, Dexter has had trouble keeping his sobriety, so three and a half months ago, he entered a treatment program and joined AA. Now that he has been spiritually awakened, he has decided to  temporarily suspend his anonymity and the tradition of “attraction, not promotion”, so he could tout his own story, and use the local rag to troll for help in starting his own group.

You go, Dexter!

What Then, If Not A.A.?

If you found your way to this blog, you probably have a reason… And if the reason is that you’re having a problem with alcohol, I want to make sure that we can offer you something beside our obsession with tearing the ass out of A.A. We make fun of A.A., but we don’t trivialize the need to get sober or the despair that drives the need.

There are some links to alternative communities in the right sidebar of this page, which may be of help to you. But I also want to give you some more ideas about taking control of this, based on my experience and the experiences of others who have done this without A.A.

Now, I quit drinking without A.A., and so did the co-author of this blog. And so did many people that we know. We all had it bad, too – if you want to do something about it, it’s bad. The idea that, because we were able to do this on our own, we are not really alcoholics, is gobsmacking. No one can tell you what your experience is. You know if you have a problem. And you can quit drinking. You can.

The insidious thing about belief systems is that they are founded on fractions of truth, and A.A. doesn’t get everything wrong, despite the fact that it is seriously wrong. Not just flawed, but wrong. For instance, one of their slogans, “It will work if you want it to work” is right on.  What that means is that your intention to quit has got to be fixed. The fact that A.A. has the same success rate as nothing bears this out: The people who make the decision on their own to quit and the A.A.s who “want it to” have exactly the same success rate. What that demonstrates to me is that it’s about the decision you make and not about the program you work.

However, we have all had the experience of being determined to quit when we’re morbidly hungover, only to lose that resolve by midday as we get our legs back under us – vaguely wondering where the resolve went, but more desperately focused on the important task of getting back in the bag. I remember waking up seething with hatred for myself, incapacitated with hangover, skanky taste in my mouth, knowing that this was just another in an eternal string of daily promises I had broken to myself – and I’d surely break another one today. I felt utterly defeated by the knowledge that however badly I wanted it at that moment, I still didn’t want it bad enough that this would be the last day I woke up like this. It’s a nightmare.

So, what was the difference between one of those horrible mornings and the one horrible morning that it clicked? I’m not sure, but that was the day I asked for help. I joined an amazing non-denominational online community of quitters – some A.A.s, but most not. I journaled, played, argued, supported others, read a lot, and white-knucked it on this message board. I believe A.A. is a scam and a half, but that doesn’t mean that I am against asking for help.

Asking for help quitting is an enormous step toward committing to it, and I believe that the commitment is success itself.  If A.A. has a 5% success rate, which is equal to the success rate among people who choose to quit on their own, the only common element is the decision. If you’ve made up your mind, what difference does it make how you go about reinforcing and actualizing it? How you reinforce and actualize is your business. Committing to quit drinking is a commitment to honor your life, to move away from mediating every facet of your experience on this earth through an alcohol-induced stupor. 

A.A. doesn’t want you to commit to quitting drinking; it wants you to commit to working the program, so that you can quit. I really believe that this is completely backwards and inside-out. This makes quitting incidental to working the program: “It will work if you work it.” Remember, the stated goal of A.A. is to perpetuate the program.

I do hope that the distinction I’m making here is clear. In one scenario, you decide to quit drinking, then go about reinforcing that decision in ways that make sense to you. In the other scenario, quitting drinking reinforces the program, which is paramount. In the first case, “self-will” is your friend; in the second, it is your enemy. In the first, sobriety is something you take control of; in the second, it is a gift, given to you by the program.

Do you think it is more likely that you will achieve your goal of living without alcohol if it is a choice you have made for yourself, or if it is an elusive reward you have to negate and debase yourself to humbly receive on a daily basis, like a crust of stale bread you must be grateful to Someone Else for?

OK, enough of A.A.

I think the toughest thing about quitting alcohol is wanting to want it – wanting to be able to make the decision, but not being able to move beyond that point of desire and into energy. This is the foundation for any permanent change you make in your life. And since what we want from moment to moment changes, and since the addiction is a stronger muscle than your will – like your dominant hand: it’s the one that you use automatically – fixing and maintaining our intention to quit is not easy.

So, get some help. Get after it. There are many communities of sober people, who got that way, or are getting that way, without A.A. – join them and stay close. Plunk yourself right down and build your community. Find a counselor who is knowledgeable about addiction, but who is not invested in 12-step – seek and ye shall find. Make a list of your priorities (your children, your dreams, your health…) and keep it close. Write vividly about how you feel when you are hungover, and keep it close. Step out into the world, sober, and really celebrate your successes (not by crying through your drunkalog for the hojillionth time), by actually celebrating, reveling in and honoring your accomplishments, sharing it with your community. Set goals for yourself that are important to you, but that you could not do if you were drinking, like making your kids pancakes on Saturday morning… you know, life kinds of things. Watch movies that will make you laugh your head off. Learn to meditate. Get hypnotized. Volunteer at the co-op. Whatever floats your boat. Remember that even if you’re crawling out of your skin or sobbing in a corner, you will not die of it. Read a lot. Keep exercising your self-will until it becomes your dominant hand, until the desire becomes a decision, and you can finally say, “I don’t drink” and move on to the next case.

The biggest job you have ahead of you is turning that desire into a decision, once you make that decision, there’s nothing more powerful. That is how it’s done – and even A.A. bears this out. They’re right: you can quit drinking by praying to your Chia Pet, but you have to want to quit. You can put any nonsense before “but you have to want to quit,” and it will work, because that’s the key. Getting to the place where you want to is imperative, and can be a process – and it’s different from wanting to want to, or wishing you could — but this can be done. It’s hard, as is evidenced by the low recovery rate. But, there’s no such thing as your “last hope” or the “last house on the block.” You are not powerless; you’re just not used to being powerful, yet. Don’t turn it over, or let go – take it back. Don’t trade alcohol for aphorisms.  If you believe in a higher power, then believe this, too: there is no supremely enlightened being that wants you to debase yourself and throw away your uniquely human potential to create your life by being drunk or by living the rest of your life on your knees.