Posts tagged step 2

Bombshell! Higher Power Stymies Recovery

Put me DOWN!

Put me DOWN!

In January, Time reported on a new study that concluded that people in “spiritual” recovery programs suffered a greater incidence of depression within the first four months of beginning, compared with people in secular programs. If you Work the Program, I guess this is when you say, “That’s bullshit and you know it! Denial is not a river in Egypt! Sputt, sputt… pbbbbth… ” It’s also where you say, “What am I gonna believe? Science or my lying eyes?” And “People who work the steps are genuinely happier people.” And then you say, “What are you trying to accomplish by removing people’s last hope!?”

Anyway, it’s very, very interesting. I’ll try to find a source for the original study that doesn’t require one to pay $30:

Battling Addiction: Are 12 Steps Too Many?

In last month’s Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, University of New Mexico addiction specialist William Miller and his colleagues presented findings from two controlled trials in which patients underwent drug treatment. Some of the patients received spiritual guidance as part of the treatment — learning such practices as prayer, meditation and service to others, all of which are central to 12-step programs. Others received secular psychotherapy. Because of the enduring popularity of AA and similar programs that involve a spiritual component, Miller and his team expected the patients in the spiritual group to do better than those in the secular group. They were wrong — at least in the short term.

While both groups eventually benefited relatively equally from their treatment — abusing substances on fewer days — it took longer to see improvement among those in the spiritual group. What’s more, those who received spiritual guidance reported being significantly more anxious and depressed after four months than those who got secular help. Those problems abated at about the eight-month point, but because substance abusers are at high risk for suicide, some worry that it may not be a good idea to put them through demanding spiritual calisthenics in the early months of their recovery.

These results make plain sense to me. As is par for the course with A.A., their directive to hand yourself over to God’s will is contradictory. There is nothing spiritual about Steps Two and Three. They are the opposite of spirituality:

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

If you’re a Christian (disclaimer: I’m not), you have to believe that this is the kind of crap that Jesus came here to rectify. He kicked the ass of Leviticus and replaced it with The Beatitudes and The Golden Rule — he fought for this. He fought against the kind of panty-sniffers who would go around clutching a Big Book and spouting aphorisms, gaslighting broken people. Sincerely turning yourself over to a Higher Power means accepting your God-given birthright of self-will (Intention), and using that as your foundation to create your reality.

There is no God in A.A. It offers the opposite of God — as is consistent with its offering the opposite of everything it says it offers. It offers religion. As M.A. points out in his post, they know they’re dealing with broken people, and the method is to open the door and then wear them down:

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

In other words, eventually, these people will “get it,” no rush… just ease them in. This is gaslighting. It’s sanctioned crazymaking. And this “program” — with its 3% suicide mortality rate and its 0% success rate, is pretty much all we’ve got here. A program, which has no other purpose than to perpetuate itself, like a multi-level marketing outfit, is our go-to guy.

If you go listen to Bill Wilson on youtube, you will hear him say that the survival of the group is paramout. That’s nothing if not religion. Just because they say it’s not, and just because they say you can turn your life over to your pet rock, and just because they say that any of this makes sense, doesn’t mean it makes any more sense than saying that you can “take what you need and leave the rest” and “work the steps or die” at the same time.

The thing is that when you offer people “hope,” while simultaneously stripping them of their own self-will (power, intention), you’re deliberately setting up a soul-sucking scenario that legitimizes the very dynamics of a classic abusive relationship, and this will certainly foster depression. Perhaps these poor people are depressed until they “get it.”  And perhaps, once they “get it,” they are accepted, and once they’re accepted, the depression lifts.

I swear, if Jesus himself walked into an A.A. meeting, they’d tell him to take the cotton out of his ears, so that he can take some direction from the wormholed brain of the resident knucklehead oldtimer as he tells his drunkalog for the hojillionth time.

Now, if you take a different approach, which tells a broken person that they can heal, can overcome, and take complete control of themselves, that they can make a decision and choose to use a whole array of tools (of which God might be one), you’re honoring their spirituality and thus their humanity. And you’re giving them an exit strategy. (In A.A., there is no such thing as recovery.) They have hope combined with intention, and can see themselves actualizing themselves without the mediation of alocohol or religion. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Real freedom.

A.A. uses religion because its ultimate goal is to perpetuate itself — to protect the group. And if you think the fact that A.A. meetings are free, open to all comers, you have got to take into consideration that there are people who are very invested in your free meetings. Drug and alcohol counslors are trained in 12-step recovery, and recommend it as a matter of course; courts send people to A.A.; rehab centers use 12-step programs as their foundation; 12-step recovery is taught in higher education… There are people getting rich off of A.A. It is an enormous business that some people are very invested in — your depression be damned.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, or My Cat Answers All Prayers. Sometimes the Answer is 'No'

“And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.” – God

Those are some heavy duty words right there, and a person does not need to be a biblical scholar to understand them: Worship other gods, and you are going to spend all eternity in the place where the guy with the horns and a pitchfork conducts his business. Worshipping false idols is not just a sin, it is one of the biggies. Heck, it is probably the biggest of all, considering the fact that it is the number one sin on God’s top ten list. This leads us to Step 2:

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

A person of faith would have no problem with Step 2, at least in terms of accepting God as their higher power. It might get tricky if that person believes in freewill, and that God is not manipulating them from above, but I won’t get into that here. Take a critical look at how this step is explained to a stepper, and you will find it full of everything from blasphemy, absurdity and manipulation – a regular trifecta of cult goodness. Below is what Bill Wilson wrote:

“At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. Afterward, we found ourselves accepting many things which then seemed entirely out of reach. That was growth, but if we wished to grow we had to begin somewhere. So we used our own conception, however limited it was. We needed to ask ourselves but one short question. – “Do I now believe, or am I even willing to believe, that there is a Power greater than myself?” As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way. It has been repeatedly proven among us that upon this simple cornerstone a wonderfully effective spiritual structure can be built.” – The Big Book

In other words, ‘you may not be a believer now, but if you are willing to open the door to believing just a crack, that will do for now’. Once a person does their 90 meetings in 90 days, and are beaten down with thought stopping slogans and conditioned to believe that they are morally bankrupt, they are more likely to be converted to the real god. Sure, worshiping false idols is wrong, but in Bill’s mind it was justified, because he used it as simply a gateway drug to the ultimate objective, and that was a full conversion. “We had to begin somewhere”, he wrote. In his mind, the ends justified the means.

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

Giving oneself over to a higher power is one of the most common objections. Either a person does not believe in a god, or they don’t believe that they are puppets on a string to a god who suddenly will guide them to sobriety, but did not give a shit about them before they joined AA. The answer to this objection is a simple one. Ridiculous, but simple: “Your higher power can be anything you want it to be – a rock, a doorknob, a Pez dispenser, a tree, a penis, a rock band – whatever you want it be. The sky is the limit!” The most common suggestion is to make AA itself your higher power, which is really the objective, anyway. Here is a true example of this in practice:

Jill made her cat her higher power. Let’s apply this to the steps, and see how this works in helping here to gain sobriety (the names have been changed to protect the identity of the person and the cat) –

Upon admitting that her life is unmanageable, Jill…

• Came to believe that Fluffy could restore my sanity. (step 2)

• Made a decision to turn her will and her life over to the care of Fluffy. (step 3)

• Admitted to Fluffy, to herself, and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. (step 5)

• Were entirely ready to have Fluffy remove all these defects of character. (step 6)

• Humbly asked Fluffy to remove my shortcomings. (step 7)

• Sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with Fluffy, praying only for knowledge of Fluffy’s will for me and the power to carry that out. (step 11)

So, what Jill was told to do was turn her life and sobriety over to a house pet with the brain the size of a walnut. She was told this with a straight face from the other steppers that this was a great idea. In fairness to the others, I’m sure they felt this was rational thing for Jill to do. This is because once a person has been conditioned and beaten down by the group, the absurd seems normal. That is the very nature of a cult, and why it is impossible to reason with a stepper who has drank the kool-aid.


In a sad and predictable conclusion to this story, both Jill’s sobriety and Fluffy the cat were lost in the same night, when Jill fell off the wagon and left her front door open in a drunken stupor. Nobody knows where Fluffy is now. My guess is that she is no longer with us, which is not a bad thing. That would put her up in heaven, which is where a higher power really belongs.

There is laughter in this, but there is seriousness, as well. AA believes alcoholism to be a disease. Imagine this same form of treatment being applied to any other disease. How would you react if a doctor walked into your room and, with a straight face, told you that you did indeed have a heart murmur or alzheimers or clinical depression or cancer – and he told you that what was needed was for you to pick an object, group, person or or living thing of your choosing – to manage it for you. What if you objected, and he told you that was “stinking thinking” or “take the cotton out of your ears and put in your mouth”. How would you react? This happens in AA every day.