Letters, We Get Mail, CXXXIII
by A. Orange

Date: Thu, July 2, 2009 8:37 am     (answered 21 July 2009)
From: "anne i"
Subject: interesting article


So many people have different opinions about the subject or addiction, but it seems to me that change is in the air?! That many people are demanding something better than AA. When the truth starts to become: people w/out treatment do better (I believe it) because between the times I would binge & the times I wanted to be sober (I was better w/out AA) doing it alone. I believe one reason I got so sick at AA is because it took me so far down the wrong path in relationship to (my truth & the truth) & left me lost on the trail. After the love-bombing (one-two years) AA did turn abusive on me & abandon me (during the last year).

I have found my way back to the path of reality. I don't worship either of you like people do AA, but I know both of you saved my life from AA. All the things AA was saying & doing to me (verbal crazy making like Patrica Evans talks about) and then denying doing were items that both of you have exposed the truth to the light. The truth is where sanity lives.

PS: I do not know if I sent this to Mike? but this is what a Dr. put my sister on after she finally quit her psych meds (I have nothing against meds if they work & they are the right ones, but I do have something against meds if they are screwing a person up worse!) My sister has been on them a month & she notices a huge improvement. I have been trying them for a week & feel better. You don't take them forever maybe 3-6 months. Just wanted to share.

Many Thanks for helping people leave AA!

Hi Anne,

It's good to hear from you. Thanks for the letter and all of the compliments. I'm glad to hear that you are feeling better. It brightens up the morning cup of coffee to hear that I was able to help in some small way.

I totally agree about the meds — if they are helping the patient, then that is good. If they are hurting the patient, then discontinue the medications and find something better. And that is just what competent doctors do.

Have a good day and a good life.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Medicine, the only profession that labours incessantly to
**      destroy the reason for its existence.
**         ==  James Bryce

Date: Sun, June 21, 2009 8:45 am     (answered 21 July 2009)
From: "Noel"
Subject: Few typos

Hi Orange,

I've been trawling through your site again with the intention of doing some amateur proof-reading.

Here's a couple of typos/spelling mistakes I have noticed.

In your essay 'Heresy of the 12 Steps', you have Bangladesh spelt Bengladesh, likewise Chechniya should be spelt Chechnya.

In 'The Bait and Switch Con Game', in your description of Bait and Switch no. 32, you have a quote from 'Pass it on'. 'Pysical' should be spelt 'physical'.

I hope all is well.


Hi Noel,

Thank you very much for the sharp eyes. I've looked at some of those darned typos for years and never saw them. Well, they are fixed now.

Yes, I am well, and you have a good day too.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    If error is corrected whenever it is recognized,
**     the path of error is the path of truth.
**       ==  Hans Reichenbach

Subject: aadeprogramming address
Sender: anonymous
Date: 16.07.2009 18:35     (answered 21 July 2009)

aadeprogramming has a new address:


Hide my e mail address please!!!


Hi Anon,

Thanks for the tip. I'm glad to see that Ken is keeping that stuff online.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Our ideals, laws and customs should be based on the proposition
**     that each generation in turn becomes the custodian rather than
**     the absolute owner of our resources — and each generation
**     has the obligation to pass this inheritance on to the future.
**        ==  Alden Whitman

Date: 17.07.2009 03:26     (answered 21 July 2009)
Subject: Hello and Thanks
Sender: Simon

Hi Orange,

I've been reading your excellent work for a few weeks. In truth, I was first here about 18 months ago. At that time I was fully embroilled in AA, racking up a few months sober, getting drunk again, in and out of treatment, hating 12-step meetings but dragging myself along 2 or 3 times a week. I was desperate to stay sober and, though I just couldn't see how the 12-steps had anything to do with staying sober, I believed what I was being told by health professionals, counsellors, family, friends and of course other steppers; that AA was the only way and that it would work if I worked it, and that if I didn't work it I would die. I sat in endless meetings staring at those faded 12 step scrolls desperately trying to understand what the steps had to do with staying sober. I think also that I wanted to find somewhere where I "belonged". I'd never really felt that I belonged anywhere before. When I found I didn't belong in the rooms either I became seriously depressed.

When I first visited your site back then I still believed that AA had to be right and that I was the problem (after all that's what I was being told by "professionals"), I admit I was angry with you. I wanted your research to be flawed (of course it's not), or I wanted to conclude that you were nasty, mad, resentful, not really an addict/alcoholic, dry drunk, etc. etc. After all you are regularly accused of all these things by 12-steppers, many of whom seem not to have given your site more than a cursory glance (not even your autobiographical notes). I see now of course that you're a decent, intelligent, compassionate guy (and an animal lover too) who dares to tell the truth about the 12 step cartel which is failing addicts and society so shamefully (shamelessly?).

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the compliments.

I went to my last AA meeting about 9 months ago. I never really decided to stop going. I just found myself doing some other good stuff in my life which was clearly going to help me stay sober and couldn't find the time for tedious, depressing meetings. In fact until a few weeks ago I still found myself thinking, with some guilt "Perhaps I should get to a meeting sometime." Now I know I will never go to a meeting again. In fact to do so would undoubtedly jeopardise my sobriety. Coming to your site has helped me reach that decision, so thanks for that.

You are welcome. Personally, I think that going to another meeting would be just an unnecessary pain. I have a hard time silently sitting through all of the opening lies, like "RARELY have we seen a person fail...."

One experience you related did particularly strike a chord, so I thought I'd mention it. I can't find the comment in your letters section now, but you'll be able to date it because you wrote it on your 5th sober anniversary. You were wondering whether to go to your first NA meeting in ages to collect a 5 year chip (did you go?). You just couldn't bear the thought of people taking the credit, on behalf of NA, for your clean time.

I never went and got that coin or keytag. Or any others, ever again. I finally managed to let go of my attachment to drunk junk. Then, at the 7-year point, a friend who is an ex-member sent me his 7-year coin, just for the hell of it. I suppose that might be the last one, ever.

Now I sat in meetings for more years than I care to remember, looking miserable, bored and anxious (because that's how meetings made me feel). Then, as I mentioned, I found other things in life that lifted my negativity and helped me to stay sober. In one of the last meetings I attended some guy noticed my happier disposition and commented on it. "You look happier these days." I said "Yes, I am, thanks." You can guess his response. "You see. This program works." I was angry at the time. Not any more, It helped me realise just how totally irrelevant the program is to my sobriety.

Incidentally, I don't think chips, coins, keyrings are handed out so much here in the UK. One has to go to certain specific meetings to collect them. The only one I have is a Cocaine Anonymous newcomer's keyring. Now I've put a whole lot of nasty chemicals into my body over the years but amazingly have never taken cocaine, despite its apparent ubiquity here in London (detectable in the river Thames). I was in a treatment centre and attendance at all 12 step meetings was mandatory. Even people there for eating disorders, traumatic disorders or just depression were pretty much forced to attend. So I was pushed up at the end of the meeting to collect my keyring and a round of applause. How crazy. In the view of the 12 step evangelists in the treatment industry there is no problem that cannot be solved by the program. That's very sinister, not to mention the vast amounts of money, both public and private being poured into ineffective recovery programs. Still, better for me not to get on to the subject of the treatment industry scandal. I'll be here typing all day. Another time maybe.

About, "there is no problem that cannot be solved by the program." Yes, it's a real snake-oil cure-all, isn't it?

(I don't know if "snake oil" was ever popular over on your side of the pond, but in the USA, during the Wild West days, it was a popular quack's cure-all potion. Snake oil would supposedly cure anything. Of course, it was highly questionable just how many snakes were actually in that "snake oil"...)

Sincere thanks for your efforts.


Thanks for the thanks, and you have a good day too.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     There are some frauds so well conducted that it would be
**     stupidity not to be deceived by them.
**         ==  Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon, 1.96, 1825

Subject: thanks for your writing
Sender: Lynelle F.
Date: 17.07.2009 11:17     (answered 21

Found your writing on Craig's list. Went to your website. Very happy to be able to read your work.

— Lynelle

Hi Lynelle,

Thanks for the note. I just recently learned that there was a bunch of posting about A.A. and recovery on Craig's List. Until then, I thought it was just a forum for people buying and selling used stuff. Funny how these things evolve and morph.

And you have a good day too.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and
**     you help them to become what they are capable of being.
**         ==  Johann W. von Goethe (1749—1832)

Date: 18.07.2009 08:31     (answered 21 July 2009)
Sender: Nathalie


I just read this excerpt of your writing on amazon:
and I must say it expressed exactly what I felt 8 years ago at an AA meeting and yesterday at an SLAA (sex and love addicts). The room was full of women who, in my opinion, are in desperate need of thorough psychological or psychiatric help, myself included. And all they did was "share" for five minutes, repeat the indoctrination steps, and give up to a higher power.

First I thought it was only sad, but today I think it's actually dangerous. I wrote an e-mail to the chairwoman but she probably will not understand what my objections were.

Anyway, I enrolled in a program of a scientifically based psychological institute, which helped me cure my OCD. No groups, no higher power, just working hard at leaving destructive patterns.

I am gonna read your website to avoid making the mistake going to AA, NA, SLAA or whatever anymore. I am glad both at AA and SLAA one meeting was enough for me to see what they are all about. I am 8 years clean and sober now, with the help of plain old cognitive therapy.

Keep up the good work.

Kind regards,

Nathalie, the Netherlands

Hi Nathalie,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments. And I'm glad to hear that cognitive therapy helped you. That's good stuff, isn't it?

And you have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    Health and intellect are the two blessings of life.
**       ==  Menander (c. 342—292 B.C.) Monostikoi (Single Lines)  

Date: 18.07.2009 13:33     (answered 21 July 2009)
Subject: Orange is my new favorite color!
Sender: Rick

Just stumbled upon your site looking to prove to a friend that Bill Wilson wrote most of the Big Book, not the so called 100 drunks. I'm talking about the first 150 pages. I think you proved me correct.

Hi Rick,

Thanks for the letter.

Yes. Henry Parkhurst wrote the "To Employers" chapter, and Joe Worth may have helped to co-write "Bill's Story", but the rest was written by Bill Wilson (although Dr. Bob's daughter Susan says that Bill was such a bad writer that other people had to rewrite a lot of it).

Holy crap! What a web book. I'm sober 20 years and credit the fact that I made friends that don't drink to long term sobriety. It's too bad there is so much BS along the way in AA. I have not gone to many meetings in the last 15 years.

Yes, friends who don't drink are a big help. First off, you don't have to explain to them why you aren't drinking. They already know. Then they don't expect you to drink, and they don't think you are strange if you don't drink with them. It just makes things a lot easier.

I recently started going to OA meetings because my eating is messed up. (Sugar was my first addiction, if that's possible.) OA is even more messed up because most of the people are FAT. I never saw a drunk at an AA meeting, but lots of fatties at OA. I think I can lose weight out of spite by going to those meetings, and I might just make some formerly fat friends. Unfortunately very few thin OA's don't believe that they got thin by putting down the fork. They are more into the cult than AA's.

That is what Elayne Rapping reported in her book about "the Self-Help Movement":

"In every case in which I saw an OA member dramatically "recover," she became radically religious in ways I found disturbing."
The Culture Of Recovery; Making Sense of the Self-Help Movement in Women's Lives, Elayne Rapping, pages 121-122.

Thanks for the book. Spite can be a powerful tool. I'm going to lose weight just to show those sanctimonious bastards!


PS Maybe if I join a gym I can make thin friends, but that's no fun, it makes too much sense.

Thanks for the laugh.

Yes, spite can be powerful. More than once, I've thought, "I can't relapse. I can't give those bastards the satisfaction." And I didn't.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     There is only one success — to be able to spend your life your own way.
**        ==  Christopher Morley

Date: 17.07.2009 13:41     (answered 21 July 2009)
Subject: News from the front
Sender: allan

Hi Terrance,

Hi Alan,

Speaking out about the insanity that is 12 step ideology masquerading as treatment continues to not win me any friends in the 'treatment' community. At this point, I'd say it's hurt my career more than helped it. Steppers really do not like their snake oil criticized especially when it's lining their pockets.

One of the places I work receives a lot of referrals from a local outpatient clinic that's heavy, heavy into AA ideology. There have been a few times, when patients from this clinic speak in such self-defeating AA-speak and/or falsehoods that I find myself challenging their disempowering belief system and presenting a few facts. I have never told a patient not attend AA or to leave the treatment center. I have never uttered a single negative statement about the treatment facility in question. And bear in mind, this clinic is so steeped in AA they still use parts of the Big Book in their curriculum! How far gone do you have to be as a supposed professional to read from that book ALOUD and then REPRINT it for handouts?!? It's like 1982 over there. Haha. Most of the counselors sound more like glorified sponsors than clinicians and spend more time talking about themselves than the people they're supposedly treating.

Yes, and the "treatment program" that I went to featured a "First Step" that was just a xeroxed section of the Narcotics Anonymous training manual. The funny thing is, it looked a lot more like the Fourth Step, because the clients were supposed to list in detail everything that was wrong with them. There were lot of forms and lists to be filled out with your various faults and shortcomings and crimes. Then you were supposed to read it all aloud to the rest of the group. (And that's a non-confidential Fifth Step.)

Fortunately, my "counselor" got sick, and was replaced by a substitute counselor who did things differently, and I never did that part of the "program". Maybe that helped me to succeed. There was less damage to the ego to repair.

By the way, the "counselor" who pushed that confession program on his clients is the one who went to prison for raping children.

Apparently, my views got back to the owner of the agency who subsequently called the owner of the group I practice with and stated that if he didn't put a muzzle on me all referrals would cease and desist. I was mildly reprimanded and encouraged to be "more middle of the road." I didn't bother answering the charges as my employer was probably more concerned with his own bottom line than any ethical/clinical issue.

Wouldn't "middle of the road" be dividing the clients' time between A.A. and Scientology training?

Of course, the glaring issue (at least to me) is that it is perfectly A-OKAY for their 'clinicians' to present AA and only AA as a means to 'recovery' at the expense of anything else. It is of no consequence that they are AA members. No conflict of interest there, apparently. Strange times, that I am the one out of line. My experience has been that this sort of practice is the norm in 12 step facilities. There is virtually no room for any other school of thought that conflicts with steppism.

Yes, it seems to be the norm. Paul Roman and Terry Blum at the Institute for Behavioral Research, Athens, Georgia, did the National Treatment Center Study Report in 1997, and they found that 93.1% of all treatment centers in the U.S.A. used the 12-Step approach to treating alcoholism and drug addictions.

I find myself biting my tongue more and more, just in order to stay employed. The brainwashing shell-game that is the 12 step industry is such that the outspoken critic, in this case me, is viewed as the extremist. I wonder what kind of reaction the first guy to speak out against segregation got.

Yes, probably about the same.

When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly perposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.
— Dresden James

Interesting personal note: just got in touch with my birth father's family (I was adopted.) His sister tells me that he has cardiomyopathy and is basically drinking himself to death. Can't get a transplant because he won't quit drinking. He monkeys around with his coumadin in order to drink more. His father was also heavy/problem drinker. So that's at least three generations of alcohol dependence. The third being me. Also interesting that my adoptive parents, who have raised me since birth and were/are great parents, were never anything more than light social drinkers. Evidence of the genetic link? Looks that way.

Yes, it looks that way to me too. I'm third-generation too.

Also interesting is that there are SIX generations of doctors in the family history and several generations of musicians. I'm certainly not a doctor but as a licensed clinician I count myself as a member of the helping profession/health care world and prior to my clinical work I was a performing musician in NYC, a singer-songwriter. Pretty wild.

Did you ever get in touch with Charles Bufe?

Not yet. Every time I look for his email address, I don't find it. I thought I had it real handy, but I don't.

How are you and how is your summer going?

As usual, please refrain from using my last name. I get enough heat as it is. It's not all bad news though. I got my blue belt in jiu jitsu (a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that, I can assure you) and, more importantly, got married for the first time a couple months ago!


Congratulations on the marriage. I hope that goes well.

I'm doing fine. I have a nice suntan, and have been feeding a bunch of goslings and getting more good photographs. Most of the goslings have grown to nearly adult size now, and have gone upriver, so I haven't seen much of them in the last few weeks.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  The fact that there are many fools who tell lies does
**  not mean that there isn't such a thing as truth.

Date: 20.07.2009 03:45     (answered 21 July 2009)
Subject: Staying off alcohol
Sender: Lynn C.

Hi Orange, Thank you so much for your papers. I have attended AA off and on now for almost 36 years and have remained on and off alcohol for 36 years. Yes, I guess you will agree with me that AA DOES NOT WORK. I too questioned all their psychobabble and pseudo crap for years — in my mind of course because if one dares to speak aloud you will be shunned — and told you are "in denial" whatever that sack load of shit is supposed to mean.

No, I am not a bad person, I do not need to confess all my sins, certainly no more than the next person, I do not have a higher power (even if it is a No.9 bus????!!!!!!!!!!) yes I have actually been told to believe that. I do not need religion, I do not need to hear any more of their stories, interesting they may be at first but its like seeing a film or reading a book twenty times, one gets BORED. I do not need to attend any more dreadful meetings that tell me "keep coming back". I am a perfectly rounded human being, I am a totally fabulous person that likes socialising with friends, family and workmates. I love parties, I love going out for meals, I have brought up a beautiful daughter who is a credit to me. I work, I have a stimulating and wonderful hobby, I have loads of wonderful friends, I have a supportive family who love me. I am popular and a happy, healthy person who loves life.

BUT................. I have found that alcohol for me is a problem, when I drink it I find I cannot stop at a reasonable level but have to go on and on, like you said until I make myself very ill, or even die, although hopefully not yet. I have tried many times to give up alcohol myself and have succeeded for weeks and even months. The longest I lasted was 5 years. I just wonder if you have any magic ingredient in developing a mind-set to get off the stuff completely. I just feel I am missing out when I abstain completely, yes I know its all an illusion and that the bad times are not worth the good. I know loads of people who have given up totally on their on accord and live very happy, healthy lives thank you very much. I just think perhaps I even need hypnosis, this is the only path I haven't tried.

Got any hints and tips.


PS I gave up smoking in 2006 so I'm not that weak!!

Hi Lily,

Thanks for the letter, and I hope you are well.

Yes, I have some hints and techniques.

  1. My favorite technique is being aware of what the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster is doing. Quitting is one thing; staying quit is something very different. And I found that it was almost invariably the stupid Lizard Brain Addiction Monster that got me into trouble when I was tempted to have a cigarette or a drink after I had quit. He would whisper things like,
    • "We've got it under control now. It's been so long since we've had one, with no cheating whatsoever, so we've got it under control now."
    • "We deserve to relax and have just one now. It will be okay."
    • "Just one won't hurt."
    • "I'm so stressed out right now, I just need a little hit of something to get things on an even keel."
    • "We are missing out on the good times when we completely abstain."
    • "We are missing out on all of the good stuff in life, so let's join these other people and have a good time."
    • "Heck, you only live once, so let's live it with all of the gusto that we can."

    Then he will use brain-damaged logic like,

    • "Look at all of those people drinking in moderation. So we can do it too."
    • "Cigarettes aren't hurting those people. They are in perfect health."
    • "Time to return to normalcy and be like everybody else."
    • "Time to come home to the good times."
    • "Why say why?"
    • "There's nothing wrong with a vacation once in a while."
    • and on, and on...

    Above all, remember that the Lizard Brain's thoughts are not your thoughts. He will try to fool you into believing that his thoughts are your thoughts, but they are not. He is just a thirsty little toad who will do or say anything to get you to do what he wants. But he is not you.

    For me, understanding that the little voice in my head that demands a drink or a smoke IS NOT ME helps a lot. I can see that the Addiction Monster has his own agenda, and he will do anything and everything he can to get me to smoke and drink, but he is not really me, and his thoughts are not my thoughts.

    That's really important: His thoughts are not my thoughts.

    Also, His wishes are not necessarily my wishes.

    So read that page on the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster. I find being aware of what is happening there to be a life-saver.

  2. Then another thing that really helps is remembering the pain and the damage that was caused by alcohol and tobacco. I have a very basic gut-level revulsion to alcohol now, because parts of my body remember how sick alcohol made me, and how much it messed me up. When I am tempted to drink, remembering the pain and the damage quickly kills any desire to drink.

  3. Then there is that great slogan,

    "Just don't take that first drink, not ever, no matter what."

    I live by that one. It's totally true that if you don't take the first drink, then you can't drink too much, and you can't get into trouble with alcohol, and you can't get readdicted.

  4. And then there is thinking about the future: Thinking about all of the negative and painful things that would happen if I went back to drinking. That's good for quickly killing the desire to drink, too. At a SMART meeting, a fellow named Kevin said that his favorite slogan was,

    "Play the tape to the end."

    That is, consider the whole thing like a movie on videotape. It starts with the joy of drinking and partying, and ends with sickness, misery, shame, poverty, and death. Seeing the end that alcohol leads to also quickly kills the pleasant siren song of drink.

    And, as we were just saying in a previous letter, we can even use negative emotions to our advantage, like spite and resentment, as in, "I can't possibly relapse now and give my back-biting critics the satisfaction. No way will I let that happen." That is also playing the tape to the end.

  5. And then there is SMART. SMART helps with both the second and the fourth items. SMART teaches a "Risk/Reward Analysis", which is just a fancy way of saying that you can examine any imagined course of action and compare the benefits with the costs, and see which is greater. (Personally, I'm in the habit of calling it a Cost/Benefit Analysis, which is the name that accountants use.) I gave a few examples of such analyses in earlier letters, here and here and here.

  6. And that leads to the usual list of support groups and forums:

    Check these out:

    1. SMART: Self Management And Recovery Training.
      Rational, sane, common-sense recovery techniques. Based on Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, the brainchild of Dr. Albert Ellis.

    2. WFS (Women For Sobriety)
      WFS also has online chat groups:
      For local group meetings in your area you can also call 1-800-333-1606.

    3. SOS, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a.k.a. "Save Our Selves".
      SOS is an alternative recovery method for those alcoholics or drug addicts who are uncomfortable with the spiritual or superstitious content of widely available 12-Step programs.

    4. LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSR)
      LifeRing provides live, online meetings on the Internet:

    5. http://www.rational.org/ — Rational Recovery. This is not a group any more. It's a web site that teaches and sells Addictive Voice Recognition Therapy. That is essentially the same thing as learning to recognize the seductive yammering of the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster.

    6. http://xsteppers.multiply.com/ — X-Steppers, have moved from MSN and found a new home on Multiply.

    7. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/12-step-free — Self-described as: 'This is a large yahoo group of ex-AA and ex-"XA" (meaning any "anonymous" program based on the 12 steps originally created by AA) people. It is very open to debate and free thinking, but it's main point is for those needing to be free of the 12 steps.'

    8. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/without_aa/ — Without A.A.

    9. http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/EFTCoaa
      Self-described as: 'This group is called Escaping From The Cult of AA. Despite only one membership "drive", it has continuously grown over a year's time.'

    10. You can also get some more links from the start of the links page.

  7. There is a list of other discussions about what works, here. Also see this letter.

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    The toughest thing about success is that
**     you've got to keep on being a success.
**       ==  Irving Berlin

Date: 20.07.2009 16:14     (answered 22 July 2009)
Subject: Bill Wilson's depression
Sender: Craig J.

Your website is intriguing, and you have put a lot of work into it. You obviously have much knowledge of many of the actual facts that most AA's don't know (and that many of them don't want to know).

I could swear I once read something written by Bill Wilson, in which he acknowledged that he was so depressed — for years after his last drink — that he had strongly contemplated suicide. Are you familiar with this writing?

Hi Craig,

Thanks for an intriguing question. And I don't know the answer to it. I know that for a long time, A.A. didn't even want to talk about Bill's problem with depression. It took A.A.W.S. more than 30 years to finally print a book that admitted that Bill suffered from depression — PASS IT ON, 1984.

There is more about Bill's problem with deep clinical depression here, but I don't know of any tapes or books where he talked about it himself or admitted that he was contemplating suicide. (He may well have, but I just don't know where.)

In fact, when Bill Wilson and Tom Powers co-wrote Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, around 1952, right in the middle of Bill's 11-year-long depression, he wrote that the book 12X12 was a manual for how to live happy. After 18 years of practicing Buchmanism, and "working the Steps", Bill even declared:

But dependence upon an A.A. group or Higher Power hasn't produced any baleful results.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 38.

Can you say, "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt"?

This is a good question for the A.A. historical trivia experts.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    God cannot alter the past, but historians can.
**      ==  Samuel Butler

Date: Mon, June 15, 2009 5:33 am     (answered 22 July 2009)
From: "rodney y."

Dear Mr. Orange

In your opinion what is the best way to get sober. I agree with sick and tired of being sick and tired.

But it is the mental aspect that very important. Is there any Buddhist ideas. If so could you please send me the information. I have not drank 4 nearly 10 years.

Rodney Y.

Hello Rodney,

Thanks for the letter. Those are two of the kind of questions that are at once one of the best that I've ever received, and also the most difficult to answer.

First off, you are absolutely right that the mental aspect is very important. It's extremely important. It's pretty much the whole ball game.

About quitting drinking, how to quit drinking, or rather, what techniques I find to be helpful, I just answered the same question in a previous letter, a few hours ago, here, so I'll point you to that, because I already put my answers in there.

Now, about Buddhism:

Let me put in a disclaimer here and say straight out front that I am not qualified to teach Buddhism. Oh, I've been reading about it and studying it, and trying a few practices for more than 40 years, but I'm still not really qualified to teach it. But I do know a few things, and I'll try to pass those jewels on.

For me, Buddhism is not a religion that you believe in — it's a sophisticated system of psychology that you use and practice and live. I don't "believe in" Buddha, per se. Oh, I believe that somebody by that name lived around 600 BC, and that he taught a bunch of good things, and his followers made a religion out of it. What matters is just the validity of the teachings, and whether they can help you, and whether you actually practice and live the stuff.

The most important core thing to most of the Eastern religions' teachings is maintaining awareness. Staying here and now. Staying awake in the here and now. That's what it's all about. It is so simple, and yet so hard to do. Just stay awake. Just pay attention. Just stay here and now.

The exercises, like meditation, are just practices that help you to calm down and build up your ability to stay here and now. The end goal is to develop continuous unbroken consciousness.

All of the other things, like the moral teachings like don't steal, don't rape, don't kill, is actually part of the techniques to reduce your paranoia so that you can stay here and now. When someone commits sins or crimes, it makes him fearful and paranoid, and that fear drives his mind to want to run away and hide. It's almost impossible for a paranoid person to stay centered in the here and now. The paranoia makes him put up mental barriers between himself and other people, and he can't just be here with other people.

So much of what Buddha taught about the "Eight-Fold Path" and "right living" was just a simple set of formulas for how to arrange your life to have minimal paranoia and maximal tranquility and peace of mind, so that you can stay aware and stay in the here and now.

I don't actually know of a good basic text for Buddhism — not one single book. I've just been reading this and that and the other thing for so many years... It sort of all adds up after a while.

What comes to mind is not actually labeled "Buddhism" per se — it's sort of generic. I'd recommend "Be Here Now" by Baba Ram Dass for starters, as a good general introduction. It covers a lot of the same stuff. The basic truths are very universal.

Ram Dass himself explained that in his early training, back in the nineteen-sixties when he first went to India, he couldn't figure out what religion he was supposed to be while he wandered around India with a tall blond ex-surfer kid from California who had become his teacher. When they were in a Buddhist temple, it seemed that they were Buddhists. Then, when they were in a Hindu temple, it seemed that they were Hindus, and so on. They seemed to be everything, because no matter where they went, the blond kid was recognized at the temple and welcomed, and it turned out that he was one of them, too, and he had the right little tillich or mark on his face for that group, and the other people had the attitude of, "Well this kid is so high and spiritual, of course he's one of us." Eventually, Ram Dass learned that they weren't very worried about which religion was which, and lots of people from various religions hung out together and shared teachings.

I like that approach. It isn't the labels that are important, or membership in a certain church; it's the teachings and the learning and the self-development.

As I look around, I see that I also have, laying around here, works in progress:

  • "Miracle of Love; Stories about Neem Karoli Baba", also by Ram Dass
  • "Ethics for the New Millenium", by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • "How Can I Help; Stories and Reflections on Service", by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman
  • "Journey of Awakening; A Meditator's Guidebook", by Ram Dass
  • "The Art of Happiness; A Handbook for Living", by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
  • "An Open Heart; Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life", by The Dalai Lama
  • "Teachings of Zen", Translated by Thomas Cleary
  • "The Tibetan Book Of Living and Dying", by Sogyal Rinpoche
  • "Sayings of the Buddha; Reflections for Every Day", by William Wray

Now that's just what I've got laying around here now, that I'm working on. That choice was determined by what I found at used book stores and Goodwill, not by any deliberate plan. (So maybe it's my karma or something... :-) But anyway, they seem like fine books, and they are giving me something to absorb.

And another great book that comes to mind, and one that I really recommend, but may be very hard to find: It's the Sufi equivalent of "Be Here Now". And I can't even remember the name of it right now. The author is probably Pir Villayat Khan. It also came out 30 or more years ago, so you might stumble across a copy in a used book store. For that book, the American Sufis copied the same format as "Be Here Now": it is a big square book printed on recycled brown grocery bag paper just like "Be Here Now", and it is a lot like "Be Here Now" in content and approach, too, but it contains a different selection of jewels, and says a bunch of good things. I like the Sufis, too.

Have a good day and a good life.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Watchfulness is the path of immortality.
**     Unwatchfulness is the path of death.
**     Those who are watchful never die.
**     That who do not watch are already dead.
**        == Buddha,
**        "Sayings of the Buddha; Reflections for Every Day",
**          by William Wray, May 27.

May 13, 2009, Wednesday: Day 13, continued:

Canada Goose goslings
Carmen's siblings, browsing in a light rain
One of these goslings may be Carmen; I can't see enough in this view to know for sure.

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

[This is the second in a chain of letters. The first is here.

Date: 22.07.2009 12:13     (answered 24 July 2009)
Sender: Eric B.
Subject: Thanks for posting your reply....

Orange — Thanks for posting your reply to my note of July 7th, 2009.

I was struck by your sentence:

"We have great inner resources that we can draw upon to do great things, although we seldom do.".

I think this is really the heart of the matter. Words and ideas have meaning but oftentimes language can be a barrier to understanding. I would agree that a great inner resource exists and that this is what solved my problem. For me, I couldn't find it until I followed the steps — then, there it was! Your story and mine are remarkably similar in many ways. It seems your moment of defeat came with those doctor's words. For me it came one night on a bar stool sometime in June 1995 (I couldn't tell you the day) when I too realized to the core of my being that I was going to die drunk. It was after this experience of defeat that the 12 steps made sense to me and became rather straight-forward. Unfortunately, it seems that many alcoholics die of drinking before they reach that experience of defeat.

I too am looking "to learn more about how to use those inner resources and powers that we all have.".

There surely are some amazing books on this topic! I am running out of bookshelf space!

Cordial regards,

Hi Eric,

It's wonderful that you are working on self-development. I wish you good fortune.

The only problem I have there is with the assumption that the 12 Steps somehow released your inner potential, and freed you from obsession, and made you get sober, and even more. Even somehow connected you up with God. The big problem there is that when people believe that the 12 Steps have done great things for them, they will then tell lots of other people to do the 12 Steps, so that they too can get wonderful results. And that wastes a lot of peoples' time and distracts them from doing something else that actually helps.

Just very recently, after your letter, I received a letter from a woman who has been in and out of A.A. for 36 years now. And she says that A.A. does not work at all. Can you imagine how many people have told her in those 36 years to "Work the Steps, Get a Sponsor, and Go to Meetings", convinced that they were handing out good advice?

You say that you became powerful and able to conquer your obsession with alcohol by doing the 12 Steps. And now you are working on developing your inner resources. The problem with that is that Step One teaches that you are powerless over your problem, and can't help yourself:
"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable."
Step One is the extreme opposite of developing your inner powers. I wrote a whole file on the problem of A.A. teaching "powerlessness". Check it out here.

Then Step Two declares that you are insane, and Step Three teaches that you have to get Somebody Else to take care of you — and worse, take care of your WILL for you. And then Steps Four through Seven teach that you are defective and full of moral shortcomings — so defective that only God can fix you. That is counter-productive. In fact, some people find that routine to be so guilt-inducing and depressing that they commit suicide.

Bill Wilson was quite emphatic when he lectured that alcoholics were powerless over alcohol, and alcohol "had us licked". Now, if you are reinterpreting Step One to mean that you are powerful and in control of the situation, then the 12 Steps don't actually mean anything. That is, if you can arbitrarily completely reverse the meaning of any Step at will, and make it mean whatever you prefer it to mean, then the 12 Steps don't really mean anything at all, and there is no Program. There is just you believing whatever you wish to believe.

(If it were really possible to just make up Steps at will, and make them mean whatever you wish them to mean, and for them to still have magical powers, then there wouldn't be any problem with alcoholism. The alcoholics could just declare: "Step One: I admit that alcohol can't hurt me at all, no matter how much of it I drink, and I have it under my complete control." End of program.)

If you think that the Steps are empowering, why not reinterpret the Steps like this?

  1. I admit that I am powerful over alcohol and can manage my life.
  2. I have come to believe that I am sane and don't need any Higher Power to restore me to sanity.
  3. I decided to take care of myself and keep my will.
  4. My moral inventory tells me that I'm smart enough, and I'm good enough, and darn it — people like me.
  5. And I said that to my sponsor.
  6. I'm always ready to get better.
  7. I fixed myself while Higher Power sat on his duff and watched...
  8. ... and so on...

By the way, when the doctor told me, "Quit drinking or die. Choose one." that was not a "moment of defeat", as you called it. You are trying to squeeze other peoples' experiences into the Procrustean Bed of the 12 Steps. I would call it a moment of clarity, and a moment of realization, even a moment of acceptance of the facts, but certainly not a moment of defeat. I wasn't defeated — in fact, I was so empowered that I chose to quit drinking and live, and I had the power to do it, and I did it, and I'm still doing it 8 years later. My experience is the exact opposite of Step One — I am not powerless over alcohol, and I am not defeated by it. I won.

And I'm not insane, and I don't have any "Higher Power" taking care of my will for me...

To assume that the 12 Steps made you suddenly powerful, and free of your obsession, and able to conquer your drinking problem is Confusion of Correlation and Causation — assuming a cause-and-effect connection where there isn't any.

It's the same problem as this: Imagine that there was some guy named "Joe". Well Joe had cancer and his doctor told him that he would die soon. Joe left the doctor's office pretty upset. But then a friend talked about the wonderful curative powers of snake oil. Joe got a bunch of Dr. Bummer's Magic Snake Oil Elixir, and drank a lot of it, and rubbed it all over his body. And Joe's cancer went into remission, and he recovered, and Joe is sure that the snake oil is what did it, so now he tells every cancer patient around to avoid the stupid doctors, and just use Dr. Bummer's Magic Snake Oil Elixir to treat their cancer.

Now Joe is totally convinced that the snake oil really worked, and really healed him. And we will probably have no success in convincing Joe otherwise. But how can we determine if snake oil really cures cancer?

Simple. We do some tests. We could call them "scientific" tests, but let's not, because so many people are confused about what the word "science" actually means. Let's just say that we are going to do some simple, down-to-earth, common-sense tests.

  1. First off, let's see if snake oil is poisonous. We give a bunch of it to some rats and mice to drink, and also rub it on them. Fortunately for them, it isn't poisonous. None of them got sick and died. So far so good.

  2. Then we get a bunch of people who have cancer. We randomly pick names out of a hat, and give half of the patients the snake oil. We give no snake oil to the other half. Then we see what happens.

  3. Well, you and I both know what happened, because that test was done long ago: The people who got the snake oil didn't fare any better than the other "untreated" patients. That experiment was done back in the eighteen-hundreds, and the cancer patients all died. The snake oil didn't heal them. No improvement at all. Zilch. Zip. Nada.

  4. Conclusion: Snake oil doesn't really cure cancer.

So why did Joe recover from cancer? Who knows? There were a lot of other things going on in Joe's life at the same time. Maybe he quit smoking and drinking and changed his diet, and that improved his health enough for his immune system to be able to defeat the cancer. Maybe he stopped being a couch potato who lived on beer and chips and pretzels, and went outside and got some sunshine and exercise, having decided to live to the fullest in the little time he had left. Maybe he was just lucky, and the cancer went into spontaneous remission for reasons still unknown. With single anecdotal cases like that, it's very hard to say what happened.

Now what about testing A.A. the same way? Well, that test has been done too, several times, and the alcoholics getting A.A. didn't fare any better than the cancer patients getting snake oil.

  1. Dr. Brandsma found that A.A. increased the rate of binge drinking in alcoholics.

  2. Dr. Ditman found that A.A. increased the rate of rearrests for public drunkenness.

  3. Dr. Walsh found that "free A.A." made later hospitalization more expensive.

  4. Doctors Orford and Edwards found that having a doctor talk to the patient for just one hour was just as effective as a whole year of A.A.-based treatment.

  5. And the most damning evidence of all came from Prof. Dr. George E. Vaillant, who is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and who for many years was a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous [World] Services, Inc., as well as being an enthusiastic promoter of A.A.-based treatment. He found that Alcoholics Anonymous was completely ineffective for getting alcoholics to quit drinking, and the biggest effect of A.A. was to raise the death rate in alcoholics. No other way of treating alcoholics produced such a high death rate as did Alcoholics Anonymous.

So the results are in: The Twelve Steps do not cure or improve alcoholism.

(Oh, actually, it seems like nobody did the very first test before the others: Nobody tested Alcoholics Anonymous to see if it was poisonous, before "the A.A. Pioneers" foisted it on millions of sick people. That is downright inconsiderate, to put it mildly.)

So was it just a coincidence that you quit drinking while doing the Twelve Steps? Of course not. You were actively working on quitting drinking, and solving your problem, and you finally succeeded. The fact that you were also wasting your time on some old cult religion practices that some misinformed people told you to do just showed that you were willing to try almost anything in order to solve your problem.

Keep up the work on the self-improvement. Just don't believe it when they tell you that you are powerless and in denial, and need to confess everything in a Fifth Step...

And have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "When they tell you that you are powerless,
**     that just means that somebody else gets the power."
**        ==  an unknown cynic

[The next letter in this chain is here.

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