Letters, We Get Mail, XIX
by A. Orange



[Sun, June 27, 2004, 'Anonymous and Recovered' wrote:]
Subject Yo! Mr. O

      "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive."

      How long has it been since you have heard that saying? For me, many, many years. Yet our society seems to have made the practice of lying and deception first priority in moral and social standards. It is nothing new. Just being improved on more every day by television, movies, advertising, and our political system.

      This may seem like a strange way to start a commentary about your website and AA. But, as you and others have pointed out, the practice is the foundation of AA (i.e., all Anonymous programs), not Honesty as they proclaim. "Open-mindedness" means believing and accepting everything the "gurus" preach. Just like in most Religions. "Truth" is a dirty word to them. "Fear" is used to trap the desperate and weak-willed. "Recovery" is a pink cloud that no one can reach, as there is no foundation to build upon. Hence, no one ever "recovers".

      Don't question and don't criticize the dogma or you will become persona non gratis. Unlike Churches, who will tell you to leave, the Fellowships will let you "keep coming back". They need someone to gossip about and need a whipping-boy to vent their frustrations on. Lies, slander, liable, and physical threats are common practice not only to put the non-conformist in his/her place (behind their back usually). Individuals use them as deception so others will not believe the truth about the sexual, financial, emotional and physical abuses they instill on all those around them. - - - while they are "good, sober members of the Fellowship".

      After reading a couple of the Orange Papers articles, I got bored and skeptical. (The same feelings I had while reading The Big Book, 12 by 12, etc.) I started skimming through the remainder as they were redundant. I felt like I was reading material from the Communist Party, Republican/Democrat Election Committees, or Steel Workers Union. (I still receive the magazine from the Union that my father was a member. Nothing but propaganda, distortions and emotion inciting bull.)

      After I read the "Propaganda and Debating Techniques" article, I was able to put my confused feelings into definitions. What floated to the top was "Argumentum Ad Nauseam" and "Reductio Ad Absurdum". That is, beat the topic until the reader gets nauseated and the topic becomes absurd. A reader would natural come to your side just from being overwhelmed, and bored, by the same information and comments.

Hi A&R,

Thanks for the letter.

I agree that my writings are too repetitious. I am constantly looking to see where I can edit out some of the repetition without weakening points or failing to make points.

And you are right about my tone sometimes being harsh or strident. I try to keep the hostility down but I don't always succeed. Sometimes I don't have a lot of patience with people who will, in their stubborn stupidity, hurt people who are trying to recover from addictions and survive. I still find myself going back and rewriting stuff to tone it down a little.

But I don't think that I use the propaganda technique of "Argumentum Ad Nauseam" (endless repetition of the argument). I see A.A. doing that with its endless repetition, for years and years, of the slogans about how great it works and how it has saved millions of alcoholics and how it is the only way for alcoholics to recover — fallacies endlessly repeated in the movies, TV, newspapers, magazines, medical journals, wherever they can, ever since 1940...

Oh, and a critical detail about the Argumentum Ad Nauseam propaganda technique is that it is commonly used to convince audiences of unproven or untrue allegations, by massive repetition. Just telling the truth a bunch of times, supported by facts, isn't the same thing.

"Reductio Ad Absurdum" is a debating technique that one uses to destroy a specific argument by reducing it to an absurdity — like how I ridiculed Bill Wilson's declaration that a chain smoker didn't need to quit smoking because "he frankly said that he was not ready to stop". That technique isn't really applicable to attacking A.A. as a whole.

      Reading Dr. Tiebout's papers on surrender and acceptance was informative and TRUE, from personal experience and observation of others. Without a true subconscious surrender, recovery never occurs. For those who only "abuse" alcohol, it can be an easy task. For those who are heavily addicted, it takes a major life incident before the process "starts". For me, it took a number of "surrenders" over a period of weeks before my subconscious "accepted" that it had been deceived about alcohol and life. The first surrender was while being admitted to a Mental Hospital in 1987 for suicidal depression and uncontrollable drinking.

I have problems with that wording. What is a "subconscious surrender"? Surrender to whom or what? If it is really subconscious surrender, then you would not even know to what or whom you were surrendering your will, your life, your mind, and your soul. That sounds like a perfect setup for accidentally selling your soul to the Devil. :-)

A.A. members are not theologians or ordained clergy. Even if they are conscious when they "make a surrender", how are they supposed to know just what the "Higher Power" is, to whom they are surrendering their wills and their lives in Step Three — the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, Aladdin's Genie, the Devil, or Santa Claus? Or "God", whatever they imagine It to be? To make an "unconscious surrender" is even worse. That sounds like spiritual Russian Roulette — unconsciously give your soul to some unnamed something... No thanks.

It is one thing to accept the obvious fact that you are sick and dying and that drinking is killing you. That is simply acceptance of the truth; seeing the facts as they are; getting away from stereotypical alcoholic minimization and denial.

It is a very different thing to surrender to somebody else, like surrendering control of your life to a cult. — Or, as Step Three says, "we turned our wills and our lives over to..." I consider that kind of surrender to be mental and spiritual suicide — or, as Eric Fromm called it, "Escape From Freedom".

Bill Wilson, A.A. and Tiebout were actually misusing the word surrender — first interpreting it to mean something like acceptance, and later reinterpreting it to mean surrender, as in surrender to a slave-master. That is actually yet another bait-and-switch trick — first the word means one thing, and then it means something else.

I know that some of that sounds like hair-splitting or quibbling over semantics, but it is an important point. I have no problem with acceptance of the truth that I can't drink alcohol any more, but I'll be damned if I'm going to surrender my will and my life to anyone.

I just looked up the word "surrender" in the dictionary, and got this:

Surrender (The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, 1982.)
v. -dered, -dering -ders.
—tr.
  1. To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion.
  2. To give up in favor of another.
  3. To give up or give back something that has been granted: surrender a contractual right.
  4. To give up or abandon: surrender all hope.
  5. To give over or resign (oneself) to something, as to an emotion: surrendered himself to grief.
—intr.
  1. To give up, as to an enemy.
—n.
  1. The act or an instance of surrendering.
  2. The delivery of a prisoner, fugitive from justice, or other principle in a legal suit into legal custody.

I don't see anything in there about how wonderful or spiritual surrender is. The guys who raved about the wonderfulness of surrender were the fascist cult leader Frank Buchman and his follower William G. Wilson, both of whom wanted you to surrender to them. And I think that Dr. Harry Tiebout had the same idea too.

This is reminding me of the writings of Jeffrey Masson, who criticized psychotherapy by saying, "A prison warden, a slaveholder, and a psychotherapist have in common the desire to control another person."

That's Dr. Harry Tiebout, all right.

(Also see Dr. Ruth Fox's use of LSD on her alcoholic patients to make them more obedient and compliant.)

And if you want to look at the word "surrender" from a religious viewpoint, I still reject the word "surrender". You surrender to your enemies, not your friends, so I don't have to surrender to Jesus. If I had been defeated by evil, I might have to surrender to Satan, but since that isn't the case, I won't. :-)

      "What the hell is my point here??", you ask. It is simple. Even though your articles and those of the other anti-AA promoters say the same things too many times, I am grateful to finally see some one with the ambition and guts to stand up and publish The Truth about the 12-Step programs.

Well thanks.

      I found the "AADeprogramming" site in 2002 by accident while tying to find the AAWS site. I needed their address to send them a copy of a very irate letter that I was sending to the District office. I started reading Ken Ragge, et al, two months ago. If I had even a small portion of your information years ago, I could have had great fun messing with the minds of the "True Believers". At the time, I knew the program was bogus, but did not have the mental ability to tell people why.

Hopefully, others will not now have that problem.

      If the general public really understood what AA is about and what goes on inside the Fellowships, they might start demanding its closure. But, I have not heard any clamor about closing Scientology, the Moonies, the Catholic Church, or any other fanatical brainwashing cult. Our self-serving politicians don't care, as they are too busy making deals to line their pockets and work their way up the hierarchy.

Yes, alas, the U.S.A. has no laws against cults, like Germany and France do. So anybody can do just about anything as long as they call it a religion, or a sort-of-religious, or "spiritual" organization. Scientology constantly uses the shield of religion to protect their cult. And towards the end, Chuck Dederich declared Synanon to be a church, too, probably for the same reason.

      AA has been around for so long and has convinced everyone that its philosophy "works to cure alcoholism" that it will take an enormous amount of people standing up shouting "It ain't so!!" This would have to be done on a daily basis with a number of lawsuits against specific Fellowships and/or the people in them. I wonder if some one could sue them for false advertising and make them prove, in Court, that the AA program actually helps people?

I have been suggesting targeting the treatment centers that shove the 12-Step "treatment" on the patients. That strikes me as a clear-cut case of practicing quack medicine, and false advertising, especially when they cook the books and claim an 80% success rate. On the other hand, I don't know how you could sue a judge who habitually sentences people to A.A. meetings. They have legal protections. But possibly you could get them disbarred for knowingly repeatedly violating people's Constitutional rights regarding freedom of religion.

UPDATE: 2019.01.11: Things have changed in a major way:
The Federal Appeals Court in Hawaii, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, September 7, 2007, in the Inouye v. Kemna case, ruled that any "coercing authority" can be held individually, civilly liable for the 1st Amendment constitutional rights violation that they perpetrate on people unwillingly and involuntarily forced to go to 12-Step programs. Meaning: you can sue a judge, a prison warden, a parole officer, a "counselor", or anyone else in a position of authority who forces you to go to A.A. meetings.

I think Ken Ragge has a copy of the court's ruling on his web site: http://www.morerevealed.com/courts/index.html

      Rape, theft, physical abuse, and emotional abuse are criminal offenses. I attempted to file a liable/slander suit against a woman in Missouri 6 years ago, but could not find an attorney who would touch it. Since there was no money involved (she did not work) and the AA Fellowship would be indirectly involved (witnesses), I received nothing but dirty looks and snide comments.

      During my 15 years in AA, I have seen, heard, or experienced every thing your articles and the horror stories explain, plus a few more. Maybe I missed these acts. Male sponsors raping their male sponsorees (neither are homosexual). Married females using only male sponsors (there is more than praying going on when they are on their knees). Married females slandering, or screaming a threatened rape, when a male turns down her sexual offers (have to protect those marriage vows before hubby finds out the truth). There are many others, but my memory has deteriorated quite a bit.

      When you were talking about the impending demise of the Billy-Bob Dog and Pony Show, you missed two aspects.

  • 1) I noticed over the years that attendance fluctuates over the years. For a couple years the attendance builds (not totally due to court-ordered). It peaks, then starts to decline slowly. At some point a couple years later, attendance starts to build again. But, I have seen attendance drop so low in some areas around the country that meetings are being canceled and Fellowships closing. I wonder if this may be partly caused by the next topic. Alcoholics, especially the older generation, don't hang around drug addicts.

  • 2) AA is no longer "Alcoholics" Anonymous. It slowly became "Addicts" Anonymous though no one wants to admit it or change the name. In the early 1990's, my first Fellowship (San Francisco area) did a hands-up poll of who was alcoholic only and who was dual-addicted. 80% was dual-addicted. Considering the Drug-a-logs that were being told in the meetings, I had to assume that at least 50% of that 80% had only a drug problem.

      If a person can not be honest about their addiction, why should he/she be honest about anything else? But in many AA Fellowships, admitting having only a drug problem (or any other problem) would cause censure or expulsion. With the Courts openly sending drug offenders to AA instead of NA or CA, they are compounding the situation.

      Because of my experiences with drug users prior to entering AA, if I had walked into my first meeting and a Drug-a-log was going on, I would have been out the door before my chair even got warm. During my last 5 years in AA, I did exactly that. I would have done the same thing if Bill or Dr. Bob had tried to indoctrinate me into AA. I have been an Atheist since age 13 and became "hardcore" thanks to AA and studying the Judo-Christian religion. (I love debating with Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons.)

      At the last Fellowship I attended (Los Angles County), a ruckus ensued when a woman hooked on painkillers came in and made herself at home. Since all the meetings there were open meetings, she could not officially be told to leave, though one man tried (a dual-addicted). I made the mistake of getting involved after she said flatly that no one was going to force her to leave and she had the right to talk in the meetings. (Talk about arrogance, but she was a lawyer.)

      I asked the Steering Committee what the policy was on this issue. The newly elected President adamantly and angrily stated the doors were open for anyone with any problem. Three of the Committee members were vocally angry at this, four said nothing. (Only one other member, out of about 50, showed up to express his views at the meeting. He was three weeks clean.) The President firmly said, "That is the way it will be". There was no vote on the issue, or on his removal as President.

      Against the President's and other's wishes, both the District office and AAWS were informed. Many of the Fellowship members wanted to keep this policy "secret" so they would not lose AAWS sanction. (So much for honesty!) This is a wide spread issue in Southern California and other areas. I never heard the outcome, but it was a BIG issue at the next District meeting. I imagine someone had to do a lot of explaining to New York.

      The night before the Steering Committee meeting, I picked up my 15-year coin at the Birthday/speaker meeting. The group practice was for the birthday person to tell how they did it. Without saying "My name is blah-blah, I'm an alcoholic", I turned and pointed with both arms to the 12-Steps and 12-Traditions posters behind the podium. "These are the way! Both sides! One does work without the other!" Then I sat down. (What I said was a total lie.) A pin could have been heard hitting the floor from the long silence. I was in a bad mood and did not feel like playing the stupid game.

      If I had not chickened out on finishing my statement, I would have been carried out of the hall to be tarred and feathered. I planned on adding "If anyone believes that, see me after the meeting. I have some property in Missouri and New Mexico that I want to sell you." (The property was legally stolen from my family.)

      That was in August 2002. I have not attended any Fellowships since. Have spent my time detoxing from the AA Disease. When I run into members of the two local Fellowships I attended, I say "hi" and continue walking. You could say I became a "Two-Stepper". I put my left foot in front of my right foot as I walked away from AA.

      A special note here for meeting goers: To have a short meeting so you can get out and chase tail, request that the meeting topic be one of these. 1) Honesty and how you apply it in your life. 2) What are you doing on a daily basis to change your life and mind-set so you will not drink again?

      Very few people want to talk about these topics so the meeting ends early. I used them many times just to annoy the gurus and slackers.

      Please don't misconstrue my comments about drug addicts. I sympathize with their plight. We all have the same underlying causes to our addictions. None of which are discussed or recovered from in any 12-Step program. But being a male alcoholic (never used drugs except for caffeine and nicotine), I can no more understand what a drug addict goes through physically and mentally than I can understand a woman.

      Alcohol is a mental depressant. Street drugs and painkillers are mental stimulants. They affect the mind, body and personality in different ways. (I have not met a drug user who would agree with this statement.) So, if a person uses alcohol and drugs, does that mean their mental state is where it should be??? Or they have to work twice as hard to get out of denial???

Umm, I can't agree with that either, about alcohol being just a depressant, or street drugs being stimulants. That is a gross over-generalization. Specifically, alcohol is an intoxicant, meaning that it first gets you high and giddy, with a delightful buzz, and then it acts as a depressant and puts you to sleep. By definition, intoxicants first take you up and then push you down.

The other drugs cover the entire spectrum of effects —

  • coffee, cocaine, ecstacy, and speed wake you up (and cocaine also acts as a pain-killer),
  • downers and tranquilizers depress your systems and knock you out,
  • opiates kill your pain and make you nod out (and even heroin and opium are very different in their mental effects, and when you come out of a fantastic opium dream, you can be wide awake and wired at 4 in the morning),
  • and marijuana and psychedelics have their own effects which are largely non-physiological — they put you into a dream state without much effect on your physical body.
  • Nicotine is the strangest one of all — it is almost an inverse intoxicant. First, it slows down your heart, and then speeds it up. First it relaxes you, then it makes you more uptight. Nicotine works by stimulating both halves of the involuntary nervous system (both halves of the more/less faster/slower on/off nerve pairs), but at slightly different times, so first you get one effect, and then you get the opposite effect.
  • And there are a zillion more drugs, and they do all kinds of different things. You just can't generalize about what their effects are.

      As you said (some place), not all Fellowships are bad and not all members are psycho. From my travels around the country during 1993 to 2001, I found a couple Fellowships where the members were making a good effort towards recovery. Even at the marginal Fellowships, there were a handful of sane, intelligent members. They honestly wanted to help fellow suffers. But too many halls were nothing but power struggles between sick childish Egos (that's the big "E", not the little "e").

Yes, like I said above, you can't stereotype alcoholics — us stupid drunks, disgusting selfish assholes — and you can't even stereotype A.A. members. They cover the entire rainbow.

      There are a "few" good things about AA, but the damage created far exceeds the good. I spend the bulk of 15 years going to the Fellowships and meetings, but it was not AA that gave me the path to recovery. The Fellowship gave me a safe place to sit after I left work so I would not sit at home alone. The socializing kept my thoughts off my own problems (there is always someone with worse problems than we have) and helped me realize what some of my emotional problems were.

I think that the "safe place" thing is important, and having a social circle of clean and sober friends helps immensely. I wish we had more non-alcoholic night clubs or social clubs (especially non-12-step ones), besides the teenagers' clubs. Loneliness is one of the biggest problems for the newly-sober alcoholic, because their old social circle was invariably mostly heavy drinkers and wild partiers. But when you stop socializing with them, then you are alone. Solitary confinement is torture, and that is no good.

      What gave me the "right" path was surrendering and accepting where I was headed during the 3 weeks I vacationed in that first Mental Hospital in 1987. Their psychotherapy approach to addiction recovery was not 12-Step based. It was based on common sense and factual information. All of the deception and lies I was fed while young came into focus and started to break. I entered the Hospital a 39 year old with the emotional traits of an unstable 14 year old. I continued growing away from that child ever since, in spite of AA.

Again, just dump the "surrender" word and keep the "acceptance" word and I'm with you.

      All of those numbers that you and others expound on about the percentage of drunks who get sober without any help is misleading. Very few medium to hardcore drunks, a.k.a., alcoholics, get sober without someone pushing them to; wives, employers, the Law. Those who do only end up being "dry drunks" (sorry for the term, but it is the best description available). They do not learn about or correct the underlying causes of their drinking and personality problems, so remain arrogant, self-centered, destructive assholes. (Sounds like a lot of members of AA and the various Religions).

First question: Where did you get your information? Whose survey or study found that very few alcoholics quit on their own? That sounds like standard A.A. propaganda. The Harvard Medical School said just the opposite. Remember that while you were in A.A., you didn't see the do-it-yourselfers. They are like the invisible, silent, majority.

I would modify that statement about "help" to say "pressure", rather than "help". My doctor's help was nothing more than one appointment where he told me to quit drinking or I was going to die. Then he said that he wasn't going to waste his breath repeating himself, that I was a grown-up boy and could and would make my own decisions... And that was it. I thought it over for a month, decided to live, and then took the plunge and quit.

(Not coincidentally, a British team of researchers, Drs. Orford and Edwards, et. al., found that just having a doctor speak to alcoholics for a single hour, telling them to quit drinking, was just as effective as a whole year of A.A.-based "treatment".)

The other pressure that I got was circumstances. I was so sick that my life fell apart, and I ended up being homeless. That's enough to make you clearly see that the drinking lifestyle isn't working very well.

I got more pressure from the housing that I got. The city offered a deal of, you get a dry, warm bed if and only if you stay clean and sober. It was a straight-forward business deal, one that I welcomed because it gave me the time and space to heal. I even used the opportunity to quit smoking, too, and really get healthy. (Like Bill said, "Half measures availed us nothing"...) Such pressures do supply some incentive to quit.

As you can see, none of that had anything to do with A.A. or the 12 Steps.

And isn't all of that talk about help or pressure just a way of saying that as long as continuing to drink is possible, or even easy and convenient, an alcoholic will continue to drink? He doesn't quit until it becomes a problem.

I have to disagree with your stereotype of alcoholics — "arrogant, self-centered, destructive assholes". That is just the standard A.A. put-down of alcoholics. See the web page on "The Us Stupid Drunks Conspiracy". Alcoholics cover the entire range of morality or niceness. There is no such thing as "the standard alcoholic who is...".

      I don't recommend anyone just going "dry", as they do not change their thinking.

Again, you are assuming that there is something very wrong with the minds of people who want to feel good. I think that there is something very wrong with the minds of people who don't want to feel good.

I am not ignoring the problem of underlying mental, emotional, or physical illnesses that caused someone to start drinking in the first place; I just reject the whole "dry drunk" idea, including the A.A. doctrine that your thinking is so bad that you will never recover unless you surrender to Bill's religion.

The real question and the real issue is, what will make you feel good? Alcohol, tobacco, and drugs have such nasty side effects that they eventually make you feel terrible... So we are left with the obvious: see a doctor and get all of the illnesses fixed that can be fixed, and then maybe go to some rational self-help classes (like SMART) to get some help in straightening out your thinking, where your thinking needs fixing...

It takes valid, helpful information given at the right time to start the recovery process. Since the human mind likes to forget things over time, re-enforcement of the facts has to be repeated over the years. Since no two people react the same to stimulus and information, no single "recovery" program works for all people. Gratefully, there are more secular recovery programs coming online, but they are not available to everyone. For many, AA is the last house on the street.

"... the last house on the street"? Again, you are assuming that people cannot get their act together on their own, without a support group. The evidence says that they can and do.

For sure, some social support is great, but the Harvard Medical School noted that the support of a good spouse was more important than that of a support group.

But for those who do want a group, thank goodness that things like SMART, SOS, and WFS are proliferating.

I agree about valid information being helpful. One of the things I'm trying to do here is get more valid, accurate information out there.

      Trying to derive "success/failure" rates of any 12-Step program is an impossible task. Including people who are forced to attend skews any percentage arrived at. Any person who does not believe he has a problem and is only there to get his Court Card signed is not going to "keep coming back". Though I have not agreed with the accepted 50% recovery rate since my first year in AA, I can accept the concept of "those who really tried". They are the people who are desperate to overcome their addictions and lead better lives.

Excuse me, but I strongly disagree about it being impossible to derive success/failure rates. There have been many good tests that have shown A.A. to be a total failure, including one 8-year-long test of A.A. treatment that was done by a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., Prof. Dr. George E. Vaillant. Read the file on The Effectiveness of the 12-Step Treatment.

Including people who have been coerced into A.A. makes tests more realistic, if anything, considering that nearly two-thirds of the A.A. membership got there by being shoved into it by the legal or health-care systems. The November 2002 issue of the AA Grapevine, pages 32 and 33, summarized the results of the latest General Service Office membership survey, and it reported that 61% of the current members were pushed or coerced into A.A. by the courts, criminal justice system, or health care systems. So "coerced" or "forced against their will" describes a lot of what the real A.A. really is...

Also remember that properly-done tests have a control group that gets no treatment. (A treatment program must produce better results than the control group for it to claim success.) That is, in a test of A.A. treatment, you have two groups — an A.A.-treated group, and a similar group that gets no treatment at all. Assignment of people to the groups must be random — no cherry-picking is allowed. Both groups may (and often do) contain people who don't want to quit drinking, so it's a fair test.

That was the case in Dr. Jeffrey Brandsma's test where habitual public drunks were sentenced by a court to either A.A. or no treatment (on a random basis). The results were that the no-treatment group quit drinking more, and did less binge drinking, than the A.A. group did, even though both groups contained lots of guys who didn't want to quit drinking.

And talking about "those who really tried" is just lying with qualifiers. Bill Wilson declared that nobody "who really tried" ever failed... But that becomes a meaningless statement, like saying that
"Nobody who really succeeded ever failed."
"Nobody who really tried ever failed."
"If he quit, he really tried. If he didn't quit, it was because he didn't really try."
"The program never fails, it is just the people who fail the program."

And talking about how those who really want to quit do better is just restating the obvious. Well of course — when you finally get sick and tired of being sick and tired, and decide to live, then you will quit drinking and start taking better care of your health. You don't quit drinking until you really want to quit drinking. It is a learning process (and it has nothing to do with A.A.).

      I never recommended AA to anyone. If they asked questions about it, I was more than willing to explain the program and facts about the sickness. It was up to them after that.

      I have babbled too much. A bad habit I developed from too many meetings. It is time to go pray to the Great Cosmic Muffin for more money and more sex.

      Keep carrying the banner. Maybe some time in the distant future the public will accept the truth.

      Just sign me: Anonymous AND Recovered

      (If my name came through on the e-mail, please do not use it or my e-mail name). My reasons are the same as yours.)

Hi A&R,

Thanks for a great letter. This is going to take a while to digest.

Have a good day.

== Orange

P.S.: Can you tell me more about "AAWS sanction"?

I have been under the impression for some time that renegade A.A. groups who won't toe the line can be punished by being delisted — not listed in the official list of groups, so that they won't get any more referrals (so the group eventually shrivels and shrinks to nothing...). And I would guess that means that they can't vote in A.A. elections, either. On the other hand, some A.A. members have insisted that every group is autonomous and nobody can make anybody else do anything.... So what's the truth? What did you see?


[Mon, August 2, 2004, 2nd letter from 'A & R':]
Subject: Annoymous & Recovered, back again

Again, I request that you not use my name or email address.

Am sending two website addresses I ran across while trying to locate Harvard Medical School's "Treatment of Drug Abuse and Addiction — Part III". I do not remember you mentioning these in your site. If you have not read them before, put on the hip-boots and air-tank as it gets deep and smelly in there.

"Bill W. and Dr. Bob Workbook", by two Harvard PhD's, at: www.hms.harvard.edu/doa/research_education.htm [Dead Link: document gone]
and
"A Doctor Speaks" by George Vaillant a reprint of the interview between AA Grapevine and Prof. Vaillant, from Grapevine May 2001, Vol 57 number 12 at:
www.hms.harvard.edu/doa/html/reprints/vaillant.htm
[Relocated to: http://www.divisiononaddictions.org/html/reprints/vaillant.htm]

"The Doctor Speaks" was mentioned by you (some place, couldn't find it again) and by Rational Recovery. (More later on them and the article). Both of you only refer to the Grapevine article with no details of who made the comments in it. AA charges $$ to read the on-line Grapevine, Harvard does not. Since this is what doctors are being taught, the battle against AA propaganda will be long and frustrating.

Some things I say here will sound sarcastic or derogatory even though I am trying to give a constructive criticism. A couple of your email reply comments gave me the impression we were not talking about the same topics. If you start feeling annoyed, frustrated, or angry, take a moment to look at why you are having them. I have taken many "moments" over the last 17 years. They are quite enlightening. :-)

From your "Introduction" document: "I began to get the funny feeling that there was something wrong, that something didn't quite add up right." (about AA) I had the same feeling on entering AA. It went beyond my bad feeling about the constant religious talk. But. . .I kept coming back as it and psychotherapy were the only places available and I was scared to death of trying it on my own (in the beginning). Had tried it that way twice before and failed (1-1/2 years and 6 months), even though I understood what the alcohol and tobacco was doing to my brain and body.

Had the same feeling on first reading you articles. When my instinct starts poking me in the ribs, I start looking for the reason. Pinned down some of them after re-reading a few of your articles. And. . .I keep coming back as your site as some important information. But with the discrepancies I see, you could easily be labeled a "crackpot", etc. by anyone who wanted to use them against you. (Not me, at this time.)

I have been hobbling around on my crutch since receiving your reply to my last email. Really shot myself in the foot with my comments on "dry drunks". I try to avoid stereotyping people, but do generalize at times to shorten my writings. Will dive into why I said them at another time, in more detail, maybe. There was a reason behind my comments.They deal with the concept of "recovery" and people who say they are in it, but actually are not. You will have to give your definition of "recovery" and an alcoholic (not a dictionary's) so we know if we are in the same ball game. Read "The "Disease"-d Theory" at aadeprogramming.com. The author has the right concept on recovery. The same as you are trying, at times, to get across.

Ah yes, the word "alcoholic". [Other readers: please forgive the repetition.] A.A. gives the word three different definitions, and unfortunately uses them interchangeably, which really confuses the matter at hand. I don't agree with all of their definitions.

  1. An alcoholic is someone who habitually drinks far too much alcohol.
  2. An alcoholic is someone who is hyper-sensitive to alcohol, almost allergic to alcohol, perhaps a genetic alcoholic; someone who cannot drink even one drink or his drinking will spin out of control and he will become readdicted to alcohol.
  3. An alcoholic is an insane sinner who is full of disgusting character defects and moral shortcomings and resentments and barely-contained anger, and is a prime example of self-will run riot and instincts run wild and selfishness and self-seeking and the Seven Deadly Sins, although he doesn't think so... etc., etc., ...

When I call myself an alcoholic, I usually mean definition 2, and only occasionally definition 1, but never definition 3.

  1. By definition 1, I stopped being an alcoholic more than three years ago.
  2. By definition 2, I will always be an alcoholic.
  3. By definition 3, I was never an alcoholic. I was always a nice drunk. People liked having me at their parties because I was so much fun to have around when I got high. (But, as one friend said, "Even nice drunks die of cirrhosis of the liver...")

Now for a definition of recovery. Obviously the first requirement is get off of alcohol and drugs (even tobacco, if you want to do it right) and spend time healing your body and repairing the damage. And the brain also heals and the head clears, and thinking gets straightened out. Now obviously the next step is to work on one's mind and try to clear out any erroneous thinking that might be there, but I hesitate to include that in a definition of recovery. That would lead right into the A.A. line about, "Well, he isn't really in recovery — he is only abstaining from drinking alcohol — because he isn't working a program." Nope. If you are not drinking alcohol any more, then your liver is repairing itself and you are in recovery.

I will have to give a brief explanation of why I used the term "surrender" instead of "acceptance" during my first weeks sober. Am having a hard time wording it so that it makes any kind of sense. It is a case of "you had to be there, in my head" to understand the history, circumstances, and emotional turmoil. And it was 17 years ago and I had been bingeing for six solid weeks.

What was going through your head when you "...spent most of the previous night in (unexpected) D.T.s while quitting drinking for the first time."?? "First Time"? How many times did you quit, how long dry between them? Did anyone, prior to your last experience, tell you to quit drinking? Just asking questions here, not trying to be facetious, as you said very little about your experiences. I assumed (yuk) from stories that a person has to drink excessively for a long period to get the D.T.s. :-)

About 16 years ago, I quit drinking because my ex-wife said that she wouldn't send my son to me for the summer unless I quit drinking and stayed quit for the whole summer while he was there. I agreed, thinking that it would be no big deal. After 48 hours without alcohol, all hell broke loose. The worse the withdrawal got, the madder I became about being addicted, and the more determined I was to succeed. (So the thing that A.A. dismisses as "self-will" does have some uses, doesn't it?) It was one hell of a night, but I made it through it. (I didn't really have any choice in the matter. I was shaking so hard that it was impossible to dial a touch-tone phone to call for help.)

The next day, I was laying on a couch, tripping my brains out on withdrawal, alternating between agony and ecstacy. The stomach cramps were so bad that I thought that my liver would burst and I might die. Then the pain would ease and I would be tripping on cloud nine, high on the withdrawal. It is a lot like acid (LSD), except for the shakes and seizures and the pain in the belly. Then Robert Palmer's song "Addicted to Love" came on the radio:

Your lights are on, but you're not home
Your mind is not your own
Your heart sweats, your body shakes
Another kiss is what it takes

You can't sleep, you can't eat
There's no doubt, you're in deep
Your throat is tight, you can't breathe
Another kiss is all you need

Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff,
oh yeah

It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough,
you know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love

I had to laugh. Just substitute the word "alcohol" for "love", and that was a perfect description of what I was going through. "Might as well admit it, you're addicted to alcohol." I had to admit it.

(In some perverse sort of way, that has become one of my all-time favorite songs.)

That ordeal impressed me enough to keep me sober for the following three years, even though I only went to 4 A.A. meetings ever, just to see what they were about, and what they had to say. I didn't know much about A.A. at the time, and decided that they were some nice people, but I didn't feel like spending the rest of my life sitting around talking about drinking.

They say that you have to drink hard for a long time to get DTs. That does not seem to always be true. I was only habitually drinking a six-pack or two of beer a night, with a few rare hits of whiskey as boosters. The most important factor seems to be a sharp, sudden stopping of the supply of alcohol which takes the body by surprise and gives it no time to readjust. The brain's defense against alcohol is to turn up the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, which is what gives you a tolerance and the ability to drink the amateurs under the table.

But the brain cannot just suddenly stop the overproduction of neurotransmitters if you suddenly quit drinking cold turkey, so the brain gets overloaded with neurotransmitters and effectively becomes short-circuited. (There is no alcohol to counteract the excess neurotransmitters.) The brain becomes too sensitive, and too conductive. Just a flash of light in the eyes turns into a shock wave of electricity rolling through the brain, and when it hits the motor centers, it turns into a seizure, a sudden violent contraction of all of your muscles. In extreme cases, a person can go into convulsions.

I used to ask people coming back from a relapse (yuk) why they drank again. They thought I was being sarcastic and demeaning. I was truly looking for an answer so I would know what to watch for in myself. Never received an answer from them. The 4th and 5th items of the dictionary definition are as close as I would be able to define my surrender. Dr. Tiebout's explanation on surrender hits close to what I felt those first couple days. But I didn't agree with the rest of his commentary on to whom to surrender.

One day I looked at the calendar, and realized that I had had my third anniversary about three weeks earlier, and had not even noticed it. I thought, "Something is wrong with this picture. It shouldn't be this easy." (I had cruised through my third year of sobriety with ease, on autopilot. Sobriety had become as much of a habit as drinking had been before.) I thought, "If I am really an alcoholic, I should be white-knuckling it, crawling the walls for a drink, and having to call my sponsor every weekend. Maybe that counselor who said I was an alcoholic was just trying to fill her monthly quota of new alcoholics found."

I didn't do anything right away, but that planted a seed of doubt in my mind that slowly grew over the following months. Two or three months later, I was at a friend's birthday party, where it was wall-to-wall booze. A bottle of whiskey on every table, and a fridge full of beer. I still went through the first half of the night sober, and then I thought, "I've got it under control. Three years of total sobriety without any cheating whatsoever, I've got a handle on it now. I can handle one beer. It will be okay." So I had one. That tasted so good that I had a couple more. Then the party broke up. I wanted more beer, but the liquor stores were already closed. The next morning, I woke up tingling and excited, and the first thought in my head was, "Go get a six-pack." All desire to stay sober was gone; what I wanted then was to enjoy drinking and just avoid the pain of drinking. "Just keep it down to a dull roar." I held out until noon, and then went and got a six-pack. I thought that I would stretch it out, just having two beers a day, but it was all gone by 4 o'clock. And the same thing happened the next day... And the rest is history. I drank for another nine years, until things really got bad and the doctor told me to quit drinking or I would die.

I have only relapsed once in my life, but when I did, it was a doozy. I went out for nine years. That is now one of the things that keeps me sober. I know that I don't have nine more years of drinking in me. I would not physically survive it, not now, at my age, being that sick again for another nine years.

So for me the answer to the question of "why relapse?" was that I thought I could handle just a little drinking — "just one beer". I thought I could control it. I never planned to relapse; I wasn't thinking in those terms. I thought I would just drink a little bit — moderate, controlled, recreational drinking. I would never have relapsed if I had clearly understood how much it was a matter of all or nothing for a genetic alcoholic like me.

I also notice how the A.A. misinformation came into play there. I thought an alcoholic was the stereotypical alcoholic that you see in the A.A.-oriented movies. I thought that I couldn't really be an alcoholic if I could just quit and stay quit for three years without crawling the walls and constantly craving a drink, without having to go to A.A. meetings all of the time, without having to call my sponsor in the middle of the night, etc... So the A.A. misinformation does hurt people.

Now I am at the 3 years and 10 months point. I was very careful as I passed the 3 years and a few months point where I relapsed the last time. I still occasionally get those insidious thoughts from the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster that tell me that I have it under control now, so just one beer will be okay, or — even better — just one wild party on a Friday night would be okay and a lot of fun too, but I don't listen to that little monster. I'm not gonna get fooled again.

From that first day, I never surrendered to AA, any god, or belief system. Probably arrogance and egotism on my part, plus Atheists don't surrender to invisible entities, or another person unless there is a gun to the head. I surrendered to the sane part of my brain and the reality of where my life had ended up. I did surrender physically and emotionally, on that first day, to the Psychiatrist when he escorted me from his office to be admitted to the Mental Hospital next door. When he asked if I was drinking again, I had broke into tears when I answered "Yes. And I can not stop!!" I had no strength or will to argue. The (imaginary) gun at my head was held by me.

I took my will back 3 days later, once my brain detoxed.

"Took my will back"? I don't think it is possible to give away your will to somebody else and then willfully take it back in a tug-of-war. See the beginning of the file on The Heresy of the 12 Steps

I still find it interesting that neither the doctor nor hospital staff ever learned that I had attempted suicide 2 hours before driving 25 miles to his office. Three seconds and 50-feet (at 70 mph) made the difference between life and death that day. A person has to experience first hand what it is like when the brain calmly and instantly says "It's time to die!" and the body follows willingly. There are no words to describe it. The same applies to having the D.T.s and hallucinations. I missed out on the D.T.s.

Ever hear the story of the man who called the Suicide Hotline and was put on hold for 5 minutes? Then told to drive 45 miles, in heavy Freeway traffic, to the doctor's office? That happen to me 8 months before the above incident. Acceptance did come after my brain cells were able to put words and concepts into an understandable form. It was at least 1-week before I accepted that I could never drink again. (Try to not read into these statements. It would be a waste of your time. :-) )

Briefly on the surveying and studying of AA, along with a few other items of concern. (None of this is an endorsement of AA or for anyone to go to AA.) The 12-Step program does not work, period and too many people get sicker because of it.

But, some people have changed their lives by having a safe place to dry out and to start learning about alcohol addiction. (Refer to your "What's Good About AA" document.) Without the good aspects of AA, they could be in jail, hospital, or the cemetery, joining all the other alcohol/drug addicts. YES — this is AA propaganda and a fact for too many people since alcohol was first discovered. I get the impression that you are confusing those who are abusers versus the addicted.

I will stick by my statement that "For many, AA is the last house on the street". In many areas of the country, that is all that is available. (Not a pleasant thing to say, but a fact of life. S.M.A.R.T has only 300 meetings worldwide.) I made this comment in reference to those who need/require help. Not about those who are able to quit on their own. More comments later on the Do-It-Yourselfers (DIYs).

But again, you are still assuming two things:

  1. People cannot recover on their own without a "support group".
  2. A.A. is some kind of helpful therapy that will help people to recover rather than make them feel worse, and occasionally even cause them to relapse or commit suicide.

Very few people know about the other programs, yet. Very few drunks, or their families, have the will, skill, motivation, or mental capacity to search out other options. So they use what they know about.

But A.A. still does not cause them to recover.

Until the mass media joins the bandwagon and puts out supportive information on a daily/weekly basis about alternative recovery options, and the courts give the options, it will be another generation before they become general knowledge. A couple websites and a few books on the topics are a start, but will not make a dent in the situation.

Yes, it is an uphill battle.

As to your comment : "And isn't all of that talk about help or pressure just a way of saying that as long as continuing to drink is possible, or even easy and convenient, an alcoholic will continue to drink? He doesn't quit until it becomes a problem."

Yes — he will continue to drink!! NO — he will not quit when it becomes a problem!! If... he has the physical addiction and any one or more of the many emotional traits that lead him to the addiction.

By "problem" I meant, a REAL problem — a really big problem. I also know about continuing to drink even though I knew it was killing me. The mind gets very cloudy from too much alcohol, and we can think ridiculous stuff like, "Well, it's hopeless. I can't quit smoking and drinking because I've always relapsed before. So I'll just stay high and kill the pain until the bitter end comes."

It is funny how I was able to just snap out of that one day and decide that it wasn't hopeless — that I would quit because I had to quit.

Yes — there are many heavy drinkers, when confronted or given helpful information about the situation, will make the decision to quit and stay abstinent with little trouble. As to what percentage, it would have to be a guess. Even by Harvard.

The first "yes" above is being proven every day by thousands, if not millions of people worldwide and is not AA propaganda, though they use it extensively.

What? You mean that millions of people are drinking and smoking themselves to death, in spite of admonitions and good advice? Yes, that is unfortunately all too true.

Bill Wilson, Dr. Bob, many people in and out of AA, and myself have proven it takes intervention or a life threatening alcoholic condition before they can listen to, or accept, the words "you have to stop!!" That is the "cunning and baffling" part about addictions and the human psyche.

Um, I agree that it takes something to cut through the fog of routine, habitual alcohol abuse, but I shy away from the word "intervention". That becomes an excuse for strong-arm thugs from a "treatment center" to haul people off to a place that charges $15,000 for a 28-day-long A.A. meeting. (For their own good, of course.)

And the "cunning and baffling" part of the mind is not so baffling at all. See the web page on the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster.

These are the people that Bill and Bob set their sights on, the down and outers. The same condition applies to why the estimated 25% of the population continues smoking tobacco even though it is physically destructive. This, and the addictive nature of nicotine, was known by smokers decades before the "official" reports came out. Ever hear the song "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette"? A popular country song in the late 1950s or early 1960s. One of the repetitive lines goes "puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death". The last line goes "Tell St. Peter, at the Golden Gate, that he will just have to wait, as I just gotta have another cigarette". No one can honestly say the general population did not know the hazards. An estimated 50% of U.S. adults were smoking at that time.

Yes, unfortunately, the human race has an immense, staggeringly huge, ability to be stupid. Just look at all of the people who still want to vote for George W. Bush...
P.S.: That song about smoking was done by Johnny Cash, and I love it. It's funny as heck, and so true.

It will be interesting to see how the (suspected) discovery of a human gene scientists think is responsible for alcohol addiction plays out. If it exists, I suspect it will be responsible for all types of addictions. It might be what makes the lower brain pleasure center, or Addictive Voice, function. If this turns out to be true, AA's claim that alcohol addiction is purely a moral and spiritual deficiency will be blown clean out of the water with actual facts. What causes us to indulge the first time is another issue. I can not wait to see how AA dances around that. Only time will tell.

RE: "I suspect it will be responsible for all types of addictions." Yes, I suspect so too. Dr. Kenneth Blum discovered a genetic variation that gives people a broken dopamine receptor, which makes them unable to feel as good as "normal" people do. The dopamine system is the brain's pleasure system, and without it working right, you just never quite "get there". Dr. Blum called it the Reward Deficiency Syndrome. A little about that is here.

But I do believe that what makes the Addictive Voice — lower brain pleasure center — function is hunger and sex. That is, food is our first addiction. We are programmed to get it. We have to get a fix every day or we suffer pain. And the drive for sex is just a similar craving.

When the lower brain learns that chemicals can push the buttons and kill the pain of hunger even faster than food, and that chemicals can give us even more pleasure, more intensely, than food or sex, the base brain just gets confused about the best way to survive and feel good. It becomes convinced that drugs and alcohol and cigarettes are the fix for whatever ails you. "Better Living Through Chemistry."

As you said in "The Effectiveness of Twelve-Step Treatment" (underlining is mine): [Note: the underlining was lost in the email.]
"When you consider all of those complicating factors, [in counting who is a member or not], it is apparent that the real number of unique members that A.A. is "keeping sober" must be just a fraction of the advertised number. It's very hard — basically impossible — to say what the real number is when A.A. is an anonymous organization with no actual membership list."

Where did I come up with my numbers and opinions about dry drunks, DIYs, and everything else I write about, you ask?? No — I did not make my own surveys. Though I did a lot of personal observation. They came about over years (40 of the last 56 to be exact) of studying human nature, character traits, listening to what people say, and seeing if it all matched up with their actions. Years of reading books on body language, how we developed our good and bad habits and traits by the self-help gurus (only picked out bits and pieces, not the whole scam), common sense, and observation built up a skill of separating the wheat from the chafe in the human condition. Studying human nature and character traits was a hobby for many years.

That is what you call a survey. No joke, I'm not being sarcastic. Observing and counting and measuring and learning from observation is what doctors and scientists do to come up with their information.

As to observation, asking questions, listening closely, and tying the pieces together, isn't that how the scientists get their information to create their figures and conclusions????

Yes, exactly. In fact, the word "observation" is the most important word in that whole rap. The opposite of "learn by observation" is "have faith", like Bill Wilson told us to do: "Don't observe, don't see, don't draw your own conclusions, don't think for yourself, don't trust your own mind — just Abandon Reason and just have faith in the sermons of Bill Wilson..."

I am reminded of a saying from Richard Feynman: "The words that signal an important scientific discovery are not 'Eureka! I've got it!'. They are, 'Hmmm. Now that's funny.'" When you observe something that doesn't jive with your preconceived notions of the world, you will have to change your thinking — i.e.: learn something.

That is one of my biggest complaints about A.A.: As an organization, they refuse to learn from experience or observation. They won't ever admit that Bill Wilson was wrong about anything, never mind the fact that he was a raving lunatic and a lying con artist. They will not change the Big Book to clear out Bill's crazy notions about alcoholism — a "spiritual disease" that is caused by defects of character, resentments, sins, and moral shortcomings... They just won't learn. And that alone is enough to doom the organization.

Am I an expert, or perfect? No where close!! Just a layperson trying to understand myself and society. Though, about 90% of the time, I can spot a scam in progress, a liar and cheat, and not so obvious emotional problems within 5 minutes of listening to a person. (Picked up on G.W.'s situation on hearing him the first time in 2000. Scared the hell out of me.) It is the 10% that I don't spot that nails my hide to the wall. I am not the only person to develop these skills. Very few realize it or talk about it openly.

This is referred to as "taking someone's inventory". Stating that in meetings caused a lot of anger, from those who had something to hide. They did not want to hear why I did it; to protect myself from the sick. I made friends with people whom other people called crazy, sick, stupid and unreliable. I saw none of these traits in them and trusted them completely. They never disappointed me.

The article in aadeprogramming.com " For Those Who Still Wish To Go — AA Attendees Mental Health and Survival Guide" should be mandatory reading for newcomers. Along with AA's "Living Sober", the only intelligent and helpful book they have. (Well, most of it.) It helped me get through those first months. Unfortunately, the article goes against AA philosophy, so will never happen.

After a few months in AA, listening to the same people talk and getting to know many of them outside the meetings, I was able to spot a relapse about to happen. This reached a level where I saw it days before anyone else picked up on it. It took a number of different relapses to put the pieces together and the pattern never varied.

I am grateful for the skill, as what I saw happen to the relapsers started happening to me at 10 months sober. I was able to change directions so I did not pick up that first drink. I was able to learn from those who did not learn or see the pattern building up.

Since High School, I have forced myself to follow a policy of life. There is no absolutes and nothing stays the same, especially people and beliefs, assume nothing (not always possible), ignore rumors (mandatory in the military and AA). To listen to both sides of the story before even starting to form an opinion or conclusion (don't always succeed and not always possible). As with most (but not all) people, my beliefs and perceptions change over time as more information is acquired and/or more valid facts become known. But. . .I am still human. I make mistakes in judgment and don't always clearly put into words what I am truly thinking or feeling. And these annoy the hell out of me!! But, I no longer have a need to drink over them.

I was not explicit about the types of Fellowships/meetings around the country: the good, marginal, and really bad. The good meetings are that way because enough people stand up to the trouble makers and dictators. They work through problems in rational ways and tell people to their face to sit down and shut up when their demands and beliefs are unrealistic.

The bad to really bad meetings are controlled by the dictators and the emotionally sick. The people with sane, rationally thinking did not want to waste their time and energy arguing with those in control. They moved on to more stable meetings or quit going all together. I was one of these.

Yes — there are a wide range of personalities at all meetings, which makes for a wide variety of meeting types. With the same people, on different days, the individual meetings can be any where from good to miserable. But the number of people with a reasonable amount of common sense who are looking for a better life in the worse Fellowships can be counted in the single digits. I have attended too many meetings at various Fellowships where I left seriously wanting to drink because the insane talk triggered the craving.

An example of a downfall is my first Fellowship/Alano Club. When I first started attending, the Steering Committee and Club were run by the (more) sane, longer term veterans. Those with a true desire to help others. The place had all the normal problems and personality conflicts, some meetings were good, some not. But due to the increasing amount of drug talk and the increasing arguments with the emotionally sick, the sane slowly left for calmer environments. (That is how new meeting places are started.) As the gullible and weak willed took over the Steering Committee and the Club, the dictators and emotionally sick pushed their demands more and more and got every thing they wanted. Few were willing to stand up to them. The few who did were chastised by the majority, so they left.

In my last relationship with the Fellowship, I put a proposal to the Steering Committee. Three of us former Fellowship members (2, 3, and 6 years sober) had been putting on a monthly dance at a local Church for almost a year. The closest other AA dance (weekly) was 40-miles away. Since the Fellowship had just doubled the size of the meeting hall, we felt it might be more advantageous to hold our dance after the Saturday Night Speaker Meeting. (We were giving the Club the proceeds from the dance. It was a hassle having it at the Church; smoking and drunks walking in expecting to party-hardy.)

Most of the Committee was for the idea, but they had concerns. I told them to think about it and get the opinion of the membership. I returned the following month to get their answer.

The answer I was given was "NO WAY". This did not upset us as we expected it. The reason for the "NO" was disturbing. The number of "for", "don't care", and "against" feelings of the membership was normal. More "for" than "against". It was one person who put the nix to the project: the secretary of the Speaker Meeting. A woman with 2-years of sick sobriety. She got angry at the offer and threatened to quit the secretary position. She was so adamant and angry that the Committee was seriously afraid she would drink over it. This was not the first or last time she did this. So, the Committee caved in to her demands. (Anyone in that condition has no business being a secretary of any meeting.)

An interesting note is that the woman and her boyfriend had no qualms about attending our Church dance every month. Shortly after the incident above, she won a raffle we held at the dance. First prize was a dinner for two at the Top of the Mark in San Francisco, valued at $250. She gave the tickets to a non-AA family member as she was afraid of heights. The Restaurant is at the top of a skyscraper. (Don't remember the exact floor.)

Talk about some pissed off people, we were. The religious woman in our dance group stated: "God must hate us for trying to do good deeds!!" My feelings are not printable.

We held the dances for another year. Gave up due to complaints from the Church over the smoking, lack of help setting up and dropping attendance that was due to nasty unsubstantiated rumors about us being passed around at the local meetings. (You know the routine: if enough people say the same thing, then it becomes true.)

The usual whiners, including the woman above, had made snide and derogative putdowns since our first dance in the attempt to shut us down. The comments expanded after the above incident and our starting a "no free admission" policy.

We were being overwhelmed by the young druggies expecting a free ride. A little hard to pay the DJ, etc. when half of the attendees were too cheap to pay the $3 admission.

A couple months before moving out of the area, the (true) story going around was the Fellowship/Club was about to close the doors. Attendance had been so low that they had run out of reserve funds and could not pay the rent. Nobody I talked to or heard from at the other local meetings cared. Most considered the closing a blessing. And these were people who started at or attended meetings there for years. (Don't know the outcome.)

At my first Fellowships in northern California (5 years), there was an average of 1-2 deaths per year due to relapses. At my Fellowship in the Midwest (the next 4 years), there was 7 suicides the first year and 5 the second year. Why the difference? I could only conclude that it was the way members listened to each other during and outside meetings, and helped each other through the rough times. There was extremely little of that going on in the Midwest Fellowship. I saw people happy and content one day, absent from meetings from 1-day to a week, then got the news they were dead. People there did not want to talk about their feelings or problems, so no one knew they needed help. It was "go to the meeting, say the standard dogma, pick up or deposit any new rumors, then go home".

The deaths were talked about in the meetings for a couple days after each and some members tried to find the reason for the high number. Only a couple people saw the cause and nothing was done to change the environment. Sad, very sad situation.

If you would like to attend a really damaging self-help meeting, attend a few different Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings. During my first year sober, I was pushed into one by my Therapist to deal with a number of emotional problems. (From Day 1, I saw there was nothing in AA that would help me in those areas.) The meetings were facilitated by a very good female Psychotherapist. She kept the meetings focused and instructive. We learned a lot from her. Three meetings later, she moved to a new job location. The meetings became self-run by the inmates, 80% female. It instantly became a riot of destructive talk and beliefs. More emotional damage was caused than healed. I did not return after one meeting of this. A couple years later, I attended another meeting in another part of the country. Exact same situation.

As to the "AAWS sanction", your understanding is correct. It might be GSO who controls who is listed, has been too long ago to remember.

As to a delisted meeting closing its doors any time soon is not necessarily the case. At the beginning of the ruckus I described in my last email, I learned there was a Fellowship/Club in an adjacent city. I attended many meetings in the area for 2-years and had not heard about it. They were not listed in the 2000/2001 area meeting directory, but was common knowledge to the older local members.

The story goes that they were delisted when the Steering Committee had stood up to the Area Central Office (Intergroup) representative when told their meetings were to be limited to Alcoholism. Their meetings had been for some time openly open to anyone with any problem. Even the NA/CA meetings held there. This was supported by the bulk of the membership.

When the Fellowship would not toe the line, AA said "Goodbye". The Fellowship is still thriving, though I assume not a healthy place to visit. I considered visiting the establishment at that time to see what the meetings were like, but did not need the frustration.

This should light up your eyes. On the first page of the Area Meeting Directory (2002) is stated: (is the standard statement in all Area Meeting Directories) "AN A.A. GROUP Traditionally, any two or more alcoholics meeting together for the purposes of sobriety may consider themselves an A.A. Group, provided that as a group, they are self supporting and have no outside affiliation. Groups listed in the schedule are listed at their own request. A schedule listing does not constitute or imply approval or endorsement of any Group's approach to or practice of the traditional A.A. program"

Go figure!?! Are AA Groups autonomous? About as much as a McDonald's franchise.

I thought so.

As to the status of the Fellowship in my last email, they are still listed at the Area Office and still open for business. They must have done some slick talking to get out of trouble. The latter is surprising as they were struggling to pay the rent 2-years ago. Two Old Timers had suggested it be closed and meetings moved to a Church (cheaper, less hassle). The 1 or 2 times a month I pass the building on heading for the Freeway, there are very few people there (at meeting time). Two weeks ago, the lights were off at 9 PM. So, they must have dropped one meeting.

At the moment, I want to step on your toes concerning your comments and reference to Harvard's "Treatment of Drug Abuse and Addiction". What I say here is meant in a constructive mindset, though is nit-picking as the topic is important. It is a point where you may have to take a "Moment". :-) I have included the paragraph here. The underlines are mine. An "estimate" means they were guessing. They had no hard proof. Those two statements alone nullify the whole paragraph.

I do not believe the rate stated. The reason: personal experience and observation in and outside of AA. (How many DIYs have you met?) Yes — I have meet a number of DIYs, more than 2, less than 6 billion. Not a great number, but enough to see the pattern of human nature and the situation. Five of them came to AA after 6 months to 20 years of abstinence as their lives were miserable. Can give you a list of examples at a later time, if you wish. Very few of them made the initial decision to quit drinking. They were pressured and forced into it, mainly by their wives.

On their own
There is a high rate of recovery among alcoholics and addicts, treated (??) and untreated. According to one estimate, heroin addicts break the habit in an average of 11 years. Another estimate is that at least 50% of alcoholics eventually free themselves although only 10% are ever treated. One recent study found that 80% of all alcoholics who recover for a year or more do so on their own, some after being unsuccessfully treated. When a group of these self-treated alcoholics was interviewed, 57% said they simply decided that alcohol was bad for them. Twenty-nine percent said health problems, frightening experiences, accidents, or blackouts persuaded them to quit. Others used such phrases as "Things were building up" or "I was sick and tired of it." Support from a husband or wife was important in sustaining the resolution.
Treatment of Drug Abuse and Addiction — Part III, The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Volume 12, Number 4, October 1995, page 3. (See Aug. (Part I), Sept. (Part II), Oct. 1995 (Part III).)

I will have to use your technique in getting to the truth about the study. How did they get their percentages? Especially the 80% success rate? The caveat on that statement is "who recover for a year or more". How many people studied and where, when? What is "their" definition of an alcoholic? What criteria was used for "success" and the time frame of the 50% who "eventually free themselves"?

Isn't the reason for quitting given by the 57%, the 29%, and the "Others" the same thing? Those look the same to me: circumstances and rational thinking. Unlike the other surveys and studies you list in "The Effectiveness of Twelve-Step Treatment" document, only one paragraph is given. AND IT LOOKS LIKE PROPAGANDA!! ;-]

You also stated, "So we must be very careful about statistics and surveys, and ask who is doing the counting, and what they are counting, and how they are counting, and how they are defining success." Add one more criteria — One survey/study is not final prove of anything, regardless of who does it. One Orange does not make a Bushel. None of the surveys, or AA, has a clear criteria of "alcoholic" or "success" that I have seen.

As you have seen, the report in the Harvard Mental Health Letter was not the results of one experiment where you can get such statistics; it was a summary of the current state of the healing arts in treating addictions. For some specific controlled studies where you can get all of the hard data, see:

  • Dr. Jeffrey Brandsma found that A.A. indoctrination greatly increased the rate of binge drinking in alcoholics.
  • Dr. Keith Ditman found that A.A. involvement increased the rate of re-arrests for public drunkenness in a group of street drunks.
  • Dr. Diana Walsh found that A.A. just messed up a lot of alcoholics and made them require more expensive hospitalization later.
  • Drs. Orford and Edwards conducted the biggest and most expensive British test of Alcoholics Anonymous, and found that having a doctor talk to alcoholics for just one hour, telling them to quit drinking, was just as effective as a whole year of A.A. meetings and a full-blown "treatment program".
  • AA-Trustee Doctor George E. Vaillant (also Professor of Psychology at Harvard University), clearly demonstrated that A.A. treatment kills patients. For eight years, his A.A.-based treatment program had the highest death rate of any kind of alcoholism treatment that he studied. Vaillant also admitted that his A.A.-based treatment program had a zero-percent success rate, above normal spontaneous remission.

And then a very different kind of study is the one done by Deborah Dawson. She analyzed the data from the 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, and got a very high rate of spontaneous remission from alcoholism — after 20 years, 80% of the treated alcoholics and 90% of the untreated alcoholics had recovered from self-destructive drinking. I don't know how or why that data revealed such a high rate of spontaneous remission, but that is what Dawson found.

Look at the chart of numbers here. If the spontaneous remission rate from alcohol abuse/addiction (aka "alcoholism") is five percent per year, then 50% of the alcoholics will recover in 14 years.

So it doesn't strike me as unreasonable to believe that half of the alcoholics eventually recover. It's just that if you are hanging out at A.A. meetings, then you will not see a lot of the independent success stories.

There is another reason why I do not dismiss the Harvard article as just propaganda. The authors are not professional proselytizers for a particular flavor of voodoo medicine. They do not have any such ax to grind. I think it is fair to say that they are doctors who have the patients' best interests at heart, and are interested in what really works, whatever it might be, rather than trying to sell one particular treatment program.

I would love to read all 3 parts of the article, but could not access them through their website. They are too old and I am not a subscriber (won't pay $16 for it any way). If I get ambitious some day, and remember to do it, I will check at the Public Library. I imagine from the one paragraph that it is so full of holes that it could not be used as toilet paper.

I'll send you copies of all three parts in electronic form.
UPDATE: All three parts are available here: HMHL_addictions.zip

I wonder if Prof. Vaillant was involved in the study or even knew about it, as it contradicts his philosophy of "send them to AA". He is a professor of psychiatry in the Department who issued the document. :-(

I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that Vaillant is retired from the faculty of Harvard, so he probably didn't have any input on that article. That's my guess.

I would also like to read the complete "Comments on A.A.'s Triennial Surveys", as you only show the graph from page 12. Since the meeting secretaries only count bodies at the meeting, how did they conclude that many "newcomers" dropped out?? True — very few newcomers do stay for any length of time. Probably 5% of the DUIs, who become over 50% of the Fellowships. All of those who leave, not just newcomers, have many reasons; religiosity, atmosphere, don't have drinking problem (some do but won't admit it), not getting the help they need or expected, required court attendance completed, found the solution to their drinking, tired of the sick and irrational talk, and many more. During the first years, I asked many times where the Old Timers were and never received a straight answer. The same kind of answer on asking "How do I work the Steps?" Which indicated no one knew in both cases.

I would also love to read the complete article, and am still trying to get a full copy of it. The A.A. headquarters apparently will not sell you a copy of the report, because it is so embarrassing. But you could try again. It is Comments on A.A.'s Triennial Surveys [no author listed, published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., New York, no date (probably 1990)]. The document has an A.A. identification number of "5M/12-90/TC".

UPDATE: I finally got a copy of it: Commentary on the Triennial Surveys (from 1977 to 1989), A.A. internal document number 5M/12-90/TC.

I thought I was finished with this email until I read through the Rational Recovery (www.rational.org) and (briefly) S.O.S websites. Those jabs to the ribs were instantaneous and hard. Was it an oversight that you do not have a link to Rational Recovery's website?

Yes, oversight. It is listed in the new, improved version of the links page.

You talk about them and AVRT in a number of places. S.O.S had Prof. Vaillant's book "The Natural History of Alcoholism" listed as recommended reading. Good/bad, I do not know. Did not look into the site past their homepage.

Rational Recovery may have a good concept from what little I could get from the brief explanation and their "Internet Crash Course on AVRT". I had read and heard of the Addictive Voice long before they started making money on it. Even before joining AA (1987). It was called something else back then. Would have to buy their books, only available through their website, to get the details. When the Home Page came up with a picture of The Trimpey's, the warning voice in my head shouted "This ain't going to be good, Son!!" The picture resembled all those of Preachers and their wives whose only goal is to have you look at their left hand pointed upwards while their right hand is in your pocket while they expound on useless topics.

What scared me was their two pages on "Frequently Asked Questions" and "About This Website". Did not take long to see my instincts were correct. Both pages read like a combination of Bill W., Pat Robertson (700 Club), G.W., and Microsoft (i.e, a business afraid someone else will use their ideas to help people and take away money they should be putting in their pockets).

Briefly, stating their way is the "original, only, and effortless" self-recovery method, their attacks on S.M.A.R.T (as "a clone of AA"), explaining (twice) how the S.M.A.R.T founders tried to steal AVRT from them, and limiting access to their recovery program to only through their website and one face-to-face meeting location outside Sacramento, CA., shows they need to step back and reevaluate their purpose in life.

I'm sorry to hear that such professional jealousy is going on. Still, I shall continue to talk about the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster, and teach the idea to anybody who is willing to listen, because I developed that idea independently, over the last 30 years, from quitting smoking and relapsing so many times. I finally learned the hard way that you just can't trust that little voice when it starts whispering that just one will be okay....

Their heavy attack on AA and the 12-Step program (mostly valid) is long in their "Why Self-Recovery" page, in another Public area and the Subscriber area is obsessive behavior. Along with belittling all concepts of what leads people to addictions. For every reaction there is a cause, but they do not accept there is.

Twice, they refer to the Grapevine (May 2001) article that over 60% of alcoholics quit drinking (recovered) without support or meetings. You also referenced this article (some place). Neither of you mention who made the comment (Prof. Vaillant) or how the number was derived (from his head?). How come??

Actually, I think someone else was telling me about it in a letter, but I can't find it at the moment either. And I know that someone else quoted that Grapevine article in his book. I just can't remember whose book. I'm pretty sure that I never cited that article as evidence that people recover without A.A.. I quote lots of other people, ranging from the Harvard Mental Health letter to Deborah Dawson, but I don't think I ever quoted the Grapevine article because I never got my hands on the original.

I recall that the other guy who wrote to me was wondering where Vaillant got his numbers. Out of thin air, apparently, I think. The hard evidence is Vaillant's own book, The Natural History of Alcoholism: Causes, Patterns, and Paths to Recovery, 1983, where he reported that A.A. treatment was completely ineffective, no better than no treatment at all. That kind of rules out 40% of all successes occurring in A.A., and it absolutely rules out 40% of all successes occurring because of Alcoholics Anonymous or its program.

Prof. Vaillant also said in the article that 40% of all recovery probably occurs through AA. He did not reference the Harvard study. His statement was about the alcoholics who remained abstinent, not all alcoholics, as you and RR try to insinuate!!!

Again, I don't think I ever wrote any such thing.

Read the article again and put a link to it so everyone can read it. It is pure AA BULL!!

That sounds like a good idea. First, I have to get the full text of the article.

In this case, you and Rational Recovery are responsible for doing the same thing that occurs in AA and by other scammers. It is like the rumor mill. As more people refer to information (valid or not) that someone happens to mention, the information automatically becomes true, even with no supporting evidence. Those who see or hear the current version don't have the initiative to locate the source or question its validity. Bill W.'s 50% AA success rate is a perfect example. :-(

Again, I don't think I ever cited that article.


In a reply to an email question (Feb. 2004) "Who is getting the best recovery rates at this time?", you replied "#1: Do It Yourself — 5% success rate". Was that a typo? (Just curious.) I assume (yuk) you were referring to Harvard's numbers.

No, that was not a typo, and no, I didn't just rely on the Harvard Mental Health Letter article. Just about everybody who has done reliable, unbiased, controlled studes has come up with the same answer — the spontaneous recovery rate in alcoholics is approximately five percent per year. Even Prof. George Vaillant got exactly 5 successes out of 100 patients in his 8-year-long test of A.A. treatment of alcoholics.

Also see this rap on spontaneous remission and Dr. Sheldon Zimberg's analysis of spontaneous remission in his book, The Clinical Management of Alcoholism. He, in turn, studied and summarized the conclusions of many other doctors.

Also see Deborah A. Dawson's analysis of the recovery rates in 4585 alcoholics in the 1996 National Longitudinal Alcoholism Epidemiological Survey. She found that untreated alcoholics recovered at a higher rate than treated ones. And, when she reported that after 20 years, only 10% of the untreated alcoholics still had drinking problems, that was a much higher spontaneous recovery rate than 5% per year. That would be almost an 11% per year recovery rate. Still, from what I have seen, I lean towards the five percent number. Also, the complicating factor is that the alcoholics who got treatment were sicker than the untreated alcoholics — that's why they got treatment. So Dawson saw a spontaneous recovery rate of something like 10.9% in the alcoholics who were not so sick. That's believable. Obviously, including the sickest, most addicted, of the alcoholics would pull down the average. So I keep ending up believing that a 5% number is about right, like R. G. Smart calculated.

One section of RR annoyed me to no end. It is Bill W to a T, just stated differently. (You may have to delete this as I will not waste my time asking their permission to use it. The information is accessible in their "Public Area".) Underlining is mine. [Note: the underlining was lost in the email.]

"Rational Recovery, a friend of organized religion worldwide, was not designed for atheists or agnostics." . . . "Because AVRT does not require religious beliefs, one may independently pursue real spiritual growth with a clear mind rather than in the fog of addiction and daily desperation. Clergy will appreciate that RR offers no philosophical opinions in matters of conscience or theology, and will easily recognize the 12-step program as a Gnostic heresy. AVRT is congruent with Christian repentance and our structural model parallels Old and New Testament scriptures, as well as the sacred writings of other religions.

. . . we provide a program that is free from religion." SAY WHAT!?!? If that is not a statement that "you better be religious to follow our path, no others need apply", then what is?? RR offers no opinion about theology, but the 12-Step program is a Gnostic Heresy?? Sounds like double-speak to me. Just like Bill W. used. "A program free from religion"? They contradict their self.

Bait & Switch?? These guys scare me, even though AVRT is a valid concept. FYI — the Gnostic movement pretty much died out around the year 400 c.e. (A.D. for the religious folks). The Christians were so determined to kill the movement that they used every trick in the book to destroy them. It took over 300 years to accomplish. When they won, they destroyed all of the Gnostic information and documents they could find. (At least, that is the way Historians see it.) There are websites, books, and churches trying to rebuild the belief system.

Interesting. I also use the phrase "gnostic heresy", but my understanding of it is that the Gnostics regarded this entire world as evil, and the realm of Satan, and believed that the only goodness was to be found in Heaven. I could be wrong...

Rational Recovery has a disclaimer towards the end of the Frequently Ask Questions page. AA should add it to their repertoire. It completely disavows any success or failure of abstinence to the program. Interesting writing.

I recently had the opportunity to exercise my brain cells and explain to a Court ordered AA attendee what the program was about. (We were sitting in a sleazy Karaoke Bar in South LA.) Her case was interesting, but have heard it before. She is an immigrant Korean, pushing 40, divorced from a Caucasian, good spoken English, but limited read/write abilities.

On being stopped by the police, her breathalyzer test was safely below the limit. But the officer took her to the station for a blood test as she had been swerving slightly. This was late at night, so I assumed the officer was in a bad mood and she had said something that annoyed him. The blood test was slightly over the BAC limit. So, into jail, court, suspension of driver's license, and AA meetings. This was her first offense!?!! I had to assume there was something else involved that she was not admitting.

I explained the difference from the breathalyzer and BAC. This condition nails many drinkers and there is no way they can fight it. She had drank heavily two nights before the incident, nothing the night before, and two drinks (slowly) that night. Hence, a low breathalyzer test. But, the alcohol from two nights before was still in her blood!!! (Takes at least 3 dry days for the blood to clear. Proven medical fact.) The Courts don't care when it got there. You ring the Bell, you pay the Consequences. She had to attend 39 AA meetings. It took over an hour to explain what AA is about and define a true alcoholic. (Translation clarity problems. A good practice for me in making clear statements and practicing patience and tolerance.) From her story, she is only an abuser, caught at the right time. The religious aspect of the meetings annoyed her totally, so I explained that deception. Along with the Steps and other falsehoods. She was raised Buddhist, converted to Christianity after coming to the States.

When we parted that night, she felt more confident about herself and had a better understanding about drinking problems and AA. Told her to let me know when she was going to her next meeting, as I was in the mood to mess with people's minds there. Unfortunately, she had attended her last Court required meeting. She had no desire, or reason, to return. (So, she would be listed in the AA Dropout Count.)

As Homer S. said "Ah Beer! The cause and solution to the world's problems!!" Ask any child and many adults who has just watched that show and they will probably tell you they heard "Beer! The solution to my problems!" This concept is pushed on us from the day we are born, every day, by the mass media. We only hear and see what we want, not what is actually there. It is part of our human makeup. It is part of the reason AA has grown so large. :-( Have you noticed that many of the longest running and most popular TV shows are based around drinking. The Simpsons, Cheers, Fraiser, MASH and That '70s Show are the worse. They are good comedies, but carry a strong message glorifying drinking and drugging without the downside. And people wonder why teenagers want to drink and drug!! :-(

Good point.

Maybe some day, enough people will wake up and start seriously attacking the addiction problem at its source instead of trying to close the barn doors after the horses have run off.

Where is the source? Society, belief systems, education, mass media and home environments are a start. Basically, every thing we are taught and see from the day we are born. Getting rid of the emotional reasons for drinking, drugging, etc. would remove the need to medicate in at least 80% of those who do. (Religions would take a serious hit also.)

Where do I derive this concept and percentage? I stated that earlier. Are they completely valid and final? No — just a personal conclusion. I just finished the book "Chemical Dependency" by Laura K. Egendorf. It contains a number of opposing viewpoints on the cause and solution. A couple of the opinions believe the same thing that I do. The book is very interesting.

If you listen to all of those Drunk-a-logs being told in meetings, there is an underlying theme. Those who were, during childhood, physically and emotionally abused, lonely and rejected wanted to feel good about their selves, so they medicated. Social moors, the mass media, and family hierarchy said, not always verbally, this is how you feel better, work better, think better, get richer, and are loved more. It's all a delusion that the suppliers do not want to change. Those who do not break that delusion are the ones who repeat their past.

Believe it or not, probably not, many of the AA clichés and beliefs about the alcoholic nature and personalities are based on valid premises. They come from real life experiences and observations by people who suffered through them. In the general, high level view of Bill W.'s, Scientology's and others on the causes and conditions of our problems, they were pretty accurate. Due to greed, mental and emotional defects, they dropped the ball completely as to the solution. Will S.O.S or S.M.A.R.T, or any other new recovery method be any better? I will not hazard a guess. The human variables are too many and too extreme.

I know that some of the slogans are true, and have said so. My all-time favorite is

Just don't take that first drink, no matter what.
I live by that one.

I also like

Beware of HALT — Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired
That is, you are at your weakest, and most likely to slip, when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Personally, I don't get affected by the angry and lonely conditions much, but the little addictive voice really starts whispering when I am hungry and tired. ("Just smoke a cigarette and have a beer, and you'll feel so much better...")

Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of the slogans are just plain wrong, just so much cult religion nonsense, like,

If you don't bend your knees, you'll bend your elbow.
If you don't Work A Fourth, you will Drink A Fifth.
Utilize, Don't Analyze.
He suffers from terminal uniqueness.
Don't Quit — Surrender.
We're the experts on addiction.
Nobody is ever too dumb to get the program, but some people are too intelligent.
Alcoholics can't afford to have resentments.
The most important thing is suit up and show up.
The most important thing is just never take that first drink.
The most important thing is to work the steps.
Don't leave five minutes before the miracle.
The answer to all problems is 'Work The Steps, Get A Sponsor, and Read the Big Book.'
I pray to God every day that I never get the idea that I can run my own life.

About 8 years ago, I heard a man in a meeting give a good explanation of "powerlessness". I have passed it on ever since. I accepted early who was responsible for that first drink, but could never come up with a good way of explaining it. When Step 1 came up in meetings, the best I could come up with was, "I am powerless over alcohol only after I take that first sip. After that point, I can not stop until I run out or pass out. It is not a mental choice, it is a physical compulsion." I did not get this from AA, but from looking closely at why and how I drank for 25 years. It took a few months before realizing the "disease" concept was bogus.

Indeed. I like to say that I am powerless over alcohol after I get two six-packs of beer in me. But I am not powerless over alcohol before I take the first drink. Obviously not, or else I couldn't stay sober for years at a time.

But it was my doctor who said it best. He explained that alcoholics have great control over their sobriety — they can stay sober for years on end. They just don't have any control over their drinking. Their drinking will spin out of control very rapidly.

The man said: "My arm is 33 inches long. That is how far away I am from my first drink. No god, higher power, or cliché is going to stop me from bending my elbow and taking that first sip. I am responsible for what happens. Knowing what that screaming voice in my head is and what it is trying to accomplish gives me the power to say "no". I have to make the decision to bend my elbow and at this time, I do not want to."

Use this in a meeting where you do not know the people and watch all of the reactions. The True Believers will get angry and give sour looks. The confused and unknowing will stare blankly. Those who understand will smile and say "Right On!!" Try it, you'll like it.

Speaking of meetings, you said you attended them for four months. (I'm going to get a little obnoxious here and ask a question, so bear with me. It is intended as constructive criticism.) You developed a good handle on the downside of AA and some of the upside during that time. Have you ever considered attending meetings with the intention of dispersing valid information that will help the people get out of their new addiction (AA) and help them understand the cause and a realistic solution to their drinking problems???   :-)

Just walking in, unknown to anyone, and immediately demonizing AA and the 12-Step program will get you physically escorted out. But there are ways to get the information across without upsetting the general population. The True Believers get upset about every thing that does not fit their vision of reality, so ignore them.

I do my fair share of proselytizing, but I do it outside of A.A. meetings. When I go to an A.A. meeting, I talk about some common ground item that they can understand and relate to, like the base brain addiction monster and how it whispers in your ear that it will be okay to just have one drink...

The best way I found was to direct the topics and talk into positive thinking and positive actions. (As a Chairperson or secretary) telling those with nothing useful to say to shut up and listen. This won't help make friends, but is standing up to the sick and stopping the propaganda stream. This does have a downside. The people have to get to know your drinking history and how your life is going now. When a person preaches something different than how they live and act, no one will listen.

I did these as much as I could during my last years there. I stayed away from the clichés as much as possible. My version of Steps 1, 2, 4, 10 and 11 are nothing like Bill W's. I dumped the rest of them. The True Believers did not like my version. There are a number of reasons I continued going to meetings for so many years. One of them was with the hope of passing on the valid and useful information I had learned. Most of which was from outside AA. I seemed to have helped a few of the confused along the way, mainly during long one-on-one talks.

As most dictators and revolutionaries know, change comes from those living and working inside established doctrines and establishments. If enough newcomers, the confused and disillusioned are fed valid, practical information, in the right context, the AA concepts will slowly change, or they will close their doors. Without someone with enough guts, intelligence and determination to help people directly, the Old Guard will continue to rule. It takes getting enough time and power within the system to make any kind of difference. Standing outside the system and shouting platitudes will get only one response from those within: quack, quack, quack . . .


Shakyamuni Buddha understood these and human nature extremely well. Study his method of convincing people that his beliefs were the right way to live. That was 2,500 years ago and human nature has not changed. If there is any truth to the way he "discovered" his beliefs, The Buddha had as many emotional and mental problems as Bill W. But he came up with a practical guide to living that works for some people.

The Buddha had emotional and mental problems? I never heard that one before. Please explain.

No — I don't subscribe to everything in Buddhism, only a small portion. Their form of meditation helps me clear my head so I can deal with life's problems. It is my Step 11. I was using a form of it many years before entering AA. It does not work for everyone and takes practice to learn and use. I have told many people who are heavy into praying for salvation and recovery, "After you finish praying, get off your knees and do something productive to improve your life". Annoys the hell out of them.

I do love a good debate when I have enough facts to back up what I say. (Have no problem researching the areas I am not sure about or might be wrong about, if they are important.) Also, love it when someone calls me on what I say, as long as the comments are realistic. Not many people want to. Both make me think about my beliefs and how I present them. But does not allows change my opinion or beliefs. ;-)

This email has gotten longer than I intended, even though I left out a number of topics that needs to be reviewed closely. So, Happy Trails and. . . Ciao for now. . .

Thanks for a very interesting letter.

Have a good day.

== Orange





Wed, June 30, Georgia F. wrote:]

not true... you definitely must be an alcoholic ! and can't get the word "God" out of your head

Hi Georgia,

I can only guess that you disagreed with something that I wrote. But it was Bill Wilson who couldn't get the word "God" out of his head. (Haven't you read the Big Book, especially the chapter on religious faith, We Agnostics?)

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange





[Wed, June 30, 2004, KK wrote:]

You are an idiot it seems...

Hi K.K.,

Would you care to get specific? Do you have any actual facts upon which you base your opinions? Do your thought processes run any deeper than name-calling?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange





[Sun, July 4, 2004, Blair wrote:]

Hey there Orange...

Been in 12 Step for many years, followed doctrine as best as I can but always felt a bit odd about the powerlessness and such (I started out at 23 years... sheltered life and had not other ideas or directions to look for my recovery). I don't want to debate what your points... I just wish to make a suggestion (of which I am sure no one ever writes you with suggestions). OK... here goes.

Right or wrong, I feel your message needs to get out there...and although I am only of the way through (referencing from your non recovery in AA statistics and facts and Bill Wilson/AA Facts) I sense a lot of anger from the particular way you write stuff (...therefore Bill W. is a Fascist) as an example. MAYBE he was... but such strong opinions detracts from the message and gets a real all or nothing addict all riled up. Perhaps, over time, you might consider revising your paper to make it more neutral and more just fact based (like the example I wrote could be rewritten as ... seeming to make Bill W. more of a Fascist by his very actions). Not sure if you can see/hear/feel the difference... but I believe it is more palatable, more likely to make people think, maybe even consider the possibility of it being true.

Well that is my two cents....thanks for taking the time to read what I said... I am truly thinking about what you have written and the message behind what appears to be anger.

Cool Runnings to you.
Blair S.
Los Angeles, CA.

Purchase one cup of coffee and effect the world. Your coffee purchase supports the coffee staff, the owner of the company, the owner of the building, all the utility agencies that supply the buisness, the companies that make the equipment, the construction workers who built the buildings, the transporataion company who brought the supplies (cups, napkins, stirrers, sugar and creamers, muffins, coffee) the companies that shipped the coffee from across the world, the people who work for the docks, the people who picked the coffee, dried it, packaged it, designed the packaging, the people who produce the inks for the packages, produced the packaging, the owners of the companies that grew it... PLUS don't forget all the families of all those people who benefited from your purchase... and the communities from all those people passing on your money from their earnings to buy more things in the world... Now what in the world makes you think you are alone and can't make a difference.

Hi Blair,

Thanks for the letter.

I agree that sometimes my tone is sometimes too harsh, and I need to cool it off. I am still occasionally going back and editing and toning things down a bit. I have a problem with knowing what harm is being done by foisting an ineffective treatment program on millions of people. And I get angry when bozos like Humphries continue to crank out dishonest propaganda to con more people into using 12-Step treatment on patients.

About the fascism of Bill Wilson:
That is a precise technical statement, not just name-calling. I don't think it detracts from the message, because it really IS part of the message.

It took me a couple of years of studying Bill Wilson, Frank Buchman, and the history of the Oxford Groups before I inserted those statements about Bill Wilson's fascist attitudes into the text of a few web pages. That came from accumulated evidence.

I know that sounds radical. I have thought about that. But if I leave out Bill Wilson's fascism because it may be controversial, or sound radical, or somebody might find it offensive, then what do I leave out next? Should I not mention Bill's financial dishonesty with the A.A. treasury, or his constant philandering and victimization of women who came to A.A. seeking healing? Should I not mention his mental illness and narcissistic personality disorder? Should I not mention his crazy religious fanaticism? What can I say that is not controversial?

In the end, it is all controversial. Heck, Yahoo erased my entire web site when it was on Geocities, because somebody complained that it was controversial.

If I were to hide Bill Wilson's fascist attitudes because that is a controversial point, that would be a little dishonest. You know the old saying about being a little dishonest — "Trying to be just a little dishonest is like trying to dig half a hole. No matter how small a hole you dig, it's still a hole."

It would also be dishonest for me to soft-peddle the point by saying something like, "Well, maybe Bill Wilson had sort-of fascist beliefs..."

Curiously, no one thinks it extreme when I say that other cult leaders, like Reverend Sun Myung Moon or L. Ron Hubbard are or were fascists... Apparently, what it is okay for you to say has something to do with the popularity of the cult.


Remember that modern fascists do not march around in hob-nail boots and swastika armbands any more. There are a few nuts who do, but they are just, well, nuts. The men who worry me are the ones who dress up in business suits and seem to be perfectly reasonable gentlemen, until you start talking about

  • God
  • or religion
  • or Christianity
  • or civil rights
  • or patriotism
  • or homeland security
  • or gay rights
  • or abortions
  • or stem cell research
  • or terrorism
  • or weapons of mass destruction
  • or the "new world order"
at which time you will realize that they are dangerously insane people. They remind me of the famous line from the Viet Nam war:
"We had to destroy the village in order to save it" —
"We had to suspend American freedom and civil rights in order to save them."

And fascism is not necessarily about anti-Semitism or racism. Not all fascists herd Jews into concentration camps. In fact, Mussolini did not do that at all. The Jews in Italy didn't get killed until the German Nazi troops and Gestapo agents came and rounded them up and shipped them off to the death camps.


Precisely what is fascism? It is not just some right-wing dictator kicking ass on everybody he doesn't like. Paul Diener came up with some good specifications in his letter about the Oxford Groups:

  1. Fascists believe that a society should be run by one strong, wise, competent leader who is not encumbered by laws, democracy, a constitution, or a bill of rights.
  2. Fascists believe that the highest duty of a good citizen is to give unquestioning obedience and loyalty to the leader. "Patriotism" is one of the fascists' favorite words, and it is redefined to mean unwavering obedience and loyalty to the dictator.
  3. Fascists believe that the average man is mentally incompetent and unfit to run society. Obviously, the average man is also too stupid to vote properly. (Curiously, that was also the attitude of the Communist Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.)
  4. Fascisms are health and purity movements.
  5. Fascisms make claims of "spirituality", and see themselves as diametrically opposed to the atheism of Communists. (See Paul Diener's essay on Fascism at Oxford.)
  6. Fascisms are opposed to anything left-wing: Communism, socialism, welfare, labor unions, collective bargaining, and any other social movements that organize power against the government or corporations. "Privatization" is another one of the fascists' favorite words. (Heinrich Himmler even privatized the building of the crematoria at Auschwitz and the manufacturing of Zyklon B, the poison gas.)
  7. "All fascist movements had, and have, a very real reformist / revolutionary aspect. This accounts, in large part, for their ability to attract followers. Fascisms promise some real reforms, and, in a period of severe crisis, many middle-class persons of liberal persuasion come to believe that ONLY fascist methods can achieve these needed reforms, while still preserving their own class status."
  8. Fascism is actually a kind of perverted idealism — a kind of utopian philosophy. As Paul Diener said, fascisms offer answers that seem plausible to many.

    What Paul Diener did not say, but I would add, is:

  9. Fascisms are hypocritical. While they yammer about God and spirituality, they lie constantly. While they talk of love, they are quick to lash out at "enemies".
  10. Fascisms are angry and resentful, and seem to always have some old grievance against something or somebody against whom they wish to get revenge. (Fascist leaders were sometimes abused children, and they are secretly getting their revenge on the world. Adolf Hitler was an example of that.)
          Fascists routinely complain about "the loss of values" and "the degeneration of society", and they have an angry fix for that. (The Nazis, for example, claimed that Jazz — "Negro music" — was corrupting German youth, and their answer was to beat up and arrest German youths who enjoyed the music.)
  11. And hence, fascisms are brutish, cruel, and vindictive.
  12. Fascists believe that the end justifies the means (as did Lenin).
  13. Fascists are arrogant, and think that they are smarter than other people (because they think the other people are too stupid to see how obviously correct the fascists' policies are).
  14. And at the same time, fascists are strongly anti-intellectual. They sneer at "effete intellectuals" and try to equate intelligence and thinking with weakness and femininity, even with homosexuality. For example, Sir Oswald Mosley was the leader of The British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, and one of Mosley's followers was a Dinah Parkinson:

    Dinah Parkinson outlined her ideal of womanhood by arguing that under Fascism 'women will be encouraged to be true women, not the pitiful copies of masculinity so prevalent today. Men will be truly men, unlike the specimens to be found in spurious "intellectual" circles'.   ...
          In particular, left-wing inclined intellectuals had opprobium poured upon them for their alleged effeminacy. Oxford University was held to be populated by 'innumerable specimens of the Bloomsbury variety, from the long haired apparition with the multicoloured umbrella to the less common tinted lips and eyebrows'.
    Return to Manhood: Masculinity and the British Union of Fascists, Tony Collins, writing in Superman Supreme, J. A. Mangan, Ed., page 148.

So how does that fit Bill Wilson? Like a glove:

  1. Bill Wilson alternated between declaring that God would be the dictator running the society of A.A., and asserting that Bill Wilson was the wise leader.
    • To Bill Wilson, God was a dictator:

      Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children.
      The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, How It Works, page 62.

      The notion that we would still live our own lives, God helping a little now and then, began to evaporate. Many of us who had thought ourselves religious awoke to the limitations of this attitude. Refusing to place God first, we had deprived ourselves of His help. But now the words "Of myself I am nothing, the Father doeth the works", began to carry bright promise and meaning.
            We saw that we needn't always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility.
      Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, © 1952,1953, 27th printing 1984, page 75.

    • Then Bill Wilson declared that he was the wise leader who was qualified to write iron-clad spiritual contracts "that those drunks couldn't wiggle out of", and Bill was able to handle the lofty spirituality of the Oxford Groups even while the average alcoholic could not.

    • Also see this praise of obedience and this praise of dictatorships.

  2. Bill constantly declared that people should follow the orders of the leader, no matter whether it was "God", "Higher Power", or one's sponsor:

    Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 100.

    Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

    We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, How It Works, page 68.

    ...our crippling handicap has been our lack of humility.   ...
    That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God's will, was missing.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 71-72.

    Bill Wilson even went so far as to declare that we do not have the right to decide for ourselves "just what we shall think and just how we shall act" — that even our very thoughts should be dictated by our sponsor or our "Higher Power".

  3. Bill Wilson constantly declared that alcoholics were too stupid to run their own lives or think for themselves. See the the web page on The Us Stupid Drunks Conspiracy. Also see the Cult Test items:

  4. A.A. is definitely a "health and purity movement". That is self-evident.

  5. Likewise, A.A. and Bill Wilson constantly talk about "spirituality". That is self-evident.

  6. Alcoholics Anonymous is politically right-leaning, even though it claims to have no politics. Its major influence is to make people into political eunuchs and discourage them from organizing social movements, even for the benefit of alcoholics. (The closest some A.A. members have come recently is to try to get other A.A. members to be political activists to get more money for 12-Step-based treatment centers. It didn't work.) Alcoholics Anonymous refuses to look at alcoholism in a social context, and consider issues like unemployment, poverty, poor educations, lack of opportunities, bleak futures, and bad environments as causing or exacerbating alcoholism. In A.A., the blame is always shoved fully on the individual, and it's always moral shortcomings, defects of character, and sin. (So there is no need for the government to do anything.)

  7. A.A. also has a reformist / revolutionary aspect. Bill Wilson routinely claimed that A.A. was going to reform or revolutionize the whole world, or at least the treatment of alcoholism. And lots of people believe that the "tough love" aspect of the A.A. program is the only answer for those nasty self-indulgent addicts...

  8. Alcoholics Anonymous is also a kind of perverted idealism. A.A. is alleged to supply a path to spirituality and Heaven on Earth. (Heaven on Earth was Bill Wilson's term for the results of his new "spiritual" program for sobriety. A Catholic priest — Father Edward Dowling — reminded Bill that he was encroaching on the Church's territory, so Bill changed the wording.)

  9. A.A. is grossly hypocritical, and lies like a rug. See the Cult Test items: Also see The Twelve Biggest Lies of A.A..

  10. Bill Wilson had a big problem with anger and resentments, and raved about them constantly. Bill Wilson had nothing but contempt for his own human nature, but he masked that by projecting it onto all other alcoholics, whom he constantly denounced as resentful, selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, and acting like they were God.

  11. And Bill Wilson's attitudes were certainly brutish:

    Why all this insistence that every A.A. member must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom.   ...
          Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A., and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be.

    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 24.

    We saw that we needn't always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, © 1952,1953, 27th printing 1984, page 75.

    [A.A. members are] impersonally and severely disciplined from without.
    William G. Wilson, in personal letter from Bill Wilson to Dr. Harry Tiebout, 9 Nov 1950, quoted in Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ernest Kurtz, page 129.

    Bill Wilson was so brutish that he even drove people out of A.A. and exiled them to an alcoholic death for disagreeing with him. See Ed the atheist, who wouldn't believe in God the way that Bill dictated, and Henry Parkhurst, who wanted his fair share of the credit for his part in writing the Big Book, when Bill didn't feel like sharing the credit, or the money, with anyone.

  12. And Bill Wilson certainly believed that the end justified the means. In between yammering about God and spirituality and "absolute honesty", he routinely instructed recruiters to deceive newcomers to get them to join A.A., rationalizing that it was for their own good.

  13. Bill Wilson was certainly arrogant, and thought that he was smarter than everybody else. He routinely claimed that he had personally saved thousands of alcoholics from death, and that if he didn't teach the alcoholics his "spiritual" cure for alcoholism, then they would all just die. Nobody would be able to quit drinking without Bill Wilson's teachings, Bill asserted. Unfortunately, A.A. true believers continue to have the same attitude today.

    Bill Wilson also routinely claimed that he was more spiritual than the other alcoholics, and he considered himself entitled to dictate their programs of recovery.

  14. Bill Wilson was strongly anti-intellectual, and he sneered at those people who preferred intelligent thinking to blind faith. In fact, he smeared them all as atheists and agnostics. Here, Bill Wilson pretended to be an atheist just long enough to write a chapter of the Big Book that declared that skeptical thinkers were all mush-brained:

    ... we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word... Rather vain of us, wasn't it?
          We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion. ... People of faith have a logical idea of what life is all about.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, We Agnostics, page 49.

    Logic is great stuff. We liked it. We still like it. It is not by chance we were given the power to reason, to examine the evidence of our senses, and to draw conclusions. That is one of man's magnificent attributes. We agnostically inclined would not feel satisfied with a proposal which does not lend itself to reasonable approach and interpretation. Hence we are at pains to tell why we think our present faith is reasonable, why we think it more sane and logical to believe, why we say our former thinking was soft and mushy when we threw up our hands in doubt and said, "We don't know."
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Page 53.

    Imagine life without faith! Were nothing left but pure reason, it wouldn't be life.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Page 54.

That list doesn't even include the fact that Bill Wilson joined a fascist cult religion, the Oxford Groups, and he did not even quit in protest when the leader, Frank Buchman, publicly thanked Heaven for giving us a man like Adolf Hitler. (And neither did Dr. Robert Smith, the co-founder of A.A., who was also an enthusiastic member of the Oxford Groups.)

Even after World War II, after Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin had gotten more than 80 million people killed, Bill Wilson wrote about Alcoholics Anonymous having "all of the advantages of the modern dictatorship":

Then, too we have a dictatorship — and how! God constantly says to us, 'I trust you will find and do my will.' John Barleycorn, always at our elbow, says, 'If you don't conform, I'll kill you or drive you mad.' So we have all the advantages and more, of the modern dictatorship.
Bill Wilson, quoted by his long-time secretary, Nell Wing, in Grateful To Have Been There, Nell Wing, page 22.

And that, dear friend, is why I say that Bill Wilson was, for all practical purposes, a fascist, and when he declared that you do not even have the right to decide for yourself what you will think, that his attitudes were extremely fascistic.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange





More Letters


Previous Letters





Search the Orange Papers







Click Fruit for Menu

Last updated 11 January 2019.
The most recent version of this file can be found at http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-letters19.html

Copyright © 2019, A. Orange