Letters, We Get Mail, CDXVIII

Date: Wed, August 19, 2009 7:50 am     (answered 24 August 2009)
From: "Ron"
Subject: Interventions

Dear Orange,

Thank you for your efforts to educate people about the reality of 12 step programs.

I would be interested in seeing more information presented about interventions. Most of them are done by steppers in conjunction with an AA "intervention specialist" in which the guest of honor is sent to an AA dominated institution.

There seems to be a widely held misconception that interventions have some sort of legal sanction that compels the person targeted to stay and cooperate. In reality they are free to just walk away and avoid the humiliation that goes along with interventions.

The presence of a "specialist" seems to imply some sort of medical and/or legal authority of the proceedings even though there is none at all.

I recently forewarned a person of a pending intervention and he decided not to attend. After he was cut adrift by "friends" I provided him a place to stay while he got back on his feet. He is now sober and using the SMART approach to remain abstinent. I caught some hell for undermining his intervention and was told that I was "enabling" him...blah, blah, blah.... It was even implied that I had broken some law by telling him about the planned surprise party.

None of those ersatz friends give him any credit for remaining dry and predictably say he is a "dry drunk." My response is that the term dry drunk is an oxymoron and that abstinence is sobriety.

The intervention specialist involved is livid that my friend did not show up. My guess is that he missed out on a referral fee (bounty) from the recovery center to which his victim was to be sent.

I would like to suggest a page dedicated to debunking the concept of interventions and to make it widely known that people are free to not cooperate, that they can turn around and leave with impunity and that further it is illegal for a "specialist" to even imply that a person must stay and face intervention. I feel that shows like "Intervention" give the impression that interventions once called have the legal authority of a court complete with a judge who wields legal power. The truth is that interventions carry no more authority that the average surprise party.

Ron L.

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the letter. I couldn't agree with you more. I regard "interventions" as a criminal activity, a conspiracy where a bunch of people conspire to overwhelm and pressure and strong-arm some sick person into signing a contract that obligates him to pay many thousands of dollars for kidnapping, false imprisonment, quack medicine, mental abuse, and cult religion indoctrination. That is more than one felony. (Why don't people sue for that? Besides the fact that most victims are too poor to afford a lawyer.)

I agree that I should do a page on interventions. One more item for the list of things to do. Do any readers have horror stories about interventions?

Oh, by the way, congratulations on saving your friend from the intervention. And I'm glad to hear that he is in SMART. That just tickles me. Both of those things were good choices. I'm glad to hear that he is doing well.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and
**      inalienable rights of man.
**          ==  Thomas Jefferson (1743—1826)

You can pick up the thread of this letter here.

Jeff Jay wrote a book that was published by the Hazelden Foundation, on how to do "interventions", Love First. Interventions are basically the tactic of confronting someone with a gang of family, friends, and strangers, including the strong-arm goons of an "escort service", who all demand that he go to a residential treatment facility where he will pay a fortune to have cult religion preached at him for a month. Hazelden, for example, charges $15,000 for a 28-day stay. No wonder they published Jay's book.

[UPDATE: that number is 15 years old. It is more in the neighborhood of $40,000 now.]

I found that book to be a disgusting collection of mind games designed to overwhelm someone and pressure them into agreeing to go with the "interventionists" or "escort service".

What was particularly revealing was what Jay had to say about those alcoholics or addicts who wouldn't play along. Throughout the book, Jay repeatedly chanted the standard A.A. dogma about how alcoholics are powerless over alcohol, and it's a disease, and the alcoholic has no control over it:
"We now know that this is a disease and willpower doesn't work." (Page 230.)
Step One: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable." (Page 247.)

And then, about the alcoholic who refused to "voluntarily choose" treatment in an expensive residential treatment center like Hazelden, Jeff Jay wrote:

If the alcoholic refuses treatment, read your bottom lines [ultimatums]. Remember, your bottom line is a way of saying, "I will not support this disease." It is a way to take care of yourself when addiction continues to attack your family. You are not punishing the alcoholic or addict. The alcoholic brings the consequences upon himself by choosing addiction over recovery. He can avoid consequences in one of two ways: (1) choosing recovery or (2) convincing people to enable his addiction again. If people stop supporting the addiction, the alcoholic who refuses treatment is likely to choose recovery in the weeks or months following the intervention.
Love First, Jeff Jay and Debra Jay, page 134.

Choice, choose, choose, choose. So much for how it's a disease and the alcoholics have no control over it, and only God can stop the disease.

So much for the A.A. dogma that alcoholics are "powerless" over alcohol.

Someone who can make a choice has power and control.

There is much more about Jeff Jay's writings here: https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-pseudo2.html

Date: Fri, March 13, 2009 7:32 am     (answered 24 March.)
From: "Anonymous"
Subject: Spiritual direction in addiction treatment

I recently came upon and read with great interest your "pages regarding alcoholism treatment. I will provide only a brief outline my own story here, as it is the same as those of many other alcoholics — I became depressed, alcohol dependant, pathetic & self-indulgent (etc.), and then within a few years the physical effects of became life-threatening so I quit... — but that is not why i am writing you today.

I am a public health researcher in New Mexico. The University of New Mexico is home to William R. Miller, a scientist whose life work has been alcohol studies, and more particularly, the role of spirituality in "alcoholism" treatment. I wanted to call your attention to a paper that we recently published which found *no effect* for spiritual intervention in a large randomized clinical trial:

Spiritual direction in addiction treatment: Two clinical trials, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 35, Issue 4, Pages 434-442. W. Miller, A. Forcehimes, M. O'Leary, M. LaNoue

Please publish this email anonymously, if you choose to publish it.



Hello Anonymous,

Thank you very much for the tip about this new research. As you correctly surmised, I'm always looking for good new research on alcoholism treatment. I'll have to get over to the local medical university library and get a copy of that report.

Thanks again for the notification about the research. I've quoted William Miller and his publications in several places on my web site, and I'll be quoting him some more.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "It is the friends you can call up at 4 A.M. that matter."
**    ==  Marlene Dietrich, b. 1901, German actress

Date: Fri, December 12, 2008 8:05 am     (answered 31 March 2009)
From: "Dennis M."
Subject: The Office


I don't know if you ever watch the NBC sitcom "The Office" (it's scary how much that show reflects my work-life!), but if you missed last night's episode, be sure to check it out! I know there's a couple of websites that allow you to watch it online for free but it might take a week or two for a new one to show up.

After getting drunk and setting her hair on fire at the office holiday party, Meredith is cornered into an intervention by Michael, who after an utter failure to get the rest of the office to support him, tries to physically drag her into a rehab center.

Screamingly funny with what I took away as some strong underlying messages about the misinformation spewed out by the 12-step propaganda machine on how to deal with such a situation.

Happy Holidays!


Dennis M.
Senior Consultant

Hello Dennis,

I managed to see it. The local NBC affiliate reran it at an odd hour a week later. That was delicious satire. I hope we see more of that.

And perhaps the rest of the world can see it on one of the rerun web sites that you mentioned, or catch it on YouTube.

(Which brings up the question of why NBC-Universal is being so anal about people downloading reruns. Seems like they need all of the help they can get to have more people watch their shows. They have so few good ones any more... and not much of an audience share either. Oh dear, am I being catty?)

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    I took one draught of life
**    I'll tell you what I paid
**    Precisely an existence — 
**    The market-price, they said.
**      ==  EMILY DICKENSON, Further Poems

Date: Wed, May 6, 2009 3:35 pm     (answered 18 June 2009)
From: Sherwood E.
Subject: The cleaner

Hi Orange,

Have you seen the series on CBS Paramount TV called "The Cleaner"? It is about an ex-addict; supposedly a true story. This guy claims to have "saved" hundreds of addicts through illegal, extreme interventions. He is not licensed or certified. He claims to have a calling from God. He is of course involved in 12 step meetings. This is a perfect example of the self-ordained gurus one finds in 12 step meetings, really sick.


Hi Sherwood,

Thanks for the tip. No, I haven't seen it. Funny that Paramount feels like glorifying a criminal. And a self-proclaimed "missionary from God" passing himself off as an expert on recovery (without any training or education) is simply surreal. Although that is also exactly what Bill Wilson did. And Mr. Wilson also claimed to have a lot of fantastic successes, based on no valid evidence.

Most of that extreme "intervention" and "deprogramming" stuff stopped back in the eighties when the "deprogrammers" started going to prison for kidnapping and false imprisonment, and also got sued for it, plus for torture and abuse. Look at Rev. Miller Newton and Dr. G. Douglas Talbott for previous examples of "tough-love" torture programs.

There are a few notes on "deprogramming" and "confrontational therapy" in the bibliography, here:

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     If alcoholism is really a disease, then A.A. sponsors are
**     guilty of practicing medicine without a license. They are
**     also guilty of treating a life-threatening illness without
**     having any medical education or training.  They have never
**     gone to medical school, and never done an internship or
**     residency, and yet they presume to be qualified to make
**     life-or-death decisions in the patients' treatment. That
**     is what you call quackery.

Date: Sun, August 9, 2009 11:22 am     (answered 15 August 2009)
From: "Eric L."
Subject: Intervention

Good day, Orange. I hope this message finds you well.

I was browsing through your letters and saw that you'd asked about Intervention, the A&E television show. Episodes are available on their website. I saw my first few episodes last week in an idle moment, and did not find the show to be entertaining or educational in the least, but I do enjoy real-life drama, so I was riveted to the "what will happen after the intervention" (the results). Unfortunately, what was true was that most if not all of the people had some sort of relapse, which happens (I believe) when we're forced into doing something that we're not completely ready to do.


I had also written previously regarding cigarettes
. Well, I'm pleased to report that I'm "a-fixing to get ready" to quit. Again. I'll go re-read the "addition monster" piece to get my mind ready for this attempt, and will also go to the American Cancer Society for more tools.

As always, thank you for your service to the community. Although I'm entrenched in Alcoholics Anonymous for the "Unity, Service and Recovery", I fully applaud your reasoning and if you save even one life besides your own for someone who would otherwise die as a result of AA programming, you've done a great thing. Your writings won't keep me from AA, but they will help me keep an open mind to the folks like you and Bufe who see AA for what it is, a cultish, passive-aggressive organization where the groups with charismatic leaders run the followers' lives. I see the practical value in helping others, and so far, the 12 Steps have worked for me, where religion (Christianity) did not. I tried to "cut down" and control my drinking at many junctures unsuccessfully, so complete abstinence with the help of the fellowship of AA was the solution that worked for me. Your mileage may vary. (I've always been a very staunch advocate of "AA is not for everyone — If you have another solution that works for you, by all means, use it")

I feel some sympathy for those AA'ers who cannot keep an open mind toward your writings and insist on debating with you on the virtues of the Program. (The book Alcoholics Anonymous has these quotes, "And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol", and "Be quick to see where religious people are right" (that could easily be expanded to be other people))

Anyway, enough rambling — have a great life, and thanks again.


Hello again Eric,

Thanks for the input, and thanks for the thanks, and I hope you are doing well. Especially, hang in there and kick the nicotine addiction. It's really worth it. Never mind vague way-in-the-future threats like lung cancer — the improvement in the quality of day-to-day life now is fantastic. Instead of laying around the house sick and tired all of the time, I'm always going out and about, which is how I end up spending so much time down at the river with the geese, as well as doing a lot of other things that I never used to do. Now, I have so much energy that I just can't stand to be cooped up indoors all day long. I can't just sit still or lay around all day long, or it feels like I haven't lived the day. I have to get out and go do things. That is like a day and night contrast from my previous existence. (I won't even call it my previous "life".) For me, just the improvement in quality of life makes it so worth it that I would never consider going back to smoking now. Why return to Hell once you have escaped?

Good fortune. I won't say "Good luck", because it isn't luck.

And have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Cigarettes dull the faculties, stunt and retard the physical
**     development, unsettle the mind, and rob the persistent user
**     of will power and the ability to concentrate.
**         ==   Dick Merriwell

Date: Thu, August 20, 2009 2:02 am     (answered 23 August 2009)
From: "Sarah"
Subject: Recovering from AA


It's me again. I was hoping you could be a sounding board for me. Be prepared, this is a long story. I desperately need to tell it to someone that won't judge me for it.

... [snip] ...

Painfully long story short, I have major depression with psychotic features and social phobia. After two years in AA, I became horribly depressed for about six months. I couldn't do anything, including bathing. I had one acquaintance who dragged me to meetings. Once again, I had done something wrong. "If you were closer to God, you wouldn't feel this way." I finally went to a shrink, and he wanted to put me on medication. I told my "friend" this, and he took me out to eat after a meeting, with four other people, and they did an intervention. "We'd really hate to see you get drunk. You shouldn't take medicine, you won't be sober anymore, and you'll drink very soon." Never mind that I hadn't brushed my teeth or hair in weeks. So, I went to another meeting the next day, and heard my new sponsor speak. He challenged all (or so I thought) of the dogma, and made me feel safe. I asked him to sponsor me after the meeting. He said yes, and a new chapter started.

... [snip] ...

You can see the whole letter here:

Date: Sat, April 29, 2006 10:38
From: "Toni B."
Subject: We have a cult problem ourselves

We need help and advice on breaking up part of our family that has a cult mentality. I myself had constant exorcisms with them among other things, and we believed that we were above normal rules and followings that belong to anyone else. We are planning on doing some sort of intervention very soon with the law backing us up, and would love some input if you could. My step brother is a retired police officer, and wants to use the law to force counseling, but I was hoping that we could try an intervention type thing first, mabey bring someone in who they will listen to. Please help.

Thank You-
Toni B.

Hi Toni,

Sorry to take so long to answer. I didn't realize that this letter was more important than usual.

My initial reaction about a forced intervention is DON'T. The reasons are many:

  1. Who could you use as an interventionist or "exit counselor"? Ted Patrick (who liked to call himself "Black Lightning") was sent to prison for kidnapping, false imprisonment and cruelty. There are few or no competent, honest, exit counselors who will participate in a forced intervention.

  2. What gives you the right to force your religious beliefs on your other family members?
    Now I'm sure that you think that question unfair, because your nutty true-believer relatives are trying their best to shove their beliefs on other people, right? But it cuts both ways.

  3. And you say that your goal is to "break up part of your family". What does that mean, really?

  4. You say that you will have the law backing you up. That is vague. Ordinarily, the courts do not get involved in religious disputes and force one family member's beliefs on another. The courts don't want to touch that. We theoretically at least have freedom of religion in this country. Even Tom Cruise is allowed to walk the streets and praise Scientology and rave about bad psychiatrists and tell mentally-ill people not to take their medications.

    If it's a matter of child abuse, then it is a given that the child should be removed from the bad environment and custody given to someone better. But that is not an "intervention" — that's just rescuing a child. And that will be legally done by child welfare, with the help of police, not by some relatives and an ex-cop.

  5. Another reason for not doing an intervention is because they often fail, and even do lots of damage. (After abusive deprogramming, one girl just sat in her bedroom and stared out of the window for a year.) How do you plan to break the will of your family member and change his or her mind? What methods of torture will be used?

    Do you really imagine that just having some "counselor" talk to your relatives for a day or two will make them suddenly convert to your religious beliefs and quit being so crazy?

    And that's what we are really talking about here. You consider the beliefs of your other family members to be crazy and unrealistic. They probably are. (People who do exorcisms are a pretty nutty, whacked-out, scary bunch.) Still, it really is a matter of somebody deciding that "My beliefs are better and saner than his beliefs, so he should change his mind and start to think my way." The laws of the U.S.A. say that you can't do that by force. We have freedom of religion even for the crazy religions.

  6. Lastly, what we learned from our collective experience with the cults of the sixties and seventies is that most of the cult members eventually "come out of it" and quit the cult all on their own. The few who don't quit will probably be lifers that you won't be able to save or convert anyway.

Now is there anything that can be done? I hope so. But it's tough. Crazy true believers in a cult religion really like their crazy beliefs. They have an intense desire to continue to believe for a variety of reasons.

Wanting to believe is perhaps the most powerful dynamic initiating and sustaining cult-like behavior.
The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 137.

You should check out Steven Hassan's book, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, which gives a lot of advice about how to get loved ones out of a cult.

Here are some places in previous letters where we discussed Hassan's ideas for how to get people out of cults:

  1. Don't give up
  2. Use indirect criticism of the cult
  3. Phobia induction

Also see these previous letters:

Again, if you are seeing a situation where children or any other minors are being abused or mistreated by a cult religion, then you have every right and even the duty to do something and rescue that child. Contact the local Child Welfare Agency or Human Services Department or whatever it is called in your state.

But if it's just some family members who are crazy as a loon and going off the deep end with a cult religion, well, legally, they have that right. You can try to talk sense to them, but you don't have the right to make them change religions.

Oh well, have a good day anyway, and good luck.

== Orange

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** It may be difficult to determine where religious
** beliefs end and mental illness begins. — Elaine Cassel

[2nd letter from Toni:]

Date: Fri, May 19, 2006 12:10
From: "Toni B."
Subject: Re: We have a cult problem ourselves

Thank you so much for responding. I wanted to clarify a few things though. We weren't going to kidnap anyone, of course. We found out that I can still press charges of my own child abuse that happened to me. The exorcisms would go for days sometimes, until I admitted I had demons and asked God to forgive. I know it's hard to believe this is abuse, but it went on for about 2 years.

After me came so many others, and it still goes on. You have no idea how much mental damage it causes. They take every thing you do and make it evil, quoting even from the Bible. We were going to use the law in that they have a choice: counseling or jail.

Please tell me with this updated version of a intervention some advice. I was thinking along the lines of meeting with lawyers and the preacher of the real church we used to go to as a family, and all of us kids. It just hurts watching them and worrying about who they hurt next.

They have another child living with them now, and as usual they train a lot of kids with their horse ranch. Some of the kids in the past actually formed a support group online for a while. They don't seem to know they are hurting others and themselves, that they're predators not preachers.

I just want to help them somehow. It's hard to walk away, like with any family member who's messed up. Please write back and tell me your honest opinion, I hope it's more clear what I'm trying to do.


Hi again Toni,

Ah, okay. In this letter, things are sounding a lot better. I'm really glad that you weren't thinking of a forceful "intervention". That's what Steppers do occasionally, and I'm against it. And it is of course what the anti-cult people used to do — kidnapping and deprogramming — and I think they did more harm than good.

As far as pursuing the child abuse charges, that sounds like a very good approach. Really, it's the only thing that you have.

And I do believe you. In my years of studying cults for this web site, I've read some pretty awful stuff, even worse stuff. It boggles the mind, the depths to which some people can sink.

Perhaps you have read the Children's Gulags web page. It also describes some abusive camps where children supposedly go sailing and horse-back riding.

You say, "it still goes on."
That alone is enough for me. If they are still doing that to other children now, then throw their asses in jail.

I don't have any faith in "counseling". All too often, it's just talk, and nothing changes.
(Now in all fairness to counselors, I think they can help borderline or moderately normal people who just have some simpler problems that they need to work through, but counselors aren't going to change vicious psychotics with just some pleasant chats. It's just like how repeat sexual predators are not reformed by "treatment".)

In general, I feel very pessimistic about your chances for any kind of an amicable settlement. Those nutcases believe that what they are doing is right, and almost nothing will change that.

What you are actually trying to do is undermine their entire world-view, their idea of reality. They actually think that they live in a grim fairy-tale world of demons and devils, and they see themselves as knights in shining armor, fighting for God and Truth. They imagine that their lives are grand epic moral melodramas, where they are heroes bravely battling against the Dark Forces.
(And I imagine that they suppress any recognition of the sadistic side of their actions. They probably won't even honestly admit to themselves that they enjoy beating and tormenting devils out of children.)

They will not give up that heroic image of themselves and accept the image of "child abuser". They will probably insist that they are right until the day that they die.

The only thing you can do now is stop them from hurting any more children.

Do it. Do it by any means that you have at your disposal. Shut them down. Put an end to it. And filing charges for child abuse is the sharpest sword in your armory.

It's a shame that your online support group went offline. But there are others. Some of the non-religious children's boot camps were just as bad, and there are groups for them.

You might want to check these out, and see if you find some kindred spirits there:

I'm sure that there are a zillion more support groups and chat groups. I just haven't compiled a good list yet.

Also see the child abuse links on my links page.

Oh, and just for giggles and grins, look at these crazy religious fanatics picketing the funerals of soldiers who were killed recently in Iraq: here. Those religious cult wackos are really something else...

Alas, I don't think that just counseling will change them. That is pretty self-evident.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** "My enemies I can handle, but Lord save me from
** those who would do unto me for my own good."
**   — Orange as a young hippie, 1968
** "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done
** it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
** ye have done it unto me." — Jesus, in Matthew 25:40

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Last updated 22 November 2014.
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