These essays, which have ended up pretty much making up a whole book, began as my attempt to clarify my own thinking about A.A., and to explain to others why I felt that there was something wrong with people trying to shove Alcoholics Anonymous on patients. I had signed up for a course of outpatient "alcoholism treatment", but ended up getting something more like "Introduction to Cult Religion 101," where most of the "course of treatment" consisted of compulsory attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous 12-step meetings, and "group therapy" sessions where xeroxed copies of A.A. and N.A. literature was handed out and discussed by a 12-step true-believer group leader, someone who just assumed that of course everyone who recovers will do it at 12-step meetings...

I started out with a very positive view of Alcoholics Anonymous. Like most people, I had only heard good things about A.A., and thought that it was just a wonderful self-help group where alcoholics got together to give each other moral support and advice in quitting drinking.

I began to get the funny feeling that there was something wrong, that something didn't quite add up right. For instance, in a "group therapy" session, I mentioned the fact that a dozen years earlier, I had quit drinking, all on my own, and stayed quit for over three years. The counselor declared that I had not had a period of "recovery," that I had only been "abstaining," because "I had not been dealing with any issues." The counselor had not bothered to ask about my past, other than to ask how many A.A. meetings I had gone to before (only 4, ever), so he had no way of knowing whether I had dealt with any "issues." He simply assumed that I had not, and declared that I had not. He was wrong, totally wrong. You don't just quit and stay quit for three years without dealing with all of the issues, problems, and hassles of real life. Nobody gets a free 3-year vacation from all of their problems just by abstaining from both beer and A.A. meetings. (Heck, that would be a great recovery program if you could do that...) Then, when I wanted to debate that point, he changed the subject and wouldn't discuss it.

Only later did I learn that such behavior is typical of properly-indoctrinated A.A. true believers. They will always declare that you are not "in recovery" if you are not attending their Twelve-Step meetings and doing their Twelve Steps. You are "only abstaining" from drinking alcohol, or "only dry", but not "sober".

That may seem like a minor point, but when you are fighting for your life, you don't want to find out, half-way through the treatment program, that the counselor is an irrational religious fanatic with his own agenda. That feels like being in a jet airliner, cruising at 40,000 feet, and suddenly discovering that the pilots are drunk and crazy, and that you are on your own when it comes to safely flying that airplane.

Or, after September 11, it feels like discovering that the airplane has been hijacked by crazy religious fanatics, and where they are steering the airplane isn't where you want to go. And, where the airplane is really going is not the destination that was printed on the ticket that you bought. The plane's new destination is their idea of "the Will of God" and "religious glory".

When I went to my second A.A. meeting ever, about 15 years earlier, I was in the middle of detoxing, and in very ragged shape because I had spent most of the previous night in (unexpected) D.T.s while quitting drinking for the first time. A woman there advised me to eat lots of ice cream to soothe my extremely painful stomach cramps, and to drink lots and lots of orange juice to help restore my electrolyte balance. Now, when I repeated that advice in "group therapy", the "counselor" stopped me with "Trying to get intellectual on us now, are you?" Apparently, for him, using any words more sophisticated than a sixth-grade education was apparently "getting intellectual".

The A.A. slogan is, of course, "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"
(--Which apparently really means, "Stay Simple and Stupid.")

Likewise, that 12-Step 'counselor' went non-linear when another client said that he was reading Jack Trimpey's "The Small Book".
      "What?! Isn't that the one without the Higher Power?!"
Then he told us that Rational Recovery's AVRT technique (Addictive Voice Recognition Therapy) is just so complex and difficult that you will die before you figure it out, so don't mess with it.

Not! AVRT is actually just a process of recognizing the thoughts that are the voice of the Addiction Monster, aka the Beast (the base brain, really), as it tempts you to take a drink. It is pathetically easy, once you get the hang of it. It is just like those Walt Disney cartoons with Donald Duck having a little devil on one shoulder, and a little angel on the other, and the little devil is whispering into Donald's ear, "Smoke! Drink! It will be fun!"

Children can understand that cartoon, but my A.A.-indoctrinated counselor said that recognizing that situation as it is happening is much too difficult for you or I (or him) to do, so Rational Recovery is confusing people into drinking themselves to death.

I continued going to A.A. and N.A. meetings, and continued to overlook the goofy stuff. Some people were obviously pretty far out there on the religious angle. I thought that was a bit much — I'm not into public displays of religiosity — but I could live with it, because I'm not an agnostic or an atheist. When people were saying things that were obviously crazy, I just thought, "Well, whatever. If believing that stuff helps them to keep from drinking, then okay, any port in a storm."

Then, a friend remarked that some people had accused A.A. of being a cult. That got me to thinking. Then I stumbled across Charles Bufe's book, Alcoholics Anonymous, Cult or Cure?, in the public library, and that was it. The dam burst, and a giant wall of water swept across the landscape.

So I read a lot of books and articles, both pro and con, and did a good bit of investigating, as well as attending a whole lot of those mandatory Twelve-Step meetings, both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

I came to the conclusion that Alcoholics Anonymous is really just a cult religion, one that passes off its proselytizing under the guise of alcoholism treatment, in just the same way as the Church of Scientology sells its cultish psycho-babble and techno-babble nonsense as self-improving psychotherapy. And Narcotics Anonymous is just another clone of A.A.. And so are all of the other 12-step "self-help groups."

If there is one sentence that sums up my feelings about Bill Wilson's teachings most, a feeling that keeps popping up when I examine the stupid and insane things that Bill Wilson wrote, it is this sentence from one of the essays:

"This is just so typical of Bill's insanity: everything he says almost rings true, it almost has some truth in it, you can see what he is getting at and almost agree with it, but there is just something a little bit off about all of it."

For example, Bill Wilson talks at length about the need to be freed from ego, the need to be freed from "the bondage of self." Now, liberation from ego is a great thing, if the student can accomplish it. It is a magnificent spiritual accomplishment, the culmination of a lifetime of training and preparation. Many spiritual schools teach techniques for doing it, like the Sufis, Zen Buddhists, and various yogis and swamis. But Mr. Wilson's methods are ineffective and harmful to people. He makes students wallow in guilt and shame, and grinds their faces in the mud. That doesn't work, it only makes the students neurotic. It is really just very common cultish guilt induction disguised as some kind of self-improving spiritual training. But hey, "Freeing the students from ego" sounds great on the surface.

Likewise, Wilson repeatedly declared that all alcoholics must be rid of selfishness:
"Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles."
"Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!"
— The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, page 62.
"To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action."
— The Big Book, 3rd Edition,, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, page 93.

But you will find out that what Wilson really means by that is that you must spend all of your time recruiting and indoctrinating new members for Alcoholics Anonymous. (And you must do it for selfish reasons. They say that you will relapse and die drunk if you don't constantly go recruiting, so while someone says that he is recruiting for A.A. to "help others", he is really doing it for his own benefit, to save his own life, so he is still being selfish.)

Most of the rest of the program turns out to be equally useless, or worse. It wastes the students' time with useless superstitious garbage, while telling them that it is giving them some good therapy. A.A. says that it is "Spiritual, not religious," but it is really "Superstitious, not religious."

A.A. assures the students that they will get good results from working the program, if they are willing to go to any length to get sobriety, and if they really try, but the truth is that they almost invariably will not get the promised results. A.A. has a failure rate that ranges from 95% to 100%. One of the most enthusiastic boosters of Alcoholics Anonymous is Professor George E. Vaillant of Harvard University, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., which means that he is one of the leaders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Well, Professor Vaillant showed by his own 8-year-long test of A.A.-based treatment programs that A.A. was worse than useless: it didn't help the alcoholics any more than no treatment at all, and it had the highest death rate of any treatment program tested — leaving nearly one-third of the patients dead. While trying to prove that Alcoholics Anonymous treatment works, Vaillant succeeded in proving that A.A. kills. (And, unbelievable as it may seem, he still wants to send all alcoholics to A.A. anyway, "to get an attitude change by confessing their sins to a high-status healer.")

I think the thing that really gets to me the most, the thing that angers me the most, is how almost everybody connected with the drug and alcohol treatment industry just assumes that the whole 12-step program works great, and is the answer to everything, and really does help lots of people. The so-called "counselors" are nothing but disguised cult recruiters who shove their 12-step religion on everybody they can, and they simply assume that if you are recovering from drug or alcohol problems, then you will of course become a happily-converted member of their 12-step religion that they won't admit is a religion. And they have the gall to charge your health insurance for their religious proselytizing.

And that is pretty much all of the "help" that people in "recovery" or "treatment" programs get. The treatment programs which are based on the Twelve-Step religion and are run by the Twelve-Step true believers — which means about 75% of all of the drug and alcohol treatment programs in the U.S.A. — do little more than xerox off Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous training (indoctrination) materials and read it to people in "group therapy" sessions, and then send the people to three or more A.A. or N.A. meetings per week (maybe even 90 meetings in 90 days for rapid indoctrination). That unethical behavior is being financed with the public's tax money and health insurance money. And that is a crime.

One young woman whom I couldn't help but like had accumulated 9 months off of alcohol when she relapsed. Her true-believer building manager (where she was housed, in a program,) sentenced her to 90 meetings in 90 days for relapsing. When she cried at a meeting that she was so tired of getting sucked back into drinking, and ending up waking up with strange guys, but she was having a problem with "giving herself completely" to the 12-step program, one of the resident true believers announced that the answer to all such problems is

"Do The Twelve Steps, Get A Sponsor, and Read The Big Book."

Well, it didn't work. She relapsed repeatedly, and they kicked her out of the program.

The last time I saw her, she was drunk on the streets, and fishing for a guy to buy her drinks. Since she is young, tall, slim, and very pretty, she has no problem getting some guy to buy her an unlimited stream of drinks (in trade, he hopes, for getting her into bed). If she continues on that path, it's only a matter of time before she gets AIDS and dies. What a tragic waste.

I just can't help but think that there must be some better way to handle such problems than a method that is obviously not working, the currently-used 12-step program. I can't help but think that a lot of people might be better off if they got some other treatment or therapy besides cult religion and voodoo medicine.

So here are some essays on the subject. Enjoy.


This is just too much:
I just learned (mid July 2002) that my former counselor, the one who was such a fanatic at shoving the 12-step religion on us, the guy who actually inspired this entire Orange Papers project, just got arrested in a big dramatic take-down. They arrested him for two or three counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor — very young minors, like children. And then there was a problem with kiddie porn on the Internet.

Can you believe it? The guy who felt qualified to lecture us about the need for "spirituality" and a "Higher Power" in our personal recovery programs was actually an Internet child pornographer and child-raping pedophile by night.

This whole "recovery movement" is just such a bizarre parade of crazies, lunatics, and losers. When will it ever end?

(And a little voice in my head says, "What else could you expect? They hire from within. The staff are all former patients. The crazies recruit the crazies. The inmates really are running the insane asylum.")

Update: 20 September 2003:

My former 12-step counselor was convicted on all counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and child pornography, and is now serving time at the Snake River Correctional Facility at Ontario, Oregon (near the Oregon/Idaho border).

Update: 17 July 2004:

It just goes on and on.

It turns out that the children that the 12-Stepper "counselor" was screwing were his own step-children. And then there was the cocaine. It seems that he had relapsed big time. The police found that he had cocaine stashed in his house, in his car, and even at his place of work — the so-called "treatment center" that I went to. That's quite some drug and alcohol counselor.

The Oregon Health Plan really got their moneys-worth when they paid that clinic to counsel the alcoholics and drug addicts, didn't they? OHP actually paid $1700 per person for people to get "treatment" for drug or alcohol problems. And they didn't get their money back when the "counselor" was arrested.

And can you believe that the clinic — PAAC, the "Portland Alternative Addiction Center" — is still in business (at NW 8th Avenue and Burnside in downtown Portland), still "helping" alcoholics and addicts, still poking the addicts with acupuncture needles and still selling the same B.S.?

Update: December 14, 2009:
I found that the identity of my former child-molesting counselor was published on the Internet by the criminal justice system (VINES), here.

Update: April 3, 2012:
My former counselor is back in the news: Arrested for failure to register as a sex offender. The story is here.

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Last updated 25 December 2014.
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