Letters, We Get Mail, X

[ 10 Feb 2003, herbl L. wrote: ]

orange i do find much of your site very interesting and informative. I have been in AA now for about five years and I find that to good to be true at times. I would like to know however how much of what you say is actually true, or just your opinion.

Hi Herbl,

I go out of my way to make sure that everything on my web site is true and accurate. That's why it is loaded with so many quotes from other sources. Also, check out the Bibliography. I do a lot of research.

I often follow a pattern of
{ quote — quote — quote — analysis }
where the analysis is my opinion, but it is supported by the previous quotes.

And the single-most-quoted person on my web site is Bill Wilson, and the Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous is the single-most-quoted book...

As well, I attended a big book study and I mentioned that Ebby Thatcher drank himself to death, this of course offended a member of 20 years who said that this was false that Ebby returned to drinking but later sobered up before he died. His source was from AA approved literature. Mine was from More Revealed by Ken Ragge. If you could, would you please tell me which is true.


When you put it that way, it is not possible to know with 100% certainty which is true unless we were there and witnessed Ebby's death ourselves.

We can also get trapped in semantics: How long do you have to quit before you die for it to be said that you died sober? If Ebby quit drinking 1 year before he died, did he die drunk or sober? 1 month? 1 week? 1 hour? If someone is dying — so sick that he is hospitalized for the last two months of his life, and the nurses won't let him drink, then does that count as dying sober?

Nevertheless, to get to the point, everything I ever read said that he never got sober again after he relapsed, including Ragge. I didn't even know that any old-timers considered the matter in question, or an important detail. It sounds to me like somebody just wants a perfect Dick-and-Jane fairy-tale world where nothing ever goes wrong.

I don't know what "council-approved" literature that old-timer was referring to. I would really like to know, for my own education. I've read most of it, and I never saw that particular detail.

Note that "council-approved" does not necessarily mean "verified", or even "true".
Usually, it just means "approved propaganda".
Heck, the Big Book is the most council-approved text there is, and it is loaded with falsehoods. Read the file on The Funny Spirituality of Bill Wilson and A.A. for some of them.
Also see Bill's account of the creation of the Big Book in the council-approved book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, written by Bill Wilson. It is loaded with falsehoods, distortions, and outright lies. And the truth can be determined from examination of other documentation.

I have handy, at the moment, four biographies of Bill Wilson:

  • Bill W. A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson     Francis Hartigan
    Thomas Dunne Books, An imprint of St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, 2000.
    ISBN 0-312-20056-0
    Dewey call number: B W11h 2000
    Francis Hartigan was Bill's wife's private secretary. This book is pretty much a white-wash and tells the whole story from Bill's point of view. But it does contain a few surprises, like the chapter "The Other Woman" which details Bill's love affair with Helen Wynn, and hints at all of his other affairs where he cheated on Lois, both before and after sobriety, all of his married life.

  • Bill W.     Robert Thomsen
    Harper & Rowe, New York, 1975.
    ISBN 0-06-014267-7
    Dewey call number: 362.29 W112t
    This is a good biography of William G. Wilson, even if it is very positively slanted towards Mr. Wilson, because the author knew Mr. Wilson and worked beside him for the last 12 years of Mr. Wilson's life. And rumor has it that this book was prepared from autobiographical tapes that Bill Wilson made before he died. So expect it to praise Mr. Wilson a lot. Still, this book will also tell you about some of Bill Wilson's warts, his fat ego, his publicity-hound behavior, and his years-long "dry drunks"...

  • Bill W. and Mr. Wilson — The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder     Matthew J. Raphael
    University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, Mass., 2000.
    ISBN 1-55849-245-3
    Dewey Call Number: B W11r 2000
    LC: HV5032 .W19 R36 2000
    This book was written by another stepper — the name 'Matthew Raphael' is a pen name — and it generally praises Bill Wilson and recites the party line about most things, but it also contains a bunch of surprises, like detailing Bill's sexual infidelities, his and Bob's spook sessions — talking to the 'spirits' in séances through the use of Ouija boards, spirit rapping, clairvoyance, and channeling, LSD use, and publicity-hound megalomania.

  • Bill W. My First 40 Years     'An Autobiography By The Cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous'
    (This is Bill Wilson's alleged 'autobiography', supposedly published anonymously.)
    Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota 55012-0176, 2000.
    ISBN 1-56838-373-8
    Dewey call number: B W11w 2000
    This book was reputedly assembled by ghost writers at Hazelden from the same set of autobiographical tapes of Bill Wilson that Robert Thomsen used for his book.

Okay, now to get down to specifics:

  • In his autobiography, Bill Wilson tells the usual story about Ebby Thacher bringing him the message on pages 140 to 155. Bill's last mention of Ebby Thacher is on page 158. It simply says that Ebby had been sobered up by three Oxford Groupers — Rowland Hazard, Cebra Graves, and Shep Cornell. And then Bill drops the subject and never says anything more about Ebby in that book. He never even says that Ebby relapsed, never mind recovered.

  • Raphael says that in 1935:

    Bill went one better than Shoemaker's example of housing drunks by inviting them into his own home. Ebby became a semipermanent house guest.
    Bill had discovered that several reformed alcoholics, including Rowland and Ebby, regularly gathered at Stewart's Cafeteria, around the corner from the Twenty-Third Street Mission, and carried on for hours over cigarettes and coffee.
    Bill W. and Mr. Wilson — The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder, Matthew J. Raphael, page 93.

    And that was the end of Ebby's story in Raphael's book. All further mentions of Ebby are in the past tense, like "In the middle of the kitchen ... lies the famous table ... at which Bill and Ebby sat in November 1934." (Page 172.)

  • Robert Thomsen said:

    They were trying to raise money for Clinton Street [Bill and Lois' house] and Ebby had gone to Albany. Nobody knew what happened there, but when he returned he was drunk and he had been off and on ever since, Ebby, who had first brought him the message. And Bill had tried to learn from this lonely lesson that one may still have faith in a message, if not always the messenger.
    Bill W., Robert Thomsen, page 273.

  • When Ebby had got drunk he had been in Albany. Bill had not seen him, so what actually caused Ebby's slip was always somewhat mysterious.
    Bill W., Robert Thomsen, page 299.

  • Hartigan says that both Henry Parkhurst and Ebby Thacher relapsed:

    Even after reports came to him that Hank was drinking, he seems not to have really believed it. When one day he discovered Hank soused to the gills, it shook him to the core.
          Ebby had gotten drunk, too, but Ebby got sober through the Oxford Group, and he was never involved in a meaningful way in helping Bill to realize his vision. Ebby also got drunk after moving back to Albany, not right under Bill's nose.   ...   Also, Ebby had been sober two years, seven months, not four years. Until Hank's relapse, it seems likely that neither Bill nor the other members thought someone who had so thoroughly made the program his life for four years could get drunk again.
    Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, 2000, page 130.

  • Bill Wilson certainly had his own life problems, and Ebby was not the only AA member he found himself being asked to help on a recurring basis.
    Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, 2000, pages 154-155.

  • Then, of course, there was Ebby Thacher, who had already run through his family money by the time he found the Oxford Group. Ebby seems perpetually to have been financially desperate, and Bill was always willing to do whatever he could for him. Ebby lived with Bill and Lois on and off for years, and Bill supported him at other times, as well.
    Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, 2000, page 200.

    Opinion: Reading between the lines, we can see that Ebby was always "financially desperate" because he was always drinking and unemployed.

  • In discovering the Oxford Group, Ebby found people who would take him in and take care of him. Time would reveal that Ebby was always able to stay sober when he had someone to look after him and never able to when he did not. Ebby had been sober two years and seven months when, in 1937, after moving back to Albany, he started drinking again. Many more relapses were to follow. Bill, ever faithful and loyal, would always do whatever he could to help his friend. When Ebby was in his cups or just particularly down on his luck, he often came by the AA office for a handout. Bill always came through for him, even during the years when he would have to borrow money from someone else in order to help Ebby.
    Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, 2000, page 63.

  • By the time Ebby Thacher died in 1966, a victim of emphysema, Bill had been trying to quit smoking for more than twenty years.
    Bill W., A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Co-Founder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, 2000, page 208.

    (See The Funny Spirituality of Bill Wilson and A.A. for more on Bill's cigarette addiction.)

  • And last but not least, let us not forget the Big Book itself. Ebby had already relapsed and left the scene when it was written. We know that Bill sobered up about December 14, 1934. And Bill wrote chapter 5 of the Big Book, including the Twelve Steps, in December 1938. So Bill had 4 years of sobriety at that time. Since Ebby only got 2 years and 7 months of sobriety before relapse, and he had started his sobriety well before Bill did, Ebby was long gone when Bill wrote his part of the first 164 pages. But Bill wrote nothing about either Ebby's relapse or any return to sobriety.

William Wilson (left) and Ebby Thacher (right)

The last known photograph of Ebby Thacher

Now common sense will tell you that if Ebby had sobered up and returned to A.A., Bill Wilson and gang would have made a big deal of it:
"Bill's sponsor finally returns to sobriety! Keep Coming Back! It Works!"
But they didn't. They just let Ebby fade into obscurity. They just stopped mentioning him, and ignored the subject of Ebby entirely. That is actually very typical behavior for Wilson and friends. Bill never reported when the Big Book authors relapsed and disappeared, either.
(Now A.A. did invite Ebby to one of the big conventions in his later years, where he got his 15 minutes of fame as "Bill's sponsor". But they didn't say that he was sober.)

It's my opinion, but I conclude that Ebby never sobered up.

And I've never seen a shred of evidence that he did.

But if someone finds some, I'd love to see it. Why don't you ask that old-timer what his source was? Book title, author, and page number is essential, of course.
And then, depending on who the author is, I'd like to know where that author got his information — did he have some valid historical information, or was he just making up some more propaganda?

Thanks for the question. Have a good day.

— Orange

[ a later post-script, 8 March 2003: }

P.S.: I just got my hands on a copy of "Ebby: The Man Who Sponsored Bill W.", by Mel B.. He says that Ebby was institutionalized at an alcoholics' farm for the last 2 years of his life, and was not allowed to drink there:

Ebby Thacher spent the last two years of his life in a pleasant farmhouse on a country road called Peaceable Street.   ...
      The place was McPike's Farm, a pioneering alcoholism treatment facility in the town of Galway, near Saratoga Springs, New York. ...
      They saw him as a deeply troubled man. His physical condition had deteriorated in the years since he had left Texas. Like Searcy W. and the other Texans, however, they [Margaret and Mickey McPike] had accepted responsibility for Ebby as an assignment from Bill [Wilson], and they never wavered. ...
      In an interview several years later, Margaret was asked if Ebby was drunk when Bill drove him up to the Farm.
Oh, no, but he was very, very sick, and he was in bad physical condition. He had just refused to do anything for himself... he didn't want to take his medicine. He wouldn't do anything. And of course we had the doctor there and I spent Memorial Day with them. And Bill said that if [Ebby] needs anything more or if you feel it is too much for you to handle, let me know and I'll always be available. ...
      So my doctor came, and he couldn't put him in a tub. His heart was not that good. But we did bed baths for about a week, and I always had some pretty good boys available. And I told him while he had a shower in his room, he should remember that he could get into the tub, or else the boys would do it for him, and if they don't I will.

The prospect of being forcibly bathed by Margaret apparently drove Ebby to take baths on his own.
Ebby: The Man Who Sponsored Bill W., Mel B., pages 135-137.

He never drank while at McPike's Farm, Margaret remembered. Beyond that, he never even tried to get a bottle, so the months before he went to the farm and the entire time he stayed there were a long sober period. Though he never attended AA meetings, the atmosphere at the farm as well as the association with the McPikes and frequent visitors relected the fellowship's outlook and purposes.
Ebby: The Man Who Sponsored Bill W., Mel B., page 141.

That verifies what Francis Hartigan wrote — that Ebby could stay sober if and only if someone took care of him.

The author glosses over the simple question of, "How could Ebby possibly run away from the farm and go get drunk when he was so sick that he had difficulty getting into a bathtub?"

Now other people may read that differently, but I don't interpret being institutionalized in an alcoholism treatment facility and being physically prevented from drinking as "returning to sobriety at the end of his life", except in the strictest medical sense — he obviously had no alcohol in his bloodstream. Hard-core steppers will also want to note that Ebby didn't rejoin A.A. or go to A.A. meetings.

— Orange

[ second letter from herbl, 28 Feb 2003: ]

Thanks for the information that i asked about. Liked I said before you do have a pretty interesting site. However, I really don't think that AA is a cult or at least not a very destructive one, but that is just my opinion.

It is not the only game in town anymore and I for one think that a good thing. About a year or so ago I stumbled on the Rational Recovery web site. I was totally appalled, all it is an AA basher, and hardly tells anything about its own program of action and really tells a story that is too good to be true, like how you can be cured of your addiction by watching videotapes that will only cost you 1000 dollars American. However, within the letters of the RR site someone mentioned something about SOS, an exellent program, similar to AA but without the God talk and a little bit more up to date on the addiction scene. I think that SOS is a great alternative to AA and I think that treatment centers should give it some serious consideration.

Anyway Orange, AA is not going away no matter what you or I may think of it. Some of what you may say of the program is certainly true, however a lot of it is just your opinion and you are entitled to that as you know. The truth of the matter is that if a person is not willing and ready to stop there behaviors that are bad for them they are not going to. I have read that the average person who quits smoking makes seven serious efforts to do so before they are successful. Therefore if a person enters the rooms of AA and drinks again that does not make the program or the person a failure really it probably means that they are just not to the point of quitting yet.

Again, Orange you do make some good points and you certainly have done your homework, but I personally think that maybe you have gone a little bit to far in your AA bashing because all and all I don't think it is that bad.

Thanks and continued success in your abstinance.


Hi Herbl,

Obviously we have a difference of opinion about how serious the harm done by A.A. really is. But I do not base my opinion on just one guy failing at the A.A. program, or even just the hundreds I've seen. I've collected *every* test of A.A. that I could find anywhere in this world, including one done by an A.A. Trustee — Prof. George Vaillant — and they all said pretty much the same things:

1.) The very best that could be said for A.A. treatment was that it gave a small short-term improvement in abstinence that faded out over time until the A.A.-treated group was the same as a group that got no treatment. That was what Dr. Jeffrey Brandsma got. But the other thing that Dr. Brandsma also got with A.A. treatment was a quintupling of the rate of binge drinking. So the A.A. members were better at abstaining from drinking, but only until they blew up and went on a binge.

2.) A.A. treatment is completely ineffective and even flat-out kills the patients. That is what Prof. Vaillant discovered. His A.A.-based program had a 29% death rate over the 8 years that the study lasted — the highest death rate of any treatment modality that he examined. Nothing else killed more patients than A.A..

3.) A.A. increased the rate of relapse or re-arrests for drunkenness. Teaching people that they are powerless over alcohol is guaranteed to cause big problems.

Now you might say that that isn't really so bad, but I disagree.

I know that A.A. isn't just going to go away. As I've mentioned before, we actually still have followers of Frank Buchman around. It takes a long time for some of those cults to die out. It will probably take a long time for A.A. to fade away. But we can and should stop the promotion of A.A. by the courts and medical systems. And we should counter the misinformation of A.A. about alcoholism and recovery with the truth.

And yes, the increasing popularity of groups like SOS, SMART, WFS, and MFS is promising. I think it will save quite a few lives if we can just refrain from giving people misinformation about what recovery requires.

As far as the average smoker taking 7 tries to quit, watch out. That's another example of deceptive statistics. There is no such person as the average smoker. What that really means is: one person quits on the first try, and she stays quit for the rest of her life. Another person quits 13 times (and probably dies of emphysema or lung cancer). The average of the two people is 7 quittings per person, but that is not an accurate picture of either person.

The same logic seems to apply to alcoholics. Some quit and stay quit on the first or second try, while others drink themselves to death. (And it seems to be a 50-50 coin toss which way they will go.)

And of course people have to be willing to change in order for A.A. treatment to work. But what that really means is: A.A. treatment doesn't work at all, and it won't make anybody quit drinking. (Think about penicillin. That is real medical treatment. It works, no matter whether you believe in it or not, and no matter whether you pray or not.) People won't quit drinking unless they *really* want to quit drinking, and are willing to do all of the hard work of quitting and staying quit themselves. All that A.A. does is take the credit for other people's hard work.

Thanks for the letter. Have a good day.

— Orange

[ 20 Feb 2003, Peggy wrote: ]

Dear Agent Orange,

I've been reading your writings about AA on the Internet, and I found some very interesting material. Now I am curious about your personal mission. On the last page I read, you say that you were a drunk for 20 years and that you have sat in AA meetings, so I guess your observations about AA are based on personal experience as well as research. However, I'm trying to understand what kind of personal experience could have made you so angry and so intensely motivated to steer others away from AA.

My goal is not so much to steer people away from A.A. as it is to:

  1. Let people know what A.A. and its magical solution to alcoholism really is.
  2. Warn people that the A.A. program is a hoax that is completely ineffective, and even downright harmful.
  3. Warn people that A.A. is a grossly dishonest organization.
  4. End coercive recruiting, where 12-Steppers use the medical and legal systems to force more people into the cult, where the newcomers will get Bill Wilson's goofy religious beliefs, voodoo medicine, and faith healing as treatment for a deadly condition, while their health insurance company gets the bill for "medical treatment".

If you went to AA and it didn't work, why not just stop going?

Wrong. I just covered this in a previous letter.

In "The 12 Biggest Secrets . . .," you say that all that a person really needs to stop drinking is just to get "sick and tired of being sick and tired," realize that alcohol is bad for you, and grow out of it. Did you do that? If so, why not start your own organization to show others that you've found an easier way than getting involved in a "religious cult" to stop drinking?

Your summation of my experiences is essentially correct. It was a lot more painful and difficult than it sounds from that description, but that is still a fair summation. Fortunately, I don't need to start another group. There are already good ones around: SMART, SOS, WFS, and MFS. All of them exist to promote some kind of rational, common-sense, recovery techniques, and to give non-superstitious group support.

What I mean is that although I can appreciate how much time, energy, and even passion have gone into your extensive writings on AA, I wonder what makes you so aroused. Are you angry about having wasted your own time with the organization? Did you lose a loved one because of it?

Essentially, yes. —Losing friends, that is.

Did you ever see the movie "The Days of Wine and Roses"? Remember at the end how the woman played by Lee Remick just says that she can't "be that spiritual" when her husband (Jack Lemmon) asks her to come back and give the sober lifestyle another try? Meaning, she doesn't feel that she can join A.A. and become a religious fanatic, like Jack Lemmon has done. (Now the movie does not show Jack Lemmon acting like a religious fanatic, but that is what Lee Remick's line about "being that spiritual" means.) So she just walks out of the movie to her death, because Bill Wilson and A.A. only give you two choices: either become one of the true believers, or die. She couldn't swallow the A.A. bull, so she chose death. Nobody ever told her that there was a third choice, one that works great — recovery without cult religion. So I'm saying it.

A girl whom I really liked chose death, too, rather than such intellectual dishonesty and spiritual phonyness, in a very similar scene. Alas, at that time, I was very new in my sobriety, and in no position to be of any help to her. I didn't know then what I know now. In fact, at day 1 for me, she already had 2 weeks off of cocaine and heroin, so she was ahead of me. We got to be friends for no particular reason other than that we seemed to like each other, and didn't put demands on each other, and were honest with each other and nice to each other, and we were both in recovery and looking forwards to better lives. She also gave me good advice about how to live on the streets — something that I was new at. We cheered each other on, and gave each other all of the moral support we could. Then she relapsed. The last day that I saw her, about 3 months later, she asked me if I was still on the bandwagon, clean and sober and going to meetings. I said yes, and invited her to an N.A. meeting that evening. (Unfortunately, she didn't ask me whether I still believed in the bull that I had to listen to at the meetings... She would have gotten a different answer.)

She showed up for the meeting. She was sick. She held my hand and shivered while the usual old-timers "shared" their usual sermons about how you have to work the 12 Steps and "The most important thing is to just suit up and show up."

She took all of it that she could and then said that she had to go. She had to go work the streets and hussle up her night's provisions.

That was the last time I ever saw her. She's been missing for 2 years now.
[Later: Now it's more than 3 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 4 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 5 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 6 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 7 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 8 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 9 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 10 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 11 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 12 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 13 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 14 years.]
[Later: Now it's more than 15 years.]

Now I'm sure that a lot of steppers will immediately object to this story and say that N.A. or A.A. did not kill her. That is true. But they didn't help her either, did they? Yet they claim to be The Only Way. What I did not mention about her history is that she was also in another one of those many programs that send everyone to 12-Step meetings to "help them", and she had also been in such programs before, many times, so she knew full well what she was objecting to.

She was merely the first of many that I have seen relapse and die or disappear while getting 12-Step "treatment". See the introduction for another one. It took me a while to see clearly just how completely ineffective and pointless and even downright harmful the 12-Step programs really are. (Heck, almost everyone gets 12-Step treatment shoved on them for all drug and alcohol problems, and, eventually, almost everybody relapses and disappears.) And the first bit of harm that the 12-Step programs do is what we just talked about: pushing the idea that their "spiritual solution" is the only alternative to death. Some people will decide that they would really rather risk death than become a religious fanatic.

Then there are all of the other big problems with the A.A. dogma, starting with the concept of being "powerless over alcohol", and continuing with the idea that it's okay to deceive the newcomers in order to "help them". See the pages on recruiting and the bait-and-switch con game.

In other words, since AA is such a bad deal, why not just consider yourself well out of it and leave the group alone? Apparently some people are happy in AA (just as some people are happy in a "fringe" church, for example), so why should all this rage and contempt be directed at AA as long as they can't force you-or anyone-to join?

I have said many times that I really do not care if a bunch of pathetic burned-out old alcoholics want to huddle together in church basements and convince each other that they are God's Chosen People. They are just sad cases.

If the 12-Step cult would leave other people alone, then I would leave it alone. But leaving other people alone is not what A.A. and N.A. are about. They are about:

I hope you won't take offense at my questions. I certainly don't mean to cast aspersions on the huge amount of effort that has gone into your work.

Peggy K.

No offense taken, Peggy. Those are all fair, honest, questions. Have a good day.

— Orange

[ Sunday March 2, 2003, Joel B. wrote: ]

Dear Agent Orange,

Your arguments and facts have helped me tremendously, as I was mandated to counselling for a DUI, the counselor was an AAer and only believed his way was the only way! I utilized your materials in debates during his counselling sessions, I told him that he was obsessed with this AA addiction and that I could help him, I showed him just how cult-like AA was and if it wasn't his way, that I would be reported back to my probation officer as a failure and a drunk.

All the facts were clearly presented to him and I also presented them to another counselor who was truly surprised at your info and really hadn't given it any thought, that person said they were going to research more about AA, while my counselor said he could not help me anymore because I would always be a self-centered dry drunk, and I would be miserable all my life. I told him that I wasn't diseased anymore, that I had recovered, but that I felt sorry for him, since he was a terminal patient and would never recover, by his own words!

Joel B.

Hi Joel,

Thanks for brightening my day. It's encouraging to hear that this information helps somebody now and then.

Have a good day, and a good life.

— Agent Orange

[ michael h. wrote, 4 March 2003: ]

Hello Mr. Orange :

      I have spent quite a bit of time reading your web pages regarding alcoholism. I must say that I agree with much of what you are reporting about AA, addiction, and recovery. Has anyone ever told you that you sound a lot like Jack Trimpey?

Hi Michael, Thanks for the letter.

I don't know a lot about Jack Trimpey's "sound". I just write what I feel. I am passionate about this subject because I'm tired of seeing friends getting harmful 12-Step cult nonsense and quack "therapy" shoved on them by misguided, uninformed, or just plain dogmatic "counselors" and "advisors".

There is a definate edge, dare I say passion, dare I say anger, to how you present ideas and shoot down others, particularly AA'ers who write letters to you.

Isn't that inevitable? Of course I agree with the people who agree with me, and strongly disagree with the people who strongly disagree with me. That's a truism.

Frankly I have been also passionate against AA for quite a while. I think, spending so much time in AA, being constantly told my ego is bad, my thoughts are bad/insane, cant be trusted, I'm totally selfish and selfcentered and on and on, thats my problem, alcohol is but a symptom of my real problem, which is a defective ME, and I can't under any circumstances ever get a handle on my life and drinking without big brother God and AA telling me what to do, is what makes me so mad at AA and willing to go toe to toe with them all the time, as you do. I have said the same thing to Jack, we need to be a little less right and a little more effective. The real problem alcoholics today face is not that AA is there, but that there are no widely available and well known alternatives. You keep mentioning SMART, SOS.... I live in one of the most modern advanced western cities (TORONTO, Canada) in the world. There are 350 different AA meetings every week, a local phone number I can call to talk to a live AA member who will chat with me or give me a meeting location etc. Guess how many SMART and or SOS meetings ? ZERO !

The fact that A.A. is a popular cult only proves that A.A. is a popular cult. If you live in any typical medium-to-large American city, you can probably open your phone book and find a local office for The Church Of Scientology. (And I think Canada is about the same.) Does that prove that Scientology is a successful treatment program for whatever mental or drug and alcohol problems you may be having? At the moment, I think there really are more Scientology and Moonies' offices than SMART or SOS. (They started earlier.)

But things are improving. More and more SMART meetings are being started up every month.

Besides, who said that meetings are the answer to sin or alcoholism?
Who said that they are effective "treatment" for anything?
Only Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman and his Oxford Group cult, and his follower Bill Wilson. The efficacy of A.A. meetings as medical treatment has never been demonstrated. It has, rather, been disproven.

A.A. has a horrendous failure rate, not a success rate. It has a success rate that is no better than — and is often less than — the normal rate of spontaneous remission in alcoholics — that is, the rate of recovery in alcoholics who get no treatment at all (about 5% per year). In addition, A.A. has a higher death rate than any other treatment modality.

Often, going to A.A. meetings is no more helpful for sobriety than Freudian psychoanalysis, laying on your backside and talking about sexual fantasies with your mother, is helpful treatment for schizophrenia. In fact, lots of people (including me) have complained that A.A. and N.A. meetings make them want to drink and take drugs. We weren't even thinking about doing it until we had to spend an hour listening to some nuts talking about doing it.

      All of the good things you mention about AA are VERY useful to someone who is coming off their umpteenth binge, feeling lower than a worm, defeated, scorned and loathed by their primary loved ones, employers, ect. We badly need love, support, empathy, understanding, structure, and a sense of hope for a way out. AA does provide that service in the begining without being too preachy to a newcommer.

Again, where is the proof? If A.A. were really so helpful to newcomers, it should be able to demonstrate a success rate. It doesn't, and it can't. The "success rate" of A.A. is equal to, or less than, the success rate of a randomly-selected group of alcoholics who get no treatment at all — some of whom just quit all by themselves because they just get sick and tired of being sick and tired, and decide to live. That makes the real effective success rate of A.A. zero or less. A success rate that is less than zero is not a success rate; it is a failure rate.

It's only when you start relapsing after a while that their ugly side comes out, or you stay sober on your own and avoid becomming too involved and keep a distance. Then the brainwashing and fear mongering starts. "oh he doesnt have a sponsor yet, he's not willing to go to any lengths, he put the plug in the jug but hasnt changed his attitude, reliance not defiance, he doesnt leave his intellect at the door, he's closed minded, unteachable, I was like that once and I was drunk before long, he'll be drinking again in no time, then John Barleycorn will be our best alli ....."

      And of course we go out and drink again, as most alcoholics will do, and prove their circular logic right. Lets face it AA does work. Hold on dont go blowing a gasket. It does help some people get sober. How it works is irrelevant.

It does not work. Period.

A.A. trustee Professor George Vaillant showed that A.A. kills alcoholics, rather than helps them. If you think that A.A. treatment does work, then please show me some proof. How about just one good RANDOMIZED LONGITUDINAL CONTROLLED STUDY that goes on for at least 5 years? —Just one. I've got several that show that A.A. does not work, and I have never seen a single one that showed A.A. to work or to be more helpful than harmful. Go read the file on The Effectiveness of the 12-Step Treatment.

Maybe it's just the fact that by getting off your ass and going to a meeting you are telling your subconcious mind that you are serious today about staying sober. Maybe its just the fact that seeing others with 2, 3, 5, 10 years of sobriety there and claiming it was the steps that did it for them, is the encouragement that some need to believe in. Maybe its just a belief that it works, is what actually works.

It does not work. Period.

It does not have a wonderful "placebo effect". It is not "a useful lie." A.A. has a failure rate, not a success rate.

A mental thing. And yes some are getting sober on their own, trying the steps, and claiming it's the steps that are doing it for them, and others who are so terrified of drinking again that they will lick their sponsors ass if that's what he says will keep them sober. Who gives a fuck how some of them stay sober in AA.

They don't stay sober. A.A. does not work. Period.

And I care a lot about what works, and what doesn't, because it's a matter of life and death for a lot of people, including friends of mine.

The few people whom you saw get sober in A.A. — out of the river of people who came and left — are the ones who would have gotten sober in SMART or SOS if they had been there, or in the patty-cake treatment program if they had been there, or with no treatment program at all if that's where they were. They are the ones who would have quit anyway. They quit in spite of A.A. "treatment" and misinformation, rather than because of it. A.A. does not make any additional people get and stay sober, above and beyond the normal rate of spontaneous remission. So A.A. doesn't really make anybody quit at all. So the effective success rate of A.A. is zero.

As medical treatment, A.A. is a total failure. It even hurts the alcoholics and makes it harder for them to recover, by teaching them crazy A.A. dogma like that they are powerless over alcohol, and that alcoholism is caused by "defects of character" and "moral shortcomings".

Like I said, what do we do about all the new knowledge we have to share, how can we get it to the masses, and why do we need to bash AA in order to make our point.

As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, "What do you mean by 'We', white man?" Most of what you are saying is standard A.A. dogma, which isn't "new knowledge" at all.

I have to criticize A.A. because far too few other people are telling the truth about it. A.A. is being shoved on a lot of people as if it actually worked, which it does not.

      Two things I would like you to think about. One : You don't have to convince me that AA is a religion. Lets agree that it is. As a religion its actually a really good one. Not into property, authority figures (priests), pomp and serimony. They have a set of rules and guidelines for the groups and for living that they constantly work on. No other church really gets their members off their asses to do things. They preach in the pulpit about being Good, but then the well dressed parishioners go home after the one hour service and live hypocritical lives, ignoring the sermon and the message.

Excuse me! That is bullshit.
Where did you get that piece of religious bigotry from?

I see the local Christian churches feeding the poor and homeless people, including the alcoholics, 3 meals a day, seven days a week, at three or more locations every day, and nobody goes away hungry. In addition, those churches also run free stores where they give away food, clothes, blankets, and other necessities to the poor. Meanwhile, all that the 12-Steppers ever do is sit on their asses in their meetings and talk about how wonderful their Serenity and Gratitude is, and how their "Higher Power" is granting all of their wishes, and then they try to recruit more victims into their cult, by any means possible, including immoral deceit and illegal, unconstitutional coercion.

      And secondly, the reason we get into so much trouble debating AA with AA'ers, is that it is in fact a Religion. The old addage, there are only two things you don't argue about with people, their politics and their religion. AA is in fact faith healing. You cant mess with somebodies faith. If that little old lady thinks that God got her through her last operation then there is now way that you would convince her otherwise, and really no point in trying. See my point. When you debate with AA and AA'ers you are debating their faith, not the facts.

They may be debating "faith" (correctly spelled "superstition"), but I am debating facts — real facts about alcoholism and recovery. Once again, I have to say that I do not care if some superstitious old fools want to sit in church basements and convince each other that they are The Chosen People of God. But I do care when they try to shove quack medicine on my friends. That is both illegal and immoral.

By the way, your admission that A.A. is a religion makes a liar of Bill Wilson:

Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization.
The Big Book, Forward to the 2nd Edition, William G. Wilson, page XX (of the 3rd edition).

We cant win by putting down someones faith.

But I most assuredly can criticize superstitious quack medicine, which is what A.A. is. Quack medicine hurts people. Quack medicine kills people. So somebody had better "put it down."

What we can do is offer alternatives with better track records. Lets see SOS members with 15, 20, 25 years of sobriety. Let the alternative successes do the talking. The legions, the 10's of thousands, of alternative successes. We aint there yet !!!

That's bad logic. The alternative programs like SOS and SMART have not existed for that long, so of course it's hard to find veterans with 20 years. And I'm sure as hell not going to wait 20 years to start criticizing A.A. for pushing voodoo medicine on my friends...

But there are legions of the do-it-yourself, "no-program" people with lots of time. MOST successful old-timers have done it that way, rather than with a cult religion (including Dubya, who claims 15 or 20 years). They just got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and quit drinking on their own, without anybody telling them what to do. It's really so simple that it requires no explanation, or program, or cult religion:

Just don't drink any more alcohol.

Just do that, and you will live longer, and be much healthier and happier too.

Besides which, you are again trying to assume facts not in evidence. Nobody showed that those A.A. old-timers are sober because of A.A.. The fact that they have been fooled into believing that the quack medicine of A.A. really works only proves that they are gullible, not that the quackery works and is good effective medical treatment. Cult religions are always full of true believers who believe that the cult is right about everything, but that doesn't make the cults right. Ask any Moonie or Scientologist.

Oh well, have a good day. Thanks for the letter.

— Orange

[ Susan W. wrote: ]

Wow, I can't believe you wasted that much time and negative energy to write such a load.... It might have been more interesting if it were an analytical study instead of a emotional barrage. Maybe try some downers; I suggest a bottle of qualudes with a big ol' 40 to wash it down.

Hmmm... So now we have a true believer recommending a recovery program of consuming alcohol and illegally taking prescription drugs?

You know, no matter how much I disagree with steppers, and no matter how much I hold them in contempt for knowingly shoving voodoo medicine and cult religion on their victims, I have still never encouraged one to relapse. I wouldn't wish that particular death even on my worst enemy.

You seem to feel differently. Did you learn that particular style of "spirituality" from working the 12 Steps, or from reading Bill Wilson's books?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

— Orange

[ Saturday 15 Feb 2003, jcb wrote: ]

A.O. ~
Have just completed going through your cult test. I have been in AA for over 10 yrs and in the process of building a life outside of AA.
Reviewing my own past with cults and therapy and personality disorder.

However just like the cults you attack your test does not measure up here are a few examples —

1. Bill Wilson's own personality disorder is regularly documented in the AA history and discussed informally, over coffee. For a detailed discussion of this see How it Worked by Mitchell K. an AA member telling the story of his sponsor Clarence Snyder — who founded the Cleveland group.

Yes, Mitchell K. tells the truth, and I've said that publicly, and thanked him for it. But he is a rarity, and he does not represent the A.A. leadership or the mainstream of A.A.. As he wrote to me,

"I'm not your typical AA member — I believe in freedom of choice, informed decisions and the right (and obligation) to disagree. Since you've read my articles you know that I have and will continue to voice my disagreement openly. This has made me somewhat of an outcast in some AA circles but... who cares."

Furthermore, Clarence Snyder was also a very vocal critic of Bill Wilson's financial fraud and dishonesty. A.A.W.S. just got revenge on him by purging his story, The Home Brewmeister, from the fourth edition of the Big Book. That's the end of Clarence Snyder. He will become a non-person for the crime of criticizing the guru Bill Wilson.

It took A.A.W.S. more than 30 years to finally print a book that admitted that Bill suffered from depression (PASS IT ON, 1984). And admitting that Bill had a fashionable problem like depression is mere tokenism. A.A.W.S. has not said a word about Bill's insanity — delusions of grandeur and narcissistic personality disorder, and Bill's financial dishonesty, constant lying, fascist Buchmanite beliefs, stealing the copyright of the Big Book, philandering and 13th-stepping the pretty women at A.A. meetings, or any of the other bigger problems with Bill and A.A..

2. It is commonly known in AA that people leave AA without drinking. We only hear about the people who come crawling back.

It may be commonly known but I almost never see it acknowledged in any official or semi-official A.A. literature. They always say that you will die drunk if you leave. The slogan is, "If you leave, you'll come back on your knees."

The Big Book even gives us a story of someone who had 13 years of sobriety outside of Alcoholics Anonymous, only to relapse:

He stayed "dry" for thirteen years! Dr. Bob often said that it was a record for what he felt was a typical alcoholic.
The Big Book, "From Farm to City", by Ethel M., 3rd edition, page 263.

And I've had plenty of A.A. true believers tell me that I was misleading alcoholics, hurting them, even leading them to their deaths, by telling them that they could achieve sobriety outside of the A.A. program, and that they didn't need cult religion in their lives.

3. There are people that go sponsor-less for years in AA.

Yes, but some exceptions to the rule do not prove that A.A. is not a cult. That's why the cult test has a lot of questions, and they are all scored on a scale of zero to ten. I don't know of any cult that will score a 10 on every item. Furthermore, even though some people go without sponsors, A.A. still has a hierarchical system of mentors, just like so many other cults.

4. 90 meetings in 90 daze comes from the treatment centers — not AA. In early AA there may have only been one meeting a week.

Nope. I'm not buying that for a minute. The counselors and sponsors who shove "90 in 90" on the beginners are all A.A. members too. To try to pass the blame to the treatment centers is just a distraction — trying to drag a red herring across the path. I've been in A.A. meetings where I saw the counselors from the local treatment center. It's all the same gang.

5. What is a mainstream cult? AA has woven itself into the fabric of our culture by being in the stream of life.

You tell me. What is a mainstream cult? Does success make a cult good?
Did the Nazi Party get better — more reasonable and mellow — after it took over Germany?
Did the Ayatollah Komeini become a sensible leader after his fundamentalist Islamic cult succeeded in weaving itself into the very fabric of Iranian society?

You shouldn't be so quick to brag that A.A. has insinuated itself into the very fabric of our society. The successful spread of 12-Step "therapy" into all of our recovery institutions has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in drug and alcohol problems in our society. After 60 years of the 12-Step cult, our drug and alcohol problems are far worse than they were when Bill Wilson and Marty Mann told Congress that there might be a hundred thousand alcoholics in the USA.

6. I was also involved with the "late great Rajneesh" while at the commune in Oregon it became clear that we were being lied to. I watched the community and teachings become something other than what was originally intended. I went to the office and told them I wanted to leave and was told 'people leave here all the time — no problem'.

Yes. I have said that very, very few cults shoot those who try to leave, like Jim Jones' People's Temple did. "No Exit" means that there is no honorable way to leave.

I know that the Rajneeshees were kicking the poor homeless people out of Antelope Valley by the thousands after the election failure, because they had no further use for them.

So score the Rajneeshees low on that item. You are free to leave; you are free to get kicked out.

But tell me, did they say that you could still get into Heaven if you left? (Heaven, or whatever Rajneesh's equivalent was...)
Was leaving an honorable thing, or was it a disgrace?
Was leaving the end of your "enlightenment", or the end of your "spiritual progress"?

7. Although Bhagwan means 'godlike <one translation> sir' [nee Shree] — he presented himself as fallible. The problem was in the lies and half truths shrouded in a power.

Even such an "admission of fallibility" can be just another deceptive mind game, where he appears to be honest and reasonable, but isn't. Tell me, did YOU get to say when he was wrong? Could YOU criticize him?

8. My own irreverence was both duly noted and appreciated — I turned the "I go to the feet of the awakened one" chant around to end with "...you can take the ultimate truth of the awakened one and shove it your a&!" This was greeted with much merriment and laughter. I can also remember camping out with some fellow disciples when I told them I did not attend the first world convention I was told "that's great! So many people want to make this into a cult." May sound strange from the outside.

Again, mind games. Most all cults will tell you that they go to great lengths to make sure that their group doesn't turn into a cult. It's all of the other groups that have failed and turned into cults. "But we are above that kind of thing."

You may have thought that you were being rebellious and original by being irreverent, but you were just carrying out Rajneesh's teachings, following his example. He had quite a mouth on him too, didn't he? He loved to attack the established religions and flaunt an attitude of irreverence, didn't he? You were just doing the same thing. That's why your friends found it acceptable.

9. Then there was the Rajneeshee whose family hired a deprogrammer and was unsuccessful. You can quote the 'God-Sir', but he was so self contradictory you could not pin him down. So in the end we were left to fend for ourselves. He may have said 'Jesus was a madman' at one time — then read Words like Fire or The Mustard Seed.

Brainwashing is basically a form of hypnosis and one thing you forget to mention is that not all people can be hypnotized.

I strongly disagree. Brainwashing is not hypnosis. If I had to characterize it as anything, I would call it a clever program of prolonged mental torture. But even that description is far too simplistic. The best one-page description of brainwashing program characteristics that I've seen is this cheat sheet which lists what Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Prof. Margaret Thaler Singer, and Dr. Edgar H. Schein considered to be the essential elements of an effective brainwashing program (also called "thought reform" or "changing").

I have been reviewing my own life and it seems that having to overcome some abuse I was once plagued with a lot of negative self talk — which has been gladly washed away.

What is the need that cults serve — for like everything else in life they operate under the basic law of supply & demand. They serve to protect people from a society that has no place for them — displaced.

Baloney. Cults do not serve a purpose in society any more than cancer serves a purpose in your body. Do you really imagine that creeps like L. Ron Hubbard, Jim Jones, and Sun Myung Moon held up a lamp and chanted,
"Send me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses,
the refuse of your teeming shores,
yearning to breathe free...
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door..."?

No Way José.

Cults do offer some things to members: They appeal to the new members' vanity, and give the newcomers feelings of self-importance, of being in the real "in crowd", of serving the One True Master or The One True Way. See the cult item on disturbed followers.

Cults also offer absolute certainty in beliefs and spare the member from the bother of having to think. And cults offer a fairy-tale world where one can live out a fantasy adventure, playing the role of a moral titan.

Cults make lots of promises, like that the follower will get a guaranteed ticket to Heaven, or enlightenment, or spiritual powers, or eternal bliss, or recovery, or whatever the bait is... But then they don't deliver on The Promises. That is a very different thing than following the law of supply and demand, or fulfilling a need in society.

The military can also serve the same purpose and the breaking down of the ego in basic training is extremely cult like. In the business world the model of the military is revered, then we have a cult indoctrinated into a lie such as Enron. I can recall being at an annual company meetings that were extremely cult like. People are indoctrinated to compete and become absorbed into an entity/society that is [sic] healthy. No mention of the marine mass murderers on your site Charles Whitman etc.

In the bibliography, you will find this book listed:
The Wrong Way Home, Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, by Arthur J. Deikman, M.D.
I also have it in my Top Ten list of cult books.
It is a fascinating book, and I quote from it several times, here, and here, and here, and here, and here. Deikman shows how cultish patterns of behavior have at times shown up in everything from our corporations to the White House. It's worth reading.

But bear in mind: Just because some organization shows some cult characteristics or cultish behavior does not automatically make it a cult. That's why the cult test has so many questions, all graded on a scale of zero to ten. It isn't a black-and-white issue; there is lots of room for shades of gray.

As far as the Marines' basic training goes, it is something different from a cult. It is basically a program of brutalization where they take innocent farm boys and turn them into callous, unfeeling, killers. (See Stanley Kubrick's movie, Full Metal Jacket.) And yes, sometimes one of them comes home and shoots up the neighborhood. But that has nothing to do with whether Alcoholics Anonymous is a cult religion.

Just like my experience with the orange people becoming something other than it originally intended, it is apparent that people can hide out in AA and avoid life that is not what the founders intended.

What the founders intended? As if the founders were sane, and had a good plan?
As if Bill Wilson's new cult was anything but Frank Buchman's old Oxford Group cult religion dressed up in a new costume? Have you read The Religious Roots of the Twelve Steps, and The Funny Spirituality of A.A. yet?

But I agree that people can hide out in A.A....

So what is my point here??? The point is in non fanaticism — the atheist/agnostic or anti-Christian/Religion can be just as fanatical as the cultist. What is needed is objectivity and awareness.

yours ~jcb

I am fully aware of the cultish behavior of non-religious people like the Communist Party. Lenin's, Stalin's, and Mao's anti-religious people were not anybody that you would want your daughter to marry, either. I list both Stalin's and Chairman Mao's regimes as cults built around the personality of a leader, on the cult test introduction page.

But don't mix apples and oranges. The objectionable behavior of some atheists has nothing to do with whether Alcoholics Anonymous is an evil cult religion with a completely ineffective treatment program for alcoholism. The fanaticism of some anti-Christian people has nothing to do with whether Alcoholics Anonymous pushes voodoo medicine as a cure for alcoholism.

Thanks for the letter. Have a good day.

— Orange

[ Sat, 8 Mar 2003 Bob B. wrote: ]

Hi Orange,

This note is in response to the nitpicking I saw developing on your site about whether or not Ebby T. was drunk or sober at the time of his death.

Common sense tells me that the number of people who actually die with a gut full of booze is very small. I have known dozens of people who have died from alcohol abuse but were detoxed at the time of death. It takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to eliminate alcohol from the body totally. In other words, because of lifelong alcohol abuse, causing liver disease, stomach problems, and pancreatic problems, most people are incapable physically of ingesting more alcohol immediately prior to their demise. If you take this logic one step farther then almost everyone, does in fact, die sober! Liver and heart failure being the most common causes I would guess.

The attempt to somehow deify Ebby Thatcher by saying he was sober at the time of his death is misleading at best and a downright lie at it's worst! The guy drank too much and it precipitated his death by other causes. He never "saw the Light"! The lights went out for him first!

I agree totally. I just uploaded a post-script to the rap on Ebby. I got ahold of a biography of Ebby, and it said that he spent the last 2 years of his life at an alcoholics' treatment facility, a farm in upstate New York. So my question about someone being hospitalized and kept from drinking at the end of his life turns out to have been right on the mark.

Have a good day.
— Orange

[ Thu, 27 Mar 2003, Judikid wrote: ]

Bravo, Age O!

Sublime irony that as I finished journaling about the contradictory, smells-of-suckerfish suggestions of my Grand-Poopah Sponsor, et al, I should come upon your site: Eureka! The answers (within the questions why) are refreshing affirmations this sorely brow-beaten recoverED sought! Add me to your mailing list, please. Solicit me to help in the deprogramming of other "such unfortunates" as I might just say okay.

FYI: My Hall's current bent is to plug Christianity in meetings, this by extremists in terms of cheaters, beaters, man/woman/sheep eaters, AA guru bleaters, many of them still getting high on the sly.

Also FYI: I had three years before I walked into AA and have never been f-ed "out there" the half of what I have been by my "fellowship"; however, I am doing my own version of the 4th Step as a means to examine and confront my fears, etc. And I'm going to continue Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (as taught me to self-administer by a pro) AND I'm going to develop my talents AND I'm going to enjoy this life as a socialized, free being!

Annie Oakley >smile<

Well heck, I don't know what to say, besides "Hail, well-met fair fellow", or some such Shakespeare misquote.

Thanks for the letter, and have a good day.


[ letter 2 from Judikid: ]

Me-Ow, and hear kitty, kitty: "How sharper than a serpent's tooth to have a thankless child." Believe that was Will Shakespeare, verbatim. Apparently, he knew a thing or two about ending well, too. >smile<

As for me, Step three et al just may be the way to avoid emulating the Pits and the Penduli of the swinging life of another all's-well-that-ends-well, all-knowing author.

One more poet's quote before I sign off, this one by an awesomely gifted and humble friend:

" . . .It's not knowledge you don't understand
it's applying it to life and making a stand
forever wild tried and true
giving away life like it's brand new. . ."

It's entirety available upon request and worthy tho't fodder 'tis.

[ Thu, 27 Mar 2003, Johnny B. wrote: ]

It's simple, find your own conception of a higher power.
Who said it has to be the way you or some AA evangelist interprets it.
The principles are spiritually based, truth, hope faith ect.
Apply them to your life. And work on the little resentment machine in your head. Forgive, forget, and get away from the people that hurt you.
What are the facts and how do you want to live?
If you don't like the way something is going in your life, change it.
I think GOD has more to worry about than my cry baby stuff.
Tough terrible things happen to all of us; trust me I know oppression. I know hate and war.
GOD presents the opportunity for change, I have to either get busy
or get out of the way. That's up to me not GOD.
As a fellow human being I hope not to offend you, it's my hope that with your brilliant mind that you find peace in your days.
You sound pretty angry about all this AA stuff. If I felt that rotten about it I'd quit going, fire my higher power and get drunk. I don't have the right to tell someone the way they are living is wrong, I may be the one that's all goofed up. I will say however that since I have adopted some of the principles and applied them to my days, the last 9 years have been AWESOME. I haven't been drunk for over 9 years. No fights, no dope, ect. ect., I drank for 25 years all the time. I do respect your view. You worked hard on this information and It's an awesome sight. But what is your solution to Alcoholism.
Johnny B

Hi Johnny,

Taking it from the top, you say,
It's simple, find your own conception of a higher power.
Who said it has to be the way you or some AA evangelist interprets it.

Well, actually, the evangelist Bill Wilson said it. Read chapter 4 of the Big Book where Wilson railed against the unbelievers, and read the part of chapter seven where he declared that the beliefs of A.A. members were superior to the beliefs of other religions because those other religions had not kept their members from drinking.

Even more important is the fact that you cannot just choose any old Higher Power of your liking and still expect the Twelve Steps to work. Your Higher Power must be a meddling, micro-managing, wish-granting servant who waits on you hand and foot and delivers miracles on demand. Your Higher Power must do the following for you:

  • Restore you to sanity in Step Two, or else you stay insane.
  • Take care of your will and your life for you in Step Three, or else your unmanageable life stays unmanaged.
  • Listen to your confessions in Step Five.
  • Remove all of your sins, moral shortcomings, and defects of character, especially your desire to drink alcohol, in Step Seven, or else you continue to drink.
  • Talk to you and teach you in Step Eleven, and then give you work orders and the power to go do the work, or else you remain ignorant and don't know what to do with yourself.
  • Give you a "religious experience" or a spiritual experience or a "spiritual awakening" (or whatever you want to call it) in Step Twelve, or else you don't get the big, dramatic experience that Bill Wilson declared was essential for surviving alcoholism. (So you die, I guess).

If your Higher Power won't work for you and do all of that stuff for you then the Twelve Steps cannot possibly work.

Some religions, like Buddhism, do not believe in any kind of a God who will answer your prayers and use His supernatural powers to change the world to suit you.
If I believe in such a Higher Power, then there is no sense in taking the Twelve Steps seriously, is there?

Then you say:
The principles are spiritually based, truth, hope faith etc. Apply them to your life.
Since the Twelve Steps are a program for brainwashing people into being good cult members, I am not about to apply them in my life.

Actually, the Twelve Steps do not contain any spiritual principles at all.
Spiritual principles are things like "Honesty is the best policy" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Twelve Steps of William G. Wilson are just the standard cult practices of Dr. Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman and his fascist Oxford Group religion. Go read The Religious Roots of the Twelve Steps. Also read The 12 Steps, Interpreted, especially Step Twelve.

Then you say:

And work on the little resentment machine in your head. Forgive, forget, and get away from the people that hurt you.

And I do not have "a resentment machine in my head." That is just the standardized A.A. stereotype of The Alcoholic, once again.
My objections to A.A. hurting people by spreading misinformation about alcoholism and recovery, and my objections to their deceptive and coercive recruiting practices, are not "resentments".

Then you say:

What are the facts and how do you want to live?
If you don't like the way something is going in your life, change it.
I think GOD has more to worry about than my cry baby stuff.
Tough terrible things happen to all of us; trust me I know oppression. I know hate and war.
GOD presents the opportunity for change, I have to either get busy
or get out of the way. That's up to me not GOD.

You miss the point that I quit drinking and smoking, and got my life together long ago, and I did it without A.A. or the Twelve Steps.
I certainly agree that God has more to worry about than cry-baby stuff like taking care of you or Working The Steps for you.
Obviously, the Lord helps those who help themselves.

Then you say:

As a fellow human being I hope not to offend you, it's my hope that with your brilliant mind that you find peace in your days.

I've already found peace, and I did it without any cult religions, thank you.

You sound pretty angry about all this AA stuff. If I felt that rotten about it I'd quit going, fire my higher power and get drunk.

That is illogical nonsense. Since Alcoholics Anonymous and God have almost nothing to do with each other, I have no reason to be angry at God for the misbehavior of some A.A. members. Likewise, the dishonest, even criminal, activities of A.A. members do not make me want to drink. They make me want to write web pages that tell the truth about A.A..

I don't have the right to tell someone the way they are living is wrong, I may be the one that's all goofed up. I will say however that since I have adopted some of the principles and applied them to my days, the last 9 years have been AWESOME. I haven't been drunk for over 9 years. No fights, no dope, ect. ect., I drank for 25 years all the time.

Congratulations on your sobriety. You got your act together and saved your own life. You say that you adopted "some" — not all — of the A.A. practices. That does not prove that the A.A. program works, or makes anyone quit drinking, or keeps them sober. It's easy to be fooled by quack medicine cures. It's also easy to confuse correlation with causation.

I do respect your view. You worked hard on this information and It's an awesome sight. But what is your solution to Alcoholism?

The solution to alcoholism is both simple and difficult:

Just Don't Drink Any More Alcohol.

Bill Wilson said that that was impossible, that we could not use our own intelligence and will power to save our own lives, that our only hope was to narcissistically abandon ourselves to God and hope that He would take care of us helpless ("powerless") little babies — "He is the Father, and we are His children." (Big Book, pages 62-63.) Bill Wilson was wrong.

I know that it probably sounds unlikely, or even impossible, for people to just stop drinking, without A.A. or any support group, because for years A.A. has been telling you that "Nobody can do it alone", but that is the usual way that most people recover from alcoholism. The Harvard Medical School wrote that 80% of those people who successfully quit drinking for a year or more do it alone, without any treatment program.

Now I do have some ideas of things that can help people to break out of their addictions, but those things can only help. None of them will replace a person's fervent desire and determination to change his life for the better, and refusal to be fooled by rationalization, minimization, and denial, and refusal to give in to cravings. Go read The Lizard-Brain Addiction Monster for more on that.

Things that can help include:

  • A change of environment and a change of routines, to get away from the places and conditions where a person habitually drank.
  • A spouse and a group of friends who are supportive.
  • A group of other people who are also in recovery — IF they aren't trying to push a dishonest cult religion on newcomers, and IF they aren't just repeating a lot of misinformation. Try SMART, SOS, WFS, MFS, LifeRing, and the LifeRing/Unhooked chat — http://www.unhooked.com/chat/Chat.html
  • True, accurate, and honest information about alcoholism and recovery — not cult religion dogma, or the deluded ravings of a lunatic.
  • Good medical care. Fix what's broken. Heal what is hurt. Improve your diet and take lots of vitamins.
  • Reduce the sources of stress in your life. Also learn how to handle stress better, to deal with those annoyances that you cannot eliminate from your life.

But if you want a panacea, or a guaranteed fix, nope, there isn't one.
In the final analysis, a little more than half of the alcoholics choose to live, and the rest choose to die, so that's what they do, and that's just the way it is. A.A. is irrelevant and ineffective.

Thanks for the letter. Have a good day.


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Last updated 22 February 2016.
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