Letters, We Get Mail, CVI

Date: Tue, December 16, 2008 6:50 pm     (answered 1 April 2009)
From: "Crystal F."
Subject: Your page on alcoholism/12 step programs... not a rant I promise

I was one of those kids who "grew up in the Program" — I was pretty little when my parents split up. My dad never went to AA long, and he had a lot of other problems — he was not only an alcoholic but a drug addict. In many ways, he was more of a drug addict than an alcoholic (by the definition of most, he favored other drugs above alcohol but would use it too). Mom went to AA for a little bit because she did have a drinking problem, but she got much more out of Al-Anon than she ever did out of AA. I attended Alateen, my older sister was going and I tagged along in elementary school. I am a light social drinker — as in, maybe a glass of wine with dinner when eating out, a few drinks at a club if I'm not DD (which I usually am) and NYE when I don't have to work and can spend the night at a friend's house — she throws a great party. I never had an alcohol problem. I think I use it pretty responsibly and in moderation.

Hello Crystal,

Thanks for the letter.

I did learn something very important for me personally in those meetings that helped me avoid one — that one of the traps that leads to alcoholism or substance abuse is using the substance to escape from or not deal with reality, or using it to blunt your emotions. That's the trap of most addictions — the psychological dependence. People who overeat when they are depressed, people who play Warcraft on the computer all night to keep from having to deal with the spouse/significant other they are having problems with, people who use pornography because it's a "safe" sexual outlet and keeps them from having to deal with intimacy issues, people who use their cigarette breaks as a way to get out of the office for a minute (and therefore associate smoking with stress relief), etc, are all using a substance or activity to avoid dealing with stressful situations or emotions.

When people use those less effective coping mechanisms instead of better ones, keep using them to their own detriment, and can't seem to figure out a way to stop, they've got a problem. "Hi, my name is Crystal, I'm a nicotine addict" is the only thing I can picture saying if I visited AA or NA — I started smoking cigarettes for exactly the reason given above. I'm working on it. I'm probably going to try Chantix once it looks like all the safety results are in, as there were some interesting side effects in some people. Chantix is a rather unique drug and it will be interesting to see its long-term profile and if it has uses to treat other problems than nicotine dependence (and a natural way to do what Chantix does is to take niacin supplements, preferably in a balanced B-complex form because several B vitamins are implicated in mental health — the times I've quit that helped get through the physical withdrawal, but it's the psychological part that's hard).

I quit tobacco 8 years ago, after 30 years of smoking. I just wrote up the story here. I agree that the psychological part is hard. Read about the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster.

I also got to learn about the physiological effects of alcohol, and the first time I got drunk I saw that I likely had a physiology that could be conducive to developing alcohol problems. I blacked out the first time I drank, lost about an hour, but didn't seem drunk to anyone else, didn't get sick to my stomach, and didn't get a hangover the next day. That encouraged me to be more careful — if I could drink myself into memory impairment and not have a negative reaction to it I might develop tolerance earlier, and that kind of thing cannot be good for your brain even a few times. I've never blacked out again, nor have I ever passed out or thrown up while drunk.

Blacking out the first time you drank? Without even appearing drunk? And only the first time? Now that is strange. I had not heard of that before. It sounds more like a drug, something like GHB.

As you point out on your site, physical dependence is easily managed medically — and should be! An alcoholic or addict who is physically addicted may need medical treatment to get through the worst part of the physical withdrawal, which a 12-Step program cannot provide. However, once the physical withdrawal is over, once the brain has gotten a bit more used to functioning without alcohol or drugs (like having proper thiamine levels again for alcohol abuse, GABA/dopamine/serotonin balance back in effect, lower cortisol in the hypothalamus), most people still have to address the psychological dependence and find other ways to cope with life when it gets rough. It's pretty hard for a pill or a hospital stay to do that. While Antabuse and other drugs like it do help an alcoholic to start associating alcohol with negative consequences instead of positive ones, it doesn't teach new coping mechanisms. A hospital stay is definitely unlikely to teach those, because the hospital environment is so different from the real world.

That sounds right.

The success of AA in teaching those new coping mechanisms varies widely from group to group and person to person. Just going to meetings may be a better coping mechanism than drinking yourself silly, but as you rightly point out that's damming with faint praise. One-on-one therapy or group therapy with a trained counselor (that doesn't practice attack therapy but instead facilitates discussion) instead of peer support alone might teach more. From what my father said about his inpatient stays in his attempts to get off drugs, it was very hard to accept counseling from someone who had never been addicted before, moreso if he had no other input from people who had been there too during that time. Unfortunately one-on-one counseling is not often considered cost-effective by many insurance companies (and that gets me onto another topic that I could go on at length about, that most insurance only covers half the cost of mental health/substance abuse treatment... grrr...) and not all of the best counselors accept Medicaid. If peer support is all you have it's better than nothing, but better still to utilize all resources — namely professional counselors who work in conjunction with an MD or PsyD (in the states that license PsyDs) so medical aspects can be managed. Peer support — in whatever form it takes — is still very helpful as an adjunct.

Excuse me, but I see that magic phrase again, "The success of AA..." There isn't any. A.A. has a sky-high failure rate. It's no better than playing tiddly-winks as a program of sobriety. Actually, it's worse, because tiddly-winks won't raise the death rate, or raise the rate of binge drinking, the way that A.A. does.

I have mixed feelings about counseling. A lot of quacks hide behind the label of "counselor". My last "counselor" was actually a coke-snorting, child-molesting, Internet child pornographer who was paid by city, state, and Federal funds to teach us how to live clean and sober.

I get the feeling that good counselors are as rare as hens' teeth. And college degrees do not give people wisdom or understanding or perspective or empathy. Or ethics or morality.

Plus, a mental health specialist will be able to help treat underlying psychological illnesses that a person may be self-medicating — many people with Type I Bipolar Disorder self-medicate with alcohol.

Now that's a big yes. I keep saying that the first thing anybody should do is see a real doctor. A good psychiatrist is in order too.

I would not be surprised if Bill W. suffered from Bipolar Disorder — the character traits that you identify as personality disorders can also be caused by hypomania and even true mania. If he had been self-medicating while he was drinking, he might never have experienced hypomania until he quit, and during that time if he had no understanding of why he had tendencies toward grandoisity, impulsiveness, or sometimes deep depression he could have very well believed they were just character flaws, and not the effects of a still poorly understood but very common mental illness.

Maybe Bi-Polar, but my guess is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. We were just having that debate recently, too, here.

ADHD is often self-medicated with methamphetamine — I believe my father did exactly that. His childhood shows the "sit down and study!" method of ADHD treatment (I love South Park) works — when he was sent to a Catholic elementary school he did very well, but not in a poor inner-city school with a harried teacher who was afraid to discipline a kid for fear of lawsuits. As an adult he had better work habits and better concentration on the job if he had done a shot, which is one reason it was a reinforcing behavior pattern. I wish he'd gotten actual treatment instead of needing a shot to get to work and sharing a needle with the wrong person.

I agree with you 2000% that no peer support group of any sort should ever encourage a person to discontinue any prescribed medicine that is not being abused, nor should any peer support group tell a person to discontinue any prescription medicine without doctor involvement and management.


I noticed quite a few of the horror stories regarding AA are written by women. As I said, my mother got a lot more out of Al-Anon than she ever did AA — namely, because they approach "recovery" in a much different manner than the way you portray AA. I can't say whether your portrayal is accurate as I've never attended closed meetings or "worked the steps" in AA, but I started out in Alateen, attended Al-Anon for awhile after I married a drug addict although I did not get all that far in the steps with them. I left him pretty quickly, and I'm better off for it, and am more recently "working the steps" in ACA. The messages I've heard at those groups are not only different from your portrayal of AA, but also different from Bill W.'s apparent vision for Al-Anon from his "For Wives" chapter.

I know that in Al-Anon, people are not taught to "stuff their feelings" at all — actually, they're taught that it's okay to feel, that recognizing your feelings is very important, and that if you bury your emotions you end up miserable and taking them out on other people quite often, usually unintentionally. That doesn't mean to let your emotions "run riot", but to recognize them, recognize why you are feeling them, not feel bad for having them, express them in a healthy manner, and try to recognize when you are letting your emotions control your behavior.

They also do not portray the Third Step as a decision to absolve yourself of your ability and responsibility to control your own life and your own destiny. Rather, they teach that the only person you can control is yourself — so the Third Step is absolving yourself of responsibility for trying to control other people's lives and other people's destinies. Many people get into the mindtrap of "If only I were prettier/smarter/better/more loveable/perfect he would quit drinking for me." They teach that a person cannot make anyone else stop drinking or drugging or doing other self-destructive behaviors, but they can choose to not make it easier for the addict to continue drinking, and not take it personally if the person continues on the destructive course. It also empowers a person to help them learn that they can do for themselves what they need to do for their own well-being — whether that is continuing in the marriage or not — while recognizing that they are not responsible for the actions of anyone else and shouldn't blame themselves for what other people do. It doesn't say they are horrible people for wanting their husband or wife to be healthy, but that trying to force them to be is futile and blaming yourself when they aren't is self-defeating, and encourages a person to do what they have to do for themeslves and their kids.

Apparently, the group that you went to did not actually practice the 12 Steps of A.A. or William Griffith Wilson. They did something else. If the group can reinterpret and completely reverse the meaning of Step 3, then the Steps have no real meaning. They can mean anything that anyone says they mean. Thus they mean nothing at all.

I've heard of this attitude before, in other groups, and had the same reaction then. If the Steps can be anything to anybody, then they are really nothing at all.

  1. We can reinterpret Step 1 to mean that we are powerful over our problem, and our lives are manageable by us.
  2. We can reinterpret Step 2 to mean that we are the Higher Power who will cure us.
  3. We can reinterpret Step 3 to mean that we will seize control of our lives and our wills.
  4. We can reinterpret Step 4 to mean that, after carefully examining the situation, we find ourselves to be very moral and without faults.
  5. ...etc...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll, p. 238.

ACA, being a fellowship that has separated itself from the Al-Anon Family Groups (which includes AA) over conflicts regarding council-approved literature, has turned the Twelve Steps into a tool for psychotherapy, heavily influenced by Transational Analysis thought. In ACA, you are *supposed* to "graduate" and leave the need for the group behind at some point, the Fourth Step inventory is an inventory of family dynamics and behavior patterns. They make sure to say that a healthy amount of anger toward people who have harmed you is understandable, natural, and often buried, so the Fourth Step inventory is not just a "what was my part in it" thing, and the "defects of character" refer to learned behavioral strategies. Again, the helpfulness level of the groups vary from group to group, but the idea is a good one. They often encourage people to use their therapists as their sponsors if they are in individual therapy, and acknowledge that professional assistance is very helpful and often neccessary — I can see that helping ACA avoid some of the pitfalls that befall AA from what your site says about it.

Again, that is not a 12-Step group. "...turned the Twelve Steps into a tool for psychotherapy, heavily influenced by Transational Analysis thought."


When it comes to religion, I'm definitely an odd duck — I'm Pagan.


I think that any social institution or school of thought is more than the first person who thought of it or publicized it. Gerald Gardener was the first to write about Wicca and propose the first ideas, but Doreen Valiente helped turn Wicca into more than a secret club for a perverted man who liked to scourge naked women. Many other people added their own thoughts and views, and the movement grew well beyond the visions that Gerald Gardener had of it. I have no illusions about the way the modern Neo-Pagan movement started, but it's more than that to me.

I think groups like ACA and others that have grown from the ideas first put out by Bill W. have the ability to become something better than what he envisioned, and it'd be nice if they all would. In particular, I like ACA's step away from the idea of all literature having to be council-approved. It's suggested that you put a disclaimer if it is not council-approved, but distribution and publication of literature is not centrally controlled. That encourages growth and freer thought.

Whether the comparison between the neo-Pagan movement and TS/TT groups gives or diminishes credence to the idea of them being a cult, I don't know and I'll leave up to you.

Anyway, I thought you might like the thoughts of a person who was an Alateen kid, since you had mentioned the subgroups. I don't consider myself a "true believer" in the Twelve Step programs that are out there as I recognize their faults, but I also see the good they can do. In a way I think peer support groups for kids who are growing up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes are more important than ones for adults who are chemically dependent or married to them. Take the Alateen model of group interaction (since they do not actually work the steps in Alateen it is easier), put two trained counselors in the discussion facilitation role normally taken by the "sponsors" of the Alateen group (usually one person from AA and one from Al-Anon), and it could be very useful.

Take care of you,


Crystal, unfortunately "the good that they can do" is often dwarfed by the harm that they can do. Can do, and really do. Look at the Midtown Group, for example. When people are free to re-write the rules at will, and can pass anything off as a 12-Step group, then some monster often comes along to take advantage of the situation. Those cloudy-headed detoxing people are easy pickings. And that seems to be happening more and more now, with A.A. turning into sexual exploitation societies in many areas — Washington DC, California, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, Phoenix, and who knows how many more... That's just the organized, official sexual exploitation, in addition to the normal unofficial 13th-Stepping that is pandemic in A.A. and N.A. 12-Step groups.

And again, if they do not actually work the Steps in Alateen, then it isn't a 12-Step group. But it is advertised as such. Their web site says that the kids work the Steps. Look here. So who is running the show, and who decides whether the kids will work the Steps?

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  The heights by great men reached and kept
**    Were not attained by sudden flight,
**  But they, while their companions slept,
**    Were toiling upwards in the night.
**      ==  LONGFELLOW, The Ladder of St. Augustine

May 25, 2008: Still back up on the roof, Day 8.

The goslings aren't the only birds on the roof. This blue jay makes his home there too. He might actually be a Western Scrub Jay.

Western Scrub Jay

[The story of the goslings continues here.]

Date: Tue, December 16, 2008 10:12 pm     (answered 2 April 2009)
From: "Pete H."
Subject: bill w. & the 12 steps


please do me a favor & keep my personal e-mail anonymous. i'd rather not deal with the vicious, crank e-mails that might be headed my way because of a simple question.

i've asked this question of you at least twice before & the answer may be buried in your site somewhere but i've yet to uncover it. the question is simply this: is there documented evidence that bill wilson (or bob smith, for that matter) ever actually 'did' the 12 steps? the big book version of bill's story would suggest that (along with ebby) he did, but that would contradict his involvement with the oxford group & its insistence on the formalized adherence to the OG's 6-step process. same would go for dr. bob.

if i remember my reading correctly (and that's dubious — i haven't cracked open a conference-aprroved piece of literature in a while), both "12 steps & 12 traditions" co-author tom powers & bill wilson confidante father francis hartigan both mention that bill was at least 'troubled' by his not practicing (or doing) the 12 steps in their entirety.

so what gives? did the author who so earnestly penned the 12 steps ever actually practiced what he preached?



Hi Pete,

Thanks for a great question. My take on it is the same as yours: Bill Wilson did some Oxford Group practices in 1934 and 1935, and "saw God" during his belladonna treatment in Towns' Hospital in December of 1934, and then four years later he rewrote some Oxford Group practices into 12 steps, and announced, "This is how we got sober." In the case of Bill W., I think he was implying that he had already done that stuff while in the Oxford Group.

But I've never seen anything that says that William Griffith Wilson actually did the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Nor have I seen anything that says that Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith really did them either. Dr. Bob was always talking about the Oxford Group and Jesus Christ, not the 12 Steps.

Oh well, have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "Early AA got its ideas of self-examination,
**     acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for
**     harm done, and working with others straight from the
**     Oxford Groups and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their
**     former leader in America, and nowhere else."
**         == Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, page 39.

Date: Wed, December 17, 2008 2:53 am     (answered 2 April 2009)
From: "Richard B."
Subject: Stop press! A great man of letters has at the Oxford Group ...

What a site! Many thanks.

I don't know if this is news to anybody but ...

In 1934 Edmund Wilson wrote about the Oxford Group in a piece called "Saving the Right People and Their Butlers." Its first appearance in book form was in "The American Earthquake: A Documentary of the Twenties and Thirties" (1958.)

The Oxford Group also appears — lightly disguised — in a 1940 Joan Crawford movie, "Susan and God," adapted from a Rachel Crothers play that had a successful run on Broadway.

I've just discovered that it's on YouTube.


Richard B.

Hello Richard,

It's news to me. So thanks for the reference. I'll have to get that book.

About "Susan and God": Ah yes, so you are the person who told me about that movie. (Later, I couldn't remember who told me.) Thank you very much for the tip. I got a kick out of that. I wrote up a description and a link to the movie here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**   "A wise horsey once told me..."
**     == the singer at the "House Party" in "Susan and God"

Date: Wed, December 17, 2008 11:46 am
From: "Tom and Laura H."
Subject: You Have Proven Yourself to be a Goof


Date: Thu, December 18, 2008 12:25 pm
From: "paul l."
Subject: Bill W.

You, really need to get a life, or a hug or something

Date: Thu, December 18, 2008 5:49 pm
From: "John M."
Subject: Re: An Article you might get a kick out of


Especially the sub-head. One group of 12-steppers ruining the good name of the other. That's a laugh and a half.

A Struggle Inside AA

Recovering alcoholics say a Washington, D.C., group has hijacked the 12-step program's name.

by Nick Summers

Newsweek Web Exclusive

By the time May Clancy turned 15 years old, she was well on her way to drinking herself to death. A middle-school student from Potomac, Md., she had been through 11 different psychiatric and alcohol-rehab programs in two years. Each time, she started drinking again as soon as she got out. Her parents were terrified. "We'd taken her to hospitals — everything possible to get her the best care that we could," says May's father, Mike. "And all these places told us that they didn't think she could make it without Alcoholics Anonymous."

So in November 2005, when May agreed to begin attending meetings at Midtown, one of the oldest and largest AA groups in the Washington, D.C., area, it felt like a miracle. Other AA meetings in the city attracted mostly older men and women; Midtown was known as a place for recovering alcoholics in their teens and 20s. Some of the group's senior members were older, but there were also dozens of high-school and college kids with stories a lot like hers. From the moment she arrived, they seemed to go out of their way to welcome her. At first, May was thrilled to find a group of people who accepted her as she was. "When I went there," she says, "I didn't really talk to anybody, didn't trust anybody. And these people would hang out with me even if I didn't say anything, and include me in conversations. I was desperate to be liked at that point."

But something about Midtown was not right. After a few months, the group's embrace of May began to feel like a chokehold. She says the sponsor assigned to give her moral support and help keep her sober pressured her to cut off ties to anyone outside the group. Another member snatched her cell phone and deleted names in the directory. She says she was pressured to stop taking the medication a doctor had prescribed to manage her bipolar disorder: group members told her she couldn't be sober if she was taking any kind of drug. There was a hierarchy to the group. Younger members were sometimes expected to wash cars, clean houses and do other menial chores for more senior members.

Her suspicions were confirmed when she left Midtown and began attending a different AA meeting. She was surprised — and relieved — to find that many of Midtown's common practices were exactly the opposite of what Alcoholics Anonymous literature teaches. By design, there are no "leaders" in AA groups who exert control over other members. AA doesn't expect members to ignore doctors' prescriptions. It doesn't tell them to turn their backs on friends and family. And far from encouraging sex, AA groups overwhelmingly frown on intimate relationships for the first year of sobriety, when a recovering alcoholic is thought to be most vulnerable.

May's story isn't unique. Now 16, she is one of hundreds of recovering alcoholics who are taking sides in a bitter, unprecedented dispute among Alcoholics Anonymous adherents that pits members of Midtown, who insist the organization has saved their lives and kept them sober, against angry former members, who charge it is a coercive, cultlike group that uses the trusted AA name to induce young alcoholics into a radical fringe movement that has little resemblance to traditional AA.

Despite repeated requests for comment, no current Midtown members agreed to be interviewed on the record, citing AA's tradition of anonymity in the press and their belief that negative publicity scares on-the-fence alcoholics from getting the help they need. But those who spoke or e-mailed without giving their names for publication say that Midtown is a flourishing group that has saved their lives, and that those who criticize it resent their success, have scores to settle or are simply making it all up.

Lauren Dougherty says that doesn't describe her at all. Now 29, she loved all the attention she got when she decided to sober up and join Midtown 11 years ago. A member of her family was an alcoholic, and Dougherty had sat in the back during AA meetings before. But Midtown was different from the meetings she remembered. Her first night, she was introduced to another member of the group and told, "She's your sponsor." Dougherty thought that was odd. AA sponsors are chosen, not assigned. But everyone was so friendly she let it pass. They gave her specific instructions about which Midtown meeting she should attend each day, and told her to cut off friends from her old life, even the ones who didn't drink. Soon her new circle of friends insisted she get an "AA boyfriend." Like May, Dougherty says there was pressure to sleep with older group members, which she refused to do. ("They live off of sex," says Meredith, a 19-year-old former member who, like several others, did not want her full name used to avoid being outed as an alcoholic. "I feel like their way of dealing with alcohol addiction is just by having sex with each other. Being in that group made me want to drink more.")

Disgusted, Dougherty tried to quit the group. She says her sponsor was furious. "You can't trust any of your own thoughts," she said. "You can't go into your own head unsupervised." At first, Dougherty didn't know what to believe, until a rehab counselor told her in no uncertain terms to get out.


[Read the whole article for more.]

Thanks for the tip. Yes, the excuse-makers have been using that same line for a year now. Actually, several lines:
"Bad guys hijacked the good meetings..."
"Not in accord with the traditions..."
"A few bad apples..."
and so on.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** "Now I know what it's like to be high on life.
** It isn't as good, but my driving has improved."
** == Nina, on "Just Shoot Me", 13 Jan 2006.

Date: Fri, December 19, 2008 3:21 am     (answered 2 April 2009)
From: "Wm C."
Subject: marathon training

Bill: I have a training program which trains people to run the Boston marathon. It has a 100 percent success rate. Absolutely everyone competes in the Boston marathon who does my training plan.
Last year 1000 people came to my program for training to run the Boston marathon, and 10 ran the marathon.

Bob: That sounds like a 1 percent success rate, not 100.

Bill: No 100%. The others don't count. They were morally unfit, born that way, and are the wiener and wieners.

Hi Wm,

Thanks for the laugh.

And have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**   "RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly
**   followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who
**   cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple
**   program, usually men and women who are constitutionally
**   incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such
**   unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been
**   born that way."
**      ==  William G. Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous, page 58.

This is a continuation of a chain of letters from here

Date: Fri, December 19, 2008 8:21 pm     (answered 2 April 2009)
From: Shar
Subject: responses

Dear Orange-

Some responses to your responses:

First off, I wish that there were more recovery meetings like SMART in every city in the USA. It's coming, but slowly. A.A. has a 70-year head start. The fact that there are more A.A. meetings doesn't make A.A. a good thing.
So, when there SMART meetings availabe to people, can you guarantee me that SMART neetings are perfect, and that no one? will do anything wrong, and that everyone who attends will stay sober? Because that's your expectation for AA. There is no organization that will have that result.

Hello again, Shar,

That is baloney. You are grossly exaggerating. I do not demand that A.A. be perfect. But I sure as hell do demand that it do more for the alcoholics than just raise the rate of binge drinking and raise the death rate in alcoholics while yielding a zero-percent improvement in the sobriety rate.

And if SMART produced results like that, I would harshly criticize it and condemn it too.

You criticize me for saying that most counselors in treatment centers are themselves ex-addicts or ex-drinkers in recovery, and then you declare that you are a drug and alcohol counselor with 20 years of sobriety, and you are a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. That doesn't make much sense.

How does that not make sense? I am an Addictions Counselor who happens to have benefitted from AA, and I am one person — I am not all Addiction Counselors. And there are many Addiction Counselors who are not in 12 Step recovery.

The simple fact remains that the vast majority of people who work in the so-called "recovery industry" — including "counselors" — are ex-addicts/alcoholics who are Steppers who promote the 12-Step cult and teach that the 12-Step program actually works and is great stuff. So my original statement stands correct.

If you are a good counselor who causes hundreds or thousands of alcoholics to stop drinking and stay quit, then congratulations. You have achieved something that nobody else has achieved.
I have not caused anyone to stay sober, only the individual can do that. I believe I have helped some people by letting them know that recovery is actually possible, and by educating them on options they can choose to maintain?recovery.

That is more psycho-babble and buzz-words. "Educating them on options" ends up meaning sending them to A.A. meetings where they will be exposed to harmful misinformation and guilt-inducing cult practices. Maybe they will also get told to stop taking their doctor-prescribed medications, and then they may even get exploited sexually just for the fun of it. (Fun for A.A. and N.A. sponsors, that is...)

Congratulations on your 20 years. You are one in a thousand.
Well, actually there is my brother, and my late father, and at least 20 friends who have 20 years or more of sobriety.

Umm, let's see, that's 23 success stories out of how many thousands of alcoholics who have come to your family's and friends' favorite A.A. meeting rooms in the last 20 years, and did not benefit from it?

What is the actual A.A. success rate?

Out of each 1000 newcomers to A.A., how many will pick up a one-year medallion a year later?
That's the number that really counts.
And how many will get 2-year, and 5-year, and 10-year coins?
How about 11 years and 21 years?
(HINT: the answers are here.

Speaking of success rates, you also dodged the question about the success rate at your own treatment center. I specifically asked you:

What is the success rate at your treatment center?
And please don't play numbers games like declaring what percentage of the graduates are sober a month after graduation. How about ALL of the people who start the program? Out of all of the people who pay the money and start the treatment, how many of them have a year of sobriety one year later?
Five years of sobriety five years later?
What is your real success rate?
And how does that success rate compare to the normal 5% per year rate of spontaneous remission in alcoholism?
You seem to have ignored that question. And that's the most important question of all. What good is "treatment" or "counseling" if it does not work to make the alcoholics/addicts quit and stay quit?

You keep trying to declare that I am all wrong about counselors and counseling, and you try to claim that it works, and then you refuse to say how well it really works. That doesn't get you any credibility.

Besides, who said that PROGRAMS are the answer to alcoholism?
So what is your alternative? And how are people going to learn about recovery?

You are dodging the question. (And using the debating trick of Answer a Question With A Question.)

Who ever established that PROGRAMS work? Nobody.

The whole "program" idea was just Bill Wilson's insistence that you must "Work A Strong Program". Meaning: you have to join his cult and do his cult practices.

When you ask, "And how are people going to learn about recovery?", that is the propaganda trick called Appeal to Desperation. It's like, "Okay, maybe the programs don't work very well, but we have to do something. So let's continue to foist ineffective cult religion on the clients. It's better than nothing."

You are also Assuming Facts Not In Evidence when you imply that people won't "learn about recovery" without a program, and will "learn about recovery" with a program. It doesn't take an expensive "treatment" program for people to learn that they should not put alcohol in their mouths if they want to quit drinking. They already know that. They also know that they should not continue taking drugs if they want to quit an addiction. People just are not that stupid or ignorant. "Learn about recovery" is yet another buzz-word or buzz-phrase.

(Incidentally, this assumption that they won't "learn about recovery" reminds me of Bill Wilson's grandiose claim that other alcoholics would not know how to get well unless Bill told them.)

What would I do instead?
For starters, tell the truth. Explain to alcoholics that A.A. does not work — that it is just cult religion nonsense — and A.A. is more likely to get you killed, or drive you to suicide, or get you raped than it will get you sober.
(You may not like that statement, but the facts support it.)

Then teach the alcoholics about the Do-It Yourself method, and SMART, and Rational Recovery, and the Lizard-Brain Addiction Monster.

And if they want somebody to talk to, they can try these groups:

The last time someone asked me what might help a loved one with an addiction problem, I gave this answer.

Most successful ex-drinkers do it alone. DO IT YOURSELF is the single most successful "sobriety program" in the world.?
I agree — the only person who will get/keep someone sober is that person. However, I tend to think it would be helpful for them to learn HOW to achieve sobriety.

Again, the magic buzz-words: "achieve sobriety". Nonsense. You just stop putting alcohol in your mouth, and you will get sober. It works every time. This "achieve sobriety" talk implies that someone has to make the grade spiritually or psychologically — that sobriety is somehow something that is "achieved" through "working a strong program". Baloney.

And that language also implies that sobriety is something other than having a zero percent blood alcohol level. That's the A.A. dogma creeping in there again, where the "sobriety achieved" is graded like levels of spirituality.

But I still maintain that the vast majority of drug and alcohol counseling in the USA is just expensive fraud, no more effective than Freudian psychoanalysis where you lay on a couch and talk about sexual fantasies.
Show me the research to back up this statement.

ALL of the valid research on treatment programs and A.A. recovery rates supports that statement. Massive failure is the norm. Treatment, as it is now practiced in the USA, doesn't work. Counseling for drug and alcohol addictions doesn't work either. Such counseling is usually part of treatment programs, and they all routinely fail to produce any more lasting sobriety than the do-it-yourself method (which is also known as "spontaneous remission").

By the way, there ARE substance abuse treatment modalities based on research; check out the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), for one example.

Yes, there are some treatment modalities that are based on research. And 12-Step treatment isn't one of them.

When R. K. Hester and W. R. Miller (UNM, Albuquerque — Center for Alcohol, Substance Abuse and Addictions, Dept. of Psychology, University of New Mexico) rated the various alcoholism treatments in their book Handbook of Alcoholism Treatment Approaches: Effective Alternatives, A.A. 12-Step treatment went so far down the list that it almost disappeared. The best treatment was Brief Interventions, and it got a positive score of 390. A.A. got a negative score, MINUS 82, way below zero.

Look here for the chart online:

Note that "Brief Intervention" consists of a real doctor talking to the patient for usually less than one hour, questioning him about all of the ugly details of his drinking and telling him that he will die if he doesn't quit drinking. One time. That's it. No long counseling sessions, no great guidance, no on-going advice, no shoulder to cry on. And no 28-day treatment program. Just one "Dutch Uncle" session and it's over. And that's the most effective thing going.

That kind of puts the whole expensive "drug-and-alcohol treatment industry" to shame, doesn't it?

Also, for your information, one focus of modern recovery programs is called "harm-reduction" — where decreasing one's use of substances is considered success, not just complete sobriety.

Yes, I know about harm reduction. And I know that A.A. believers bitterly denounce it and oppose it. They say that "harm reduction" programs kill alcoholics and addicts by giving them permission to drink or use.

I work with people who have severe mental health issues in addition to addictions. And we use evidence-based practices that have been shown to help this population. Have you ever dealt with a person with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder? Should I tell them "DO IT YOURSELF"?

Now you are grossly misstating my position. (That's the propaganda trick of Misrepresent Your Opponent's Position, or Mischaracterize Your Opponent, or Mischaracterize His Statements or Questions.)

I have repeatedly told people to SEE A REAL DOCTOR for such problems, not to "do it yourself". (Click on that link.) See a doctor or psychiatrist and fix what's broken, and absolutely do not go to an A.A. quack who will tell you to stop taking your medications.

It's the A.A. sponsors who say that you won't have "real sobriety" if you are taking psychiatric medications. It's the A.A. sponsors who tell the newcomers to stop taking their medications. It's A.A. that teaches:

"Here was a book that said I could do something that all these doctors and priests and ministers and psychiatrists that I'd been going to for years couldn't do!"
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 473, "Promoted to Chronic".

I find your position to be curious. You claim to use "evidence-based practices" on the schizophrenics and bi-polar cases. (What practices? What do you hope to accomplish? What constitutes "successful treatment"?) But the non-schizophrenic, non-bi-polar patients seem to be fair game for being treated with superstitious non-evidence-based 12-Step cult religion. Where is the virtue in that?

And how can you treat schizophrenic or bi-polar patients? You are not a doctor or a psychiatrist, and you are not licensed to prescribe anti-psychotic medications. You are a counselor with a master's degree. So you are not qualified to diagnose schizophrenia or any other mental illness and prescribe appropriate medications. So do you send the patients to a real doctor to get them diagnosed and get them some medications, and then tell them, "Do what the real doctor said."? Well, do you?

The first rule of medicine is, "Do No Harm." That's in the Hippocratic Oath.
Yes it is. But there are doctors that do not treat people the right way. I have been mistreated by some doctors. So does that mean I should then not go to doctors? Besides, some people have spontaneous remission, so there is no point to going to a doctor. I'll just wait and hope I'm one of the lucky ones who have a spontaneous remission.

Baloney. Again, you are grossly exaggerating the situation. If a real doctor had a track record as bad as Alcoholics Anonymous, the certifications board would revoke his license to practice medicine. He would be kicked out of the profession for malpractice, incompetence, having sex with his patients, and lying to patients about the treatment and how well it works.

Again, it's A.A. that tells people not to go to doctors, and not to take their medications. I tell people to go to real doctors and take their medications.

You really do dislike that term "spontaneous remission", don't you? Are you afraid that most or all of your success stories are really just due to spontaneous remission?

"If you get bubonic plague, do you go to a club composed of other victims of bubonic plague, or do you go to a doctor?"
So a doctor is okay, but not a well-trained, licensed addictions counselor, who teaches people principles of recovery using evidence based practices, because God-forbid, they might actually be in recovery, and might have attended AA? As I previously stated, my education, training and experience are what qualifies me to work with people with addictions, NOT the fact that I am in recovery and that ONE of the things that has helped me is AA.?

Again, you keep jumping around. When we talk about ethical standards for medical treatment, suddenly A.A. is forgotten and you mumble about "evidence-based treatment". But elsewhere you sing the praises of A.A. and brag about all of your relatives and friends who have 20 years in the organization, and you certainly imply that A.A. actually works, rather than harms alcoholics. And you admit that you send patients to Alcoholics Anonymous.

And you have ignored the question of how, with all of your education, you could even consider sending people to a cult religion that fails to help the alcoholics to actually get sober. If you are going to ignore the evidence and the education and the facts whenever they conflict with your favorite A.A. beliefs, then that makes your education worthless.

And you keep on saying that A.A. works and A.A. helped you and you try to imply that A.A. is helping your patients too, but you refuse to say what the success rate of A.A. actually is.
And you have also refused to say what the success rate at your treatment center is.

Just waving your hands in the air and raving about how great A.A. is, and how much it helps, is not medical evidence that justifies sending sick people to Alcoholics Anonymous.

I'll have all the people I talk to looking for help e-mail you. Just joking. I'll just tell them to "DO IT YOURSELF". Is that "doing no harm"?


You laugh, but a lot of people would have been better off if they had never seen the inside of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting room. They might even still be alive. And unraped.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  If you want to know what God thinks of money,
**   look at the people He gives it to.
**     ==  Anon. (New England saying)

More Letters

Previous Letters

Search the Orange Papers

Click Fruit for Menu

Last updated 27 September 2013.
The most recent version of this file can be found at https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters106.html