Letters, We Get Mail, CXLIV

Date: Mon, August 31, 2009 7:01 pm     (answered 27 September 2009)
From: "benjamin h."
Subject: orange-cult

why is it that although different in points of view, every cult has the same agenda and the same M.O.? I was thrown head-first into a cult at the age of seven and left at 14. I became an agnostic but was still troubled and searched for god. I returned to the source of my doubts at 20. I've spent 2 years there. At first I did my best to live in the movie despite my lack of faith and inability to suspend disbelief.

After a year i began taking off the blinders and coming to the realization that many of your points illuminate so well. now I have lost everything. my wife and my newborn daughter are trapped by one form or another and i loathe the idea that my daughter will grow up with the same thought killing logic that has already damaged so many. i don't know what to do. The so-called church matches roughly 90 percent of all your points and my wife isn't keen enough to realize that this is in fact not a healthy environment to raise a child. how do i get through to her when she is surrounded by so many dissenting voices that drown me, the enemy, out?

Hello Benjamin,

Thanks for the letter, and I'm sorry to hear about your suffering. Sorry to take so long to answer — I'm backlogged on answering email.

Most all cults have the same basic agenda because that is just the nature of the beast. They do not invent their recruiting and brainwashing techniques; they just reuse the same stuff over and over, for centuries and millenia.

It reminds me of viruses. When you hear about an influenza virus like H5N1, all that the label means is, "This virus used the fifth standard way of getting into a cell, and the first standard way to get back out." The rest of the virus' program is always the same: Take over control of the cell and work it to death making more copies of the virus.

Similarly, cults always want to recruit and take over peoples' thinking processes and make clones. Various cults may appear to be different on the surface — some cults dress in outlandish costumes from foreign countries, and others dress in old traditional American costumes from 200 years ago, while others wear regular, ordinary, contemporary dress. And cults may jabber different slogans and proclaim different religious beliefs (or even non-religious beliefs). But they all have the same agenda: recruit and indoctrinate and change the newcomers into "one of us". Reproduce more of "our kind". ("Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.")

I just ran across this in another book on escaping from cults:

Frequently, at gatherings of former cult members, a lively exchange takes place when participants compare their respective groups and leaders. As people begin to describe their special, enlightened, and unique leader — whether a pastor, therapist, political leader, teacher, lover, or swami — those present are often surprised to learn that their once-revered leaders are actually quite similar in temperament and personality. It seems as if those leaders come from a common mold, sometimes light-heartedly called the "Cookie-Cutter Messiah School."
Take Back Your Life; Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias, Bay Tree Publishing, Berkeley, California, 2006, LC: BP603.T62 2006, Dewey: 362.2—dc22

That book is good, by the way. I recommend that and this one: Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan. Hassan's book is specifically about how to rescue a loved one from a cult, so it is most relevant to your problem.

I've described some of what is in Hassan's book before, here:

  1. Don't give up
  2. Use indirect criticism of the cult
  3. Try again
  4. Already over the edge
  5. Phobia induction
  6. Try jokes and Hassan
  7. Recommended again
  8. What does she get out of it?
  9. Split-personality leader

Also check out anti-cult forums, even the anti-12-Step forums. Some of the people in those forums are quite knowledgeable and have been in two or more cults, and have also noticed the similarities. They may also have some helpful advice. Many such forums are listed at the start of the links page.

Good luck, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**      ...cult membership is less than fully voluntary.
**    Often it is the result of intense social-psychological
**    influence and control, sometimes called coercive persuasion.
**    Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias,
**    Take Back Your Life; Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships,
**    page 5.

Date: Tue, September 1, 2009 4:23 am     (answered 28 September 2009)
From: "Anonymous"
Subject: unfortunate


I solved the problem on my own, with little outside help. People like me are blown off; apparently we did not really have a problem.

That is one unfortunate.

Another unfortunate is that AA seems to have such a high regard. It does not deserve it.


Hello again, Anonymous,

It's good to hear that you are still doing well.

I think that the "high regard" for Alcoholics Anonymous is self-assigned — they are the ones who broadcast the message that A.A. is great and has saved millions. It sure isn't the doctors who know what is going on, and who have to sign the death certificates.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    To die for an idea is to place a pretty high price upon conjecture.
**       ==  Anatole France

Date: Thu, September 17, 2009 (answered 17 September 2009)
From: "Ian"
Subject: Help
Dear Orange,

My girlfriend was arrested and released for a PI. She agreed she was wrong and was willing to accept the terms of probation, except she is required to AA meetings. We are both atheist and refused to participate in the AA cult. She told the probation officer she wanted to attend another program (SOS, RR, Women for Sobriety), but he became very rude and verbally abusive, insisting that she only go to AA or go to jail for 6 months. To make a long story short she has another court date because she refused to sign a paper saying she would attend AA meetings, so there is a real possibility of jail. I was wondering if you could put me in contact with somebody who may be able to assist us in this matter.


Hi Ian,

You didn't say what country you are in. The USA? If so, the ACLU may be able to help. Forcing people to attend the services of a cult religion is blatantly unconstitutional.

See this link for a list of court decisions that A.A. is a religion:

Also Ken Ragge's web site for the text of court decisions:

You might also want to check out the book "Resisting 12-Step Coercion", link here:

If I think of anything else, I'll send it.

Good luck.

== 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: Wed, August 26, 2009 11:31 am     (answered 14 October 2009)
From: "Michael McF."
Subject: Re: libel?


Hi Michael,

Here's an easier link:

Yep, it's libel. But that's nothing new. It just seems to come with the territory. When facts fail the true believers, they resort to name-calling and libel and slander. It's really standard operating procedure. What gets me is how they can continue to imagine that their behavior is "spiritual".

We discussed the Craig's List post before, here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     I have a feeling that at any time about three million Americans
**     can be had for any militant reaction against law, decency,
**     the Constitution, the Supreme Court, compassion and the
**     rule of reason.
**          ==  John Kenneth Galbraith

Date: Wed, September 2, 2009 8:16 pm     (answered 14 October 2009)
From: Raymond S.
Subject: Wired In

Hi Terry,

Are you dharmabum on without_aa? I'm raysny, owner of w_aa. I started using this addie to correspond with you when I heard you had problems with Yahoo.

If not, I wanted you to be aware of what's been going on over at Wired In, a UK-based recovery forum.

This Tim Leighton person writes:

"I have seen various examples, some of which clearly originate in a kind of online manifesto published by someone who calls himself (or herself) Agent Orange. The so-called "Orange Papers" are in parts intelligent and cogent critique of the more egregious absurdities in the 12 Step literature, but the way in which the author uses so-called research evidence is extremely dubious, and despite academic-looking references, the inferences and conclusions drawn are either illegitimate or irrelevant to the current situation."


I am currently 15 days in on a 30-day suspension from Wired In, so I haven't chimed in. I considered writing Tim personally, but I'm weighing my chances on being able to post over there again. If you'd like Tim's email, it's:
[email protected]

Ray S.

Hello Ray,

Thanks for the note. I wasn't aware of that forum, but obviously this debate is going on all over the world. And the mind games and propaganda tricks are going on all over the world too.

The fact that they banned you from speaking pretty much tells you everything you need to know about their interest in the truth. Some people want to learn the truth, and some people just want to hear their favorite superstitions repeated, and they can become quite hostile if you challenge their cherished illusions (or delusions).

I'll have to check them out.

By the way, I noticed that this Tim did not actually state a single fact about my writings. He did not list one citation that is wrong or "illegitimate or irrelevant";. He just made sweeping, broad generalizations devoid of any specifics, unsupported by any evidence. That's another typical cult style of attack. I think it qualifies as another flavor of ad hominem.

Oh well, have a good day.

P.S., no, I'm not "dharmabum", and I didn't see your forum. I rarely get into Yahoo any more. I pretty much boycott them because they erased my web site without explanation or warning back when it was on Yahoo Geocities.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     The fact that it is difficult to break established bad habits
**     does not mean that those bad habits are diseases.

Date: Thu, September 3, 2009 10:34 am     (answered 15 October 2009)
From: "Bill O."
Subject: nocebo effect

Hello again Orange,

I stumbled on this "effect" and thought you might find it interesting and appropriate to your work:



Bill From Fallbrook

Hello Bill,

Thanks for the links. Yes, that's interesting. I was thinking "voodoo" before I was a quarter of the way through the first article, and then they described it in detail.

The connection to A.A. that comes to mind is all of the dire predictions that you will suffer a fate worse than death if you quit Alcoholics Anonymous. I wonder how much subsequent binge drinking is just the A.A. nocebo effect.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "You can complain because roses have thorns,
**     or you can rejoice because thorns have roses."
**         == Ziggy.

Date: Thu, September 3, 2009 9:40 am     (answered 15 October 2009)
From: RogKF
Subject: Response to Agent Orange web-site

Author: Roger F.
Topic: The Agent Orange Web-site

"Not-so-secret" Agent Orange:

I have visited your web-site several times over the past few years. I came across it while I was conducting historical research on Tom P., an early AA member. Yours was one of the few Internet sources that mentioned Tom. But it became immediately apparent to me that you really did not know what you were talking about even with reference to this single individual (see below).

Hello Roger,

This should be interesting. I have always wanted to learn more about Tom Powers.

Reading through some of your essays on A.A. at large, I was alternatively amused and appalled. I guess that I like to be amused and/or appalled since I have returned to this site on several occasions since then.

By way of disclosure, I am currently an active A.A. member. My sobriety date is 29 January, 1980. I am a "first time winner." I have not consumed any alcohol since that day. I have never been admitted to a rehabilitation or detoxification center. I am firmly convinced that participation in A.A. helped me to get sober and to stay sober. For that I am grateful.

Congratulations on keeping yourself sober. Obviously, you did not need the A.A. program to quit drinking. You had decided to quit before going to your first meeting. And you did. You weren't drinking when you went into the meeting, were you?

We have some things in common. I too am an "old hippie" and I attended graduate school at U Cal Berkeley (1969-1970) before dropping out as a consequence of my inability to support myself by dealing marijuana (I got ripped off). I am also familiar with drugs, including LSD, cocaine, heroin, and methadone. I have not used any of these substances during the past 30 years.

To create at least a semblance of objectivity, I would note some significant points of agreement with the opinions that you have expressed. You are "correct" on several key points (by "correct" I mean that your views are congruent with my own).

That is very revealing. "Correct" is whatever coincides with your beliefs? I guess then, a "lie" is whatever you don't like, right?

First, no one should ever be sentenced, mandated or coerced by any court, government administrative agency or employee assistance office into attending A.A. meetings From my standpoint, there are three reasons for this.

  • First, it is not likely to work for the patient or client. Rates of A.A. affiliation by court-mandated individuals are extremely low, relapse rates within this group are extremely high.
  • Second, such mandates are unconstitutional and an offense to the individual liberty of freedom of (and from) religion. As the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, there is enough religious content presented to A.A. attendees for mandated attendance at A.A. meetings to qualify as a violation of the First Amendment.
  • Third, as the person who arranges for and often distributes "proof of attendance" cards at meetings, I have found that the vast majority of individuals who are sentenced to A.A. do not attend meetings once they have collected enough cards. I suspect that many (probably most) really don't want to stop drinking. A.A. is not effective with these people. The task of accommodating their need for proof attendance is a pain in my rear end and diverts my attention from interacting with people who actually want to get and stay sober.

Now there we are in agreement.

I also agree that 12-steppers and former 12-steppers currently dominate both the official ideology and the working positions within the substance abuse rehabilitation industry. Based on casual observation, I suspect that A.A.'s hegemony is largely an artifact of perceived convenience and short-term, misguided considerations of cost effectiveness. Having these 12-steppers direct clients to A.A. and expose them to a few A.A. concepts (usually as mere slogans) is easy and cheap when compared to most other forms of treatment. There are a lot of current/former A.As. who think that they can (or somehow need) to become treatment professionals. The supply of such personnel is large and this reduces labor costs. Dominance within a human services profession that stems from convenience is bound to have ill effects, including highly unqualified personnel posing as counselors. I have found that many (but certainly not all) A.A. members who become professional "industry" workers are poor counselors and lousy A.A. members.

That sounds about right.

I also believe that Bill W. was a dirt-bag. It's the adultery part that kills me, but there is more. I have spoken on several occasions with a man from New Jersey who had been continuously sober since 1941 (he died in 2000). He knew Bill W. (and several of the early members whose stories appeared in the 1st edition of the "Big Book"). In his recollection, many A.A. members in the New York area did not like Bill, his enormous ego, and his hypocrisies. At bottom, Bill's behavior was indefensible.

I've heard that before too. Not everybody admired or worshipped Bill W. He was charismatic, but not that charismatic. Lots of people quit in disgust, and Clarence Snyder criticized Bill Wilson's chicanery strongly.

Now, I turn to the gist of my criticism dealing first with A.A.'s "efficacy" rate. I recall that you admire and recommend Rational Recovery. On RR's website we find an FAQ which asks: Is RR more effective than A.A? The answer given by RR is that the treatment efficacy of RR and A.A. cannot be conclusively determined by recognized standards of empirical research.

I disagree. It's really very simple: Send 100 or 1000 alcoholics to Alcoholics Anonymous, and see how many of them are sober a year later. And still sober 5 or 10 years later. At the same time, watch another similar group of 100 or 1000 alcoholics who get no treatment or "help", and see how many of them quit drinking on their own. Then compare the results from the two groups.

When the same numbers of alcoholics get sober in both groups, you know that Alcoholics Anonymous is completely ineffective and doesn't help the alcoholics. When the A.A. group has a higher death rate, and a higher suicide rate, then you know that A.A. is doing something very harmful.

Here I note that the bulk of published "A.A. research" has been conducted with in-patient samples receiving Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF) treatment or with outpatient samples. Neither group reliably represents "newcomers" who attend A.A. meetings nor does their experience reliably represent membership in A.A. There is no way of determining an efficacy rate within a natural setting among individuals who are anonymous. None. Nevertheless, several recent works (including a few studies conducted with samples recruited from actual A.A. groups) strongly suggests that A.A. is as effective or slightly more effective than alternative alcoholism treatment approaches.

Who cares if they are anonymous? I care whether they get healthy or die. Arguing that the test procedures are not "natural" is just a dodge to avoid admitting failure. What matters most is whether the sick alcoholics quit drinking and regain their heath and get a new lease on life. And A.A. fails to make them do that. Period.

At several junctures, you cite George Vaillant's work and claim that he repudiated his support for A.A.

NO! That is wrong, completely wrong. I never said that Dr. Vaillant repudiated his support for A.A. I said just the opposite: that Dr. Vaillant was such a true believer that he insisted that people should get shoved into A.A. in spite of the complete failure of A.A. to get the alcoholics to quit drinking, and in spite of the high A.A. death rate. Vaillant wanted those alcoholics to get "an attitude change" by "confessing their sins to a high-status healer". Vaillant is such a true believer in A.A. that he could, on one page of his Natural History of Alcoholism book, declare that the A.A. death rate was "appalling", but within four pages, he was raving about "the success of A.A.". No, Dr. Vaillant never allowed mere facts to get in the way of his belief in Buchmanism.

Here is the abstract for Vaillant's last published essay on A.A within a peer-reviewed journal published under the title of "Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure" within a 2005 issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 39(6), 431-436

Objective: To discuss the mechanism of action, the efficacy and the safety of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the treatment of alcoholism.
Method: The published works on effective treatments for alcoholism is briefly reviewed and a prospective multidisciplinary follow-up of recovery from alcoholism in two community cohorts of adolescent males followed from 1940 until the present day is reviewed.
Conclusions: The suggested mechanism of action of AA is that it employs four factors widely shown to be effective in relapse prevention in addictions: external supervision, substitute dependency, new caring relationships and increased spirituality. In addition, AA serendipitously follows the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy in relapse prevention. Alcoholics Anonymous appears equal to or superior to conventional treatments for alcoholism, and the skepticism of some professionals regarding AA as a first rank treatment for alcoholism would appear to be unwarranted. Alcoholics Anonymous is probably without serious side-effects
George Vaillant (2005, p.431).

We have discussed that article before, at length, a couple of times, here and here. I am well aware of the religious diatribes contained in that article. Vaillant's whole thrust is that religion is divisive and bad, but A.A. is good spirituality.

In fact, the studies that you cite in support of the statement that A.A. does not work are invariably very old and of decidedly poor in quality. I do not have the time to provide a full critique of these studies. Here's something that can be readily understood.

Take, for example, Brandsma et al. (1977, reproduced in 1980). The final study populace here was 46 subjects! In Brandsma et al. (1985), the final sample was comprised of just 37 participants! Anyone who has any familiarity with social science research will recognize in an instant that these "studies" cannot yield statistically valid findings. The samples are just too small. The same can be said of Ditman et al. and the Sobells research. Yet you cite them throughout.

Is that the best objection that you have? The sample sizes are too small for your liking? Yes, it would be better — more convincing — if the test groups were larger, but sometimes you have to use what you get.

And yes, you can get some meaningful findings from such studies, especially when the A.A. group did five times as much binge drinking as the control group, and nine times as much binge drinking as the rational behavior therapy group. Such huge differences are much more than a small statistical anomaly. We are not talking about one standard deviation there.

And another fact to consider is that ALL of the randomized longitudinal controlled studies ever done gave basically the same results: A.A. does not work. There has never been a properly-conducted randomized longitudinal controlled study that showed that A.A. works. They all showed that A.A. failed to help the alcoholics, and had bad side effects. That isn't a small statistical error.

But it would be nice to have larger tests. Let's lobby the National Institutes for Health and have them do a really large randomized longitudinal controlled study that tests a variety of methods of treating alcoholism and drug addiction, including 12-Step cult religion, Scientology cult religion, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, Brief Intervention, Addictive Voice Recognition Technique, and a bunch of others. We can get more ideas for things to test from this chart of the effectiveness of various treatment modalities.

To mention yet another shortcoming of your "review of the literature," you seem to be under the impression that Project Match yielded a single study. In fact, more than dozen published studies using the Project Match database have appeared in print. Those that have attempted to evaluate efficacy rates for A.A. in comparison to other treatment modalities have concluded that A.A. is as effective or slightly more effective than alternative treatment modalities

You mean that a dozen different authors rehashed the invalid data from Project MATCH. Obviously, those so-called "studies" are worthless, because the results from Project MATCH were worthless. Garbage in, garbage out.

Project MATCH had no control group. They paid alcoholics to come to meetings where bastardized versions of either 12-Step theology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or motivational therapy were taught. They cherry-picked which alcoholics went into which group. And the results were so muddled that it didn't matter which garbage the alcoholics got. The results were the same.

And earlier, you complained that tests of A.A. were not "natural". What a laugh.

We have talked about Project MATCH before, here.

In fact, at present (it is, after all, 2009) most of the work within this research domain has proceeded on the basis of a "dose-response" model. These studies uniformly indicate a direct correlation between frequency/intensity of A.A. exposure (the "dose") in the form of meeting attendance (and/or other related variables like having a sponsor or steps completed) and abstinence from alcohol (the "response").

Translation: those who become true believers in the cult, and devote their lives to the cult, drink less than the people who go back to the bars. I can believe that.

But it is backwards, invalid, logic to assume that exposure to A.A. reduced drinking. I can repeat such a "study" and find that people who frequent Baskin Robbins ice cream parlors drink less alcohol than the people who go to bars. And the more often the test subjects are exposed to the ice cream meetings, the less they drink. The logical conclusion is that we should treat all of the alcoholics with ice cream.

What really pisses me off about your presentation of the available data is that you engage in "apples and oranges" comparisons while railing against this shop-worn abuse.

You routinely cite an errant interpretation of a 1988 A.A. demographic survey as the basis for the assertion that A.A. does not work. The survey itself was not designed to generate findings of any kind save the information needed to construct a demographic profile of the fellowship.

Through indirect methods, some A.A. personnel concluded that the survey indicated a very low rate of affiliation among newcomers (many, if not most, of whom, were court-mandated).

The evidence that can be extrapolated from this survey indicates (but does not demonstrate) that this is the case.

Yet it says nothing (absolutely nothing!) about the actual treatment efficacy of A.A.

Through ignorance, willful abuse, or both, you nevertheless present this "finding" as proof positive that A.A. does not work. That's just nonsense and you should know better. Spencer is rolling in his grave. Worse, on the one hand, you interpret an individual's (permanent or temporary) termination of A.A. meeting attendance as proof that A.A. does not work. On the other, you interpret continued A.A. attendance as proof of brainwashing by a dangerous cult.

You really don't like that internal A.A. report, do you? The A.A. dropout rate is sky-high. And that's that. That dropout rate has been repeatedly verified a number of times, in a variety of ways. It is not just a declining curve from one internal A.A. headquarters report.

"A well conducted professional study" showed that "some 5% of newcomers are still attending meetings after 12 months. This is a truly terrible statistic. Again we must ask 'Where does the fault lie?'"
== Dr. Ron Whitington — Chairman General Service Board, AA Around Australia, Spring Edition No 90, October 1994

"There were alcoholics in the hospitals of whom A.A. could touch and help only about five percent. The doctors started giving them a dose of LSD, so that the resistance would be broken down. And they had about fifteen percent recoveries. This was all a scientific thing."
Nell Wing, Bill Wilson's secretary, quoted in 'PASS IT ON': Bill Wilson and the A.A. Message, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984, page 370.

It would seem that LSD is much more effective than A.A.

Lastly, you declared, "Worse, on the one hand, you interpret an individual's (permanent or temporary) termination of A.A. meeting attendance as proof that A.A. does not work."
Now you and I both know that it is a standard A.A. slogan — really, many slogans — that declare that if you leave A.A. you will die drunk in a gutter:

  • "If you leave, you'll come back on your knees."
  • "If you leave A.A., your fate is jails, institutions, or death."
  • "Don't leave five minutes before the miracle."
  • "People who leave just want to drink."
  • "Anyone wanting to leave should take a close look at their motivation."
  • "A.A.'s like the Mafia — If you leave it, you die."

But now you are trying to claim the A.A. drop-outs and quitters as wonderful A.A. success stories? You've got to be joking.

I know full well that many people who leave A.A. do get sober later. And A.A. is not due any credit for that. A.A. still failed to sober them up when it had them. Those alcoholics got sober by their own efforts, using their own intelligence and will power.

And even if somebody gets sober while attending some A.A. meetings, and then leaves and stays sober, there is still no reason to give A.A. the credit for the sobriety. People do not quit drinking because of the 12 Steps or any of that nonsense. The real reasons why people quit drinking are things like: to avoid death, to get healthy, to save a marriage or career, to stop the pain, to improve one's lifestyle, and so on.

Again, A.A. does not increase the amount of sobriety in the world. A.A. does not make alcoholics quit drinking.

Based upon my own experience in sponsoring 18 men over the years (and my rough count of the individuals who have been sponsored in turn by these men) I know that A.A. works IF the individual takes at least some of the suggestions given to him or her. The sample is admittedly small. But I know this people, I know many of their families and I have watched some of them for more than 25 years.

Again, you are using the standard qualifiers: "A.A. works IF...."

Well, dancing around in a ballerina's tutu also works, IF the alcoholic really works a strong program, and always dances instead of drinks alcohol....

Eating ice cream works, IF the alcoholic always eats ice cream instead of drinking alcohol.

Those are meaningless statements.

As for A.A. being a cult here's a question for you: How many "cults" regularly change leaders through elections based on broad participation as A.A. does?

Baloney. The membership censured the A.A.W.S. leadership for committing perjury in Germany and Mexico over the Big Book copyright, and the leadership told them to get lost. The members do not and cannot actually elect the real leaders. They can only elect powerless figure-heads. All of the real power resides in the Interchurch Building in New York City, and those leaders elect themselves, and keep themselves in power. A.A. is a fake democracy.

By the way, there is much more to a cult than simply having a charismatic, dictatorial leader. Cults do things like guilt induction, indoctrination, deceptive recruiting, phobia induction, teaching irrational dogma, constant put-downs, enemy-making, isolation, and loaded language. A.A. does all of those things. See the cult test for more, here.

Here's another (albeit of a different sort): Have you ever been to an A.A. group business meeting?
I have. In these sessions there are differences of opinion (with due respect for minority viewpoints) and some groups even have difficulty in filling positions or commitments (to other groups) because members either cannot or will not step up and perform these functions. If A.A. is a cult, it sure is a weak one (LOL).

Yes, I attended one too. So you have a meeting where you discuss donations and expenses. So what?

A.A. is a different kind of cult, which is how it has managed to fly under the radar for so long. The real money is in the treatment centers, which happily charge anything from $1700 to $40,000 for introduction to quackery and goofy religion.

But then again, A.A. is more about stealing peoples' minds and souls than taking money.

Along the way you mention Stanton Peele, the Trimpeys and Chaz Bufe. I can't resist.

  • Peele (a lawyer and psychiatrist who has taken grant money from the distilled spirits industry) has routinely criticized A.A. Yet after Moderation Management (MM) founder Audrey Kishline had her slip (and killed two people in the process), Peele and Archie Brodsky signed a statement which concluded "We believe that the approach represented by Alcoholics Anonymous and that represented by Moderation Management are both needed." Peele published several alternative statements on the Kishline affair. But he signed the one quoted above.
    As for Peele's "research," I cite from Griffith Edwards review of Peele's Meaning of Addiction for the British Journal of Addiction. Edwards wrote,

    "with these and other issues treated in cavalier fashion, with referencing highly incomplete and crucial work often ignored, one begins to feel that this is a book where polemic and scholarship have become inextricably and unhappily mixed" (1985, p.448).
    Edwards did not go far as Jack Trimpey, who considers Peele to be "the devil" (I'm not sure how that squares with rationality). In my opinion, the Trimpeys have their own, profit-driven agenda.

    You do know, don't you, that Griffith Edwards is a professional 12-Step apologist and salesman? We have discussed him before too, here.

    Griffith Edwards participated in one of the largest and longest and most expensive randomized longitudinal controlled studies of A.A. treatment in England. That test established that a whole year of A.A.-based treatment was no more effective than a doctor talking to the alcoholics for just one hour, one time ever. Then Edwards ignored those results that he didn't like, and kept on promoting Alcoholics Anonymous anyway.

  • As for Chaz Bufe, he's just nuts. Bufe is a loony anarchist and a militant atheist.

    And there we have it. Anybody who disagrees with you is just nuts, huh? And what evidence do you have to back up your slander and libel? You are quick to accuse and libel, but short on facts.

    By the way, even if someone is an atheist, that does not disqualify him from reporting about quack medicine.

As for your A.A. "historical" research, its useful in the sense that it brings to light some "embarrassing" aspects of A.A.'s past that General Service has been unwilling to fully acknowledge or even actively suppressed. But your work is superficial and often errant. You claim, for example, that Tom P. "co-authored" the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions with Bill W. In fact, Tom reviewed these 24 essays but was unable to make more than a few emendations due to what he characterized as Bill's "Elizabethan" prose style. Your follow-up work on the drinking status of the contributors to the first edition of the Big Book is, in many cases, wrong and you misidentify several of the authors.

Please give your sources of information. Where did you get that story? Other, more knowledgeable people have said that Tom Powers quit A.A. because Bill Wilson cheated Tom out of his share of the royalties for the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. So Tom went off to northern New York State and started his own recovery group. My source of information is Francis Hartigan, Lois Wilson's secretary, who went upstate and interviewed Tom Powers. And another correspondent communicated with Tom Powers' assistant after Powers' death. What are your sources of information?

Francis Hartigan quoted Tom Powers saying that Bill Wilson destroyed "what had been a very enjoyable and productive working relationship" between the two of them. "A productive working relationship" is a lot more than Tom just reviewing some articles and saying that they can't be fixed.

Remember that when Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was written, Bill Wilson was in the middle of a crippling 11-year-long bout of clinical depression. Some days, all that he could do was sit in his office and hold his head in his hands all day long, or lay in bed and stare at the ceiling all day. Wilson needed a lot of help to get that book done. And Tom Powers was there, living near the Wilson's house Stepping Stones in Bedford Hills, and also participating in Bill Wilson's daily "spook sessions" and séances.

Oh, and Bill Wilson did not write in an "Elizabethan prose style". That sounds suspiciously like another one of Bill Wilson's self-aggrandizing stories. That's as ridiculous as Bill's story where Jack Alexander supposedly said that Bill Wilson's writing style in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions was "mechanical", but better than Hemingway. There is a huge difference between "mechanical" and "Elizabethan". Neither Bill Wilson nor Tom Powers wrote like either Shakespeare or Hemingway.

Which Big Book authors did I misidentify? Please be specific. What did I get wrong about the relapsers? Please don't hold back on the facts. I want to correct any errors in that page, so what are the errors, exactly, precisely? And what is the correct information? And what is your documentation and what are your sources of facts? You keep making these sweeping statements backed up by no specific facts.

Perhaps you would like to compare my list of Big Book authors here with Silkworth.net's list here. So what did I get wrong? Or rather, what did all of us get wrong — all of the Silkworth.net contributors, and me?

Finally, your approach to dealing with the "Beast" appears to consist of thinking the next drink (or the next cigarette) through and self-talking the "Beast" into submission. Now, A.A. encourages this as well. I have not thought about drinking for a long time. But my first defense against the next one was (and is) to recall my last drink (so far) and to think through the possible consequences of taking the next one.

However, this may not be sufficient. The "Beast" is stubborn and elusive. What A.A. advises in such cases is to talk about such urges or manias with another recovering alcoholic. I have done that as well. It works. I had plenty of people to talk with on these occasions. They were fellow members.

There is zero evidence to support your belief that talking with other alcoholics makes alcoholics quit drinking or stay sober. All of the valid tests showed A.A. to be ineffective, and even harmful. We seem to keep on coming back to that.

You keep saying that "it works", based on nothing. Once again, please answer the question that true believers in A.A. have never honestly answered:

What is the REAL A.A. success rate?

Out of each 1000 newcomers to A.A., how many will pick up a one-year sobriety medallion a year later?
And how many will get their 2-year, and 5-year, and 10-year coins?
How about 11 years and 21 years?

(HINT: the answers are here.)

There is a lot more than I could say. I will not engage in ad hominen attacks. Granted, I have criticized your website's contents and this criticism has extended to your pretensions and touched upon your motivations.

You won't engage in ad hominem attacks? You already have. Against Stanton Peele and Charles Bufe.

I have no idea why you maintain the Agent Orange website. It seems to have something to do with an incident involving an insulting remark, your "feeling" something amiss after one or more A.A. meetings. But as for your claim that the motivation is to declare the "truth," I don't buy that for one minute.

Yours truly, Roger F.

You won't engage in ad hominem attacks? That was another one, again supported by no facts.

So you won't "buy it"? You will obviously believe whatever you wish to believe, and disregard the rest. "Truth" is whatever agrees with your beliefs and prejudices.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "You have no conception these days of how much failure we had.
**  You had to cull over hundreds of these drunks to get a handful
**  to take the bait."
**  Bill Wilson describing early recruiting efforts for Alcoholics Anonymous,
**  at the memorial service for Dr. Bob, Nov. 15, 1952; file available here.

May 15, 2009, Friday: Day 15, continued:

Family with 7 Canada Geese goslings
The "family of 7". That is, the family of 9 minus the 2 add-ons from the other family.
I think that is the other two in the background.
They just did in a plateful of rice. You can see how their crops are stuffed and poking out in front.

(A bird's crop is like another stomach, one that is positioned before the regular stomach. The crop is a very muscular bag that grinds the birds' food, because they don't have any teeth. Birds fill their crops with sand and gravel, and all of the grain that they eat ends up being "stone ground".

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

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Last updated 14 March 2014.
The most recent version of this file can be found at https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters144.html