Letters, We Get Mail, CXLVII

Date: Thu, September 24, 2009 6:24 pm     (answered 24 November 2009)
From: "deleted"
Subject: AA can be a dangerous place sometimes ...

Mr. Orange,

I don't know if you have time to respond to e-mails, and this story is not unique, but I think it gets less press than dreaded tales of people who "go out" and never come back. I'm talking about old-timers who either don't want to or can't fit in anymore, who are not drinking but are also not buying the whole cult thing now that they've peered behind the curtain and glimpsed The Great Oz.

My husband and I have been sober for over 24 years. We met when we were brand-new and attending AA meetings in San Francisco, which of course is a notoriously broad-minded city, making life-long friends in the Agnostics and Freethinkers Group — probably just half a rung above the Satanists' Group (joke!) in general AA acceptance, but it sure worked for us. After moving to the Pacific Northwest and living here for 16 years, we've tried to fit into AA with only limited success. Even in San Francisco, we needed to shop around for meetings we liked, but here AA is so influenced by fundamentalist religious beliefs and breast-beating that it take more "translation" time than a U.N. session just to make people's baloney congruent with my own experience.

Actually, I haven't been to an AA meeting since March this year, one or two days after I was released from an emergency room for overdosing in a delayed-onset PTSD suicide attempt. Always a convincing sort, I wasn't kept in the loony bin (probably should have been); instead they let me go home to be with my husband and see my shrink. I also went to my usual Saturday morning AA meeting, where the woman I was using as a "sponsor" at the time (I now find the concept of sponsorship ludicrous for people with decades of sobriety — exactly when do we get to grow up, anyhow?) urged me to share my recent experience, so share I did, though I rambled and was helplessly incoherent, clearly demonstrating the fact that "putting the plug in the jug" isn't the whole answer. I suspect my message was not terribly hopeful, and the silence that followed it was deafening. At the end of the meeting, someone gave me a 24-hour chip as if I were a newcomer who had taken drugs for kicks instead of a survivor of a suicide attempt and still on shaky ground. My dad committed suicide himself during my first six months of sobriety. My shrink thinks there's probably a family "suicide gene;" I hope to outlive it. What an awful meeting.

My experience at that meeting left me feeling so betrayed that I haven't been back to AA since, though some of my close friends still attend AA and I'm not averse to the idea in principle. I just find it a dangerous place for me and a particularly "slippery place" in light of my PTSD.

I have found some encouragement in another organization, Dual Recovery Anonymous (draonline.org), which in my opinion is more gentle than AA in addressing the challenges and small victories of life with a substance addiction plus a brain disorder (or mental illness, if you prefer — personally, I'd prefer to opt out of the mental illness thing altogether if I could, but that's not happening). Again, only my opinion, but DRA like AA is limited by the constraints of the 12-step paradigm and is challenged by the fact that it attracts so many people in very early recovery from BOTH disorders. Someone like me — sober but still crazy after all these years, in fact crazier than I ever realized — can find themselves uncomfortably elevated to a position of "recoveredness" undeserved in light of their symptoms and the disaster their stone-cold sober life has become. But it's better than nothing, better than AA in my present fragile state.

I've read scholarly articles that say at least 70% of the people in AA are dually disordered; that is, they have another brain disorder which is or (more often, should be but isn't) being treated. I used to get so tired of AA people who congratulated themselves on not having taken so much as an aspirin in decades, and now that I'm on a mood stabilizer, ADD medication, and an atypical antipsychotic just to get out of bed without screaming at someone or harming myself (plus — gasp — diazepam when I'm really freaked), I doubt AA's success in transforming mortals into something wonderful or even interesting. AA basically just gave me something to do while I learned to stop drinking, and that was good enough, as drinking had made my life an unrecognizable mess. Even though my brain disorders play similar havoc with my life now, I am still glad I have had enough practice not to have also poured alcohol into the mix. I was never a "book thumper" and never planned to make AA my entire life, but I am glad I don't have to die a drunk.

Orange, I am amused but not terribly scandalized by the peccadilloes and worse of the AA old-timers and big-timers (all very humble, of course) from Bill W. to the present batch of sober rascals. As my shrink says, for a group of people who claim to have turned their will and lives over to a higher power, you could hardly find a bunch of people more controlling than those in Alcoholics Anonymous. And I might add, steps or no steps, a bunch of people who are fundamentally less self-scrutinizing. I guess if we put Pol Pot on one side of hell's scales and the average licentious 13th-stepper on the other, AA isn't all that bad ... but it's not all that good, either.

Keep up the good work, would you? It's very heartening to read the counterpropaganda (hope you don't mind that characterization). If you publish this, can you try to delete any identifying information? Not that I'm paranoid or anything. Thank you.

Hello [deleted],

Thanks for the letter. It says a lot. I especially like to get letters from old-timers, because they really know the routine, and have been through the mill, and have seen it all.

And I do have some time to respond to emails, albeit slowly. I try to get to them all eventually.

Have a good day, and a good life.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called man!
**      Oh the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are!"
**         ==  Charles Dickens (1812—1870)

Date: Sat, September 26, 2009 12:19 am     (answered 24 November 2009)
From: "Rob A."
Subject: Why don't you go sit on your finger and spin, old man?

You sir, are a charlatan, a fraud, a seller of lies and snake oil you have concocted here in cyberspace. How dare you attack the fine works of Bill W. and the precious meetings that have meant so much to so many.....Meetings that have risen the sick and hopeless and desperate to productive, full citizens of society? Why don't you go sit on your finger and spin, old man? And report your findings to someone who cares? And leave AA alone to instill it's message of love and peace and hope and sobriety into the desperate and downtrodden. If you don't cease and desist this foolishness here, I wll visit my Native American healer to get advice. You stand told off now. Sign me, A Well Wisher

You have a good day too, Rob.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so."
**        ==  Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Date: Fri, September 25, 2009 8:51 pm     (answered 24 November 2009)
From: "Karl R."
Subject: Let's talk geese

Orange, While I admit that I am hardcore AA, I must admit that I find a lot of truth in what you say. Your research is absolutley stunning to say the least and I would not hesitate to say that you know more about AA than most all umpteen million of us combined. That leaves us at a stalemate when it comes to our views. Therefore, I would like to talk about geese instead. First off, how did you develop this interest? Secondly, do they migrate and return to you in the spring?

Hi Karl,

Thanks for the letter, and the compliments.

My interest in geese and ducks dates all the way back to childhood. I had many ducks for pets when I was a kid. And my parents even got me a "Chick-u-bator", that was a little 2-egg incubator that actually worked to hatch out ducklings.

Then I was a biology major in college, which was kind of inevitable, considering my childhood love of animals.

Here, I just took a liking to the resident geese, and got into the habit of feeding them, and hanging out down at the river and working on my suntan and watching them. And then when I found a family of orphaned goslings, I couldn't just leave them to die and become cat food. So I entered into a whole new phase of the relationship.

Some of the Canada Geese do migrate, and some don't. Canada Geese are funny that way. Most wild birds have a migration path embedded in their brains, and they are born knowing where to go. But not Canada Geese. They learn from their parents where to go. And if the parents don't teach the youngsters where to go, then they don't go.

That is how the resident flock in Portland got started. About 30 years ago, some geese were migrating through, and there was a female with an injured wing who couldn't go any further. Since Canada Geese mate for life, her husband stayed with her. They thrived here.

There is an island in the middle of the Willamette River called Ross Island that is basically just a giant sand bar, and part of it is a wildlife refuge. It is completely cut off from the mainland — there is no bridge or road that goes to it, so the geese and other wildlife have a perfect place to nest, where dogs and cats cannot raid their nests. The island also hosts a Great Blue Heron (I call him "Beethoven"), some Ospreys, a couple of Eagles, and beavers and racoons, and who knows what else.

So the geese raised a bunch of babies that don't migrate. Then those babies grew up and produced more generations of geese that don't migrate. And then other migrations left other geese here, so the flock grew. Now it's quite a mixture of resident geese and visitors. Last year we even had three "Cackling Geese", which are a very small variety of Canada Goose. It's the same species, but is a variety adapted to life in northern Alaska, where the harsh conditions only support small geese. Well, three of them decided that they had had it with freezing their butts off in Alaska, and they stayed here for the summer, sort of like old people retiring to St. Petersburg, Florida.

Still, many of the geese do migrate and come back. Some fly all the way to Mexico for the winter, and then return. Also, in the spring and fall, we get a lot of stop-overs. They are basically wild geese, but they are tame enough to land and join the flock here, and rest and feed and get ready for the next leg of their journey. Some mornings, I've found 150 geese in the field here.

One Sunday morning, a couple of brown geese showed up — a completely different species, maybe Bean Geese — very rare here — and they were so wild that when I threw bread to them, they thought I was throwing it at them, and they ran from it. They were so wild that they had never seen bread before. They were also very afraid of me, and kept the whole flock of geese between me and them. Still, they would not leave the flock and fly away. The instinct to stay in the flock is that strong. They watched what the other geese were doing, and gradually started nibbling at bread, copying what the other geese did.

What is funny is that some of the geese here migrate to an island in the Columbia River that is called "Sauvie Island". It is only 10 or 15 miles from here, as the goose flies. It's about the laziest migration around. Why they chose to summer in Portland and winter on Sauvie Island is beyond me.

But some geese just stay here all year around. It's not too hot in the summer, and not too cold in the winter, so they don't really need to migrate.

Last winter was unusually harsh. We had a heavy snow storm and then a cold snap that kept the snow on the ground for a week. The snow usually melts off in a day or so, but not last winter. So the poor geese and ducks couldn't get anything to eat because everything was covered with snow and ice. So I took rice and oatmeal to them. There were about 100 birds that stood in a field and waited for me — about 30 or 40 geese, and a bunch of ducks and Sea Gulls. It's quite a sight, seeing a hundred of them expectantly waiting for you, hoping that you will bring them something to eat.

By the way, speaking of migration, perhaps you saw a movie called "Fly Away Home". It's not a great movie, but it's entertaining, and basically true. Catch it on late-night TV if you can. It's about a girl who lived on a farm in Canada with her artist father who loved to fly an ultra-light airplane. She found a clutch of Canada Goose eggs that were orphaned because the mother got killed by a falling tree. She took the eggs home, and when they hatched out, the goslings accepted the girl as their mother.

Everything was fine until it came time to teach the youngsters to migrate. The local official wildlife manager was hassling the girl and her father about having wild geese who didn't know where to go, and it seems that Canadian law dictates that such birds shall have their wings broken so they can't fly. Well of course the girl wanted to save her babies from such a fate.

At the same time, there was a wildlife refuge in North Carolina that had no wildlife. Yes, strange but true. The land was about to lose its wildlife refuge status and get bulldozed and developed. Ecologists wanted to save the land as a wildlife preserve.

The girl decided to take her birds south to the unpopulated wildlife refuge. The father came up with the bright idea of getting the girl her own ultra-safe easy-to-fly ultra-light, and then the father would fly south, and the girl would follow her father, and the geese would follow the girl. Thus the geese would learn from their "parents" where to migrate.

It worked. Her brood of young geese adopted the wildlife refuge as their winter home, so the wildlife refuge had some wildlife, and the geese had a migratory path.

That story got around in wildlife management circles, and it is now a common technique. I was just reading about some guys who are using ultra-lights to lead endangered species of cranes on migrations.

So the current wildlife management techniques for teaching endangered species of birds where to migrate were actually invented by a wacky artist living on a farm in Canada, and his daughter who was the mother of a bunch of goslings.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    "All our geese are swans."
**    Robert Burton (1577—1640)
**    The Anatomy of Melancholy, pt. I, sec. 2, member 3, subsec. 14

May 16, 2009, Saturday: Day 16, continued:

Carmen's Family, with 5 Canada Geese goslings
Carmen's family, taking a nap
It looks like Carmen is the gosling underneath the mother's tail. Carmen tended to want to cuddle up close to the mother a lot. I think she was feeling insecure, and afraid of getting orphaned again.

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

Date: Fri, September 25, 2009 4:22 pm     (answered 24 November 2009)
From: "Ted B."
Subject: outpatient program

hey orange ...it looks like your taking a much needed break from your site. You deserve one for sure. well... i am in an outpatient program that more or less pushes AA...can i overcome my fear of this program?

Hi Ted,

Thanks for the letter. I don't think you have to be afraid of the 12-Step program, if you don't believe it. Don't take it seriously, don't believe the nonsense they spew, and don't be down on yourself.

  • When they tell you that you are powerless over alcohol, don't believe it.
  • When they tell you that your fate is "Jails, Institutions, or Death", don't believe it.
  • When they tell you that you must do the 12 Steps, or else bad things will happen to you, don't believe it.
  • When they tell you that you are insane and selfish and sinful and full of moral shortcomings and defects of character, don't believe it.
  • When they tell you that only God can save you, don't believe it.
  • When they tell you that A.A. is "spiritual, not religious", don't believe it.
  • And so on, and so on...

You can resist 12-Step indoctrination in the same way that you can resist brainwashing techniques. Did you know that brainwashing actually fails almost all of the time? During the Korean War, the Communist indoctrinators used their brainwashing techniques on tens of thousands of American, British, and other United Nations prisoners of war for years, and only got 16 to defect.

Read the short web page on Berkeley Revive's description of common cult characteristicss. It starts with a description of the brainwashing techniques that Doctor Robert J. Lifton identified, that the Chinese Communists used on the prisoners — the "Eight Conditions of Thought Reform".

Memorize that list, because it will be very handy for seeing people trying to use those techniques on you. When you see it coming, and know what they are trying to do with your mind, it won't work.

The other two short pages of descriptions of cult characteristics are also quick reads:

Good luck, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "To win the sympathy of the masses, you must tell them the
**   crudest and most stupid lies."
**    ==  Adolf Hitler

Date: Sun, September 27, 2009 11:30 am     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "Tom C."

Dear A. Orange

I find your treatise on AA interesting and inaccurate. What you mention is your opinion, not fact. Every one is entitled to an opinion, but most opinions are like hemmroids: every asshole has one, including you.

Tom C.

Hello Tom,

Actually, I value facts much more than opinions. Opinions are highly unreliable; facts are more dependable. So I collect facts. Check out the bibliography for the sources of the facts: here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
**        ==  Senator Patrick Moynahan

Date: Wed, September 30, 2009 8:12 pm     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "david l."
Subject: Fear inducing phrases


Heres another one if you haven't already heard it. "the steps are only a suggestion, just as when jumping out of a plane, it is only suggested that you use a parachute."

Sober 9 years. The meetings helped me at first, but the bullshit becomes more and more apparent as time goes on. A meeting without the dogma would be nice. The community and encouragement aspects are probably the most positive things but theres too much of the other. I think the "unmanageable" life thing led to me being totally passive with a lot of things and in some areas, years have passed by. I'm pissed off about that. Always got help outside of aa and read a lot of other stuff. So that probably helped.

Anyway. Thanks for writing the papers. Its great to see those insulting and low self-esteem inducing paragraphs from the literature picked apart.


Hi Dave,

Thanks for the letter, and I'm glad to hear that you are doing well. Congratulations on your years of sobriety. Coincidentally, I also have 9 years, so we quit at about the same time.

And yes, I agree about the community support versus the dumb dogma. That's why I found SMART meetings to be like a breath of fresh air. No dogma, no beliefs, other than the belief that we really can use our intelligence to improve our lives.

Have a good day, and a good life.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     The brilliant people you will have with you for only a little while,
**     but the stupid people will be with you always.

Date: Thu, October 1, 2009 10:02 am     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "KRISTI B."
Subject: AA

Hi, I am the product of an alcoholic family. Both parents. Both sober. One 37 years and an ardent believer in AA. The other not a believer in AA. My on again off again relationship with a so-called alcoholic who has now been sober 60 days in the AA program with some very strange results in regards to his attitude toward me, has led me to Google questions. This is how I came upon your article "The Other Women".

I am an educated middle aged woman. Divorced, completed my BA in history at 47 while raising two children. Employed as a bartender because that pays the bills better than a teachers salary which I went to school for. Own a home I worked and paid for and since my divorce over ten years ago seem to be getting involoved with the same type of men. Just a little backround for you. I am an EXTREMELY honest person who at this present time is seeking facts to make decisions. I Googled A. Orange and it led me to this e-mail.

I want to know who you are, why you are against AA and what alternatives you are suggesting. Actually more to the point do you think drinking "too much" and ruining your life is just an excuse for more in depth problems. I cannot find information about this group or person whatever the case may be. It seems you want to discredit AA which has made my Dad's life work. I have no problem with the truth but I want to know if you have an agenda which it seems that everyone does these days. Thanks for your being candid in advance.

Kristi B.

Hello Kristi,

Thank you for some honest questions.

Who am I? I answered that question a bunch of times, so I'll point you to the list of answers, here.

We have also talked about what works for getting sober, and what I recommend, and what other people recommend, many times, so I'll point you to the list, here.

The assumption that A.A. worked for your father is just that — an assumption. It is good that your father got sober, but it's an assumption that A.A. "worked" or made him do it. If A.A. really worked to make people get sober, it should have a much higher sobriety rate than it does. The actual success rate of A.A. is nothing more than the success rate of people who get no help or treatment at all. A.A. makes no difference, other than causing problems for people, and raising the death rate and the suicide rate.

There is zero evidence that the A.A. program helps alcoholics. Rather, the evidence is that the A.A. program does serious harm to alcoholics. Involvement in A.A. has been shown to:

  1. raise the rate of binge drinking,
  2. raise the rate of rearrests,
  3. increase the costs of hospitalization later, and
  4. raise the death rate in alcoholics.
  5. And although this has not been formally tested and measured, the evidence is growing that A.A. also raises the suicide rate in alcoholics.

And look here for the dropout rate shown by the sobriety coins that are given out.

And for all of the information on the effectiveness of 12-Step-based treatment, look here.

Now I'm glad that your father is in good health and that A.A. did not drive him to relapse or suicide. But that does not mean that A.A. is good for other people.

Now, for your last and best question:

Actually more to the point do you think drinking "too much" and ruining your life is just an excuse for more in depth problems.

Well, I would change the words "excuse for" to "sign of", but the answer is "Yes, very much so." We have talked many times about how excessive drinking is often just a sign of underlying mental or emotional problems. Many doctors regard drug and alcohol abuse as a sign of underlying mental problems that must be dealt with to solve the drug/alcohol problem. That's why, when people ask me what will help them to stop compulsive drinking, I tell them to see a real doctor and find out whether they have something like a bipolar disorder that can — and should — be treated with medications.

A letter that came in just before yours said,

I've read scholarly articles that say at least 70% of the people in AA are dually disordered; that is, they have another brain disorder which is or (more often, should be but isn't) being treated.

Michael Lemansky quoted a study where psychiatrists found that the majority of A.A. members had mental problems. Look here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**      Scott Walters at The University of Texas School of Public Health
**      in Dallas said the Southern Methodist Alcohol Research Trial
**      found that motivational interviewing with feedback significantly
**      reduced drinking among a group of heavy-drinking college students.
**         == UPI, Feb. 2, 2009

Date: Thu, October 1, 2009 10:32 am     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "Caitlin P."
Subject: a question

Hello orange,

I'm just wondering.... If you say that the 12 steps are so destructive and that aa is a cult, how do explain the thousands of people, including myself, who have recovered from alcoholism and are living happy lives through the 12 steps? And what about the principal of attraction rather than promotion, do you mention that in your site?

Hello Caitlin,

The answer is simple:

  1. Out of the many millions of people with drug and alcohol problems, there were some millions who were going to quit their bad habits and recover their health. So they did.

  2. A small percentage of those recovered people got conned into joining cult religions. Some joined Scientology, some the Moonies, and some Alcoholics Anonymous.

  3. Then all of those cult religions claimed that they had saved the lives of their new converts, and bragged that they had the answer to drug and alcohol problems. Scientology sells "Narconon", the Moonies sell Rev. Moon, and Alcoholics Anonymous sells the 12 Steps.

I have often mentioned, and discussed, the hypocrisy of the "attraction, not promotion" line. Look here.

I believe that your site is killing people. When I google something for aa, your site is the first that pops up. That must also be true for the suffering alcoholic who googles aa.

There is no evidence that telling people the truth about alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous kills them. The evidence is that it helps them.

That is very sad that you clearly have dedicated your life to proving that aa is destructive. Because the truth is that many, many people who have lived in hell through their alcoholism have found great solace through aa and perhaps they do not stay sober forever and do not become perfect people, but they have periods of happiness and sobriety.

So people feel better when they are not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. That is true, but that has nothing to do with Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. does not reduce drinking.

Why would you want to stop something that has saved many lives?

A.A. does not save lives. In fact, an A.A. Trustee, Dr. George E. Vaillant, found that A.A. increased the death rate in alcoholics. No way of treating alcoholism produced a higher death rate than A.A.

Please know that your work is keeping people sick.

No, it isn't.

The only thing you are doing is giving a pat on the back to people who have not found aa helpful. The trade off of keeping people from something that may help them versus a pat on the back for bitter people who did not find aa helpful. Being a member of AA is a choice. That is one of the principles of this program. I, and everyone who is a member that I know has a choice about being a member.

Yes, you have a choice of which group or religion you join. But that does not in any way indicate that the group is good or helpful to others.

My life has gotten infinitely better since I became a member of aa.

Translation: your life has improved since you quit drinking alcohol.

How great would your life be if you faithfully practiced the 12 Steps and then drank a fifth of whiskey every day?

It is terribly sad to me that you have dedicated your life to discrediting a movement that has saved thousands of lives.

Only "thousands"? A.A. routinely claims to have 2 million members worldwide. And now you are claiming that A.A. has only "saved thousands of lives"? That makes the odds of A.A. saving the life of a member only one in a thousand. That is an extremely high failure rate.

Oh, and A.A. is not "a movement". It's funny how every cult that comes along labels itself "a movement", and claims that it is a new wave, sweeping the world.

What is even more sad is the thousands of people who won't have a chance at sobriety and a new life because they find your wild interpretation of the 12 steps before they make it to a meeting.

Actually, the people who are sick with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction have plenty of chances to quit drinking. Not only is A.A. not "the only way", A.A. is actually one of the worst ways. Look here for a chart of what works:

Notice how "Twelve-step facilitation" is so far down the list that you have to look for it. It's number 37 out of 48.
Also notice how 12-Step treatment has a negative success rating — the "Cumulative Evidence Score" is a minus 82, while the best treatments are rated positive 390 and 189.

I hope you realize that your bad experience in aa is killing people.

Caitlin P.

No, it isn't, Caitlin.

Have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "Not only had we failed to alter the natural history of alcoholism,
**  but our death rate of three percent a year was appalling."
**  == Dr. George E. Vaillant, formerly a member of the A.A. Board of
**  Trustees, describing the treatment of alcoholism with Alcoholics
**  Anonymous, in "The Natural History of Alcoholism: Causes, Patterns,
**  and Paths to Recovery", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA,
**  1983, pages 283-286.

Date: Fri, October 2, 2009 10:53 am     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "John K."
Subject: Recovered ex AA member
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]

Hi Kristin,

I recently came across Orange's papers and your interest in stories about AA. I have spend 35 years mostly in, but sometimes out, of AA. I have been to a couple of rehabs and outpatient treatments. As a successful biomedical scientist, over the years I have become convinced that the basis of alcohol dependency is biological, most recently supported by Spanagel's thorough review (Spanagel, R. Alcoholism: A Systems Approach from Molecular Physiology to Addictive Behavior. Physiological Reviews 89:649-705, 2009).

Unfortunately, when I became overwhelmed by my alcohol problem AA was the only game in town (1975) and so I matriculated through the "program" for a few years. At about the same time I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder by a competent psychiatrist and I was treated with the drugs available at that time, lithium and antidepressants. As I was being treated for my bipolar disorder I mentioned this in meetings and although I naively did not understand it at the time, I was chastised and told to not take those medications, God would heal me. This actually was supported by a psychologist who was in AA. This psychologist subsequently lost his license. He used to tell me to "get on my knees". However, because I did not especially care for the side effects of lithium and secondary to AA's advice I went off my medication. It is true that early on people are often desperate and they will latch onto anything that professes to provide some help and comfort to them. AA does a good job at that because one is told that its not their fault, they have a "disease".

I am convinced at this point in time, literally 3 decades later, that my bipolar disorder is my primary disease and that my dependence on alcohol was secondary to the bipolar disorder. However, owing to AA's brainwashing I tended to stay away from the idea of a mental disorder since I was told my alcoholism was a disease I was powerless over, I was insane to begin with and I drank because I was morally defective.

Over the years I had relapse after relapse and of course on returning to the cult each time I was berated, shamed and instilled with self loathing because I didn't "work the program" properly, "I wanted to be drunk more than I wanted to be sober" etc, that I needed a better sponsor etc. All that time, and I did not realize it, my bipolar disorder was smoldering and erupting from time to time and so I would tend to medicate it with alcohol. Given the horror show I went through and put my family through over the years, on reflection it is remarkable that I have been successful in my profession. Actually I can attribute a major part of my professional success to the fact that I am bipolar, as are a lot of people I work with, many of whom are also chemically dependent.

Within the last couple of years I unfortunately got a DWI and as part of that scenario I had to go to a rehab which of course charged thousands of dollars to once again indoctrinate me with AA nonsense. We had to attend workshops on powerlessness, spirituality and listen to NA or AA "recovering" speakers drone on using the most vile language one can imagine. The only positive thing I got out of that rehab (other than keeping a judge happy) was that an astute addiction psychiatrist revisited my bipolar disorder. Subsequently I was put on a couple of newer drugs for mood stabilization and depression and lo and behold! I am recovered! No problem with alcohol, no craving, and I feel great and life is good. So after coming out of rehab I went to outpatient (another legal requirement) and of course AA is mandated so I went back to my old meetings and of course I was vilified and berated and — no surprise, once again I was told to get off my medication, that I didn't need those drugs because God would keep me sober. At this point I began realizing, with a stable mind thanks to those drugs, that there was something wrong, terribly wrong with this picture. So I began perusing the internet and practicing extreme detachment from AA. My sponsor and "friends" kept calling and I would not answer their calls. In addition I began going to SOS meetings and to my joy I discovered rational thinking people who did not spew out mindless babble and spout inane slogans at me. Moreover, the one SOS meeting I go to is attended by a lot of people who have bipolar disorder and other mental health issues and its great to be with them and to actually be helped by these groups. So in my case anyway my alcohol dependence was clearly related to my underlying mental disease which is truly a disease, unlike "alcoholism". I believe my bipolar disorder was there first as bipolar disorders are entirely of genetic origin..

I of course am furious that I and my family had to suffer for years and years because of AA indoctrination. Along the way in the past few years I also tried Doug Krotzers's program http://www.alcoholismcure.org/ with zero success. They use nutraceuticals in their program — Kudzu, 5 HTP, St John's Wort as a naturopathic approach. I tried this program because it is based on a biological cause, which appealed to me. He claims great success, I cannot support that. In addition to AA , a program like Krotzer's with no bona fide medical support is dangerous because of situations similar to what happened to me. There are alcohol dependent people with significant mental disorders similar to mine and people with major depression etc that simply cannot respond to herbal treatments etc. (or to AA idiocies). There are a lot of new science based treatments for alcohol dependence out there these days including acamprosate, naltrexone, and topiramate that can reduce or stop drinking. Again, discussing these kinds of treatments with AA people gets one nowhere. I almost get the feeling that these "old-timers" have spent so many years wasting time at meetings and exerting power over people, that they resent these new treatments because they think everyone has to do what they did to get sober.

So I hope my story is of some use to you in the book you are putting together. I think the two major lessons I have learned from 35 years of difficult experience is that the basis of alcohol and drug dependence is biological, nothing else. Not spiritual, not moral defects, but biological. There is an environmental component, an abused child as I was will be more likely to drink, especially if the genes are there. Of course with respect to the latter, I have been told in AA that I did not drink because my father abused me, I drank because I am an "alcoholic" !

As Rabbi Harold Kushner said after studying the Holocaust, "God is not omnipotent" God will not stop the safe from falling on your head and God will NOT keep me sober.

If you haven't seen it Penn and Teller's Bullshit series did a program on AA and the 12 steps:

Its pretty good.

The second lesson is that AA is dangerous.

Sorry for the length of this email but once I get started its difficult to stop. I have many more stories.


Hello Jack,

Thank you for a very informative story. I hope Kirstin uses it in her book.

So have a good day, and a good life.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     A.A. sponsors have never been to medical school,
**     and they have no medical education or training,
**     and they are not authorized to prescribe medications.
**     They are also not qualified or authorized to
**     change the prescriptions of a real doctor. And yet
**     they do. That is quackery.

Date: Fri, October 2, 2009 11:50 am     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "Anon"
Subject: A.A. success rate is actually less than zero?

On your page: https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-secrets.html you claim AA success rate is less than zero.

If 100 people go to AA to get sober and all 100 get drunk, that is a success rate of zero. How can the rate of success be calculated as less than zero?

Hello Anon,

Thanks for the question. The answer is simple: The success rate is not calculated against zero recoveries, it is calculated against the recovery rate of untreated alcoholics, who have about a 5% per year spontaneous recovery rate.

It's like this:

Imagine that there is a nasty disease that kills 50% of the people who get it. A pharmaceutical company has a new medicine that they want to test. So they give the drug to a bunch of the people who have the disease, and 50% of them get better.

The drug manufacturer cheers and brags, "Look at how great our new medicine is! We saved half of the patients!"

Wrong. The new drug saved nobody. The half who survived were the ones who were going to survive anyway. The drug had an effective zero percent cure rate, above and beyond normal spontaneous remission.

To compute the success rate of any medicine or treatment program, you have to subtract the normal rate of spontaneous remission from the apparent success rate. In this example, fifty percent minus fifty percent yields a zero percent success rate for the new medicine. The new medicine didn't make anybody recover.

(And if the survival rate of the patients who were taking the new medicine was less than half, then the new medicine was actually poisoning people and keeping them from recovering.)

When A.A. was put to the test, A.A produced these results:

  1. A.A. raised the rate of binge drinking in alcoholics, more than the bingeing of untreated alcoholics. That is a negative success rate.

  2. A.A. raised the rate of rearrests over that of untreated alcoholics. That is a negative success rate.

  3. A.A. increased the costs of hospitalization later over those alcoholics who were hospitalized immediately, rather than being sent to A.A. That is a negative success rate.

  4. A.A. raised the death rate in alcoholics. That is really a negative success rate.

  5. And although this has not been formally tested and measured, the evidence is growing that A.A. also raises the suicide rate in alcoholics. That is also a negative success rate.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     If you persist in making criminals out of
**     alcoholics and addicts, you will find that
**     you have lots and lots of criminals.
**        ==  Orange

Date: Sun, October 4, 2009 7:12 pm     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "Paul M."
Subject: cults

I read some of your on line Cult Questions, etc. You are the most knowledgeable and accurate I have reviewed. I was wondering who are you?

Hello Paul,

Thanks for the compliments. I've answered that question several times recently, so I'll point you to one of the answers here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "The best way to get rich is to start a religion."
**       ==  Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, the founder of Scientology

Date: Tue, October 6, 2009 9:15 pm     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: Michael_G.
Subject: Hilarious !

Hi Orange

Michael G here again.

Just wanted to share a really funny quote from a youtube website slagging off AA...

"keep coming back. it squirts if you jerk it."

Love it ;)


Date: Wed, October 7, 2009 4:47 pm     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: Michael_G.
Subject: Hilarious !

Hi Again Orange

I'm going through a little bit of an obsessive phase here but thought this was really funny too:


Hi again, Mike,

Thanks for the laugh. And that image is something else. I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    "But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
**    "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat. "We're all mad here.
**        I'm mad. You're mad."
**    "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
**    "You must be," said the Cat. "or you wouldn't have come here."
**      ==  Lewis Carroll (English Logician, Mathematician, Photographer
**          and Novelist, especially remembered for
**          Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 1832—1898)

Date: Thu, October 8, 2009 8:19 am     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "Sherp"
Subject: Heya

Hi Orange,

You might remember this incident from a few years back. Will Beebe "apologized" to Liz Schimpf (now Liz Seccuro) for an attempted rape 21 years before. I haven't seen much of this after the first few news stories. It might be worth looking into just for informational purposes.


I checked Law.com for document relating to this particular incident. I only did a quick search and didn't find anything. There's is reference to yet another incident in the article above that do have documents relating to it.


Hi Sherp,

Yes, I remember that story. It became old news and got forgotten real fast. It never got much play. I'll have to check that out further.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**      Classic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most
**      undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make
**      what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving
**      better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing.
**         ==  Aldous Huxley

Date: Thu, October 8, 2009 2:47 pm     (answered 25 November 2009)
From: "jason"
Subject: Thankyou

Hello there. I hope this e-mail finds you well and happy.

What a pleasant distraction from the monotony of most other recovery/addiction affiliations I have had the misfortune to come across. I am an inner city, lower class by-product of alcoholic role-models, I have very little experience of state education but after 40 years on this earth I have gained my own education. I have been in many prisons in England and 4 treatments centers — none of which worked as I did not want to stop using!! At the ripe old age of 40 I decided enough was enough and decided to get and stay clean.

I am very intrigued by your web-site and the findings you recorded. When all is said and done the bottom line is that I stopped using when I had had enough of the delusion — end of story!!! I am neither anti 12 step nor pro 12 step. I am a firm believer in self empowerment and self belief. I am writing to say thank you for the information on your website. As a human being I strongly believe that we all have the capacity for change and that all the theorizing in the world will not stop ones addictive habits. The individual will stop when they are ready. Those who end up dying from this do so of there own free will. I am yet to meet someone who convinces me otherwise. If I ever do ill let you know.

Freedom of choice is one of the human races greatest assets. Your website encouarages me to make my own mind up and recover of my own accord.

Thanks again for information

Long may you run


Hi Zepp,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments. And I'm glad to hear that you are doing well.

I agree with your viewpoint. I finally quit drinking when I was sick and tired of suffering so much, and wanted a better life. Actually, a doctor helped a lot. After questioning me about all of the bad aspects of my drinking, he said, "Quit drinking or die. Chose one."

I thought it over for a while and decided to live.

It's both funny and appalling that I actually had to think it over. That really is a good example of alcoholic thinking.

It reminds me of a joke from Jack Benny. Benny had a stage persona where he was the world's stingiest miser. In real life, he was actually quite generous and gave a lot to charities. But on stage, he could quibble and argue endlessly over a nickel.

Jack Benny told this joke:

A mugger held him up in an alley, and stuck a gun in his ribs, and said, "Your money or your life!"

There was silence.

The mugger grew impatient, and said, "Come on, hurry up! Your money or your life!"

Jack Benny said, "I'm thinking, I'm thinking."

Well, alcoholics can be like that when it comes to deciding whether to quit drinking.

I notice how the doctor didn't recommend any program, or say that I had to believe anything, or go to any group, or anything. And he clearly said that it was a choice, and that I had a choice, and I could choose. And that I had to choose.

So simple.

Have a good day and a good life.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Being surrounded by a group of people who keep
**     telling you that you are powerless over alcohol,
**     and that your will power is useless, is not
**     getting "support". It is getting sabotaged.
**     With friends like them, you don't need any enemies.

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Last updated 27 September 2013.
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