Letters, We Get Mail, CLVIII

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2010     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: <iamnotastatistic>
Subject: Thank You Orange!

Hello Orange,

First, thank you for being there with the honest information that I needed when I began to question the whole AA program. I knew something was wrong and the evidence that I saw in AA seemed to point toward something really bad. But at the time I was confused/sad/depressed/hopeless and was told by sponsors to "resign from the debating society" and "just turn my brain off and let the program work". I tried that for a while but it drove me to distraction. Sorry, but I just can't ignore the truth no matter how much "faith" I have. And by the way "faith" is belief in something which can't be proved; "blind belief" in something that's obviously untrue is just that — blind belief, it's not "faith".

So, em, no thanks AA!

So without going into my history and experience any deeper let's get down to some interesting facts and figures.

  • *1.* I saw you wanted old AA books/pamphlets/literature. Attached is an old pamphlet authored by Bill Wilson from c. 1969. You will see on pg. 5 that he admits to embezzling $5,000 (that's somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000 in today's money) from the Alcoholic Foundation in 1938. This money was used to pay off Dr. Bob Smith's mortgage and for Smith's and Wilson's living expenses. I'm pretty sure that Rockefeller or the Alcoholic Foundation didn't expect that money to be used for those purposes. Anyway, it's a straight up admission of criminal wrongdoing.

    What sentence would a person get today if found guilty of embezzling that amount of money: $60,000-$75,000? The following is from a local newspaper....

    October 26, 2009

    The former salon coordinator of Headliners Design Studio has been charged with stealing at least $50,000 from the Jackson beauty salon. Cara King, 46, was arraigned last week in Jackson County District Court on a charge of embezzling $50,000 or more but less than $100,000, a felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

    Enough said!

  • *2.* Regarding AA's triennial surveys and its claim, in 2004 and 2007, that *"the average sobriety of members is more than 8 years"*. Even a cursory glance at their statistics will reveal that to be untrue.

    *Sobriety(yrs.)* *2004*

    *0-1* 26%










    How can AA state in their surveys for 2004 and 2007 that *"the average sobriety of members is more than eight years"*? Isn't it obvious that the average can't be eight years if at least 50% of the membership in each survey, according to their own data, has 5yrs or less of sobriety (50% and 55% respectively)? How can this be possible?

    It's possible if you use an *arithmetic mean* to calculate the "average" sobriety. Basically, adding up the total years of sobriety in AA and dividing that total equally among all its members. Very clever and totally misleading. Further analysis and interpolation shows that the *median*sobriety of members is 4yrs or less — actually 3yrs and 9months for 2007 (more on this to follow in a later email). For this population the median sobriety is a much better measure of the "average" sobriety.

    It is interesting to note that for the calculation of the "average" age of AA members the median age is used giving a correct (based on the data) "average" age of 47yrs in 2007. So, why use the median for the "average" age calculation and an arithmetic mean for the "average' sobriety? Simply because it gives a better result: more than twice what the actual median sobriety: more than eight years vs. less than four years! In fact 65% of all AA members have less than eight years sobriety.

    What happened to rigorous honesty? Any statistician with half a brain would never use an arithmetic mean to calculate the "average" sobriety for a skewed distribution such as AA's population. So, do I trust AA or their data? Not a chance. This is a deliberate misrepresentation of the numbers to make AA look better than it actually is! But then, that's what AA does so well.

  • 3. Consider this quote from Herr Wilson in the book "*Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age", pg 105-106.* *"We [AA] have the full benefits of the murderous political dictatorships of today but none of their liabilities."* Seriously?! What exactly are the *"full benefits of the murderous political dictatorships of today"*? I would have thought that in a civilized society there would be no such benefits. However, please explain how those *"benefits"* are used in AA for the betterment of the welfare of the person addicted to alcohol? Also, what exactly are the *"liabilities"* of the *"murderous political dictatorships of today"* and how do you know that they are not being used in AA to the detriment of the welfare of the person addicted to alcohol?

    Also, in *"The AA Service Manual combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service"*, Herr Wilson refers to *"the tyranny of the majority"* and the dangers of same. I would have thought that in a truly free democracy there would be nothing tyrannical about the desires of the majority. Isn't this the very basis of democracy in the USA and anywhere else in the world? So, Herr Wilson was anti-democracy, anti-American and pro-dictatorship.

    THIS SCARES THE LIVIN' SHIT OUT ME! It should scare everyone else too. Judges, probation officers, doctors, psychologists, rehabs, are all recommending, nay, insisting, that alcohol addicted people attend this crazy, anti-democratic, cultish, mess of a failure. If it weren't so sad it would be a hilarious joke.

That's my bit Orange. I have much more to share if you're interested but I don't want to deluge you with a massive big email with all sorts of attachments first time round.

Thank you again Orange for being the voice of reason and a (virtual) support to me during a very trying time. I'm 2 1/2 years without a drink and 1 1/2 years out of AA. I'm a long time reader and first time emailer.

Regards, "Iamnotastatistic"

P.S. You can post this if you want and show my email address.

Hello "I am not a statistic",

Thanks for the analysis. You make some good points there. And thanks for the brochure. That is interesting. (Local copy here: AAs_Legacy_of_Service.pdf.)

One of the first things that I notice in that brochure is that Bill Wilson started off by rationalizing agressive recruiting and promotion of A.A. Forget the Eleventh Tradition: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion..." A.A. is a program of agressive recruiting and promotion. Then Bill Wilson bragged throughout the document about how he used people like Jack Alexander and Dr. Harry Tiebout to promote A.A. some more.

I also notice how Bill failed to mention Clarence Snyder and the A.A. group in Cleveland. "We then had two small but solid groups at Akron and New York, plus a sprinkling of members elsewhere." Bill was angry at Clarence Snyder because Snyder dared to criticize Bill Wilson's financial dishonesty and Bill's sponging off of A.A. for many years. So Bill leaves Clarence out of the history of A.A. There was no solid Cleveland group, not in Bill's mind.

(By the way, it was Clarence Snyder who actually made up the name "Alcoholics Anonymous".)

I see that Bill Wilson was still telling the same old lie that he and Henry Parkhurst were selling stock in "Works Publishing" to finance the writing of the Big Book. Not so. They were selling stock in the "100 Men Corporation", which Bill basically robbed blind. There was no such thing as "Works Publishing" until Bill stole the copyright of the Big Book and fraudulently claimed on the copyright form that he was the sole author of the book, and that he was "trading as Works Publishing".

Original Big Book copyright certificate, front side.

Original Big Book copyright certificate, back side.

And the rest of it is so much sanitized, beautified A.A. history, like that the 12 Traditions were something more than 12 rather ridiculous new rules that Bill Wilson just made up and shoved onto the rest of the alcoholics, while not obeying them himself — like how Bill said, "No outside donations", except for the ones from Rockefeller that went into Bill's own pocket, and "attraction, not promotion", except for all of the promotion that Bill did.

Thanks again for this document, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "Human history becomes more and more a race between
**      education and catastrophe." == H.G. Wells (1866-1946)

Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: anonymous

Dear Orange:

I do not believe any numbers put out by AA. In order for me to think them credible, AA would have to be audited by a trusted firm. I do not trust their ability to do it correctly.

Also, AA does not know who is a 'member'. For all they know, they are counting people two or more times.

As for sobriety dates, why should I believe these dates? As you know, no verification.

I consider AA to be an ersatz social group. It is run by and for 'old timers'.



Hi Anonymous,

I have to agree. And, coincidentally, the previous letter that I received just talked about how the A.A. headquarters cooked the books and faked the numbers. So there is no reason to believe their statistics.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**       There are three kinds of lies:
**     Little white lies, damned lies, and statistics.
**       ==  Said by both Desraeli and Mark Twain

Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 23:07:17     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: ME
Subject: question

If AA is so terrible how is it possible it has 3 million happy successful members?

I hope no one dies because they didn't try it after reading your huge resentment against them.

My uncle went there after my aunt kicked him out he's been sober 41 years and the family stayed together. Boy that AA sure is bad

Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 23:14:47     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: ME
Subject: disregard earlier email

I read a little of what you wrote.
I'm no longer concerned that anyone would believe it

Hello ME,

The first problem with your statements is that A.A. does not even have 3 million members in the whole world, never mind keeping that many people sober. Then, A.A.'s drop-out rate shows that it does not keep them sober.

It is wonderful that your uncle has many years of sobriety, but he doesn't prove that A.A. makes people get sober and stay sober, no matter how much he may like A.A. meetings. Hasn't it occurred to you that he quit drinking because his wife kicked him out, not because he went to some A.A. meetings?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
**      It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
**        ==  Mark Twain (American Humorist, Writer and Lecturer. 1835—1910)

Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 14:07:04     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: "Forrest P."
Subject: Recent DUI arrest; DUI class; AA

Greetings, A. Orange:

On December 14, 2009, I was arrested for DUI (California). This is my first (and I trust my last ever) DUI offense.

I am fifty-five years old.

I have been drinking since age 15, with a twelve-year period of total sobriety between the years 1990 and 2002.

I have not yet quit drinking. I'd like to, just for my health, but whether I do I know the decision and the outcome will be up to me and me alone.

Tomorrow I go to court on the charge. I intend to plead "no contest". I accept the consequences.

I have already enrolled and completely paid for the mandatory DUI class. I have attended two class sessions already. Thought I might as well get a jump on the inevitible.

The first class went o.k. The class structure is essentially secular, which I appreciate, but wouldn't you know it? When I walked into the second class section, a few minutes late apparently, a movie was playing. Turns out the movie was "My Name is Bill W.", starring James Wood, JoBeth Williams, and Gary Sinise. Halfway through the movie I could stand it no longer. I walked out; nay I stormed out of the class.

One of the class instructors seems to be a supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous. He seemed to think that this movie was an appropriate instrument of DUI education. I told him I felt that I was being forced to watch a movie that was little more than a tacit endorsement of AA, and as such the class was venturing in the the forbidden zone of violating my constitutional rights as regards my religious freedom. He sort of laughed me off, and asked if I would be adverse to him simply doing a personal presentation on AA. I said no, I would find that acceptable on the condition that I would be allowed to present refuting evidence as per the efficacy of AA. He said, in essence, "good luck with that." But at the same time he indicated that I would be allowed to present my own research on AA.

Well, it seems that "good luck" has come my way by means of your web-book. In the last several days I have been through several sections (chapters) of your very well-constructed website/e-book, albeit in a somewhat random fashion. As of today, this morning, I am proceeding to read your "virtual" book chapter-by-chapter, in order.

I cannot predict the future, but at least it seems that you have provided a single-source reference with all the "ammo" (to turn a phrase) that I will need.

And for that I thank you for your tremendous work. Although I have scarce financial resources and as such feel quite constrained as to my ability to donate money to any cause, in your case I think I am going to make an exception.


Forrest P.
Quincy, California

Hello Forrest,

Thank you for the letter and all of the compliments. I'm curious to know what happened with that refutation of A.A. propaganda. I can guess how the instructor took it.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     The question is: "Are you someone who just listens to the
**     lies and takes them as true, or do you think for yourself
**     and analyze the situation?"
**       ==  posted by "Fate", in Washington Post "Energy Wire", 2 Aug 2008.

Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 01:01:18     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: "Mark P."
Subject: Aa as a cult

Whoa! Pretty length tract, dude.

Guess you never met any atheistic, intellectual alcoholics, eh?

Keep trudging the road to bitter destiny!

Very cordially yours,


Hello Mark,

Sure, I've met some intellectual atheistic alcoholics, and they want nothing to do with A.A.

You have a good day too.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Out, you imposters; quack-salving, cheating mountebanks;
**     your skill is to make sound men sick, and sick men to kill.
**       ==  Philip Massinger (1583—1640), English dramatist, playwright, poet

Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 13:31:33     (answered 30 April 2010)
From: Diana T.
Subject: Your Wonderful Article on Propaganda Rhetoric and AA

Dear A. Orange

I was so delighted to come across your work in some late night research I was doing on mind-control techniques and methods of coercion and recruitment. I really appreciate you for taking the time to do such an exhaustive analysis according to the rules of logic; and for ascribing names, some of which I knew and some of which were new to me, to each propaganda tactic used in the psycho-linguistics of the 12 steps. I am also very interested in Narcissistic Personality Disorder and have been informally studying it, cults and the connection between the two, for several years. I've taken the liberty of writing you rather a long letter after reading the entirety of your piece (which was itself extremely long, especially if you click on everything! It took me two days!), and which I hope you will find interesting. I found sections of your article absolutely laugh out loud funny as well, so thanks for keeping it entertaining.

Although there are differing definitions, and obviously I didn't believe so at the time(s), I am now of the opinion that I was personally a member of 2 cults; albeit atypical ones in that they lack certain features. Neither was financially aggressive or tried to prevent me from leaving, for example.

One of them, the first, was undoubtedly the 12-step program(s). I would be very interested in entering into a correspondence with you and perhaps compiling a "proper" print media book refuting the essential precepts and core theories of AA/NA etc. I believe that there are lives at stake, and later in this letter will tell you a personal story (in the tradition of the big book) of tragedy in which AA definitely played a role. More on that later.

Although at various times in my in-and-out experience of AA, (which actually began many years earlier with forced attendance of Alateen by my then-AA Dad), I was an active and willing participant, the truth is I NEVER actually bought the disease model of addiction. It just didn't add up, and as I am naturally disinclined to black and white thinking, those absolutist and polarising aspects of the AA "style" of thought also did not appeal to me. I enjoyed a lot of camraderie there at one point in my life for a few years, especially since a bunch of close friends all got clean "that way" around the same time, but secretly thought the intellectual and spiritual foundations were extremely flawed. I would sometimes discuss this with more open-minded members, but in general, and certainly at meetings, I kept my reservations to myself.

In particular I was disturbed by the lack of alternative models for recovery when I was basically forced to attend a residential rehab centre following a drug-related illness. It seemed that practically 100% of both for-profit and state ordered rehab centres are now based on the 12 step model. Now I'm back in the UK, there is a bit more diversity in terms of addiction and alcoholism theory/therapy with AA not the only game in town. Perhaps it is the innate Brit habit of "taking the piss" out of everything that makes it harder for AA to take as big of a hold. For example, as you point out AA gets generally good PR in film and TV representations in the US, over here though people who aren't in it think it's absolutely hilarious. The modern Brits are just not prone to evangelism and are totally amazed at fundamentalist McChristians in certain parts of the US, waiting for the rapture and praying for Armageddon. It just couldn't happen here.

With years hindsight now, I can honestly say that there is a real need for a new recovery from addiction program based on nutrition, creative activity, opportunities for talking therapy and medical withdrawal — but without the adherence to what is essentially a religious program. In my opinion such a program would also not preach absolute abstinence for every candidate and would also not equate all "drugs" as the same. I'm particularly interested in treatments that use Ibogaine, Ayahuasca and other psychoactives which have a chemical component that aids in withdrawal as well as including a psychological experience which can provide personal insights. Far from being a spiritual disease, I find that alcohol and drug dependencies have both a physical and psychological component, which factors vary in intensity for particular individuals. In my case for example, once the physical dependency was gone I didn't have a huge mental desire to get loaded. Same when I quit smoking cigarettes — not very many days before I stopped thinking about it, whereas my mother was literally fighting demons when she quit. Go figure.

I am a research-hound by nature (which is why I loved your incredibly well-cited piece) and dislike taking anything on blind faith but am fully committed to retaining my questioning mind and my intellectual autonomy and personal intuition as my number one guides. Ultimately, this is what prevailed and why I left the program, and later the other cult-like spiritual organisation (Santo Daime).

In my research, which included my own empirical observation of persons known to me, including myself, I found that it was absolutely untrue to state that ALL individuals who had gone through an addictive and/or alcoholic episode — of whatever length — (and henceforth to be forever labeled as "addicts" and "alcoholics") had to remain permanently abstinent from all such substances in order to be free of the addiction. I knew people who had left the program and either stayed clean and sober or, even more interestingly, in some cases who left behind a destructive pattern with a particular substance and managed a normal relationship with a more socially acceptable one. In other words, former dope fiends, in some cases, were unequivocally capable of putting down the needle whilst managing a few glasses of wine at a dinner party. Their lives didn't necessarily fall apart and they didn't necessarily go back to the destructive addiction pattern.

In fact, I felt that the perverse tendency of the relapse doctrine was to worsen the relapses of certain members — as if they really wanted to "make it count" since they were "losing" their clean time. I know one gal who had a couple of beers on a long flight to China after being off heroin for a year or so. In her case, she just decided to leave it at that, but then immediately returned to AA, with the sober clock obviously reset to zero. It would seem logical that this experience: the nice relaxing couple of drinks to ease the journey: the fact that this did not produce any cravings or desire to either get drunk or score some smack, would in fact prove that at least several of the core AA tenets are false. This woman is not stupid and I think that deep down inside, she knows she doesn't need AA, but the fellowship aspect of it (which in her area happens to be extremely solid and packed with bright interesting people in the entertainment and art world,) is something I guess she doesn't want to give up.

I also found the inconsistencies regarding caffeine and nicotine misuse to be difficult to ignore, just as you cogently illustrate. This is one of the most obvious fallacies and although certain groups in health-conscious demographics (LA for example) are starting to recognize and stamp out this particular hypocrisy, the fact remains that if you are trying to find the AA meeting, look for the huddle of people with Styrofoam cups and fags hanging out of their mouths standing outside a church.

I was aware of the little-known or discussed fact that Wilson underwent LSD therapy many years into his "sobriety" and as a life-long student of psychedelics, tried to bring this up when people in AA were trying to talk me out of leaving the program in order to experiment with ayahuasca, which I ultimately did. Nobody knew what I was talking about and the Internet was not as advanced then as it is now and verification of this info was not available at my fingertips so I generally did not push the point. Unlike some people, I don't care to argue a position if I cannot provide pretty good back up and documentation of my info. But the fact that he did this and didn't "lose" his sober time also is at odds with the way the doctrine is practiced today.

I also had problems with the statistical vagueness of the claims of AA and was baffled by whether or not people who went in and out of the program were considered successful cases or not, or by what criteria? I mean, do you have to stay sober for 1 year, 10 years, 20? Do you have to die sober? What if you were sober 20 years, had a terrible relapse and then briefly got sober again before you died? Would you be considered a success then, but not if you ended the 20 years of sobriety with a glass of whisky on your death bed?

According to AA doctrine, it's not possible to change your relationship with substances or have an OK time with one whereas another you really oughta leave alone; NO — all substances are the same; an addict is an alcoholic and vice versa; it's not possible to learn to drink/use differently; it's all or nothing. What you so elegantly point out in the "Either/Or" section of your article: AA sets up a false dichotomy. I "came to believe" that this was really fucking cruel and pointless after seeing people at meetings who had just "thrown away" 12 years of abstinence by having a line of coke and a glass of champagne on new year's in a wild moment and these people just absolutely publicly self-immolating, dissolving in tears in this ritual of confessional humiliation and then of course the love bomb at the end from all the people who can relate, surrounding the weeping penitent with cups of tea, kleenexes and phone numbers.

And I'm thinking to myself, "Shit woman! You were straight for a dozen years and got a little high at a big party — you didn't exactly sell your TV and start turning tricks did you? Surely that proves it might be possible to exercise a little self control where substances are concerned, yeah?"

I mean!

It wouldn't particularly matter, the bullshit part of the cult of AA, if it was actually harmless. Maybe it mostly is, but I guess the main reason I'm writing to you, to see if you want to take this exposé further, is that I believe that faith and commitment to the principles of 12-Step was a contributing factor in one of my very best friend's suicide, about 6 years ago. If this was in the anti-Big Book, it might be called:

Freedom from Existence!

Raymond V. was a recovering heroin addict, like a bunch of us friends including me, but I had left the program after a few years, and was experimenting with ayahuasca-based spiritual experiences (which turned out to be another cult — but that's another story) from Brazil. He was one of the most "AA Nazi" as we used to say, of them all, as his addiction had been one of the worst. I didn't actually find it that hard to stay off dope, once I didn't have a physical dependency, but some were worse than others I guess and kept going back time and time again. (Then again maybe I wasn't a "Real" addict or alcoholic — another justification given by the program to explain people who didn't fit the mould by either being able to stay sober without the program or who quit doing drugs but kept drinking without problem.)

Anyway, it pains me to this day that for the last 2 years of his life, and during a period when he was obviously sinking into a life-threatening depression, I was not in communication with him at all. This was entirely because I felt such AA judgemental attitudes from him about leaving AA and experimenting with mind -altering substances, that I just didn't feel I could talk to him until enough time had passed that I could "prove" I didn't need to follow AA and could even get high without getting strung out on smack again. I'm not saying talking to me would have saved Raymond's life, just that I would have been at least one person close to him giving him different advice than what he was getting from AA.

So, after a couple of years of doing the ayahuasca thing and having not ruined my life in the meantime, I felt that the time had almost come to ring him, when the news came through someone in our extended circle of friends that Raymond had killed himself. Apparently, after 7 years clean, he shot smack for one last time as he prepared the hose to the car exhaust apparatus in a virtual stranger's garage. Then he wrote a bunch of angry notes and posted them before killing himself.

What emerged as I pieced the story together was that Raymond had been diagnosed with clinical depression and although there are people in AA who do take meds, and they don't actually state in the program that you can't take meds, the reality is that many of the truly hardcore AA members are totally against any form of pain or psychoactive medication or at least consider it a point of pride to refuse it. I've heard war stories in AA meetings from people proud of suffering through post-dental work pain without the aid of percoset and always found it just so absurd. Um, that's what those drugs are FOR"?

Anyway, Raymond wouldn't go on meds but he was terrified of going back on drugs and "losing" his sobriety (another good one for your page: how did you lose it? where did it go? are those x years of not drinking really just wiped out with a single sip?) and to top it all off he was hanging out with all these trendy Hollywood "buddhists" who were chanting about oblivion and so — he did what he did.

I know that AA was THE reason Raymond wouldn't take the meds that might have saved his life. Having experienced clinical depression myself, I also know what it is like to get to a point where you actually do need your brain chemistry corrected for a period of time because it's literally not firing on all cylinders. It seems obvious as well that if he would have just gotten high, instead of killing himself, he could have also gotten clean again. That's what most people struggling with an addiction outside of AA would do. But like many hardcore AAs, he had such absolute fear of relapse and the loss of status within the program that happens as a result (he was super-popular on the Hollywood sober circuit) then he could have maybe just gone on a binge and then straightened out again. But that's not an option in AA. They even chant it: "Drinking is not an option." And if drugs are your thing, then replace the word. But maybe drinking SHOULD be an option, if the only other option seems to be a shameful suicide.

For this reason, and after reading your article, I feel inspired to really do a big exposé on the methods of AA. Just as Narconon was exposed for its fake therapy and low success rate, I feel AA should and particularly the way in which an interpretation of it can easily lead to a no-meds mindset which could end in tragedy as it did for Raymond, his friends, family, wife and then-unborn child.

I have a totally different concept of drugs, addiction and the mechanisms of self-control and obsession than the rather facile, puerile and superstitious ones proposed by AA. But for years, I have felt that there is no point spoiling it for those who want to believe in it and perhaps find there the thing that does help them off the destructive path. Instead, I wrote about drug-law reform and studied ayahuasca (you can google my name if interested) and developed a big interest in harm reduction programs, but generally avoided public critique of the 12 steps.

Coming across your piece, and thinking about Raymond, has inspired me to pick up this thread again. I would like to write, and perhaps collaborate on, a real book about drugs/alcohol, free from both the unctous salivating about the glamorous lives of sexy drug fiends and the self-flagellating recovery evangelism that most drug and alcohol literature is characterised by — itself a false dichotomy.

I would also like to critique its methods in comparison with ancient spiritual traditions and suggestions other than the Christian, and show that there also the wisdoms of AA practices are counter-intuitive. For example, the very statement "I AM An Alcoholic (or Addict)" which participants feel intense pressure to state about themselves, inverts a spiritual tool from the Vedas. The phrase "I AM" is the most basic and fundamental expression of self-awareness. Aum/Om — regarded as the primal sound of the universe in the Eastern traditions, means roughly "I am". The chanting of it, which has at least been studied scientifically and shown to produce beneficial brainwave patterns, is a very affirmative and positive thing. And surely whatever follows the phrase "I am" is going to have a serious impact on the mind and self-image of the person saying it. Saying "I AM Beautiful!" feels different from saying "I AM Stupid!" This is what the whole new age affirmation industry is based on, after all, and YET AA tries to convince a person that saying, year after year, long after a drop of alcohol has touched their lips "I am an alcoholic" is a good thing? How can disempowerment be empowering?

One thing I definitely did not agree with you about is regarding a culture of sexual exploitation within AA. I understand this was true in the early years and in some areas perhaps still is, but in my experiences in LA, SF and London, it was extremely frowned upon to hit upon newcomers or even talk to them if you were of the opposite sex (or same sex in gay situations). It was drummed into your head not to have anything to do with romance and so on for at least a year and I know that loads of people stuck to this. I also was always of the understanding that it was inappropriate for a (straight) woman to have a male sponsor and vice versa, although for some reason this rule was not then reversed in the gay meetings. Hmm. Regardless, I know that some predators for sure took advantage of the situation, but overall hitting on newcomers was definitely not condoned and in fact guilty parties would be shamed, sometimes publicly from the podium. I think this part of your article is the weakest and provides an easy target for rebuttal as so many AA people will not have ever experienced or witnessed this attitude and will go, "What..?"

Thank you so much for digging into the personal history of Bill Wilson which is always glossed over within AA. This is done in the guise of upholding the ideal of "principles before personalities" by which it is extrapolated that the life of the founder is unimportant. I don't know what the logical term for that type of evasion is, but I consider it a boondoggle. I am glad to know that the Carl Jung-William James connection was basically bogus. I've read both of them, and did not find correspondences to AA. Now I know why!

By the way, I won something called the William James Award from an outfit called the Council on Spiritual Practices, for my master's thesis which was on the Santo Daime (you can easily find it online), but it was written at a point when I was not interested in announcing my criticisms, so it is from a very pro- position. It's a bit of a dilemma really because as a drug law reformist, it is most important to me to end prohibition. One of the best tactics for doing so is by use of the Freedom of Religion Act, which so far has been trumping the Controlled Substances Act (in the USA) and in Europe as well, ceremonial useage of ayahuasca has thus far been pretty successful in avoiding prosecution. So I'm for that. I don't therefore want to publish any ammunition, and boy what ammunition I have, to discredit the Santo Daime, as it could have a knock on effect in terms of decriminalization efforts on all fronts.

Anyway, I've gone on long enough but there's a lot more to my tale. Maybe others have stories of AA suicides or deaths connected to refusal to take medications. I'm sure Raymond V. isn't the only one.

Best wishes for daring to attack a sacred cow with logic.

Diana R. T., BA, MLA
Brighton, UK

Hello Diana,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments. You have a bunch of intelligent and perceptive things to say.

I totally agree that we need "a new recovery from addiction program based on nutrition, creative activity, opportunities for talking therapy and medical withdrawal — but without the adherence to what is essentially a religious program."
You should check out SMART for some good ideas. Still, SMART does not seem to stress nutrition, but I think the ideal program should. It's really important. You can't do good if you don't feel good.

The research with Ibogaine and Ayahuasca sounds interesting. Those are the two psychedelic drugs that I never got to try. (I just couldn't get them.) I'm not going to try them now — I'm busy growing new brain cells now, rather than sending my remaining ones into outer space — but I still find the idea of using Ibogaine and Ayahuasca for changing one's mind-set interesting.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend who committed suicide. I agree that the A.A. "no medications" attitude has killed a lot of sick people. Suicide is unfortunately a common A.A. problem. Look at the A.A. suicide list, here.

I agree that constantly introducing yourself with, "Hi, my name is Terry and I am an alcoholic" is a big problem. Steven Gaskin said that "The most important words in the English language are 'I am'. You must be very careful what you put after them." Whenever you say, "I am..." you are defining yourself, and actually making yourself into something. It's very powerful.

Rather than constantly saying, "I am an alcoholic", I prefer to say, "I am recovered. I am free. I am healthy. I can do other things with my life now."

The reporting of sexual exploitation in A.A. is not a weak point that is easily refuted. Quite the opposite. The problem is thoroughly documented. Apparently, you were lucky. You were right there in the Los Angeles—Hollywood area, and did not get involved with Clancy Imusland's "Pacific Group", which is notorious for sexual expoitation.

And then the "spiritual grandchild" (meaning, sponsee of sponsee) of Clancy was Mike Quinones,who set up the "Midtown Group" in Washington, DC, which is even worse. The Midtown Group's sexual exploitation of teenage girls is well-documented, and was even reported by the local newspaper and television station, as well as the national magazine, Newsweek. See some stories of the Midtown Group, here

And then, after the Midtown Group report, I received many more reports of sexual exploitation in A.A. all around the country: Phoenix, and California, and Miami, and Minneapolis, and Bainbridge Island, Washington state, and Oregon.

It is good that you got involved with groups that had strong prohibitions against the abuse of the sponsor/sponsee relationship. Unfortunately, as you can see, a lot of other girls were not so lucky. That is one of the big problems with the policy of "every group is independent, and can make its own rules." Some groups think that making A.A. meetings into meat markets is a jolly good thing.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how
**      deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo. We need
**      a boundless ethic which will include the animals also."
**        ==  Albert Schweitzer, physician/Nobel Laureate.

Diana's response, the next letter in this chain, is here.

UPDATE: There is now an entire file of A.A. "No Medications" horror stories, here: A.A. "No Meds" Stories.

May 17, 2009, Sunday: Day 17, continued:

Carmen's Family
Carmen's family
This day, I got a shock. It took me a while to even recognize what I was seeing. A family with three goslings came along, and I fed them some oatmeal. It took quite a few minutes before I focused on the white markings on the sides of the parents' heads and realized that it was Carmen's family — with only three babies. I looked around, and double-checked, and there were no other goslings around.

(I had been photographing them earlier, but not realizing that it was Carmen's family, minus two babies.)

The other two were really gone, and never appeared again. I don't know what happened. The previous evening they had five babies, and now only three. Maybe a cat got two of them, or a raccoon, or a dog, or they got run over by a speeding motor-boat... I don't know.

Fortunately both Carmen and the friendly light-colored one survived. I think two of the more adventurous, combative, boys were lost. Perhaps they wandered too far from the parents, and got picked off.

That is Carmen, beside the mother's head. But of course — where else would she be? It seems like her habit of clinging to her new mother may have saved her life.

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

Date: Sat, 16 Jan 2010 16:17:49     (answered 1 May 2010)
From: JRM
Subject: lemme guess

you're not a drunk.



You are right. I am not a drunk any more. I haven't had a drink in 9 years now.

I guess that you are trying to imply that I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm not "a real alcoholic", right? We have been over that before, many times. Look here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
**        ==  Mark Twain (Samuel Longhorne Clemens) 1835—1910

Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 08:16:46     (answered 1 May 2010)
From: "Sean S."
Subject: Scoreboard

I ask you... are you a drunk? Or a person/persons that are seeking truth?

Sean S.

Hi Sean,

Wow. There sure is a strong echo in here. I just got the same question in the previous letter, here.

To give the short answer, I'm not a drunk any more, and yes, I'm always interested in learning more of the truth. For the long answer, read this.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**      If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic,
**      begin to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady.
**        ==  The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 92.

Date: Fri, January 22, 2010 4:46 pm     (answered 2 May 2010)
From: g.f.
Subject: Fwd: A delightful duck story

Hey orange I thought you might like this one.

True Duck Story from San Antonio, Texas

Something really cute happened in downtown San Antonio this week. Michael R. is an accounting clerk at Frost Bank and works there in a second story office. Several weeks ago, he watched a mother duck choose the concrete awning outside his window as the unlikely place to build a nest above the sidewalk. The mallard laid ten eggs in a nest in the corner of the planter that is perched over 10 feet in the air. She dutifully kept the eggs warm for weeks, and Monday afternoon all of her ten ducklings hatched.

Michael worried all night how the momma duck was going to get those babies safely off their perch in a busy, downtown, urban environment to take to water, which typically happens in the first 48 hours of a duck hatching. Tuesday morning, Michael watched the mother duck encourage her babies to the edge of the perch with the intent to show them how to jump off. Office work came to a standstill as everyone gathered to watch.

The mother flew down below and started quacking to her babies above. In disbelief Michael watched as the first fuzzy newborn trustingly toddled to the edge and astonishingly leapt into thin air, crashing onto the cement below. Michael couldn't stand to watch this risky effort nine more times! He dashed out of his office and ran down the stairs to the sidewalk where the first obedient duckling, near its mother, was resting in a stupor after the near-fatal fall. Michael stood out of sight under the awning-planter, ready to help.

As the second one took the plunge, Michael jumped forward and caught it with his bare hands before it hit the concrete. Safe and sound, he set it down it by its momma and the other stunned sibling, still recovering from that painful leap. (The momma must have sensed that Michael was trying to help her babies.)

One by one the babies continued to jump. Each time Michael hid under the awning just to reach out in the nick of time as the duckling made its free fall. At the scene the busy downtown sidewalk traffic came to a standstill. Time after time, Michael was able to catch the remaining eight and set them by their approving mother.

At this point Michael realized the duck family had only made part of its dangerous journey. They had two full blocks to walk across traffic, crosswalks, curbs and past pedestrians to get to the closest open water, the San Antonio River, site of the famed "River Walk." The onlooking office secretaries and several San Antonio police officers joined in. An empty copy-paper box was brought to collect the babies. They carefully corralled them, with the mother's approval, and loaded them in the container. Michael held the box low enough for the mom to see her brood. He then slowly navigated through the downtown streets toward the San Antonio River. The mother waddled behind and kept her babies in sight, all the way.

As they reached the river, the mother took over and passed him, jumping in the river and quacking loudly. At the water's edge, Michael tipped the box and helped shepherd the babies toward the water and to the waiting mother after their adventurous ride.

All ten darling ducklings safely made it into the water and paddled up snugly to momma. Michael said the mom swam in circles, looking back toward the beaming bank bookkeeper, and proudly quacking.

At last, all present and accounted for: "We're all together again.

And here's a family portrait before they head outward to further adventures...

Mother Duck + ducklings

Like all of us in the big times of our life, they never could have made it alone without lots of helping hands. I think it gives the name of San Antonio's famous "River Walk" a whole new meaning! Maybe you will want to share this story with others.

Hello G.F.,

Thanks for a heart-warming story. That is really neat. And yes, I'll enjoy sharing it with others.

We have something similar, but not so spectacular, happen every few years here in Portland. A mother duck or goose builds her nest in some out-of-the-way place, and when her babies hatch out, she finds that she and her babies have to cross a busy 4-lane boulevard to get to the river. When people see the problem, a bunch of them quickly volunteer, and stop the traffic in all lanes, and escort the mother and babies across the street. And these days, every other person has a camera in his or her pocket, so somebody gets some cute photos of the event, and the city newspaper or local TV news uses them for the human-interest story of the day. It's cute, definitely cute.

In the Bible, it says something like, "Thou shalt have dominion over all the animals." I can't help but wonder whether this is the kind of dominion that they meant. This is a nice way to run things.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone
**      who can do him absolutely no good."
**         ==  Samuel Johnson (1709—1784)

Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 21:19:20     (answered 3 May 2010)
From: anne i
Subject: FW: Why the Wife Refuses To Start My Truck in the Morning

This gives new meaning to the phrase "Honey would you go outside and warm up the car for me." These were taken this weekend in Conifer. Conifer is just west of Denver out 285.




Hi Anne,

Thanks for the laugh. Yes, looking out the window and seeing that would definitely have you coughing on your morning cup of coffee.

Ah, Colorado.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     I think that I could turn and live with the animals,
**     they are so placid and self-contained.
**        ==  Walt Whitman

Date: Sun, January 24, 2010 8:55 am     (answered 3 May 2010)
From: "Lillian G."
Subject: aa as a cult?

are you trying to say AA is a cult?

Are you an Alcoholic or not?

Lil G. :)

Hi Lil,

1) Yes, A.A. is a cult. See the Cult Test.

2) Yes, I am an alcoholic. But watch out for that funny nine-lettered word, "alcoholic". A.A. uses three or four different definitions for that word, and mixes them up freely, which really confuses the issue. See this discussion of the definitions of the word "alcoholic".

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    And the believers said, "If you want what we
**    have, and are willing to go to any length to
**    get it, then, here, drink this koolaid."

Date: Sun, January 24, 2010 9:38 am     (answered 3 May 2010)
From: "Fritz S."
Subject: Thank You!!!

I am so impressed and relieved to find your information on the ineffectiveness of AA-12-step programs. For years and years I thought I just wasn't getting it or not "doing it right" but I finally realized i was trying to ignore what my mind knew to be true, that this stuff just did not work!

I have met a few great people n AA and they were at times helpful, but I can't even begin to tell you the horror stories and manipulation I personally witnessed and experienced especially when forced to a rehab where I met some of the most two-faced, maniacal and untrustworthy people I have ever encountered. I can go on and on but want to make sure this is a valid, still used email address for you and to say thank you!! Please let me know how I can help!

Need a testimonial? A story of rehab workers using me for free office/computer labor or go to jail? (I was on bond) How I left the girl of my dreams because they kept telling me I had nothing to offer? That dating would result in relapse/death over and over daily. Lots more to tell but I will keep it short.

Finally is there a organization or advocacy group for those who were abused in rehabs? I thought I saw one on your site but cannot locate it now.

Thanks you!


Hello Fritz,

Thanks for the letter, and I'm always interested in getting more A.A. horror stories. So feel free to write up your experiences. (Oh, and yes, the email address is good.)

About the organization for abused ex-Steppers, I don't know of a formal organization, but there are several forums or groups for ex-Steppers. These are the ones that I know about:

  1. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/12-step-free — Self-described as: 'This is a large yahoo group of ex-AA and ex-"XA" (meaning any "anonymous" program based on the 12 steps originally created by AA) people. It is very open to debate and free thinking, but it's main point is for those needing to be free of the 12 steps.'

  2. http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/LSRmail/ — a Yahoogroup, "LifeRing Secular Recovery"

  3. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/without_aa/ — Without A.A.

  4. http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/EFTCoaa/ — Escaping From The Cult of AA (EFTCoaa)

  5. http://xsteppers.multiply.com/ — This is an ex-Stepper group.

  6. You can also get some more links from the start of the links page.
Obviously, you could ask there about a formal organization.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie —
**     deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth —
**     persistent, persuasive — of our forebears. We enjoy
**     the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."
**        ==  John F. Kennedy, commencement address,
**              Yale University, June 11, 1962

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Last updated 20 January 2014.
The most recent version of this file can be found at https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters158.html