Letters, We Get Mail, CLXXIII

Date: Tue, June 8, 2010 7:06 pm     (answered 22 June 2010)
From: "Foggy"
Subject: Big Book Bonfire


Thanks for everything you've done in exposing A.A. for what it is. Being new in a new town here in Oregon and being at the end of my rope because of a massive relapse after 9 years, I went to the local meeting hall and did the drill. I was still insecure and pretty hopeless at about 4 months when I went to the local annual A.A. picnic. While passing the barbeque an old crusty man flipping burgers said to me in a low gravelly voice "I want you." Horrified, I said OH, COME ON!!! and I left the picnic.

Well, anyway, I pretty much forgot about it for a little over a year. Kept going to about two meetings a week. On a broiling hot day in July, I was heading into the local meeting hall wearing shorts down to my knees and a non-revealing tank top. Over the parking lot I went toward the door which sat adjacent to the patio where everybody smoked. I saw out of the corner of my eye the jerk from the picnic. Still headed for the door, from behind me came a wolf-whistle. I ignored it and went inside to sit down. Well after the meeting started this man came in and sat down by me during the share. Then he put his hand on my thigh and asked how I had been. I gave him a dirty look and tried to pay attention to the person sharing. Next thing I know, my sunglasses which were on the table were now on the face of the jerk from the picnic. I took them from him and I moved.

Okay, so now I tell my "sponsor" about what happened. Her response was "there was a womanizer in the meetings that she was from. Even though he did those things to those women, he still carried a great message." Oh my god. O.k. I got rid of that sponsor and really questioned all the freaking time I have wasted going to these freaking meetings.

But still, not ready to completely flee the looney bin, I decided to not go ever to any mixed meetings and to only go to women's meetings. I thought, O.k., I'll give it another 6 months and decide for sure. I took the coffee commitment, which no one else would do. For six months I spent 2-1/2 hours every saturday at noon making sure everyone had their refreshments, setting up and cleaning up before and after the meeting. At five months into the commitment, the beloved benefactor (who made sure from her pocket that enough funds were in the account to be sure the meeting could continue) died. This was a big shock to me and everyone else. The final straw for me, after 25 freaking years going in and going out of A.A., 20 of those years being sober, though not "continuously") was when two of the people with over 10 years sobriety did two things that I had never before heard of. One went to the funeral home and decided that our dear departed needed a big book in her casket and put it there!!! Not soon after, I spoke to the other one and she said she had prevailed upon the family to take part of the ashes to put in her special urn of the ashes of those departed. OH MY GOD. Bye Bye A.A.

P.S. Wouldn't it be fun to get all of us with useless big books to have a huge bonfire somewhere?

Yours fondly, Foggy

Or, Foggy, maybe we should put all of the Big Books in somebody's casket and bury them. And then, oh, will the archeologists ever be in for a nasty shock. Shades of Indiana Jones. Can you imagine opening a crypt, and a thousand Stepper ghouls come rushing out?

Thanks for the letter and an interesting story.

I hope that you are well. So have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Go and catch a falling star,
**     Get with child a mandrake root,
**     Tell me, where all the past years are,
**     Or who cleft the Devil's foot.
**        ==  John Donne, Song

Date: Wed, June 9, 2010 2:06 pm     (answered 22 June 2010)
From: "William"
Subject: Rehab Cult

Dear Professor Orange,

I just returned from the Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC) where I was being treated for chronic pain (2 back fusion surgeries) and the resulting 3-year opiate addiction.

The 90-day program was effective in getting me off pain killers and Valium, and my pain from the surgeries is now gone since having had extensive physical therapy. The Asian modalities helped as well, especially the meditation and acupuncture. To be sure, the nursing and most of the regular staff were polite and professional, but eventually I sensed that there was something amiss, something strangely palpable in the very ether.

I kept an open mind during my captivity, but after 5 weeks the AA/NA doctrine was massively intensified; the illogical information, slogans, and core message first mystified, then truly frightened me.

My counselor, a demimonde demagogue among demagogues, was aghast at the notion I was (gasp!) an atheist, and kept badgering me night and day by saying: "Listen here you, you better get a higher power or you WILL relapse and die!" I first chose Capt. James T. Kirk, then Yoda, and finally The Force from Star Wars, but he thought otherwise. I then chose Buddhism as a serious replacement, a good choice, but he quickly proceeded to tell me to "pray to the Buddha".........my heart and mind then slowly sank in the quicksand of his matchless ignorance and buffoonery.

He also lectured our patient group on the 12 steps, and delighted in slamming down my, and every one's, pertinent and intelligent questions with: "That's just your addiction talking!"..."If you follow the NA way and work the steps diligently you will never ever relapse, and if you don't, you WILL die!"..."You're in denial!...stop asking ridiculous (i.e. clever, erudite) questions!" "Powerlessness!...surrender!...more will be revealed!" (?) None of the neocortex-numbing diatribe made any real, rational sense, and if addiction is a *genetic disease*....why all the guilt, moral failings, and shame? What about Cancer patients?...should they feel shame? Or the young girl with us with Crone's Disease? She was the bravest and toughest of all of us patients by far.

"Recovery in NA/AA is counter-intuitive!!!" he and other counselors shouted enthusiastically. What in the *hell?* Their whole 5th grade-level dog and pony show certainly seemed decidedly counter-intuitive to most of us.

Suddenly the similarities dawned on me...... I've studied this before in Russian History, my college major: "Workers unite!"... "The motherland is everything!"... Long live the Soviet national intelligentsia — active builders of communism!"

The cadre of counselors (zealotry redefined, purified, and petrified) would also tell people to get down on their knees and pray in the morning, and took special interest in my plight by all trying to convince me, *Beelzebub's protege*, (their quote actually) at various times, of the existence of God — by telling me that my "addiction" was causing my atheism. (Even though I have been an atheist since age 10, and even though I'm not anti-religious at all.) One friend of mine, a fellow dissident, had to quote and read the Bible with his counselor before being allowed to use the phone to call home. (All calls were monitored in the presence of at least 2-3 staff.) I can surely see why people want to leave treatment early.

Amazingly, 90% of the staff were all former addicts. I wondered at the wisdom of this august decision by the LVRC board members, but since the NA-loving CEO is one too I see the logic, however twisted. I can understand how that might help in certain situations, but in the end we all felt the condescension and burning distrustfulness in the staff's piercing, inky black eyes. Most of the staff, except the nurses, were fit and fierce NA/AA Nazi stormtroopers, and I foolishly, in the beginning weeks, luxuriated in goose-stepping around and raising my arm in a mock "SIEG-HEIL!" (I was summarily punished by the Obergruppenfuhrers George and Frank, the no. 2 and no.3 in charge of the facility.)

We patients were forced to go to AA/NA meetings every single night and were told that non-compliance meant automatic expulsion. (No matter what the chronic pain clients were feeling in terms of agony levels) These people were playing with our very lives! Policy and rules are one thing, but I saw myself and many of my compatriots sink into deep depression by all the propaganda, creative half-truths, and forced cognitive restructuring. The meetings in Vegas by and large were chock full of ex-cons, gang-bangers, gang bikers, dealers, hookers, street urchins, and low-lifers of all shapes and sizes who sanctimoniously criticized us for being "Tourists" and not real NA fascist believers.

Several of us found the meetings to be quite cliquish and clannish in nature, with varying degrees of outright distrust and sometimes genuine, albeit veiled hostility towards newcomers not like themselves. Frankly, I was scared to share at all during my three months, not that I felt I had anything of pertinence to talk about except for my utter distaste for our simian-simpleton of a counselor who's only professional background was as a used car salesman. (He did not even have a degree in counseling... only a community college one for something totally unrelated to recovery.) He and other counselors, blatantly brandishing their NA multiple-year clean time black tags like trophies, relished the role of playing junior psychologists, their ego puffery clearly boosted after every torturous patient one-on-one meeting. We patients unanimously agreed the counselors were furthering their own recoveries* through us on a daily basis*, and their illogical, counter-intuitive non-sequiturs flowed like a snow melt-fed mountain stream out of their amply-sized mouths during the endless and repetitive thrice-daily lectures.

(Note: I actually liked most of the local Vegas people I met, (staff, nurses, and others) so I hope this does not offend, as no offense is intended to those denizens of "sin city".)

It's difficult to know just how the American pilots downed on Borneo in WW2 felt of the Dayak headhunters with their shrunken Japanese trophy heads, but suddenly I could sense an inkling.... I had been saved physically, but...

I immediately began to see similarities in our indoctrination to NA/AA, akin to KGB interrogation tactics and ones used by myriad cult religions worldwide. ("So, why did you try to assassinate our dear comrade Molotov?.... you deny it?... off to Gulag!..... what's that?... oh now you admit it?... good for you comrade, a proper confession will do you well......... now off to Gulag on trans-Siberian railway!... and pray to your higher power comrade Stalin while you travel, the time goes by so very much quicker that way.)

If we, the distrustful hapless patients kept on asking the "wrong type" (their moniker) of questions or questioning the staff's "circular logic", (my moniker) we were sent to the facility commanders and duly punished. They would threaten us by stating they would call our spouses and families and say we were being troublesome, disruptive, and that we were in denial by not accepting and working the LVRC "program". Fragile marriages were stressed to the breaking point, two people were served divorce papers, and even my own was strained. Luckily for me I have two friends who had been in rehab before and they briefed my wife accordingly. One particular former addict Nazi staffer, the rotund man-beast Frank, would routinely, rudely, and cruelly hammer our family members on their own "perceived" issues when they visited for family weekends. Not a solitary person liked him, but everyone certainly feared him. One of my family commented that Frank could convince anyone of being some kind of enabler or addict, even the Dali Lama. (addicted to peaceful meditation no doubt. Tsk, tsk....)

We were also forced to work steps 1-6 to completion. I had few "resentments", and no "moral failings" I could think of, but was told by my peers to make some up or I would get into real trouble. If our step 4 was not at least 35 pages in length we were told to keep writing. I became very anxious and depressed at the thought of having some holy-rolling sponsor bang on me the rest of my life after going to oppressive, angry, nonconstructive, and thoroughly spirit-crushing meetings. (Keep coming back you jerks!)

The LVRC staff and my appointed temporary sponsor told me that was the ONLY way to stay sober, so I better get over it. They hammered my wife and parents on every detail and tried to convince my wife to go to Alanon or Narcanon and work the steps and get a sponsor herself. She does not have any substance problems at all — she and I are still confused and angered by this action. Soon I began to see similarities to Gestapo intelligence tactics emerging as well; they staff felt threatened by my knowledge of history and society to such an extent as to warn me not to inform my fellow patients on The Cochrane Report, Project Match, (BMC Public Health report) huckster bullshit-slinger Bill W., Herr "anti-Semite" Jung and "cocaine wine for everybody" Freude. (I'm a historian, filmmaker, and writer by profession. My friends and therapist smuggled me information inside magazines and books as we had severely restricted internet access)

The head doctor, Dr. P., a family practitioner, not an addiction specialist although he claimed to be, routinely mocked us and fed us unsubstantiated claims such as "*Hyperalgesia* is only found in addicts, that's why your pain got worse as you took more drugs. *...it was your own fault*." This is fatally wrong in that there is no data to suggest one is AUTOMATICALLY an addict because one was in the throes of H.A. (The short-circuiting of the limbic system, see: WEBMD)

The doctor thus accused me of being a "slippery character and a liar" because I asked the question in public. One staff pseudo-psychologist also said he could tell we were addicts because we were "smart, vindictive grudge-holders, and overly sensitive". He could *just tell?* ...wow, he's good! Some of us were decidedly not sensitive or vindictive at all, although in my case he publicly said I was a "smart-ass." (For once, a proper deduction based on facts.)

Where was the hard data backing up all of their conclusions? No doctor I contacted at Johns Hopkins agreed with the head doctor's assessments on several topics, even my surgeon and two top anesthesiologists with extensive addiction training.

Dr. P. also demanded carte blanche in regards to obtaining information from my family and psychologist when I was still reeling from being detoxed on their cocktail of drugs. I refused at first, but he eventually wore me down with threats and statements like: "We wont be able to help you at all if you don't cooperate...you will then relapse upon release with 100% certainty." — "Physician, heal thy self!" (My therapist was smart enough to know his game, and told him precious little. Treating CIA, NSA, and FBI agents has taught my guy a thing or two, hence The Cochrane Report fell into my hands much to everyone's consternation and befuddlement. They found it when they searched my room and I was back on punishment.... no mail other than cards from my wife opened personally by my counselor)

This is professional TREATMENT?.... more like we were "getting the treatment", by forcibly being made to swallow their Kool-Aid by the barrel head. The doctor also accused me of snorting my pills and doctor-shopping for more than my approved dosages.... this was absolutely untrue and substantiated by my family, but I'm sure you can guess what he thought as he giggled, stroked his scraggly goatee, and chortled: "Yeah, right!" in impudent reply to my deaf-eared befallen rebuttal. My respect for him evaporated like a thin coating of rubbing alcohol in the desert sun, and I never have felt so utterly and helplessly alone as at that moment of stinging, acrid clarity. The gauntlet thrown, covert war was thus inevitable, so I used the only viable weapon in my limited arsenal, I wielded my own psychology on them in order to survive by conducting myself politely, being outwardly cooperative, but inwardly rebellious and fractious. Though I freely admit I sowed quiet dissent among certain patients with similar misgivings — (we had 3 doctors, a lawyer, and several other highly educated professionals as patients.... the staff obviously preferred the younger, more ignorant patients because they were easier to cajole, manipulate, and control, unlike the rest of us who could actually think rationally for ourselves) — I never put any one's recovery in jeopardy with my humor or respectful questioning, as I only related, quoted, and asked for the *truth* based on hard facts and logic, two things in very short supply indeed.

I never once heard an utterance about CBT, REBT, SMART or MFS/WFS or the fact that personal responsibility, psychotherapy, non 12-step support groups, family, friends, self-control, nutrition, exercise, discipline, good habits, and willpower were important tools. They said to quit my Psychologist, not rely on family and friends, and just work the steps with a sponsor, a tougher one the better for me in particular. When I flatly refused they said I was "acting out of self will".... "get rid of your stinkin' thinkin'" and that "my ego was controlling me and wanted me dead."

They also said if I exercised too much that was just shifting addictions! — I slowly and solidly felt as if I was becoming a continuously re-frozen and microwaved Hot Pocket of a tortured soul who was at once grateful for my chronic pain medical treatment and wholly resentful of being repeatedly, cognitively dry-cleaned at every given opportunity.

I must say I was gleefully surprised and elated when your website handily confirmed my own, my doctors', (and some of my LVRC peers) perceptions and findings on all the "recovery" treatments that are based on 12-step programs. I cannot believe how much money, time, brain cells, and spirit I wasted on the second half of that bloody program. How they can mix proper medical science and therapy with indigenous people's head-hunting / shrinking superstitious prattle mixed with equal portions of Haitian headless chicken Voodoo is beyond my greater understanding..... especially given the few real and properly educated professionals that exist there. The only staff member, a notable clinical psychologist and addiction expert we truly trusted, liked, respected, and understood was actually not on staff and not a former addict! He was a subcontractor, sincerely dedicated, and now I see why he refused their repeated offers.

I'm sure from what I experienced that 12-step programs work for some and that's fine and dandy, but if LVRC and other facilities really want to save lives they need a more balanced, flexible, and individualized approach to recovery techniques, ditch the one-sized-fits-all blanket philosophy, and shouldn't give in to mandatory brainwashing and NA/AA psychological warfare. The concept of non-12-step recovery facilities is finally taking shape in California I'm told, which proves the urgent need for them.

North Korea should send a spy to learn a few things by posing as a patient at LVRC, but then, even I would not wish such a fate to befall him. Better yet, let us send my Neanderthal of a former counselor to treat Premier Kim over there, never to return.

I will keep you informed of my intentions of writing a Op-Ed piece for a major newspaper in the Eastern U.S., a task suggested to me by my family and doctors. The public has a need and right to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Keep up the good fight. Never so few.

Best regards,

Hello William,

Thank you for a very revealing letter, and thank you for the compliments.

Your analogy to North Korean brainwashing may be far more apt than you realize. The A.A. mind-bending tactics were all derived from the Oxford Group cult religion of the 1930s, of course, and then the Oxford Group got renamed in 1938 to "Moral Re-Armament". Well, during the Korean War, a member of Moral Re-Armament was in the Army in Korea, and he got captured by the North Koreans, and he was subjected to the Chinese Communist brainwashing program. He marvelled that it was just like a Moral Re-Armament meeting — the enforced self-criticism and confession sessions, and thought-stopping slogans, and you are a piece of shit but the leader is perfect and cannot be criticized, The Program (Communism) Is Perfect, and dogma over personal experience, and dispensed existence, and illogical beliefs... It was all the same stuff.

So, what to do? I think we just have to keep up the publicity, and let the world know what is really going on in those so-called "treatment centers". And let politicians know. And cut funding to such quack outfits.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Against stupidity the very gods
**     Themselves contend in vain.
**        ==  Schiller, The Maid of Orleans, III, 6

Date: Wed, June 2, 2010 9:17 pm     (answered 22 June 2010)
From: jro
Subject: So sorry

I hope you find peace & happiness in your life


I already have found peace and happiness, thank you anyway.

So have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     But if I'm content with a little
**     Enough is as good as a feast.
**        ==  Isaac Bickerstaffe, Love in a Village

[The previous letter from Tom H. is here.]

Date: Fri, June 11, 2010 2:08 pm     (answered 22 June 2010)
From: "Tom H."
Subject: Why Homeless at 63 Yers Old

Something's wrong here. Living again off society at 63 ? Surely with all your "friends" you are trying to save from AA you would have someone out there that would let you crash out on their couch while you found new digs ?

You claim well over one million hits on your site that has Pay Pal and you cant even come up with rent ???

Even if ONE PERCENT gave you a dollar via Pay Pal you would have more money than you have ever had in your life.

Something's wrong here Terry.

And once again I will remind you that I hate AA. Alcohol ain't your problem dude !

You are way behind the curve, Tom. I've had another apartment since late April.

I don't make any money off of the web site. I carry no advertising. Most of the requests to carry ads come from treatment centers that sell the 12 Steps. And I can't do that.

The reason why it took so long to find another apartment was because I wanted to find a good one, at a low price. I did not want to sign a year lease on a bad apartment where I didn't want to live. And I finally found a good place to live.

The rest of your rap is just a lame attempt to claim that there is something wrong with me because I had to find a new apartment. We were just discussing that a few letters back, here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness
**     through another man's eyes!
**        ==  Shakespeare, As You Like It, V, 2

[The next letter from Tom H. is here.]

Date: Thu, June 10, 2010 3:50 pm     (answered 22 June 2010)
From: "Denise"
Subject: AA Kidnappers?

Mr. Orange,

It seems to me after reading your website that it is entirely possible for an AA Sponsor to keep a person against their will in the name of "the greater good." My daughter, 19 yrs old, went of her own accord to this house. I now believe she is being held against her will. Do you have any insight or advice? She suffers from depression, etc. I am afraid she will attempt and maybe succeed at a suicide. Thank you.

Austin, Texas

Hello Denise,

Sorry to take so long to answer your letter. I got way backlogged on email while looking for another place to live.

The first thing I would do is contact the police. They may well be able to help, especially if your daughter is in danger. I don't know what the age of majority is in Texas; whether your daughter is considered legally an adult, or whether you still have legal custody. Still, it seems like you should have some say in the matter, especially if she is suffering from depression and is not entirely mentally competent. Perhaps Child Welfare Services can also help.

Readers: any other ideas?

Have a good day and good luck now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     I do not love him because he is good,
**     but because he is my little child.
**        ==  Rabindranath Tagore, The Crescent Moon

Date: Thu, June 10, 2010 7:00 pm     (answered 22 June 2010)
From: "dan c."
Subject: why the hate man?

Hey man why all the hate on AA? Shouldn't we be happy with anything that may bring a glimmer of hope to alcoholics and addicts? If it isn't hurting anyone and the steps are mere suggestions, then what's the issue? I am a man who could find no peace and hurt, destroyed, and pushed away everything good in my ife... then I found this simple program thats only requirements were to try and let in some new ideas... I am the problem and that something bigger then me, I call him God, is the solutions. We don't lay or sins out for forgiveness, we write out all the shit we have done to others, all the resentments that we carry in our minds so we don't have so many blocks between god and ourselves... simple stuff... didn't believe the first through but what do you know it worked.. hope. I know I probably can't change your mind but who knows the universe works kind of oddly. I will end with this, I don't believe in everything that is done or said in the AA community today.. most of it goes against the traditions laid down by those before us, but I can't judge AA based on that but I can carry the message like it has been written clear and precise.. actually that is my only job today.. not to save you, give you a job, give you money or a place to sleep... but to walk you through these 12 steps just like it was done for me... thanks for your time... and try to ease up on AA a tad.

Hello Dan,

Thanks for the letter.

That sure is a mess of minimization and denial. A regular side-shuffle tap-dance:

  1. "Shouldn't we be happy with anything that may bring a glimmer of hope to alcoholics and addicts?"

    Ummm, no. What the sick people need is something that actually works, not something that only "gives them hope".

  2. "If it isn't hurting anyone and the steps are mere suggestions, then what's the issue?"

    Well it is hurting people, a lot of people. That's what the whole debate is about. Read some of the A.A. horror stories that people have sent to me.

    Also look at the results of the medical tests of Alcoholics Anonymous, here. A.A. made things worse, not better.

  3. "then I found this simple program thats only requirements were to try and let in some new ideas..."

    They are not "new" ideas; they are the old cult religion called the Oxford Group. Bill Wilson, Dr. Robert Smith, and Clarence Snyder were members of that cult, and they learned a bunch of strange occult fascistic ideas there. Then they just broke off the alcoholics' branch of the Oxford Group and renamed it to "Alcoholics Anonymous". No new ideas at all. Just old cult religion.

  4. "We don't lay or sins out for forgiveness, we write out all the shit we have done to others, all the resentments that we carry in our minds so we don't have so many blocks between god and ourselves..."

    There is no evidence that jabbering about all of your "resentments" for years will get you closer to God. That is just Oxford Group dogma.

  5. "I can carry the message like it has been written clear and precise.. actually that is my only job today.."

    Carry what message?

    • The idea that the best life consists of being a groveling slave of Der Führer im Himmel? (The Leader in Heaven)
    • The idea that you should spend your life confessing your sins to somebody who isn't even ordained clergy?
    • The ideas that you are insane and powerless and cannot manage your life?
    • The idea that you can't have a resentment?
    • The idea that you can conduct a séance and hear the Voice of God and get secret work orders?
    • The idea that a philandering thieving lying Wall Street hustler was the latest Messiah? And his words are sacred and cannot be corrected?

Oh well, have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Some circumstantial evidence is very strong,
**     as when you find a trout in the milk.
**     ==  Thoreau, Journal, Nov., 1850

Date: Fri, June 11, 2010 6:00 pm     (answered 23 June 2010)
From: "Z."
Subject: Wonderful work, thanks for waking me up.

Hey Orange,

I wanted to write to thank you for the wonderful work you've done with your website. You've taught me so much about how to critically analyze groups before becoming too deeply invested in them.

I'm a former member of the Alateen program. To be more precise, I'm in the process of quitting the program, but I'm having some trouble getting around my mother's emotional manipulation. She's been in Al Anon for about 16 years — I know your analysis is geared toward debunking AA, but most of your criticisms apply to all twelve step programs. Anyway, she entered at a low point in her life. Since then, she's made some friends who happily share her views. By now, she almost never talks to people outside "the rooms" anymore.

So I grew up having bits of the 12 step ideology fed to me. I resisted going for a while, but she waited until I came home from school upset by bullies one day. As she tells the story to her friends now, she waited until I was weak and vulnerable to force me into the program. And she's *proud* of that. It didn't bother me once I was completely immersed in stepper dogma, but now that the fog's started to clear that strikes me as extremely disturbing.

So I served the twelve step program happily and unquestioningly for four years after that. By the time I was 18, I'd started to have some concerns. During one meeting, I was scolded for bringing in scientific facts about alcoholism with the usual "that's not conference approved literature" line. I asked Mom why scientific studies weren't allowed, and she said "we don't want to dilute the program with other ideologies". Scientific facts are an ideology now? This bothered me so much. If this program was the way for me to get better, why didn't we want the truth? I soon learned that this was because it *wasn't* the way.

Then I began to question the value of surrendering to God and confessing my sins in order to improve my relationship with my alcoholic father. How exactly had his drinking made me the one with problems that needed to be cured? No one ever gave me an answer that I could accept.

After a while, I decided that although the 'fellowship' was nice enough if you made all the logic twists needed to fit the mold, I needed to quit and find my own path. My mom was extremely unhappy about this, and she kept using emotional blackmail to make me stay in the program. "If you stop going, the meeting will die and all your friends will have nowhere to go!" Because I'm a spineless wimp, I went along with it for another year to keep her happy.

Then, she finally asked me why I'd started to object to going to meetings. I told her about what I'd learned and discovered. When she asked me where I'd gotten these ridiculous ideas, I mentioned this site. To that, she said "This man who sits around criticizing AA all day obviously doesn't understand the program. If he did, it would all make sense! Critics just complain because they're not strong enough to succeed in recovery and they're jealous of the ones who have." When I explained my own religious and spiritual rejections that I'd formed without your site, she came out with "You're one of those impossible to please atheists who wants to erase God from public life, aren't you? Stop complaining so much and let everyone worship God, it's not hurting you."

She never answered my concerns directly. She either attacked you for not "getting" the program or me for coming from a "whiny atheist" perspective. Even the "recovery rate same as spontaneous remission rate" evidence did nothing to sway her, because scientists "just don't get it" either. The possibility that the program might be wrong never, ever occurs to her.

So at the moment I'm attempting to stand up to Mom's manipulation and quit. Thank you for the help and the inspiration to do my own research.


Hello Z,

Thank you for the letter, and thanks for all of the compliments. I'm sorry to hear about all of your difficulties. Having a mother who "drank the koolaid" is a tough one.

You are right about how the information in the Orange Papers is also applicable to any 12-Step groups. Heck, it's even applicable to Scientology and the Moonies, and a zillion other cults. They all use the same thought-stopping techniques, and the same rejection of outside information. In Scientology, any true information from outside of Scientology is rejected because it is not "LRH Tech" — meaning, not "Lafayette Ronald Hubbard Technology".

As you have already noticed, your mother does not want to hear the truth. It is "not Conference-approved". She just wants her favorite beliefs repeated without criticism or critical thought. She likes her little social group and she doesn't want to hear anything negative about it. Yes, that is what keeps cults going.

Wanting to believe is perhaps the most powerful dynamic initiating and sustaining cult-like behavior.
The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 137.

I don't know of any easy answer there. She does not want to change her beliefs, so she probably won't. She has been in Al-Anon for 16 years, so it is her life now. As you have noticed, she just has a few simple-minded ways of dealing with facts that she dislikes — just reject the information, and attack the speaker with ad-hominems like "He's an atheist" or "He doesn't understand" or "He sits on his duff". Or, "You are coming from a whiny atheist perspective." She never addresses the real facts. That is because her position is indefensible, and she secretly knows it.

She does not want to know the truth. That's it: Game, Set, and Match. All that you can do is save your own mind. It is sad seeing people commit mental suicide, but it happens all of the time.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     One of the saddest lessons of history is this:
**     If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend
**     to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The
**     bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a
**     charlatan power over you, you almost never get
**     it back.
**        == Carl Sagan

May 18, 2009, Monday: Day 18, continued:

Canada Goose goslings
Canada Goose goslings
I'm not sure which family these little guys belong to.

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

Date: Fri, June 11, 2010 7:30 pm     (answered 23 June 2010)
From: "c"
Subject: Thank you Orange

Hey Orange,

So glad I ran across you website. I used to go to A.A. I quit after awhile, I never could make it past the first few steps. It made me cringe just to think I would have to go there some days and tell them every little thing I had ever done in my life. Yes it is shame they want people to put out. I just found your site today. Will definitely be commenting more at another time. In the meantime I have family members who do to A.A. but we don't speak. If you are not A.A. you are not good enough for them.


Hi Cindy,

Thank you for the letter, and I trust that you have other friends who aren't so crazy. (And who don't have to hear all of your confessions.)

So have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     I am the owner of the sphere,
**     Of the seven stars and the solar year,
**     Of Caesar's hand, and Plato's brain,
**     Of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakespeare's strain.
**        ==  Emerson, Essays: History (Motto)

[This letter is in response to this previous letter.]

Date: Sat, June 12, 2010 12:31 am     (answered 23 June 2010)
From: "DONDINI D."
Subject: RE: a book "the twelve precepts of AA"

High Orange,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my e-mail.

Are you aware of the book "The Twelve Precepts of AA" and have you read it ?

When one is One With The Universe, there is no either or.

There is no Plan.

Since you are occupying this Universe you are bound by its reality.

Since you are occupying this planet you are bound by its reality.

To speak of being one with the Universe, presumes you are one with the planet.

Universal Love and Compassion is the only path to Nirvana.

To manifest the Divine within you is your joy, to become god, brings you beyond god.

To speak of Love Compassion Justice, while three billion of you brothers and sisters have nothing but pain and suffering, the planet is being destroyed in front of your eyes,and you sit back thinking you are one with the universe and this is all part of the PLAN !

Its not that easy my friend, some people are bought by money or fame, or power. Others by ego, lust, hatred, envy,fear, delusion. These traps are the basics, not worthy of any serious effort. Easily taken by those who are part of the inner circle, such as those who control AA, various religious leaders, heads of states.

The energy against you is directly proportional to your level of consciousness.

The shock of realization of what you are up against is enough to drive you to insanity.

If you survive the realization, or have this realization, you can appreciate how insidious and all encompassing this PLAN of world domination and destruction is. The fact that you see through this veil of darkness means that you have manifested the divine within you.

You are of the light and beyond the darkness you are one with all that came before,

You job is to lift the veil of darkness, you are beyond good and evil, all that you can do is assist other sentient beings in their journey to self-realization the outcome is not preordained. Knowing the why of the current situation is beyond our pay scale, if the shit hits the fan we continue on.

Hello again, Frank,

Thanks for the letter, and the input. I haven't run across "The 12 Precepts". I'll have to check it out.

Good luck on your journey to the Light, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     No one is so accursed by fate,
**     No one so utterly desolate,
**        But some heart, though unknown,
**        Responds unto his own.
**            ==  Longfellow, Endymion

[The next letter in this chain is here.]

Date: Sat, June 12, 2010 12:02 pm     (answered 23 June 2010)
From: "PJ"
Subject: Thank You


I have been in AA for 16 years and been very active at attending meetings and retreats. Your information on this site is very valuable to me and I really appreciate your perspective. My overall life has not gotten better over time and I am mostly unmotivated and lay around in bed a lot. I used to be very motivated and involved in my jobs and life in general. Some have called this a depression, but I can get motivated to do certain things, like go to meetings or the part time job I have, so it is not a depression.

After reviewing the site, I can see how my psyche may have been effected by the infusion of AA doctrine into my belief system. Powerless, sinful, unable to think in your own best interest and requiring a God to give me proper guidance is a recipe for disaster for any self motivated, intelligent and successful person. I looked at my resume recently and can see my accomplishments in the past when I believed I had the ability to create my own reality. Where did that person go?

Starting at about five years of sobriety my life has taken a nose dive and I am seriously in debt and working part time at a job that is beneath me, and raiding my 401k. I have had my suspicions about AA for a while and have seen how you don't bring up the dissention with true believers — either about the program or about God. Also, I see others with longer-term sobriety and their lives are in various states of turmoil and look around the meeting rooms and realize there is no one in the room with anything I want. It may be ok for them to think it is Gods's will to be cleaning toilets at 30 years of sobriety because they don't want to attempt to excel at anything, but that is not for me. Call it ego on my part, I don't care. I am in possession of above average intellect and in good health and I should be using my attributes to the best advantage for myself and society. Not cowering in a chair in an AA meeting because I am afraid of dying from drinking, and pretending that my life is great because I am in AA, while at the same time "working" a program that is robbing me of true fulfillment. My version of fulfillment, not AA's.

I am afraid that the dogma has altered me in a subtle way that I can not make my way out of. I'm not looking for blame, I am looking for answers so that I can make the right changes and get my life back on track, but the absorption of AA dogma puts me at a serious disadvantage — If I believe my thinking is broken, then any solution that I come up with will probably be wrong, so how do I know what is right? This mental loop is very dangerous and de-motivating and I need to find a solution where there is true personal empowerment, not simply empowerment that is designed to propagate the group.

This is really frightening and going to more meetings, or reading the Big Book, or working with others is not the answer — it just postpones me from finding the true answers to my questions.

Thanks for reading and thanks again for this very valuable information — I wanted to stop drinking, not be required to adopt a religion !


Hello PJ,

Thank you for the letter. I think you are waking up, and that your life will soon get better.

First off, you are not insane. Insane people are notorious for insisting that they are not insane — like Bill Wilson:

We are convinced that a spiritual mode of living is a most powerful health restorative. We, who have recovered from serious drinking, are miracles of mental health.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, The Family Afterward, page 133.

But dependence upon an A.A. group or Higher Power hasn't produced any baleful results.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 38.

Insane people, especially narcissistic people like Bill Wilson, cannot stand the thought that their thinking might be anything less than brilliant and stellar. People who question their own sanity are called "normal".

You are quite right that if you fall into the trap of believing that your thinking is defective, then you doubt all of your thinking, including that thinking. That just leads to a neat paradox:

  1. You think that your thinking is defective.
  2. But that means that the previous thought is also defective, and wrong.
  3. So you aren't insane after all.
  4. But that means that you were correct when you said that your thinking was defective.
  5. So you are insane and defective after all.
  6. But that means that the previous thought is also defective, and wrong.
  7. So you aren't insane after all.
  8. But that means that you were correct when you said that your thinking was defective.
  9. So you are insane and defective after all.
  10. etc., etc. ...

The easiest way of out the trap is "Don't worry about it. Go do something else."

What I recommend is exercises to strengthen your will. When you begin each day, you "set your will" by planning something to do. Maybe you will go to the library today, or you will take out the garbage, or wash the dishes. It could be anything. But you do it. When you do it, you gain a little bit of energy, and your will becomes stronger.

You gradually build up to doing more things per day, and more difficult things, too. And your will gradually grows stronger. You will begin to feel yourself taking charge of your life again. You will begin to realize that you really can do the things that you want to do.

It is very much like, if you were physically out of shape, you would not just suddenly try to do 100 push-ups and 100 pull-ups, and then condemn yourself when you couldn't do them. Just start where you are, and build yourself up.

Oh, and speaking of physical exercise, get some. Exercise is really good for overcoming depression and lethargy. Walk or ride a bicycle or something, but do something. Get out in the fresh air and sunshine. It is officially summertime now. It's beautiful out there. You can put that on your list of willpower exercises, too.

Good luck, and have a good day, and a good life.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     There are no extraordinary people —
**     there are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
**        ==  Rev. Robert Schuler

Date: Sun, June 13, 2010 7:09 am     (answered 24 June 2010)
From: "Brian H."
Subject: Your stance on AA

I've read through some of your article and although you do make some valid criticisms of the AA program, some of your statements are very misleading. Granted AA does state that your soberity needs to be your #1 priority, I have never heard anyone say "Dump your spouse and marry the A.A. group....." The thought process behind making soberity your primary focus is similar to conventional wisdom that states " if you can't take care of yourself, how do you expect to take care of your________(job, wife, kids, etc)."

I guess more to the point of my e-mail is what is it about AA that you find so distasteful.

I am a recovering alcoholic who will have 5 years sober this Tuesday, thanks to the grace of a higher power I chose to call God. OK, so the last part of that sentence was my dig at some AA speak. I credit my soberity to my willingness to change and to AA. Had I not found a support group in AA I don't know if I would have stopped drinking or not. The fact that a lot of people can quit drinking through means other than AA is great (either through shear will power, RBT, etc) but that does not mean that AA has no value to the alcoholic still in the grips of his/her self-destructive behavior. I may not believe in all the tenets of AA (or most of the tenets of AA for that matter) but it is a group that anyone, anywhere can walk into and find help. And like any other type of recovery vehicle (be it a self-help group, a therapist, etc), if the first group (or therapist or whatever) you encounter doesn't give you the support you need than you should move on and find another group (or therapist or whatever) that gives you the support you need.

There are two very important things I learned in AA, one was the idea of acceptance, which means there is an awful lot of stuff in the world and my life that I don't like and have no power to change and if I can't get away from the stuff, I have to learn to accept. Why get upset about things I can't change, it is far better to accept these things and move on with life. (Granted some people can use this as an excuse for certain things, that is not how I apply this principle in my life).

The other thing I learned is when I go to a meeting, or listen to a speaker or therapist or read a self-help book, etc I should "take the good and leave the rest". Meaning that almost everyone has something of value to say and I should pay attention to those little bits of wisdom and not worry about all the stuff that person may be saying that I find distasteful, stupid, etc.

Those two little bits of wisdom have helped me quite a bit over the years. Are they simple ideas that are probably self-evident to more people, maybe, but I needed to have someone point them out to my and dicuss them with me and I found those people in AA.

So I guess the morale of this e-mail is that AA tries to do a lot of good and even with its' flaw, has been a help to many people who needed a support system in their lives to get and maintain some soberity.

Hello Brian,

Thanks for the letter.

You objected to: "Dump your spouse and marry the A.A. group....."
Well, I have gotten quite a number of letters from people who have described how A.A. destroyed their marriages. These four stand out:

  1. this horror story
  2. Another treatment center nightmare
  3. a sad story of Narcotics Anonymous, the "sexual, social cult"
  4. ...we are getting divorced, and I think it all comes down to her sponsor and AA indoctrination...

(The whole list of A.A. horror stories is here.)

And look at the actual Big Book lectures:

"I decided I must place this program above everything else, even my family, because if I did not maintain my sobriety I would lose my family anyway."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition — Chapter B10, He Sold Himself Short, page 293.

Even after she remarries, she doesn't lose sight of her priorities. She places God first and A.A. second. Her husband is never more than the third most important aspect of her life.
Big Book Unplugged; A Young Person's Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous, John R., page 107.

You know, many spouses will "have a resentment" over being told that they are less important than a cult religion.

And even Bill Wilson himself, in the Big Book, approved of A.A. breaking up marriages — he just did it in a deceptive, dishonest way, bragging about how divorce was rare in A.A., while telling the wives not to make a noisy fuss as they left:

Permanent marriage breakups and separations, however, are unusual in A.A.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 117.

The first principle of success is that you should never be angry. Even though your husband becomes unbearable and you have to leave him temporarily, you should, if you can, go without rancor. Patience and good temper are most necessary.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 8, To Wives, page 111.

Then Bill said that those separated couples should not get back together until the wife understands that A.A. is now more important than her:

If there be divorce or separation, there should be no undue haste for the couple to get together. The man should be sure of his recovery. The wife should fully understand his new way of life. If their old relationship is to be resumed it must be on a better basis, since the former did not work. This means a new attitude and spirit all around. Sometimes it is to the best interests of all concerned that a couple remain apart. Obviously, no rule can be laid down. Let the alcoholic continue his program day by day. When the time for living together has come, it will be apparent to both parties.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, Chapter 7, page 99.

Ah, the arrogance of Bill Wilson. Their "old relationship" didn't work before?
And what exactly was wrong with the "old relationship"?
Wasn't it that the husband drank too much alcohol?
So how is it that the wife must now get a new attitude?
And they should not get back together if she won't kowtow to A.A.?

Then you asked: "what is it about AA that you find so distasteful."
It is good that we are going straight to the heart of the matter.
And the answer is:
Alcoholics Anonymous fails to sober up the alcoholics, and lies about that fact a lot.

It is a crime and a mortal sin to knowingly foist quack medicine on sick people, and lie about how well it works. Even worse, they lie in the name of God. Everything else is a trivial detail after that.

Congratulations on your 5 years of sobriety.

Okay, so somebody taught you to accept the things that you cannot change. That's nice, but that does not justify foisting quackery on sick people, and lying about the success rate.

"Take what you want, and leave the rest", is a bait-and-switch trick. Soon, that easy-going rap changes into, "The Program won't work if you don't do ALL of the Steps ALL of the time."
And then a crabby old-timer snaps:
"Take what you want and leave the rest? When did this place become a cafeteria?"

I wrote about that before, here:
First, they will tell you that you can "Take what you want, and leave the rest." Then they will tell you that you must follow the formula exactly, or else it won't work.

You finished up with, "So I guess the morale of this e-mail is that AA tries to do a lot of good..."

A very perceptive old saying is:

The opposite of good is "good intentions".

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     June 15, 2010: The BBC reported:
**     A statue of Jesus Christ was destroyed by a lightning strike.
**     The insurance companies labeled the event "an act of God".

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