Letters, We Get Mail, XX

[Wed, July 7, 2004, Andrew wrote:]

Just found your site and my first question, is 'mnia' short for 'mania', or did a find a typo? I like your opposition to AA. I share it on another level. As a Christian Republican Dopefiend, I heavily research Jesus' works and wonder about the wine at the banquet, his first act and the eucharistic host, his last act. And of course the war on drugs being religious persicution.... I hoped to find a sympathetic ally, Christian or no, in my unwitting war on snitches. I hope to hear back from you.


Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the letter. "mnia" sure sounds like a typo. What file is it in? I can't find it with egrep.

You will probably love the file on The Heresy of the Twelve Steps. It lists a lot of the ways in which A.A. theology conflicts with mainstream Christian theology. Enjoy.

Have a good day.

== Orange

[Thu, July 8, 2004, John G. wrote:]

Howdy, my name is John and I have worked in the mental health field for almost 2 decades as a therapist. I have enjoyed your website more than I can express. I also have referred many of my colleagues to it on numerous occasions. I would like to help in anyway I can. If you need a resource for anything, etc please feel free to ask.

PS — I was also a contributor to Fransway's "12-Step Horror Stories"

many thanks and best wishes

Hi John,

Thanks for the thanks, and I'll keep your offer in mind.

You have a good day too.

== Orange

Thu, July 15, 2004, Jonathan O'B. wrote:]

Dear Orange,

      So I register this website drydrunks.com last year so that I can promote some things I have been working on. I haven't got around to building the site yet. Last week I do a search on google for "Dry Drunks" and your site came up. I was amazed and excited about your work. A little about me ...

      My family moved to San Diego from Ireland in 1988. I was 14. My father was in the bar biz which gave my alcoholism a running start. I was a seasoned drinker at 12. So at about 21 I realize something isn't right and decide to get sober. You can imagine the reaction from my family and the regulars when they heard I was going to AA meetings.

      A recovering Catholic (all boys Christain Brother's school in Dublin) I had a problem with AA from the get go. The "Our Father" prayer had me just a little worried. But because it was the only racket in town I stuck around. No 90 meetings in 90 days ... more like 9 meetings in a year. I read the Big Book, once. I was annoyed by the right wingers who told me I would relapse if I didn't do it their way. Most of those guys have gone out long ago. I'm in my 7th year of straight sobriety and six years smoke free and I did it because I could see the writing on the wall (a bar full of miserable SOB's who made my dad rich with their hard earned money) and made a decision not to drink anymore. I stayed sober through years of bartending not because of AA, because of me. Thankfully my family is out of that business now.

      I almost choked when I read your joke about a reality show where a bunch of drunks are on an island. It so happens that last year I registered a reality show concept where 10 drunks are put in a house and after a week of boozing are offered prize money to get sober. The bar stays fully stocked in the living room, and every week they must host a party for all their old drinking buddies. As they relapse they get booted off the show (we give them vouchers for treatment before they go). This week my agent has an appointment to pitch the show to the heavy hitters in the industry. As you may have guessed I called it Dry Drunks.

      I am also halfway through a book about the misconceptions of alcoholism. I don't directly attack AA (yet) but I do offer another view point. I am very impressed by your work. When I discuss this issue (my friends are sick of hearing about it) I usually have strong disagreement with what people say, because most of them are grossly mis-informed. While reading your essays I have not come across one claim or fact that I disagree with, and that is unusual. You really know your stuff and have an excellent writing voice. Have you considered publishing a book?

      The thesis of my book is that alcoholics are not fundamentally flawed ... just born into a flawed environment.

      It may seem ironic that I come from a lineage of bar owners in Ireland and have now diverted my efforts to educating people about alcoholism. I am passionate about the subject and will sooner or later make a living from it.

      I would like to learn more about you and see if you'd be interested in some form of colloboration down the road. Let me know what you think.



Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for the letter. Interesting, very interesting. I can see how working in a bar could turn you off to drinking. I often find that when I go to concerts where a lot of people are drunk, that rather than being tempted to join them, I find myself thankful that I am not a slobbering drunk today.

Congratulations on so many years off of both alcohol and tobacco. It's nice to be alive and unhooked, isn't it?

The reality show joke struck me as pretty inevitable for recovering alcoholics to think of — it's the ultimate survivor game, one that we play for real with our own lives. I live in "the recovery community" of a major city, and we lose a lot of people. Even my so-called "treatment program" was like a game of survivor. Only a tiny part of the starters actually graduated. Every week the class shrank. It felt a little weird towards the end, how few of us were left. That's when I started joking about it being a game of Survivor. It felt like we were tapering down to the grand finalé when there would only be one.

[UPDATE: 15 JULY 2005:
I just ran into my old floor manager from 4 years ago, the woman who ran the section of the building I was housed in during "treatment". She told me that I was the only one left out of all of the people in "the program" at that time who still had not relapsed. That surprised me and saddened me. There were some people there whom I really liked, and had great hopes for, and was sure that they were going to make it too. I mean, I knew about the deaths from drug overdoses, and the chronic relapsers who got kicked out of the program, and even those who just slipped up once or twice, but I felt pretty sure that some of those people had a handle on it and were going to make it. It really is like a game of Survivor, and it seems that I'm the last one left on the island. The million-dollar prize that I win is my life.

Oh well, maybe those friends will do better the next time around. (Those who get a next time around.)]

About the environmental cause of alcoholism — I have been collecting my own list of causes, and it seems to be a lot of things, and just what it is is different for different people. On my list are:

  1. bad environment (both in the social sense, and in the toxic waste dump sense)
  2. genetics
  3. child abuse and poor upbringings, often due to an alcoholic (or drug addict) parent
  4. sexual abuse and rape
  5. poverty and unemployment
  6. hopelessness, bleak outlook on life (often caused by poverty, war, unemployment, poor educational system, racism, child abuse, and/or mental problems, particularly depression)
  7. mental illness or emotional disturbances, especially including organic disorders involving the dopamine, beta endorphin, or neurotransmitter systems. Also chronic depression.
  8. physical illnesses, and using alcohol to kill the pain.
  9. malnutrition (Adelle Davis once said that she thought that kids were using drugs because they felt bad from the terrible junk-food diets that they were eating.)
  10. a warped philosophy of life which may be due to mental illness (bipolar disorder comes to mind) or being a child of an alcoholic: "You only go around once, so let's live it with all of the gusto we can. The normal, proper, staid life is hopelessly boring — what a waste of a life. Every day is a holiday. Life's a non-stop party." One of the autobiographical stories in the Big Book called alcoholism "the hilarious life".
And I suspect that there are a few more that I haven't thought of yet.

About your remark that, "It may seem ironic that I come from a lineage of bar owners in Ireland and have now diverted my efforts to educating people about alcoholism."
Actually, that doesn't strike me as ironic at all. It seems almost inevitable. Who but the children of alcoholics, or the children of bar owners, really knows how bad drinking can get? Who gets a better view? Who would more want the nightmare to end?

For some biographical information, see this.

Good luck on your projects, and have a good day.

== Orange

[Sat, July 10, 2004, Drew wrote:]
Subject: Afraid to think.

      Agent, I was reading about AA making people afraid to think. When my mom was in a 12 step group called Save she loved to quote John Bradshaw saying "Your brain is a pig!" It fit in perfectly with the idea that a persons thought and intellect shouldn't be trusted. She's terrified to even talk to me about Save anymore. I made the mistake of being critical and ever since she rarely talks to me about the group and if the subject comes up she gets really weird, and starts pointing at me and telling me that I can't eat too fast in this tone of voice that's really kinda weird and creepy.

Sincerely, Drew.

Hi Drew,

Thanks for the letter. What you are describing is, unfortunately, just classic. That is exactly what cults do to people. That is one of the reasons why I really dislike cults.

They use the technique called Phobia Induction to make people afraid to leave the cult, and even afraid to think critical thoughts about the cult. They of course also teach people Don't Trust Your Own Mind and Don't Feel Your Feelings. Put together, they are really effective for keeping people in the cult and keeping them from questioning things.

Your mother is sincerely afraid to let even one critical thought about the 12-Step program into her head. She fears that if she does, she will inevitably relapse and die drunk in a gutter. That's what they keep telling her: "Your best thinking got you here." "Utilize, Don't Analyze."

"Don't criticize the program" is one of the unwritten commandments of A.A..

So she thinks she is fighting for her life by refusing to listen to you. She believes that you are just misguided and ignorant, and would stupidly harm her, or even kill her, with your "nonsense". She is convinced that the 12-Step program is the only thing that can save her life. And of course she cannot possibly seriously consider what you are saying, because she thinks that would be her undoing.

So, in some kind of terrible irony, her thinking really is screwed up because she believes that she cannot trust her own mind.

How sad.

Is there any way to help her? I think so, but it is difficult. I like Steve Hassan's book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, where he tells about the technique of criticizing some other cult. Cult members are quick to agree that some other group is a cult, brainwashing people, inducing phobias, and such. (That is standard cultish hypocrisy.) So Hassan suggests that rather than criticizing the cult that someone is in, criticize a similar cult for its many faults and mistreatment of its members. Talk about the mind control techniques that the other cult uses, and how terrible it is that they do such things to people. Scientology and the Moonies are great examples of controlling cults. Then maybe, eventually, the light will come on as similarities begin to occur to her. But you have to take it very slow and easy. As you have already seen, she will spook and run at the slightest hint of criticism of the 12-Step program.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Fri, July 23, 2004, 2nd letter from Drew:]

Well, in her case she's afraid that she will over eat and I have heard her use the term "blow up"

Ah, okay. Same idea. Same fears of death or whatever.

Incidentally, Elayne Rapping wrote a book about 12-Step recovery and women that included going to Overeaters Anonymous meetings. Her analysis struck me as being perceptive. I pulled out some quotes here and here.

Enjoy, and have a good day.

== Orange

[Sun, July 18, 2004, M.E. wrote:]

Whoever writes this seems to miss the point that anybody who understands AA knows that it's program is not about quitting drinking but about living a life with a central philosophy. Many people quit drinking on their own but are miserable about it and act out their petulance and childishness. It is always said that if the program were about quitting drinking, there would be no need for the program because any one can do that. Giving up drinking creates a large displacement and AA meetings help fill that void by teaching a philosophy.

Hello, M.E.,

I very much understand that for some true believer A.A. old-timers, A.A. is a central philosophy and a completely defined "way of life" with a well-defined God. But that is a problem, not an answer. That unquestionably makes Alcoholics Anonymous a religion, and a dishonest and deceptive religion at that. When the A.A. headquarters runs those recruiting commercials on late-night television, they do not tell people that A.A. is a "central philosophy" or a religion. They present A.A. as simply a helpful neighborhood get-together of people whose goal is to quit drinking and help each other to stay sober.

[And when a judge sentences people to A.A. meetings, it is because he was told that A.A. is some kind of a quit-drinking program, not a religion.]

It's a bait-and-switch trick: First A.A. is purported to be a helpful quit-drinking program, and then it's a religion with a central philosophy of Buchmanism, which Bill Wilson derived from Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman's fascistic Oxford Groups cult religion.

See the file on The Bait-And-Switch Con Game for more on the bait-and-switch games. See the file on The Religious Roots of the Twelve Steps for more on the religious history of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alas, the A.A. headquarters is simply following Bill Wilson's original strategy for deceptive recruiting:

To some people we need not, and probably should not emphasize the spiritual feature on our first approach. We might prejudice them. At the moment we are trying to put our lives in order. But this is not an end in itself. Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God...
The Big Book, 3rd and 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, Chapter 6, Into Action, pages 76-77.

But they don't talk about the real purpose of A.A. in those TV commercials, do they?

The A.A. history book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, by Bill Wilson, described the debate surrounding the creation of the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous", where the early A.A. members debated about how much truth to tell to the public:

Fitz wanted a powerfully religious document; Henry and Jimmy would have none of it. They wanted a psychological book which would lure the reader in; when he finally arrived among us, there would then be enough time to tip him off about the spiritual character of our society.   ...   As umpire of these disputes, I was obliged to go pretty much down the middle, writing in spiritual rather than religious or entirely psychological terms.
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age (1957), William G. Wilson, page 17.

So, Bill says, he compromised and downplayed the religious nature of the organization, and only told part of the truth, in order to "lure the reader in". That is deceptive recruiting. And A.A. is still doing that today.

Ask yourself, what kind of a religion deceives prospective recruits about its true nature? What kind of a philosophy is that?

Your second sentence perpetuates the standard cultish put-down of alcoholics:

Many people quit drinking on their own but are miserable about it and act out their petulance and childishness.

That is just the standard A.A. stereotype of "the alcoholic" and it is not a valid generalization at all. Read the file "The Us Stupid Drunks Conspiracy" for more on that. Notice how your put-down of all alcoholics in general is simply a lame attempt to rationalize shoving a cult religion on strangers.

I strongly disagree with that stereotype of "alcoholics". It isn't true at all. Alcoholics are all different, and the majority do not suffer from the personality defects that you describe. And they do just fine without Alcoholics Anonymous or its "philosophy".

By the way, where did you get your information? What study, poll, survey, or psychological profiles established that those who quit drinking "are miserable about it" and "act out their petulance and childishness"? Who says that they all have petulance and childishness? (Besides the standard A.A. propaganda...)

Besides which, why don't you speak for yourself? Are you personally so miserable and petulant and childish, or is it just everybody else?

Your third and fourth sentences again simply attempt to justify shoving a deceptive religion on the newcomers:

It is always said that if the program were about quitting drinking, there would be no need for the program because any one can do that. Giving up drinking creates a large displacement and AA meetings help fill that void by teaching a philosophy.

Curiously, you say that "anybody can quit drinking". But other A.A. true believers tell me again and again that alcoholics are powerless over alcohol and that they simply cannot quit drinking on their own, and that only through A.A. can they quit drinking and save their own lives... So which is it? Easy to quit, or impossible to quit?

To claim that A.A. meetings "fill that void by teaching a philosophy" is another grandiose generalization. What philosophy?

  • Deceptive recruiting?
  • The end justifies the means?
  • Thirteenth-stepping the attractive fresh meat?
  • Telling newcomers not to take their doctor-prescribed medications?
  • Telling newcomers that they are stupid and evil and cannot trust their own minds?
  • Inducing guilt by making people list and confess their every sin, "defect of character" and "moral shortcoming"?
  • Alcoholic philosophizing like, "Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time"? (That particular bit of philosophy comes from the Portland [OR] Area Intergroup's handouts, but it also comes from the winos under the nearby bridges.)
  • Dabbling in the occult and channelling 'God' during séances?
  • Making people the slaves of a dictatorial, manipulative, micro-managing God who will kill you with alcoholism if you do not obey His dictates?

    Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world...
    The Big Book, William G. Wilson, page 100.

Oh, by the way, notice the arrogant presumption that alcoholics do not already have a religion or a philosophy of their own (or that their own beliefs aren't good enough). That arrogance also came from Bill Wilson, who constantly declared or implied that everybody who had not joined his cult religion and Come To Believe in his grandiose preaching was either an atheist or an agnostic, too stupid to see "God's great plan" until Bill showed them the way.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Thu, July 22, 2004, 2nd letter from M.E.:]

Thank you for writing back...

      Perhaps your experience with A.A. is different than mine and perhaps we're talking about different things.

That's the propaganda and debating technique of Escape via Relativism. It isn't a matter of your experiences versus my experiences. I am not just talking about my experiences in some A.A. meetings. In fact, my personal experiences are almost irrelevant. I am talking about the immense failure rate of A.A. treatment of alcoholism, and the deceptive recruiting practices that include the A.A. headquarters running those commercials on late night TV, and many more things like that. Those things will remain the same no matter whether we go to pleasant or unpleasant A.A. meetings.

In addition, both you and I have gone to meetings that post the same 12 Steps and 12 Traditions on the wall, and then they start the meetings by reading the same dogma and untrue statements from pages 58 and 59 of the same Big Book, and then they push the same theology (or "philosophy", as you called it)...

I do not deny that there is more than one road to "sobriety" and I agree that many people quit on their own. I always wish people well when they say that AA is not for them. AA is not the comprehensive solution but it is a solution and that is all that it claims to be.

Sorry, but that is again an attempt at Escape via Relativism. It isn't a matter of "your path to sobriety" versus mine. A.A. is not a path to sobriety. The "spiritual" A.A. treatment of alcoholism does not work, and A.A. routinely lies to hide that fact. A.A. is merely a cult religion that pretends to be a cure for alcoholism (or not even a cure, but just a perpetual "treatment" for alcoholism that you can't ever quit because it never finishes the job of actually fixing you).

I don't know if you are related to Jack Trimpey but I know that there is a similar tone about your feelings.

I hope this finds you well.


No, I am not related to Jack Trimpey. I have never met him or had any correspondence with him. But I am coming to understand why he feels the way that he does.

I am well, and I hope you are well too. Have a good day.

== Orange

[Thu, July 22, nymensch wrote:]
Subject wow

youre from smart?
sure youre not RR?
only those guys have the vehemence you seem to have and if i keep poring over the reams and reams of stuff you have here, do i ever actually get to how YOU reccomend and/or help people stay sober, or is it all just aa bashing?

Hello nymensch,

No, I am not "RR". R.R. does not exist any more, and I was never a member of R.R.. I notice that you have not challenged the accuracy any of what I have written. You seem to be conceding that my facts are correct, and you just complain about my tone of voice as I tell the truth.

Do you find it unreasonable to sharply object to friends being harmed, or even killed, by quack medicine? Do you just smile and twiddle your thumbs while someone harms one of your friends? (Perhaps because Bill Wilson wrote that you are "axiomatically spiritually at fault" if you get disturbed...)

Remember that AA-Trustee Doctor George E. Vaillant (also Professor of Psychology at Harvard University), clearly demonstrated that A.A. treatment kills patients. For eight years, his A.A.-based treatment program had the highest death rate of any kind of alcoholism treatment that he studied. In addition,

So I have good reason to be angry at the fools who stubbornly ignore, minimize and deny all facts about the down side of A.A., and refuse to hear the truth, and just insist on shoving A.A. on more victims anyway (because they like A.A., facts be damned).

Also notice how you try to dismiss indisputable facts as "AA bashing". That's the standard propaganda trick of name-calling, or ad hominem. Just declare that the critic is an "AA-basher", and then ignore everything that he says.

Lastly, you said that you couldn't find what I recommend to quit. I have said it over and over again. The first thing that works is spontaneous remission. People just quit drinking. They get sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they finally just quit killing themselves. The Harvard Medical School reported that slightly over 50% of all alcoholics eventually quit drinking and save their own lives, and 80% of those winners do it alone, without any treatment or "support group".

You ask how I recommend that people quit drinking?
It is very simple: Just quit putting ethyl alcohol into your mouth and swallowing it.
Do the one-step program: Just quit drinking.
Just don't take that first drink, no matter what.

If you simply must have a program with steps, I made up a simple four-step program:

  • 1. I admit that drinking and smoking has gotten to be a real drag, and I am suffering so much that it isn't any fun any more.

  • 2. I quit, and I'm staying quit forever.

  • 3. Some of my friends may help me occasionally, but I'm mainly going to count on myself.

  • 4. Whenever I am tempted to relapse, I will think about step one again, and remember why I quit in the first place. I will also remember what happened the last time I relapsed.

It works for me.

And then I have written about the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster. Understanding that has been a big help to me for avoiding relapses. For me, quitting is hard, but staying quit is even harder, because of that little voice that routinely whispers that it will be okay to just have one... "We've got it under control now, we could have one fun evening and it will be okay..."

And if people feel like having some company and moral support, they can go to a meeting — SMART, WFS, SOS, whatever. Heck, they can even go to A.A. meetings, as long as they know what the truth is, and are not bothered by knowing that every meeting is opened by reading a list of lies:

"RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail...
...they seem to have been born that way.
...if you are willing to go to any length...
...the result was nil until we let go absolutely.
...alcohol — cunning, baffling, powerful!
Here are the steps we took, which are suggested..."

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Wed, July 21, 2004, Mark L. wrote:]
Subject: Great thread!

Man, what a great thread.

I quit drinking. And then I started going to meetings because I was serious about stopping and wanted the support.

But I was raised in a Christian Fundamentalist home, and developed a healthy sensitivity toward cultish behavior early in life. So I was unsurprised by the "sponsor-recruiters" that initially approached me. I was also able to reject the mindset of "do exactly as we say or you'll relapse." And the "Big Book" and it's infallibility presumption to me is just laughable.

I continue to go to meetings, however, because there is a sense of honesty, camaraderie and mutual support there that it is difficult if not impossible to find in our modern society. I accept the AA bullshit. It's just AA BS. I feel sad for people, though, who have no defenses against it.

Early on, I noted that the introductory readings at the beginning of each days meeting specifically states that "the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking."

That's reason enough for me to attend AA Meetings for now. I made my mind very clear on this point early on, too, to the other members. Some members are suspicious of me, some don't care one way or the other, and some I think are curious. Of course, everyone is waiting for me to crash, but the risk of relapse exists for anyone who chooses to stop drinking.

I don't intend to "buy the farm" in AA. But in lieu of other alternatives, I'll take it.

Again, great thread.


Hi Mark,

Thanks for a flattering letter. And thanks for your viewpoint. And what's funny is how many people have told me that they don't really believe in the A.A. theology or philosophy, or even that the 12 Steps work, and they just go to meetings for the companionship and moral support while quitting. Apparently, the true believers don't have quite as much company as they like to claim... :-)

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Wed, July 21, 2004, Michael L. wrote:]

Of alcoholics who came to A.A. and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses, and among the remainder, those who stayed on with A.A. showed improvement. Other thousands came to a few A.A. meetings and at first decided they didn't want the program. But great numbers of these — about two out of three — began to return as time passed.
[Bill Wilson, in the Foreword to the Second Edition of the Big Book, page XX, 1955.]

Mr. Orange,

A quote in the front of Darrell Huff's "How to Lie With Statistics" is quite relevant to the above passage:

Round numbers are always false. — Samuel Johnson


Michael L.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the quote. I missed that one, and it's a great one. And so true.

Have a good day.

== Orange

[Sun, July 25, 2004, Kevin F. wrote:]
Subject: Just a little note

I've been clean from alcohol for about 14 months. I stopped simply because I was bored with it and it simply wasn't worth the effort when considering the consequences.

I tried AA a few weeks after I stopped on the assumption that I wasn't suffering from any physical or mental urges but wanted to see if they had any experiences with the long term urges. Of course I'd heard about people quitting and "relapsing" and figured they might have a few good ideas on the topic. It's also relatively cheap and I figured a few hours spent there wouldn't hurt.

The first group I tried were a cliquish group of Jesus freaks who figured that some newbie would be aware of their rules. They apparently had rules against asking questions about the steps in meetings. So they gave me a list of people to call after the meeting and it turns out that the folks on the list weren't interested or had just started themselves. Why they put their numbers on the list escaped me but I went a few more times.

I was asked more than once where I lived and couldn't work out why. Eventually I got the "hint" that they wanted me not to attend their meetings. I suppose asking questions during "sharing" was a black mark on their record. I could never, and still can't, accept the idea that I was powerless and needed a "god of my choosing" to take credit for anything positive I did and blame myself for any faults.

So I tried another group. Some "old timer" asked me if I was willing to do *anything* and that just freaked me out. I still hadn't figured out what I did that was so bad or thoughtless other than going to that crew that would make me want to be so desperate to promise I would do anything.

They really didn't like the idea I would go to bars, keep booze in my home or [not] give up any of my friends that drank. I hung around there for a few months and decided to check out a different one.

The third group seemed a little more flexible so I began speaking my mind. I was told that I didn't belong there in front of the whole group of 30 or so persons after I said over a period of 2 months that:

  • a: when I first attended AA I didn't understand 99% of what they were saying.

  • b: after 3 months it got better, I didn't understand 95%.

  • c: I thought the chapter on "atheists" was a load of crap.

  • d: a lot of the "war stories" were dicksize wars and I got tired of hearing the same shit over and over. Not to mention the slogans. It's repetitive and not conductive to any kind of spiritual development but more akin to brainwashing.

  • e: a lot of the material was completely devoid in logic and the arguments were full of holes, strawmen and ad hominems.

  • f: faith in someone who would foist a piece of tripe like the BB isn't a very compelling argument. The one excuse I was given for the BB is that it was done by a committee. Let's just say I think the committee had very little power other than getting some of the really blatant nonsense out and fixing the grammar or they were at least as batshit as Bill.

I stuck around for another month or so but it seemed that the only people who would call on me to share were people that were either just going around the room or people who weren't familiar with my views. Of course the times I was called upon to share otherwise dwindled drastically.

I eventually looked around and found some other alternatives that would actually welcome honest questions and serious discussion. I couldn't believe that none of the crew at any of the AA groups ever mentioned those. That remains my main *personal* beef against AA. I'm not pissed they tried to sell me on something that's flawed, I'm pissed that they insulted my intelligence.

Hi Kevin,

Indeed. That is also one of the things that really irritates me, too. There is a clique of professional A.A. propagandists who continue to crank out the most moronic, deceptive articles that promote A.A. with grossly false misinformation and bad logic, and I find it insulting that they think that I am stupid enough to be fooled by them. Look here and here and here for some of that stuff. (Although I have to stop and remember that maybe it is somebody else who is the target of that stupid propaganda...)

After a while I found this and other sites that are anti-AA. While I don't agree with 100% of the stuff here, I feel that it questions a lot of the base assumptions of the 12 step cult and does it correctly.

I'm not sure about some of the things here as I'm always wary of things being taken out of context but it has encouraged me to at least take the time to research your material and come up with my own opinions. Some of the biggest obstacles are in getting pro-AA materials in the libraries, I certainly wouldn't respect myself for subsidizing their continued existence by paying for their materials.

About taking things out of context — I am very careful not to do that. A pro-A.A. critic accused me of that earlier, and my answer to her is here.

About the pro-A.A. materials, I know how you feel. I have never bought an A.A. book new, but I did get a couple of them cheap from used book stores. I have been lucky and got a lot more as give-aways, mostly from people who were quitting the 12-Step dance.

Oh, and you can now download the entire A.A. Big Book for free over the Internet, without giving the A.A. headquarters a single penny. The first two editions are not under copyright — the copyrights are invalid.
So go to
and grab some Big Book study materials for free.

Hell, I really don't expect you to be able to answer all possible arguments and nit-picking, you simply could never find the time.

Your site and the others I've found have convinced me it's not me that's insane, it really is them.

Correct. It isn't you who is insane; it's them. Heck, I even ended up diagnosing Bill Wilson as a textbook nutcase of Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Delusions of Grandeur. His ravings in the Big Book leave little doubt that the poor fellow was insane.

In addition, Michael Lemansky found a study where psychologists found that the majority of A.A. members were mentally disturbed. When you walk into an A.A. meeting room, most of the people who try to tell you how to live are not qualified to teach you anything about it. Look here.

I consider myself lucky. I know people who have to deal with cults, I'm agnostic and I'm skeptical. One of my friends gets to work with families who are thrown out by the Church of $cientology after their life savings are drained and all possible money from loans are wrung out of them.

Yes, the Church of Scientology is a real monster, isn't it? I use them for some good examples of cult behavior in the Cult Test.

I'm not saying that I consider AA as bad as the Co$, (I don't have any experience with the "institutional AA"), but they sure have the same base - thought control.

I agree. A.A. is not quite as bad as Scientology. And yes, institutional A.A. is worse than the open A.A. meetings. The 'friendly' little neighborhood meeting is just the tip of the iceberg of the "Evil Empire". The local meetings are just the smiley-face front of the organization. Money-grubbing institutional A.A. is where I got my cocaine-snorting, whiskey-guzzling, child-molesting 12-Step "counselor" who insisted that Rational Recovery was no good because we should have a "Higher Power" in our recovery programs.

There are a few good lessons I learned from them, but they could have been learned in less than an hour.

Indeed. I still think that the single best thing I ever got from A.A. is simply
"Just don't take that first drink, no matter what."
That is such a simple program — no Steps, no sponsor, no goofy theology, no slogans, no crazy book. Just one rule.

Most of those were things I had to relearn in a different setting but still it could have be done in the time that one meeting would take. It's too bad that unlearning everything they tell you takes a lot longer. I feel that's the legacy that they'll leave behind.

Yeh, really. And some doctors have complained that A.A. has essentially "poisoned the well" with its immense amounts of misinformation about alcoholism and recovery. Many of the A.A. slogans like "Nobody can do it alone", "Powerless over alcohol", "You must hit bottom", and "You must have a support group" have permeated society to the point that they have been accepted as true information, which they are not. It will take a long time to clear the air. Heck, the cult isn't dead yet. They are still actively proselytizing and promoting the dogma.

There's a real resistance to change that is obvious, it seems they're 20-50 years behind the knowledge of a subject they claim to know. I look forward to seeing this dinosaur hitting the tar pits. The sooner, the better.

I hope I haven't bored the hell out of you and that someone might learn something from my experiences.

-- Kevin F.

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for a great letter, and no, you haven't bored me at all. I found it very interesting, especially your experiences in the meetings.

Have a good day.

== Orange

[Mon, July 26, 2004, Thad wrote:]

Your AA analysis is interesting.

However, I noticed that you have let your dubious political bias show through into the discussion.

Hi Thad,

Thanks for the letter.

Dubious? As opposed to whose "unquestionably true" political bias?

I find that I am unable to keep politics out of my discussion of recovery methods because the recovery industry is highly political. The War On Drugs is political. Having Medicare or state funds finance treatment centers that foist the 12-Step treatment on people is political. White House financed "faith-based" social programs are political. Having courts, prisons, and parole systems push people into 12-Step meetings is highly political, and well as a violation of the Constitutional separation of Church and State.

And then there is the mind-set tie-in. The same intellectual dishonesty that allows some cult members to foist quack medicine on sick people for 60 years while claiming that it is for their own good also allows some other people to foist a war for oil on the American people, while passing it off as a war on terrorism and rationalizing that it is for the good of America. Cult members are not just dishonest with others, they even lie to themselves.

A very relevant book on that subject is The Wrong Way Home, Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, by Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., which does a beautiful job of showing how patterns of cultish behavior permeate a lot of our institutions, including our churches, corporations, and government.

You can start off talking about Alcoholics Anonymous, which leads you to discussions of cult behavior and cult psychology, which leads into politics. It's all an interconnected matrix.

Have you noticed that you are using many of the methods you disparage to get them in?



Of course I know that I am using propaganda and persuasion techniques. That is unavoidable. As I said in the introduction to the web page on propaganda and debating techniques, any time you are trying to convince somebody of something, you will be using some kind of persuasion technique or other.

The very first technique that I use is number one on the list, "Tell The Truth". I also use the number one debating technique a lot, "Refute by Example". I also use Refute by Exposing Contradiction a lot. And I also used "Reductio Ad Absurdum" — reduce to an absurdity — to attack Bill Wilson's declaration that a guy didn't have to quit smoking because he frankly said that he was not ready to quit. And I occasionally use humor and ridicule to deflate Bill Wilson's religious pomposity. And I find that I sometimes use sarcasm, but I try to keep that to a minimum.

The real question is whether the persuasion techniques used are honest, logical and truthful, or deceptive, illogical and dishonest. I try to only use honest and logical techniques. Bill Wilson was a past master of deceptive, dishonest, and illogical techniques.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Date Fri, July 30, 2004, 2nd letter from Thad:]

I can't seem to open the page that you sent. Sorry. Please try again as I am interested.

By the way, I have found your work to be more than interesting, it was eye opening. I have a scientific and skeptical background and of course I found AA to be a type of evangelical Christian faith healing that I never actually believed, but thought was at most benign.

Twenty five years around the program has convinced me otherwise. The profound idea that is implanted by AA of "progression" and worse and worse bottoms seems to have made many people who have "slipped" go to extreme depths because of that intrinsic belief. Ideas are powerfull things, small wonder the death rate of relapsers in AA is higher than in the untreated sample.

One saying in AA is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet I have seen so many that keep failing and coming back in depression and shame, over and over again. Yet they expect different results "this time" from AA. They blame themselves. (i.e) They "took their will back from God" or did not do step four well enough, or they reduced the number of meetings attended from five per week to two, or they did not call thier sponsor every day. It never occurs to them that the program itself has failed them because AA is founded on both junk science and a simplistic junk concept of religion. If someone can tell me what a "spiritual disease" is, I will look at my calendar and assume I am back in the 13th century.

After twenty five years around the program I can count on my hands the number of people who are still around.(Out of thousands and thousands that I have seen attend meetings.) Most are not dead either, or in jails or hospitals. Perhaps some "recovered", perhaps some have occasional drinking episodes that they manage without undue disaster, perhaps some were never alcoholics at all. The rooms "change" faster than people "change". The five per cent per year solution seems to be about right.

Your work has crystallized that which I was almost afraid to express. Your research as been a great asset for me in this. However, I still find your political bias to be a distraction from your work and should be cleaned up.

Vote for George Bush for President.

Kind Regards


Hi Thad,

Thanks for all of the compliments.

The "political bias", as you call it, is an inseparable part of my world view. The same desire for the truth that prompts me to investigate alcoholism cures or treatments, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other cults, also prompts me to look for the truth in political matters. It's all a part of our survival. What good will it do us to recover from alcohol and tobacco only to be killed by pollution done by Bush's campaign contributors?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Thursday, August 05, 2004, 3rd letter from Thad:]

Check this out.

Yeh, what a mess of character assassination. Notice that the author wasn't even there — he took over Kerry's boat after Kerry was shot for the 3rd time.

They also cannot even spell Vietnam correctly. Look at the title bar of the first page — "Vietname".

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

[Fri, August 6, 2004, 4th letter from Thad:]

I guess you really have not learned your own lessons about fallacy. Is the argument the truth or not? Or, I suppose you want people to believe that it is not because of a spelling error. Yeah, that's the ticket, a misprint makes it false.

That was a quick and incomplete response that I sent, because I was in a hurry to do something else.

I did not mean to imply that the web site was invalid because of a sloppy misspelling.

I'll send a full answer about the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" later. For now, here's another copy of the previous letter.

== Orange

[Date Thu, July 29, 2004, Jerry B. wrote:]
Subject: Page 174 or the 12 & 12 AA

I just checked the 1st, 2nd, 21st and 34th printings of the AA 12&12 in hardback, softback and gift editions and I can not find your referance to Page 174......... Therefore I believe all of your statements to be inaccurate and false and all of your "research" to be tainted.

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the letter. I needed some excitement today.

First off, the propaganda trick that you are trying to pull is called "Nit-Picking". That is the technique where you try to find just one tiny little error in something, like perhaps an erroneous page number on a quote, or a misspelling, and then you declare that the whole thing is invalid and untrue. That is false logic. The last nit-picker tried to claim that the whole web site was invalid because I had misspelled the name "Henrietta Seiberling".

But I am not wrong. You'd better look again. I am holding in my lap two copies of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as I type this, one hard-cover and one paperback, and both books say this:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to spiritual principles.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 174.

...which really means:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [my required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to [my] spiritual principles [cult religion practices].

The hardcover book is copyright 1952, 1953, first printing April 1953, 27th printing November 1984, ISBN 0-916856-01-1. (So that's what I have, the 27th printing.)

The paperback book is copyright 1952, 1953, 1981, 29th printing, 1998, ISBN 0-916856-29-1. (So I have the 29th printing of the paperback.)

See the 5th and 6th sentences in the second paragraph of page 174. Just in case you have an odd copy with different page numbering, look at the third page of Tradition Nine.

As for the success rate of AA — Have you been to an international convention and seen the countdown of years of sobriety in a stadium environment??? I think not.

Again, that is false logic. You are assuming a cause-and-effect relationship where none exists. Just because someone gathers a bunch of sober people in a room does not prove that the meeting made them get sober.

Neither does it prove that their sobriety was caused by the room, the hard seats, the organization, the cult religion, the bad coffee, or anything else. You do not really know what made them get sober. You are just getting swept up in the emotional hoopla at big parties and making groundless assumptions. (It isn't all your fault — those ceremonies are cleverly designed to fool you and make you believe what they are selling.)

The Moonies and the Scientologists also have big conventions every so often, where they claim that their big crowd proves that their crazy beliefs are all unquestionably true. Are they? Look at this:

Moonies Mass Marriage
Do you think that they don't find their conventions "inspiring"?

The real reason why people quit drinking is because they get sick and tired of being sick and tired, and decide to quit drinking and save their own lives. Others decide that alcohol is wrecking their lives and costing them too much, so they quit drinking. Then Alcoholics Anonymous manages to fool a few of them into believing that A.A. somehow caused them to quit drinking (in spite of the fact that many of them actually quit drinking before they came to A.A.).

  • Plus, you are pointedly ignoring the many millions of other people who came to A.A. seeking help but who did not get sober in the A.A. program. You are only looking at the successes, and ignoring the many more failures who don't go to the conventions. That is the propaganda technique of Observational Selection — i.e., "cherry picking".
    (And then you probably dismiss the failures with an argument like Bill Wilson's Lying with Qualifiers — they don't count because "they didn't really try" or "they didn't work a strong program" or "they didn't keep coming back".)

  • And you really are not looking at the people who have been harmed or killed by A.A. misinformation and misbehavior, like the "no medications" nonsense, the "powerless over alcohol" doctrine, and the sexual exploitation of newcomers.

  • You are also ignoring lots of other evidence, even the research done by one of your own leaders, Professor George E. Vaillant, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.. He tried for eight years to make A.A. show good results in a test, but finally, in the end, he had to report that A.A. had totally failed to help the alcoholics, and that the A.A. program had an "appalling" death rate. Check it out.

So they are using at least four propaganda techniques on you at those conventions when they do the "countdown of years of sobriety":

  1. Confusion of Correlation and Causation
  2. Observational Selection
  3. Proof By Anecdote
  4. Pomp, Ceremony, and Ritual

We have discussed all of that many times before. Read this. And look at these previous letters:

The disease is indeed cunning, baffeling and powerful and you sir are a sad example of its prowess. I will pray for you as I would any other sick and suffering alcoholic and wish you only the best.


Your statement that alcoholism is a disease and "cunning, baffeling [sic., sp.] and powerful" is just parroting Bill Wilson's ridiculous nonsense in the Big Book. See pages 219, 227, and 58-59 of the third edition, and pages 205 and 58-59 of the fourth edition, for the disease theory and Bill's declaration that alcohol was "cunning, baffling, and powerful".

  • Alcohol is not cunning. It has no brain at all. Ethyl alcohol is a flammable hydrocarbon solvent that is similar to gasoline. It does not cleverly scheme to get you. It does not think at all.
  • Alcohol is not baffling. We understand it pretty well. The formula is C2H5OH. It's just an ethane molecule with an oxygen atom added. One of the easiest ways to get ethanol is to let yeast consume sugar, which produces ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • Now alcohol might be powerful, if you are drinking high-proof whiskey or everclear.

Likewise, "alcoholism" doesn't have a brain either, so it is not cunning and baffling either. And to call it "powerful" is a senseless misuse of language.

The error that Bill Wilson made there is called "anthropomorphization" — making an inanimate object into a person. Bill liked to portray alcohol as a bogeyman who was stalking you in the dark, always scheming to get you, "cunning, baffling, powerful!" (So you needed his "Higher Power" to save you from the monster.) That is completely untrue nonsense, just a grim fairy tale for scaring the children. That's also standard cult behavior. See Cult Test item 34: The Cult Implants Phobias.

Likewise, alcohol over-indulgence is habitual behavior, not a "disease". People can certainly make themselves sick, very sick, even dead, from drinking too much alcohol, but that does not make alcoholism a disease like cancer or tuberculosis. Alcoholism is no more a disease than "candyism" is a disease. "Candyism" is the "spiritual disease" that children get from eating too much ice cream and candy.

Bill Wilson and A.A. tell us that alcoholism is a progressive disease that is caused by spiritual wrongs, defects of character, moral shortcomings, and The Seven Deadly Sins. If alcoholism is really caused by immorality, then it isn't a disease at all. It's a behavior problem.

Then you say, "...and you sir are a sad example of its prowess."
That is just an unsupported slur, character assassination at its best. I suppose you think that I am sick because I criticize the falsehoods that are promulgated by your favorite cult. You probably imagine that I am a "dry drunk" because I believe in telling the truth rather than yammering your favorite fables of choice, right?
(But what does it say about your mind and your honesty that you insist on repeating A.A.'s lies, distortions, and falsehoods for years and years, and foisting a completely ineffective quack medicine treatment on sick people who come to A.A. seeking help to survive alcoholism? Why do you stubbornly refuse to see the obvious truth about A.A.'s failure rate when the evidence is right in front of your eyes? Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.)

Then you switch modes and piously say that you will pray for me — "I will pray for you as I would any other sick and suffering alcoholic and wish you only the best."
No thanks. Please don't bother. Go pray for yourself. I prefer honest hostility to sanctimonious prayers.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

[Wed, August 18, 2004, 2nd letter from Jerry B.:]
Subject: Re: Page 174 or the 12 & 12 AA

You really are a sad little man arn't you???? LOL — so much energy and so much intelligence all going to waste on a petty little war with a DEAD MAN — damn — if your gonna pick a fight pick it with someone that is at least alive and capable of defending thier position.

Hi Jerry,

No, my disagreement is with a cult that is very much alive and still hurting people today. And since A.A. members keep on parroting what Bill Wilson said and wrote, I have to examine his crazy sermons and expose them for the lunatic ravings that they are. And since a lot of A.A. members try to canonize Bill Wilson, I have to show that he was not a saint who brought us a new message from God.

Besides, Bill Wilson isn't defenseless. He has you and your friends to defend him and sing his praises, like A.A. has been doing for Wilson for the last 40 years.

I will indeed pray for you
1. Because apparently that pisses you off
2. And you are correct — I don't give a shit about you and I find some humor in that
but I am supposed to pray for the likes of you — the "cult" says so.

So, you are going to pray at me as a way of pissing me off, huh? That's funny.
Do you also stick pins into voodoo dolls when you do that?
What prayers and incantations are you going to mumble at me?
Do you know any good Gypsy curses or voodoo hexes? Want to share them with us?

I can't tell you how many persons AA has helped over the years , I do not know the answer to that question — I do howeverknow this; they have probably helped a few more people than you have and certailny "killed" less than an approach like that you are advocating is capable of.

Again, show me the evidence. You are making grand claims of success that are backed up by no facts at all. What is the actual A.A. success rate? (Hint: read the file The Effectiveness of the 12-Step Treatment for some facts.)

  • Why has A.A. failed every controlled test?
  • Why did your own Trustee Prof. George E. Vaillant find that A.A. had a success rate no better than no treatment at all?
  • Why did Vaillant find that A.A. had the highest death rate of any kind of treatment? — And that's your own leader talking.

How many of the people who successfully quit drinking while occasionally going to an A.A. meeting would have succeeded anyway without A.A.?

Your views are entertaining and it is actually enjoyable to see most of what the "cult" suggests to be true about "self will run riot" in your rantings.

What is that nonsense? Do you imagine that thinking for oneself and telling the truth is "self-will run riot"? (That is also an example of the propaganda technique of Sarcasm and Condescension. You offer no facts in evidence; you just sneer at your opponent.)

You are coorect — there is nothing cunning about Alcohol — or baffeling and on the power scale it is really hardly a substitue for many other flamables — But the DISEASE sir — is all of that — the AMerican Medical Association says so and the ICD Code for it is adequate for most insurance prividers and health care providers.

Actually, alcohol is a very good fuel substitute. Ever heard of gasohol?

The A.M.A. statement that alcoholism is a disease was a political decision in response to loud complaints from people like you. It was not based on medical studies.

I go with the decision of the American Psychiatric Association, which says that there is no such disease. They recognize "Alcohol Abuse" and "Alcohol Dependency" as mental disorders, but not "alcoholism". They wisely decided not to touch the word "alcoholism", because it was too ill-defined.

Speaking of ill-defined, the condition that the A.M.A. recognized, and the "spiritual disease" that Bill Wilson wrote about in the Big Book, are not the same thing at all. The A.M.A. did not recognize or agree with Bill Wilson's deluded ideas of "alcoholism". The A.M.A. considers alcoholism to be the chronic over-consumption of alcohol. Hence "alcoholism" is caused by drinking too much alcohol. But that isn't what Bill Wilson wrote. He said that alcohol consumption was just a "symptom" of an underlying sinful condition:

"Our liquor was but a symptom."
(The Big Book, William G. Wilson, page 64.)

"After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol."
(The Big Book, William G. Wilson, page 103.)

Then Bill went on to tell us that "alcoholism" was caused by:

That is not what the American Medical Association was talking about when they called habitual alcohol over-consumption a disease. So in that case, you and A.A. are using the propaganda trick called Redefining Terms. You say that the A.M.A. has called "alcoholism" a disease, and then you quickly substitute an entirely different definition of the word "alcoholism", and try to imply that the A.M.A. agrees with you, which it does not.

Furthermore, when the Big Book was first published, what the good doctors at the A.M.A. actually said about it was:

The book under review is a curious combination of organizing propaganda and religious exhortation. It is in no sense a scientific book, although it is introduced by a letter from a physician who claims to know some of the anonymous contributors who have been "cured" of addiction to alcohol and have joined together in an organization which would save other addicts by a kind of religious conversion.

The book contains instructions as to how to intrigue the alcoholic addict into the acceptance of divine guidance in place of alcohol in terms strongly reminiscent of Dale Carnegie and the adherents of the Buchman ("Oxford") movement. The one valid thing in the book is the recognition of the seriousness of addiction to alcohol. Other than this, the book has no scientific merit or interest.
The Journal of the American Medical Association, October 14, 1939.

So yes, I agree with those doctors, too.

And if you really want to know what the doctors say about alcoholism and A.A., then you should read the work of the doctors who actually put A.A. to the test, and found it be be a complete failure as a way of treating alcoholism:

  • Dr. Jeffrey Brandsma found that A.A. indoctrination greatly increased the rate of binge drinking in alcoholics.
  • Dr. Keith Ditman found that A.A. involvement increased the rate of re-arrests for public drunkenness in a group of street drunks.
  • Dr. Diana Walsh found that A.A. just messed up a lot of alcoholics and made them require more expensive hospitalization later.
  • Drs. Orford and Edwards conducted the biggest and most expensive British test of Alcoholics Anonymous, and found that having a doctor talk to alcoholics for just one hour, telling them to quit drinking, was just as effective as a whole year of A.A. meetings and a full-blown "treatment program".
  • AA-Trustee Doctor George E. Vaillant (also Professor of Psychology at Harvard University), clearly demonstrated that A.A. treatment kills patients. For eight years, his A.A.-based treatment program had the highest death rate of any kind of alcoholism treatment that he studied. Vaillant also admitted that his A.A.-based treatment program had a zero-percent success rate, above normal spontaneous remission.

So yes, by all means, let's listen to what the doctors say.

"candyitest" though responsible for a tooth cavity here and there or maybe even a tummy ache, surely has yet to kill anyone AS THIS DISEASE does on a minute by minute basis eveywhere in the world, so because it is a disease — Persons who are degreed in medicine say it is a disease and I have it — you sir are hardly qulaified to tell me what it does to me symptomatically or how I react to its various manifistations.

Alcohol is much more poisonous than sugar, and kills far more people, but that does not change the facts of the matter. You are pointedly ignoring the simple fact that you cannot stop having a real disease like cancer or tuberculosis just by abstaining from eating or drinking something, but you can most assuredly stop suffering from "alcoholism" just by abstaining from drinking ethyl alcohol.

Getting sick from drinking too much alcohol really is a lot like getting a belly-ache from eating too much ice cream and candy (the dreaded "spiritual disease of candyism"). There isn't really any such "spiritual disease" as candyism, and there isn't really any such "spiritual disease" as alcoholism. In fact, there isn't any such thing as a "spiritual disease" at all. The "spiritual disease" rap was just Bill Wilson's insanity speaking again.

Drinking too much alcohol will make you sick, and then kill you.
Stop drinking so much of it, and you will be a lot healthier.
That just isn't a disease.

Drinking too much of Rev. Jim Jones' cyanide kool-aid will make you sick and then kill you, too.
Don't drink it and you will be a lot healthier.
That doesn't mean that there is a "spiritual disease" called "cyanidism".

The disease is CUNNING — it is surley baffeling (look what it has done to you) and Powerful ????

Diseases cannot be cunning. They do not have brains or minds. You are drifting off into the world of fairy tales and evil spirits and cunning devils again.

My god man — it costs this country MIllions — if not Billions, every single year.

Alcohol and drug over-consumption and misuse costs this country a fortune, yes, but that does not mean that alcohol over-consumption is a "disease" that is "cunning, baffling, and powerful." That is a non-sequitur — broken logic.

As for your will power — Next time you get the flu "will it away" — Hell — next time a woman shitcans your worthless ass — will her back — LOL

What is that strange remark supposed to mean? Having the flu and drinking alcohol are not the same thing at all.
Your attempt at an argument is downright illogical. What brain-damaged sponsor taught you to say that one?
Getting sick with the flu is not a voluntary act, but lifting a glass of alcohol to your mouth and drinking it most assuredly is. You cannot choose whether to get the flu, but you can choose whether to drink alcohol.

  • Are you trying to claim that we should not have or use will power to overcome addictions?

  • Are you trying to claim that will power is useless in fighting against addictions like alcohol dependency?

  • Are you trying to claim that we are "powerless over alcohol"? (That is Step One, of course.)

If so, then that is a prime example of how Alcoholics Anonymous hurts people by spreading crazy misinformation about recovery from addictions.

Will power is most assuredly a good thing — one of the most valuable assets you can have while you are battling addictions — and smart recovery counselors will do everything they can to increase their clients' will power.

And what is your solution to the problem? To not have any will power? To declare that you are "powerless" over your problems, and just beg "Higher Power" to solve all of your problems for you?

That doesn't work, you know. That is just a foolish descent into infantile narcissism, where people regress to acting like helpless babies and expect Big Mommy or Big Daddy ("Higher Power") to take care of them and grant their wishes because they cry.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Telling people not to rely on their will power, to declare themselves powerless over alcohol and just give up and surrender to some "Higher Power" (who might be "God" or might be something else) guarantees lots of relapses and failures. Bill Wilson's program for sobriety is a crazy failure. Of course — Bill Wilson was insane, and his "spiritual cure for alcoholism" was the ravings of a lunatic.

— Good luck to you and please by all means continue your attack on the most successful and beneficial thing that has ever happened for addicted people since the start of time. Who knows , you could even find your 15 minutes in here someday — LOL —

Good Day, Jerry

The most successful and beneficial thing that has ever happened since the start of time?
Now that's a really outrageous claim. Again, show me the evidence.

A.A. is great at making grandiose, exaggerated claims of success, but those claims do not hold up when examined carefully. Bill Wilson started the practice of exaggerating and lying about the A.A. success rate way back in 1939, and A.A. is still doing it today. But A.A. is still just a cult religion, not a cure for alcohol dependency, and A.A. does not have any great success rate.

By the way, you have been noticeably silent about the quote from Bill Wilson that you couldn't find:

I just checked the 1st, 2nd, 21st and 34th printings of the AA 12&12 in hardback, softback and gift editions and I can not find your referance to Page 174... Therefore I believe all of your statements to be inaccurate and false and all of your "research" to be tainted.

Did you finally find the quote?
So my research isn't so tainted after all, is it?

And what about those big Moonies' conventions?
Do they prove that Reverend Moon is the messiah with all of the right answers to everything? Do you imagine that they have fun with a "Count-Down to Heaven" or whatever it is that they do at their parties? Does all of that emotional hoopla prove that they are right and have a guaranteed ticket to Heaven?

If not, then how does the emotional "Countdown of Years of Sobriety" at A.A. conventions prove that the A.A. program works?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

Date: Fri, July 30, 2004 2:50 pm
Subject: I really enjoy your website


I really enjoy your website, and certainly respect both the wealth of support for your conclusions as well as the degree of conviction with which you've approached your topic. I have long held many of the same opinions. Keep of the good work.

Bill S.

Hi Bill, Thanks for the compliments and have a good day.

== Orange

[Tue, August 3, 2004, Jon P. wrote:]
Subject: Thank you for the Orange Papers


I have been reading your orange papers. My mother is an alcoholic who has been sober (in the A.A. sense of the word) for 14 years. I sent her a link to your page to which she responded, "Thanks for thinking of me, and for passing along the interesting reading. It's always informative to get others' perspectives on things. There were things in there that I believe are misrepresentations, and others that rang true....". She sent this the DAY after she recived the link, so there is no way she could possibly have read even just the hundreds of pages that I have (and I am still not even halfway through it...).

My mother is a very intelligent woman, and I believe that her sobriety is largely due to her mental strength, and not to her AA indoctrination. She obviously feels differently, but how can you blame her? The cult worked for her. She doesn't drink anymore, and 7 years after she stopped drinking, she stopped smoking, too (which I had been nagging her to do since I was old enough to talk; she didn't have a cult religion to help her stop that though, so I guess that made it take a little longer...) She is, perhaps, not as much of a critical thinker, or quite as skeptical as you or I, and her success has made it easy for her to overlook any inconsistencies, lies, or harmful effects of AA.

In reading one paragraph you wrote in the section on Propaganda and Debating techniques, it occurred to me that AA can very much be described like a virus.

"The recruiter's convictions 'seem to have worked so well'? That may well be a slick deception. The recruiter could be doing the 'Fake It Until You Make It' routine. He may well relapse and die drunk after doing a bunch of enthusiastic recruiting, just like Jackie did in the Big Book, and just like Paddy did, and just like Bill Wilson's own recruiter, Ebby Thacher, did."

It would seem that the "Fake it 'til you make it" part certainly masks, for many people, their hopeless condition. The recruiter gets the "AA bug" and begins to pass it along to all who will listen (and some who won't, at first anyway), and it continues to spread, virally. This is one area which my mother differed from your 'average' AA member. She had a sponsor, and sponsored one or two people, but by and large she managed to stay the hell away from forcing it on everyone she could lay her hands on.

Hi Jon,

Thanks for an interesting letter. I really agree about that "virus" word. In fact, over on another web page, the one on Religious Faith, I asked, "It's kind of like a virus, isn't it? Or like getting bitten by a vampire or a werewolf..."

Then again, she never ended up in a "rehab" situation, and really never was one to drink to excess. I feel that she is not one of those people who would "drink themselves to death". She is more like how you describe yourself — she drank a lot, but not to the point of poisoning herself or making life impossible, but she was out of control of her need for the alcohol.

Actually, I did get to the stage of poisoning myself and making life impossible. My doctor said, "Quit drinking or die. Choose one." —And he wasn't joking.

Still, I know what you mean. Why do some people seem to keep it under control, at least to some extent, and just snap out of it when the doctor tells them something like that, and quit drinking and save their own lives, while other people just stay in denial and insist that they don't have a problem and they don't need to quit drinking, and go on to kill themselves? (And the Harvard Medical School reports that the ratio of survivors to losers is about 50/50...)

I feel like I could save a few lives if I really knew what the big underlying difference between those two groups is. On page 58 of the Big Book, Bill Wilson just called the losers people who were "constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves... they seem to have been born that way", but I find that answer to be overly simplistic and inaccurate — just an attempt to explain away the A.A. failures. Still, I'm at a loss to explain the critical difference between the survivors and the losers. I know some of it —

  • Some people are in a lot of pain, and are killing their pain.
  • Some are mentally ill and are trying to self-medicate.
  • Some people can't feel right, so they are trying to feel better...
  • Some have mental or emotional problems and don't seem to be entirely in tune with this reality.
  • Some seem to be so freaked out that they just can't face reality.
But why does one person eventually just snap and get straight, while another goes on to commit slow suicide?

One annoying thing that came of my mother's alcoholism has been its effect on me. Luckily I don't have to remember being beaten by my drunken mother, or having to pick her up from the drunk tank or anything quite so dramatic. Unfortunately, her membership in AA did give ME a rather negative view of alcohol IN GENERAL. She told me from a very young age that I was probably genetically predisposed towards addiction and alcoholism. Hearing that over and over again, and seeing how incapable she was of quitting drinking or smoking, it obviously had a very strong effect on me. I was all but straight-edge right up until I was already of legal drinking age. I was afraid to even try a drink, for fear that I would end up an alcoholic ("one drink, one drunk"). Then, once I did somehow manage to try it, I realized that I am not, in fact, an alcoholic. I drink sometimes, and we have a rather well-stocked bar in my apartment. I never find myself drinking to excess (except that once or twice at a party, But that is far more the exception than the rule). I drink socially, and hell, I sometimes even have a drink when I am ALONE. But I am by no means out of control of it. I drink if I want to drink, and if I don't, I don't. My mom's warnings were more crippling than the results of me drinking: the reality of my being able to handle drinking responsibly.

I've challenged my mom to explain to me both what she feels were misrepresentations, and also what she thought was true in what little of your writing that she did read. If she comes up with anything of interest, I'll let you know. ;)

Thank you for all of the hard work you've put into these papers. It is well-appreciated.

Jon P.
Brooklyn, NY

Thanks for all of the compliments, and have a good day.

== Orange

[Tue, August 10, 2004, Rhonda wrote:]
Subject: I loved reading your site!

I just wanted to let you know that I think your site is great. I wrote a story awhile back that I shared with fellow members of Women for Sobriety and I think our views are ve considered that. I cut and pasted my post to the end, may give you a laugh if you have the patience to read it . I kinda owe ya, I pasted your excuse list into a post at the WFS site. I got a real kick out of it.


Hi Rhonda,

Thanks for the letter. And posting my "Famous Last Words" to WFS is great. All I ask is, include a link back to my web site so they can look at the rest of the stuff.

I'll outline your article here, for clarity.

Have a good day.

== Orange

Why did I quit drinking when I did? It finally came down to the simple fact that I stopped being able to believe that alcohol was making me feel good. It had been a firm belief. Even now I can hear the tsk'ing of those who KNEW that it didn't make me feel better, it was a trick. I didn't care what they knew. I KNEW that it did. It worked when nothing else in my experiences could.

I had finally drank enough that my body and mind couldn't get that good feeling from it anymore. My belief had been strong that it was the magic for feeling good. And I tried many times to make it continue to work. My belief was forced to change. Nothing else, I still wanted that "feel good" magic. I didn't know if it was possible to get it any other way. I never had any illusion that I was drinking to solve my problems. I drank to get away and not become overwhelmed with them. And that is real about alcohol, it can and will do this. Definitely not a good way but it did work and it was an easy immediate solution. And that is why I drank. Because it worked. For many years alcohol would allow me to feel I was invincible.

I can understand easily why I "did the same thing over and over expecting different results" There was a time when I got different results. And I got those different results for a very long time and developed the belief that this was how it worked. "It works if you work it". How true. It was work drinking alcoholically. And I was willing to do all this work because it worked. When the results actually changed, my belief came into jeopardy. The need to feel good was still there but I found myself without the magic. It doesn't surprise me at all that I tried and tried to recapture it.

I was completely devastated to find that alcohol wouldn't work. In shock. I had nowhere to turn. Feeling good was essential. I could either continue drinking, not even trying to feel good anymore or die. The only two solutions I felt or knew and not even really two separate solutions because I knew that the drinking would kill me, just take longer. This was my "rock bottom". I was questioning my own will to live if it had to be without alcohol. No, I hadn't just lost everything on the outside like is supposed to happen. But I lost everything on the inside. Not because I didn't think I could quit. But if I quit I would never feel good again, so what was the point? Not feeling good sober or not feeling good drunk was the question. And I didn't like either of those options.

I had never drank to kill myself. I had drank to feel better. I didn't hate myself. Wanting to make myself feel better drinking was actually trying to care for my well-being ironically. It was the only way I knew, the first way I found and since it had seemed to work for such a long time I never had bothered to look for another way. Redefine the problem. Not - I am an alcoholic. I am a person who doesn't know how to make myself feel better without alcohol. The fact that this was one of my basic needs proving that I liked myself. I had always believed that I deserved to feel better. That is why the excuses and rationalizations were so easy to make drinking. It made me feel better and I deserved that. But this relationship with alcohol had changed. It is inevitable that if you put poison in your body long enough, your body will be unable to deal with it anymore. Systems give up.

I had already decided that the answer was drinking death or suicide death. But, all problems have more than one solution, more than one way of finding an answer. The other answer was to live. Live without my "feel good" but live nonetheless. I realized that my feel good was a "happy". But not feeling good was not necessarily a "sad". It could be just an "ok". So, since not drinking was not a "sad" I chose to live.

My thoughts raced when I first quit (as they always did, but now they screamed and demanded attention) - I WANT to be drunk. I WANT to feel good. I WANT and I WANT NOW! Going to get drunk, only way. Silence. Rage. Getting drunk doesn't WORK anymore! I STILL WANT. Something, anything. WANT, WANT, WANT. Repeating over and over. Frustrating, enraging me because now I didn't know any other way to get that feel good, to meet these demands.

But I wouldn't drink again. It simply could not/would not fill that WANT anymore. It was that plain and simple. I didn't quit because I hated it or myself, because my family hated it or me. I quit because I am selfish and alcohol couldn't give me what I wanted anymore. My relationship with drinking had always been a give and take. I would accept the bad as long as the good was there. The bad alone was just not an option. I could feel "ok" without it and so that is what I did.

I felt ok. No, I didn't "get it" or have a revelation. I didn't find religion or anything else to fill that want. I didn't "have what they had" or some mystical peace and serenity. But I was ok. Not bad, not good, but ok.

The overwhelming first emotion for me to deal with was absolute and complete rage. I had found a solution to make me feel better and it was gone now. I wanted to be able to convince myself that I could still find it drinking. And I tried. I tried VERY hard. I really didn't care if I was an alcoholic or not, I just wanted to make myself believe that it would work again. But, I had already changed that belief from experience and it wouldn't come back. And I hated everything. The world was mean to me for taking this away and so I would be mean right back. I was no different from a child throwing a temper tantrum.

Anger turned to frustration. I couldn't even be "ok" this angry. So what do I do now? I didn't even care about feel good anymore. I was just working on "ok" again. And frustration coupled with grief. I mourned. I cried. I missed my magic "feel good". It was gone forever. And I couldn't convince myself otherwise. So I finally BELIEVED. And it was over. I couldn't remember ever missing anything so much in my life.

I felt sorry for myself. Ok was the best I would ever have now. And I always had to listen to all these thoughts that never stopped in my head. But I was ok again and the thoughts were ok too. I started becoming used to the constant drone in my head. And everything was ok.

I accepted that this was life now. So be it. I could live this way. I didn't need that fairy tale happiness. I just WAS. Things that had been important to me before became unimportant. I didn't care, everything was ok. I was going to accept.

I became ambivalent. I believed that it didn't matter what I did because feel good was gone and unattainable now. I decided that people who didn't drink had just never discovered feel good. That is why they couldn't understand it. They had never felt it. We all just had to learn to live "ok". This was perfectly acceptable to some it seemed. They didn't care Why or How. They just were.

I tried to find things to occupy a mind that wouldn't shut up. I took care of my family and house without thought. It filled time. It didn't take nearly as much time as I had thought before. Going "out" was not an option. I didn't care about all those other people. I knew that they were just going about life making it "ok" too. They couldn't fill my want. They were trying to fill their own, if they even thought about "ok" at all. I felt alone and disconnected.

My mind was hungry. It wanted. And so I would have to come out of my apathy long enough to feed it and get it to quiet down again. The internet became a way to fill that need for new. I looked up anything and everything about alcohol. Someone else may have learned something. I studied alcoholism and as many views on it as I could find. I researched. I wanted to understand. I read even the views considered outrageous. I wanted to find as much information as I could and I bombarded myself with it. I wanted an answer.

I found WFS. I read posts. I read their program. I analyzed feelings shared. I tried to see what if anything I could believe. I did this for several days without wanting to become a part of it. Just the word "program" left a bad taste in my mouth. The statements scared me. I didn't want to brainwash myself or have someone else make my decisions about me. I had always laughed about our self-help culture these days. Everyone trying to get better than that "ok". How could someone else tell me what was going to work for me? Why would I listen? I never listened to anyone without questioning and comparing to what I already believed. This is the part of my story where I am supposed to "see the light". But I didn't. I was supposed to know that these women had a secret answer and if I wanted it I would have to listen.

But WFS didn't try to tell me the "answer". It told me that I had to find it. And that it was all about me and what I knew and chose. And that one way was not the only way. Thinking was good and necessary. You didn't have to go mindlessly with the flock to not drink. YOU knew yourself and what you needed to do. It was a program to learn how to recognize this and use it. I was surprised at the insight and intelligence that these women had. They didn't try to tell me that I would get "it" and that I would become like "them". They told me that I would learn what I needed to and I would become me, I would grow. I felt a connection. I believed this. I submerged myself in this comfort and safety of women. The whole world was NOT what I had thought and different than me. There was honest compassion. There was acceptance, not about working a program, but about staying sober and being strong enough to do whatever you had to do to maintain it. Accepting these women was easy. We had all been there. Different stories, different reasons, different outcomes maybe but we had all felt this intensity. We had all been through some raging internal debate. I started feeling better than ok. I could help and be helped.

And my feel good? WFS makes me feel good because it feeds my mind with positives, with mostly things that I already know and just bury under too many negatives. And it makes me feel good knowing that something I may say could help someone else. Not because their mind is the same as mine, but sharing experiences can lead to valuable insight. None of us really knows the be all, end all answers. Because there isn't just one, but we can certainly help others to find out what they believe will work for them. And amazingly enough, sometimes some of us find it. And that is more than "ok". That is really "feel good".

[Sun, August 8, 2004, Mary M. wrote:]
Subject: aaa and denial

you're right on the mark!!! i live with a sniveling weasel of an alcoholic...... he's done every nasty thing in the book, repeatedly, and believe me, the bastard loved every minute of it........ of course, when he gets nailed to the wall out comes the old 'i'm a victim of alcohol' bullshit...... HE HATES IT.... HE HATES HIMSELF.... YADAYADAYADA....... THE SON OF A BITCH LOVES IT!!!!!!!!!........ he LUSTS for it!! alcohol never chased him down a dark alley and forced itself down his throat........ he chased it...... stalked it..... relentlessly.......... and now i hate him for it...... fuck mercy....... fuck forgiveness...... he's full of shit..... and so is AA..... that's where he runs to whine now that he is forced to take antabuse in order to even stay in this house...... he used to run to the liquor store or to a cocktail lounge...... same crowd, different location, if you ask me...... i call it the WHINER'S CLUB...... to hell with this non-judgemental crap....... if ever there was a bastard who deserves to be judged, it's him............ he's an obnoxious, hateful, self-serving piece of shit who uses alcoholism as an excuse for all his nasty behavior........ the truth is, he's just as nasty an asshole sober....... he gives alcohol a bad name......... i'm glad to know there is someone else in the world who knows that AA is the WHINER'S CLUB!!!..... it's also probably a really good place to network to learn about the best places to lay drunk, best lies to tell, etc....... nothing good can come from putting a bunch of child molestors or arsonists into the same room, and nothing good can come from putting a bunch of drunks together in the same room either........ they chug coffee and feed off each other's self-pity.......... it makes me want to puke..................... stay after them.... and don't let up!!!!!!!

most sincerely,

Mary M.

Hi Mary,

Thanks for an amusing letter. And I thought I was radical... :-)

Have a good day.

== Orange

[Sat, August 7, 2004, Jeff C. wrote:]
Subject: thanks and a question

Hi there--

I'm a long-time member of AA, and also a fairly voracious reader. I just finished reading Cheever's book, and my impression of it was that she did gloss over most of the stuff that would be fairly embarassing to Bill. Surfing arund the web, I found the orange papers and have enjoyed browsing through them. I can imagine that most AA people might be upset by what you say, but I happen to think that the sooner we get down to basics, the better, and that includes letting go of the idea that the co-founders were great spititual authorities.

A question: you quote Carolyn See, who says that her mother, "Wynn C. [Corum]" was one of Bill's mistresses. Is the "Wynn" just coincidental between Helen Wynn and Wynn C.? Or were they related somehow?

Thanks for what you're doing — if AA survives the truth it'll be better for it. If not, then we'll be better without AA.

Jeff C.

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the letter, and thanks for the thanks.

The naming of Helen Wynn and Wynn Corum seems to be purely coincidental. They were definitely very different women. Carolyn See printed a photograph of her step-mother Wynn C. in her book Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America, which makes it very easy to see the differences between the two women. I'll put it up on the web site when I get next to a scanner.

Have a good day.

== Orange

Okay, it's done. Here are photographs of Helen Wynn and Wynn Corum.

[Thu, August 5, 2004, Gordon of the U.K. wrote:]
Subject A.A.

Dear Agent Orange,

A couple of months ago I was gifted a book titled "You are being lied to." One of the articles was on A.A. Full of indignation I went on a web search to confirm or refute the accusations and I came across your site. I read the lot last week and I am still reeling from the shock (and euphoria) of the revelations. Talk about a spiritual experience! It was a repeat of the intense relief induced by "you are no longer alone" which I last experienced joining A.A. in 1979.

I was a 99% brainwashed member of this cult and have even made the "pilgrimage" to Akron, Ohio and more or less accepted the Deification of Bill W. and Dr. Bob! Oh boy, I can now see how religions started up in the distant past.

When I joined A.A. here in Glasgow, Scotland, it had its own local brand of format and recovery program. (Same today at "ordinary" meetings — more later.) Meetings were held between 8pm and 10 pm: There was no paraphernalia on the "top table" or on the walls: monetary contributions were frowned on, the group members would pay the rent and supply refreshments: the Preamble was read out and a guest "speaker" (anyone with 90+ days sobriety) had 1 hour to share his/her "experience, strength and hope": then 1 hour of "round the room" comments: talk of God was almost taboo, probably as a result of the festering Catholic/Protestant divide in the City: outside of meetings, 'phone calls and home visits were frequent and supportive. After I was a few weeks in A.A., a member sitting next to me gave me a smile and a wink and slipped me a crumpled, poorly photocopied piece of paper. I haven't actually looked at it for 25 years but I still have it in my A.A. archive and here it is. (Words in capitals are original and were very much the slogans of the day.)


Recognise that it is the FIRST DRINK which does the damage. The FIRST DRINK you take sets up a powerful physical craving which leads to the second, the third and so on until you are drunk. Avoidance of the FIRST DRINK means that you cannot get drunk.

The following steps are suggested as a programme of recovery:-

  • 1. Stay away from the FIRST DRINK for ONE DAY AT A TIME. If a day is too long then break it down to half a day or even an hour if necessary. If the compulsion to drink is overwhelming, contact an A.A. member. Remember, LIFT THE PHONE BEFORE YOU LIFT THE DRINK.
  • 2. At first, attend as many A.A. meetings as is practically possible. DO NOT JUDGE A.A. ON THE BASIS OF A FEW MEETINGS.
  • 3. Whilst at a meeting, try hard to look for the SIMILARITIES between the speaker's experiences and your own. Try to keep an open mind and put aside any differences between the speaker's experiences and your own.
  • 4. As a result of these similarities, make up your own mind whether or not your life is unmanageable through drinking and whether or not you are an alcoholic. If the answer is yes, ADMIT AND ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE AN ALCOHOLIC. Remember, BE HONEST WITH YOUR DRINKING.
  • 5. Build your sobriety on the solid foundation of this ADMISSION and ACCEPTANCE and remind yourself on a daily basis.
  • 6. Join an A.A. Group of your liking and GET INVOLVED in Group activities. As time goes by you may go to fewer meetings or stop going to meetings altogether but remember, IF EVERYBODY STOPPED GOING TO MEETINGS, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE HAD A FIRST MEETING.
  • 7. If possible, avoid having alcohol in your home, stay out of pubs and clubs, and STAY IN SOBER COMPANY.
  • 8. If anything in A.A. confuses you, for example talk of a higher power, PUT IT ASIDE FOR THE MEANTIME. Take only from A.A. what you need today, recovery is progressive. Remember, ALWAYS PLAY FOR TIME.
  • 9. No matter how bad your thoughts, feelings or circumstances get in your sobriety, remember, A DRINK WILL ALWAYS MAKE IT WORSE.
  • 10. Practise living your life in the present. Utilise the lessons of the past and make plans for the future but do not live in the past or the future, remember, LIVE IN THE NOW.
  • 11. Try not to keep a problem to yourself. Try to confide and share your problem with another A.A. member but be very careful who you choose, preferably someone of your own gender and background. Remember, A PROBLEM SHARED IS A PROBLEM HALVED.
  • 12. Take your newfound sobriety and contentment into your home. Your first priority is to make amends to those nearest and dearest. Remember, true recovery is best recognised in the home.

Finally, A.A. also stands for ALTERED ATTITUDES. You may find that some of your attitudes and behaviour will have to change if you are to stay sober. Listen carefully for similarities in the speaker's story and take advice from his/her attitude changes in recovery.

Not toooo bad, Eh? I have no idea as to the origin of this document but reading it again, it certainly encapsulates the A.A. philosophy in Glasgow at the time. In addition there were frequent verbal warnings, not stated publicly, but whispered privately, "don't read the Big Book — it'll screw up your head", and the more forceful, "don't read the Big Book — it'll get you drunk." Well, well, well, a week ago I would have utterly condemned this as heretical...... not now!

Being an avid reader, I did read the Big Book (and every other A.A. and Hazledean publication) and they had no particular influence, a bit yank, but at the time just jolly good reads and forgotten.

I then had a 10 year "pink cloud" in which I attended about 1 meeting a week, regularly doing "12th step", ansaphone and public information stints. I made good "friends" in A.A., it was my social circle. I worked no recovery program as such, the desire to drink had been completely removed.

Then in 1990 I picked up a drink from a passing waiter at a social function and — cut a long story short — the results were dire, unbelievably dire. I got back to A.A. later that year and met an old pal I hadn't seen for years because he was going to the new-fangled "step" meetings. I had known that these were springing up in the 1980's but never paid much attention. He told me that, unless I went to "step" meetings and did the twelve steps, I had no hope and would die of drink: stopping going to meetings would result in the same fate. I was truly desperate and if he had asked me to believe that the moon was made of green cheese I would have given it my best shot.

(At this point can I say that presently there is a virtual schism in Scottish A.A. The original meetings are contemptuously known as "bread and butter" or "drinkalogue" meetings and the burgeoning "step", "12 by 12", "video", "audio tape", "big book", "discussion" meetings are known as "holy roller" or "airy fairy" meetings.

Kinder descriptions are "third tradition" meetings and "recovery" meetings but the point is that the militant adherents of one condemn and don't attend the other — so much for A.A. unity! Also the "Cult" is taking over from the "Fellowship" as old-timers die out.)

I plunged into the twelve steps, got a sponsor (whom I now know to be a dangerous freak) and, being an agnostic got a higher power (the Masonic G.A.O.T.U. or good old mother nature). However, the bullshit bells really jangling but after a couple of years of desperate perseverance they reduced to an occasional tinkle and — cut another long story short — I turned into the typical Guru so well described in your essays! I am now squirming in my chair when I think of the utter drivel I have preached to unfortunate newcomers and fragile sponsees in the last 10 years. (However, none are dead, 3 are back on the bottle, 8 are still sober of whom 5 don't attend meetings.)

Some of the things I should have noted but through naivety and brainwashing — didn't (until now)

  • 1. Recidivism rates were and are pretty bad: I was, however, firmly convinced that A.A. was a 100% cure.
  • 2. The distorted logic that claims all sober members are due to A.A. but those who drank again, it was their own fault.
  • 3. There are virtually no professional people in A.A. although I have seen dozens attend a few meetings, never to be seen again.
  • 4. The awe and status awarded solely for length of continuous sobriety, even though the holder is a warped, twisted old fart. (I suffered years of angst over my "slip", I too could have been an elder statesman!!)
  • 5. When I hit the bottle again, none of my "close-knit, real, real friends" wanted anything to do with me. (Well, one did briefly.) Up to then, for years the doorbell and the 'phone had never stopped. I remember when I wasn't too drunk, pleading with them to come round for a chat but the stock reply was, "there is nothing I can do for you until you stop drinking". Bastards. (Subsequently I have done the same thing. Bastard.)
  • 6. After my bender, my many years of previous sobriety (hailed at "birthdays" as a wonderful achievement) counted for naff all. I was back in A.A. about 10 weeks and asked to do a "top table". The person who asked me was reprimanded because I hadn't done my 90 days!
  • 7. I often met or heard of people who had not attended meetings for years and were still sober, but I was convinced that stopping meetings was fatal.
  • 8. Typical "recovery" meeting — a description. I am really squirming in my chair again. The "top table" (altar?) is draped in a velvet embroidered tapestry with the circle/triangle icon, the group name and some slogans or a prayer.

    A.A. #3, The Man on the Bed
    The table top has the Big Book and the 12 by 12 book upright, framed serenity prayer, framed portraits of Bill and Bob, framed scroll of Bill's last address to conference, leaded glass praying hands, framed 3rd step prayer, framed prayer of St Francis of Assisi, and the painting of Bill and Bob sitting with No. 3 in Hospital. Behind the table are hung two huge wall charts with the steps and the traditions. (traditions are curiously seldom discussed). The walls are festooned with prayers, poems, apocryphal texts and loads of slogans. The guest speaker is from an approved elite (I am one) and a few other Gurus dominate the discussion proceedings. (I cringe... These guys I hung out with and really admired... well-meaning buffoons like me.... I was proud to be part of the "heavy squad".) The pseudo-religious yukspeak, the half-baked theories, the mundane confessions, the blatant hypocrisy, the feigned sincerity... I see it all now. Also the vast majority of the members at these meetings (often all except me) are Roman Catholic, (The local population is 20% R.C.), I have no idea why. And until last week I never saw A.A. as a religious cult! How the hell was all this introduced into Scotland in the 1980's? We now have one of these 12 step clinics in southern Scotland staffed by A.A. members and taking "clients" at $3000 a week from Britain, Holland and Germany. They are bussed to A.A. meetings in the locality and this is causing a lot of controversy.

However, the 1% of my brain not washed exploded as I read your pages and I am elated — "The truth shall set you free" — Bloody right!

You have done a good job debunking A.A. and this brings me to my final thought — Nihilism. It makes me very uncomfortable to have nothing to believe in. Good factual researchers like you have thoroughly debunked many people, organisations, institutions and theories. In the last 15 years or so I have read many such examples and here is my list.
The British Monarchy
The Scottish National party
The New Labour party
The Conservative party
The British National party
The Republican party
The Democrat party
Tony Blair
Winston Churchill
Harold Wilson
William Gladstone
Margaret Thatcher
Abraham Lincoln
George W. Bush
Albert Einstein
Isaac Newton
Bill Wilson (A.A.)
Doctor Spock
The Roman Empire
The British Empire
Western Civilisation
The Highland clearances
The European Union
The invasion of Iraq
The big bang theory
Nature/Nurture (The blank slate)
Alcoholics Anonymous
And many more I can't remember and scores more I haven't read.
In addition, hidden camera documentaries have recently exposed racism, bribery and corruption in our police, prison service, army, probation service, multinational companies, hospital administration, social services and stock exchange.

You get my drift? Nothing left to believe in. However it is possible to vote for the best of a bad lot although my allegiances are wearing a bit thin! So I will continue to attend "bread and butter" meetings in the spirit of the unofficial 6th step.


Hi Gordon,

Wow. Thanks for a great letter. It's fascinating to hear from the other side of the ocean, to hear what is going on over there. And thanks for all of the compliments.

About the nihilism thing, and nothing to believe in, I have some thoughts on that:

Just by coincidence, this last week has been emotional and dramatic for me. Last Sunday evening, a week ago, I was going for a walk downtown with a friend, just because it was a beautiful warm dry evening after a blazing hot summer day. We saw a dead bird on the sidewalk, a brilliantly colored little thing. My friend looked at it and sadly said, "Awww..."

It was a hummingbird, a shiny irridescent metallic green little hummingbird. At first, I thought it was dead. It was just laying there on the ground on its back, with its feet up in the air, in the classic death pose. But then I noticed that its little feet were twitching, and it was clawing at the air. I picked it up and looked at it. Its right eye was caked open and it looked very dehydrated and exhausted, but it was alive, and sort of looking out of its other eye. I carried it to the nearest water fountain and stuck its tiny beak into the water stream and it immediately started drinking, its little white tongue darting in and out rapidly.

My guess is that it got lost downtown on a very hot summer day, and couldn't find flowers or water, so it collapsed from dehydration, hunger, and heat exhaustion.

We were on our way to a supermarket, so I took it with me, and stopped at every water fountain along the way and gave it another drink. Inside the supermarket there was a Starbucks coffee stand. I asked the guy there for a little sugar-water solution for the thing, and he mixed up a tiny cup for the bird, free.

I carried it home. All of that time, it didn't do anything. It was so sick and out of it that it couldn't even lift its head or roll over or get up on its feet. I just put the tip of its beak into the cup of sugar-water every so often so it could drink. But just as I entered my place, it jumped out of my hand and flew about 6 or 8 feet before it crashed. It was starting to recover, but didn't have much strength.

I put it into a plastic tub with a thin towel over the top to keep it in (the only cage I had handy), and fed it a bunch of honey-water solution with a "baby's eyedropper". (Really, it wasn't an eye-dropper; more like a feeding tool for putting a tablespoon of medicine or something into a baby's mouth. It worked great as a hummingbird feeder.)

With each passing hour it woke up a little more and got itself more together, although it was still a mess and very weak.

The next morning, it escaped while I was feeding it, and it flew around the room for 15 or 20 seconds before it ran out of energy and crashed. It was getting better, but still had a long way to go.

My friend talked me into taking it to the Audubon Society, but we couldn't actually get to them and they don't pick up, so they just gave us instructions over the telephone on how to care for it, and also gave us the name of a local veterinarian who worked with them. We took it there.

That vet was great and gave me lots of helpful advice. She said that it was an immature female "Anna's Hummingbird", and recovering nicely. But nobody else had the time or inclination to hand-care for it 'round the clock, so I ended up taking it back home and caring for it myself, per their instructions. I took a cardboard box and stood it on end and covered the front with a thin net garment that a girl loaned me. It made a passable cage, and gave the bird room to fly around in, although it was still so goofy in the head that it was bouncing off of the walls. I continued hand-feeding it because it was too out of it to feed itself.

Well, it got better. With each passing hour it grew stronger and more coordinated. In the evening, its head suddenly cleared a lot, and it stopped bouncing off of the walls and acting goofy. It started flying precisely and making crisp, controlled maneuvers, and was able to hover and feed itself out of my home-made hummingbird feeder. And it fed like every five minutes. The appetite on those things is unreal. And then it spent all of its spare time trying to escape from the cage.

The next morning it was even better, so I decided to follow the veterinarian's instructions and release it. She said that hummingbirds do not survive at all well in captivity, and that the longer one is kept in captivity, the more likely it is to die, so the best thing to do is restore them to health quickly and then release them. I took it up into the hills where there is a giant rose garden and let it go. It seemed to be just fine as it buzzed around and then disappeared into the distance.

I immediately missed it. It was a real kick having such a beautiful little thing around; it was a real kick bringing it back to life; and it left a void when it was gone. I was surprised at how much I could care about a little bird that I only had for about 40 hours total. Those things are magical.

Okay, so what does any of that have to do with anything?

I had some very funny thoughts during that experience. It occurred to me that I was, to that little bird, perhaps a "Higher Power", to borrow an obvious phrase from A.A.. I was a giant being who just appeared out of nowhere and saved it when it was dying. I had the power to keep it from dying, but I was not omnipotent or all-powerful, and what I could do for it was actually very limited, but it was enough. I could give it a few days of help while it recovered, but beyond that I couldn't guarantee that it will live for years or live happily ever after.

I don't know what the bird thinks of me, if it even thinks of me at all. Does it think of me as a benevolent being who helped it, or the monster who kept it locked up in a little cage for two days? Who knows...

The real underlying question is "Why? Why bother helping the hummingbird? Why should I care?"

I am reminded of a story that I think was written by a biologist named Loren Eisley. He described how a big storm over the ocean had caused a storm surge that washed a lot of starfish up onto the beach, out of the water. Those starfish were in big trouble. Starfish crawl around on little tube feet which work by the starfish pumping water through them. In the air, a starfish is helpless and can't move its feet at all (no water to pump), and it can't crawl back into the water. Those starfish on the beach were doomed.

But along came a man who was whiling away his time by walking down the beach, picking up the starfish and throwing them like Frisbees back out into the ocean, where they would live. Mile after mile of beach, the guy just picked up the starfish and threw them back into the ocean.

Eisley asked himself why the guy was doing that. From the viewpoint of a biologist, such behavior would seem pointless. It didn't get the guy any more food, or money, or sex, or anything. He did not get a single material benefit from tossing the helpless starfish back into the ocean.

No, his motivation had to come from a higher dimension than just material survival. Perhaps he did it because he loved life, or he loved the ocean, or he loved beautiful creatures. Perhaps he did it because he felt compassion, and he felt something for the doomed little creatures. Whatever it was that moved him, it reveals that there is something more to this universe than just the low, crude hard job of animal survival. Living beings are capable of caring for something more than just themselves or their own kind. There are such things as love and joy and compassion in this world, and although they seem to be in very short supply, they are hardwired into the very fabric of this universe, and are just part of it.

So something to believe in? Yes, I have something. I believe that this is essentially a good universe, with some higher qualities, even if it often seems pretty grim. There really is something that we might call spirituality, although it is subtle and often hard to see. (Well of course. That's why they call it "spirit".)

It's easy to see how you could become disillusioned with the entities on your list of organizations that have disappointed you. I don't believe in them either. They aren't holy or perfect or even necessarily good or wise. They are just organizations made by men, and they are often corrupt. Or they are men who are far less than perfect, and often corrupt.

But there is still goodness and love in this universe.

It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges in this life is to keep the love and joy alive, even in the face of quite justifiable cynicism and bitterness. And the challenge is to stay good even when all of those around you don't seem to think it worth the bother. And for us Americans, the challenge is to remain good and pursue the highest ideals even while we have a pretender to the throne, George W. Bush, who seems to be the very embodiment of evil. I care for sick hummingbirds while he drops bombs on children and blows their brains out. It's an interesting life.

Maybe we should believe in ourselves rather than in those institutions that have disappointed us. And then we should work on ourselves to make ourselves into something that is worth believing in...

Have a good day, and a good life.

== Orange

[Thu, August 5, 2004, Moe wrote:]
Subject re: your site

Hello Agent Orange.

i like your website/book. i am a graduate of over 16 rehabs at only 19 years old (total 2 years of in-time). ex-heroin and crack addict and what-have-you. anyway, while at rehab i was forced to go to twelve step meetings and found they were only effective if you wanted to meet fucked up chicks. anyway i found the meetings excruciating.. all of these self-fulfilling, embarassingly opaque bromides spouted like gospel at frequent intervals.. i just couldnt let myself go to the point where i could allow that kind of bullshit to make sense to me and i cringed when i thought of the type of idiotically duped personality who would feel enlightened or connected when hearing such drivel. so i havent been to any meetings in two years.. and havent relapsed since i stopped going (i would relapse frequently when attending).. i now have a good job, whereas i used to live under a bridge by a canal.

my suggestion for you is that you should condense the most important/poignant/shocking elements of your book and convert them into easily digestible bites conforming to user-friendly document shaping guidlines (i.e. diamond shaped text blocks, paragraph breaks between unrelated sections) and display links to them prominently at the top of your webpage. even though the content is scintillating it is off-putting to be presented with so much information and links on one page. then separately allow people to download the text of the entire book or browse it online, as i dont think the internet is a good medium over which to read things in book format. and if the user, unfamiliar with the layout of the books and unable to glean enough information from the text of a link about the information it points to, the content of the site will be spread too thinly and important information will be overlooked by the majority of people who are browsing.


Hi Moe,

Congratulations on your successes, and thanks for all of the compliments.

As far as condensed statements go, three pages come to mind. Check these out:

  1. The Twelve Biggest Secrets of A.A.
  2. The Twelve Biggest Lies of A.A.
  3. What's Not Good About A.A.?
Perhaps you will find something there that suits your purposes. I'll have to think about doing some more that are even more condensed.

Oh, and I do recommend that people download the entire web site in archive file format (ZIP or .tar.gz), so that they can read it offline at their leisure. They can even burn it into home-made CDs. I like staying with the HTML format because of all of the hyper-text links from one thing to another, so they still need a computer, but they can read the thing with a notebook computer while laying under a tree.

Enjoy, and have a good day.

== Orange

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