Letters, We Get Mail, XXX

From: "MS R W"
Subject: Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment
Date: Mon, December 5, 2005 11:22 am

Dear A

What a great article, the documented research was incredible, you did a brilliant job of putting together the history of Bill Wilson and his phony cranks, the major cults, and the way the higher echelons of criminal justice, hospitals and insurance continue to perpetuate this fraud on an unsuspecting public.

A "member" from 17 years ago, I got sober and stayed that way (I had quit drinking a week before my first AA meeting, my quit smoke counselor at the American Cancer Society had advised if you have a cigarette when you drink, don't drink.) I went to Perry Street in the village because they weren't obsessed with the religeous cult angle and Bill Wilson worship. It was a better group than most (Hoboken, NJ being one of the worst; I will spare you the horror stories, you've heard them) although I hate to say even there, I was scammed a number of times by the criminal element in the early years, who while not sober, had been in AA far longer than I and knew how to work it — the members, not the program. And my idiot sponser kept telling me to look for my part in it! Fortunately, I left her after two years, but two years too long probably.

At any rate, I realized most of the trauma I was discussing in therapy was directly related to my associations with people in the program. Armed with this awarensss, I figured I'd still attend AA for the occasional something to do, but as Christian Fundmentalists, remanded criminals and scam artists looking for a mark are becoming more and more blatantly obvious, I go rarely (I hate to admit I go ever), sort of like the impulse to go back home to a demented family at Christmas out of sentemtality. Go late, leave early, expect nothing, and try to avoid being victimized.

When they realized I was essentally gone for good, cult members made a big production of saying hello to me on the street, and appeared to be offended when I didn't respond warmly. Why should I be surprised, the hard core members are the sickest of the bunch who feel they deserve a cheery conversation when their behavior toward me and anyone else who didn't kow tow to the Bill and Lois Wilson wannabes was truly despicable. Although in fairness, the Bill and Lois wannabes are abusive to everyone. The sick cult demented minds (some of them are diagnosed schizoprenics) work day and night dreaming up ways to make the true believers dance in ways that are dangerous to everyone as well. Different kinds of abuse for different categories.

My emotional state is phenomenally better since I stopped going and I am finally doing the things I was hoping to do when I got sober (although truthfully, I had been doing those things before I got sober!). If I think about how much time I've wasted with those people and their insanity and their drama it makes me sick. Better late than never I guess.

De-programmed and damned grateful

Hi RW,

Thanks for the letter, and thanks for the complements. And welcome to freedom.

And have a good day.

== Orange

[2nd letter from R W:]

Date: Thu, December 8, 2005 12:04 pm
From: "MS R W"
Subject: ALERT MN Congressman "suggests" congress be required to adopt 12 Steps

Hey Orange —

I just read a book called The Harder They Fall by Gary Stromberg (in recovery) and Jane Merrill (Jane Merrill is not mentioned in connection with AA, however, Stromberg writes that Merrill was so impressed with the recovery stories he told her of the celebrities. (anonymity????) Gary Stromberg says — "Jane and I became running companions long ago, and runners talk.") SHE SUGGESTED he write the book, tactics, tactics....), a book of celebrity "recovery" stories.

From The Harder They Fall — quote Congressman Jim Ramstad (R) (in recovery) of Minnesota "They're the most wonderful people... I wish congress could become like a recovery group... If it were a requirement that Congress adopt a program of recovery — LIKE THE TWELVE STEPS (caps mine) — we could all benefit. Certainly the American people would benefit."
Ramstad co-chairs Law Enforcement Caucus and Medical Technology Caucus. Serves on House Ways and Means Committee, voted "Legislator of the Year" by National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Counselors in 1998 and the National Mental Health Association in 1999. Intro by Stephen Davis who deplores the 60's idea that no one interfere with another's life in order to help him/her. AA tactic — accuse the love generation of not caring about each other. H'mm.

How's that for scary? To "suggest" our government convert. Gary Stromberg, the author of the book just happens to be a PUBLIC RELATIONS EXPERT — and get this, thanks Hazelden for their support — may I assume company/front group for AA?. Did he say he was going to write a book and asked Hazelden for info or did Hazelden hire him????? One suspects the book is AA engineered, AA solicited and AA approved mainstream propaganda. Published by Hazelden, of course. What is Jane Merrill's connection to Hazelden, she writes books on relationships and child care but seems to have no letters after her name, what are her credentials, if any? How long before this appears on the literature tables? I got it out of the library. Copyright 2005 by Gary Stromberg.


Book includes Paul Williams, (singer), Dock Ellis (baseball player), Anne Lamott (writer), Pete Hamill (writer) , Richard Pryor (comedian), Alice Cooper (musician, Alice Cooper, for god's sake!!!), Grace Slick (60's rebel uptown girl turned lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, now lovin' the AA cult friend, associates with no one else) Deliberately picked — someone to appeal to everyone from a certain era! A lttle mini meeting for those stuck in their not so glamorous home town meetings. Looks like the 5th edition of the Big Book, if you ask me. Disgusting.

I've heard the babble about cannonizing Wilson, I've also heard one member mention how beautiful it would be if the government were run like AA. Someone responded "The government run like an AA meeting? I don't even want to /think/ about it." Chuckles all around, but it isn't funny, is it?

While Merrill is mentioned as co-author, I don't think she contributed to the book other than to "suggest" it, so I can only guess she serves only as the AA brainwash tactic and gets Hazelden and Stromberg off the hook for promo-ing the program.

Dying to know what you think about this.


Hi, RW or Tattle (whichever),

Thanks for the tip on that book. I immediately went over to the library and got my hands on a copy, and read the chapter by Gracie Slick, because it hurt to think that she might have lost her soul.

That is, the other celebrities mean nothing to me, except for Richard Pryor, whom I also like. But Gracie Slick is The Jefferson Airplane. They had a huge influence on my life. I was there in Berkeley in 1966, tripping my brains out on the world's best acid, and listening to them. The first rock concert I ever went to was the Airplane, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and Big Mama Mae Thornton at the Fillmore. They had a lot to do with me being against the War in Vietnam, and my whole future life after that. You are the crown of creation, and all of that...

The thought that Gracie might have lost her mind to the Evil Empire was too much. (Especially after they did an album called Blows Against the Empire.)

I even learned another phrase from her that I have occasionally used in this web site — "the old people's drug". I saw her on TV maybe 15 years ago, or more, and she was talking about how alcohol got her. She said that it was funny, after all of the drugs that she had taken, for her parents' drug — alcohol — "the old people's drug" — to be the one that got her into trouble. I felt the same way too.

Well, I'm happy to say that she hasn't sold out. She may be flirting with the dragon, but it sounds like she is still her own woman.

Here's her description of going to A.A. meetings:

      So, around 1976, I started going to meetings. I thought they were fabulous, because all the religions I'd been aware of had guys with funny outfits on and you had to pay them a lot of money. And one person was holier than everybody else. He was up front. But in these recovery meetings, everybody was equal. Nobody owned anything either. I thought, "Okay, this is spiritual. The rest of the stuff was phony. This reminds me of early Christianity." So I liked the context, but that didn't mean I wanted to stop drinking. I was even a coffee maker, and I'd put a little rum into my coffee, and you got yours regular.
      I'd stay sober for a while, then I'd go out and get drunk again. Then I'd come back to the program and start over again. People would tell me, "You're gonna die," and I'd say, "No, I'm not." Oddly enough, I didn't, but that wasn't because I'm so smart.
      Now, my daughter and I got sober in 1996. I have eight years sober again. I'm certainly not the image or the beacon to follow. My pattern or path has been to do what I want to do for my own reasons.
The Harder They Fall, Gary Stromberg and Jane Merrill, page 287.

She as much as said that she isn't doing the Steps and that she follows her own conscience. I can accept that. Heck, that's what I'm doing.

The other thing that you mentioned, Congressman Jim Ramstad, is another matter entirely. He is frightening. He is constantly trying to promote Steppism with the power of the government. I just put up another web page, "Action Alley", that asks people to email their Congressman and Senators to oppose Ramstad's schemes to route more of our money to the Steppers. Check it out.

Thanks again for the letter. Have a good day, and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

[3rd letter from RW:]

Date: Sun, December 11, 2005 1:03 pm
From: "MS R W."
Subject: orange papers

Hey orange

Caused major uproar by mentioning Orange Papers on 12 step chat and got my IP blocked.

Keep Papers going, breath of fresh air.

Hi again, RW,

That is both sad and funny.

We are involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq which are supposedly, according to G.W.Shrub, bringing the blessings of freedom and democracy to the people of those countries, and here in America we have Steppers who do not believe in freedom of speech. Maybe Bush should send the Army in and liberate the A.A. headquarters so that all of those poor oppressed alcoholics can breathe free at last.

Have a good day anyway, and a Merry Christmas.

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Gandalf said, "The demons of the darkness howl in
** pain when you shine the light of truth on them."

[4th letter from RW:]

Date: Fri, December 16, 2005 11:21
From: "MS R W"
Subject: Grace Slick (From Tattle)

Hello Orange

Thanks for the reply. Sorry! Didn't mean to tarnish Gracie's halo (didn't know you fantasized about her, lol). Big fan of the Airplane myself, still listen to them. My brother is a quasi-fundi republican, but his most treasured possession is a photo of him with Yorma.

Hi again, RW (or is it 'Tattle'?),

It wasn't a matter of tarnishing Gracie's halo. (Funny expression there, really.) It's that I just hate to see a good mind die. I had an artist friend once who was a sharp intellectual. Then some Jesus-freak missionaries got to him one year and he was reduced to mindlessly babbling platitudes and clichés about "getting nearer to Him."

Please don't get me wrong — I'm not against people finding happiness in Christianity. I just hate to see people commit intellectual suicide. That's what it was in his case when he just threw his logical, thinking mind into the trash can and painted a big mindless beatific grin on his face and parrotted the jargon.

The thought that Gracie Slick, the moxie chick who proudly declared that "We are the kind of people our mothers warned us about", would lose her mind and become a brain-dead slogan-slinging Stepper was sad. I'm glad to see that it didn't happen.

Anyway, that's what bothered me about The Harder They Fall, it tries to make it look like people that some of us look up to are card-carrying members of the cult and fully endorse the insanity. Hard to tell what Grace's relationship to AA is, because even though she indicates she is still her own person, she also says she only associates with other AA members. Maybe AA members like herself, who don't "work the program." Very misleading for someone thinking about joing the cult (or leaving).

I agree there. The authors of the book were out to promote the cult. I haven't read all of the rest of the book yet, but what I have seen just from quickly paging through it shows a mix of stories, and some of them are very hard-core Stepper. And I see the repeated inferences that treatment centers work and have good counselors who really help people to get clean and sober...

But I didn't see Gracie's story as endorsing A.A. very strongly — just the statement that she liked the disorganized religion aspect. (And she had fun drinking spiked coffee at A.A. meetings.) What I saw Gracie really saying was that she found straight people boring —

      The friends I have today are all alcoholics who are sober. Alcoholics, I've found, have very interesting lives. That's a bizarre thing to say, and it sounds like I'm saying it to the exclusion of other people, but it's probably true. I don't want to be around people who have held back. I like being around alcoholics, thank you very much. Also, the deal that you're as good as your spiritual program is a strong one.
The Harder They Fall, Gary Stromberg and Jane Merrill, page 287.

I can understand that. Most of my friends are also ex-dopers and ex-drinkers. There is no denying that there is a certain kinship and empathy and instant understanding between such people.

And Gracie's last line really sounds reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr.: "judge people by the contents of their hearts rather than by the color of their skin." Here, it is, "Judge people by the sincerity of their spirituality, rather than by some shallow artificial standards..."

I hope I'm not coming across as just an apologist for Gracie, but I can't help but feel like Gracie's praise of A.A. is so thin that it is almost damning with faint praise. You really have to go through her story with a magnifying glass and a fine-tooth comb to find a few lines that sort of praise A.A., while her story is loaded with lines like her bragging that she "has had every drug known to man, and every man known to drugs".

At the same time, I do have to ask, "Gracie, why would you let yourself be used by those Stepper people? Don't you know what is going on? (If not, let me tell you.)"

It's kind of like Tom Cruise saying he is a Scientologist. I hear the majority of Scientologists have handed over their lives and all their finances to the cult. Don't quote me on that, because I don't know much about the Scientologists.

I do, and it is a tragedy and a disaster and one of the biggest organized crime gangs in the world. They are absolutely vicious when it comes to exploiting people. The question that I would like to ask Tom Cruise is "How much money has Scientology gotten out of you?" (Look here for a chart of the Scientology "patrons' donations".) Is Tom Cruise a "Gold Patron Meritorious", at a cost of only a million dollars?

Maybe you can get in touch with Gracie and get the real story. Perhaps she isn't aware the only reason she was included in the book was to promote the AA Inc./Ramstad agenda.

Maybe. I'd love to. Want to email me, Gracie? I'm another old hippie with long gray hair and a fuzzy beard, and I sure didn't hold back... I inhaled. :-)


Thanks for the letter. This is a fun conversation.

Have a good day and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** When you can't tell the difference between patriotically
** defending America, and killing thousands of children in
** a foreign country with "Shock and Awe" bombing, you are
** officially crazy.

Date: Mon, December 5, 2005 4:42 pm
From: "S Joshua S."
Subject: Twelve Steps Question

Hello Mr Orange,

Interesting articles. You obviously have a chip on your shoulder about the 12 steps. I'm undecided.

Hello Joshua,

Thanks for the letter, but please stop it with the condescending terminology. My objections to cult religions hurting sick people are not "a chip on my shoulder".

You seem 100% convinced AA is ineffective. Just did a simple pubmed search to find randomized controlled research. I was curious what you thought of these abstracts.

The first one in particular reports an increase from 26% remission to 81% with a pvalue of .001.

Of course you are writing from a hearsay point of view without a strong reserach background. Still I was curious what you thought. :)


Wrong! Please put the slurs back in your toolbox. I am intensely interested in research. I am not writing from a "hearsay point of view". Haven't you read the file "The Effectiveness of the 12-Step Treatment"? Please pay particular attention to the work of Doctors

  1. Brandsma, who found that A.A. increased the rate of binge drinking, and
  2. Ditman, who found that A.A. increased the rate of rearrests for public drunkenness, and
  3. Walsh, who found that "free A.A." made later hospitalization more expensive, and
  4. Orford and Edwards, who found that having a doctor talk to the patient for just one hour was just as effective as a whole year of A.A.-based treatment.
  5. George E. Vaillant the A.A. Trustee, who found that A.A. treatment was completely ineffective, and raised the death rate in alcoholics.


And guess what word is missing from all of the following reports? CONTROL. There is no control group in 3 of the 4 so-called studies, and where there appears to be a control group, it was not a randomly-selected group.

None of those pieces of A.A. propaganda is a randomized longitudinal controlled study.

Okay, Josh, let's see what they have to say.

Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2005 Oct 20;125(20):2798-801.

[Self-help programs in drug addiction therapy]

[Article in Norwegian]

Kristensen O, Vederhus JK.

Avdeling for rus- og avhengighetsbehandling, Sorlandet Sykehus HF,
Serviceboks 416, 4604 Kristiansand.
[email protected]

BACKGROUND: Treatment of drug addiction is complex; hence there is a debate in the field of what is the best approach. An honest desire to stop using drugs is the entry ticket into the self-help programmes Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA); these groups are a possible supplement to ordinary treatment. They employ the twelve-step programme and are found in most large cities in Norway and around the world. The usefulness of these groups has been disputed, and few Norwegian treatment facilities have developed a systematic cooperation with them. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the use of self-help groups is associated with higher rates of abstinence two years after participants started attending groups.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: 114 patients, 59 with alcohol addiction and 55 with drug addiction, who started in self-help groups after a drug treatment, were approached two years later with a questionnaire. The response rate was 66%; 6 (5%) patients were dead.
RESULTS:Intention to treat analysis showed that 38% participated in self-help programmes two years after treatment. Of regular participants, 81% had been abstinent over the previous 6 months, compared with only 26% among non-participants. Logistic regression analysis showed odds ratio 12.6, 95% CI (4.1-38.3), p < 0.001, for participation and abstinence.
CONCLUSION: The study has several methodological problems; particularly that correlation does not necessarily indicate causality. These problems are discussed here; the conclusion is that the probability of a positive effect is strong enough to recommend participation in self-help groups as a supplement to drug addiction treatment.

Hmmm. No control group. This is another one of those "studies" where someone with a statistics computer program massages some data until it says what he wants to hear.

Again and again we get so-called "studies" that show that the people at A.A. meetings drink less than the people at the local bars. The obvious conclusion is that we should shove everybody into A.A. groups so that they will drink less.

Using the same flawed logic, we can demonstrate with a great deal of confidence (p=0.0001) that a group of alcoholics who spend their weekends chained to the walls of a dungeon will drink less than another group that goes out to bars and pubs on Saturday night. So we should send all of the alcoholics to Abu Ghraib prison, for their own good.

The flaw in the logic is of course that the populations are self-selecting samples. The people who want to drink go to bars. The people who want to stay sober either go to A.A., or more often, just stay home.

The authors accurately reported:

"An honest desire to stop using drugs is the entry ticket into the self-help programmes Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA)..."

They should have stopped right there and declared that this was a study of motivation, not a study of the efficacy of A.A. or N.A. meetings.
(The 12-Step cults routinely recruit some people who are going to quit drinking and doping anyway, and then A.A. and N.A. take the credit for their sobriety.)

The authors also totally ignored the fact that "treatment" is an indoctrination process where people are taught that they must spend the rest of their lives going to 12-Step meetings or else they will relapse and die. The people who believe that, and really want to stay clean and sober, may well waste many years of their lives going to pointless meetings before they wise up. The drinkers, on the other hand, have already figured out that they don't need to go to A.A. meetings to be able to drink, so they go to the meetings at the pub instead.

So what this study shows is that if you induce phobias in people — like fear of relapse and dying — you can make some of them go to ridiculous meetings for two years.

The authors are also ignoring the other big cause-and-effect relationship:
Once people relapse, they stop going to A.A. meetings.
So sobriety causes a few people to go to A.A. meetings, and drinking causes people to go to bars and pubs instead.
No way does that indicate that A.A. meetings cause sobriety.

Then the authors candidly admit that the results of their study are invalid:

CONCLUSION: The study has several methodological problems; particularly that correlation does not necessarily indicate causality.

So, you see that the statement that "The first one in particular reports an increase from 26% remission to 81% with a pvalue of .001." is false. There is simply no evidence that 12-Step treatment or going to A.A. meetings reduces drinking. The evidence is that drinking reduces meeting attendance.

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2005 Jun;39(6):431-6.

Alcoholics Anonymous: cult or cure?

Vaillant GE.

Harvard Medical School and Division of Psychiatry,
Brigham and Women's Hospital,
1249 Boylston Street 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
[email protected]

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

PMID: 15943643 [PubMed — indexed for MEDLINE]

It seems that no reputable American journal would even publish this insane garbage. Vaillant had to go all the way to New Zealand to find someone to publish it. You are aware, aren't you, that Vaillant is a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., and that he is the biggest proselytizer for A.A. in the world?

Vaillant is so full of it that it is a wonder that he can walk. Now he says that "AA serendipitously follows the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy in relapse prevention"?
The poor man appears to be delusional. The Twelve Steps tell you that you are powerless over alcohol (Step 1), and insane (Step 2), and that you must turn control of your will and your life over to "God, as we understand Him" (Step 3). That is not cognitive behavior therapy. That is not anything even vaguely like cognitive behavior therapy. Vaillant has this funny habit of saying things that just do not have any connection to any real facts on this planet.

But wait! There's more. You think that I'm not interested in research? Wrong. I ordered a copy of that article long ago, just to see what Vaillant was saying now. You should read the full text. It is a mess of illogic and deceptive statements. Check this out: [UPDATE: 2014.01.22: The full text of the article is now available here:
http://www.csam-asam.org/sites/default/files/pdf/misc/Vaillant_AA_Article.pdf ]

...the hold that drug addiction has on human beings does not rest in our cortex. The hold of addiction on our minds lies in what has been called our reptile brain. The hold comes from cellular changes in midbrain nuclei like the nucleus accumbens and the superior tegmentum. Eventually, loss of plasticity of neuronal response in these centres renders abstinence beyond the reach of willpower, beyond the reach of conditioning and beyond the reach of psychoanalytic insight.
== page 432.

I agree that the craving center is the old lizard brain, and I have written about how to dispute it's yammering and demanding alcohol and drugs, but Vaillant jumps way out there and parrots standard A.A. propaganda about alcoholics being "powerless" over alcohol, and declaring that will power does not work. Baloney. Everybody who successfully quits drinking or doping proves that will power does work.

The four factors that prevent relapse are external supervision, ritual dependency on a competing behavior, new love relationships and deepened spirituality. ... Elsewhere I have stressed the congruence of these four factors with Marlatt's use of cognitive behavioural techniques to enhance relapse prevention [7].
== page 432.

Vaillant finds a slight similarity in terminology between his jabber and Marlatt's writing, so Vaillant declares that A.A. is now practicing cognitive behavioural techniques? That is the propaganda trick of The Fallacy of One Similarity.

By the way, the "elsewhere [7]" where Vaillant "stressed the congruence" was in his book "The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited", 1995, which reprinted the material from 1984 where Vaillant clearly showed with his many years of careful research that A.A. was completely ineffective, and killed far more alcoholics than it saved. But Vaillant didn't bother to mention that. Vaillant seems to be trying really hard to forget about that.

Also note how Vaillant is in love with "external supervision". He thinks that all alcoholics need a slave-master to make them behave. Even the slave-masters need their own slave-masters. It's the A.A. pyramid of sponsors.

External supervision appears necessary because in prospective studies conscious motivation to stop drinking at admission is not associated with outcome. Alcoholics Anonymous, like most personal trainers, provides motivation from without and suggests that clients return again and again. In AA, members are told to find a sponsor to telephone and to visit often. They are encouraged to 'work the steps' and to engage in service. Each of these activities provides a daily involuntary reminder that alcohol is an enemy, not a friend. There activities provide external supervision, or in the language of AA 'keep the memory green'.
== page 432.

That is just some more bull. What he means is that lots of people say that they want to quit drinking, but they don't quit. That is no surprise. There is a big difference between wishing to quit and really deciding to quit. But Vaillant makes no such distinction. If someone mumbles something about wanting to quit, and then goes out and gets drunk, Vaillant crows that willpower is useless and you need a Nazi to make you behave.

Efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous

Unfortunately, empirical information on the efficacy of AA is hard to come by. First, as an organization AA is uninterested in research. Second, because of ideological differences and unconscious rivalry, medical researchers sometimes have difficulties in assessing AA without bias. Finally, in the course of their long and chronic disorder, alcoholics encounter many different kinds of interventions, often simultaneously. Therefore, unlike the case with most formal drug trials, there is no way that one can do a truly controlled study. Until recently, it was unclear whether AA attendance caused abstinence or whether AA attendance was only a manifestation of abstinence and greater compliance with professional therapy.
== page 433.

Now Vaillant is telling the truth for a minute here: He recognizes that "it was unclear whether AA attendance caused abstinence or whether AA attendance was only a manifestation of abstinence".

So how does he figure out which it is?

The overall evidence, however, that AA works as an effective 'cure' is quite convincing. First, multiple studies that collectively involved a thousand or more individuals, suggest that good clinical outcomes are significantly correlated with frequency of AA attendance, with having a sponsor, with engaging in a Twelve-Step work and with chairing meetings [25].
== page 433.

Unfortunately, in a printing error, the journal did not print any footnotes beyond number 24, so we don't know what "multiple studies" Vaillant is referring to.

Second, for 35 years I have been Director of the Study of Adult Development. This community study has followed two cohorts of men, 268 college men and 456 socially disadvantaged inner-city men, for 60 years [7,26]. ... Nevertheless, it was noteworthy that the men in the good outcome groups reported attending about 20 times as many AA meetings as the men in the poor outcome groups.
== page 433.

Again, sobriety causes meeting attendance. Desire for sobriety causes compliance with the program. Vaillant is not proving his assertion that A.A. meetings cause sobriety, rather than vice-versa.

Third, a multimillion-dollar controlled study, Project Match [27,28], compared the effects of three treatments upon almost 2000 alcoholic patients and arrived at several interesting conclusions. Project Match revealed that during the first year AA alone was as effective as the two most effective professional alternatives: cognitive behavioral and motivational enhancement therapies. Indeed, AA in some respects was superior to cognitive behavioral therapy. Second, the Match followup also showed that regardless of the original treatment arm (cognitive behavioral, motivational, or Twelve Steps) the more AA meetings attended the better the outcome.
== pages 433-434.

Unfortunately, Vaillant is grossly deceiving us there. His statements aren't even half true. Project MATCH was not a controlled study. There was no control group. They simply sent the alcoholics to one of three treatment programs, on a non-random basis. The goal was to prove that different kinds of treatment were better for different kinds of alcoholics (thus justifying a mix of expensive professional 12-Step-based treatment programs and free A.A.). The experiment was a failure. The results were that it made no difference what kind of treatment the alcoholics got.

Because there was no control group, there was no way to show what benefits or good effects any treatment modality might have produced. There was nothing to support the statement that "treatment works". There was nothing to show that those three treatments were better than anything else, or any better than no treatment at all.

And it is a huge leap to try to claim that Project MATCH proved anything about the efficacy of A.A. or "12-Step Facilitation" (TSF). They paid the alcoholics to come to the meetings and the treatment sessions. That isn't A.A.. Alcoholics Anonymous does not pay the alcoholics to come to the meetings.

There were many more problems with Project MATCH. Follow those links, and read the rest of the gory details.

Perhaps the most convincing controlled study of the efficacy of AA came from an 8-year follow-up by a behavioural psychologist, William Miller [29]. The purpose of Miller's therapy program had been to return alcoholics to safe drinking practices, not to produce abstinence and certainly not to involve them with AA. In addition, the patients in his study had been self-selected for motivation to controlled drinking, not to achieve abstinence. Nevertheless, after 8 years most of Miller's good long-term outcomes were abstinent and not controlled drinkers. In contrast to a long-term abstinence rate of 20% among the 81 clients who went to less than 100 meetings, 53% of the 13 clients who had subsequently made more than 100 visits to AA were eventually stably abstinent — a statistically significant difference.
== page 434

Once again, we can assert that sobriety and cult membership cause people to go to A.A. meetings. Vaillant is not proving his point.

Finally, at Stanford, a collaborative 8-year prospective study [30,31] underscored the value of AA in contrast to professional treatment. In 8 years, the two outcome goals of less drinking and more abstinence were only weakly related to days of professional inpatient treatment, but robustly related to AA attendance. In short, the effect of AA did not just rest on compliance with treatment.
== page 434

Without the footnotes, we cannot know what study this is. Is this another one of Rudolf Moos's messes at Stanford?

Certainly, AA is not a magic bullet for every alcoholic. In my own follow-up studies, there were a few men who attended AA for scores of meetings without improvement. Nor is it that professional treatment is ineffective. Session for session I suspect that alcohol professionals and AA meetings are equally effective. Rather, the efficacy of AA is like the use of insulin and digitalis; AA does not stop once the patient leaves the clinic.
== page 434

This is insane. I mean, this is literally insane. Vaillant isn't even on the same planet as the rest of us:
"AA is like the use of insulin and digitalis"?
Ummm, no. Insulin and digitalis are medications that work. Alcoholics Anonymous is a cult religion that does not work.

Well, Vaillant has totally failed to show that A.A. meetings cause sobriety, rather than that sobriety causes meeting attendance, and yet he assumed that he had proven his point. He found the evidence "quite convincing".


The third 'scientific' question I must address is: Even if AA does cure alcoholism, is it safe? What are the side-effects of AA? Certainly, AA has its detractors. Designed to affect the reptile brain, the rhetoric and the emotional language of the spirituality of AA leads journalists and social scientists to understandably fear that AA is a religion or cult [4,32]. ...
== page 434

Again, there is no truth to this nonsense. A.A. was not "designed" to reach the reptile brain. A.A. was designed by Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman to be a cult that would support him in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. (And it did that job quite well.) Bill Wilson just hijacked a branch of Buchman's cult and made it his own (and then he never had to work a straight job again, either).

What makes AA safe is that as an organization it is not a religion; and AA has deliberately incorporated principles to avoid cultic abuse. Religions like nationalism draw circles that draw others out. Alcoholics Anonymous and internationalism draw circles that draw others in. The spiritual foundation of AA evolved from the intellectual experience of three men deeply mistrustful of all organized religions. These three men, William James with his Varieties of Religious Experience, Carl Jung with his prescription 'Spiritus contra spiritum' and Dr. Robert Smith, cofounder of AA, were each devout students of what was truly healing among all religions. Such spirituality, I beleive, usually leads only to love, tolerance, humility and awe toward the universe. These are qualities that deepen human relationships and not distort them as do cults.
== page 434

This is just some more of the standard A.A. mythology, competely untrue. Alcoholics Anonymous was not designed or even much influenced by William James or Carl Jung. Bill Wilson misread Varieties and thought that it said "compression at depth", and imagined that stomping people's faces into the mud (crushing their egos) would give them religious experiences. It doesn't.

And Carl Jung had no input into the design of Alcoholics Anonymous, nada, zilch, zippo. Again, Bill Wilson was stoned and hallucinating and misread Varieties and thought that Carl Jung, not William James, had said that "The only radical remedy for dipsomania is religiomania." Not so. William James wrote it.

And Dr. Robert Smith was a crazy, vicious, superstitious child-abuser, not a "devout student of what was truly healing among all religions."

Indeed, AA is not about religion at all. The preface to Alcoholics Anonymous flatly states: 'Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization'. The only requirement for membership is an honest desire to stop drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous passes the test of universality so necessary to distinguish safe spirituality from potentially divisive religion, namely that religious conviction does not prevent AA membership.
== pages 434-435

More baloney. Total denial. "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt." Of course A.A. is a religion. Six of the Twelve Steps talk about God, and declare that God will take care of your will and your life for you, and remove all of your defects, and then talk to you in a seance and give you power.

Did you notice that bad logic? The Alcoholics Anonymous holy book says that A.A. isn't a religion, so, in Vaillant's mind, it's a "fact" that A.A. isn't a religion. That's the propaganda and debating trick of Assume Facts Not In Evidence — assume that the A.A. Big Book tells the truth (which it doesn't, because Bill Wilson didn't).

Vaillant's brain-damaged logic is no more valid than assuming that Scientology isn't a crazy cult religion because the Scientologists say that it isn't, and the Scientology leader L. Ron Hubbard wrote that it isn't.

Speaking of propaganda tricks, this is a false dichotomy (as well as again being an assumption of facts not in evidence):
"Alcoholics Anonymous passes the test of universality so necessary to distinguish safe spirituality from potentially divisive religion, namely that religious conviction does not prevent AA membership."
There are no standards or "tests" for distinguishing between "safe spirituality" and "divisive religion". That is just another game of spiritual one-upmanship, claiming that the A.A. religion is better than the other religions.

Okay Josh, are you getting the idea? This is cult religion propaganda, not a scientific study.

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2005;31(4):685-707.

Does diagnosis matter? Differential effects of 12-step participation and social networks on abstinence.

Witbrodt J, Kaskutas LA.
Alcohol Research Group, Berkeley, California 94709, USA.
[email protected]

Previous studies that have examined the effects of specific aspects of 12-step participation and social network composition on abstinence have focused mostly on alcohol-related outcomes and have screened out drug dependent persons. This article explores whether these predictors differentially affect abstinence based on DSM-III-R substance dependence disorder (alcohol dependence, drug dependence, and both alcohol and drug dependence). A heterogeneous community sample of treatment seekers (N=302) randomized to day treatment programs were followed at 6 and 12 months. Bivariate and multivariate regression models were used to test whether engagement in 12-step practices and social network influences to drink or use drugs predicted total abstinence from alcohol and drugs differentially by dependence disorder. Chi-square automatic interaction detector (CHAID) segmentation analyses were then conducted to identify the specific 12-step activities and social network thresholds that best distinguished higher rates of abstinence in each dependence category. Results showed that the number of 12-step meetings attended and number of prescribed 12-step activities engaged in similarly predicted abstinence for alcoholics, drug addicts, and those dependent on both alcohol and drugs. However, specific activities were associated with abstinence differentially by dependence disorder. While many activities differentiated abstinence for drug addicts and those dependent on both alcohol and drugs, for alcoholics only two Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) activities distinguished abstinence (having a sponsor and doing service). Key predictors of abstinence (CHAID) varied by follow-up and dependence disorder, except for doing service in AA and/or Narcotics Anonymous, which was the only specific 12-step activity that was a best predictor of abstinence in all three categories one year following treatment. Thus, "giving back" to one's peer community through service work, an important 12-step belief, seems to be universally valuable later in recovery. As for social network influences, a multivariate regression model showed that having a higher proportion of abstinent individuals in the network was associated with abstinence for alcoholics at 6 months only and for drug dependent persons at 12 months only. CHAID models supported these results and provided specific thresholds for 12-step measures (e.g., >20 meetings for alcoholics, 2 or more nondrinkers in the social network, 3 or more persons supporting reduction for those dependent on both alcohol and drugs, and having 2 or more nondrinkers for those dependent on drugs only). These results support the value of treatment providers prioritizing certain 12-step-related practices and social network changes based on their client dependence profiles. Early on, those with an alcohol diagnosis need to make a commitment to meetings and obtain a sponsor; also, they need to place themselves in a network that encourages sobriety. Early on, those who are drug-dependent-only especially need to become connected with 12-step programs to the extent that they consider themselves a member, and, later, saturate themselves in a highly supportive and predominantly nondrinking environment. Alcohol and drug dependent clients need more intense ongoing 12-step involvement (sponsor and meetings) as well as having nondrinking individuals and people supportive of abstinence in their network. For all clients, doing service is especially important at the longer 12-month posttreatment timeframe.

PMID: 16320441 [PubMed — in process]

More fun and games with SPSS, SAS and SYSTAT. More garbage. More propaganda. No control group. The results are meaningless.

And when you learn to plow through the high-falutin' double-talk, you will understand that this:

While many activities differentiated abstinence for drug addicts and those dependent on both alcohol and drugs, for alcoholics only two Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) activities distinguished abstinence (having a sponsor and doing service). Key predictors of abstinence (CHAID) varied by follow-up and dependence disorder, except for doing service in AA and/or Narcotics Anonymous, which was the only specific 12-step activity that was a best predictor of abstinence in all three categories one year following treatment.

...actually means that they don't really know what makes people stay clean and sober.

And again, they reverse the cause-and-effect relationship in their search for "key predictors". I can with confidence (p=0.001) predict that sobriety causes some people to go to A.A. meetings, while habitual drinking causes other people to go to bars and pubs. Sobriety is the key predictor of A.A. meeting attendance, and every-day drinking is the key predictor of pub attendance.

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Dec 12;80(3):337-47. Epub 2005 Jun 8.

Sixteen-year changes and stable remission among treated and untreated individuals with alcohol use disorders.

Moos RH, Moos BS.
Center for Health Care Evaluation (152-MPD),
Department of Veterans Affairs and Stanford University,
795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, CA 94025, USA.

AIMS: This study examined changes over a 16-year interval and predictors of stable remission among previously untreated individuals with alcohol-use disorders who did not obtain help or who entered either alcoholics anonymous (AA) or professional treatment in the first year after initially seeking help.
DESIGN AND MEASURES: A sample of individuals (N=461) who initiated help-seeking was surveyed at baseline and 1, 3, 8, and 16 years later. In addition to providing information on life history of drinking at each contact point, participants described their current alcohol-related and psychosocial functioning and life context, and coping responses.
FINDINGS: Irrespective of whether or not individuals obtained help, their alcohol-related functioning, life context, and coping improved. However, individuals who obtained help (AA or treatment) in the first year improved more and were more likely to achieve stable remission than those who did not. Nevertheless, the factors associated with stable remission were comparable for individuals who did and those who did not obtain timely help.
CONCLUSIONS: Compared with individuals who do not obtain timely help, those who enter either AA or treatment relatively soon after initiating help-seeking improve more quickly and achieve higher long-term remission rates.

PMID: 15946805 [PubMed — in process]

Oh God, you throw Rudolf H. Moos at me? He seems to be a professional propagandist for the 12-Step treatment industry. He generates a river of pro-A.A. and pro-12-Step articles, but nary a single Randomized Longitudinal Controlled Study have I ever seen from him. We have talked about Moos before. See this discussion of another one of Humphrey's and Moos's phony rigged "studies", also paid for by the Veterans' Administration.

In this so-called "study", we again get ambiguous mixed-up results. Moos compares a bunch of people who got "either A.A. or professional treatment" to other alcoholics who got no treatment. But the key factor, which Moos ignores, is motivation.

And again, the groups are self-selecting populations, not randomly chosen. People chose for themselves whether to participate in some kind of program.

Moos finds that those who sought out help and got treatment improved more than the untreated group, who apparently also sought help but didn't bother to go to treatment, but who also improved anyway. So this was a test of motivation.

Those people who really wanted to quit drinking — wanted it enough to even tolerate a stupid, condescending treatment program — did slightly better than those people who didn't want to quit drinking all that much. So what else is new?

Like I've been saying all along: People who want to quit drinking will, and people who don't want to quit drinking won't.

UPDATE: 2011.07.11:
The International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction analyzed a so-called "test" of A.A. versus CBT at the Palo-Alto Veterans' Center, and they found that the Humpheys-Moos study was invalid, erroneous, badly done, and downright deceptive and faked. They concluded that A.A. did more harm than good, and responsible health care professionals should not refer clients to A.A.

Look here: https://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters247.html#Clark_M

Okay Josh, now you see the problem with all of the phony research that is cranked out by the "treatment industry". It is all flawed, faked, rigged, and invalid, just like this stuff. It is just propaganda that is designed to fool the unwary, and keep the flow of tax dollars and health insurance money coming into the 12-Step-based treatment programs and centers.

Why don't you do another search, and dig up some RANDOMIZED LONGITUDINAL CONTROLLED STUDIES?

Warning: it will take you a lot longer to find real results. The treatment industry avoids valid testing like the plague, because such testing would reveal that treatment doesn't work. I think I have already found most all of the valid randomized longitudinal controlled studies that have ever been done on A.A. and 12-Step treatment, and I listed them above.

If you find even just one more, let me know. I want to see it.

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Foisting ineffective quack medicine on sick people is not
** a wonderful noble act of self-sacrifice to help others;
** it is the reprehensible behavior of a damned fool.

[2nd letter from Joshua:]

Date: Fri, December 16, 2005 12:47
From: "S Joshua S."
Subject: Re: Twelve Steps Question

First of all, I agree with you that motivation is a key confounding variable and that AA self-selects BASED on motivation. So, this raises a extremely challenging research problem, it is very difficult to randomize this key variable: motivation.

But you can average it out in a large test — a large Randomized Longitudinal Controlled Study. When people are randomly assigned to either the treatment group or the control group, the two groups should be about equally motivated. That is the essence of why you have a control group.

And it isn't just a question of motivation. It is also a matter of cause and effect. As I pointed out in the last letter, alcohol addiction causes people to go to bars and pubs. Desire for sobriety, phobias, fear of relapse, and fear of death cause people to go to A.A. meetings. But the A.A. boosters try to reverse the cause and effect relationship — they try to claim that A.A. meeting attendance reduces drinking. Well the evidence just isn't there to support such a claim.

We come across this problem all the time when studying medical patients, often it is unethical or impossible to fully randomize a trial. This is particularly true of behaivioral studies like the ones we are discussing.

The Steppers routinely argue that a true Randomized Longitudinal Controlled Study that tests 12-Step treatment programs would be unethical because half of the patients will get no treatment. But since it has already been established that A.A.-based treatment increases the death rate, and A.A. increases the rate of binge drinking and the rate of rearrests, and A.A. increases the costs of hospitalization, what is unethical is giving any more 12-Step treatment to the patients.

So, I would frame the question this way: does involvment in an AA group (self selected) improve motivation to quit alchohol more or less other treatments alone (therapy, disulfiram, etc.) in the course of a longitudinal study? Of course AA/non-AA study participants should be matched by many variables including severity of disease. Do you know of any studies which follow this design?

Why test for "motivation to quit", which is basically impossible to measure accurately? Why not just cut to the chase, and test for whether they really did quit, and stay quit (for at least a year, or preferrably for several years)? That is much simpler and more to the point.

To test 12-Step treatment against other treatments or modalities (disulfiram or whatever) still sounds like just trying to avoid having a true control group and revealing the actual failure rates of all treatment programs in general. While some people complain that it is criminal or unethical to have a control group to whom you do not give "treatment", I would argue that they might be the lucky ones.

I was effectively a member of a control group, and I'm doing great. 5 years of sobriety now. Oh, I got something that was called "treatment", and the state health plan was billed for it, and they paid for that fraud, but what it consisted of was a bunch of "group therapy" sessions where a crazy cocaine-snorting child-molesting "counselor" spouted Steppers' slogans at us. "I'm teachable today. I don't know if I might relapse tomorrow. Your disease wants to kill you." That isn't treatment.

So yes, theoretically, I was in a "treatment" group, but I didn't get anything that I would call treatment. I recovered in spite of the treatment program, not because of it. (But almost nobody else did. At the four-year point, I was the only person out of my group of clients (between 100 and 200 people) who had not relapsed. And I'm the guy who quit drinking 2 weeks before the so-called "treatment program" began.)

Oh yeh, and then they stuck acupuncture needles in us and claimed that it reduced our cravings. When I told them that it didn't have any such effect on me, they still wrote down that I reported that it did. That was of course for the report to the state, to justify the state paying for more acupuncture treatment.

So how is depriving someone of such treatment "unethical"?

In answer to your other question, of the valid tests that I know about, some tested A.A. treatment against other kinds of treatments, some tested against a control group, and some did both.

  • Doctors Orford and Edwards did a randomized longitudinal test where they compared the results from a year of A.A.-based treatment to the results from one hour of a psychiatrist talking to the patient and telling him to quit drinking. A statistical randomization procedure was used to divide the subjects into two groups comparable in the severity of their drinking and their occupational status. One of those groups got the full A.A.-based treatment program, and the other got the one-hour treatment. At the end of the year, the results were the same for both groups.
  • Dr. Vaillant synthesized his control group from a population of untreated alcoholics, and found that 8 years of A.A. was equal in success to no treatment. He also compared his A.A.-based treatment program to several other treatment studies, and A.A. did not look good in the comparison — A.A. was no better than any other kind of treatment, and it had by far the highest death rate of any kind of treatment that Vaillant studied.
  • Dr. Brandsma's test was a true randomized 3-way longitudinal controlled test, with groups getting A.A., non-professional Rational Behavior Therapy, or no treatment. The lay RBT group did the best, and the A.A. group did the worst. The A.A. guys were doing 5 times as much binge drinking as the control group, and 9 times as much bingeing as the lay RBT group.
  • Dr. Ditman did a true randomized longitudinal controlled test where court-ordered people were randomly assigned to A.A.-based treatment or no treatment. The results were that the A.A. group got rearrested for public drunkenness far more often.
  • Project MATCH was not entirely valid. In Project MATCH, they had no control group, so they simply compared the results of bastardized versions of Twelve-Step treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and "motivational therapy". The results were basically the same for all three treatments. (And also largely invalid, for a lot of reasons, like that they paid the participants to come, and they cherry-picked who went into what group.)

Also you made a comment on one of your pages about the SA-anon people bragging about being married to a SA. I'd caution you on that one. People could be in SA for committing adultery and other wounding acts: not really something one would bragg about ones spouse doing.


Actually, what I wrote was:

"I hear that there are now over two hundred of these clone twelve-step programs, intended to cure (or not cure, but treat) just about everything imaginable. Some of them sound pretty wild, like Artists in Recovery, or Partners of Sexaholics. (I just can't help but wonder, is that last group complaining or bragging?)"

Surely you can figure out that the Partners of Sexaholics remark was a joke. That whole thing is just too absurd: Some woman sits in a meeting and brags that her husband is a total sex fiend, and that he just can't get enough of her, and that he keeps her awake with orgasms half of the night, every night... And the cure for the guy's sex problem is for the wife to do a searching and fearless moral inventory and confess all of her sins to her sponsor?

And it is also tragic, when we look at it from the viewpoint that you mentioned: someone whose spouse is an out-of-control promiscuous adulterer. How on earth will having the wife do the 12 Steps cure that? How are the Steps even good psychotherapy? It's hard to think of any way of treating the problem that is more inappropriate or more psychologically damaging than "blame the victim", and getting the victim wallowing in guilt and confessions.

So what can you do? You can either laugh about it or cry about it. Your choice.

Oh well, have a good day anyway, and have a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

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

[3rd letter from Joshua:]

Date: Thu, December 22, 2005 21:35
From: "S Joshua S."
Subject: Re: Twelve Steps Question

Ah, now a lot makes sense. I get why you are so passionate about this now. You personally experienced some of the worst of AA and of scientific research. It sucks you were forced through that madness.

Btw, congradulations on the years of sobriety. Unlike a 'stepper' I don't think sobriety could ever come from solely one place :).

A couple questions:

1. you say you aren't agnostic or atheist. What are you?
2. What do you think of some think like this (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/index.asp)? It isn't government funded, they don't take people who are forced into it by a court order, etc., and it is free attend.

Also, do you live any where by Southern California? If you are in the area sometime, I'd love to grab lunch with you and ask some more questions.

Thanks for the thorough answers.


Hi again Josh,

First off, it wasn't really what happened to me that makes me so passionate about this subject. I was lucky. I got off easy. I can't really complain about my condition.

It's the friends who didn't make it that really get me angry when the professional liars start their phony "A.A. works great!" routine. And reading the articles of characters like George Vaillant, Keith Humphries, and Rudolf H. Moos who seem to have dedicated their lives to manufacturing misinformation about A.A. treatment's success rate makes me angry because they are misusing the trappings of science (the appearance of scientific procedures and a scientific approach) to fool people into using quack medicine, which in turn causes people to die. Somebody ought to start a class-action lawsuit against those bozos.

Now for your other questions:

  • 1. you say you aren't agnostic or atheist. What are you?

    A hippie. Sorry if that sounds flippant, but that's really the most honest answer I can give. I can't be an agnostic or an atheist because I got blasted into other dimensions too many times, and saw too much. I can't say that I ever saw God, but I definitely saw the possibility. My personal religion is an amalgum of goodies stolen from all of the major religions of the world.

  • 2. What do you think of something like this (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/index.asp)? It isn't government funded, they don't take people who are forced into it by a court order, etc., and it is free attend.

    Hmmm. I see the keyword "Saddleback" there. That name has come up before, here. The founders of Saddleback found that Alcoholics Anonymous was so strongly anti-Christian that they had to start up their own recovery groups to be able to say that Jesus was their Higher Power.

    I have no inherent problem with a religious program that is honest about what it is, and which doesn't practice deceptive recruiting and coercive recruiting. (I would prefer it if they also used a little common sense, along with their religion, but who am I to dictate someone else's religious practices?)

    I notice that there is no mention of their actual success rate. I suspect that their success rate isn't good, either, or else they would be happily talking about it.

    I have never criticized the Catholic programs like DePaul or Calix, which are obviously religion-based. The thing is, they don't lie to us and say that it isn't religious. The only thing I have to say to those people is that they really should look again, real hard, at the 12 Steps and realize just how heretical those Steps are. Frank Buchman's cult religion has no place in a Catholic program. Heck, the Church banned Frank Buchman's Oxford Groups and Moral Re-Armament, repeatedly. (Look here and here.)

    My major worry about any program that uses the 12 Steps — or reworked Steps, like Saddleback uses — is the fact that any program that is based on the idea that you are powerless over drugs and alcohol, and can't control yourself, and you must surrender control of your life to some vague "Something Else" or "Higher Power", and that the big answer to your drinking or drugging problem is to confess your sins, is inherently psychologically unhealthy, and it just doesn't work. Those programs have a terrible track record — basically a zero-percent success rate (above normal spontaneous remission), coupled with a high death rate, and a high relapse rate, and a high rate of binge drinking...

    We can do better than that. We have to.

Oh, and I fled from Southern California in 1969, and haven't lived there since.

Have a good day and a Happy New Year.

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Humans always do the most intelligent thing after every
** stupid alternative has failed. --- R. Buckminster Fuller

[4th letter from Josh:]

Date: Tue, January 3, 2006 3:41
From: "S Joshua S."
Subject: Re: Twelve Steps Question

Thanks so much,

I see where you are coming from much more clearly. Thanks for the answers and keep up the work.

I encourage you to edit the wikipedia page with some of your stuff (but you have to be neutral for that, but the info could lead people to your pages).

I think you have me about won over. I haven't personally experienced an AA group yet, so its hard to be quite as certain as you. Your work gives much needed balance to the dialogue about recovery.


Hi again, Josh,

Thanks for the comments. I'll have to think about the wikipedia thing. Sounds like more work, and a World War III-scale debate about what goes there.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Rev. Jim Jones said, "Drink the red koolaid. It
** has cured millions. RARELY HAVE we seen it fail...
** But then again, the green koolaid is good too.
** Take what you want, and leave the rest."

Date: Tue, December 6, 2005 10:10 am
From: "Gerald F."

You are disturbed. AA is not run by anybody. So, there is no nefarious scheme except in your mind. You do though sound psychologically ill.

Hi Gerald,

A.A. is not run by anybody? Haven't you ever heard of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Incorporated, in New York City?

No nefarious scheme? Haven't you read about how AAWS committed perjury against A.A. members in Mexico and Germany, and got them sentenced to a year in prison for printing their own literature and carrying the message to poor alcoholics?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Gandalf said, "The demons of the darkness howl in
** pain when you shine the light of truth on them."

Date: Tue, December 6, 2005 3:03 pm
From: "john c."
Subject: Update


I wrote you recently, before I had been sentenced. I wanted to give you an update.

In August, I was pulled over for "speeding."
Officer: "Do you know how fast you were going?"
John: "No Sir."
Officer: "Me neither, but it was really fast."

I was cooperative, went to jail, and decided to go to AA meetings for the political reasons. It sounded good, since it was not religious. I started reading the "Big Book," and it was clearly a form of weird religion. I started doing research, found your site, Rational Recovery (got the book — makes a lot of sense,) and got "Overcoming Your Alcohol, Drug and Recovery Habits" by James Desena. I decided to stop the madness of drinking and using drugs, and am doing pretty good at it. For me it has been almost constant for 28 years — I am 43.

But I knew the court would look favorably on "treatment." So I have been to somewhere around 40 meetings. Burned through a sponsor because "I think too much, and need someone who understands religion as much as you do." When pressed to label myself, I use "Taoist."

There was a drug assessment. One of my core values is honesty, so I honestly answered the questionare and the probation officer's questions. I explained that I would be open to any non-12-step treatment, and why. I even called later to see what potential programs I could use with my insurance. She put in her recommendation to the judge that "he is opposed to outpatient treatment, and I think AA should work well for him." I admitted that had a history of using marijuana, and for the last 43 months and been using about twice a week, and smoked the equivalent of 1 small joint per day on those days.

"(He) admits to smoking marijuana twice a week, and using 1 marijuana cigarette per use."

Not at all what I remember saying at all. Lesson 1 — Lie to the government. She did report that I had been abstinent from alcohol for 3 months and used MJ twice in the same period.

My judge recommended that I get "intense substance abuse counseling" which would have been 3 time a week for 12 weeks, AA or NA for a year, Weekly random drug and alcohol testing, including holiday testing (before and after big holidays — even Super Bowl Sunday — I do not like football and have can't remember watching a SB.) A marijuana weekend intervention. Remember, there were no drugs involved in the arrest.

My attorney was sympathetic, and argued that I should not have to go to AA. I told him that I had tried it, but I felt that my behavior was my responsibility, and that a supernatural being would not like my desire to use. He asked if I got anything from the meetings, and I said that I met a lot of smart people that don't drink, and a lot of people that were in way worse condition than me, and they served as good examples of what I don't want. I pointed out that on at least two occasions, I had been offered money to drink to prove I was powerless — even though I stated abstinence as a goal. He rolled his eyes and said he would leave it up to the PO. He changed the treatment to 12 outpatient meetings. And lots of "education."

The final probation is: No alcohol for 1 year. Pre Treatment Education — three consecutive weekly "educational" 1 hour meetings. 1 MADD victims' impact session (I thought in America, you were responsible for what you did, not what you may have done.)

A minimum of 12 outpatient Substance Abuse sessions with monthly reports. I must get successful discharge. A weekend at a Nature Center to get educated about pot. I have to show up Friday night and stay to Sunday afternoon — the kicker, a family member or significant other must pick me up and spend an hour there. I expect a "family sickness" type speech.

All the random testing — I call at 12:30 pm, and have to report either that evening OR the next morning to pee and blow, and the next morning on weekends and holidays (boy would it ever be tough to get away with any drinking!!! )

I talked about AA to my PO. She said it was not religious, that the window could be my higher power. I asked if she ever had been to a meeting. She said no, but was familiar. I said it was religious, but did not want to argue the point. She suggested that I could use Rational Recovery. I was surprised she knew what it was — but then she said "I am pretty sure they have meeting around here," and got on the site. I said that I had read the book and I was using AVRT now.

"I don't know what AVRT is."

I explained it, and she said "Oh yeah — here it is. I don't see meetings though." I said "They don't have meetings, and if they did, you would go to a few, get the hang of AVRT, then not come back."

She said "Oh no, they must have meetings, and you get signatures." She decided that it was up to me to find meetings, and if there weren't any, I would have to go to AA meetings. I told her that I didn't think I could get a sponser and do the 12 steps, but I was dedicated to quitting. I asked if she wanted me to just get signatures, or do something that would work. She said she wanted me to actually do whatever program I was in, and needed to be able to monitor my "Progress." I plan on sending a copy of RR to her, and maybe I can use Smart, or possibly RR monitoring (I talked to Lois on the phone,) but I am pretty broke now.

Anyway, I am an optimist, and she seemed smart — she has an MBA. I would like it if I could get her to see the light, or at least that non-treatment works. Hopefully I don't have to "Fake it till I make it" (through the year.) I am distressed and depressed at the prospect of having to lie and deceive to get through this. I do have a lot of friends to which I can fake amends. The thing is, I already apologized to people that I have wronged.

john — a.k.a. "Stormy Waters", Michigan

Thanks for the update, John. Hang in there. You can make it.

And have a good day anyway.

== Orange

Date: Wed, December 7, 2005 4:33 am
From: "George B."
Subject: OrangePapers

Thanks for the resource! Couple of questions...

1...How do you recommend a person get over alcohol/drugs? Obviously "AA" leaves a LOT to be desired, but telling an addict to "get over it" seems similar to telling a clinically depressed person to "snap out of it", telling a heart attack patient to "walk it off", etc.

Hi George,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments.

You are right. I think about that long and hard. It seems like there just isn't any good easy answer. I like SMART, and recommend it, but it isn't a panacea either.

I also strongly recommend that people read about the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster, and learn how he will do everything he can to talk you into thinking that just a few hits of this or that will be okay.

I also wish there were detox facilities out in the forest, some kind of camp (NOT a boot camp) where people could just get away from the temptation and cool out for a month or two, or even a year, in a beautiful remote place. A radical change in environment can be a big help in breaking out of old habits.

In another letter, I answered that question with this list:

Things that can help include:

  • A change of environment and a change of routines, to get away from the places and conditions where a person habitually drank.
  • A spouse and a group of friends who are supportive.
  • A group of other people who are also in recovery — IF they aren't trying to push a dishonest cult religion on newcomers, and IF they aren't just repeating a lot of misinformation. Try SMART, SOS, WFS, MFS, LifeRing, and the LifeRing/Unhooked chat — http://www.unhooked.com/chat/Chat.html.
  • True, accurate, and honest information about alcoholism and recovery — not cult religion dogma, or the deluded ravings of a lunatic.
  • Good medical care. Fix what's broken. Heal what is hurt. Improve your diet and take lots of vitamins.
  • Reduce the sources of stress in your life. Also learn how to handle stress better, to deal with those annoyances that you cannot eliminate from your life.

2... Are you familiar with WFS (Women for Sobriety)? I really like their premise that many alc/addicts already feel they are beneath pond scum and need to be built up rather than torn down.

I hear good things about WFS from the women, but they don't invite me to their meetings, seeing as how I'm a bearded hairy old guy. The thing that stuck in my mind is that the women said that they were tired of being hit on by guys at meetings, so they set up their own group. But I found it interesting that they also chose the WFS format rather than a girls-only A.A. meeting.

3... Can your friend tell me, when and in what city this happened? I understood this to be an urban legend.

A friend who has been in and out of A.A. for 30 years described how he saw the true believers talk a mentally-ill man into quitting his medications, and then the poor guy committed suicide. After the funeral, my friend said to the A.A. sponsors:

"He was a mess, but before you got your hands on him, at least he could say his own name. When you were done with him, he couldn't even do that."

Alas, I can't easily track down the guy who told me that. But I believe him. He's an old Vietnam Vet who has been through what you might call the Mind Mill — every treatment program for PTSD and wacky vets and general obnoxiousness that there is, for the last 35 years. (It was 30 years, 5 years ago.) He had a bad habit of acting out and getting in trouble with authorities. So they sent him to one diversion program after another, rather than to put him in jail. His talk about A.A. in the old days was only a small part of his story. He also taught me about Transactional Analysis and explained how there was another program that swore by that.... And then there was the "super-tough" abusive program that almost nobody survived and graduated from. Malpsychia all over the place.

I am under the impression that the incident occurred in Northern California or Oregon, but can't be more specific unless I run into him again. I haven't seen him in years.

4...Have you read A Thinking Person's Guide to Sobriety by Bert Pluymen? Very helpful to me early on.

No, that one is new to me. But I'll put it on my list of things to read.

Your horrendous experience with AA people and groups is very sad, and I trust you found your way past those distractions. I am fortunate; our group does not exhibit those characteristics, and we have little patience with people such as you described. In that group, I learned (1) why abstinence is in my best interest, and (2) how to enjoy life abstinent by looking at and reacting to life in different ways. No religious cult, no guilt trips for not making meetings, plenty of cross-talk, open discussion of (gasp!) non-AA literature, openness to people with a variety of chemical and mental problems, no pressure to socialize outside of meetings/email, focus on positives rather than negatives ... you get the picture, just about the opposite of what you described.

Yes, I found my way past those distractions. SMART was the way around those groups. At the 3 or 4 month point, I learned that SMART existed, so I switched tracks and almost never went to an A.A. meeting again. And also there was just the fact that I had decided that I was going to get sober. It wasn't a question for me. I had quit a dozen years earlier and stayed sober for 3 years, so I knew that I could do it again. I got sober in spite of my counselor, not because of him.

You might add this AA "red flag": everyone talks about working a 4th step, but where are the sample 4th step inventories? I found 10+ "guides" but not a single sample. Sad, because the concept is good (look at what's bugging me, figure out why it's bugging me, and decide how to react to it differently). If you ever find a sample, subject it to this test....is "i'm alcoholic and can't drink anymore" listed as a resentment, and is "working the steps, let alone with a sponsor" listed as a fear? If they aren't included, then it isn't very honest or thorough. My observation is that for every person who talks about working the steps with a sponsor using the Big Book, there are 10-20 who just go to an occasional meeting to be reminded of how bad it was and how abstinence is ok.

Yes, I think you are right there. I hear from a lot of people who just use meetings as a social club, and don't bother doing the Steps.

There is one really lame example of an inventory on page 65 of the Big Book. It is basically a list of 4 people against whom the guy had resentments, not a "fearless and thorough" moral inventory.

Again, thanks for the great resource, and hope this finds you well.

George B.
Rochester, MN

Thanks George,

Yes, I am well. Have a merry Christmas.

== Orange

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** The A.A. Plan: "Search out another alcoholic and
** try again. You are sure to find someone desperate
** enough to accept with eagerness what you offer."
** (The Big Book, page 96.)

Date: Wed, December 7, 2005 6:47 am
From: "anthony k."
Subject: Research follow-up

Hi Orange

I've enjoyed reading the page on effectiveness of treatments.

Everyone will have an opinion on why various approaches have not worked or have not boosted recovery rates above the normal level of spontaneous remission.

If pushed, I'd say the biggest block to recovery in AA is the spurious religious content and lots of people would have their own (often different) opinions.

Sadly, most of these seem to be either very subjective or anecdotally-derived (including mine probably) and therefore suffer the same limitations as the 'evidence' for AA effectiveness.

Did the researchers you cited actually ask their subjects what they thought as to why treament failed and what they objected to most?

Where are their findings, because I don't see them?

Your letters page often cites individuals' objections to AA, but this seems an obvious and glaring omission from the research reports.

Can't someone analyse the findings of such interviews and develop a treatment that avoids repeating those mistakes?

Surely it would be the most valuable contribution to developing effective treatment anyone could make (and I'd promote it once its worth had been properly proved).

Anthony K.

Hi Anthony,

Those are some great questions. You ought to help design tests and randomized longitudinal controlled studies. It would be great to have a good study that asked those questions.

I agree that not asking those questions is a glaring omission.

Have a good day.

== Orange

Date: Wed, December 7, 2005 8:21 am
From: "John"
Subject: Your site.

Dear Sir Orange,

Thank you for your highly informative website and your amazing research. I have read it many times over and even downloaded some of it for my reference. I commend you for your strong determination to think for yourself.

Hi John,

Thanks for the letter, and all of the compliments.

I am a sober member of AA for over 21 years.

Congratulations! Now that really is a long time.

Although I regard myself as broadly christian in belief and outlook, I am disgusted at the pseudo-religious nonsense to be found in Bill Wilson's writings. Bill Wilson's steps/program are something that I had to "let go" some time ago. Had I followed Bill Wilson's so-called spiritual guidance I would have either drank again or gone insane or worse.

For me it is JUST ONE of the signs the AA is NOT a responsible organization that it allows the continued publication and sale of the insidious 12x12. Surely this has to rank as one of the darkest and most poisonous pieces of self-hating masochistic twaddle ever written. The Marquis de Sade could not have done a better job writing for one of his victims. It is a dreadful book.

Ah, you agree? Yes, that's just about what I called it in my bibliography. It just struck me as really dark, negative stuff.

The Big Book is not much better. Now they (the self-appointed AA gurus) are arguing within the fellowship about which edition of the Big Book should be followed — the "manuscript" edition or the first edition, or the second.....? In my view The whole lot should be tossed into the nearest trashcan. The Big Book is a dismal failure and the philosophy (if you can call it that) within it is incoherent gibberish. That is the real reason AA is failing — the Big Book just doesn't work. Arguing about which edition of failed nonsense is best is a waste of time. You, sir, are right and you have confirmed my own instincts about this silly little book.

Quite apart from the issue of getting sober, does the Big Book make you "more spiritual" ? In my long years in AA the most angry and sour people I have met are the "Big Book Old-timers". The behaviour of some of these people can be more akin to Charles Manson than someone who has supposedly been "restored to sanity". I can tell you many many horror stories that have come my way in the last 21 years.. too many to relate here. Sadly they are all true. I have often thought I should write these stories down for the record. The trouble is I would be talking about anonymous people and there is no way of really verifying what I am saying about them.

Yeh, but still, I'd like to see somebody write down more of those stories. Have you read AA Horror Stories by Rebecca Fransway? That is another collection of such stories. But I think it just scratches the surface. There's lots more. Even if something cannot be legally proven because people were anonymous, the story can still be told and documented.

I don't know what the future really holds for AA. The fellowship is shrinking and I can see that will continue. The solution that the blind faithful within AA give is ..guess what.. more of the same! More Big Book! More steps! Yes, more of Bill Wilson's depression-generated seance-inspired oxford-group-plagiarized bullshit will miraculously increase AA membership and get more folks sober! Halleluia! And these folk claim to have been restored to sanity?

You may wonder why I am still in AA. Actually I attend about 1 or 2 meetings per week and I even sponsor people! (Laugh if you like.) I guess you could say I sort of re-invent my own AA to suit me. For me AA is (or should be) a FELLOWSHIP for people who desire to stay sober and who share with each other their experiences of living sober — good, bad, beautiful or ugly. It should never pretend to be anything more than that. This social aspect of AA helped me a lot in my early days because I was a homeless street drinker at the end of my drinking career with not a friend in the world. The AA meetings I went to at that time helped to socialize me in a non-drinking environment. Incidentally those meetings were comparatively free of step loonies. I was lucky there, that is why they probably helped me and I am still around to tell the tale.

I'm not laughing. Somebody sane has to go and help the newcomers. I have now and then joked about the "Newcomer Rescue League", a mythical secret society of sane people who go to A.A. meetings to rescue the newcomers from the bad sponsors and the sexual predators. It really ought to exist.

People in my area meetings are well aware of what I think of Bill W and the program he spewed out. It has made me many enemies within the local faithful. I am shunned and rejected by the High Priests of Steppery. Not such a bad thing when I think of who is rejecting me!

Yeh, really.

Personally, I feel I serve a purpose in AA. People who feel that there is "something wrong with the program" get affiramtion and support from me. Also being known openly as a critic of the program actually attracts people to me. I don't tell people that they are going to drink if they don't have a sponsor or work the steps. I don't tell them to "stuff their feelings" or "let go and let God". My length of time in sobriety gives the lie to the Big Book fundamentalists that you have to do it "their way" or you will drink. My continued existance within the fellowship pisses them no end. I'm a thorn in their side. Reason enough to stay in itself!

Yep, its the "Newcomer Rescue League".

I believe that if you have the desire to stop drinking STRONGLY ENOUGH you will make it one way or another. You may need to seek medical/social support to support your determination (as I did) but you will make it if you really want to. That is how I see my role as a sponsor in AA — a support not a "self-appointed know-all".

Sounds good.

I have actually discovered that there are genuine nice loving folk in AA. Not the awful "Big Book Recovered" brigade, but the ordinary guy and gal who just wants to stay sober and be free to live their own lives. These are the people I have for friends in AA and they are real friends, not fair-weather program junkies who only smile at you if you are parrotting their demented program-speak.

Yes, they aren't all bad.

Well I've had a bit of a rant haven't I? (smile)

You must be aware that your website is important. Knowledge is power and you have given out a lot of knowledge. I hope many people view it and use its resouces. I have recommended your site to a number of AA members, including sponsees. I'm even thinking of getting little cards printed with the website address on it and handing them out, or leaving them at meetings. That would really get me in trouble wouldn't it! Hahahha! I hope you don't mind.

That's flattering. The truth is, I didn't think it all that important. But some people keep saying that it is.

One final thing — this matter of having a Higher Power that suits you. You know "your own conception of God"?

Well lets see now.... I fancy having Winnie-the-Pooh as a Higher Power! Yes! Picture this...... I get out of bed in the morning and kneel before my Winnie-the-Pooh teddy bear sitting smugly on a pedastal in the corner of my bedroom... what prayer shall I say to him? What about this one...

"Oh Great All-Powerful Winnie-the-Pooh,
There's no Higher Power quite like you.
Upon my knees I humbly pray
that you keep me sober just for today.
And now the whole wide world can see,
that I've been restored to sanity!"

Have a nice day Mr Orange.

love John.

Thanks John,

You have a good day too, and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

Date: Wed, December 7, 2005 9:13 am
From: UnorthodoxFate
Subject: wow

thank you for the great laugh by calling aa a cult. and misleading whoever views this as to what aa is about.

what a complete douchebag you must be

Hi Unortho,

Have you actually bothered to read The Cult Test? You might not find it so funny, the ways in which 12-Steppism resembles other cults.

Oh well, have a good day anyway, and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

Date: Wed, December 7, 2005 9:09 pm
From: "Tom P."
Subject: AA


I just looked at your site. Interesting stuff. I'm a huge believer in the program of AA. The Big Book is the program of AA. I disagree with some of the things that you have to say, but, unfortunately, I agree with some stuff, too.

You're right. Our success rate sucks. With the advent of "Open Depression" meetings, came a lot of problems. Many people have been taught (and oldtimers have permitted) that an AA meeting is a great place to talk about your problems, your issues, your day, your opinion, etc?. They are wrong! It is a place to find new people to work with. A place to teach people how to work our program.

We have MANY non-alcoholics in our program. People who don't have to work the steps to stay sober. They can get away with 90 in 90, putting the plug in the jug, and not drinking, no matter what. Non-alcoholics DON'T have to work the steps. They can decide not to drink. These well-intentioned people end up sponsoring real alcoholics, and, as you can imagine, it doesn't work very well. The Big Book is very clear when it tells us to qualify the new people. Find out if they are REAL alcoholics. If they are not, send them away. They don't need us and we don't need them.

If you're life is better because you are sober, then I'm glad you're sober. If you are able to stay sober on your own power, I would submit that you may have been a heavy drinker, as opposed to a real alcoholic. I've heard an estimate that only half of heavy drinkers are alcoholics. You and I both know that it's impossible to come up with a statistically significant number, but it's something to hang your hat on.

I wish you all the best in your pursuit of continued happiness,

Tom P.

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the letter, and thanks for the good wishes. You be well too.

I find it funny to be told that I'm not a real alcoholic. My doctor sure thinks I am one. He pegged me as an alcoholic just by looking at the skin on my arm, and seeing "spiders", which are fractal-like patterns of discolorations of the skin that are caused by zillions of broken capillaries. The doctor told me to quit drinking or I would die.

A nurse in a liver clinic looked at the palms of my hands, and noticed that there is an uneven speckled red-and-white coloration there. She said that was characteristic of alcoholism too.

Everybody who knows me agrees that I'm an alcoholic, including ex-wife and kids.

I am also the kind of alcoholic who simply cannot drink even one single drink. I only relapsed once in my life, but it was a doozy. After 3 years of sobriety, I just had one beer at a friend's birthday party, and then a couple more... and then a six-pack the next day, and the next.... It was 9 years before I could get it together to quit again.

And then A.A. tells me that I'm not a real alcoholic because I have successfully quit drinking without doing the Twelve Steps or believing in Bill Wilson's scribbling.

A.A. is just using a word game there, "a real alcoholic", just trying to ignore and discount all of the alcoholics who don't fit their stereotype of "the alcoholic".

It's called The Real Scotsman Fallacy.

I am living proof of the fact that the A.A. dogma is wrong, but the true believers just don't want to hear it.

Alas, I am a real alcoholic, and fortunately, real alcoholics can quit without Alcoholics Anonymous or doing the 12 Steps. In fact, the Harvard Medical School says that 4 out of 5 alcoholics who successfully quit for a year or more do it alone, on their own.

Have a good day, and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

Date: Thu, December 8, 2005 5:32 pm
From: "Trish R."
Subject: South Park AA episode

Hi AO,

I hope you saw South Park last night. If not, the episode will be aired again on Saturday [if Comedy Central's usual airing pattern holds]. If you don't have cable, see it at a friend's house!

The plot is this: Stan's dad, Randy, has some beers and gets pulled over. He's sentenced to AA, where he learns he has a disease and has no control over it. The very next day, he shaves his head, repairs to a wheelchair and commences to drinking non-stop, spouting how "only a miracle" can save him. Seeing a TV news report about a bleeding Mary statue, Randy makes a pilgrimage, quits drinking and leaves the wheelchair behind. When the Pope declares the statue's bleeding is not a miracle [I won't reveal why — it's the best joke of the episode] , Randy and his AA cohorts go on a massive bender. Stan's speech at the end is brilliant, too.

Love your website!

Hi Trish,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments, and the tip.

I missed that episode, but I learned that I can download it from their web site:


It downloads with BitTorrent, which is quite a tool. I already got the RM file, and now I'm fighting with a balky server to get the AVI file. I'll see it soon.

Thanks again for the tip. This should be fun.

Have a good day, and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

PS: Hah! Got it. It turns out that the 38 MB "RM" file alone is the whole show. I just watched it. Yes, that is priceless. That's a keeper. That's the most explicit, biting satire of A.A. that I've ever seen.

*                  Agent Orange               *
*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** "You go to war with the jokes you have, not the jokes
** you might want or wish to have at a later time."
**  == Our Secretary of Offense, Ronald McDumsfeld

For the information of those who want to download that episode:

  1. Download and install BitTorrent if you don't already have it.
    See: www.bittorrent.com/

    This is a must for the high-resolution version of the show. The distribution of that show is through a cluster of peer computers all running copies of BitTorrent and redistributing what they have already downloaded from somebody else. It's a beautiful system that puts little load on the mothership. You download stuff for yourself, and then you turn around and share it with somebody else. It can be stopped and resumed, and it isn't even hurt by a computer crash interrupting the download.
    BitTorrent works on both Linux and Micro$uck Windoze. (The following instructions come from having downloaded to a Linux system.)

  2. You have the choice of a small file, a 38 MB RealMedia low-resolution version, or a big 163 MB high-res AVI version. Both the sound and the picture are noticeably clearer in the bigger file.

  3. When you choose to download one of those things from the host web site, www.southparkx.net, what you actually get is a very small funny file whose name ends with the suffix ".torrent". That file is merely a set of instructions telling BitTorrent where to go get the real stuff, and what computer is the coordinator. There has to be one computer that acts as a director to connect those who want to serve with those who want to get.

  4. The torrent files look like this:
    914_www.southparkx.net.torrent == for the smaller Real Media file
    914avi_www.southparkx.net.torrent == for the big AVI file

  5. If you have the file associations in your browser set right, you can just use your browser (Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox, or any good browser) to look into the subdirectory (folder) where the .torrent file is located. Clicking on a '.torrent' file starts BitTorrent. BitTorrent will ask you where to save the downloaded files. Tell it where you want the stuff saved. If the download gets interrupted, just restart it the same way, by clicking on the .torrent file again and tell BitTorrent the same location again. It will see what has already been downloaded and check it for integrity, and then go get the rest. Not even repeated interruptions and disconnections stop BitTorrent from working flawlessly. It's really most excellent.

  6. If you go for the low-res RM version, it's simple: Just download it and play it with a RealMedia player (free download).

  7. If you go for the hi-res version, it's a little more complicated. When you start downloading it, you will find that a strange-looking subdirectory has been created, (name: "South.Park.S09E14.DSRip.XviD.aAF") and a bunch of files will be created in it that end with ".r00", ".r01", and so on, like "aaf-south.park.s09e14.r00". Those are 15-MB fragments of the big file, 10 of them. It turns out that the movie file has been compressed with "rar" and then split up into 10 smaller files.

  8. When the full download is finally done (it took me several days, running day and night in the background), you can create the movie with the command
    "rar aaf-south.park.s09e14.rar"
    (Windows users note: for you, it will probably be accomplished by clicking on the .rar file and having some WinZip kind of program (WinRAR?) reassemble the movie.)

    'rar' is smart enough to figure out that the rest of the files have to be included. The output is "aaf-south.park.s09e14.avi". That's what you watch with a viewer than can play "AVI" files.

  9. The best part of the BitTorrent download system is that once you get it all, you can become a server, and give back to others what you so freely got. If you want to be a server, then do not delete those funny "rar, r00, r01..." files after you produce the playable movie. Those .rar files will be what gets served to the next person who wants to see the show. The process with the smaller '.rm' file is much simpler: you both play the file and send copies of it to others.

I used Linux BitTorrent to download the stuff. There may be small differences in the Windoze procedure, like that it might want to download to "the desktop". Whatever... I think this will give you the idea.

Have fun, and enjoy the show.

Date: Fri, December 9, 2005 5:14 pm
From: "skott e."
Subject: 12 steps

This is not an angry letter, just one expressing my opinion along with many others. I feel pretty comfortable speaking for other people on this one.

First off, I am a recovering drug addict. To me this means i couldnt control my use. Near the end of my use, I i would often try to completely stop. This never seemed to work. There are countless stories of this. Im not into the whole "disease" hooblah, but all I know is that no matter how hard i tried, I could NOT stop. I hated the drugs, and everytime I used, things just got worse.

I don't know if you know what this is like, but knowing something has this much power over me is very devastating. I would have done anything to to able to completely stop or even better moderate my use.

Trust me, many of us do NOT like going to AA or NA meetings. For myself, it is humiliating, boring, and time consuming. Along with that, I absolutely HATE the twelve step. They are long and tedious.

So, who wants to go to an hour long meeting where people talk about "how great" their lives are? It gets pretty damn repetitive.

But, I want it myself, and there is a twinkle in their eyes that i would do anything for.

I dont know if there are other ways to get this, and if there is more power to you. I know if an outsider was to look at the steps and go in the meetings, they would have a hard time taking it seriosly. But my theory for this is that they are scared. They don't have the balls to look inside of themselves, and they especially don't have the balls to change their lives. If they aren't in recovery, then they couldn't understand how bad something could be to want to change it. Maybe these AA cynics just have not been through enough hardships in their lives to want to change it.

In conclusion, I am willing to to anything to change; and for me this is through the twelve steps. If there is any easier way, I sure as hell want to know about it.

Skott E.

PS- On a lighter note, I respect how you have actually looked into and researched this subject, and how you are not running off of just what you've heard. People will often go on a rant about something just for the sake of bitching.

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the letter.

You would probably be surprised to find how much we agree.

The key question is, "I dont know if there are other ways to get this..." The answer is, "Yes, there is."

If you want sobriety, the most successful program is "Do It Yourself."

If you want spirituality, there are numerous schools, philosophies, and disciplines that can help you.

Dr. Frank Buchman and Bill Wilson had no monopoly on spirituality. (In fact, they didn't have any at all.)

One of the big problems with the 12 Steps is that they do not work properly, and they kill more people than they save.

It is true that some people are scared and do not wish to look within themselves, but those people have nothing to do with whether the Steps work properly or are harmful to most people.

About your statement, "all I know is that no matter how hard i tried, I could NOT stop."
Yeh, I had the same problem. I couldn't stop, not even to save my own life, until I suddenly did. That's how it works. You merely wish to quit, you sort of want to quit, until you really want it enough to really do it.

That progression has everything to do with getting sick and tired of being sick and tired, and nothing to do with the 12 Steps.

That progression also has everything to do with learning to dispute and over-ride the addictive voice (the lizard brain addiction monster) as it yammers at you and tells you that you should kill your pain with something now. That is a learning process that also has nothing to do with the 12 Steps.

Have a good day and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

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

Date: Fri, December 9, 2005 11:46 pm
From: "Jan B."
Subject: Thanks

I was perplexed over AA's obsession with surrender. I now realize that the surrender is to AA. A note of interest.... the word surrender does not appear in the first 164 pages of the Big Book, (I am not sure about the stories) nor does it appear in as Bill Sees It or in the 12 and 12. Bill does everything but use the word.


Hi Jan,

Thanks for the letter.

You are right on the money about the surrender being to the cult. They do a bait and switch trick there. In Step Three, it says that you are supposed to surrender to God — "turn your will and your life over to the care of God, as we understood Him". But then it becomes "God, as THEY understand Him." And then it becomes "God, as your sponsor understands Him."

Bill Wilson wrote that you couldn't trust your own mind while doing Step 11 and hearing God giving you instructions. You had to ask your sponsor or the other group elders to tell you what God really meant. At that point, your surrender to the cult is complete. They get to speak to you as God.

That's an interesting observation that Bill never wrote the word "surrender" in official A.A. literature. I hadn't realized that myself. Perhaps Bill was trying to avoid using too much Oxford Group terminology. (Bill often changed O.G. words to disguise the roots of A.A. — 'confession' became 'sharing', 'sins' became 'defects of character', and 'religious' became 'spiritual'.) But Bill used lots of euphemisms and expressions that meant the same thing as surrender:

  • "abandon yourself to God"
  • "abandon ourselves utterly to Him"
  • "submit to anything to get well"
  • "completely give themselves to this simple program..."
  • "...the result was nil until we let go absolutely."

I did find one example of "surrender" in the stories, and there, the authoress explicitly declared that the surrender was to A.A., not to God:

It was at that point that I reached surrender. I heard one very ill woman say that she didn't believe in the surrender part of the A.A. program. My heavens! Surrender to me has meant the ability to run my home, to face my responsibilities as they should be faced, to take life as it comes to me day by day and work my problems out. That's what surrender has meant to me. I surrendered once to the bottle, and I couldn't do these things. Since I gave my will over to A.A., whatever A.A. has wanted of me I've tried to do to the best of my ability.
The Big Book, the story "The Housewife Who Drank At Home", 3rd Edition page 340, and 4th Edition page 300.

She actually bragged that she gave her will over to A.A....

And others sure used the word "surrender" a lot. That first surrender to the cult link leads to a zillion quotes where the early A.A. members (who were also Oxford Group members) used the word plenty.

Have a good day and a Merry Christmas.

== Orange

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Last updated 22 January 2014.
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