Letters, We Get Mail, VI

From Tom B. Tue Dec 31 2002

Dear Orange:

An amazing collection of half truths, outright lies, and sophistry! I don't know whether to be outraged or filled with awe. Frankly, I love it. As a atheist, regular attendee of meetings who just (tonight) celebrated 21 years of sobriety, I have voiced many of your valid criticisms of AA at meetings, and after meetings. I have told jokes at the expense of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, and did not start a war. Mine were funny, however. Your jokes didn't offend me at all. I just found them unfunny. BIll's chicanery, LSD experimentation and womanizing is well-known in AA, and, like the priest sex abuse scandal, points to a failing of one man, not the institution as a whole. Your screed on how we only emphasize the misery of drinking is way off base. In my story, a favorite line I use is that the two greatest days of my life were the day I started drinking, and the day I stopped. You are on rather good ground when you criticize the mandated attendance at AA by the courts etc. An outrage. Also, the recovery industry, manned by all those "counselors" is ruining our original message. But, then you essentially destroy your own message by drifting off into the "big lie" mentality, namely that AA is some vast conspiracy. Who exactly is getting rich off AA? Aside from Bill W. who did make a nice deal for himself, who is the current Reverend Moon of AA? There's also a serious contradiction in your cult argument. If, as you correctly state, 95% of members don't stick around for very long, we must be a failed cult. AA's talk a lot about following direction, listening to their sponsors, doing the steps, etc. ... but my experience is that that sort of obedience to authority lasts only a short while. The truth is that most people have sponsors in name only, and are doing the steps in a very lukewarm and watered down style. I see most people using AA as a fellowship, where they stay sober through the collective power of the group. To my mind, it's really a social club. As an atheist, the God focus annoys me at times. But, usually, it uplifts me. I sort of take it as a metaphor for man's highest aspirations.

I agree that it is a bad habit of many AA's to imply that we have the only answer, and that all people who leave AA are either drunk, or dry drunk. I abstained from meetings for about 5 years, and I felt fine for most of that time. I started suffering from depression after a few years, though, and, since I didnt want to take medication, I decided to begin attending meetings again. My depression is gone, so, if it's all right with you, I'll continue going to AA. I always share this experience at meetings, of course, but I don't claim that my experience is anyone else's. You seem to be doing ok without AA, and that's fine with me.

I'm sure, however, that you must realize that much of what you write is an utter distortion or an outright lie. I wonder if you're really serious about all this, or if you aren't some AA member having a good laugh stirring the pot! Well, thanks for several hours of interesting reading.

Tom B.

Hello Tom,

Congratulations on your years of sobriety.

To start at the top, you seem to be engaging in a bit of sophistry yourself. You start off with an ad hominem attack, accusing me of printing "half truths, outright lies, and sophistry!" Then you admit that all of my major points are true, like the dishonesty of Bill Wilson, the A.A. claims of being the One True Way, and the impropriety of coercive recruiting, and then you seize on one tiny, trivial point — the denial of the joy of drinking, and the admonition not to cause ecstatic recall in others in meetings — and act as if your disagreement on that one tiny detail proves me wrong about everything else. That is the strategy of nit-picking, and it also smacks of diverting attention and The Semi-Attached Figure.

If you would read the very first file of letters, you would find that somebody else wrote to me disagreeing on that point more than a year ago, and I printed his letter to let him have his say on the matter. See Rik's letter, about 1/3 of the way down the file. It really is a trivial point. If you go to a meeting that allows such talk, then fine. I've been to meetings where the admonition not to cause ecstatic recall in others was very strong. So your mileage may vary. But to dwell on that one small detail while minimizing all of the big points is just another propaganda and debating technique (sophistry).

For someone as logical as an atheist, I'm surprised that you can't figure out that there may be no cause-and-effect connection between the disappearance of your depression and your attending A.A. meetings. Depression usually disappears spontaneously, just like how it appeared spontaneously.

If you don't like my jokes, oh well, lots of other people do. I, in turn, do not find all of the "Us Stupid Drunks" jokes in The Grapevine funny either.

As far as your accusation of my lying, all I can say is that I go out of my way to make sure that everything I print is true and accurate. If you really think I am lying, please show me precisely what I have said that is untrue. Give me the page name and the line that is untrue, and then explain what the real truth is, preferably backing up your statements with a quote from an acceptable authority on the subject.

Then, the big stuff:

You engage in another debating technique, denial and minimization, in dismissing the faults of Alcoholics Anonymous. You keep going down the list of faults, saying, "That isn't A.A.. My group doesn't do that." By your process of elimination, it would seem that nothing is A.A.. But the reverse logic is far more likely to be true: Whatever you are in, it isn't A.A.. You say that you don't believe in God. I must also assume then, that you also do not believe in faith healing or voodoo medicine. So you don't believe in the Twelve Steps, which use God for faith healing. You don't believe in Bill Wilson. You don't believe in the Big Book, especially not Chapter Four, "We Agnostics". The most logical conclusion is that you don't belong to A.A. at all — you belong to a pleasant social club of your own creation that coincidentally uses the initials "A.A.".

The fact that you see A.A. as a fellowship or a social club doesn't change the fact that other people see it as a jail sentence in a repugnant cult religion.

Now I know about Bill Wilson's sweeping statement in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, which says that anything can be A.A.:

"Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provided that they have no other affiliation."
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 146, 147.

That is just a restatement of the line from the Christian Bible:
"Whenever two or more are gathered together in My name, there I am."

Nevertheless, your group seems to be atypical. If you want to see some more typical A.A. beliefs, check out the 14 letters that came in the last couple of weeks from Pamela D., who really does believe in God and Bill Wilson.

You comment that the sponsorship relationship diminishes with time. Yes, I'm sure it does, if you survive the first few years. The beginners, the ones who are the most vulnerable, are the ones who really have the sponsors running their lives, "for their own good." And that is where the disasters seem to be occurring.

You commented that "A.A. must be a failed cult" because it looses 95% of its prospects right away. You somehow imagine that that is a big failing in my logic. Not at all. Such a low recruiting and retention rate is normal. And the truth is worse than that. Actually, if they had that high of a retention rate (5%), they would be fantastically successful recruiters. In the Bibliography, I cited a book about the Moonies in England, The Making Of A Moonie: Brainwashing Or Choice? by Eileen Barker, that showed the Moonies to have a recruiting success rate of only about 0.005% (page 147). And yet, the Moonies are still a cult. Most cults have very low recruiting rates. (Otherwise, they would pass for "mainstream churches", like the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses.) The abysmal recruiting and retention rate of A.A. is one of the reasons why they like to use the legal system, police, judges, and parole officers, to force more people into "the rooms".

In addition, I just ran across another item of interest: The web site for The Saint Jude Retreat House reports that an ABC News 20/20 special program quoted an A.A. spokesperson as saying that 95% of the newcomers do not even return for a second meeting. That makes the numbers far worse than I am reporting, because I am using the numbers supplied by the A.A. G.S.O.. I said that 95% of the newcomers are gone within a year, but ABC News quotes A.A. as saying that, essentially, 95% are gone in a day.

You think that the larger A.A. empire isn't a conspiracy?
Of course it's a conspiracy. A lot of people are working hard to keep the scam going.
You think that nobody is getting rich off of it?
Think again. You are looking in the wrong place. A.A., like so many cults, is two-faced. You are only looking at the public smiley-face image, the nice little neighborhood meeting where they pass the wicker basket to take up a collection to pay the rent. You are totally ignoring the other face — institutional A.A.. And before you even try to deny it, institutional A.A. most assuredly IS part of A.A. — it's just another arm of the octopus. The larger organization is very loosely organized, with plenty of front groups like ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine), NCADD (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), and NAADAC (the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors). In addition, the various institutions and treatment facilities that make up the greater organization are legally separate and independent, but they all have the same goal: to grow the 12-step empire and bring new members into the 12-step religion.

One thing that you are confused about is the money trail. First off, there are cults that do not have money as their primary focus. David Koresh and his Branch Davidians, and Marshall Herff Applewhite and the Heaven's Gate cult come to mind. Both of those groups just made enough money to get by. They weren't raking in lots of money, but they were still crazy cults.

But institutional A.A. most assuredly is money-grubbing. Unlike most cults, the money is not sent up to the top of the pyramid. Oh, they get their share at the New York headquarters, all right. A financial report released a few years ago said that the G.S.O. has $10 million stashed as a "prudent reserve", but that isn't where the big money is. The big money stays a tier down in the pyramid, in the institutions that push A.A. — places like Hazelden and the Betty Ford Clinic — places that charge prices like $15,000 for a 28-day session of indoctrination in 12-step cult religion and faith healing. Selling "12-Step treatment" of drug and alcohol problems is a multi-billion-dollar game. Institutional A.A. gets a fortune from selling faith healing and voodoo medicine.

To keep on getting the big bucks, institutional A.A. runs a non-stop propaganda mill to promote "12-step treatment", and constantly demands legislation to force the health insurance companies to pay for even more such "fair treatment" of alcoholics and addicts.

In just the last week, I found two more pieces of really obnoxious A.A. propaganda in the professional journals.

The first one actually advocated that all doctors should just stop thinking rationally and scientifically, and "come home" to A.A.:
Doctors in A.A.; the profession's skepticism persists, but MDs in Alcoholics Anonymous say the 12-step program could benefit all physicians, by C. Thomas Anderson, in American Medical News, Jan 12, 1990 v33 n2 p33(2).
I just quoted it at length in the Cult Test, under the item Irrationality. Check it out. It's a real eye-opener. And it is all too typical of what is getting published in defense of A.A.-based treatment programs. (Also see "Spirituality: The Key to Recovery" and "The Spiritual Dimension of Healing" for more of the garbage that is typical of the A.A.-booster school of literature.)

The second one was "Are we making the most of Alcoholics Anonymous? (The Last Word)", by Peter Armstrong, in The Journal of Addiction and Mental Health, Jan-Feb 2002 v5 i1 p16(1).

Peter Armstrong is "President and Chair of the Board of Renascent, a Toronto-based resource center for the prevention, education and treatment of addiction to alcohol and other drugs."

He engaged in a good bit of sophistry himself, falsely claiming lots of success for A.A. "treatment" programs, and then he actually bragged about all of the money that he was taking in, as if it proved that he was doing a good thing. I was just preparing the following text for another page, but might as well let you see it:
The web page is now located here

Have a good day, Tom, and have a happy new year.

— Orange

[second letter from Tom B., 4 January 2003:]

Dear "Orange:"

I wrote to you several times before, and although I expressed my strong disagreement with your overall message, I granted you did have a valid point. After thinking about you, your web site, AA, alcoholism etc. for several days, I felt compelled to write again, to tell you that I think you're acting in a disgusting and scurrilous fashion, and that your message is filled with lies, distortions, half truths, faulty logic etc. Not only that, but I think your message is dangerous, both to yourself and to others.

If you simply stuck to criticizing AA for it's faults, which are many, I would have no problem with that. As I mentioned to you in an earlier missive, I also criticize AA from within. Yes, AA's can be judgemental, some are truly crazy, Bill W. had many faults, sponsorship can be abused, AA's anti-intellectualism is galling, the list can go on and on. And, most importantly, this issue of court mandated AA is absolutely terrible. I agree with you 100%. But, you have launched a smear campaign against AA, using every possible argument you can scrape up, every innuendo you can imagine to paint of picture of the utter horror of AA.

In your cult list, AA scores a "perfect 10" on every single item. How absurd. I doubt the Nazi party would score a perfect 10 on everything, but AA manages to achieve it. I would have at leasta bit of respect for you if you had at least admitted that AA scored a 5 or a 4 on some items, but no, AA scores a perfect 10 on EVERY item, thus placing itself right alongside cults that have committed atrocious acts of violence.

Okay, I see what your problem is. You aren't actually reading my web pages, are you? You just give them a quick glance and then get mad and start complaining.

If you had actually read the Cult Test answers to the end, you would have seen stuff like:

43. The use of heavy-duty mind control and rapid-conversion techniques.
The street version of A.A. scores a 0.
They just don't do this in regular meetings.

44. Threats ... to someone who leaves the cult.
The street version of A.A. scores a 0.
People leave every day, almost everybody leaves, which creates A.A.'s abysmally low retention rate, and no one threatens them. A.A.'s own literature says that the specter of John Barleycorn threatening sickness, insanity, and death does far more to enforce the A.A. rules than anything A.A. could ever do.

46. Appropriation of all of the members' worldly wealth.
A.A. scores 0 again.
A.A. passes the hat at each meeting, and that's all.

47. Making cult members work long hours for free.
A.A. scores a 2.
[For the required recruiting work and endless meetings.]

48. Total immersion and total isolation.
The street version of A.A. scores only a 3,
for "90 meetings in 90 days", or one meeting per day indefinitely, and having a sponsor keep the newcomer busy with indoctrinating projects.

49. Mass suicide.
A.A. scores 0.
The odds of A.A. committing mass suicide are less than the odds of the Roman Catholic Pope suddenly converting to Islam and marrying a harem of beautiful young women.

[Watch out for the new, improved Cult Test with 100 items, coming soon. Those items' numbers will shift to the range of 94 to 100.]

And then you would have read:

And how does A.A. add up? Like this:
  • The first 42 items are applicable to just about any old ordinary, average nasty cult. There, A.A. scores 397 out of a possible 420. That's 94 percent. Most teachers will give you a plain old, full-blown, unqualified, gold-star "A" for a score of 94.

  • The last seven items are applicable only to the really crazy, nothing-but-enslaved-zombies type of cult. Nevertheless, including those items, the street version of A.A. still scores 412 out of a possible 490, yielding a 84 percent score. That's a solid "B".

  • But institutional A.A. scores 436 out of 490 there, yielding an 89 percent score. Any teacher will give you a solid "B plus", or maybe even a forgiving "A minus" for an 89.

The way I learned arithmetic in grade school, 10 out of 10 does not add up to 94%, 84%, or 89%.

Please at least read what I have written before you accuse me of lying.

Here's a tiny sample of your lies, these having to do with AA's money-grubbing. EVery AA must buy the Big Book, (wrong, many do not, and where can you get a hard cover book today for less than 10 dollars?), AA takes a cut of every basket (wrong, donations from groups are voluntary).

If groups' contributions to the headquarters are voluntary, then I stand corrected. Will even groups that do not make contributions still get listed in all of the directories? Is it not necessary to get official permission to use the circle-and-triangle AA symbol? Is such permission granted to groups who do not make contributions? I hear that groups that do not please the higher-ups get delisted and get no referrals from the city or state central office, so they tend to die out for lack of newcomers. Is that true?

And yes, I suppose it is possible to
without actually buying the book. Maybe read over your friend's shoulder, or steal the book.

However, you are nit-picking, and apparently, trying to divert attention from the real issues. You are ignoring the big, important problems like coercive recruiting, deceptive recruiting, cult-speak, group-think, irrationality, "No Exit", and "You Are Always Wrong", and just quibbling over whether a beginner has to pay $6 for a book. Why don't you address the important issues that really make A.A. a cult?

Since our letters crossed in the mail, you haven't seen my rap about the money-grubbing behavior of institutional A.A.. As I said there, that's where the real money is, not in passing a basket or selling books.

Here's an example of your double talk. Bill W. was on a dry drunk, (wrong, you yourself claim that there's no such thing as one). Oh wait, let's get this straight, if someone says you, Orange are on a dry drunk, that is absurd, but if you, Orange, say Bill W. was on a dry drunk, that's ok.

Again, you are not reading what I have written. What I actually wrote was:

Curiously, even Bill Wilson himself was declared to be a "dry drunk".

Was declared to be a dry drunk by whom? By the other early A.A. members, that's who. I never said that Bill Wilson was a dry drunk, they did. Then I proceeded to quote them and their accusations, to show what the phrase "dry drunk" meant to them. Please read what is actually on the pages, not what is in your imagination.

Come on, man, play it straight. You can't have it both ways. Is AA an evil cult, or is it a failed institution. It can't, at the same time, be utterly worthless, valueless etc, less than 5% effective, and also be a mind-controlling cult.

That is bad logic, a real non sequitur. A cult can most assuredly be both a mind-controlling cult and a failed institution, and a failed cure as well. Look at Scientology. Do you really believe that it is effective psychotherapy for whatever mental problems you have? Do you believe that people with mental problems should go to a Scientologist instead of a psychiatrist? Do you disagree with my statement that Scientology is an evil mind-controlling cult and not a good institution?

Obviously, Scientology is an evil cult, and a failed therapy program, and a bad institution as well. And calling it "utterly worthless and valueless, with a zero-percent success rate" sounds just about right. Scientology doesn't cure people of their mental problems, and it doesn't give them mind powers, it doesn't make them "clear", and it doesn't give them immortality. And Scientology also suffers from a high dropout rate, too. But it is still most assuredly a cult.
I am not "trying to have it both ways" with Scientology, am I?

You accuse AA of lying, and yet, you, yourself are the master of lies and deception. And, you glorify yourself as the Cassandra of AA, telling it like it is, warning the poor initiates of the horrors that await them. Then, when someone finally asks you what the answer to the problem of alcoholism is, you say, "just stop drinking." Wow!! Let me guess, your identity is ... Nancy Reagan? If we could "just stop" we would have done that long ago.

Lots of people — most of the successful quitters, in fact — do just stop. Remember that the Harvard Medical School said that 50% of all alcoholics eventually just quit, and 80% of those successful quitters do it alone. Obviously, people who successfully quit and stay quit while going to A.A. meetings are only a small minority of the real sober people. Doing it alone is "the proven, time-tested way" that most successful people use.

Your claims that "we are powerless over alcohol" is just more of the standard cult dogma, something designed to make people dependent on the cult and keep them in the cult.

By the way, you keep on accusing me of being a liar and a master of deception, but I am quoting people like the Harvard Medical School, and lots of other doctors, and even Professor Dr. George E. Vaillant, the member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., while you just give us your opinions, which you claim are true because you have 21 years in A.A..

Lastly, you simply ignore the stories of the people who really have been hurt in "the rooms". You offer no evidence to the contrary; you just ignore what you don't want to hear. You are in denial.

And then you give us this nonsense about using some sub-linguistic mumbo jumbo to quiet the Lizard within. You have really got to be kidding. Isn't that the nonsense that is spewed by Tony Robbins, and his ilk? The fact is that the lure of alcohol is simply too great for most, (not all) of us to resist without serious, continuous, help. In addition, the mental illness that is alcoholism doesn't go away when we stop drinking. The problem is in us, not in the bottle. Therefore, we need to do something to keep from sliding back into that bottle. Whether the answer is God, a fellowship, status within a group, or creating an absolutely massive, ego driven, insane website devoted to smearing AA, we all need something to keep ourselves from falling into that abyss again.

"sub-linguistic mumbo jumbo"? Where did you get that? I never used any phrase like that. "Sub-linguistic"? I'm not even sure what that is supposed to mean. My dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, lists the word "sublingual" as meaning "under the tongue", but doesn't list "sublinguistic".

And again, you are just repeating the standard cult dogma about powerlessness:
"The fact is that the lure of alcohol is simply too great for most, (not all) of us to resist without serious, continuous, help."

That is the standard cult characteristic "Phobia Induction",
"You can't make it without the cult",
"Terrible things will happen to you if you leave the cult",
"You can't survive without the cult",
and you are proving that A.A. really deserves a score of 10 on that item.

It is also the item "Create a sense of powerlessness, covert fear, guilt, and dependency" in the victims.
—And I didn't make that phrase up to knock Alcoholics Anonymous, either. That exact wording comes from Prof. Margaret Thaler Singer of the University of California at Berkeley, in her book on cults. She says that's an essential requirement for any effective brainwashing or thought-control program.

Lastly, A.A. has repeatedly been shown to be an ineffective therapy program — even AAWS Trustee George E. Vaillant came up with a success rate of zero, remember? — so your claim that the patients require continuous support obviously rules out A.A. as a good solution to the problem. If the patients are really in such dire straights, then we had better give them some program that actually works, just for a change.

I suspect that you are starting to see that your Lizard is a lot more powerful than you first expected.

Don't you wish...
No, I have known for a long time how tough he is. I smoked for 33 years, and quitting that was a lot harder than quitting alcohol. And quitting alcohol wasn't easy, either. And I finally quit both at the same time, because I decided that I'd really rather not die that way. So I got to listen to the little monster screaming a lot.

I am not going to say that "you will drink again." I can't predict the future, and I think that kind of fake prescience is one of your valid criticisms of AA.

Thank you. I really dislike it when A.A. members put little hexes on me like that.

Some A.A. enthusiasts really do wish I would just get drunk and disappear, like how Bill Wilson did to a guy who disagreed with him about religious beliefs:

The group was in anguish so deep that all fraternal charity had vanished. "When, oh when," groaned members to one another, "will that guy get drunk?"
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 143 to 145.

But, if you're anything like me, you are going to discover that your alcoholism can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. Here are a few: Drinking, depression, anger, resentments, egomania, sex addiction, overeating, ... the list can go on and on. I think you might get honest with yourself, (and the readers of your website) and take a more serious look at this disease of alcoholism.

You really are not reading what I have written, are you? What does it say at the bottom of the "Dry Drunk" web page? Well, it says this:

There is one more aspect to the dry drunk issue: the very real problem of mentally adapting to a sober lifestyle. People can go through a lot of emotional turmoil for years after quitting drinking. As Alan Bisbort reported:

When a recovering alcoholic begins to engage in what AA calls "stinking thinking," he or she begins to exhibit the old attitudes and pathologies of their drinking years. These include an increase in anxiety, mild tremors, mild depression, disturbed sleep patterns, inability to think clearly, craving for junk food, irritability, sudden bursts of anger and unpredictable mood swings. According to AA literature, "Boredom and listlessness may alternate with intense feelings of resentment against family and friends, and explosive outbursts of violence."
Dry Drunk: Is Bush making a cry for help?, by Alan Bisbort, from American Politics Journal.

Note that no superstitious or moralistic explanation for this phenomenon is necessary. It's very simple. Alcohol kills brain cells and makes major changes to the nervous system. It can take many years for the brain to heal the damage and overcome those effects. Many people report feeling lots of emotional turmoil for the first few years after quitting drinking — to the point of sometimes feeling like seething cauldrons of anger, hostility, resentments, and pent-up frustration.

Sin is most assuredly not the cause of those neurological problems, and Bill Wilson's Twelve Steps are not the cure. The only real cure is time. Just hang in there and ride out the storm.
Make sure you take lots of B vitamins.
Also get off of nicotine and caffeine as much as you can. If you drink coffee, put milk or cream in it to take the edge off of the caffeine. (Latté Brevé is good.)
Don't let yourself get too tired or too hungry.
Engage your mind in positive, cheerful things as much as possible.
Listen to good music.
Enjoy life.
Go for long walks in beautiful places.
Things will get better.

Honest to God, how can I say it any more plainly? What part of that do you not understand?

Sure, we'd all like to think it's just about drinking, and if we stop drinking, the disease goes away. What I would'nt give to have that be true. I'm sober 21 years, and I dont want to have this disease. But, I do. And one way to treat it is to go to AA. I am not telling you to go to AA, but if you're not treating the alcoholism, --- and don't give me that nonsense about simply not drinking --- then you're headed for trouble.

It is not a disease, not a real disease like cancer or diabetes or tuberculosis. It is a behavior problem. You cannot usually just voluntarily stop having cancer or diabetes or tuberculosis by changing your behavior, but you can with alcoholism. You can always stop drinking alcohol, and then the "disease" doesn't kill you. Funny how that works.

In fact, the situation is a lot like drinking Reverend Jim Jones' cyanide kool-aid.
If you drink it, you die; if you don't drink it, you don't die.
Do you suppose that there is a "spiritual disease" called Jonesism or cyanidism?
Do you suppose that some people will have to spend the rest of their lives in 12-step meetings to be able to abstain from drinking cyanide kool-aid?

To say that people have weak resolve, are confused, and have trouble quitting because they are stuck in a rut of using alcohol as an intoxicant and a painkiller, is an entirely different issue. Their will power is often weak in the beginning, and needs to be strengthened. But Bill Wilson didn't want to teach people to have or strengthen or use their will power, did he? Bill always preached against will power, and even called using your own intelligence and will power to save your own life "playing God." Bill actually declared that will power was useless in the quest for sobriety:

"...will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots."
(The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 42.)

Well I'm not finding will power to be useless at all. I consider it an essential tool for maintaining sobriety.

The fact that you still occasionally feel the urge to take a drink does not mean that you have a disease. Old habits die hard.

By the way, your little warning about the bad things that will happen to me if I don't "treat the alcoholism" is just some more fear-mongering, the standard cult characteristic of The Cult Implants Phobias. It isn't a disease, and it doesn't need "treatment" like going to A.A. meetings.

Here's my suggestion: Why not go through that website of yours and take out all the lies. AA needs guys like you who criticize fairly, honestly, and even-handedly. If you do that, I will write an article supporting your position. Believe me, I have a lot of criticisms of AA that you have missed!! After all, I've been there a lot longer than you, I know it a lot better.

Well, so far, all of my "lies" have turned out to be your mistakes (with the possible exception of dues to headquarters being voluntary). But if I am actually wrong about anything, I will fix it. And I really would like to hear your criticisms of A.A., of course.

Secondly, how about taking a serious look at your life, at the toll that alcoholism is taking. Not just the drinking part, but the self-destructive behavior, the depression, the anger. And let's not say you're not angry. What is this website, but an incredible shout of "fuck you" at AA, and by extension, your alcoholism. Yes, yes, I know, you're doing a great service to everyone and all that, and I'm just spewing AA happy talk. But, let's be honest... look at how ridiculously long and redundant your website is, look at how much spleen you've put into it. Look at all the distortions and lies. You're bending over backward to criticize AA. Your hatred is palpable.

I have taken a good look at my life, and at my own mind, too. How do you think I quit? How do you think I stay quit, and avoid getting trapped in the Lizard Brain's mind games? Where do you think I got that list of Lizard Brain rationalizations? (The answer is, "From watching and listening to my own mind."

You seem to think that Alcoholics Anonymous has a monopoly on introspection. You seem to think that only A.A. members look within themselves and ask why and how they got so hung up on alcohol or drugs. That is the cultish conceit and arrogance of A.A., again. A.A. has no such monopoly. Plenty of other people besides A.A. members look within, practice meditation, and have a spiritual life.

In fact, I find the A.A. routine to be fatally flawed by far too many goofy irrational ideas like being powerless over alcohol, and resentments causing "spiritual diseases", and excessive drinking being caused by "self-will run riot" and "instincts run wild", the demand that you surrender your will to a "Higher Power" like a group of ex-drunks, and Step Eleven:
"Pray and meditate until you hallucinate that God is talking to you."
If you really want to get honest with yourself, why don't you dump the cultish babble and the irrational dogma, and just get real?

You think my whole web site is just a big fat "Fuck You"? Again, such arrogance. You blithely ignore the fact that there is a lot wrong with A.A., and that it really is harming people.

Now I do "hate" to see my friends getting hurt by voodoo medicine and quack medicine.
Yes, I'm actually angry about it. I also hate to see the state's health care system (which is broke because of the economic down-turn) getting abused by some fools who sell cult religion as the best cure to a deadly illness (and who siphon precious funds away from the people with real treatable diseases).
I hate to see Freedom of Religion getting trashed by some fools who say,
"We are doing it to the patients for their own good."
Yes, I have some anger and resentments to deal with. But that does not make what I am saying untrue.

Bill Wilson's claim that it is a spiritual axiom that you are wrong if you get disturbed by bad things is flat-out nuts. (See Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 90.) The claim that you are wrong if you are angry is just another piece of standard A.A. cult dogma, one designed to cripple you and keep you from feeling your feelings. It's also a propaganda trick: Claim that your opponent has to be wrong because he is angry.

By the way, you seem to be very angry about what I have written, or more precisely, about what you imagine that I have written, but don't bother to actually read. How do you reconcile your anger with Bill Wilson's sermons against being "disturbed"?

The so-called "recovery movement", which I am apparently in, resembles the Bataan Death March more than anything else. Relapse, failure, and dropping out is the normal behavior in A.A. and N.A.. It feels like a game of Survivor, with everybody gradually disappearing from the island one by one. The most successful people in the program, including me, are the people who have said, "The hell with A.A. and the whole cult religion routine. I'll just use some common sense to save my own life." In fact, just about the only people who haven't relapsed after 2 years are the do-it-yourselfers.

And that's why it bothers me when I see people whom I really like getting increasingly brainwashed into the cult. I can pretty well predict their futures... What's being done to them isn't good.

Anyway, I've said enough. I think you got my message, and I also think that I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know. I would ask you to forgive me for rambling on and on. But, anyone with a website as long as yours will overlook that particular character defect.

Tom B.

Rambling is okay. I have no problem with length. We don't have to pay for blank paper here.

But as you can see, I disagree with you on most of your points. Again, as I have said before, if you find anything actually untrue or wrong on my web site, I will fix it. (Cite the specific page name and the line, so that we both are talking about the same thing.) And show me some good proof that I'm wrong. But so far, all you have shown me is that you don't even bother to read what you are criticizing.

Have a good day anyway.

— Orange

[Tom B.'s fourth letter, Jan 7, 2003:]

Thanks for the reply. Frankly, I still disagree with you strongly, but I don't find myself disliking you at all, so maybe I'm making spiritual progress finally, after all these years. In answer to your comments about money, the groups are not strong-armed to give contributions. It really is voluntary, and my group, which is poor, hasn't given a dime in years. There are two sources of "lists." The local intergroup association makes up the meeting lists that most AA's use. Then, GSO makes up a master book, with practically every group in creation, that you can buy. That helps if you're travelling, and need contacts. Frankly, no group I know of really cares if we're listed in that one. The local intergroup keeps you on file, no matter what. They ask us to update our information, namely, who the officers are, every six months. But, it's a rare group that is so organized today. I can't recall the last time we updated our information, but we get listed every time.

Okay, I'm convinced. I'll take your word for it that contributions to the headquarters are really voluntary.

As far as the circle/triangle symbol, how can they stop us from using it? There is no police arm of AA. This issue has never come up. It's not like they revoke your license to have AA meetings. . Your comment about pleasing the "higher-ups" means nothing to me. From where I'm sitting, and I've been sitting here for 21 years, there are no such animals. There just are no bosses. I'm not even sure what AA would do, or be able to do if we started having a regular orgy at the meeting. Maybe put an "O" before our meeting in the list??

That is not what Pamela D., an old-timer with 13 years, told me 2 weeks ago. See her letters, where she told me that the New York office can, will, and has monitored groups and shut down bad ones. Now I don't want to accuse either of you of lying, that would be impolite, but obviously you can't both be right. Which one of you old-timers am I supposed to believe?

If you are the one who is right, then that leads to the next problem, which is that you cannot ever get rid of the bad guys. Pamela D. described how a group was taken over by a charismatic leader who badly abused and harmed the other members. She said his group was shut down. If you can't shut his group down, then how do you get rid of a guy like him? How can you prevent that from happening again?

If the answer is that you cannot, then

  • Is the judge told about that when some "advisor", like a 12-step true-believer "certified recovery counselor" tells the judge that sending all of the drug and DWI cases to A.A. and N.A. is the best thing to do with them?
  • Is the judge told that they can actually be exposed to anything from an Internet pornographer and pedophile to 13th-stepping sexual predators, both homosexual and heterosexual, to a religious nut who brags about how many hours of quality knee time he wracks up each day (praying to God on his knees), to somebody who wants to make A.A. and N.A. into a political special-interest group?
  • And is the judge told that nobody is ever going put a stop to that insanity, because the organization was deliberately designed to make control of members and groups impossible?
  • And is the judge reminded of the big problem inherent in that organizational design — that A.A. and N.A. are meant to attract the most troubled, problematic, and even criminal, people in our society — alcoholics and drug addicts — and then the groups cannot be controlled and bad ones stopped?

Honestly, maybe you went to some really messed up meetings. After all, you say you're from California. That's a much more cultish type place than here in Brooklyn and Staten Island, where I go to meetings. We don't take well to brain washers over here. Newcomers will tell you to screw yourself, and how. In fact, something you said in one of your letters gave me pause. You mentioned something about attending only one group. I forget exactly, but it seemed to imply that you only went to one group. There is a group over here in Staten Island that I wouldn't send my worst enemy to. I have often wondered what I would do if that were my only exposure to AA. I might be driven to start a web site like you. Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about it, except not attend, and hope it dies out. I also warn newcomers to stay away from it. In the meantime, they're hurting new people. But, this is one group out of over 100 on Staten Island. Just one. But, you will say that that is the REAL AA!

No, actually, I did not say that I was from California. I never said where I was from. But you're in the right ball park. The West. I actually have a love/hate relationship with California, mainly being heartbroken and appalled by the overcrowding and air pollution. It used to be a beautiful state 30 and 40 years ago. But then everybody moved there. (Joni Mitchell sang, "They paved Paradise, and put up a parking lot.") I'm sure not there now, and haven't been in a long, long time.

Nevertheless, I don't think California is really more cultish than the East Coast. I personally cannot see how people can live in place like New York City without going totally insane. Actually, I suspect that they really do go insane from the overcrowding and artificial environment — an unnatural world of concrete, bricks, and steel. But that's all beside the point. I don't think that the virtues or faults of 12-step groups are due to geography. They are due to the real nature of the Beast. They are what Bill Wilson made the organization. They are the goof-ball doctrines that Bill Wilson expounded.

In addition, you are trying to use the propaganda technique The Statistics of Small Numbers:
"I don't see it happening in my group, so it obviously isn't happening anywhere else either."
Bad logic.

While we are at it, you are also using the Minimization and Denial technique — "Only a few rare groups are bad — you found the one bad group — besides, you are from California, and everybody knows they are all nuts." You ignore the faults inherent in the design and philosophy of A.A., and you ignore the insanity of Bill Wilson's teachings.

And I said absolutely nothing about going to only one group. I went to a bunch of A.A. and N.A. groups. And yes, different groups tend to have different personalities, but they are still all part of the greater A.A., and they all still start every meeting by reading pages 58 and 59 from the Big Book out loud to the newcomers — "These Twelve Steps are how we quit drinking, and they always work unless you are constitutionally incapable of being honest with yourself", and other very grim fairy tales...

Now, as far as continuing our debate here. I'm tempted, since you have many falsehoods and distortions on your web page. I like to rise to the challenge, and frankly, you are a formidable debating opponent. There are a few problems, however, and I think they may be insoluble. One basic problem is that we don't agree on what AA is. Since AA either is unorganized (my view) or purports to be unorganized (your view), it will be hard for us to agree on exactly who speaks for AA, or what is the official position of AA etc. For example, you will certainly be justified in citing specific passages from the Big Book, and saying that that is AA. However, I know from long years in AA that the book isn't the reality. It's sort of like saying that all Christians are pacifists. The New Testament certainly says that. But the reality is a different matter.

Specifically what "falsehoods and distortions"? In your last letter, almost all of your accusations of "lies" turned out to be your failure to read what was there.

I disagree with your organized/unorganized dichotomy. It is reminiscent of the confusion inherent in Tradition Nine:

"A.A., as such, ought never be organized..."
Apparently, Bill Wilson did not understand what the word "organized" meant, because he then proceeded to organize A.A., complete with a Board of Trustees, a national council, a national headquarters, and committees. A.A. is obviously completely formally organized, and legally incorporated.

But that is beside the point. The real bone of contention between us is whether those other loosely-associated organizations, like ASAM (the American Society of Addiction Medicine), NCADD (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), NAADAC (the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors), and Hazelden and many other residential 12-step treatment facilities, count as part of a larger A.A. organization, or entity, or "empire", as I sometimes call it.

When I see the Hazelden Foundation publishing things like "The Little Red Book" — which really is a take-off of The Little Red Book of Chairman Mao. and is, in fact, a manual for how the faithful A.A. members should proselytize and promote Alcoholics Anonymous — then it is obvious to me that A.A. and Hazelden are associated and are pursuing common interests. In fact, Hazelden is the biggest propagandist for A.A. that there is, anywhere in this world. Hazelden publishes far more pro-A.A. proselytizing titles than even the publishing arm of A.A., Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc..

Indeed, all of those organizations have the goal of promoting A.A. and increasing its membership, and enhancing its reputation, and sometimes also making a lot of money in the process. And they could not exist if A.A. did not exist. Likewise, when I see that the vast majority — like 93% — of the treatment facilities in this country are pushing the A.A./N.A. 12-step religion as the only way to recover, then I see a connection. They support and promote the greater Twelve-Step "Recovery Movement", and manufacture new A.A. and N.A. members, and then the larger A.A. organization feeds them more paying customers, whom they will make into more 12-step members, etc....

Of course, you can also take advantage of this unorganized situation to basically say that anything anyone anywhere says at an AA meeting is AA.

It does not matter how organized or unorganized it is.

What A.A. members do in A.A. meetings is A.A..
You complained about me "trying to have it both ways." Well, you are really trying to have it both ways:
"All of the good things that A.A. members do is A.A., and all of the bad things that they do is not A.A..."

You also commented that A.A. is not necessarily what is in the Big Book; it's what A.A. members really do that counts. I'll go along with that. But that leads us right back to:

What A.A. members do in A.A. meetings is A.A..

If you hear about one lunatic sponsor, or attend one idiotic "Step Nazi" meeting, you are justified in saying that that is AA, and that AA is a crazy cult. Or, to give my real position, when I tell you that my 21 years of experience have shown me a different reality in AA, one that transcends both the book, and the dumb slogans, you will say that my information is ridiculously subjective, and dismiss me as a raving idiot. So, I'm not certain we have a common ground to stand on in our debate.

Actually, that is the best point you have brought up so far. I'm surprised it took you so long. I was waiting, wondering if you would wake up and smell the coffee. It's the most vulnerable part of my presentation. I repeatedly criticize A.A. for using only "Proof By Anecdote", and anecdotal evidence of success, like the entire last two-thirds of the Big Book being only a bunch of hand-picked anecdotal stories that actually prove nothing. But then, when I tell horror stories about the bad things that have happened in A.A. and N.A., that is also just anecdotal evidence, and can be rightly criticized as such. (So why do I include anecdotal stories in my web pages at all? Because such stories are illustrative, interesting, and informative, even if they do not prove anything.)

So how do we get beyond a stupid argument that is just "my favorite stories versus your favorite stories", or my casual observations versus your casual observations?

The only way that I can see is to use some real unbiased, impartial tests (with control groups). You know, those scientific tests that declare things like that after 8 years of A.A. treatment, 29% of Professor Vaillant's patients were dead, while the other alcoholism treatment programs had death rates that ranged from 22.5% down to 5%. Or the experiment done by the San Diego court that showed that alcoholics who got A.A. indoctrination and meetings were rearrested for public drunkenness far more often than the other group that got no exposure to A.A... Or the experiment that showed that those who got A.A. treatment ended up doing 5 times as much binge drinking as the no-A.A. group. Do you have any real tests, with control groups, that show that A.A. increases the recovery rate above the usual rate of spontaneous remission?

If A.A. is really saving people's lives, then it should be able to show that it is saving people's lives. It should have a higher success rate than giving people no treatment at all, but it doesn't.

We should conduct more experiments like: take 200 or 1000 alcoholics, and send half of them to A.A., and send the other half home, untreated, and see what happens. When those experiments have been done, A.A. did as bad as, or even worse than, the group that got no treatment. Now I know that you don't want to believe that, but those are the facts.

The unsupported declarations of A.A. propagandists like C. Thomas Anderson, who declared that "Spirituality ... certainly can't be scientifically studied" are simply not acceptable. Is A.A. about saving lives, or is A.A. about inducing warm, fuzzy, feelings that cannot be studied?

You began that paragraph with the statement that I was taking advantage of "this unorganized situation" to criticize A.A. I don't think so. The truth is just the opposite. You keep denying that there is anything wrong with A.A., because the bad stuff is always done by some other people who "are not real A.A.". You seem to deny that there even is such a thing as institutional A.A., raking in the millions of dollars by charging people $10,000 or $15,000 a month for 12-step indoctrination. You seem to think that the front groups of A.A. like ASAM, NCADD, and NAADAC don't really have any connection to Alcoholics Anonymous, and don't exist to promote the A.A. agenda. You seem to imagine that because the pieces of the larger A.A. entity are very loosely associated, that it isn't organized, or that they aren't connected. You seem to imagine that the small army of unofficial A.A. propagandists and promoters doesn't exist, just because they are unofficial.

In some ways, you have proven an idea that is popular among old timers in AA, namely, that AA is what you want it to be. You'd be surprised how many newcomers are upset with me because I WONT abuse them, and tell them what to do, etc. They actually want that "tough love" nonsense. Well, if they want that, they're gonna find it. Just not from me. On a similar line, do you know that I read an anti-AA website recently that accused AA's of being cruel because they would NOT sign the attendance slips from the rehabs. That particular AA group was concerned that AA's tradition of non-affiliation was being destroyed by the rehabs, and they didn't want to participate. You, Orange, damn us if we sign the slips, and accuse us of being part of the "octopus." This guy damns us for trying to stay apart. So, we can't win.

No, A.A. is most assuredly not what I wish it were. Believe it or not, in the beginning, I thought A.A. was a good organization, and wanted it to be a good organization that really worked to save lives. What's that old saying, "Scratch a cynic, and underneath you will find a disillusioned idealist"?

My complaint is not just about the signing of the slips. My complaint goes back way before that: to the A.A. propagandists who constantly repeat the Big Lie about how A.A. 12-step therapy works great, and who plant deceptive articles in every magazine and journal that they can, in order to misinform the public about both alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous. And then there is the "Certified Drug and Alcohol Recovery Counselor" (who doesn't reveal the fact that he's a stepper) who tells every judge within earshot that A.A. and N.A. are the only way — especially, "the most cost-effective way" — so send all of your drug and alcohol problems to the 12-step meetings. The signing of the slips is only the last page of the last chapter of a very long story.

And yes, it is an ongoing conspiracy. It is a program of Promotion, rather than Attraction — a violation of the Eleventh Tradition. And it is a program of coercion, rather than free choice and attraction. And that too really is what A.A. is. You can't just keep saying,
"Don't look at the man behind the curtain. Just look at this wonderful little neighborhood get-together."

Well, let me give some thought to the whole thing, and see if I want to engage in a point by point debate. Your web site is a bit, shall we say, voluminous, and you criticized me last time (with some merit) for not reading it all, and commenting without full knowledge. But, it's not so easy to cover it all. I work full time, and I like to go to those cult meetings, you know! Also, there's the matter of positive reinforcement. You get to read all the commentary, from your web readers. I don't get to hear anything, except your objections. Since you posted my letters to your website, would you mind putting my email address on the two letters I sent. I'd be interested in hearing the ferment.

Okay, not a problem. I routinely protect people's anonymity, but it's not a requirement.

For the information of everyone, the email address of Tom B. is [deleted. He changed his mind, and requested the deletion.]

It seems we do agree on one thing, though, and that is the most important thing of all. The need to stay sober.

Yes, we totally agree about that. I don't even promote the idea of moderate drinking or controlled drinking. I know from too many years of personal experience that total abstinence is the only thing that works for me.

I apologize for my fellow AA members who "hex" you, and wish you to drink. They are angry that you are bashing the thing that saved their lives. I also feel anger when I read your website. But, no, I don't want you to drink, nor do I necessarily want you to come around to AA's way.

Okay, apology accepted. And actually, you don't need to apologize — it wasn't you wishing me a happy DUI.

Oh, and since we're quoting the Big Book, here's one, "Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly" — page xi.

Yes, I know about that line. It's one of those lines that seems to get routinely ignored, just like the line in chapter 9 of the Big Book that advises people to go to real doctors and psychologists:

But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 133.

You are right when you say that the real, day-in, day-out A.A. is not necessarily what is in the Big Book. But one of the problems that I'm seeing is that people are just as likely to ignore the good lines, like those above, as to ignore the bad lines, when deciding which parts of the book to follow, and which to ignore. All too often, we get some dangerous fools who tell mental cases not to take their medications, and to just trust the Twelve Steps to heal them.

(I understand that the G.S.O. sent out a letter to all groups several years ago, telling the sponsors to quit telling the sponsees not to take their medications. But, since anybody can do anything they want in A.A., the sponsors just said, "Flake off", and kept right on doing it.)

In fact, when you whittle AA down to its most fundamental point, isn't helping another alcoholic what it's all about?

I wish it were. Unfortunately, the Hazelden Foundation really does exist. It seems to be about something else. And so is all of the rest of the greater A.A. empire, which you don't want to believe really exists.

Your attempt to strip A.A. down to just "its most fundamental point" seems to me to be a diversion tactic. Like we are only supposed to look at the public face of A.A. — the friendly smiley face. "A.A. is just a nice little neighborhood self-help group." We are not supposed to look at the other face of A.A. — institutional A.A. — selling voodoo medicine and cult religion and sucking billions of dollars out of the health care system.

Now I agree that the basic idea — that of a recovered addict helping someone who is still struggling to break free — is wonderful. It's really a shame that Alcoholics Anonymous isn't such an organization. What exists now is so far from your ideal that they just aren't the same thing at all.

When I entered AA in December of 1981, a few men extended their hands to me and welcomed me to a new life. It was the single most powerful experience of my life, and I will never forget it. Nothing that you or anyone else says will ever convince me that what I experienced that day was not real.

Okay, so you had an experience. I won't even try to characterize it as emotional or psychological or spiritual. And I won't insult you by trying to belittle the experience. Let's just accept that you had some kind of a remarkable experience. But that wonderful experience does not prove that A.A. is a good organization. In fact, it does not really say anything about A.A. at all. It says a lot more about your own state of mind at the time.

And, not to belittle your experience, it sounds suspiciously like you are describing a "spiritual experience". I thought you told me you were an atheist. If you believe in spiritual experiences, then you aren't an atheist. Perhaps you are some kind of a mystic, but you are certainly not an atheist.

That also reminds me of the problem of confusing the high with the means of getting high. In the "Lizard Brain Addiction Monster" web page that you so quickly dismissed as "the nonsense that is spewed by Tony Robbins, and his ilk" (also without reading it to the end, I'm sure), I talked about how people get wonderful peak experiences and then associate the experience with whatever they were taking, or whatever they were doing, when they got the experience. They don't understand that the actual experience, and the means of getting that experience, are two different things.

You are obviously convinced that some A.A. members gave you that experience. Has it ever occurred to you that you gave yourself that experience? And again, I'm not belittling the experience. The fact that your own internal mental or emotional state created the experience doesn't make it less real or less valid. My own attitude towards spiritual experiences is, any way that you get one, it's still wonderful to get one.

By the way, I'm not sure who Tony Robbins is, but I seem to vaguely remember something about late night TV infomercials and get-rich-quick schemes. No, I didn't get anything from him. Perhaps you are confusing him with Ken Ragge, who did talk about "The Beast" in his book Rational Recovery. I immediately noticed the great similarity of our ideas when I read his book, but the truth is that I've been learning about the addiction monster from myself as I fought to quit smoking for the last 30 years. And I stand by all that I have said there. I consider that one of my best web pages.

Somebody who goes to more A.A. meetings than me just pointed out to me that A.A. members say essentially the same thing as I'm saying, but they attribute it to "their disease talking", rather than my base-brain hunger center talking:
"I can do just one. I have it under control now. It's been so long, it'll be okay to have one now. Just one for old times' sake..."

Since then, I have extended my hand to thousands of alcoholics, men, who could not stay sober themselves. They just couldn't do it, just like me. They needed help, and we were there. Did they stay sober? Many did, despite what Harvard says.

Tom B.

Well of course many of them stayed sober. They'd better, or else you are killing a lot of alcoholics. The normal rate of spontaneous remission from alcoholism is between 3.7 and 7 percent per year, remember?

  • That's the people who will sober themselves up, even if you do nothing.
  • That's the people who quit because they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  • That's the people who decide that they really do want to live, after all.

Furthermore, the success rate that you should see is closer to the 7% number than the 3.7% number, because the people who come to A.A. want to quit, or are at least sincerely thinking about quitting (unless they are some of those coerced people). A group of alcoholics who want to quit is a very different population than a group of randomly-selected alcoholics, some of whom might want to quit, but most of whom don't. Nevertheless, the 3.7% to 7% quit rate is normal for the second population, the one that includes all of the alcoholics who don't want to quit. So you should be seeing a success rate of 5 or 6 percent with your newcomers, just to match the rate of spontaneous remission.

If you don't see that rate of success with the newcomers in your group, then something that you are doing is keeping alcoholics from sobering up, rather than saving their lives. (And you have to count all of the newcomers, even the ones who leave. They are still real people, aren't they?)

Pointing to the success stories, and counting heads, is definitely the right thing to do. The problem with A.A. is, there aren't enough warm bodies to show off. If A.A. really works, then it should have a success rate higher than the rate of spontaneous remission. But all of the controlled tests that I've seen say that it doesn't. A.A. is just taking the credit for those people who were going to quit anyway, no matter how much some of them may say that they just couldn't quit before.

And even the numbers published by the A.A. G.S.O. show that A.A. is having trouble even matching the normal rate of spontaneous remission. According to the G.S.O., 95% of the newcomers are gone in a year, which leaves a maximum possible success rate of only 5%. But that's the rate of spontaneous remission. That makes the number of additional people saved zero.

So what's really going on is, while you are holding somebody's hand, and he is swearing that you saved his life because he could never quit before, somebody else is dying behind your back in an uncontrolled drunken binge because A.A. taught him that he was powerless over alcohol, and that he was diseased, and could never be cured. Save one, kill one, the score balances out at zero.

By the way, it isn't "A.A. works, in spite of what Harvard says." It wasn't Harvard. What you are trying to casually dismiss is what Professor George E. Vaillant, Trustee of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., reported from his own 8 years of clinical research, testing A.A. treatment on alcoholics. He is the one who discovered that A.A. treatment didn't work at all. If you won't believe one of the Trustees of A.A., then who will you believe?

Vaillant did later become a professor at Harvard, but that's a different issue. And The Harvard Mental Health Letter from The Harvard Medical School did report that the rate of spontaneous remission in alcoholics and drug addicts was high, and that most successful quitters did it alone, but that is a different issue, too. It was Dr. Vaillant, on the staff of Cambridge Hospital, who discovered that the A.A. program failed to save alcoholics — it "failed to alter the natural history of alcoholism." (The "natural history" meaning "what usually happens with them".) Then Vaillant still did his "A.A. is wonderful anyway, so shove them all into A.A." song and dance, but that's a different issue, too.

The issue of "help" really is questionable. It's just like, "When I was a child, I was never able to ride a bicycle. I just couldn't do it. I fell down every time I tried. Then one day, Jimmy loaned me his lucky rabbit's foot, and I succeeded. I didn't fall down. That proves it: the rabbit's foot helped me to stay up on the bicycle."

Walt Disney did the same routine with Dumbo and the Magic Flying Feather. The "magic feather" that the crow gave to Dumbo "made" Dumbo able to fly.

When people tell me that the Twelve Steps "made" them quit drinking, or "helped" them to quit, I always think about Dumbo's Magic Flying Feather.

Again, we keep coming back to the problem that A.A. doesn't score any higher than no treatment when it is put to the test. If A.A. really helped, or the Twelve Steps really worked, then it should score higher.

Well, it's been real. Have a good weekend.

— Orange

[Friday, January 3, 2002, Robert B. wrote:]





Hello Robert B.,

Are you Tom's brother? You both have the same last name, and both are complaining to me at the same time... (And it looks like you are using Pamela D.'s computer, because you have that same broken keyboard with a stuck caps lock key, too.)

To say that there are no gurus or representatives of A.A. is blatantly absurd. Of course there are gurus. The primary gurus are Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith. Then the present-day gurus are the people with 20 or more years of Time. And the representatives are all over the place. Everybody who is doing his Twelfth-Step work, recruiting for the cult, is a representative of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I have stated my agenda so many times that I'm getting tired of repeating myself. Go see the third file of letters, the answer to Ken H.

Once again, you repeat the Big Lie about how many millions of people A.A. has saved. Show me the evidence. Why does A.A. fail every fair and unbiased test where it is compared to other treatments, or even to no treatment at all? See the previous letter.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

— Orange

[second letter from Robert B., 15 January 2003:]




Hello Robert,

The Twelve Steps are a formula for brainwashing people into being members of a cult religion. The so-called "spiritual principles" in the 12 steps were developed by the Hitler-loving minister Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman, for his cult religion, the Oxford Groups. Bill Wilson learned that stuff from the Oxford Groups when he was a member of that cult.

No, "most of us" have not "indulged" in cult membership.
(That's the propaganda trick of Everybody's Doing It". It's also a poor rationalization.)
Religious, career, and health programs are not usually cults. Cults are groups or organizations with some very specific nasty characteristics. Go read The Cult Test.

It's easy to produce a program that works as well as, or better than, Alcoholics Anonymous: NO PROGRAM. Nothing at all. In test after test, A.A. has scored as bad as, or even worse than, giving alcoholics no treatment at all. The A.A. program just flat-out does not work. Go read the file on "The Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment".

And if you want something that might actually help, try SMART. (Or perhaps SOS, or WFS, or MFS...)

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

— Orange

[third letter from Robert B., 19 January 2003:]


"Alcoholism" isn't a disease, so of course there is no cure for it.

Bill Wilson's claim that you only get a daily reprieve from death by alcohol is just another stunt to make you afraid to leave his cult. And "based on our spiritual condition" means that you have to practice Bill Wilson's religion, or else. (See The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 85.)


Actually, the Webster's dictionary that I looked at had a dozen definitions and sub-definitions for the word "cult". A long time ago, I made a web page containing the definitions of some commonly-used and misused words — used and misused by A.A. — just for moments like this. That one definition that you chose is by no means the most appropriate one. Do you think that is a valid description of the Moonies or the Hari Krishnas cults? It isn't. Other definitions, like
"2: a system of beliefs and ritual connected with the worship of a deity, a spirit, or a group of deities or spirits"
"6a: a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing"
are far more accurate. And those other definitions also better describe Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. could be described as
a cult religion that is excessively devoted to following the teachings of Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman and William G. Wilson, and which offers a faith-healing "treatment program" for alcohol abuse.

Comparing Alcoholics Anonymous to other cults is most assuredly a valid comparison. It is quite valid logic to ask, "Does A.A. resemble the other obnoxious, infamous, cults that we all know about?" in order to decide whether A.A. is a cult. You object, and think it unfair, specifically because there are so many points of similarity between A.A. and the other large, well-known cults. That is backwards, broken, logic. You are attempting to reject the question because you don't like the answer.

You mention the Twelve Traditions, as if they actually mean something. The 12 Traditions are merely window dressing that both the A.A. rank-and-file membership and the leadership ignore whenever it suits their purposes. For example, A.A. is a program of promotion and coercion, not a program of attraction, like Tradition 11 says it is supposed to be. Grandly, hypocritically, declaring great spiritual principles in public, and violating them in private, is also typical cult behavior.

I'm simply telling the truth to counter a lot of falsehoods. And once again, alcoholism is not a disease, and the A.A. religion is not the "solution" for alcoholism. (That's funny wording you are using, not 'cure', but 'solution'. I guess that is supposed to mean that A.A. does not cure alcoholism, so you must stay in "the rooms", getting "treatment", forever — you can't ever leave the cult.)


That is the positive definition of guru, and describes a good teacher. In the cult test, I am talking about phony gurus, lying thieving criminals whose only lessons are,
"There's a sucker born every minute."
"A fool and his money are quickly parted."


That's a diversion tactic. You are changing the subject. My happiness, and my sobriety, have absolutely nothing to do with whether Alcoholics Anonymous is a fraud and an evil cult.

Now, just for your information: Yes, I am both happy and sober.


That is almost incomprehensible. If I am reading your meaning correctly, I think you are asking whether I consider myself an authority on cults, or an authority on A.A..

What's an authority on cults? How many books on cults do you have to read before you get some idea of what a cult is? How many more do you have to read before you become "an expert"? (Go read the entire Bibliography, at the end of the Cult Test. Just read the whole list; you don't have to really read or at least skim all of those books, like I have done.)

Or do you have to spend many years in a cult, like Bill Olin, Steve Hassan, Miriam Williams, Deborah Layton, and Nori Muster did, to know what a cult is?

And do I have to waste ten years of my life in A.A. before I can say that I know something about it?

The truth is, what I consider myself, or how knowledgeable I think I am, also has no bearing on whether A.A. is a cult or whether A.A. treatment of alcoholism actually works. The facts speak for themselves.

That sounds a bit like you are just trying out an Ad Hominem attack — suggesting that I don't know what I'm talking about — in addition to attempting to divert attention. Personal attacks on critics is also another standard cult characteristic.


You are distorting my statements. I never said that "no cure is the best cure". What I said was:

But I never said that no cure was the best cure.

I have, in fact, often said that having a group of friends who support you in your quest to break out of addictions can be helpful. And I said that a change of environment, to get out of habitual behavior, can be helpful. And I have repeatedly suggested that people who are having problems with alcohol or drugs should check out SMART, SOS, WFS, and MFS to see if those organizations can help them. And obviously, a real doctor can occasionally be helpful. Mine was, and I have said so repeatedly.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

— Orange

[Sun, 5 Jan 2003, Candi wrote:]

Ok, after reading a few pages of your site I had to write to you. I was so happy to find your site and I agree that AA is a cult.

When I was 20 years old I was forced into AA by the courts. I was going through a divorce and my parents were sick and I was depressed. So I started drinking. I wrecked my car and was sent to rehab for a month. That was 4 years ago and I haven't been back because AA is scary.

I have been sober for 4 years (I do have an occasional drink ... and I can actually have just one — although I realize some people can't do that ... I'm not in denial ... lol). And I have done this on my own by myself because I AM NOT POWERLESS like they wanted me to believe. When you tell people that they are powerless and if people actually believe they are powerless over what they do ... then that is a major problem because people think they don't have to take responsibility for their actions and they also think they are so screwed up that they can't make their own decisions. How can you change your life and quit drinking if you are powerless to do it yourself? No one else can do it for you!

[Orange: Yes, that's it. You understand it all. I don't even need to lecture, or say anything, do I?]

Its amazing how they (AA) say they want to help but they don't address the issue of why you were drinking in the first place. They (AA) flat out told us to keep personal feelings and emotions out of the stories we were sharing and to only talk about alcohol. Well, HELLO! ... There was a reason I was drinking ... depression ... alcohol made me feel good ... but I wasn't allowed to share those feelings ... what kind of bull is that?!

All those people at AA had relapsed so many times ... how in the world do they think this program works? And everyone at the meetings seemed so depressed and being there with all those depressed people made me feel worse.

When I told them I wasn't comfortable with being labeled an alcoholic for life right off the bat (I had been drinking for 3 months) they said I was in denial.

When I told them that I didn't feel like I belonged there because I wasn't in as bad of shape and health as some of the others because I hadn't been drinking long or doing hard drugs ... they told me that was bull that I was a lifetime user now just like them. Well, I am not just like them. I am my own person in a different situation.

I realize that a lot of drinkers and drug users lose a lot because of their using and drinking, but that wasn't my situation. The only thing I lost was a car (I know I shouldn't have been drinking and driving ... I could have killed someone ... and that's scary). I lost my husband way before I started drinking but I couldn't convince AA of that. They just kept on telling me that I was in denial.

I told my mom a few months ago that when I really sat down and thought about it that AA seemed like a cult. I didn't realize that there was someone else out there that felt the same and has went to so many lengths to prove it. I could write so much more but I will keep this kind of short for now.

Take care and thanks for the website ... hopefully some people who see it will open their eyes.


Hi Candi,

Thanks for the letter. You cover a lot of bases, and have a good take on things. All I can do is agree with you.

My reaction to your whole story is that you aren't an alcoholic at all, and never were. Lots of people go through a down time, and divorce is one of the commonest causes of people really being in a funk for a while. Lots of people get into a mood like, "Let's just get drunk and forget the whole damn thing." But they get over it. They pick themselves up out of the mud and get on with their lives. That isn't alcoholic behavior, or "alcoholism", at all.

A "real alcoholic" like me simply cannot *ever* have an occasional drink. If I drink one, I will want another and another and another to feel even better, until I go totally non-linear and drink for another 9 years. (That is really what happened the last time I had just one beer.) I can either totally abstain from alcohol, or I can drink myself to death, but I cannot drink just one beer. It's just like the old Lays potato chip commercials, "I'll bet you can't eat just one." (Note that I am still not powerless over alcohol — I just seem to be incapable of drinking moderately.)

Your story about how they wouldn't let you share your personal feelings, or the reasons why you drank, reminded me of another story a friend told me just a few days ago:

Some guy was getting instructions from his sponsor on how to do his Fourth and Fifth Steps. The sponsor insisted that he didn't want to hear about anything that went back more than two years. The sponsor said that delving way into the past was getting into the area of mental health, and "Alcoholics Anonymous has nothing to do with mental health!"

I had to laugh.

— Orange

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