Recruiting Mind Games

"As a matter of fact, the successful worker [A.A. recruiter] differs from the unsuccessful one only in being lucky about his prospects. He simply hits cases who are ready and able to stop at once."
Bill Wilson, quoted in 'PASS IT ON', The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, pages 251-252.

The "Big Book", Alcoholics Anonymous, contains an entire manual for setting up a cult and recruiting new members. The recruiting manual is all of Chapter Seven of the book. Before that, the author, William G. Wilson, wrote his initial rationalization for selling religious faith as the only solution to a medical problem in Chapter Four of the Big Book:

If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, We Agnostics, page 44.

That is crazy. That is also bad medicine. There is no disease recognized by either the American Medical Association, or the American Psychiatric Association, which "only a spiritual experience will conquer." But this is the dogma, one of the core beliefs, upon which Alcoholics Anonymous is based. A.A. teaches that you can't "just quit drinking" or "just abstain". You must join A.A., do the Twelve Steps, and have a "spiritual experience", in order to quit drinking.

Bill continued:

To one who feels he is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible, but to continue as he is means disaster, especially if he is an alcoholic of the hopeless variety. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, We Agnostics, page 44.

This is false logic and deliberate deception: Mr. Wilson is playing mind games with your head, using the Sly Suggestions propaganda technique again and again. Bill starts with, "you may be suffering from an illness" and then jumps right to "you are doomed to an alcoholic death", while hardly pausing to take a breath. He never bothers to collect any supporting facts to change the "You may be sick" medical diagnosis into "You gonna die!"

In addition, Mr. Wilson has given us no evidence whatsoever that having a "spiritual experience" or "living on a spiritual basis" is necessary, or even helpful, for quitting drinking. Yet Bill insists that it is essential: we will die without it.

And Bill Wilson feels that this broken logic is proof enough to demand that all skeptics be converted to believing in his religious ideas:

But it isn't so difficult. About half our original fellowship were of exactly that type. At first some of us tried to avoid the issue, hoping against hope we were not true alcoholics. But after a while we had to face the fact that we must find a spiritual basis of life — or else. Perhaps it is going to be that way with you. But cheer up, something like half of us thought we were atheists or agnostics. Our experience shows that you need not be disconcerted.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, We Agnostics, page 44.

You need not be disconcerted. Half of the Alcoholics Anonymous members have already been forced through a religious conversion against their will, and they survived it, and so will you.

Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that's exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 4, We Agnostics, page 45.

Indeed: the main object is to get you to believe in God, Wilson-style. Quitting drinking seems to be secondary.

Likewise, in Chapter Five, Wilson declared:

Remember that we deal with alcohol — cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power — that One is God. May you find Him now!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 5, How It Works, pages 58-59.

And, in the beginning of the Big Book, Bill wrote:

We have no desire to convince anyone that there is only one way by which faith can be acquired.   ...
Those having religious affiliations will find nothing here disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, Chapter 2, There Is A Solution, page 28.

Note Bill's implication that people must "acquire faith" (as if they didn't have any). Alcoholics Anonymous is not a quit-drinking program; it's an "acquire faith" program. And the faith that you must acquire is faith in Bill Wilson and his cult religion.

All of chapter seven of the Big Book"Working With Others" — is a recruiting manual that teaches A.A. members how to go recruiting. That chapter begins with the words,

PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, Working With Others, page 89.

(Oh really? Immunity from drinking? Since when do we vaccinate people against drinking alcohol? And what other A.A. activities fail to help alcoholics to abstain from drinking alcohol?)

Chapter Seven clearly describes the deceptive recruiting practices and mind games that will be used to seduce and convert newcomers. It starts with, find a prospect, and start working on him:

Don't start out as an evangelist or reformer. Unfortunately a lot of prejudice exists. You will be handicapped if you arouse it.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 89.

Yes, people are prejudiced against crazy cults and their missionaries, and don't like to be bothered by them, unfortunately.

Sometimes it is wise to wait till he goes on a binge. The family may object to this, but unless he is in a dangerous physical condition, it is better to risk it. Don't deal with him when he is very drunk, unless he is ugly and the family needs your help. Wait for the end of the spree, or at least for a lucid interval. Then let his family or a friend ask him if he wants to quit for good and if he would go to any extreme to do so. If he says yes, then his attention should be drawn to you as a person who has recovered. You should be described to him as one of a fellowship who, as part of their own recovery, try to help others and who will be glad to talk to him if he cares to see you.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 90.

Call on him while he is still jittery. He may be more receptive when depressed.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 91.

What a setup. Call on him when he is sick, hung over, jittery, and depressed. He will be in the weakest and most vulnerable condition then. And then start to play mind games on his head: Get him to write a blank check — he must be willing to go to any extreme to stop being sick — just coming to his senses and getting a grip and quitting drinking isn't nearly enough. Then carefully do a little social engineering:

See your man alone, if possible. At first engage in general conversation. After a while, turn the talk to some phase of drinking. Tell him enough about your drinking habits, symptoms, and experiences to encourage him to speak of himself.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 91.

This is standard Buchmanism, just the regular recruiting techniques used by Frank Buchman's cult, "The Five C's". First, the recruiter confesses things about himself, to get the trust and confidence of the prospect. Then the prospect confesses something in return. Then the recruiter turns it around, and uses it against him, amplifying it and exaggerating it as much as possible, to get the prospect to feel terribly guilty, and to "convict himself" — to find himself guilty — of some sin or crime. Then, the only way for the prospect to escape from the feelings of guilt is to surrender to religious conversion. Frank Buchman developed that procedure into an art form, and called it "Soul Surgery". Then some of Buchman's followers taught the technique to Bill Wilson. Now Wilson is teaching it to the A.A. recruiters.

If his mood is light, tell him humorous stories of your escapades. Get him to tell some of his.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 91.

Again, the setup, getting his confidence, and getting him to reveal his history and his secrets.

When he sees you know all about the drinking game, commence to describe yourself as an alcoholic.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 91.

If you are satisfied that he is a real alcoholic, begin to dwell on the hopeless feature of the malady. Show him, from your own experience, how the queer mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power. Don't, at this stage, refer to this book, unless he has seen it and wishes to discuss it.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 92.

Another mind game: Tell him that his situation is hopeless. That is the cult practice of Phobia Induction. Suggest to him that his thinking is faulty, that he is suffering from a queer mental condition. That is the cult characteristic 'Newcomers can't think right'. Don't mention the Big Book, because we don't want him to know that we are following a recipe in a manual, and we also don't want to disclose other information in the book that he isn't supposed to know yet, like how this recruiting scam works, or just how fanatically religious this cult really is.

And be careful not to brand him as an alcoholic. Let him draw his own conclusion. If he sticks to the idea that he can still control his drinking, tell him that possibly he can — if he is not too alcoholic. But insist that if he is severely afflicted, there may be little chance he can recover by himself.

Continue to speak of alcoholism as an illness, a fatal malady. Talk about the conditions of body and mind which accompany it. Keep his attention focussed mainly on your personal experience. Explain that many are doomed who never realize their predicament.
The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, William G. Wilson, page 92.

These are some powerful mind games: "You will die if you don't do things my way. You may think that you can recover on your own, but, your 'queer mental condition' renders your thinking useless, so your odds aren't too good... You will die before you even realize your predicament. You had better join my cult right now, while you still can."

Doctors are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the whole story unless it will serve some good purpose. But you may talk to him about the hopelessness of alcoholism because you offer a solution.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 92.

Yes, the members of the cult are special. They will tell you things that your doctor won't. (Now whether those things are true is another matter...)

You will soon have your friend admitting he has many, if not all, of the traits of the alcoholic.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 92.

Dream on. You will soon have him admitting things? Next, confessing things?

If his own doctor is willing to tell him that he is alcoholic, so much the better. Even though your protege may not have entirely admitted his condition, he has become very curious to know how you got well.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, pages 92-93.

Now he's a protégé? We just met a few minutes ago. And now the prospect is curious? Notice how skillfully Wilson plays his mind games. Bill Wilson was trained in deceptive recruiting techniques by Frank Buchman's cult, The Oxford Group, and he was a good student. Then Bill took courses like Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Bill really knew how to manipulate and influence people's minds, and did it deliberately, and now he's teaching the recruiter his techniques.

Let him ask you that question, if he will. Tell him exactly what happened to you. Stress the spiritual feature freely. If the man be agnostic or atheist, make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles.
[Italics in original.]
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

Why are you supposed to "Stress the spiritual feature freely"?
Because you are NOT supposed to stress "the religious feature".
Keep on repeating the lie, "It's spiritual, not religious," when the prospect objects and says, "I don't want to join a religion."

This: "make it emphatic that he does not have to agree with your conception of God" is deceptive recruiting. The recruiters also tell the prospects,
"You can believe in any God you want, or none at all. You can have any Higher Power you want."
But that isn't true. The whole goal of the A.A. program is to get people to believe in God, and in many other things, like faith healing and the Twelve Steps, exactly as Bill Wilson tells them to.

  • All of Chapter Four of the Big Book, We Agnostics, is devoted to spelling out exactly how all doubters must be converted into true believers. None of that chapter is about how to quit drinking.
  • And soon, this chapter will tell how even faithful believers in other religions must accept A.A. beliefs as being better than their own beliefs, because their own religion didn't keep them from drinking.
  • Likewise, the Hazelden Foundation literature teaches us that we should set our own religion aside if it doesn't give us A.A.-style "spirituality."
  • In order to work the Twelve Steps, you must believe in a micro-managing meddling God who will take control of your will and your life, and answer your prayers and grant your wishes, and remove your "defects of character" and moral "shortcomings", and then talk to you, and educate you and give you your work orders and the power to carry them out. Very few religions push that particular image of God.

But prospects and new members, whom A.A. calls "pigeons" and "babies", are not told that up front.

Once the prospects have been recruited and brought into the group, the old-timers will set to work indoctrinating the newcomers and pressuring them to bring their beliefs into agreement with the rest of the group. A book called the "Serenity Bible" describes that theistic bait-and-switch process precisely, using more Sly Suggestions:

We may start out as agnostics. We may then come to view the group or recovery process as our higher power, looking to other people for strength. Gradually, we accept a vague notion of god, which grows to a more specific monotheistic god. We may even begin to pray to and dialogue with this god. Eventually we come to know the one true God.
Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, Complete with New Testament Psalms & Proverbs, Dr. Robert Hemfelt and Dr. Richard Fowler, page 78.

In his history of Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, Bill Wilson wrote:

When first contacted, most alcoholics just wanted to find sobriety, nothing else. They clung to their other defects, letting go only little by little. They simply did not want to get "too good too soon." The Oxford Groups' absolute concepts — absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love — were frequently too much for the drunks. These ideas had to be fed with teaspoons rather than by buckets.
      Besides, the Oxford Groups' "absolutes" were expressions peculiar to them. This was a terminology which might continue to identify us in the public mind with the Oxford Groupers, even though we had completely withdrawn from their fellowship.
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, pages 74-75.

The alcoholics (whom Bill Wilson deprecatingly called "drunks" who didn't want to be good) just wanted to quit drinking; they didn't want to join Bill's crazy Buchmanite cult religion with its ridiculous Absolutes. So Bill Wilson's answer to that problem was to deceive the newcomers, and hide the intense religiosity of A.A., and to also hide the Buchmanite Oxford Group cult religion roots of Alcoholics Anonymous, until after the newcomers had been indoctrinated and brainwashed enough... Mr. Wilson candidly admitted that he was practicing deceptive recruiting, not honestly telling the newcomers what membership in his group would really entail. And now, the A.A. slogan "Teaspoons, Not Buckets" teaches standard A.A. recruiting procedure.

Destructive narcissists categorized as "Manipulative" are particularly prone to use misleading statements and lies. Do they know they are lying? Yes. But, they feel they have the right to use any means available to achieve their ends.
Loving the Self-Absorbed: How to Create a More Satisfying Relationship with a Narcissistic Partner, Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC, NCC, page 67.

Notice how Bill Wilson claimed that the prospects' reluctance to join a cult religion was "clinging to their other defects". In Bill Wilson's mind, the alcoholics had to both quit drinking and join his religion in order to be good people.

Also note that the absurd "Four Absolutes" were not exactly restricted to the Oxford Groups. The popular terminology was, but the thinking wasn't. Most cult religions encourage irrational absolute black-and-white thinking and impossible, super-human standards of perfection.

Bill continued teaching the recruiters how to deceive the newcomers:

When dealing with such a person [an agnostic or atheist], you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice he may have against certain theological terms and conceptions about which he may already be confused. Don't raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

Again, deceive the prospect. Downplay and soft-pedal the religiosity. Don't use any theological terminology that would reveal the true religious nature of the A.A. program.

He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual.
Thomas Jefferson, August 19, 1785.

Notice how Bill Wilson declared that agnostics or atheists who wouldn't believe in his peculiar Buchmanite religious ideas were "prejudiced" and "already confused" about "certain theological terms and conceptions". Such arrogance. Mr. Wilson won't admit that many very intelligent, well-educated people — both non-believers and believers — who clearly understand what theological terms mean, still strongly disagree with Bill's religious proclamations for a variety of good reasons.

Even the Pope would disagree with the theology of Frank Buchman and Bill Wilson, because it is grossly heretical nonsense. In fact, the Vatican did ban Frank Buchman's Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament cults — twice — specifically because of its bad theology — and the Pope ordered that no good Catholics should go to Oxford Group meetings or work with Moral Re-Armament.

But Bill Wilson just claimed that people who objected to his peculiar Buchmanite religious tenets were all thinking dishonestly, and trying to evade the obvious truth that he imagined he saw so clearly:

We had seen spiritual release, but liked to tell ourselves it wasn't true.
      Actually we were fooling ourselves, for deep down in every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Page 55.

(That is Bill's narcissistic delusions of grandeur, showing again. Only Bill and those people who agree with him see everything clearly, Bill thinks. Everybody else is just confused and prejudiced and thinking dishonestly and fooling themselves...)

Bill Wilson continued with his recruiting manual, and implied that A.A. was better than other religions:

Your prospect may belong to a religious denomination. His religious education and training may be far superior to yours. In that case he is going to wonder how you can add anything to what he already knows. But he will be curious to learn why his own convictions have not worked and why yours seem to work so well. He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

That is a vicious mind game of religious one-upmanship: If someone is having troubles with alcohol, claim that it proves that his religious beliefs and faith are inferior to those of the Alcoholics Anonymous members: "his own convictions have not worked", and "his faith was insufficient".

  • Who said that the goal of all religious convictions is to treat or cure alcohol abuse?
  • Who said that religious convictions are supposed to "work" at all? Who says that religious beliefs are supposed to function and work in a certain manner? We are not talking about cars or computers here.

Note the slick propaganda tricks:

  1. "He may be an example of the truth that faith alone is insufficient."
    You get a soft "Sly Suggestion" followed by absolute dogma:
    "He may be an example of one of Bill Wilson's unquestionably-true religious beliefs."
    And Bill also slips in, as if it were established fact, his religious belief that "faith alone is insufficient" — to stay sober, members must also constantly go recruiting. That is the technique called "Assume the Major Premise".

  2. "his own convictions have not worked and ... yours seem to work so well."
    That is two more examples of "Assume the Major Premise" and "Sly Suggestion". Bill suggests that the A.A. recruiter's religion must be working much better than the prospect's, because the recruiter isn't drinking.

But is that true? Is the recruiter really a living example of a good religion? The recruiter may appear to have his act together, but that is often a sham. He may be "faking it until he makes it." The usual path for new cult members is to become true believers early in the game, and enthusiastically go recruit others, and then, eventually, the older members will become disillusioned and leave,

Just look around an A.A. meeting, and ask yourself, "Where are all of the old-timers, the ones with 20 or 30 years? Why are even the guys with just 10 years sober in A.A. just a bit unusual?"

One story in the Big Book says:

All of us in A.A. know the tremendous happiness that is in our sobriety, but there are also tragedies. My sponsor, Jackie, was one of these. He brought in many of our original members, yet he himself could not make it and died of alcoholism.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 239.

After being dry two weeks and sticking close to Jackie, all of a sudden I found I had become the sponsor of my sponsor, for he was suddenly taken drunk. I was startled to learn that he had only been off the booze for a month or so himself when he brought me the message!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 245.

Likewise, an A.A. enthusiast named Paddy was doing the same thing over in Boston, recruiting and relapsing, recruiting and relapsing, until he died of alcohol poisoning. And a little later, the guy who started Alcoholics Anonymous in South Africa, nick-named "Johnny Appleseed", did the same thing, too. So did the childhood movie star Lilian Roth, who founded A.A. in New Zealand and then relapsed and died drunk.

(Then the A.A. members will say, "Don't confuse the message with the messenger. The message is perfect, it is just the messengers who are flawed and weak.")

So just because the recruiter looks sober and happy right now doesn't necessarily mean that he is going to stay that way for very long. The recruiter isn't really living proof that A.A. or the Twelve Steps actually work to keep people sober. And the sober A.A. recruiter isn't really living proof that the A.A. religion is better than other peoples' religions.

You too may end up being the sponsor of your sponsor.

And note that here is where Mr. Wilson begins his campaign to convert all believers of other religions to his own religious beliefs, while he also declares that A.A. is not a religion, and that you are free to have any religious beliefs you wish.

The Big Book also says:

I had been brought up to believe in God, but I know that until I found this A.A. program, I had never found or known faith in the reality of God, the reality of His power that is now with me in everything I do.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, anonymous, page 341.

Yes, A.A. is much better than other religions. So you should convert to Mr. Wilson's religious beliefs.

All of these games of religious one-upmanship contradict the happy P.R. statement that Mr. Wilson made earlier in the Big Book:

Those having religious affiliations will find nothing here disturbing to their beliefs or ceremonies. There is no friction among us over such matters.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 28.

Besides which, A.A. starts off telling you that "alcoholism" is a disease, often caused by inheriting a gene for alcoholism from your father. What do faith and religious beliefs have to do with a congenital disease? Real doctors don't say, "You have cystic fibrosis. You had better change your religious beliefs, fast."

The Big Book recruiting manual continues:

To be vital, faith must be accompanied by self sacrifice and unselfish, constructive action.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

Again, this is a misleading statement. Those terms, "self sacrifice" and "unselfish, constructive action" are so vague and generic that they could mean anything that Mr. Wilson or A.A. want them to mean. And Bill usually wants them to mean, "Go recruit some more members for our little 'fellowship' if you want your faith to be 'vital'."

(Pardon a stupid question, but just what is "vital faith", and why should I want some, and how does it differ from "non-vital faith"?)

There is a guilt-inducing accusation implied there:
"Your own religious convictions haven't worked, and your faith isn't vital, because you are selfish."
So quit being selfish. Go recruiting for us. Go get us some more "babies" and "pigeons" if you want your faith to work.

And again, this is religion, not how to quit drinking. The Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Moslems, Sufis, Bahais, Hindus, and Native Americans have every right to (at least try to) lecture me about faith, but not A.A., because A.A. says that it isn't a religion.

Let him see that you are not there to instruct him in religion.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

Geez Louise, Bill. Whom do you think you are kidding? Do we really look that blind and stupid?

Admit that he probably knows more about it [religion] than you do, but call to his attention the fact that however deep his faith and knowledge, he could not have applied it or he would not drink.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 93.

Wilson is teaching deceptive mind games again:

  • First, claim that you are not there to instruct him in religion.
  • Second, display some false humility to flatter him and win his trust. Tell him that he knows more about religion than you do.
  • Third, assert that his drinking problems prove that his religious beliefs and faith are inferior to those of the A.A. members, so he had better switch religions and join the A.A. religion.
  • And induce some guilt with this mind game:
    "He could not have applied [his faith and religious knowledge] or he would not drink."
    What, you have to be an atheist to drink beer?

Bill continues:

Perhaps your story will help him see where he has failed to practice the very precepts he knows so well. We represent no particular faith or denomination. We are dealing only with general principles common to most denominations.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, pages 93-94.

Again, we see the "medical-to-moral-morph" bait-and-switch stunt unfolding:

  • A.A. started off by telling the prospect that alcoholism is a disease
    • "an actual disease that has a name and symptoms like diabetes or cancer or TB" (the Big Book, 3rd edition, page 227),
    • a progressive, incurable disease that is often caused by a gene inherited from one's father,
    so it isn't his fault.

  • And A.A. recites Step One: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol", so it isn't his fault.

  • But later, A.A. accuses the prospect of drinking because he has moral shortcomings, his faith is insufficient, and "he has failed to practice the very precepts [religion] he knows so well."

  • So what happened to the disease theory? How and when did "alcoholism" suddenly get redefined as a failure to practice religion properly?

And this is also untrue: "We represent no particular faith or denomination."
They represent the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve-Step religion, period.

And they dissemble when they say that it isn't a religion. Any sane reader should be able to see by now that it's a religion. (All of the judges and courts can see that it's a religion.) Mr. Wilson has done little else besides talk about God and faith and how God will save you from alcoholism, if you confess enough and believe enough and recruit enough... And Bill Wilson spent all of chapter four of the Big Book lecturing everybody about how they had to believe in God, just like Bill did, and convert to Bill's religion, or else. Bill gave no helpful information in chapter 4 about how to actually quit drinking and stay quit. That is a religion, not a quit-drinking program.

And Bill said, "We are dealing only with general principles common to most denominations." No way José!

  • The A.A. dogma is very peculiar, a sort of Calvinism with genetic predestination, where you inherit genes, alcoholism, sins and spiritual diseases from your father...
  • And A.A. is sort of like Christian Science when it comes to faith healing and insisting that God is the only permissible cure for a disease.
  • And A.A. is Frank Buchman's crazy cult religion all the way: insisting that people have to confess their sins to each other to be holy, and have to spend their lives in group meetings, and have to "channel" God and hear God dictating orders.

A.A. has almost nothing in common with any sane, ordinary religion. Can you imagine thinking you are in a Catholic mass or a Baptist church service when you walk into an A.A. meeting? Not a ghost of a chance.

  • Will the Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Methodists, or Episcopalians tell you that your congenital medical problems must be cured by God alone?
  • Will they tell you that you have to do 90 church services in 90 days to be a good beginner?
  • Will they tell you that you are a hopeless case, that you are powerless over temptation, and that salvation is not available to you, that you cannot ever be reformed, redeemed, or "saved", and that the only thing you can do is give up and surrender to God-control, and hope that God will make a good little puppet out of you?
  • Will they tell you that you must go to two or three church services or confession meetings per week for the rest of your life, or else?
  • Will any of those churches tell you to conduct a séance and pray and meditate until you hear voices in your head, telling you what to do, and then you should go and do whatever the voices say? (Step 11.)

The simple answer is, "No. Most denominations won't tell you that."

One critic on the Internet said it beautifully:

I fail to see how the Judeo/Christian God is the one referred to by Bill W., nor do I think that the 12-Step cult holds any considerable similarities to major religions. None of them consider "newcomers" to be sick people who must be introduced to the religions piecemeal, nor do they use cliches and other insulting language in a sophisticated attempt to make the congregation passive. In writing that, I just tried to picture in my mind an actual sermon, where the priest tells his colorful "story" of his life before joining the church (to the laughter of the congregation,) and pleads, "your best thinking got you here. 90 services in 90 days. Fake it 'til you make it. Keep it simple, stupid. Keep coming back, it works if you work it, you die if you don't, so work it, you're worth it!" ... and I laughed.
— Nick

Bill Wilson's recruiting manual continues:

Outline the program of action, explaining how you made a self-appraisal, how you straightened out your past and why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him. It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 94.

Yeh, I can't get my merit badge in recruiting until I get three more new converts.

Actually, this is also standard cult behavior: It is called "actionizing", or "self-sell". The trick is to get new members out on the streets fast, busy recruiting more members. The act of trying to convert others will cement the new dogma in the minds of the recent converts, and they will be convincing themselves as they try to convince others.

Make it plain he is under no obligation to you, that you hope only that he will try to help other alcoholics when he escapes his own difficulties. Suggest how important it is that he place the welfare of other people ahead of his own.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 94.

Outrageous. What did I tell you? We haven't even converted this guy yet, and already we are telling him that he has to go recruiting for us.

And then we use a little shame and guilt induction to manipulate his mind: "Place other people's welfare ahead of your own, you selfish slob, and go recruit some more members for our 'little fellowship'."

And we also use some fear-mongering at the same time:
"It is very important that you place the welfare of other people ahead of your own, or else the program won't work, and you will die."

Note the cute double-bind: Even if you claim that you are recruiting for A.A. because you are placing the welfare of others ahead of your own, you are still out there recruiting because you are really trying to save your own life (probably a lot more than theirs). Indeed, it's nearly impossible to not be extremely interested in your own welfare when we are talking about who will die. So you should then feel guilty for being so selfish.

And maybe the recruiters really should feel guilty for being selfish while recruiting and sponsoring — recent research has shown that newcomers do not benefit at all from getting sponsors. In a recent controlled study, a group of new Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous members who got sponsors did no better than another group who didn't get sponsors. But strangely enough, the sponsors did better than other members who did not act as sponsors. It seems that getting their egos stroked by acting as puffed-up, all-wise, all-knowing gurus, ordering the wimpy newcomers around, helps the sponsors to stay clean and sober, even if it doesn't help the newcomers any.

Examined the relationship between sponsorship and abstinence in 12-Step treatment of injection drug users. 500 former and current injection drug users (median age 39 yrs) reported sponsorship in Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) at baseline and at 6-mo and 1-yr follow-ups. Results show that having a sponsor in NA/AA was not associated with any improvement in 1-yr sustained abstinence rates compared to non-sponsored controls. However, being a sponsor over the same time period was strongly associated with substantial improvements in sustained abstinence rates, even after controlling for involvement with community organizations, NA/AA meeting attendance, marital status, employment, participation in drug and alcohol treatment centers, and HIV status.
See: "The effects of sponsorship in 12-Step treatment of injection drug users",
Byron L. Crape, Carl A. Latkin, Alexandra S. Laris, Amy R. Knowlton,
(all of the Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA),
[Journal of] Drug & Alcohol Dependence, Vol 65(3), Feb 2002, pp. 291-301.

Traditionally, the sponsor is supposed to say that he isn't doing it for the newcomer; that he's doing it for his own sobriety. Remember that the Big Book actually instructs recruiters to tell new prospects:

... explain ... why you are now endeavoring to be helpful to him. It is important for him to realize that your attempt to pass this on to him plays a vital part in your recovery. Actually, he may be helping you more than you are helping him.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 94.

But who would have believed that it was really true that the recruiters were not doing it for the benefit of the newcomers, and that the newcomers would not benefit from the sponsors' "help"?

Wilson continued with the recruiting manual:

Maybe you have disturbed him about the question of alcoholism. This is all to the good. The more hopeless he feels, the better. He will be more likely to follow your suggestions.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 94.

Again, more scheming mind games. Disturb him, and make him feel hopeless, the more hopeless the better, so that he will give up, and despair of saving himself, and surrender to you and the cult.

Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. Search out another alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you. ... To spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 96.

Indeed. We aren't trying to save alcoholics here, we are trying to get more cult members. Don't waste your time on the ones who won't join the cult. Keep fishing, and you will find someone desperate enough to grab, like a drowning man, at anything you hold out. And you will find somebody; that's how this cult succeeds in getting new members.

And note Bill Wilson's delusions of grandeur showing again: If you don't push some alcoholic into Bill's program, then you will be denying him the "opportunity to live and be happy." Bill actually claimed that alcoholics couldn't possibly recover, be happy, or even live, without his Alcoholics Anonymous program. Nobody else in the whole world had the magic. Just Bill Wilson. That is the standard cult characteristic of We have THE ONLY WAY.

Ah, but don't give up too easily. Even if you can't talk the alcoholic into joining Alcoholics Anonymous, maybe you can recruit the rest of his family into the Al-Anon and Alateen branches of the 12-Step religion:

Though an alcoholic does not respond, there is no reason why you should neglect his family. You should continue to be friendly to them. The family should be offered your way of life. Should they accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover. And even though he continues to drink, the family will find life more bearable.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 97.

So, all is not lost, even if he won't join A.A. — you can still recruit his wife and kids into the other branch of the organization, Al-Anon, where they will practice Bill Wilson's "spiritual way of life", doing his Twelve Steps, confessing all of their sins and hearing the Voice of God telling them what to do.

Note, once again, that Alcoholics Anonymous is not really a quit-drinking program, it's a religion. Drafting the wife and kids into the program is a dead give-away. They don't drink, and they don't need a quit-drinking program.

Note the subtle, veiled, hints of magic:
"Should they accept and practice spiritual principles, there is a much better chance that the head of the family will recover."
In other words, if the rest of the family joins Bill's cult and believes the right things, says the right prayers, incants the correct spells, and performs the correct Buchmanite rituals, it might make Daddy quit drinking.
Oh really, Bill? How will that happen?

Bill Wilson clearly said, "The family should be offered your way of life."
And Bill's "way of life" is going to zillions of meetings, doing the Twelve Steps, wallowing in guilt, self-doubt, and harmful self-contempt, believing superstitious nonsense, and recruiting for the cult.
No way does the wife need that...

The argument that the family should be recruited because maybe the alcoholic will join A.A. later is pretty flimsy. And the claim that somehow, the family's life will be made more "bearable" by Bill's "spiritual way of life" clearly indicates that it's a religion that is supposed to somehow give you comfort and help you to bear your load of woes and suffering. (Even if it doesn't cure anybody of "alcoholism".)

So, just how IS the wife's confessing all of her sins to her sponsor supposed to make her husband's suicidal drinking more "bearable"?

Also notice that Bill was laying the roots for Al-Anon when he wrote the original manuscript for the Big Book in late 1938 and early 1939. The official A.A. story is that his wife Lois Wilson founded Al-Anon much later on, so that the wives would have something to do while the men were in their A.A. meetings. That is obviously not true at all. Bill Wilson was already recruiting the wives and children into his religion when he wrote the front chapters of the Big Book in 1938. But of course. Bill was really pushing the Oxford Group cult religion, not a cure for "alcoholism". Wives and children were always fair game for recruiting efforts. Wives and children made up a big percentage of the Oxford Group membership.

Then, Mr. Wilson instructs the recruiter to be wary about loaning the prospect money, or letting him live in his house for a while, or giving too much other help. On one level, this is good advice, because too many down-and-out alcoholics are likely to take advantage of such a situation if they can. But the rationalization for not helping the alcoholic is:

The minute we put our work on a service plane, the alcoholic commences to rely upon our assistance rather than upon God.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 98.

This is remarkably similar to the Buchmanite Ted Stoan's remarks about how he had made a big mistake by campaigning for poor school-children to get meals and boots, because he had made "materialists" out of them. And it also explains why Alcoholics Anonymous never engages in any social work, and never helps the poor or homeless, even though many of them are alcoholics.

Then Bill Wilson once again shows us the intensely religious and magical nature of the program:

Job or no job — wife or no wife — we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 98.

Then Bill couldn't help but go on a side trip for a page, and get in a few more jabs at his wife:

Though his family be at fault in many respects, he should not be concerned about that. He should concentrate on his own spiritual demonstration. Argument and fault-finding are to be avoided like the plague. In many homes this is a difficult thing to do, but it must be done if any results are to be expected.   ...   Little by little the family may see their own defects and admit them. These can then be discussed in an atmosphere of helpfulness and friendliness.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 98.

Meaning: "Yeh, Lois. When are you going to admit your own defects, like that you are really a horrible bitch who nagged me for years, always demanding that I quit drinking and go get a job? Now, I'm too spiritual to bring it up and criticize you for it, but don't you think it's about time that you 'cleaned house' and confessed it to me?"

A narcissist like Bill Wilson just could not admit that the difficulties and arguments with his wife were his own fault for drinking too much — he just had to blame it all on Lois and demand that she confess her faults.

You can't win. There's no such thing as a Narcissistic vampire being objective about his or her faults.
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 137.

Then, Bill Wilson just can't help but make one more try at recruiting the entire family into his religion:

After they have seen tangible results, the family will perhaps want to go along. These things will come to pass naturally and in good time...
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 99.

Then Bill switched to being a helpful marriage counselor:

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

Yes, she must "fully understand" that Alcoholics Anonymous will now dominate his new life, and that they shouldn't get back together until she knows her place and is willing to stay in her place. And if she won't accept the A.A. program, then the marriage should end.

Bill Wilson claimed that their old relationship must be "resumed on a better basis", because it "did not work" before.

It didn't work before? What didn't work before?
Let's see... He drank too much alcohol. That was the big problem.
So how was that the fault of his wife or their former relationship?
And why must the wife get "a new attitude and spirit" from God?
Isn't that his job?

Again, we see Bill Wilson's Narcissistic Personality Disorder at work. Bill routinely tried to off-load blame and shift the blame and responsibility for his excessive drinking to his wife Lois — it was all her fault because she was a nag, she was no fun, she was a killjoy, she was "more like a mother", and she was supposedly selfish and dishonest and unspiritual... So she needed to reform herself and become as spiritual as Bill Wilson, so that Bill could stay sober.

And if they can't get back together, Bill has this advice for the ex-wife:

But sometimes you must start life anew. We know women who have done it. If such women adopt a spiritual way of life their road will be smoother.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 8, "To Wives", page 114.

So ladies, even if A.A. breaks up your marriage, you should still join Al-Anon and adopt Bill Wilson's 12-Step "spiritual way of life"...

Bill just can't stop recruiting, can he?

No, he can't. Over on page 130, in the chapter The Family Afterwards, Bill also wrote:

One more suggestion: Whether the family has spiritual convictions or not, they may do well to examine the principles by which the alcoholic member is trying to live. They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles, though the head of the house still fails somewhat in practicing them. Nothing will help the man who is off on a spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts a sane spiritual program, making a better use of it.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 9, "The Family Afterwards", page 130.

Note Bill's arrogant assumption that the women did not already have a "spiritual way of life", and didn't even know much about spiritual things. Any woman who, like Lois Wilson, could play the thankless "stand by your man" role and tolerate an arrogant obnoxious egotistical philandering drunkard like Bill Wilson for many years, and even go to work in a department store to support him while he stole money out of her purse to go buy more booze, must have the patience of a saint...
I think she already knows something about Bill's spiritual principles like "self-sacrifice" and "unselfish, constructive action."

Note Bill's assumption that his "simple principles" are so obviously true that no reasonable person could possibly disagree with them:
"They can hardly fail to approve these simple principles."
Delusions of grandeur strike again.

Bill Wilson even thinks that his religion is the best cure for a family where Daddy has gone crazy from too much of Bill's religion:
"Nothing will help the man who is off on a spiritual tangent so much as the wife who adopts a sane spiritual program, making a better use of it."
So now the wife is supposed to join Al-Anon and get "fixed" by the 12-Step program that just drove Daddy crazy.

Having destroyed a bunch of marriages, Bill now takes off his marriage-counselor hat and switches back to being a spiritual advisor:

Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, "Working With Others", pages 99-100.

Oh? What is this religious mumbo jumbo? Can you prove this, Mr. Wilson?
Why isn't his recovery simply dependent upon his not drinking any more alcohol?

Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 100.

More of the same unproven mumbo jumbo. What if my Higher Power isn't a dictator?
What then?
What if, unlike the philosophical father of A.A., Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman, I don't believe in Fascist dictators?
What if my Higher Power, unlike yours, Mr. Wilson, doesn't want me to spend all of my life following Her dictates?

Oh, and I can't resist this one:
Satan, the Devil, the fallen angel Lucifer, is a Higher Power.

Will I presently live in a new and wonderful world if I follow the dictates of the Higher Power Satan?

No? Why not?

  • You A.A. true believers said that it didn't matter which Higher Power I chose, just as long as I believed in some Power greater than myself, and that I could have any Higher Power I wanted...*
  • You said that I could even have a doorknob, a motorcycle, a mountain, or the A.A. group itself as my Higher Power if I wanted... "GOD" = a Group Of Drunks.
  • And you said that A.A. isn't a religion, but now you will tell me which God I can or cannot believe in?

On the other hand, if the answer is "Yes, you can have Satan, as you understand Him, for your Higher Power", then I really want to hear A.A. tell that to the other churches (especially the churches in whose basements A.A. meets).

Lastly, what if I find that just waking up without a hang-over is wonderful, and that being really healthy — quitting both alcohol and tobacco — feels fantastically good? Do I still have to be the slave of a dictator and leave Earth and move into Bill Wilson's "new and wonderful world?"

* The Big Book, page 12:

"Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"
It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.

There is nothing there to keep you from using Satan as your Higher Power.

And if the Alcoholics Anonymous "G.O.D." can be a "Group Of Drunks", and the Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous "G.O.D." can be a "Group Of Drug addicts", then why can't the 12-Step "G.O.D." be a "Group Of Devils"?

Then Wilson declared:

We are careful never to show intolerance or hatred of drinking as an institution. Experience shows that such an attitude is not helpful to anyone.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 7, "Working With Others", page 103.

Why? I don't feel bad about damning the tobacco industry. Why does alcohol deserve special treatment? Doesn't advertising beer on TV during every sporting event increase drinking and cravings?

Hint: Of course it does. That's why the big brewing companies spend millions of dollars to air those commercials.

Then Bill ended the recruiting manual with these declarations:

After all, our problems were of our own making. Bottles were only a symbol. Besides, we have stopped fighting anybody or anything. We have to!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 103.

Actually, our problems were made by a lot of things: God, physics, evolution, biochemistry, genetics, medical problems, psychiatric problems, childhoods, parents, life, society, history, culture, laws, breweries, and ourselves.

Bottles are not a symbol, they are a container. The implication here is that the disease theory of alcoholism has been completely discarded now, and the moral model is installed. Now, the alcoholic is told that his problems were of his own making, due to his own moral shortcomings, his own personal sins, and his own failure to practice religious precepts properly. Genetics and diseases do not count any more.

But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn't do it.
The Big Book, William G. Wilson, page 133.

The medical-to-moral-morph bait-and-switch stunt has been completed.

A final, fun note: If you true believers have stopped fighting anybody or anything, then let me draft you into my slave labor program, where you will work all of the time, and I will get all of the benefits of your labor. You won't fight it, will you? Come along quietly now, I have some chains and shackles for you...

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Last updated 16 December 2014.
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