Monday, November 28, 2005

God does give us more than we can handle...

that's how God teaches us to ask for help.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Cult Logic and Bad Medicine

Above all, Bill believed that his depressions were perpetuated by his own failure to work the A.A. Steps. [fn. 2: Many A.A’s agreed. Not a few of them suggested to Bill that he try working the Steps.] - ‘Pass It On’- Bill Wilson and the A.A. message, pages 298-299.

The Emperor Wears No Clothes

I have a war to wage against 12-Step programs that shame people into complying or leaving, and against the 12-Steppers that then point to the rooms of the converted or silent as proof that the 12 Steps work. Many people stay sober without working the Steps, some without even attending 12 Step groups. Many people who follow the Steps as outlined in the Big Book end up drinking or otherwise hurting themselves.

The emperor wears no clothes.

I will not remain silent when I hear bad reasoning or observe bullying – especially when lives are at stake. I want to make room for the newcomer that is not swayed by the religious hullabaloo and the Western mystery of the number 12. Wars usually are fought out of resentment or greed; but wars can also be healthy assertions of reasonable boundaries. I pray to Whatever-Is, that my motives are to be of service and to help the next person.

I have worked the 12 Steps of AA, and I have drunk around them. I have drunk because: (Step 4) I was not ready to do a thorough analysis of my past, (Step 5) to confess my sins to another without shame, or (Step 9) to make amends that I was not ready to make. I felt forced from the meetings because I was also not ready to come back shamed with my tail between my legs or to listen to more of the preaching or recited gibberish.

The 12 steps are just Bill Wilson's attempt to chronologize the Oxford Group's six principles. Lois Wilson had described "the Oxford Group precepts" as: (1) Surrender your life to God. (2) Take a moral inventory. (3) Confess your sins to God and another human being. (4) Make restitution. (5) Give of yourself to others with no demand for return. (6) Pray to God for help to carry out these principles. I do not think Bill Wilson consciously tried to make the steps work out to 12, but I am sure he understood that "12" sells to Judaeo-Christians - even post-modern ones.

For my myself, I prefer 3 steps: Trust God, clean house, and help others. I was told early in recovery that I had already done the first 3 steps merely by walking into a room of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was also told that I could practice the last 3 steps until I was ready to formally take Steps 4 through 9 (the "deal breakers" for many post-moderns). Even when I have been drinking, I have tried to remind myself that I am powerless over my addictive nature, to let go and let God, to do regular spotchecks of my behavior and to quickly apologize or thank people, to pray to Whatever-Is and Not-Me, to meditate, and to help the next person.

Cult Logic and "The Noble Dolphin"

Cults often stress the value of staying open-minded and being willing to try new things... that is until you've accepted the wisdom of their party line. There is a frail and ailing humanity for which the cult provides a solution. If the solution doesn't work, then the sufferer is to blame for not doing it right. The sufferer didn't want it enough or didn't make the necessary surrender to the cult's wisdom. Questioning the wisdom of the cult's solution is not allowed. If questioned, the members will point to the satisfied members for whom the solution has worked... all the people saved with 100% satisfaction... which brings us to the Fallacy of the Noble Dolphin.

It is often said that our friend, the noble dolphin, saves the shipwrecked by hauling them to shore. The problem with this reasoning is that, if the dolphin decides to take the shipwrecked person to sea, then there is no account of the mischievous dolphin's "error" to pit against the happy story of the noble dolphin. The evidence is skewed in favor of success. The same goes for many meetings of the various Anonymous groups. The only people that attend the meetings regularly are those that "The Program" has worked for. I have known at least three people that have committed suicide even though they were working the Steps and staying sober. I have talked to several people who no longer come to meetings and are trying to manage controlled drinking because they disagree with what they hear at the meetings and feel that disagreeing is just more work than it's worth. I worry about the alcoholics and addicts that do not like "The Progam" outlined in the Big Book; I also worry about those that are not helped by "The Program."

It is often said that no one has ever heard of an AA member coming back to the rooms and telling everyone how much fun it is "out there." First of all, someone who is still having some fun drinking will not feel welcome at an AA meeting. That's because the price of admission to the membership of many AA groups is to repeat the bad medicine and rigorous clichés that are the lifeblood of the AA cult and the source of status for the Oldtimers. Nowhere in our Traditions is it written that we have to repeat another's bullshit. Our Traditions make no mention of the need to work the Steps or to "stick with the Winners." Nor do our Traditions state that membership is conditioned on our willingness to go to any lengths to stay sober.

The members of AA aren't willing to look at what a dismal failure their "Program" is in terms of even keeping a modest percentage of drunks sober; I've read medical articles suggesting anywhere from 5% on down to less than 1% of addicts that enter 12-step recovery programs are sober a year later. Yet it is understandable that the small percentage for whom the treatment works should become loyal, even fiercely loyal, to what they have been told has saved them. That loyalty is understandable, but it is misguided and ILLEGAL when the recovered addict plays doctor and advises another addict that they must follow the same program that has helped them.

I feel the problem results from two major factors: (1) AA members are not trained to think medically or scientifically and so don't have the foggiest idea of what is keeping them sober, and (2) the primary source of return to drinking stems from resentment and its resulting isolation. Oldtimers scolding newcomers to "Work the Steps or Die" merely encourage newcomers to go out and try their lonely experiment in sobriety without any connection to another alcoholic and without benefit of the sober drunks hard-won tricks and gimmicks that have buttressed his or her sobriety.

12-Steppers keep overlooking the fact that the 12 steps are a suggested program. Something that might help. The overlooked passage quoted above suggests that Bill Wilson felt guilty his whole life because he never worked the Steps. This is unfair to Bill because he effectively worked the principles that the Steps attempt to capture. Bill made confession, made restitution, practiced quieting his mind, and helped others; but Bill never worked the Steps as outlined in the Big Book.

Bill was not having any success with helping alcoholics during his first few months of sobriety. Dr Silkworth advised Bill that he might have more success with alcoholics if Bill stopped preaching and merely told his story. Bill took Dr Silkworth's advice. Bill told his story to Dr Bob. Dr Bob had been working the Oxford Group's program for years, but that regimen did not curb his thirst. What finally helped him was talking to another alcoholic about the difficulties of being a drunk and the struggle to stay sober.

The real program of Alcoholics Anonymous – perhaps even the only AA concept – is to meet regularly with fellow-sufferers to talk about experience, strength, and hope and to be of service where one can.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Twelve Steps, Schmell Steps

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol....
12. ...we tried to carry this message to alcoholics....