Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anonymity - Enabling the Dishonesty of AA for 72 Years

Anonymity in AA jargon is used in two ways. (1) It is used to describe the need to protect against disclosing others' involvement in AA. (2) It is also used to describe the desire to protect AA from being associated with (i.e., tainted by) ourselves.

Other people's involvement with AA

Loving-kindness, respect, and courtesy are the motives behind protecting others people's anonymity. The promise of personal anonymity and confidentiality is very important to many newcomers. Sadly, this promise is often broken. When people ask me about how someone in the fellowship is doing which might involve revealing some sensitive information, I merely tell the them that so-and-so would probably appreciate a phone call. If they don't have the number, I get theirs and pass it on to the person they're asking about.

One's own involvement with AA

Protecting AA by not revealing our own personal involvement is motivated by salesmanship, evangelic loyalty, and deviousness. Many people say that they don't share their affiliation with AA because they then become a spokesperson or representative of AA. Early AA was afraid that if someone announced their membership in AA and then started drinking again, then it would make AA look like it failed. And we, as conscientious AA members, must never admit that AA doesn't work for most people. We have to keep our failures behind closed doors.
We simply couldn't afford to take the chance of letting self-appointed members present themselves as messiahs representing A.A. before the whole public. The promoter instinct in us might be our undoing. If even one publicly got drunk, or was lured into using A.A.'s name for his own purposes, the damage might be irreparable. - Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p 187.
At my Al-Anon meetings, I hear many people in toxic families reiterate the claim the family makes on its privacy. Abusive households set a high store on keeping the family secrets. I have been helped and hurt by my attendance in AA for the last fifteen years. AA has helped and hindered my progress toward a happy life without strong toxins. If AA is happy to take credit for my clean and sober life, then AA also gets the blame when I decided to drink or use drugs. The fact is: AA doesn't get the credit or the blame for my decisions. It provided a time and place for me to meet up with other folks who were trying to live a clean and sober life. Some of these people truly helped me and encouraged me; some were sick twisted fucks.

I will not keep my name or affiliation with AA private. I will not enable AA to pretend that it is a better institution than it is or let it make claims that it helps more people than it actually does. If AA is a program of rigorous honesty, then it should not be ashamed of its success rate... nor of its failures.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Going to any lengths... including reading outside materials

From AA's Website

The term “Conference-approved” describes written or audiovisual material approved by the Conference for publication by G.S.O. This process assures that everything in such literature is in accord with A.A. principles. Conference-approved material always deals with the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous or with information about the A.A. Fellowship.

The term has no relation to material not published by G.S.O. It does not imply Conference disapproval of other material about A.A. A great deal of literature helpful to alcoholics is published by others, and A.A. does not try to tell any individual member what he or she may or may not read.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

AA DoubleSpeak: How AAs misuse the word "drink"

I often hear AA members admitting that they have addictions other than alcohol, but they have a lot of respect for AA, so when they attend AA meetings they refer to themselves as alcoholics (a word the medical profession refuses to use), and they talk about their problems with drinking.

Drinking is something I do with water and fruit punch to quench thirst
. But I used alcohol... the same way an addict uses his or her drug of choice.

I do not have a lot of respect for AA. Respect has to be earned through good institutional decisions. AA is giving in to the current bias against drug abuse rather than staying true to its message of helping others with our stories of redemption. Many people cite the failed experience of the Washingtonians to justify keeping AAs message on helping people with alcohol – only! The Washingtonians did not fail because they expanded their efforts to help those suffering from other vices; all indications show that the group was co-opted (taken over) by religious prohibitionists. The situation is the same today with AA. AA is sucking up to the drug prohibitionists and denying its higher calling of helping others. All reasons for denying AA membership to addicts do not hold any weight.

Alcohol is legal...

But alcohol was illegal during Bill Wilson and Dr Robert Smith's drinking careers. The early AAs did most of their drinking when alcohol was against the law, drinking bathtub gin bought from moonshiners and speakeasies. More importantly, thinking back over our drinking careers, how many times did we break the law by climbing behind a steering wheel. Aren't we all criminals to greater or lesser extent? So why are we trying to climb up on top of addicts in this bottom of the barrel deal we have going?

Alcohol abuse is a single and separate disease...

Current research has identified several genes connected with addictive behavior. A person may have some or all of these indicators. This might explain why there seems to be so much variance in the different types of drunkalogs heard at AA meetings. My major problem was with alcohol, but I feel more kinship with the way some of my heroin addict friends used their drugs than I do with some of the alcohol-only drunks. If being able to relate is one of the key components to breaking down the isolation of a newcomer, then it was these drug abusers that I related to that were more important to me than the drunks that didn't use the way I did.

Many AAs bring up the nearly insignificant number of newcomers that only abuse alcohol, stating that these newcomers must be protected from feeling out of place at an AA meeting because of shares which include mention of drug abuse... but what about the vast number of alcohol abusers who did other drugs as well? If easy tolerance of others is an important lesson to learn in sobriety, we should explain to these hypothetical thin-skinned drunks that they should look at the similarities rather than the differences, and take what they want from the shares about drug dependence and leave the rest.

Alcohol abuse is different from drug abuse...

All medical research indicates that there are broad commonalities between the physiology and histories of both types of addiction. The only major funders of alcohol-specific research are alcohol companies – everyone else seems to understand that the addictions should be treated as a common problem. I've heard of people with a chronic marijuana habit picking up their 15-year AA chip – their conscience clean because AA does not have an official opinion about marijuana dependence. But a person who has had problems with alcohol should be warned that the compulsion to irrational flight from reality may take many dangerous forms other than alcohol. A person freshly released from the physical compulsion to use alcohol will find many other dangerous mental obsessions to take its place. Thrillseeking, rage, religious fanaticism, dangerous sexual activities, abusive relationships, unhealthy diets, legal medications, and foolish spending are some of the substitutes that newcomers need to be warned about.

CONCLUSION... for now...

People who suffer from alcohol dependence suffer from an addictive compulsion. They use alcohol for the same reasons that other drug abusers use their drugs. It's time AA grew some balls and told the prohibitionists that prohibition doesn't work. It's time AA welcomed our addict kindred into our fold.

12 Step Horror Stories: Amazon Customer Reviews

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Appeals court says requirement to attend AA unconstitutional

This article appeared on page B - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer, begelko@sfchronicle.com
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Alcoholics Anonymous, the renowned 12-step program that directs problem drinkers to seek help from a higher power, says it's not a religion and is open to nonbelievers. But it has enough religious overtones that a parolee can't be ordered to attend its meetings as a condition of staying out of prison, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

In fact, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the constitutional dividing line between church and state in such cases is so clear that a parole officer can be sued for damages for ordering a parolee to go through rehabilitation at Alcoholics Anonymous or an affiliated program for drug addicts.

Rulings from across the nation since 1996 have established that "requiring a parolee to attend religion-based treatment programs violates the First Amendment," the court said. "While we in no way denigrate the fine work of (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), attendance in their programs may not be coerced by the state."

The 12 Steps suggested for participants in both programs include an acknowledgment that "a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" and a promise to "turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." They also call for prayer and meditation.

Friday's 3-0 ruling allows a Honolulu man to go to trial in a suit on behalf of his late father, Ricky Inouye, who was paroled from a drug sentence in November 2000.

A Buddhist, he objected to religiously oriented drug treatment in prison, sued state officials over the issue and told Hawaii parole authorities just before his release that he would object to any condition that included a treatment program with religious content.

When Inouye was arrested for trespassing in March 2001 and tested positive for drugs, his parole officer, Mark Nanamori, ordered him to attend a Salvation Army treatment program that included participation in Narcotics Anonymous meetings, the court said.

Inouye showed up but refused to participate, dropped out after two months, and, for that and other reasons, was sent back to prison in November 2001 for violating his parole.

After his release in 2003, he sued Nanamori and others for violating his constitutional rights. Inouye died while the suit was pending, and his son took over the case.

A federal judge dismissed the suit, saying officers are required to pay damages for violating constitutional rights only when those rights are already clearly established.

But the appeals court said Nanamori should have known in 2001 that coerced participation in a religion-based program was unconstitutional because eight state and federal courts had ruled on the issue by then and all had agreed that a parolee has a right to be assigned to a secular treatment program.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just about done with this AA business...

I'm filled to the gills with AA service... doing our local newsletter, running our website, trying to attend the various business meetings to make a difference... then getting sidetracked by personal concerns that pull me away from continued change. However, I think my lack of enthusiasm for continuing as an agent for change is due to fundamental defects in the AA "message" and service structure itself.

AA members accuse me of trying to "blow up" AA; my point is to remind AA of its higher self – "the better angels of our nature." AAs keep trying to make the Big Book and Twelve and Twelve into Bibles. Bill W is some sort of prophet, and his chloral hydrate mixture that led to his hypnotic supercalm is reinterpreted as a "spiritual experience." People keep reciting bad science and poor observations as if their repetition will eventually make their bullshit true.

My recipe for change is: "Fuck the Big Book, the Steps, God, the Traditions, Bill and Bob, the General Service Conference, and anything else that is supposed to be true." Nothing is supposed to be true - it is, it isn't, or it's kinda true with some qualifications. I would rather hear what happened to you without your self-editing to bring your truth into alignment with some dead text.

AA is (or should be) a process, the message is the process – not the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts. AA is the regular meeting of alcoholics (and why not addicts?) who share their experience, strength, and hope of a life without mood-altering chemicals.

One of the reasons for my service-junkee lifestyle over the past few years involves an amends I was making with AA. But I believe that amend has been made. Now I will go to AA and serve at my pleasure. I will speak out whenever I hear anyone preaching BS to people who need understanding and not sermons.

Monday, October 08, 2007

So lets say you're immortal... now what are you going to do?

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. – Susan Ertz, Anger in the Sky.

There's an old joke. Uh, two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly. – Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall.

Monday, October 01, 2007

What you leave behind...

is not engraved in stone monuments; it is what is woven into the lives of others.

Pericles, 5th century B.C.E.