Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The "Politics" of Twelve Steps

Okay, I did it. I threw up my hands and have removed myself from the local AA honcho scene. I was working my ass off for a local AA event, when I hear a supposed friend tell a newcomer that the meeting I started wasn't "real AA." That remark, and one "kill Obama" joke too many forced me to my senses. I gave up trying to educate these hicks. Here's my resignation letter that I posted in the local AA newsletter.

I am quitting all my service positions. CVI & MCVYPAA will need someone to run their websites, create the newsletter, keep the calendars current, and act as Intergroup Chairperson. I have tried to sophisticate AA in this area, but it’s no use when the founding text is laden with religious terms and when this area has gleaming churches next to rundown schools. The courts find AA to be a religious institution; I agree. I got sober without a Higher Power and I received little benefit, and perhaps some harm, from working the Steps. But the religious mind ignores and discounts all evidence that does not support its orthodoxy. I think it is a fraud and unlicensed medicine to imply to desperate folks that a Higher Power and working the Steps are necessary to stay sober. I hope AA can make a searching and moral inventory of its Big Book and beliefs and weigh them against clear reasoning and all the evidence. Ciao bebes, [Diogenes Akritas].
At my weekly Saturday morning meeting last week, the topic was which step you are "on." I shared about the AA philosophy - not worrying about things I can't control and looking for what I can do. I shared that this philosophy has greatly helped me. I also shared that sobriety has improved my life, health, and attitude immensely. AA philosophy and sobriety - two great things that have NOTHING to do with each other. There are too many counter-examples of drunken Twelve Steppers and non-Stepper folks with long term sobriety. I repeated that it's bad medicine to tell people that the Steps will get them sober.

After my share, someone said they wanted to stay out of "the politics" surrounding the Steps - they just did them and they helped. Politics?! When I state that something is bad science - that has nothing to do with politics. It is or it isn't. These Stepper cult members would like to think my statement was mere politics - that way they can rest smugly in the belief that their opinion is as valuable and as important as anyone else's. But science isn't democratic. Credentials, mental prowess, and careful observations matter.

My friend is just another cult member missing the point - there is no evidence that the Steps get people sober. There is some evidence that getting together for sober social support helps, but that is not the Steps. In fact, there is no step that states "we regularly went to meetings."

What about all those sincere people that really believe the Steps got them sober? Well, sincerity doesn't fucken matter when it comes to science - integrity does. Someone may have noticed that birds return each Spring before the lake thaws - someone may sincerely believe the birds' return caused the thaw - but someone would be wrong. When people are finally ready to quit drinking and using, they become willing to stop. That willingness may also cause them to do tasks other people suggest such as the Steps. The willingness causes both the abstinence and the step-work. The fact that they happen around the same time does not mean that either caused the other.