Thursday, March 29, 2012

Twelve Step Failures?

Of course, 12-Step groups have numerous anecdotes about their successes, but the data is skewed in favor of success - failures aren't heard from again.  I am told that I have to take the "high road" when it comes to promoting secular recovery - to avoid disparaging AA and NA or their accomplishments. But where do we go to hear about their failures? The code of silence keeps the dysfunction within their secret societies. In some ways, I feel like I'm being asked to "enable" an abusive family.

From my own personal experiences in AA, these are some of the highlights of what might be considered AA failures. You may argue that these are aberrations, but I feel that these incidents are direct products of AA's Steps.

  • A man I knew from Marin who attended our Berkeley noon meetings shared about how painful it was to share some of his secrets with his sponsor, that he didn't get the relief promised by the Fifth Step. A week later, he had committed suicide.
  • After two of my own Fifth Steps (confessing all my dirty secrets), I immediately began drinking and stopped going to meetings.
  • One of my girlfriends was told by her sponsor that she was probably one of the numerous over-diagnoses of bipolar disorder - that her medication was unnecessary and that the Steps were enough to take care of her moods. Two weeks later, she was 5150'd because of an attempted suicide.
  • As part of her amends, a friend of mine went secretly to the police to inform them of an organized crime group that she had been involved with. The police got her to get her old associates to admit their crimes over the phone. Then the police wanted her to move somewhere the criminals didn't know about. She moved in with her sponsor. I think she had a minor "slip" on pain pills because of the stress. Her sponsor started telling her boyfriend and close friends that she was using her apartment to hide out. My friend was deeply frightened by these disclosures and had to move again. This time she didn't go back to AA, and she fired her sponsor.
  • One of my old sponsors in Oakland convinced his sponsee to confess to embezzling a great deal of money from a large corporation. The story made into several Bay Area newspapers. The sponsee went to prison for several years as a result of his confession. I saw him rummaging through garbage cans two years ago while I was attending a seminar training in San Francisco.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Money, Beginning Thoughts

The current state of economic inequality is rooted in the concept and practice of money. What is money? What are the current rules surrounding money and what have those rules been in the past? What do we want the practice of money to do, and how do we most efficiently achieve those ends? An economy is a group of people who operate under the same rules and who regularly trade goods and services among themselves. Money is a promise to return a good or service received. Because it is a promise, it has no self-limiting need to fit the actual world. People can promise and promise until there is no way for them to fulfill their obligations. Can we base money on anything else? Could rolling back and eventually ending the practices of interest and money-lending move us toward a sustainable economy rather than our current unsustainable growth economy?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bill Wilson, light & loose with the truth

Bill Wilson used two quotes in Alcoholics Anonymous. Neither is correct. "Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire grenadier, who caught his death drinking cold small beer. Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall, when ye're hot drink strong or none at all." The "contempt prior to investigation" is not Herbert Spencer's but was a misquote of a misquote that came from a book Anglo-Israel in which it was argued that the British were the lost tribes of Israel.

The point?

Mr Wilson played light and loose with the truth. At best, he was sloppy; at worst, a liar. His BRILLIANT (yet borrowed) idea was that people with irrational cravings could create societies to help each other deal with those cravings. The rest of his writings should be treated very cautiously. He never "worked" the beloved steps that he wrote. (Pass It On, pp 298-299.) Mr Wilson further claimed the steps were dictated to him by the spirit of his Ouija board (Pass It On, pp 196-197, 278-279.)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Secular Recovery comes to Modesto!

I feel a little resentful that my AA friends are allowed to tell their stories in hospitals, rehabs, and jails.  I would like to be able to tell others my story about my recovery without a higher power or stepwork. To that end, I've decided to affiliate with the secular group, LifeRing.  I see as AA2K, an upgrade to AA.  It captures the best of AA (social support) and eliminates the powerlessness barrier, the God barrier, the inventory & confession, and amends-making.  It is open to people with any history of chemical dependence, encourages people to give up tobacco, and encourages psychiatric pharmacological treatment.  It also allows people the freedom to avoid self-identifying as an alcoholic or addict.  Our local website can be found at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Post-modernism is gibberish.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

There is a barbarism that is stalking America...

a Christian-Zionist Taliban. We have to make religion, all religion, socially unacceptable. We cannot let people spout gibberish as fact, because reality is too precious.  The fantasymongers blaspheme Reality.  I like a tall tale and a bit of fantasy as much as anyone. But I worked too hard and too long to teach myself to think and to weigh evidence. And I will not let people pose as authorities because they can recite their personal gibberish better than others.


is a halfway house on the road to atheism.  It feels like you're enveloped in a religion, a tradition, a set of proscriptions and rituals, but there's no god. Karma is a shriveled leftover of the divine judge and it poses as universal natural law. When you finally evolve past Buddha, you realize that only you are left to play God.

Boundaries, boundaries, all round!

Boundaries are rules I set for myself, not others, to observe - what I myself will do when others frustrate my reasonably stated and rational expectations.

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.