The Cult Called A.A.

[excerpt]

The whole A.A. program hinges upon the alcoholic's acceptance of what A.A. calls a "higher power." Conversely, adherents to the twelve-step program are expected to renounce any personal responsibility for, or control over, their problem. This blatant renunciation of the concept of free will is also a characteristic of every single other cult I can think of — the individual counts for nothing, while the non-existent, the illusory, the hypothetical, is all. Self-respecting, proud, analytical achievers do not make good cult members. A cult follower must be stripped of his sense of individual worth — in many sects, he is humiliated sexually, deprived of sensory stimuli, sequestered from the larger community, or otherwise manipulated to look upon himself as degraded and worthless. In A.A., you are plopped in a ring of cultists every evening and pressured to place your entire destiny in the hands of some "higher power."

Pretty concise and precise dissertation on why AA is probably not the recovery method of choice for godless freethinkers, nor any other 12 step based program for that matter. Echoes my sentiments very closely. I've knocked up enough detox frequent flyer miles to have an opinion about this stuff, and all I can say is AA drove me to drink just to drown the dumbness out. Do not believe the AA evangelicals that drill it into you that it is the only program that works, because that's horseshit. There are others, SMART Recovery for example. Any competent counselor should have available alternatives. If they don't, get another counselor because they're not doing their job.

I know there are atheists here for whom AA does work. This is not meant to be a criticism of you. If it works for you, then good for you and keep on going. This is for everyone else out there that may not be coping and being told AA is the be all and end all.

Tags: 12 step, aa, alcohol, alcoholics anonymous, drugs, gambling, narcotics anonymous, recovery, substance abuse

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Does Smart Recovery have an opinion on whether abstinence from alcohol is the only way to deal with it? I notice they listed Moderation Management (which recommends curbing alcohol use to a reasonable level, not necessarily abstaining completely) among other groups. I had read that MM was discredited, and the founder was charged with DUI, but I don't know if their statistics are any worse or better than AA--and one person's screwup doesn't necessarily invalidate the entire idea. There are lots of people who never consider themselves alcoholics, but at some point feel like they're drinking too much and cut back.

Is there a clear cut definition of alcoholic, or is it just a matter of you (or others) perceiving it to be a problem in your life? Some people get very drunk on weekends or at parties. Some people have one or 2 drinks every day--they stop there, but they feel a need to have it every day. And also, drinking alone is considered a red flag for alcoholism, but I don't think everyone who has had a drink while alone is automatically an alcoholic.
Proggy: Is there a clear cut definition of alcoholic

Nope. None at all. Some people use it merely as a hate word to make others look bad, others are just party poopers or puritans that hate to see other folks enjoying themselves. Then there's the health nuts and "my body is my temple" new age freaks that hate drinkers as well. And, of course, there's a fair proportion of the AA membership itself that are essentially dry drunk jihadis that have a seething hatred of anything alcohol related because they can't have any themselves. As with anything else, there is no shortage of concerned do-gooders that know what's best for you and have no inhibitions about telling you.

My definition of alcoholic is this - does it affect your interpersonal relationships or ability to work ? It's pretty simple really. For some folks, 4 drinks a day can begin to take it's toll and then there's people like me that managed to drink 4 litres of box wine a day for 20 years before the cracks finally got too big. So it's a pretty broad spectrum. Trying to define it is impossible and counterproductive - it will classify some people that do need to do something as OK, and others that are perfectly fine as sick.

Does Smart Recovery have an opinion on whether abstinence from alcohol is the only way to deal with it?

No, nor does it care. Most people don't understand that part about SMART. SMART tries to use a systemic approach to help you reprogram your brain to avoid dependence. Quitting is not the goal - the goal is to not let yourself slide out of control by avoiding risky behaviour, changing your habit patterns and identifying pitfalls before you walk into them. It is a much more scientific approach to dependency control - it looks at the neurology and neurochemistry of addiction.
Thanks to one of the Christopher's for finding this gem -

I have been involved with AA for seven years. I agree that for most people in the program, including the founders, would say that belief in a higher power is a major aspect of AA. Of course I am often ridiculed for only accepting pieces of the program that seem to work for me, but most AA people that I know are cool with my beliefs. As with any group, there are many level headed individuals in AA who take the religious preachings of the program with a grain of salt. Sure there are plenty of fanatics who take the word of Bill ,W. as gospel but most are fairly respectful, or easily avoidable.
I disagree with your assertion that avoiding personal responsibility is a core value of AA. The idea that alcoholics must deny that first drink no matter what, is rightly proclaimed again and again, throughout meetings and AA literature. Acceptance of total abstinence is the most responsible thing any alcoholic will likely ever do. Further, the process of working the 12 steps involves owning up to, and amending (if possible) every immoral thing one did as a drunk. If that is not personal responsibility, I don't know what is! -and no i do not endorse the idea that the 12 steps are the only way to get sober, though the amends process helped me a lot.
So, to any atheist who may have a problem with booze, I would encourage you to not be deterred by the dogmatists in the rooms. seek out cool, respectful people who just want to help you get sober. they are out there!
Further, the process of working the 12 steps involves owning up to, and amending (if possible) every immoral thing one did as a drunk. If that is not personal responsibility, I don't know what is!

It is also prurient voyeurism / exhibitionism grand guignol. Yes, there's no shortage of living proof as to it's efficacy. But there is also no shortage of folks to whom this process can be psychologically devastating - both drinkers and those they seek to make reparations to. Maintaining that this is the only program that will ever work is outrageous irresponsibility.
And yet the constant prospect of relapse is discussed, you are told you are different than the normal user because you are an addict, inherently. You are told that addicts relapse until they hit rock bottom and realize enough is enough. It's circular logic that only works for you in hindsight, if you take responsibility and stop doing it, then it seems like it works. But it still offers an excuse for anyone to relapse. "I'm an addict, I just haven't hit rock bottom yet". I know a couple who are mutual addicts that take this to a laughable extreme. They smoke crack, shoot heroin, whatever they can get their hands on, constantly telling themselves they will go to a meeting later that day or later in the week, and often usually do. The program seems to work for people who are able to make it work, but for those who are not, it's a free ticket for relapsing with a perfect excuse for doing it. A support group is a good thing for social reinforcement, but AA and NA really makes about as much logical sense as seeing miraculous results from prayer. You cite the successes as positive evidence, nothing more, while reciting
"it works if you work it". It works for those who are ready, but it does a lot of damage I think to those who are not ready. After 15 years of being involved with the crowd associated with this sort of thing, I can say that with complete confidence. And I would say that damage in many ways outweighs the successes, but it's falls through the cracks.
Haven't read this whole thread so I don't know if someone's posted this already, but David Brooks just wrote a short account of Bill Wilson's story that's worth reading even if, as an atheist, you find it a little weird. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/29/opinion/29brooks.html

My partner it currently in prison in a drug treatement unit, which he really needs because at the end of the day my son needs his dad to be straight more then he needs all the things his dad could buy him.

Imagine my horror when I go in for visits and the walls are plastered with prayers, & twelve step posters! Plus, his overseer is far to cheerfull not to be a happy clappy.

I know you don't need any of that because I gave up drinking alone. In fact the clear mindedness I gained from sobriety helped me find the true light, lol. Unfortunately, being a man, I doubt my partner can get pregnant (which is how I first gave it all up).

So now he's living in this unit 24/7. He's only been there a month or so but when I tried to complain about the enforced god bullshit he got all defensive "its your own perspective of god" & he starts talking about positive energy never vanishing & wave lengths!

End of the story, it looks like I might get him back straight (although we'll see) but even if I do he'll be a fukn god botherer.

Ah well, at least he can't be sent back to jail for that.

From my experiences, people who come out of AA just swap their addiction to alcohol to an addiction to the jesus and spreading his word.  I guess the latter is less self destructive, but no more rational.

yeah. I know someone who went from amway, to drug addict, to member of the liberty church cult.

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