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Alcoholics Anonymous at 75

Alcoholics Anonymous at 75

Thursday, July 15, 2010

On Alcoholics Anonymous' 75th anniversary, contributing editor at Wired magazine Brendan Koerner investigates why and how AA's 12-step process to kick addiction seems to work for some people.  

Guests:

Brendan Koerner

Comments [60]

nellie Hudson from St. Augustine,fla.

a.a. is not a religious cult.. It is a spiritual program based on spiritual principles..Meeting are important and I think it is good to have a sponsor..As we become sober I believe we should go out into society..A.A. should not become our only life..we need to get a life also..outside of A.A..affects of drinking for (say, 25 yrs.)do not go away quickly...it takes time to grow and learn..Also for me, I had zero self esteem whern I got here...it is taking time to build it...Progress not perfection..I have been sober almost 6 yrs. now..only by The Grace of God....who led me back to a.a. after many relapses.....

Sep. 28 2010 02:38 PM
Costa Coffee Bob from Chelmsford Essex East Anglia England UK

Is AA a 'Religion' - absolute rubbish. It is suggested that people read the Book "Alcoholics Anonymous" again. The AA 12 Step Recovery program are but suggestions. They are not 'Demands, Orders' or 'Thou Shalts' and 'Thou Shalt Nots'.

If the choice for the active alcoholic is death or life, of some form. Then I know what I would choose - Life.

I think there is much crap spoken about AA by those who are anti it. Maybe some folks do experience negative stuff in AA. After all, the AA community is made of up drunks and alcoholics, and many of them suffer from all types of mental illnesses along with their addiction to alcohol. This is NO different from a cross section of any society, addicted or not.

As a recovering Alky with over 20 years of sobriety. I had to get real, get honest, and stuff the 'denial' out of my life. I am a satisfied and reasonably happy customer of Alcoholics Anonymous - and NO, I am NOT brainwashed. Nor do I feel that AA is a 'Religion' or a 'Cult'.

And yes, I am a Christian and belong to the Episcopal Church (Church of England). But that does not make me a 'Cultist' or brainwashed either.

Sep. 03 2010 02:11 PM
Real Sober from Bible Belt, Tennessee

I was a career addict, used for over 35 years.
You can get sober and stay sober without god!
I struggled with the religiosity of AA for 16 years and didn't get sober until I realized I had to get sober myself. If I waited for god, I would have died.
I got sober after I came to believe I was a true athiest and that the hokus-pokus and superstition that AA taught me can be eliminated without guilt and that when I looked at my problem rationally, I found when I change the way I think and act, I change the way I feel. AA does this in a long, drawn out process.
Most people want to get sober, not get religious.
AA has become a religion in denial.
3 steps:
1.) I came to believe I can be sober.
2.) I made a decision to be sober.
3.) I am sober.
How I see AA now is "WHEN IN ROME..."

Aug. 14 2010 12:30 PM
Real Sober from Bible Belt, Tennessee

I was a career addict, used for over 35 years.
You can get sober and stay sober without god!
I struggled with the religiosity of AA for 16 years and didn't get sober until I realized I had to get sober myself. If I waited for god, I would have died.
I got sober after I came to believe I was a true athiest and that the hokus-pokus and superstition that AA taught me can be eliminated without guilt and that when I looked at my problem rationally, I found when I change the way I think and act, I change the way I feel. AA does this in a long, drawn out process.
Most people want to get sober, not get religious.
AA has become a religion in denial.
3 steps:
1.) I came to believe I can be sober.
2.) I made a decision to be sober.
3.) I am sober.
How I see AA now is "WHEN IN ROME..."

Aug. 14 2010 12:28 PM
kathleen gargan from denver

please remember that there are other secular groups that are responsible for the lifelong sobriety for many people. these people have had and continue to have meaningful lives, abstinent from drugs and alcohol. if 12 step programs don't fit, please check out lifering secular recovery, smart recovery, women for sobriety and secular organizations for sobriety

Aug. 06 2010 04:52 PM
gaetano catelli from Greenpernt, Crooklyn

are there any "purple" meetings?

Jul. 18 2010 02:56 PM
Lisa from Boulder

I've been in AA for 17 years, and though I have had a few (minor) beefs with the people who are hard-liners, I've also found a wide range of meetings, attitudes, and experiences. If you don't like what a particular member is saying, then don't take that person as a sponsor. Or, go to a different meeting. Or, start your own meeting (I've been to Buddhist-flavored meetings in meditation centers, and there are 6 agnostic meetings in NY!). Having a bad experience with a member doesn't negate the fact that millions of people have used the steps to turn their lives around; there are bad eggs in every organization. Newcomers are encouraged to stick with members of the same gender, just to discourage inappropriate behavior. Even the dollar in the basket is non-mandatory... no one gets rich off AA (unlike true cults, old-timers don't drive around in Mercedes... as evidenced by my old car). To me the basic tenets are hardly controversial: self-appraisal, apologizing when you've wronged someone, stay away from mind-altering drugs (unless prescribed), admit you're not in control of everything, seek guidance from someone you trust, and help yourself by helping others. Now, how is this a pernicious philosophy?

Jul. 18 2010 12:36 PM
Lisa from Boulder

I've been in AA for 17 years, and though I have had a few (minor) beefs with the people who are hard-liners, I've also found a wide range of meetings, attitudes, and experiences. If you don't like what a particular member is saying, then don't take that person as a sponsor. Or, go to a different meeting. Or, start your own meeting (I've been to Buddhist-flavored meetings in meditation centers, and there are 6 agnostic meetings in NY!). Having a bad experience with a member doesn't negate the fact that millions of people have used the steps to turn their lives around; there are bad eggs in every organization. Newcomers are encouraged to stick with members of the same gender, just to discourage inappropriate behavior. Even the dollar in the basket is non-mandatory... no one gets rich off AA (unlike true cults, old-timers don't drive around in Mercedes... as evidenced by my old car). To me the basic tenets are hardly controversial: self-appraisal, apologizing when you've wronged someone, stay away from mind-altering drugs (unless prescribed), admit you're not in control of everything, seek guidance from someone you trust, and help yourself by helping others. Now, how is this a pernicious philosophy?

Jul. 18 2010 12:34 PM

Flora
...take your own inventory, thank you. Et al AA LOVERS.
After 7 increasingly debilitating yrs in AA's awful mtgs i was sicker (as sick as any aa 'old-timer'). All these AA 'lovers' need to stick to their mtgs and themselves, they are spreading a sickness just as bad as the one they are daily recovering from. I was appalled at the way women are 'treated' and how sexual predators are 'gurus.' There's a reason they remain anonymous...it cause they are not held accountable. They have a weird 'love' of oneself, narcissism i think and the are bent towards accussing on infliciting others with GUILT and SHAME, by their use of the steps. Bill W was a heinous womanizer and smoked himself to death. Hows that for turning ones life over to GAWD.
BEWARE the ROOMS of AA CULTs

Jul. 17 2010 04:36 PM
Bethany from California

There isn't a difference between meetings in various locale's. The fact that the Serenity Prayer is used in one meeting the Lord's Prayer in another has no bearing on the basic tenets of this organization. Using the word spiritual as a mask for it's religious nature does not lend it credibility. It's success rate is dismal and has been since inception, (3-5%).

Jul. 17 2010 12:43 PM
Bea from Manhattan

I spent several years in Al Anon and I have to say that I have never been sicker than I was during those years. I ended up in a totally toxic and abusive relationship with a double winner old timer and when I left due to the abuse, I was shunned. In an attempt to understand alcoholics better, I went to many open AA meetings where I was continually shocked by the blatant Christian focus (they read the Lord's prayer at most meetings) and by how truly sick the people sounded. It wasn't until I left the whole organization and got real help from a therapist who understood addictive behavior patterns that I got healthy. The reason AA doesn't work (and with a 5% "success" rate I think it's clear it doesn't work) is that it's a religion and religion doesn't cure brain damage. The reason members become so fanatical about the group? They are really ill and need serious psychiatric care. It's really that simple.

Jul. 17 2010 10:30 AM
byrnm from New York

Been there done that, aa is a cult pure and simple. One meeting convinced me. Atheists are not welcome, nor are freethinkers. Got sucked in for awhile and found my own rational way out of that place.
I think that aa impedes real medical research, behavioral therapy, or drugs that may actually help someone with an underlying mental illness that causes them to abuse alcohol or any other mind altering substance. The most dangerous aspect of aa is that it has stifled any real progress in the field of addiction treatment.

Jul. 16 2010 08:26 PM
Anonymous2 from California

I went to an A.A. meeting today and an old timer with 20 years sobriety came clean that he had a prescription for medical marijuana. He is a very kind and sincere person who suffers from constant debilitating migrains. I have seen this man in severe agony. His doctor said try the pot. He did it legally. But the A.A. programing was causing him hate himself for not being rigorously honest. So today, he threw away 20 years. A.A. is about alcoholism. I have a very rare form of cancer that leaves open tumors on my skin. I take pain meds with chemo. The A.A. people are causing people a lot of harm. I wanted to take the guy aside and tell him he really screwed up because his declaration reinforces the A.A. dogma that once an alcoholic/addict always an alcoholic/addict! Very disfunctional. Very dangerous.

Jul. 16 2010 05:53 PM
Violet from Wolfeboro

AA is a cult. I know this through research and my own personal experience. Do your own research. Bill Wilson, for example, WAS NOT A STOCK BROKER. I am so sick of this fiction.

Jul. 16 2010 12:47 PM
joedrywall

When the big book was first written, if you weren't convinced at the end of what is read at meetings in How It Works, where it says "God could and would if he were sought", then you were to re-read from the beginning to that same point. If you still were not convinced then AA probably would not be for you.

Jul. 16 2010 08:43 AM
Angelina from ny

We know that aa works for 5% of people who attend, those who feel happy in a cult. What about the appalling side effects? The sexual predators? I was once attacked and once offered money from an oldtimer for sex. When I contacted aa I was told to tell my group. Like hell, they were the people doing it! I tried to get help online and I was told to 'look to my part' and asked if I was working a strong program.

If anyone reading this is the parent of daughters, especially young ones, do not let them anywhere near this cult.

Anyone entering this cult is bound to be vulnerable, and therefore at danger from the sexual predators who stalk the rooms,
who have authority due to their length of sobriety, and are above criticism.

Jul. 16 2010 04:03 AM
dougbert from Dallas, TX

Well, I am glad to learn that I don't have a disease! I can live with my prefrontal cortex being damaged. I am a "blue member" in a sea of "red" members. As a buddhist, I am rejected by the group. I find it disturbing that the Christian dominated fellowship can't find it in their hearts to accept me.

Mel Gibbson is a poster child for A.A.

Jul. 15 2010 09:25 PM
Syncro

Doreen,

About: "the only requirement for AA membership is the desire to stop drinking". It depends on how one defines the word "membership". In the first place there is no concept of membership in AA, people come and go as they choose; membership is not a defined concept in AA, no records are kept, and there is never a decision made based on anyone's "membership" or lack thereof. We like to think that the only requirement to "join" AA is a desire to stop drinking, but this isn't true since about half of the people in any AA meeting are ordered by the courts to attend, pushed by their employer or family, or obligated to attend as follow up from treatment programs.

In contrast to requirements for "joining" AA, in fact the requirements for "staying" as a member of AA are quite strict and very well defined. It is called working the steps (and following the traditions). AA only has one way to keep people sober, and that is to find god through working the steps. If someone has a desire to stop drinking, and wishes to do so through AA, there is no choice, it is a requirement that they must work the 12 steps. Else why would someone go to AA unless they also had a desire to work the 12 steps?

Jul. 15 2010 08:50 PM

Syncro--my understanding for the past 31 years has been that "the only requirement for AA membership is the desire to stop drinking". Gee, I guess I need to pull those wads of cotton out of my ears! Also, my understanding of the reason for anonymity has been that AA would look bad if the person who identified him/herself publicly as a member would fall off the wagon sometime in the future.

Jul. 15 2010 07:52 PM
Syncro

Flora,

There really isn't a need for you to get angry. The point is that AA is not a black or white program. Remember that AA says alcoholics are never cured, they just keep going forever to AA to restrain "king alcohol". The more you work it, the better are your chances of staying sober. If you work it less, there is a good chance you will drink. That is why some people give up their "real lives" and commit themselves completely to AA; sometimes it is sad, they end up in divorce, or can't hold a job, or simply evolve a mindset where AA concepts are their only concern, and thus become completely closed minded. They only hang with AA people, do only AA activities, go to tons of meetings. Of course it is pretty clear to see that this would keep someone sober. This is one of the reasons people label AA a cult, along with the central focus on surrendering oneself to God. Now I don't know about all that, but the 12 Steps is "how it works", and the 12 Traditions is "why it works". AA is a continuum, as AA members, people need to constantly be on guard and relentlessly obey the 12 traditions as well as the 12 steps.

Jul. 15 2010 07:05 PM

Mr. Koerner does not mention that Bill Wilson's white light experience occurred while Wilson was under the influence of a powerful "belladonna cocktail".

Wilson was never a stock broker, he was a stock touter, something along the lines of an amateur Jim Cramer. A half-step above a con man.

I work with people who have moderate to severe mental illnesses, primarily with those who have coexisting substance abuse disorders. People with dual disorders rarely achieve sobriety though 12step programs and many get worse. The vocal anti-medication faction of AA (1 in 8 members) tells people that if they take medication, they're "not really sober".

Jul. 15 2010 05:31 PM

Teaching people that they are powerless over their addiction and have a lifelong disease that can never be cured only arrested by Divine Intervention is faith healing and a set up for failure.

The Brandsma study took people arrested for alcohol offenses and split them into three groups. One was mandated to AA, one group received no treatment, the last received rational behavior therapy. The AA group engaged in five times as much binge drinking as the group that had no treatment, nine times as much as the group that received RBT.

Jul. 15 2010 05:15 PM
Flora

Synchro-what makes you think anyone is using their real name? Take your own inventory, thank you.

Jul. 15 2010 12:48 PM
Isabella from Manhattan

I think all the AA haters on here need to remember that the cost of professional addiction treatment is prohibitive for many americans, even those with health insurance. I've seen many poor and working class folks in the rooms. Sometimes a few people coming together to tell the truth of their experiences is all they can afford, but it can make all the difference and be the start of a very difference, far healthier & happier kind of life.

Jul. 15 2010 12:40 PM
Syncro

All AA supporters who have written comments here and used their real name will surely drink again. They have broken the 11th Tradition: "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films."

Many have written about the glory of AA, and are promoting AA, but they aren't even real AA members. You are only an AA member if you relentlessly follow all the 12 steps and all of the 12 traditions. If you don't do this, then you aren't doing AA, you are doing your own non-AA program, and do not have any credibility in supporting AA.

Jul. 15 2010 12:27 PM
Bill from Brooklyn

What's more astonishing than the rate of failure of addiction treatment is that, as Olivier Ameisen has noted in his book, The End of My Addiction, is how stagnant the field is. It's been 75 years and while medical treatment has advanced dramatically in so many if not all other fields, addiction treatment remains dogmatically dedicated to its dramatic inadequacy and def to change.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivier_Ameisen

Jul. 15 2010 11:51 AM
Flora

I tried to quit drinking over and over again- cold turkey, psychiatry, meditation, Antabuse. Nothing worked. The I went to AA and have been sober for 26 years.

I am not a Christian, not religious, not addicted to meetings, and my social life doesn't revolve around AA people. I go to a meeting once a week or so, put a dollar in the basket and that's it. How is that a cult? It just isn't.

Brian, the caller who quite frankly sounded really bitter and cynical, made one good point, about old timers who tell people that they're not sober if they take psychiatric drugs. But what he fails to mention is that for every old timer who does that, there are more old timers like me who will take those people aside and say "Don't listen to that crap, that guy is not your doctor, keep taking your meds".

Brian claims there there may have been suicides due to this, but doesn't offer any evidence of that. If there was even ONE death that was caused by a person being told to stop taking meds, that would be a terrible thing. But Brian, how many of us who surely would have died from drug overdoses or drinking are alive today because of AA?

AA has far, far more good than harm.

Jul. 15 2010 11:46 AM
Barbara from NJ

We need to remember that we were all newcomers once too. If the old timers didn't still go to meetings, who would have been there to help guide me to a way of life that is indescribably wonderful.
I still need meetings, and I always want the hand of AA to be there for the newcomer.
It may not always be able what I get out of the meeting, but rather what I might be able to bring to the meeting.

Jul. 15 2010 11:44 AM

George, there is absolutely no evidence or indication that those who enter AA voluntarily experience any greater levels of success within the program than those who are coerced. Since over 60% of all members are there due to some form of coercion, AA depends upon coercion to sustain its pool of potential indoctrinees. Additionally, there is no objective way to guage who wants it compared to who needs it, so such statements, while flowery, are essentially meaningless.

Jul. 15 2010 11:43 AM

Lil, one of the characteristics of any cult is the idea that members as special, or somehow possessed of unique spiritual insight and achievement. Most problem drinkers quit on their own, without any type of program or treatment.

Jul. 15 2010 11:39 AM

Charles from NJ, It didn't take Wilson "years to develop the program of Alcoholics Anonymous". He hodge-podged together various philosophies from spiritualism, the Oxford Group, and 1930's theoretical psychology to form the basis of his bigbook. Nor were the steps arrived at through consultation or research, but rather through a 30-minute automatic writing session popular with spiritualists and Oxford Group members of the time. Current AA failure rates mirror the initial ones, which are the same as no program at all.

Jul. 15 2010 11:34 AM
Nina from Manhattan

I'm a member of Alanon, and have been to open AA meeting as well.
While of course there are controversial aspects to program (and as an atheist there is a lot I tune out in terms of God/religion), however..... in Alanon we can take what we like, and leave the rest. My relationship with Higher Power is always fraught, but I use the faith of the group, and my sponsor to guide me though I don't believe in "God".
In terms of variation in meetings- there are meetings I used to attend that became uncomfortable for me for whatever reason... I didn't decide to just leave program.. i shopped around for new meetings that were better for me. We talk about principles above personalities, and I think that it is unwise to write off an entire program based on a few less than stella experiences. You just have to be smart, and want recovery, and you will receive the gifts of the program.

Jul. 15 2010 11:31 AM
Peg

Perhaps AA works for those who enjoy socializing. They find they cannot refuse a drink if that's what everyone else is doing. AA becomes a sober socialization technique and fulfills the need to be with others. If hanging out with people is not that important, then I think AA would not have the same beneficial effect.

Please address the biochemical/genetic predisposition to consume high sugar/carbohydrate diets. Even young children can be attracted to alcoholic drinks. I don't think they have some sort of emotional hangups they are trying to drown with booze.

Jul. 15 2010 11:29 AM
Eric from B'klyn

AA does have an official position on prescribed medications... if a doctor has prescribed them it is OK.

Jul. 15 2010 11:28 AM
Lil from Manhattan from Manhattan

I'm coming up on 21 years and I've done a lot of personal changing in that time. If I am only part of the 4 or 5% that have stopped drinking then it's quite a special club, isn't it. Doing anything like stopping drinking which when someone has to stop drinking they're usually at the brink of death or living a miserable life and something like AA is not for the individual looking for a quick fix. Because as they say getting sober is an inside job. Beginners think the AA group is going to fix them. Guess what, what they need to do is to stop and take a look for the solution from the inside. And this takes time.

Jul. 15 2010 11:28 AM
Miguel from NYC

Gregory Bateson has a very deep essay on the subject of how AA operates in the collection "Steps to an Ecology of Mind": "The Cybernetics of Self: A Theory of Alcoholism". The abstract says:

The "logic" of alcoholic addiction has puzzled psychiatrists no less than the "logic" of the strenous spiritual regime whereby the organization Alcoholics Anonymous is able to counteract the addiction. In the present essay it is suggested: (1) that an entirely new epistemology must come out of cybernetics and system theory, involving a new understanding of mind, self, human relationship, and power; (2) that the addicted alcoholic is operating, when sober, in terms of an epistemology which is conventional in Occidental culture but which is not acceptable to systems theory; (3) that surrender to to alcoholic intoxication provides a partial and subjective short cut to a more correct state of mind; and (4) that the theology of Alcoholics Anonymous coincides closely with an epistemology of cybernetics.

Jul. 15 2010 11:26 AM
Melissa

Brian, I've been sober for 20 + years and could not have done it without AA. One of the most important tenants of AA is annonimity it upsets me that this guy is writing articles and getting on the radio, to talk about our organization which I cherish. Yes it is the 75th anniversary, but it is our anniverary and isn't generally open to the public. I think Brendan should speak to his sponsor not to you.

Jul. 15 2010 11:26 AM
charles from NJ

It took years of experience and failure for
Bill Wilson to develop the program- He did just not stumble into something.

He workeded closely with psychologists, thoelogists and medical practitioners. Together they wrote the steps incorporating beliefs and expertise from each area.

Jul. 15 2010 11:26 AM
Anni from Soho

My father has been sober and extremely active in AA for over 20 years. It has been an extremely positive change for our family. And he is openly an atheist and is openly against organized religion. This has not been an issue for him.

Jul. 15 2010 11:26 AM
Patti from Brooklyn

Group think - pure and simple....

Jul. 15 2010 11:26 AM
andy

what about the fact that the success rate for AA is the same as the success rate for people quitting drinking on their own?

Jul. 15 2010 11:25 AM
Anni from Soho

My father has been sober and extremely active in AA for over 20 years. It has been an extremely positive change for our family. And he is openly an atheist and is openly against organized religion. This has not been an issue for him.

Jul. 15 2010 11:25 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I was surprised to hear that most people who go to AA don't finish a year of sobriety with the organization. I've edited studies on smoking, which show that most smokers need to try quitting 4 or 5 times or more before they can quit for good. I wonder if the 1-year statistic is too limited. Is there a better success rate if people who go back & try again are taken into account instead of just their 1st try?

Jul. 15 2010 11:25 AM
Bill from Brooklyn

I have no doubt AA helps some, but the high rate of failure I think is intrinsic to the precipice psychology, modeled on original sin, that it encourages: there is only sobriety or its opposite, and since one can never not be an addict once they've become one and because the specter of one's addiction becomes a permanent haunting, the framework of AA becomes an enabler for anyone falling off the wagon to fall hard and absolutely, since the slightest transgression against sobriety instantly plunges one back into an un-graded dark side against which they've never actually been given any genuine empowerment and for which AA offers no support. AA and the addict-identity it insists on becomes merely a proxy addiction, and a tenuous one at best, that, cult-like, holds one's own alcoholism against them.

Jul. 15 2010 11:23 AM
Jeff from Manhattan

To anyone who would like to know how AA really works, I would refer the to the AS Yellow Papers, available online. Have a look, and decide for yourself. Very disingenuous from it's inception!

Jul. 15 2010 11:22 AM
Related to AA Member from Manhattan

My relative is an atheist to whom religion is toxic. He is not "addicted" to AA, as your caller suggests, but AA assisted him in breaking, not merely with alcohol, but also with the many self-destructive behaviors associated with alcoholism. His is the third generation of his family affected by the disease, and the recovery of my relative -- who is the only member of his family to have joined AA -- has been more complete than those of his other family members. They stopped drinking, but the self-destructive behaviors continued.

I would not let your caller discourage anyone from trying AA. If you don't like one meeting, try another -- there are many in the NYC area.

Jul. 15 2010 11:22 AM
Anonymous from Manhattan

My "last" drink was mid-August 1981. AA saved my life. I see my Higher Power as my own subconscious -- sort of. It's very difficult to explain but the most valuable thing AA taught me is that the only person over whom I have any control, the only person I can change is myself. And often the only thing I can do is "surrender control" -- "I can't handle this." One can surrender to the universe, to G-d, to the tooth fairy, etc. Almost 30 years later I'm sober and there's no way I can explain it.

Jul. 15 2010 11:19 AM
Yolanda from New York

My partner has been in AA for over thirty years and has been sober for over thirty
years, it helped him stop drinking but did
not deal with the issues he had, as long as
he didn't drink he thought he was great, not realizing that he had to deal with the root of his problems and his behavior,
as long as he didn't drink he was fine.
I also find that people become very dependent on these meeting and can't function at times without them. His life revolves around attending his meetings after thirty years. Even on vacation before we go he has to locate a meeting .

Jul. 15 2010 11:18 AM
Matthew from NYC

There is a seeming contradiction in accepting addiction and anonymity.

If one is taking on responsibility for one's behavior, why must one remain anonymous?

Jul. 15 2010 11:14 AM
Someone in Brooklyn

I went to AA for six weeks and it changed the way I drink, I hope forever.

Ultimately, I don't consider myself an alcoholic. But hearing so many HONEST stories from so many different people made it easier for me to assess where my worst drinking behaviors stem from.

So, although AA didn't "work" for me, I think it is a fantastic program. And if I ever discovered that I am a true alcoholic, I would know where to go.

Jul. 15 2010 11:13 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

What about the alcoholics that are avowed Atheists?

Jul. 15 2010 11:12 AM
Sam from Ontario Canada

I have been sober for 10+ years and I did it IN SPITE OF AA. The only reason to go to AA meetings is to keep you away from the bottle. That's what I was told early on. If anyone is wondering about the success rate of AA, count the number of people who are 50-75 years sober. World wide that number might be high, but if AA is so wonderful, the number would be higher. The politics in AA makes me insane. They say one thing but do something else. We're told to not fund outside enterprises but my group wanted to send money to Haiti. They tell you to find a higher power and name that higher power anything you want as long as it's GOD. They talk about how we need to grow in the program, but we still have to live in the past. AA is a worse poison than alcohol ever was.

I left AA a few times. AA people would find me and try to get me to come back. Getting out of the mafia is easier.

Jul. 15 2010 10:58 AM
sean from Manhattan

I'm always confused by people who put down AA or label ita cult. It offers a solution that has helped millions of people with alcoholism and it's available for people with a desire to stop drinking, all are welcome and the cost is nominal - $1 a meeting.

Last week, I attended AA's international convention in San Antonio - there were approximately 50,000 people from around the world celebrating AA and how it has made their life better. The zeal for the program was exhilarating. The message was simple - love & service. If it's a cult, I'm glad I drank the Kool-Aide.

Jul. 15 2010 10:40 AM
Chris from Brooklyn

Jennifer: thirteen years eh?

I met numerous people like you in the program. One guy would talk about beating his wife but he "didn't drink." That made it all OK with him.

In short: do your own inventory sister. Lay off Jennifer. "Ignorant and obscene espousal"? Please. Call your sponsor or get a new one because after reading your screed it appears you have a lot to learn.

Jul. 15 2010 10:18 AM
michael blame

Jennifer, I am an ex-alcoholic, with thirty years experience with the 12-step process. I have attended approximately 4,000 meetings, observed countless failures, very few successes, and a "program" which arguably damages more than it fixes. I have thoroughly read all five editions of the bigbook and the associated literature, studied its methods and outcomes, and am utterly convinced that AA cheerleaders like you do more damage with the lies you tell and toxic dogma you promote than any truth-based criticisms its detractors may level. The shameless promotion of a method which offers low success rates and stereotypical characterizations of the alcoholic, and which is a cross between quack psychology and faith-healing hinders true recovery and problem-solving for most with substance-abuse problems. Your name-calling and attacks upon critics is a behaviour often seen in this particular area, and represents another impediment to true scholarship, investigation, and study. Anyone who disagrees with AA must be paranoid, delusional, angry, disgruntled, or drunk, right?

Jul. 15 2010 09:40 AM

from Koerner's own article:

"AA is still far from ideal. The sad fact remains that the program’s failures vastly outnumber its success stories. According to Tonigan, upwards of 70 percent of people who pass through AA will never make it to their one-year anniversary, and relapse is common even among regular attendees. This raises an important question: Are there ways to improve Wilson’s aging system?"

put bluntly, "improvement" is impossible in AA. based in a quasi-christian, self-flagellating dogma (12 steps) which has not changed a wit in its 75 years, AA has more in common with religion than science. most who try it find it an alienating, frustrating, self-esteem undermining experience. the vast majority who try it leave -- and end up far better off.

from the Wired piece again:

"AA’s strict anonymity policy, which makes it difficult for researchers to track members over months and years."

repeating this AAWS canard simply does not hold water. anonymity is the very foundation of sound scientific / medical research. double-blind, anonymous research using control groups works -- period. most recently 'anonymity' was an essential in developing HIV/AIDS medications & therapies (social stigma of "at risk" populations necessitates anonymity; anonymity continues to be effective & essential in Africa where the social stigma is extraordinarily oppressive). double-blind research worked for small pox & polio as well. anonymity is not the impediment in researching AA's efficacy -- the group's entrenched (however elastic) religiosity is.

AAWS has no interest in empirically proving or disproving the "It works if you work it" tautology. keeping 'alcoholism' a nebulous 'spiritual disease' cured only through a daily submission to an intervening 'God' sells big books & supports a revolving door cash cow for the rehabilitation centers -- 90% of which are wholly 12 step based.

personally, i'm with Kim on this one. AA may be turning 75 but its worldwide membership has either plateaued or declined over its last 20 years. if it "works" (as Koerner suggests in the title of his piece) then why is the vast majority of what the World Health Organization in 2006 estimated to be 140 million people suffering through 'alcohol abuse' or 'alcohol dependence' rejecting it?

people 'work'; people unconditionally helping others do together what felt impossible alone 'works'. AA & its 12-step quackery does not work.

for more, go to:

http://stinkin-thinkin.com

check out the not-so-pretty underbelly of AA & the 12 step industry.

Jul. 15 2010 08:54 AM
Jennifer

@ Kim - are you a recovering Alcoholic? Have you ever read the book Alcoholics anonymous? Have you ever been to a meeting? Are you familiar with the 12 steps? What you are saying about AA is dangerous - because AA saves peoples lives - AA is far from a religious cult - it is a community of people helping each other to stay clean and sober - the 12 steps are a suggestion for healing and supporting a life as a sober person - any AA member can use the steps or not according to his or her own preference. I myself have been sober for 13 years with the help of AA - and was a desperate drug and alcohol addict who found a community of sober people who helped me let go of a lifestyle that would have killed me for sure. I think you are obscene in your ignorant and potentially harmful espousal - better 4-5% (if this number is even accurate - you don't say where you get your figures) of people helped to recover from this deadly affliction than those same people dying or filling our prisons and hospitals. Your paranoia is pitiful.

Jul. 15 2010 08:50 AM
Irene S. from Westchester County

How and why AA works is interpreted differently by each alcoholic, so I can only share my experience and insight.

Generally speaking, to understand how or why AA works, especially for people who are not alcoholics or addicts, is to first understand addiction. Before admiting to my alcoholism, I stigmatized alcoholics and addicts. Alcoholics and addicts were dissolute. Of course, I was blind to my own addiction. I simply did not understand why I experienced so much drama in my life.

Alcoholism is not abt the quantity or frequency. This is plainly stated in the "Big Book". Alcoholism is whatever drives a person to drink or use. So, in fact, alcoholism is only a symptom of deeper and larger issues. This is true of any addiction, actually. Behaviors that could be interpreted by as acting out, in my case, were really only escapism and self-medication -- although, of course, at the time when I was an active alcoholic, I did not see it as such.

At root of any addiction is fundamental sense of lack, and in my case, I had a very deep unconscious self-loathing, which by any societal measure, would not know, because I was a somewhat functional alcoholic. That is what drove my addiction.

For me, AA is a spiritual program. I grew up being dragged to a fundamentalist church weekly. Instead of developing a deep appreciation for life and the universe, I judged myself. I was 'sinner'. I was born into 'sin'. Looking back, I see how ridiculous that is, but at the time, in my grade school head, I was doomed. It did not matter what I did, so why bother.

Somehow I was able to manage to graduate two ivy leagues, hold down a job, and make good friends, but I was really empty inside. I did finally bottom.

Admitting to my addiction, my past acting out behaviors and finger-pointing, my personal failures and accepting that there is something larger than me, that is good and purposeful was fantastic.

Going to meetings was like what I wished to experience in church, but without the dogma: community, support, and a sense I am not alone in the world and that my life matters.
I have a lot more gratitude, wonder, awe, and trust in the world and in myself, than I ever have.

My life is not perfect now, but I am managing. And, I often experience joy.

Apologies to all for this extra long post.

Jul. 15 2010 04:36 AM
Kim Stafford from Manhattan

AA 'works' for a very small percentage of people who attend, about 4-5%. The same percentage of people quit on their own, apparently.
The 12 Steps have very little to do with substance abuse, and everything to do with converting to Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith's version of evangelical christianity.
It is obscene for any court to mandate attendance by anyone, in meetings of what is basically a religiouis cult.

Jul. 15 2010 03:41 AM
George Hahn from Manhattan

AA's 12 Steps work for the desperate alcoholic who WANTS to recover.... who WANTS a different life... and who is WILLING to change pretty much everything. There is an element of surrender involved, a level of surrender that is enabled by incomprehensible demoralization. Again... AA works for people who want it, not necessarily for people who need it. (Hence the frequent futility of court-mandated meeting attendance.) If AA were for people who needed it, meetings would overflow the Javits Center.

Jul. 15 2010 01:36 AM

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