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How Alcoholics Anonymous lost its way Addicts with the 'wrong opinions' no longer fit in

AA is a minefield of identity politics. Mom/CBS

AA is a minefield of identity politics. Mom/CBS


May 12, 2023   7 mins

Even people who have never had a drinking problem know that Alcoholics Anonymous has 12 steps. You admit you’re powerless over alcohol (Step One), for instance, and apologise to people who’ve been harmed by your drinking (Step Nine). But fewer people know about AA’s 12 Traditions, the glue that holds a motley crew of recovering drunks together. The 12 steps keep your life in order; the 12 traditions keep the group in order — or so it is said in AA.

Arguably the most important tradition is Tradition 10: “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” The Washingtonians, a group of recovering alcoholics that preceded AA by about a century, disbanded due to infighting over its involvement in social reforms like prohibition, religion and slavery abolition. AA’s founders, William Wilson and Dr Robert Smith (Bill and Dr Bob), didn’t want AA to suffer the same fate. Best their organisation remain neutral, they thought, so as to be welcoming for alcoholics from every walk of life. For nearly 88 years, AA has never weighed in on foreign or domestic policies, nor has it endorsed political candidates or legislative proposals. And so desperate drunks of every race, colour and creed have kept on coming and — together — got sober.

It is up to every individual AA meeting to uphold the programme principles. (Tradition 4: “Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole”). But where many struggle, I’ve found, over the 20 years I’ve been going to meetings, is with Tradition 10. In AA, alcoholics are free to share about anything they like, so long as it pertains to alcoholism; politics and the culture wars, they can leave at the door. And yet, a lot of recovering alcoholics can’t resist hot takes when they’ve been handed a mic. I noticed this particularly after Donald Trump was elected, and especially in New York City. Members started sharing about a fight they’d had that day with their idiotic, MAGA-hat-wearing uncle on Facebook — apparently unaware of newcomers, desperate to get sober, who might now feel unwelcome because they had voted for the wrong guy.

In 2020, violations of Tradition 10 reached a fever pitch. After George Floyd’s murder, institutions across the nation absorbed progressive ideals into their mission statements. I was finishing my last year of study at Columbia University. Having entered the university in 2017 as a self-described radical progressive planning a career in LGBT activism, I was graduating an exile. I had become disillusioned with, and spoken out against, my fellow progressives’ tactics: suppressing free speech, purity policing and reducing every individual to his or her skin colour, gender and sexual orientation. During my last semester, which was moved online due to the pandemic, I’d sign on to virtual AA meetings after class, and immediately be struck by how similar the two spaces had become. Pronouns lit up the screen. Whereas opening readings once consisted of the AA preamble, the 12 Steps and 12 traditions, and details about the meeting, now some groups chose to add a thinly veiled threat: “We will not tolerate racist, homophobic, sexist or transphobic rhetoric in this space.”

From my experience of post-Trump academia, I knew these proclamations wouldn’t so much prevent inappropriate speech as put everyone on high alert, encouraging an atmosphere of self-censorship. Recovering alcoholics carry a lot of guilt about the harm their drinking has caused others; they are often irrationally fearful of causing any more. If they feel like they’re traversing a mine field of potential triggers that could set off listeners in the room, they may be reluctant to admit shameful details about the past, which they want and need to get off their chests. Recovering alcoholics’ lives depend on their ability to share honestly, and to feel like they will be accepted by AA no matter their histories or their personal views. Increasingly, certain opinions — although you could never be totally sure which ones — were no longer worthy of respect in a democratic society. Meetings were not unlike my university classes, where the silence during discussions would extend for what felt like an eternity, as so many students stayed quiet rather than risk transgressing.

But even silence could get alcoholics in trouble. In June 2020, Toby N. had been in the programme in New York for six years. He was raised in the Mormon church, but left it when he was 24 and came out as gay a couple of years later. On #BlackoutTuesday, when white people committed to posting nothing but a black square on Instagram for a full 24 hours, Toby decided not to partake. “I didn’t feel like it was going to do anything,” he said. Then he got a direct message from a friend — another gay man in AA — who asked: why hadn’t Toby posted anything about racial justice on social media? He accused Toby of inadequate allyship. (Toby had donated to Black Lives Matter.) In meetings, he would hear people whispering about other members’ “white privilege”.

Toby was generally in alignment with them about social justice issues, but he found the manner in which they spoke about them exceedingly “toxic”. But a line had been drawn in the sand, he told me: “You’re either with us, or you’re against us.” Exclusively attending meetings for gay alcoholics, Toby had previously found acceptance in AA, but now he felt like a stranger in the programme that had for years been like a second home. He decided to leave. The 12 steps worked for him, but the dogma and the groupthink, he felt he could do without. “It feels like I’m a man without a country,” he said. “I don’t have the gay community that I thought I did.”

For many years, I also attended affinity AA groups for gay and lesbian alcoholics. In these meetings, we felt no need to use coded language when sharing: we could say “my boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, rather than “my other half” or “significant other”. We could be honest about our difficulties with various spiritual aspects of the programme (Step Three: A decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him): the only God many of us had ever understood was one who despised us. It may seem like affinity groups violate Tradition 10, since some of the topics discussed in these meetings are technically “outside issues”. However, they are always spoken about as they pertain to alcoholism. And because these meetings are clearly labelled in the directory, straight members who attend are aware that some of the issues discussed might not pertain to them.

Sometime over the past decade, gay and lesbian meetings became “LGBTQ” meetings. After “intersectionality” leapt from university campuses into the mainstream, these meetings became the most ideological of them all. Suddenly, a whole range of difficulties had to be acknowledged. “If you suffer from chronic fatigue and don’t feel like you can make it until the end of the meeting to share, please alert me and I will call on your early,” the host of one LGBTQ meeting in New York I attended read aloud. Then: “If you want to share but you have difficulty speaking, please write what you would like to share in the chat and I will read it aloud for you.” I still can’t fathom how any member in attendance could have interpreted these announcements as anything other than disturbingly infantilising: one of the key ingredients for sobriety is personal responsibility.

Perhaps most disconcertingly, the language of one of AA’s best-known readings changed. The preamble has always read: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other.” On the last day of the 71st General Service Conference for the US and Canada, held virtually in April 2021, a vote was held on whether to change the wording of the Preamble from “a fellowship of men and women” to “a fellowship of people”. The motion passed. Many members were shocked. Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for its stubborn resistance to change: the first 164 pages of the Big Book have barely been amended since they were written nearly a century ago. The literature has saved thousands, maybe millions, of lives. “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” is one of AA’s unofficial mottos. Why risk changing something that works?

Another member, Justin D., says that another reason changes should rarely occur is that they are hard to reverse. At an LGBTQ meeting he attends in Baltimore, which began as a meeting for gays and lesbians, a young woman joined the group and began demanding changes to the opening literature because people were being misgendered. She called for a directive stating that only gender-neutral language should be used when calling on members to share. Group members reluctantly acquiesced to the woman’s demands. Not long afterwards, she stopped attending. Now, if members wanted to return the readings to their original form, they would have to propose it to the group and initiate a vote — which could result in accusations that they are trying to reintroduce trans-exclusionary language.

Elizabeth S. said that at a “queer-identified” meeting she attended, all of the opening readings were amended to include only gender-neutral language. However, she told me, one gender-specific pronoun had apparently managed to slip through the editing process. When the woman who read that particular announcement aloud arrived at the pronoun, Elizabeth said, she began to trip over her words and look nervously about the room, as if she was uncertain how to proceed.

Another member I spoke to, Bernadette R., remarked that for decades women have bristled at the male pronouns used in AA’s literature to describe God, or a Higher Power. “The female demographic is much bigger than the non-binary demographic. So why are they getting a space faster than women are?” She also mentioned her frustration with the new gender-neutral restrooms at the meeting she attends every week, which make many women feel uncomfortable. “Women deserve to feel safe,” she said.

And yet it has long been a principle in AA that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe, or what wrongs you’ve committed — AA says “You belong here.” The only requirement for membership is “a desire to stop drinking” (Tradition Three). Critical social justice ideology, which scoffs at the idea of redemption for those who may have transgressed, is inimical to AA’s core mission. If the programme doesn’t recommit to upholding Tradition 10, it could go the same way as the Washingtonians. In the meantime, many alcoholics with the “wrong politics” might choose not to join a group that could shun them for their problematic views. And, as it is said in AA, for a real alcoholic, “to drink is to die”.

 

Names have been changed to respect AA members’ anonymity. All agreed to participate in this article. 


Ben Appel studied creative writing at Columbia University. His memoir, Cis White Gay: The Making of a Gender Heretic, is forthcoming. Read more of his work at benappelwrites.com.

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Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

“the only God many of us had ever understood was one who despised us”

This is 100% wrong. G*d doesn’t despise you. The original meaning of sin is ‘to miss the mark’ i.e. to get things wrong. When we sin it’s not G*d we’re hurting but ourselves. Sin, when viewed in this way, leads to personal dysfunction. On an individual level we all sin in some way and often need to self-correct. However, when many e.g. thousands or millions of people engage in a particular sin the dysfunction becomes systemic and eventually leads to societal collapse due to internal contradictions.
The reason LGBQT ideology is starting to become despised by the mainstream is that at an inchoate level we are aware that it is not promoting functional behavior. It is more a form of self-idolatry that leads to narcissistic behaviors like individuals insisting on being continuously affirmed (worship), being granted privileges denied to most other people (nepotism) and insisting that all their actions are above reproach (infallibility). The glittery allure of LGBQTism is rapidly wearing off, particularly amongst the young who are becoming fatigued by it and starting to find it abhorrent.

Last edited 1 year ago by Julian Farrows
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I agree with much of your analysis but is LGBQT ideology becoming despised? Do we not still see its official incorporation in social institutions and organisations? It will require great effort to see it eradicate I fear despite the fact that at its core it contains nothing but the lie that people can change their sex.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Do we not still see its official incorporation in social institutions and organisations?
Which is precisely why it may well become dispised.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Yes indeed – the natural inclination to assume power structures exist to do harm and allow economic extraction for their operators! Plus anyone who assumes power without authority is always right can easily be programmed to homophobia or its opposite. Our feeble minded elite need to be careful what they wish for.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

Yes indeed – the natural inclination to assume power structures exist to do harm and allow economic extraction for their operators! Plus anyone who assumes power without authority is always right can easily be programmed to homophobia or its opposite. Our feeble minded elite need to be careful what they wish for.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes i think it is…. i was used to homophobia from regular working men in our town – majority Muslim but with a significant Afro-Caribbean community. That used to get shouted down by us bourgeoisie and many women in the communities above. This is far less evident now. As which gender you prefer to sleep with has been hijacked by socialists the lines are being re-drawn. Most non hetero people don’t have a beef with the world, one reason why they are fertile ground for socialists to use as leverage to cause fear, hate and violence. Good queers will likely suffer with the bad lefties. As for civil servants (powers, not authorities – no-one elected them!) and their “social institutions” – small wonder they pile on – privilege and nepotism does not create critical or independent thinking and they will soon forget that gays are their pride and joy when they find another toy.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

I think that’s the precise intent of all this Queer Theory stuff. It’s not actual LGB people doing this per se, but those who use them as a ’cause’ to make money off or as a platform to promote unsavory practices.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

I wonder where you are Mike. I am in the UK and have never understood homophobia or acceptance to be a political issue. I would be interested to learn how and why.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Socialists are not a homogenous group of people anymore than any other group is. I am proud to be a socialist. I can and do think independently. I have friends from across the political landscape, done are even Tory voters! But whenever people want to blame the bogey man, socialists or the far-right get the blame! Maybe start thinking a bit more and see that people in general don’t like difference and it is not one group that needs to shoulder responsibility, no matter how easy it is to try to make the label take the blame for the hard of thinking.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

I think that’s the precise intent of all this Queer Theory stuff. It’s not actual LGB people doing this per se, but those who use them as a ’cause’ to make money off or as a platform to promote unsavory practices.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

I wonder where you are Mike. I am in the UK and have never understood homophobia or acceptance to be a political issue. I would be interested to learn how and why.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 year ago
Reply to  mike otter

Socialists are not a homogenous group of people anymore than any other group is. I am proud to be a socialist. I can and do think independently. I have friends from across the political landscape, done are even Tory voters! But whenever people want to blame the bogey man, socialists or the far-right get the blame! Maybe start thinking a bit more and see that people in general don’t like difference and it is not one group that needs to shoulder responsibility, no matter how easy it is to try to make the label take the blame for the hard of thinking.

Adam Grant
Adam Grant
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The LGB folks will be fine once they manage to free themselves from Q, which is a political project to overthrow the patriarchy and capitalism. T contains two valid subgroups, those with actual gender dysphoria, and guys who are turned on by dressing as women. Both of these are fine as long as they don’t demand to be recognized as women or allowed into women’s spaces. Bring back transsexuals and transvestites, while kicking trans to the curb.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Do we not still see its official incorporation in social institutions and organisations?
Which is precisely why it may well become dispised.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes i think it is…. i was used to homophobia from regular working men in our town – majority Muslim but with a significant Afro-Caribbean community. That used to get shouted down by us bourgeoisie and many women in the communities above. This is far less evident now. As which gender you prefer to sleep with has been hijacked by socialists the lines are being re-drawn. Most non hetero people don’t have a beef with the world, one reason why they are fertile ground for socialists to use as leverage to cause fear, hate and violence. Good queers will likely suffer with the bad lefties. As for civil servants (powers, not authorities – no-one elected them!) and their “social institutions” – small wonder they pile on – privilege and nepotism does not create critical or independent thinking and they will soon forget that gays are their pride and joy when they find another toy.

Adam Grant
Adam Grant
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The LGB folks will be fine once they manage to free themselves from Q, which is a political project to overthrow the patriarchy and capitalism. T contains two valid subgroups, those with actual gender dysphoria, and guys who are turned on by dressing as women. Both of these are fine as long as they don’t demand to be recognized as women or allowed into women’s spaces. Bring back transsexuals and transvestites, while kicking trans to the curb.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Thank you for bringing this very important topic up. Their sin is no different than mine or yours. We are all sinners. The Left ruins everything that they touch. Now even AA, apparently.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I agree that we are all sinners but disagree that the left ruins everything it touches any more than does the right. We are expressing opinions rather than facts!

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I agree that we are all sinners but disagree that the left ruins everything it touches any more than does the right. We are expressing opinions rather than facts!

tintin lechien
tintin lechien
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Lesbianism and homosexuality are NOT ideology! Bisexuality to a degree because it is so muddy and most of them are not truly gay, and trans definitely, ARE ideology.

ed ol
ed ol
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

excellent comment . Personally i hate the kind of brainwashing that goes in meetings. I feel its essential that my probably uncouth and uncool feelings and thoughts should not be blanketed out by the new rulers. theyre all part of me , theyre all markers of my alko ( and sober ) self. Repression and denial are very unhealthy especially for us ! I need them ‘ out there ‘ so i can be cleansed !

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

You are right in part but if the authority of the self has become increasingly important for many people as you suggest, another form of self-idolatry will replace gender politics some time soon.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

People who are LGB are born not made. If people are made in god’s likeness, it is not sinful to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. But since god is a social construct not actual fact, it doesn’t really matter. The higher being in AA philosophy can be whoever or whatever you want it to be, as AA recognises all religions and none. QT are completely different and should not be put together with LGB which is about sexual preference; QT is about gender preference. QT should never take preference over any other minority, although as the article says, it now does and people don’t want to be rude, no matter how rude these people are to others. Always the minority gives a bad name to the majority, no matter the subject.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I agree with much of your analysis but is LGBQT ideology becoming despised? Do we not still see its official incorporation in social institutions and organisations? It will require great effort to see it eradicate I fear despite the fact that at its core it contains nothing but the lie that people can change their sex.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Thank you for bringing this very important topic up. Their sin is no different than mine or yours. We are all sinners. The Left ruins everything that they touch. Now even AA, apparently.

tintin lechien
tintin lechien
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Lesbianism and homosexuality are NOT ideology! Bisexuality to a degree because it is so muddy and most of them are not truly gay, and trans definitely, ARE ideology.

ed ol
ed ol
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

excellent comment . Personally i hate the kind of brainwashing that goes in meetings. I feel its essential that my probably uncouth and uncool feelings and thoughts should not be blanketed out by the new rulers. theyre all part of me , theyre all markers of my alko ( and sober ) self. Repression and denial are very unhealthy especially for us ! I need them ‘ out there ‘ so i can be cleansed !

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

You are right in part but if the authority of the self has become increasingly important for many people as you suggest, another form of self-idolatry will replace gender politics some time soon.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

People who are LGB are born not made. If people are made in god’s likeness, it is not sinful to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. But since god is a social construct not actual fact, it doesn’t really matter. The higher being in AA philosophy can be whoever or whatever you want it to be, as AA recognises all religions and none. QT are completely different and should not be put together with LGB which is about sexual preference; QT is about gender preference. QT should never take preference over any other minority, although as the article says, it now does and people don’t want to be rude, no matter how rude these people are to others. Always the minority gives a bad name to the majority, no matter the subject.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

“the only God many of us had ever understood was one who despised us”

This is 100% wrong. G*d doesn’t despise you. The original meaning of sin is ‘to miss the mark’ i.e. to get things wrong. When we sin it’s not G*d we’re hurting but ourselves. Sin, when viewed in this way, leads to personal dysfunction. On an individual level we all sin in some way and often need to self-correct. However, when many e.g. thousands or millions of people engage in a particular sin the dysfunction becomes systemic and eventually leads to societal collapse due to internal contradictions.
The reason LGBQT ideology is starting to become despised by the mainstream is that at an inchoate level we are aware that it is not promoting functional behavior. It is more a form of self-idolatry that leads to narcissistic behaviors like individuals insisting on being continuously affirmed (worship), being granted privileges denied to most other people (nepotism) and insisting that all their actions are above reproach (infallibility). The glittery allure of LGBQTism is rapidly wearing off, particularly amongst the young who are becoming fatigued by it and starting to find it abhorrent.

Last edited 1 year ago by Julian Farrows
Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago

You can always just ignore the tw@ts, Ben.

But I agree – there have been some very worrying developments over the past two decades, mainly originating in the States and then carried around the world by young Americans.

The area I got sober in 30 years ago had a motley collection of very different but incredibly warm-hearted people that became like a rowdy, good-humoured family. No bullshit – it was wonderful. Then new arrivals from the US started introducing their odd little ideas piecemeal which ended up in a full-blown schism. It’s never been the same since, and people have died as a result.

I personally think that none of the current generation of alkies should be able to amend incrementally the wisdom that was handed down to us. As you rightly say, this has saved millions of lives – mine and many of my friends included – and we all take an incredibly dim view of any woke fool messing with it.

For the real alcoholic there has simply been no other way of getting sober and living a free and beautiful life.

Mess with it at your peril.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

But the peril is not necessarily to the messers, is it?
What consequences do they suffer?
It’s the neutrals who are being hurt by the activists.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

They are being hurt as well, but they don’t know it.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

They are being hurt as well, but they don’t know it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

AA is in no danger of disappearing or losing prominence as a route to recovery. However, the One True Path aspect of the program, fiercely advanced by the most zealous members, is more an article of insistent faith than one based on evidence.
Treating the Big Book like an infallible revelation that should never be amended or re-interpreted is an approach I’m quite sure that co-founder Bill Wilson himself–he of the LSD trips and retreat from programmatic adulation–would disagree with. And there have always been huge variations in the approach of specific longstanding (and short-lived) meetings.
Many individuals have had profound conversions apart from AA that supported their long-term, prevailing sobriety, with or without a relapse or two (something most faithful Friends of Bill W. also experience). The fellowship and outreach that are indispensable to AA are not its exclusive possession.
I reject the idea that anyone who achieves sobriety outside the program is, by definition, not a “true” alcoholic, or remains merely a “dry drunk”. The other wrong part of such an orthodox exceptionalism is to make any non-successful attempt to stay sober through AA into the exclusive, indisputable fault of the individual, though some can never receive its God-centered approach (unless they evade it by making their higher power “Good Orderly Direction” or whatever), especially when it is mandated by the courts.
I acknowledge that it is a wonderful program that sometimes works even for those who are compelled to attend meetings, but it is not flawless and it does not hold a sacred monopoly on hope for true addicts, people for whom long-term or uninterrupted recovery is always a long shot.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Fair enough.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Quite so. I languished in AA focused detoxes and rehabs for 12 years being frequently reminded that it was either AA or death. I watched many a fellow addict enthusiastically engage with AA, doing their ’90 in 90′ (meetings in days) and struggling to align non-theistic beliefs with the necessity of finding a Higher Power, only to see them turn up at meetings some weeks after the rehabs finished, clearly pissed but desperate to get back on the program. My doubts about the process were always frowned upon and never discussed and the group mentality was such that dissent or disagreement quickly became awkward and embarrassing. Consequently I soon learned to sit down and shut up. For me the whole experience was stiflingly repressive and unhelpful and I endured a number of relapses whilst under its umbrella. The nine years of sobriety I have now achieved owe absolutely nothing to AA and I regard my whole experience there as being nothing but a regretful episode of acquiescence to an authority that demanded nothing less and dismissively and instinctively scorned those who questioned it. I believe it is an organisation that self-promotes it’s efficacy to such an extent that in any sizeable meeting there will be a number of individuals sat there who only attend because they are so scared of the oft repeated alternative (death or dishonour) that they feel compelled to be there.
I concede that AA can work for those who are perhaps predisposed to it’s methodology, but for anyone who is not (which in my experience of meeting hundreds of people in recovery, constitute a majority), and who are deemed “Constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves” as Chapter 5 of The Big Book proclaims, it can become a significant obstacle to their recovery.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian String

Thank you for this heterodox account. You are an example of someone who is not supposed to exist, according to a doctrinaire 12-step faith.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian String

Thank you for this heterodox account. You are an example of someone who is not supposed to exist, according to a doctrinaire 12-step faith.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

For what it’s worth, I have found my own way around the “God centered“ aspect of AA which gives so many newcomers great pause and drives many away.
Consider “there is a God, and you’re not it,“ one of my favorites among the many sayings of AA.
To me, the critical part of that sentence is the second half, not the first. AA teaches me that all my problems came from self-centeredness and neurotic self absorption. I am not God, I have no power over anyone, and all my troubles came from acting as if I did.
I don’t go out of my way to describe myself as atheistic in AA meetings, but when it has come up, I have always found AA people to be accepting of that approach. And when describing it to newcomers who have a problem with “God“, they find great relief in that viewpoint. AA is a broad church, and hopefully will remain so, free from the secular political debates that rage on outside it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles G

Brilliant! When independent thinking (“stinking” or not) is tolerated, AA is an even stronger net force for good.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles G

Brilliant! When independent thinking (“stinking” or not) is tolerated, AA is an even stronger net force for good.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I agree that Bill W would never suggest that his work never be amended. At the same time, I feel sure that Bill W would also say that whether or not the language was changed, it was not something he was about to drink over. And I think that is the more powerful of his two messages.
Changes like moving from “men and women“ to “people“ run the danger of suggesting that our sobriety is dependent on political language (or on any language, for that matter). It isn’t, and shouldn’t be. It amounts to nothing more than virtue signaling, and opens the door to thinking that our autonomous sobriety is dependent on others’ attitudes.
There may be a case for amending the language of the Big Book, but this isn’t it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles G

I fully agree with that. I was responding to the comments of Mr. Phillips–with whom I concur for the most part, but not in the absolute degree–not the terminology-focused bullshit addressed in the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles G

I fully agree with that. I was responding to the comments of Mr. Phillips–with whom I concur for the most part, but not in the absolute degree–not the terminology-focused bullshit addressed in the article.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Caroline Phillips
Caroline Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Worth considering?

1. Differences of opinion and approach have come and gone over many decades of 12 Step, none of them really detracting from the central tenets of the programme: to help the still suffering alcoholic/addict/eating disorder/love addict/compulsive gambler/whatever; turning such discussion points/differences of opinion (in arguably unhealthy groups) into outside issues and painting an (incorrectly) divisive picture of a fellowship that has helped and continues to help millions is not helpful to potential newcomers. “We have no opinion on outside issues.”
2. Yellow card: “Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.”
3. Tradition 11: “We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.”
4. Tradition 12: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions.”
5. There are thousands of groups, all with autonomy under an overall structure. If the ethos or tendencies of one group doesn’t suit, the still suffering addict can find another group.
6. If 12 Step doesn’t suit, there are plenty of other ways to recover, with varying degrees of success

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Thank you for these thoughtful and fairminded remarks. I’ve attended many different meeting groups and noted major variations, although reading all Twelve Traditions–from which you judiciously quoted–word for word every time is, in my opinion, wearisome and too commonly observed. Even so, you have pinpointed the language within them that continues to effectively address this problem. As you know, the AA pioneers encountered similar problems during an era that was pre-television, let alone internet (“press, radio, and films”) and added this cautionary language after hard experience.
I recognize that there are pockets of the openness you express in your final item (6), but I wish that perspective were more common and robust within the program at large. My main objection is to One True Path orthodoxy and court-mandated attendance.
Incidentally, if it’s not too rude to ask: Are you connected with the commenter Mr. Harry Phillips in some way?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Thank you for these thoughtful and fairminded remarks. I’ve attended many different meeting groups and noted major variations, although reading all Twelve Traditions–from which you judiciously quoted–word for word every time is, in my opinion, wearisome and too commonly observed. Even so, you have pinpointed the language within them that continues to effectively address this problem. As you know, the AA pioneers encountered similar problems during an era that was pre-television, let alone internet (“press, radio, and films”) and added this cautionary language after hard experience.
I recognize that there are pockets of the openness you express in your final item (6), but I wish that perspective were more common and robust within the program at large. My main objection is to One True Path orthodoxy and court-mandated attendance.
Incidentally, if it’s not too rude to ask: Are you connected with the commenter Mr. Harry Phillips in some way?

Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Fair enough.

Brian String
Brian String
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Quite so. I languished in AA focused detoxes and rehabs for 12 years being frequently reminded that it was either AA or death. I watched many a fellow addict enthusiastically engage with AA, doing their ’90 in 90′ (meetings in days) and struggling to align non-theistic beliefs with the necessity of finding a Higher Power, only to see them turn up at meetings some weeks after the rehabs finished, clearly pissed but desperate to get back on the program. My doubts about the process were always frowned upon and never discussed and the group mentality was such that dissent or disagreement quickly became awkward and embarrassing. Consequently I soon learned to sit down and shut up. For me the whole experience was stiflingly repressive and unhelpful and I endured a number of relapses whilst under its umbrella. The nine years of sobriety I have now achieved owe absolutely nothing to AA and I regard my whole experience there as being nothing but a regretful episode of acquiescence to an authority that demanded nothing less and dismissively and instinctively scorned those who questioned it. I believe it is an organisation that self-promotes it’s efficacy to such an extent that in any sizeable meeting there will be a number of individuals sat there who only attend because they are so scared of the oft repeated alternative (death or dishonour) that they feel compelled to be there.
I concede that AA can work for those who are perhaps predisposed to it’s methodology, but for anyone who is not (which in my experience of meeting hundreds of people in recovery, constitute a majority), and who are deemed “Constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves” as Chapter 5 of The Big Book proclaims, it can become a significant obstacle to their recovery.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

For what it’s worth, I have found my own way around the “God centered“ aspect of AA which gives so many newcomers great pause and drives many away.
Consider “there is a God, and you’re not it,“ one of my favorites among the many sayings of AA.
To me, the critical part of that sentence is the second half, not the first. AA teaches me that all my problems came from self-centeredness and neurotic self absorption. I am not God, I have no power over anyone, and all my troubles came from acting as if I did.
I don’t go out of my way to describe myself as atheistic in AA meetings, but when it has come up, I have always found AA people to be accepting of that approach. And when describing it to newcomers who have a problem with “God“, they find great relief in that viewpoint. AA is a broad church, and hopefully will remain so, free from the secular political debates that rage on outside it.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I agree that Bill W would never suggest that his work never be amended. At the same time, I feel sure that Bill W would also say that whether or not the language was changed, it was not something he was about to drink over. And I think that is the more powerful of his two messages.
Changes like moving from “men and women“ to “people“ run the danger of suggesting that our sobriety is dependent on political language (or on any language, for that matter). It isn’t, and shouldn’t be. It amounts to nothing more than virtue signaling, and opens the door to thinking that our autonomous sobriety is dependent on others’ attitudes.
There may be a case for amending the language of the Big Book, but this isn’t it.

Caroline Phillips
Caroline Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Worth considering?

1. Differences of opinion and approach have come and gone over many decades of 12 Step, none of them really detracting from the central tenets of the programme: to help the still suffering alcoholic/addict/eating disorder/love addict/compulsive gambler/whatever; turning such discussion points/differences of opinion (in arguably unhealthy groups) into outside issues and painting an (incorrectly) divisive picture of a fellowship that has helped and continues to help millions is not helpful to potential newcomers. “We have no opinion on outside issues.”
2. Yellow card: “Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.”
3. Tradition 11: “We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.”
4. Tradition 12: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions.”
5. There are thousands of groups, all with autonomy under an overall structure. If the ethos or tendencies of one group doesn’t suit, the still suffering addict can find another group.
6. If 12 Step doesn’t suit, there are plenty of other ways to recover, with varying degrees of success

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

But the peril is not necessarily to the messers, is it?
What consequences do they suffer?
It’s the neutrals who are being hurt by the activists.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

AA is in no danger of disappearing or losing prominence as a route to recovery. However, the One True Path aspect of the program, fiercely advanced by the most zealous members, is more an article of insistent faith than one based on evidence.
Treating the Big Book like an infallible revelation that should never be amended or re-interpreted is an approach I’m quite sure that co-founder Bill Wilson himself–he of the LSD trips and retreat from programmatic adulation–would disagree with. And there have always been huge variations in the approach of specific longstanding (and short-lived) meetings.
Many individuals have had profound conversions apart from AA that supported their long-term, prevailing sobriety, with or without a relapse or two (something most faithful Friends of Bill W. also experience). The fellowship and outreach that are indispensable to AA are not its exclusive possession.
I reject the idea that anyone who achieves sobriety outside the program is, by definition, not a “true” alcoholic, or remains merely a “dry drunk”. The other wrong part of such an orthodox exceptionalism is to make any non-successful attempt to stay sober through AA into the exclusive, indisputable fault of the individual, though some can never receive its God-centered approach (unless they evade it by making their higher power “Good Orderly Direction” or whatever), especially when it is mandated by the courts.
I acknowledge that it is a wonderful program that sometimes works even for those who are compelled to attend meetings, but it is not flawless and it does not hold a sacred monopoly on hope for true addicts, people for whom long-term or uninterrupted recovery is always a long shot.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago

You can always just ignore the tw@ts, Ben.

But I agree – there have been some very worrying developments over the past two decades, mainly originating in the States and then carried around the world by young Americans.

The area I got sober in 30 years ago had a motley collection of very different but incredibly warm-hearted people that became like a rowdy, good-humoured family. No bullshit – it was wonderful. Then new arrivals from the US started introducing their odd little ideas piecemeal which ended up in a full-blown schism. It’s never been the same since, and people have died as a result.

I personally think that none of the current generation of alkies should be able to amend incrementally the wisdom that was handed down to us. As you rightly say, this has saved millions of lives – mine and many of my friends included – and we all take an incredibly dim view of any woke fool messing with it.

For the real alcoholic there has simply been no other way of getting sober and living a free and beautiful life.

Mess with it at your peril.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

This is awful, the more so because it is predictable that this would happen to the 12step program the same as any other organisation.

It has to be emphasised that the 12 step system is the best treatment for addiction yet devised, but it is still not particularly effective: the process is hard, frustrating and often requires a lifetime commitment in order to conquer the hell of active addiction.

Huge numbers of newcomers to AA and the other varieties of 12step programs will exit the process and relapse. This is because addiction is highly resistant to attempts to destroy it, and for that reason it is essential that the fellowship – that is the social dimension that emerges from regular meetings – does not itself repel newcomers in any way.

This has to be emphasised: it is hard enough as it is to enter the 12step program and try to deal with addiction and its consequences. To do so and then face a potentially hostile political agenda will, for many people, be the thing that keeps them out of the program.

This, in short, will kill people.

Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

It’s killing people already, John.

But you are absolutely right. It’s difficult enough holding together a contrary group of people – and addicts are inherently difficult to deal with – without any additional nonsense such as this.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

To be quite clear, what I mean is that this nasty politics will lead to a greater number of addiction deaths than would otherwise occur without it.

I am of course aware that many addicts will die in any case – like I said, the program is nowhere close to 100% effective.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

To be quite clear, what I mean is that this nasty politics will lead to a greater number of addiction deaths than would otherwise occur without it.

I am of course aware that many addicts will die in any case – like I said, the program is nowhere close to 100% effective.

Clive Green
Clive Green
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Clive G,
“Alcoholics Anonymous has one primary purpose, to help *others recover from alcoholism”
(*others means Everybody, no stupid distinctions.)
What do I know? Well, 41 years happy sobriety .
How? By keeping it simple Stupid!

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
1 year ago
Reply to  Clive Green

I have been to so many meetings, going backs 35 years, and have many years of sobriety. My experience of contentious or disruptive speakers in the meetings is that they were quickly shut down by other, more experienced members. I think that is most cases, “AA Law” will prevail, and these people will either shut up and get the message, or quietly stop coming. Or, of course, the meeting members will go elsewhere.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
1 year ago
Reply to  Clive Green

I have been to so many meetings, going backs 35 years, and have many years of sobriety. My experience of contentious or disruptive speakers in the meetings is that they were quickly shut down by other, more experienced members. I think that is most cases, “AA Law” will prevail, and these people will either shut up and get the message, or quietly stop coming. Or, of course, the meeting members will go elsewhere.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

No it is not the best – where on earth did you get that idea from? Individual focused help and counselling works best, not the 12 step bullshit. I have not met one single person who has gone to AA or NA and managed to stay clean.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

I meet hundreds every week. Maybe you should try a different meeting.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

“I have not met one single person who has gone to AA or NA and managed to stay clean.”

You are simply not informed on this subject.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

I meet hundreds every week. Maybe you should try a different meeting.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

“I have not met one single person who has gone to AA or NA and managed to stay clean.”

You are simply not informed on this subject.

Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

It’s killing people already, John.

But you are absolutely right. It’s difficult enough holding together a contrary group of people – and addicts are inherently difficult to deal with – without any additional nonsense such as this.

Clive Green
Clive Green
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Clive G,
“Alcoholics Anonymous has one primary purpose, to help *others recover from alcoholism”
(*others means Everybody, no stupid distinctions.)
What do I know? Well, 41 years happy sobriety .
How? By keeping it simple Stupid!

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

No it is not the best – where on earth did you get that idea from? Individual focused help and counselling works best, not the 12 step bullshit. I have not met one single person who has gone to AA or NA and managed to stay clean.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

This is awful, the more so because it is predictable that this would happen to the 12step program the same as any other organisation.

It has to be emphasised that the 12 step system is the best treatment for addiction yet devised, but it is still not particularly effective: the process is hard, frustrating and often requires a lifetime commitment in order to conquer the hell of active addiction.

Huge numbers of newcomers to AA and the other varieties of 12step programs will exit the process and relapse. This is because addiction is highly resistant to attempts to destroy it, and for that reason it is essential that the fellowship – that is the social dimension that emerges from regular meetings – does not itself repel newcomers in any way.

This has to be emphasised: it is hard enough as it is to enter the 12step program and try to deal with addiction and its consequences. To do so and then face a potentially hostile political agenda will, for many people, be the thing that keeps them out of the program.

This, in short, will kill people.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 year ago

Another example of Robert Conquest’s Law:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

How do you account for the Conservative Party, then? 🙂

Bernard Bee
Bernard Bee
1 year ago

The tories have not been ‘explicitly right-wing’ since Margaret Thatcher.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Bernard Bee

I hope Jacob Rees-Mogg doesn’t read your comment!! He would be appalled!

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

The exception that proves the rule. Besides, aside from a handful of standard Catholic positions he holds he’s barely even right wing.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

The exception that proves the rule. Besides, aside from a handful of standard Catholic positions he holds he’s barely even right wing.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Bernard Bee

I hope Jacob Rees-Mogg doesn’t read your comment!! He would be appalled!

Bernard Bee
Bernard Bee
1 year ago

The tories have not been ‘explicitly right-wing’ since Margaret Thatcher.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

How do you account for the Conservative Party, then? 🙂

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 year ago

Another example of Robert Conquest’s Law:

Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

AA is a good organization, as are its many offshoots, such as Gamblers Anonymous, etc. But an organization, ultimately, cannot be better than the people that comprise its membership. Be the founding documents ever so noble, be the principles ever so great – if the membership does not carry these principles in their hearts and minds, the group cannot stand and be perpetuated. Ultimately, we need people to inscribe these words on their hearts in indelible ink: “God created me and I was created to be a Godly human. I am worthwhile for this reason alone.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

To the extent that Godliness is centered in compassion and duty toward one’s fellow men and women living on Earth right now, I agree with you.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

And by sheer coincidence, you’re exactly right about the definition of Godliness. God created us to be like Him – kind, truthful, and responsible for our own creations.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Well thanks. I accept your overview of Godliness-in -practice, which (for what I consider to be non-coincidental reasons) has innate and remarkably similar perceived properties across different individuals, populations, and centuries. Of course there’s also a malevolent or superficial thing that wears the cloak or name of Godliness, but that’s a microcosm of this world in general.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Well thanks. I accept your overview of Godliness-in -practice, which (for what I consider to be non-coincidental reasons) has innate and remarkably similar perceived properties across different individuals, populations, and centuries. Of course there’s also a malevolent or superficial thing that wears the cloak or name of Godliness, but that’s a microcosm of this world in general.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

And by sheer coincidence, you’re exactly right about the definition of Godliness. God created us to be like Him – kind, truthful, and responsible for our own creations.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

To the extent that Godliness is centered in compassion and duty toward one’s fellow men and women living on Earth right now, I agree with you.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

AA is a good organization, as are its many offshoots, such as Gamblers Anonymous, etc. But an organization, ultimately, cannot be better than the people that comprise its membership. Be the founding documents ever so noble, be the principles ever so great – if the membership does not carry these principles in their hearts and minds, the group cannot stand and be perpetuated. Ultimately, we need people to inscribe these words on their hearts in indelible ink: “God created me and I was created to be a Godly human. I am worthwhile for this reason alone.”

David Adams
David Adams
1 year ago

Alcoholics Anonymous encourages virtue in the wretched to allow them to redeem themselves, and it is hard to imagine a more noble purpose.

Unfortunately that nobility is exactly what makes it a target in the culture war, which is entirely the result of revolutionaries promoting vices like inertia, impulsivity, ego-identification, and delusion.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  David Adams

The Woke will probably be protesting against Drunk-shaming next.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

AA

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

AA

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  David Adams

Good analysis – wherever there is a noble or virtuous enterprise it attracts activists like flies to fresh dung. It has affected so many charities and benevolent societies and other avowedly non-political organisations. Look at what happened to Amnesty and Oxfam.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

TBH i think scamnesty has always supported torturous powers if they are left wing and Oxfam was a business when my parents used to moan about them in the 60s.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

The Left ruins everything it touches.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

This statement is a generalisation to the point of looking foolish.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

This statement is a generalisation to the point of looking foolish.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
1 year ago

Like a malodorous creeping fungus, this ghastliness gets in everywhere

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Allie McBeth

Lefty activists entering benevolent societies is almost a perfect analogy with trans predators entering female prisons. They see easy prey.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Allie McBeth

Lefty activists entering benevolent societies is almost a perfect analogy with trans predators entering female prisons. They see easy prey.

mike otter
mike otter
1 year ago

TBH i think scamnesty has always supported torturous powers if they are left wing and Oxfam was a business when my parents used to moan about them in the 60s.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

The Left ruins everything it touches.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
1 year ago

Like a malodorous creeping fungus, this ghastliness gets in everywhere

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago
Reply to  David Adams

Wretched? I have had issues with alcohol, and still do, although not technically an alcoholic. I am not wretched and I find that term offensive to be honest. I also do not need redemption and, if I did, I would not look to some pious rigid group for it. Redemption comes from within, or from god if that is what you believe (I do not), it is not something others can gift to you.

David Adams
David Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

Wretched was meant entirely compassionately, and if you read Bill’s book, the wretchedness of alcoholism is the very motive behind the 12-step program, and the objective of the program is best described as redemption.

The article is about Alcoholics Anonymous, and if you found the word wretched offensive, the comment was not meant for you. As mentioned above, ego-identification is a vice.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

Wretchedness and redemption can be described in purely personal, secular ways, as you suggest. The words take on religious connotations only when people insist on interpreting them in that context. Which, unfortunately, many AA meetings do. Though in my view, AA itself, in its pure form, does not make such proclamations.
Personally, I choose to describe my state of being pre-AA as wretched, and I consider myself personally redeemed by the lessons I learned in AA. I don’t attach any religious connotation to those words, however, being like you, an atheist. They are words that work for me in my own personal terms.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles G
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

AA is supposed to tout no religion nor belief system other than that a) you are an alcoholic, you have no power to stop being addicted to alcholol, b) you must let go control and admit that only a power greater than yourself can get you out of the hole, and c) decide to commit to getting out of your own way and let some help in. Before this new threat to the Traditions, there was the threat of groups actively promoting a Christian god. There’s always something.

David Adams
David Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

Wretched was meant entirely compassionately, and if you read Bill’s book, the wretchedness of alcoholism is the very motive behind the 12-step program, and the objective of the program is best described as redemption.

The article is about Alcoholics Anonymous, and if you found the word wretched offensive, the comment was not meant for you. As mentioned above, ego-identification is a vice.

Charles G
Charles G
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

Wretchedness and redemption can be described in purely personal, secular ways, as you suggest. The words take on religious connotations only when people insist on interpreting them in that context. Which, unfortunately, many AA meetings do. Though in my view, AA itself, in its pure form, does not make such proclamations.
Personally, I choose to describe my state of being pre-AA as wretched, and I consider myself personally redeemed by the lessons I learned in AA. I don’t attach any religious connotation to those words, however, being like you, an atheist. They are words that work for me in my own personal terms.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles G
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

AA is supposed to tout no religion nor belief system other than that a) you are an alcoholic, you have no power to stop being addicted to alcholol, b) you must let go control and admit that only a power greater than yourself can get you out of the hole, and c) decide to commit to getting out of your own way and let some help in. Before this new threat to the Traditions, there was the threat of groups actively promoting a Christian god. There’s always something.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  David Adams

The Woke will probably be protesting against Drunk-shaming next.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  David Adams

Good analysis – wherever there is a noble or virtuous enterprise it attracts activists like flies to fresh dung. It has affected so many charities and benevolent societies and other avowedly non-political organisations. Look at what happened to Amnesty and Oxfam.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago
Reply to  David Adams

Wretched? I have had issues with alcohol, and still do, although not technically an alcoholic. I am not wretched and I find that term offensive to be honest. I also do not need redemption and, if I did, I would not look to some pious rigid group for it. Redemption comes from within, or from god if that is what you believe (I do not), it is not something others can gift to you.

David Adams
David Adams
1 year ago

Alcoholics Anonymous encourages virtue in the wretched to allow them to redeem themselves, and it is hard to imagine a more noble purpose.

Unfortunately that nobility is exactly what makes it a target in the culture war, which is entirely the result of revolutionaries promoting vices like inertia, impulsivity, ego-identification, and delusion.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
1 year ago

The majority of AA meetings of this type will fail and fold. Meetings that are true to the original vision will thrive.
Its the same with churches and charities. Once the primary teaching changes, people fall away.
The difference with AA and other 12 step fellowships is that many people will needlessly die in their addiction because of this nonsense.

Clive Green
Clive Green
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Historically you are right, Peter.
Dangerous these fools.
Meddling with something proven to work (if the sufferer Really wants it)
As you rightly say, the terrible sadness of all this stupid interfering
will be the deaths of genuine ‘people’
who want to get sober.
Clive G.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

The Left will not be content unless they destroy every last institution.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Rubbish!

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Rubbish!

Clive Green
Clive Green
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

Historically you are right, Peter.
Dangerous these fools.
Meddling with something proven to work (if the sufferer Really wants it)
As you rightly say, the terrible sadness of all this stupid interfering
will be the deaths of genuine ‘people’
who want to get sober.
Clive G.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Shaw

The Left will not be content unless they destroy every last institution.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
1 year ago

The majority of AA meetings of this type will fail and fold. Meetings that are true to the original vision will thrive.
Its the same with churches and charities. Once the primary teaching changes, people fall away.
The difference with AA and other 12 step fellowships is that many people will needlessly die in their addiction because of this nonsense.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

haha….

”I was finishing my last year of study at Columbia University. Having entered the university in 2017 as a self-described radical progressive planning a career in LGBT activism,”

Man it must be hard to even leave the house in the morning, or open the computer, or pick up a book when every last single bit, All of it, every last thought, from waking in the morning to falling asleep at night, and likely the dreams between those – when your every molecule of existence and conscious thought – is about who you – and everyone else – want to F** k.

Man – you guys are nuts…..

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Christopher Lasch wrote about this descent into narcissism way back in the seventies. Everything he described has come true.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

GK Chesterton wrote about it in 1908.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Which of Lasch’s books are you referring to?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Philip Reiff gets into this too, if you can read him!!

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

GK Chesterton wrote about it in 1908.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Which of Lasch’s books are you referring to?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Philip Reiff gets into this too, if you can read him!!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Christopher Lasch wrote about this descent into narcissism way back in the seventies. Everything he described has come true.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

haha….

”I was finishing my last year of study at Columbia University. Having entered the university in 2017 as a self-described radical progressive planning a career in LGBT activism,”

Man it must be hard to even leave the house in the morning, or open the computer, or pick up a book when every last single bit, All of it, every last thought, from waking in the morning to falling asleep at night, and likely the dreams between those – when your every molecule of existence and conscious thought – is about who you – and everyone else – want to F** k.

Man – you guys are nuts…..

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

‘Woke harms my health too. I’m not an alcoholic, but suffer from high blood pressure, and woke makes me very angry very quickly.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

‘Woke harms my health too. I’m not an alcoholic, but suffer from high blood pressure, and woke makes me very angry very quickly.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

So, one ‘plans a career in LGBT activism…’ That would have floored the careers master at my secondary modern back in the day; gas engineer? brickie? tool maker? sparkie? no, gardener!

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Smith
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Our career master at school (completely untrained and uninterested in it – he was actually the maths master), used to recommend to everybody that they become divers off North Sea rigs because the money was so good. If you showed reluctance on the basis of the high risk of injury or death, he then suggested accountancy.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Divers have mostly been replaced by ROVs or just remote or auto activated “smart” subsea equipment that doesn’t even need ROVs. Divers still operate in the margins but the money has gone out of it since at least 35 years ago

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I’m pleased to hear this. And yes, I’m quite old now.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I’m pleased to hear this. And yes, I’m quite old now.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Divers have mostly been replaced by ROVs or just remote or auto activated “smart” subsea equipment that doesn’t even need ROVs. Divers still operate in the margins but the money has gone out of it since at least 35 years ago

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

LGBT activism promotes uphill gardening.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

You got it!

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

You got it!

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

Our career master at school (completely untrained and uninterested in it – he was actually the maths master), used to recommend to everybody that they become divers off North Sea rigs because the money was so good. If you showed reluctance on the basis of the high risk of injury or death, he then suggested accountancy.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

LGBT activism promotes uphill gardening.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

So, one ‘plans a career in LGBT activism…’ That would have floored the careers master at my secondary modern back in the day; gas engineer? brickie? tool maker? sparkie? no, gardener!

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Smith
Mark Blackham
Mark Blackham
1 year ago

Time to create an alternative AA movement then.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Blackham

troon anonymous? I would love to see the 12 steps and 10 traditions…hahahaaa every meeting would end in a melee…..

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Attn Mods, pls ban the above poster…haha (saving someone else the effort)

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Manys the time that I do not actually understand what you are posting. I’m not saying that it is you, it could well be me, but I rarely have a problem with others on this site.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Agreed. No idea what he’s trying to say.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Agreed. No idea what he’s trying to say.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Manys the time that I do not actually understand what you are posting. I’m not saying that it is you, it could well be me, but I rarely have a problem with others on this site.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Attn Mods, pls ban the above poster…haha (saving someone else the effort)

Harry Phillips
Harry Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Blackham

It’s been tried. Nothing else has worked.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Refuge Recovery–a quasi-Buddhist approach–and Rational Recovery–to a lesser extent, I think–have helped some people “save themselves through fellowship”. Their success rates are not great but neither is AA’s (estimated at 5 percent or less long-term).

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The thing no one ever talks about is how AA or any other anonymous program is able to get good data on success rates. Treatment programs are also problematic. Anything that relies on self-reporting is problematic for an issue like addiction. One of the hallmarks of addiction is a persistent tendency to deny and lie about use.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Fair point. And those rare (but not imaginary) folks who recover or at least abstain on their own might be both less inclined to talk about in lives less focused on abstaining, and wary of incurring blowback from AA zealots by broadcasting their clean time: “I white-knuckled it for 3 years then had a profound spiritual conversion; been sober for 20 years without meetings”–again, not typical, but possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

Fair point. And those rare (but not imaginary) folks who recover or at least abstain on their own might be both less inclined to talk about in lives less focused on abstaining, and wary of incurring blowback from AA zealots by broadcasting their clean time: “I white-knuckled it for 3 years then had a profound spiritual conversion; been sober for 20 years without meetings”–again, not typical, but possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The thing no one ever talks about is how AA or any other anonymous program is able to get good data on success rates. Treatment programs are also problematic. Anything that relies on self-reporting is problematic for an issue like addiction. One of the hallmarks of addiction is a persistent tendency to deny and lie about use.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Cold turkey works a treat and probably accounts for most of AA’s pitiful 5% long term success rate. The reality is that the “steps” are short-term cultish psycho-crutches.

Bruce Buteau
Bruce Buteau
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Pitiful 5%? Those are lives SAVED. I suppose the 11th step reliance on meditation is a cultish psych-crutch somewhat like 2500 years of Buddhist practice. Haddaway and shite ye get walla loon.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

Google translate can do nothing with your last sentence. I’m guessing from your surname and your ref. to walloon that you are from Wallonia in northern France.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

Google translate can do nothing with your last sentence. I’m guessing from your surname and your ref. to walloon that you are from Wallonia in northern France.

Bruce Buteau
Bruce Buteau
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Pitiful 5%? Those are lives SAVED. I suppose the 11th step reliance on meditation is a cultish psych-crutch somewhat like 2500 years of Buddhist practice. Haddaway and shite ye get walla loon.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry Phillips

Don’t be ridiculous – individual personalised help and counselling is far better than AA. Whether it is easily available is another matter – as I said earlier I have not met one single person who has succeeded via AA or NA, in comparison to GP led individual treatment in conjuction with local drug/alcohol services. The higher power crap puts a lot of people off for a start.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

I suspect you are primed to ignore AA success stories and one to one counselling failures . Perhaps you hang out with active drunks rather than people who no longer drink .

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
1 year ago
Reply to  Nikki Hayes

Individual, personalized help is expensive. So no one wants to pay for it. It would be funny if it weren’t so appalling, that so many treatment centers