I can’t think of any other disease that makes people receiving different treatment become enemies of each other, but there’s this weird rivalry going on with alcoholics; Like there’s Team AA and Team Not-AA with both teams battling it out with their points of view.  With a disease, treatment should be about what works for the patient, and all successful treatments would be celebrated. Health is a gift, and nobody knows gifts better than Santa Claus.

1947 film, “Miracle on 34th Street,” introduced us to a revolutionary department store Santa who informs a Macy’s customer the better skates could be found at Gimbel’s, not Macy’s.  The greedy stores were in an uproar, but customers loved it… “you can’t argue with success… such a tremendous and immediate response to a merchandising policy… And… if we expand our policy we’ll expand our results as well…. If we haven’t got exactly what the customer wants, we’ll send [them] to where [they] can get it. No high pressuring and forcing a customer to take something [they don’t] really want… We’ll be known as ‘The Helpful Store.’ ‘The Friendly Store.’ ‘The Store With a Heart.’ The store that places public service ahead of profits.  And consequently we’ll make more profits than ever before.”- Mr. Macy played by Harry Antrim. [1]


What can AA learn from this movie?  Perhaps AA co-founder Bill Wilson said it best in, “Let’s Be Friendly with Our Friends: Friends on the Alcoholism Front,” in 1958.  Wilson writes: “Today, the vast majority of us welcome any new light that can be thrown on the alcoholic’s mysterious and baffling malady… We are glad of any kind of education that accurately informs the public and changes its age-old attitude toward the drunk. More and more, we regard all who labor in the total field of alcoholism as our companions on a march from darkness into light.” [2]

Fast forward twenty-six years later, to AA’s 1984 pamphlet: “AA: An Introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program,” where we are to learn about this alcoholism problem and its solutions.  Such as: “there are few alternatives for alcoholics,” except for skid row, hospitals, jails and institutions. [3]  To be fair, at the time, the only other program at the time was a little known group called Women for Sobriety. S.O.S. would not start up in the summer of 1985 [4] to only name 2 other options available.

Also in the aforementioned AA pamphlet: “After reading this brief outline, you may decide that AA has nothing to offer you.  Should this be the case, we suggest only that you keep an open mind on the subject.”  And: “Only recently have we begun to benefit from new approaches to the problem.” Mysteriously, not one new approach is named.

Women for Sobriety was started by Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick in 1976.  [5]  However, in 1984, AA tells us that doctors “know a great deal more about alcoholism than their predecessors did only two generations ago.”  Doctors, except for, maybe, Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick who started the “New Life” program for Women for Sobriety?

All this emphasis on “education that accurately informs the public” on alcoholism and “new light” and “doctors” and AA didn’t leap at the chance to share Dr. Kirkpatrick’s discovery? She had a Ph.D. in sociology and also attended AA.  In her experience, “women alcoholics had the same problems she did, i.e., little or no self-esteem, depression, loneliness and excessive feelings of guilt.” [6]  AA’s Big Book was expressly written for egomaniacs, all male, with an entire chapter of advice for the alcoholics’ wives.  Most all research on alcoholism prior to 1976 focused on the recovery of male alcoholics (if you demand more proof, Google it, I’ll provide more links if you ask, also.)

The pamphlet states, however: “We have seen others who only made token efforts to follow the tested principles through which over a million of us now maintain our sobriety; token efforts are generally not enough.”  Yet, how does one test the efforts of Step 3: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. What exam measures the quality of one’s “searching” or the “fearlessness” of a person? I assure you, even without citing a source, that AA does not keep any statistics.  Clearly “over a million of us” is not a factual statement. These statements are profoundly bloated with pomposity, not fact.


Yet, reading on, “more than two million of us can testify that AA is working for us – and that there is no reason in the world why it should not work for you.”  This effectively claims AA works 100% of the time.  I don’t like this for several reasons.  1.) How did they jump from ‘over a million’ to ‘more than two million’? 2.) How can over 2 million members testify if they are anonymous and AA keeps no statistics? 3.) The wording of “no reason in the world” is an absolute statement- it leaves no wiggle room for information to the contrary- such as Dr. Kirkpatrick’s success without AA.

To recap: AA claims it is 100% effective and there are no alternative programs.  AA claims it is open to fresh, new facts about the “disease,” but refuses to mention anything new if it’s not about AA.  AA comes across as extremely self-centered; suffering from a myopia of self.  In 2014, AA misinforms the public by basing evidence of success only on how beloved it is by their members.  AA deceives the public, also, by acting oddly unaware of other methods.  It is manipulation and it works: If you buy the idea that AA is 100% effective- then by deductive reasoning all other methods are 0% effective.

Fancy language about an “honest program” does not make it true.  Sure, individuals in the rooms may be living honestly, but that doesn’t mean the organization of AA is.  To believe AA is honest 100% of the time, then that makes people like Dr. Kirkpatrick a liar by default. Again, we are basing all of this AA success on its own literature, and on the testimony of some members who have come forward throughout the years.  If we are to believe their testimony of AA works, though, we must also believe testimony to the contrary.

People who have tried AA and turned it down are not “liars,” they are not purposely trying to destroy or maim the AA name.  They are not AA-bashers or a lunatic fringe.  They are not dry drunks who could be swayed to accept AA’s teachings if only they “tried, tried again.” And by the way, AA members who shun other methods are just as guilty of “bashing” as anti-AA protesters are. Some people have a drinking problem and simply pursue methods of recovery until they find something that works for them.  Be it AA, or SMART recovery, S.O.S., Women/Men for Sobriety, LifeRing or Moderation Management to name a few.


Would it harm AA to mention other programs of recovery? Not at all.  If anything, it would show AA to have an “open mind” which it seems to like to talk so frequently about. (The terms “open mind/ open minded” occur in the Big Book at least 9 times, and the term “open” at least 24 times in the 164 program pages [7]. )

All these groups address alcoholism and addiction, and most importantly, recovery.  There is no need for rivalry.  Can’t we all be friends?


[1] http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/83570/Miracle-on-34th-Street/articles.html
[2] http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-34_letsbefriendlywith.pdf
[3] http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-1_thisisaa1.pdf
[4] http://www.cfiwest.org/sos/intro.htm
[5] http://www.womenforsobriety.org/beta2/
[6] http://womenforsobriety.org/beta2/about-wfs/jeans-bio/
[7] http://www.164andmore.com/words/open.htm

NON-12 Step Recovery Links:

SMART Recovery: 866-951-5357 http://www.smartrecovery.org/

Women for Sobriety (WFS): (215) 536-8026 www.womenforsobriety.org

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.): (323) 666-4295 www.sossobriety.org.

Moderation Management (MM): (212)871-0974 www.moderation.org.

Men for Sobriety (MFS): (215) 536-8026 www.womenforsobriety.org.

LifeRing: 1-800-811-4142 http://lifering.org/ 


LifeRing Akron on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lifering.akron.secular.recovery

SMART recovery (and friends) on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SecularSobrietyNEO

And as always, a special thanks to all the information available from Alcoholics Anonymous official website:  www.aa.org


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