Last time I wrote here about how AA members describe themselves as “still sick,” which is a peculiar selling point for a program supposedly designed to fix sick people. I myself would never be an AA member based on their “treatable, but not curable,” basis alone. If someone has moved on from unstoppable drinking then they are no longer exhibiting signs of addiction. Nobody ever comes down with a “little bit” of alcoholism. There is no “dry drunk.” If being agitated, moody, angry, or anxious was a sign of addiction then every human would have it.
Today though, I want to offer every happy, contented AA member an open letter of sorts:
Dear AA Member:
Congrats to you and I am happy AA worked for you- I would never take away your experience and beliefs about how well AA has worked for you. In fact, affirmative personal testimonies, such as yours, make up the bulk of evidence sited for how effective AA works.
AA is considered an “evidence based” practice, but unlike hypnotherapy or acupuncture, all negative outcomes are suppressed. People who achieve sobriety in AA tend to become overzealous satisfied customers. I wonder if it is because they’ve replaced their individual ego with a kind of group narcissism, by defending AA and denying any flaws exist. So, AA member: I urge you- I dare you- to be open minded to making changes to AA that would help more people.
I don’t judge AA without judging myself first. I used to become defensive and angry at AA members because that was how they reacted to me. I was passive aggressive. I attended AA to please others and kept on drinking because I lacked conviction and assertiveness. I was reluctant to speak up at meetings because even if someone agreed that AA didn’t work for everyone, they would disagree than anything other than AA worked. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Ask yourself: How do I react when someone expresses an opinion different than my own?
Some in AA will go as far as saying if a person can sober up without AA then they probably aren’t a “real” alcoholic. This thinking has led people into thinking they should go out and drink more than they used to drink to become a “real alcoholic.” Others think their sobriety will be threatened if they express any doubt or criticism about AA. After all, a symptom of their ‘disease’ is refusing to work the 12 Steps. AA has actually created more alcoholics by convincing people who’ve had a few bad drinking episodes that they’re doomed to become forever drunk. It is also dangerous to tell people they are dishonest, lying, morally inept people at their very core- even when they’re sober- even before they ever took their first drink. Ask yourself: If AA is not helping someone, will I offer suggestions other than AA? Or will I make up some excuse why I can’t help them?
It is dangerous to tell women to accept the sexist literature. In the AA Big Book, the alcoholic is a man who should be “wearing the family trousers.” [page 131 Big Book] Chapter 8 is titled “To Wives.” Look, a man doesn’t want to hear himself referred to as a “she” any more than a woman wants to be called a “he.” AA’s acceptance of sexism opens the doors for members to accept other abuses of male power, like rape. I know, blame the rapist- but in AA, where misogynistic attitudes are re-enforced, and members’ are apt to blame themselves, it is harder to testify against sexual crimes in AA. Not to mention the abuse of “anonymity” reduces the likelihood of witnesses coming forward to report crimes. Without any written rules against sexual harassment- and literature that is extremely sexist to say the least- it’s not really a mystery to me why men find women targets in AA. I’ve heard members tell me that the amount of rapes in AA are probably about the same as anywhere else— like rape is just something we must accept in general, everywhere, without getting upset about it.
Ask yourself: Is there a real positive benefit to sexism in AA literature that would be lost if it were changed?
These changes in the literature would not alter the AA program. Creating safety measures would not topple over the core beliefs held by AA members and the 12 Steps. We gain nothing from arguing but we gain a lot more by finding solutions. As much fun as debating safety measures is, the real question is: What is there to debate about? I didn’t know preventing rapes and other abuses were open to debate.
I understand that rocking the boat agitates the water, but anyone who’s opposed to safety precautions in AA is not someone I need to have like me anyway. So ask yourself: Do you have the courage to speak up for yourself?
Thanks for reading,
Juliet (or your name here.)
P.S. I would not want to belong a group that is stagnant, stubborn and incapable of making improvements to help more people wherever possible. As a woman, I would never pass on AA literature where women are inferior if not invisible. Lastly, because AA doesn’t like working with other alcoholism experts whose views are different than their own, it is clear AA ignores new, important information about treating alcoholism. And that is a message I cannot carry to others.