In 2014, 75% and upwards of all United States treatment facilities required 12 Step education for its clients. This places Alcoholics & Narcotics Anonymous groups (among others) in the first place position of addictions support groups. Remember, though, Leo Tolstoy said, ““Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”
The reality is 95% will not stick with the Alcoholics Anonymous program. In Maia Szalavitz’s “After 75 Years of Alcoholics Anonymous, It’s Time to Admit We Have a Problem,” she writes, “One of the largest studies of recovery ever conducted found that, of those who had qualified for a diagnosis of alcoholism in the past year, only 25 percent still met the criteria for the disorder a year later. Despite this 75 percent recovery rate, only a quarter had gotten any type of help, including AA, and as many were now drinking in a low-risk manner as were abstinent.” So with AA’s failure, why is AA so popular? *[75% recovery rate based on 20 year outcome from onset of drinking problem.]
It’s cliché to say it but it applies: just because it’s popular doesn’t make it right. In the words of Jules Renard, “If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right.” I learned this in 2014 when I started writing publicly against the 12 Step program, its ineffectiveness and how the program harmed me. I was immediately met with online bullies, harsh comments berating and belittling me, and threats that without AA everyone including me will die. (Or… more annoyingly, they were convinced we’d come running back to their rooms. “We’ll have a chair waiting for you!”) These reactions did not deter me from sharing information and links that provide facts of AA’s failure rate and harm of others.
AA is the cool club, and the rest of us seem targeted for bullying, actually. Under the online guise of pseudonyms, 12 Step members can dodge the tradition to stay anonymous and still be outspoken, callous, and trolling. Not sure which spiritual principle “trolling” is but I’m sure it’s derived from the 12th step of “carry this message” must loosely translate into: “harass others.”
Apparently, recovering alcoholics won’t gain experience, strength or hope without a 12 Step program. This reminds me a pop-punk song from the 1990s by Screeching Weasel: “There’s a real cool club on the other side of town, where the real cool kids go to sit around/ and talk bad about the other kids, yeah it’s a real cool club and you’re not part of it…”
In a beautiful irony, the online bullying actually highlights the ugly truth about AA. It reminds me of the real mission here, which has nothing to do with me, which is about others stuck in AA who are literally afraid to leave. Who feel alone. Who have sponsors telling them “AA or die” or their only alternatives are “jail, institutions, or death.” Fear is never a good reason to stay anywhere, with anyone.
It’s a huge problem when the only alternatives AA members mention end in death. That should be a red flag that the AA organization is not educating members to at least be aware of, and have knowledge or, other sources of help for alcoholism. Therefore, AA violates their Primary Purpose in a very closed minded way— the Primary Purpose should read: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship or men and women who share a very limited amount of experience and hope with each other by only offering to help to others who want AA. Our primary purpose is to instill fear into anyone who wants to leave AA and deny facts revealing different forms of recovery.”
In other words, stay in AA, never leave AA, and harass and bully others into believing the message that AA works despite any evidence to the contrary. There is no accountability by AA members to provide even a short list of alternatives “just in case” AA does not work, such as SOS, SMART or Moderation Management.
Another weird fact about AA is how willing they seem to want to help everyone, even people sent by the courts, or from prison, who were incarcerated for violent or sexual crimes. Then, at the same time, AA provides this open door policy without any form of rules against sexual harassment, threats, stalking or endangering one another in any possible way. This means, AA is lawless, and also that AA’s teachings can appear to be above the law. “Take your own inventory.”
Without rules, AA has a sexist and criminal culture called 13 stepping (pressuring or demanding sexual favors from newcomers or financial blackmail, etc). This major issue gets a cold shrug no matter who is harmed, after all, the victims were told to “stick with the winners” and they probably “didn’t listen to their sponsor.” Never mind the fact no members would know what rules to pass down to a sponsee because AA has no rules.
Even though rehabs and courts send more people to AA than those arriving on a walk-in basis, rehabs are breaking their ethical standards by endorsing unsafe, religious, sexist meetings to their clients. It is at this point, where the medical and judicial system intersects the general public, that the silence and lack of outrage from the American public is deafening.
It is odd how many non-recovery citizens think AA is endorsed by the government (their organization is on the White House website) or that AA advertises (it does advertise outside of the USA). Members deny they recruit or promote despite the 12th step command to “carry the message,” and numerous pamphlets and guidelines instructing in minute detail how to communicate, cooperate, and hold meetings in corrections and treatment facilities available on aa.org. Here are two highly descriptive, informative examples of AA recruiting literature:
- AA Public Information guidelines- “P.I. Visits… [at] schools, local businesses, church and civic groups… P.I. committees often distribute a simple letter describing their availability and how [to] make contact for more information. / … distribution of A.A. literature, a brief talk and/or showing an A.A. video… / Open by describing the need for personal anonymity at the public level; give your first name and A.A. membership. / Avoid drunkalogs… what’s funny to A.A.s may not be laughable to nonmembers.
- AA Cooperating with Court, D.W.I. and Similar Programs guidelines- “Our responsibility is to make the seed of A.A. freely available. What the sufferer does with it is not our responsibility. Only one ‘statistic’ interests us in A.A. — the next person who may need our help… It is shown that A.A. groups do not force attendance, or keep attendance records. Courts can do these things as they are not bound by the A.A. Traditions… [W]e are not concerned about who or what first sends the alcoholic to us. Our responsibility is to show A.A. as a way of life, so that all newcomers who need it might want it.
Since there are literally dozens of AA literature on how-to-promote AA to the public I’d have to dedicate a separate blog entry to that list alone. The point is, in the anti-AA community, there is a demand for transparency and honesty from the recovery community. AA is simply a dishonest program claiming it attracts and doesn’t promote, but its list of literature proves that is patently false. When you have a dishonest organization that resists rules and encourages fear as a motivator, you are only going to attract bullies. The fact that ex-members, and their professional non-recovery anti-AA friends, are faced with ostracizing, harassment, and death threats illustrates how crooked, criminal, and broken the AA organization and its allies in government and medicine have become.
In addition, the online recovery communities have fostered a second tier level of bullying using the same factors that AA has used to create bullying: anonymity and the fear-inducing narcissistic ideal that “one way (AA)” is the “right way.” One report lists the main personality traits of online trolls: “Mainly, narcissism (the admiration of one’s self to the extent that one believes he can do no wrong), macchiavellism (a tendancy to deceive and manipulate), psychopathy (a lack of empathy and inhibition) and sadism (taking pleasure in inflicting plain or humiliation on others.)
It is a damning testament to Alcoholics Anonymous’ damaging effect on someone psychologically when they troll online, chastising others for reporting data proving AA fails and sharing their negative experiences in the program. This isn’t recovery; hell, one might say these people were better off having never learned AA at all. Sadly, decent, good hearted people everyday are spreading the AA message with only the intent of saving others’ lives from drinking deaths and are either unaware or unwilling to address the bullying problem.
So, into 2015, I intend to continue writing about the contradictions, lies, and bad psychology of the 12 Step programs. Once the truth is learned, it can’t be unlearned. So what if AA did work for you, it didn’t work for me, so let’s meet in the middle and at least agree there are many solutions. And the only way to be helpful to others is to be knowledgeable of all paths of recovery instead of just one.
I’d like to personally thank the creators of these following blogs for all of their support, encouragement, and numerous chats allowing me to vent, laugh, cry and heal while writing about some very personal topics this year. Without all of you and your dedication, your blogs, and your incredible intelligence I might still be one of the many living in silence. May we all have an incredibly awesome 2015.
Blogs and Websites that have printed the truth about ineffectiveness and the darker side of the 12 Step programs (in no apparent order):