The Dishonest Program- Alcoholics Anonymous

Guess who’s back… back again… Roxspin’s back… tell a friend…

Hi everyone, and sorry for the delay in posts.  However, I do have a life outside of “recovery topics” and I took some time to myself— to laugh, to cry, to get upset, to grieve.  I needed to do this.  And now, a post that is long overdue.  Thanks to everyone for your continued readership and messages to me.  It means the world to me.

____

“Our very lives, as ex-problem drinkers, depend upon our constant thought of others and how we may help meet their needs.” I wanted to believe Alcoholics Anonymous and its members believed what that quote meant to me; that the problem was drinking and all solutions were important not just one.  People have different needs- what if AA didn’t have what they needed?

For believing AA can’t help everyone, I’m ridiculed, laughed at, yelled at (in ALL CAPS sometimes), openly mocked, shamed, and blamed for sharing my experiences that attending Alcoholics Anonymous harmed me.  The people who chastise me are members of AA, the same members who taught me at meetings that our “common welfare comes first.”

I was taught in the groups that the AA organization was an upside down pyramid, where all of us had a say and there were no leaders at the top.  You are a member when you declare yourself one.  The Preamble states that “the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”  Not one member is greater than another- all we have is today- a person with 2 hours sober can help the one with an hour sober. It’s anarchy, there are no rules only suggestions, but it works “if you work it.” AA’s numerous repeated slogans give it a cult element, but “if it’s brainwashing, maybe our brains need to be washed.”  Any changes made to AA, however, have to be brought from the bottom, to a conference, where it is decided at the top.

Who are you? Who am I?

Who are you? Who am I?

Individual groups cannot make their own decisions; they are autonomous only because AA at the top does not pay or run their meeting.  There are no dues or fees, but there are contributions and donations that must be made otherwise the meetings cannot run.  Perhaps, though, I am dealing with semantics?  But their 2012 Tax Return states decisions about AA can be made without its members.  So maybe AA isn’t telling the truth?

I’m called an “Anti-AA” as though I randomly started to hate AA for no reason.  In actuality,  I participated in the program and was expected to carry the steps that teach people to believe they are powerless, wrong, and defective to others for the rest of their lives.   I didn’t hate AA; I believed them when they said I had a fatal, progressive disease.   And I believed, if I spoke to other members, we could make AA psychologically better through voting to improve the program.  To borrow from Shakespeare, “My only love sprung from my only hate.”  Or actually,  their hate sprung from my love for wanting to belong to AA.

As a group, the Anti-AAs are a product, or direct result, of the program which promised us a new freedom and a new happiness, no regret of the past, serenity, peace, and benefiting others no matter how far down the scale we fell.   The program would rid our feelings of uselessness and self-pity.  AA promised we’d lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in others, our whole attitude and outlook on life would change, and fear of people and finances would vanish.  We were promised we’d learn to handle situations that used to baffle us, realize God was working for us when we could not, and that these promises– “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly” would always materialize if we worked for them.

Almost needless to say, my meeting’s reaction to my ideas left me baffled, and I did not know how to handle that situation.  We read “There is a Solution” and “How It Works” from the Big Book.  We were asked to be rigorously honest because “rarely have we (AA) seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” When we were honest AA had flaws and it was harming us, we were told to question ourselves, because we had “stinkin’ thinkin'” and should run all our thoughts by our sponsors first.  Even if we think we prayed correctly, we should check with our sponsors; not our priests or our rabbis or our ministers because only another alcoholic could truly understand another alcoholic.

We objected to the old, religious, sexist language and our objections were blamed on our resentments, which may kill us by drinking to death.   Wanting to change AA was belligerent; it was our disease talking.  We were selfish and self-centered.  It didn’t bother THEM.  Willingness and acceptance was the key to everything.  We had to put aside our prejudices against anything that appeared to be— well— in itself prejudiced.  It was a WE program.

Because we felt hurt, we read page 62 of the Big Book: “Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later put us in the position to be hurt.”  We doubted our faulty alcoholic thinking.  Perhaps, we protested because we were “such unfortunates.”  Maybe we were born that way.   It was depressing, but we couldn’t allow ourselves to feel depressed, because self-pity and irritability meant we were Dry Drunks.

The basic principles of AA?

The basic principles of AA?

If we disagreed that anger was not a luxury,  and sadness was normal, and self-pity was natural, we were told we “didn’t get it.”  Come back when we’re willing to listen.  We were listening.  Intently. We were the MOST obedient.  Still, we questioned why no one told us of OTHER programs besides AA.  We were told if we could stay healthy without AA, maybe we weren’t “real alcoholics.”  It was weird because prior to us leaving, they understood and related to us.   We had similar problems for years.  Then,  suddenly, after we left,  we were never like them.   They said it’s a program for those who want it, not those who need it.  We worried maybe we would get worse without AA.   What if they were right about that one thing?

Some of us flipped through the Big Book’s pages again, told that the wives of alcoholics could also be husbands.  Just flip the words around in our heads.  I was supposed to imagine a husband saying, “Sometimes there were other men.  How heartbreaking was this discovery; how cruel to be told they understood our women as we did not!”  Or: “Thus father, through no fault of his own, became accustomed to wearing the family trousers.”  I can’t imagine a husband, a man, being called a nag. No, for many of us, especially women in AA, the book was sexist and “she” could not substitute “he,” or vice versa.

The alcoholic’s wife was expected to forgive and help take care of her cheating husband.  But we were told we were letting words bother us, and it was just “semantics.”  Damn right it was semantics; the semantics (or meanings) of the title “We Agnostics” or the title “To Wives” were clear.   Yet especially for atheists, or feminists, we were looking for problems and forming resentments they said.  No one told us we were having a perfectly acceptable unpleasant reaction to real problems that were wrong.

There was guilt we couldn’t help others.  We turned a blind eye to sexual harassment of newcomers because we shouldn’t “take their inventory.”  We felt ill allowing bad behavior to happen because it’s Progress not Perfection and some are sicker than others.  But ALL are welcome in AA.

Excuses piled up from people who convinced us AA was a spiritual program and they had a God consciousness today.   God seemed to allow members to 13 Step newcomers, because, at least they’re not drinking today.  We gave hours of maximum service to others.  We invested ourselves emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Our souls were bared.  Secrets long held deep were dumped on total strangers with complete trust.  Yet, the minute we asked questions, “Doesn’t the Big Book state we’d right wrongs if we knew we could?  Isn’t it wrong, and offensive, to close with the Our Father?”  We were told, if we were pointing fingers at something else, four more were pointing back at us.  Where was OUR tolerance?  Where was our love?

It was those come-back lines that helped wake us up.  In those moments, THEY were taking OUR inventory.  There were so many contradictions.  AA was clearly a complicated program, designed to confuse and bewilder people, into staying around debating one AA phrase against another AA phrase.  Fix sexism– it’s the next right thing.  Leave the book the way it is- we must cease fighting everyone and everything.   But didn’t the AA Big Book, page 83, state: “There may be some wrongs we can never fully right.”  The excuses made our heads spin; our stomachs churn, because the next sentence of that paragraph states: “We don’t worry about them if we can honestly say to ourselves that we would right them if we could.”

It was clear we were being honest, but AA was not, and the other members had a distorted sense of the term.  They CAN’T admit they are wrong.  And that hurt us.  Deeply.   We were pissed off.  It was a complete betrayal by a group we thought we belonged to.  More could be revealed, but they were not interested in any of it— the data, facts, research.  75% recover without any type of formal treatment at all.  We had to discover SMART, SOS, and other therapies on our own— Our own rehabs and doctors did not inform us until maybe (and just maybe) after we asked, and asked and asked.

We need more celebrity endorsements against AA... don't we?

We need more celebrity endorsements against AA… don’t we?

And they said, “But it works for me.”  No interest in learning about the very condition they claimed to have (alcoholism) or its treatments.  No interest in helping other alcoholics unless it was the AA way.

It was like the Truman Show.  We were hit with lightning bolts, road blocks, and lies which kept us from learning the facts about alcoholism and addiction and recovery.  But when we left AA behind, our so-called friends usually wanted nothing to do with us.   They didn’t need us anymore because a newcomer would come along to learn how to make coffee.  Another will offer to pick up men and women to take to meetings.  We were not even thanked for what we did.  AA was given all the credit- not us- if we had done anything right for them.

Our honesty, willingness, and open mindedness were not reciprocated.  We asked AA to do unto us as we had done unto them, and AA said, “Who Me?”   So I say, AA lost the best thing they ever had.  Our time, our energy, our hearts and souls will not help AA grow.  We took that with us when we left AA.

Now, we share our experience, strength, and hope with others who have felt as we have.  No one deserves to be bullied, harassed, or abused.  It is our duty— it is my duty— and the duty of all the decent AA members still there to not permit the bad apples to run the show.

It is our duty, and my duty, to reach out to those outside AA and recovery, and to educate all humans about the reality of the Treatment Industry.  It’s time to speak out and inform, outside of AA, because it is everyone’s business.  AA has a sexist culture, invites criminals, and has no safety rules or policies against sexual harassment.  That environment promotes crime, not recovery or health or sanity.  Our hospitals and rehabs must be transparent- AA DOES NOT follow the same ethical standards they do in respect to sex, race, culture, or religious preferences.

Let’s tell the courts it is against the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to enforce religious practices on the public through court ordering drunk drivers to AA meetings.

Let’s start telling the truth and working an honest program wherever we are.

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9 thoughts on “The Dishonest Program- Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. This is true talent in writing if you ask me. Some very strong feelings came up for me. Feelings I had buried so deep I forgot about. The psychological torture is a magnitude of pure bewilderment. Yet somehow after I finished reading I felt a cathartic release.

    • Thanks so much Jason that truly means the world to me reading this from you— I haven’t caught up on all your videos and you’re a real hero to me— how outspoken you are and brave and courageous you are. This article was actually passed up by another website that I won’t mention here but it’s tough to get some real firsthand accounts online on how someone can go from attending AA to anti-AA… as though it’s just blind-hate… so much more to it than that. Really glad you understood this one and thanks again for commenting on this.

  2. I like pretty much everything Juliet Roxspin writes, but what I especially liked here was how she shows that the oftentimes the most active of the Anti-AA movement were those that truly, truly tried to make AA work, and that their fault was bizarrely then of trying too hard and being too kind a person, so that the more brutal culture of AA, and its more sadistic long-term members, would feel uncomfortable and inferior and then punish those who were most likely to make AA a decent and safe place to recover. Now, these people, like Roxspin, are the heart of the growing Anti-AA movement.

    • Thanks and maybe I’m not at the heart of any movement but definitely feel now, more than ever, I’m part of something incredibly meaningful and necessary— I had once wished AA could be that kind of mission for me but it was not what I thought it was or wanted it to be… AA breaks nearly every promise they make to a person and it’s heartbreaking and potentially deadly.

  3. I don’t think you’re anti anything. I believe you’re pro healing and damn fine advocate for those whose voices are yet to be heard. You are not alone and your words have a greater impact than you know.

    I admit, I needed help in leaving the booze behind. I met some fine people and I was treated with respect and kindness while in treatment. And truth be told, I like the idea of AA. One drunk helping another drunk. Something I still do to this day, but free of a sense of duty or conscription, and by using the language and experience of the person I’m trying to help, not from a predetermined prejudice or cue card.

    Now, if someone ask why they don’t feel especially happy, joyous and free, I tell them AA is a place to go, a place to catch one’s breath and to use it without any expectations of it being any more than that. It’s like mushrooms in a salad. You can eat them, but they don’t have much nutritional value.

    It feels good to be independent without dependency, with flaws, without labels and uncertain what the future will bring. My recovery, if this word is still used, is not through surrender or capitulation. I don’t need anyone’s permission. Once your feet are on solid ground you begin to realize the territory looks a lot different than what’s on the map.

    I don’t drink anymore. I don’t go to meetings. I don’t read the Big Book, the literature or listen to those who comment about me being a dry drunk. There once was a rumor whether I was a real alcoholic. That’s another matter. The comments I hear aren’t that original either. It’s not easy being your own person, but it is liberating when the words you use and actions you choose are your own. I took my own advice because I found, once you pick your advisor, you pick your advice.

    I no longer need to use other’s words to explain or validate how I feel, or codify any action with a specific philosophy or group. To quote and paraphrase Milton, badly, I would rather be the master of my own life than a servant in the life of someone else. A life without boundaries, without judgment, without a blind compassion, without a hollow humility. Good article Juliet.

  4. Wow! Nice piece … the one I picked up on was “The alcoholic’s wife was expected to forgive and help take care of her cheating husband.” Kinda funny, because later they invent a spiritual dis-ease called co-dependency! Now the wives need to be 12 steppers too!

    • That’s what Al-Anon was for and CoDA became the more gender-neutral non-alcohol related organization. (Remember, AA was for the husbands/men and Al-Anon was for the wives of the alcoholics. Today Al-Anon allows anyone in, of course, but it’s all based on sexist presumptions and stigmas against women in the 1930s.)

  5. This article really struck a nerve with me. Reading your words was like reading an entry from my own diary! I put so much faith and honesty and devotion into AA.. only to be completed disregarded when I spoke out about the conflictions I was having mentally and psychologically with the program. A response I frequently heard was, “I think the lie is returning.” Are you freaking kidding me?! I felt like I was in a cult and my significant other (because she isn’t an alcoholic) wasn’t invited. It almost ruined my relationship and led me into a deep depression.
    Long story short..your words were relieving and heartfelt to me. It makes me feel not so alone knowing that I’m not the only one who questions the morality and dysfunction within the program. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome. I used to think (because they taught me this in the meetings) that I couldn’t share what AA was actually teaching us to non-members. Then, I realized, this is why the frustration was only getting worse. Significant others should know what’s bothering you, and if it’s AA then it needs to be talked about. I hope you have found a better way to deal with life and are away from those who talk down to you. Thank you.

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