you can look it up, I’m writng on my Android phone, links are a pain. This is what I thought the instant I began reading fourm discussions about folks’ experience with it: I can have Dogfish Head! Then I thought: part of having a Dogfish Head is the alcohol whisking across my blood-brain barrier. Would I take off the pharmacological ethanol condom sooner or later?
It’s not worth finding out.
For millions of addicts around the world, Alcoholics Anonymous’s basic text – informally known as the Big Book – is the Bible. And as they’re about to find out, the Bible was edited.
Well, of course it was edited. It was a book manuscript. Jesus.
As for purposefully de-emphasizing the “religious” facet of the Program, the directive in the BB to not talk about God too much or share the BB right off the bat is right there in the book. This is not news. The publishing of the original manuscript is news; that’s awesome and cool.
In my readings I’ve been over all kinds of AA deprogramming/debunking material, looking specifically for helpful advice about changing one’s attitude and safely steeping out from the AA sphere while continuing to grow and not regress into “white-knuckling it.” For me, whether or not AA is a “cult” or “religious” is as stupid a debate as a drunk figuring out if they are “alcoholic” or not. The name is not the reality, the reality is the reality.
The only part of the “spiritual program” that sits wrong with me, for me, is the sheer bullshitness of stating “god can be whatever you want, god can be a daisy” then presenting steps 3 and 7. Could any rational person easily turn their will over to a daisy, and then pray to the daisy to supernaturally change their personality? Come on. The truth is God can be what you want for a while but the expectation is eventually one will come around to the Real God. I personally have no problem with God as God or praying to God. In a beginner meeting last week a new visitor piped up at discussion open: “I am having trouble with the God part.” The room became home to an award-winning smug expression collection at once. The woman was then cross-talked over and over about how there was room for all beliefs and non beliefs….but she would eventually see the light. The obligatory “doorknob” statement made its appearance. I was struck at how not open -minded the group is. I saw sanctimonious dismissal and disinterest in a newcomer’s worldview and honest questions, and a blind assertion of The One Truth. My acceptance of AA as a place of open-mindedness was destroyed. The only open-mindedness in the Program is admonished upon any who think or act in any deviation from the written instructions or conventional wisdom.
The point is that I don’t care if AA is a religious cult or not. I care about its humanity and honesty.
Many a newcomer will immediately feel comfy and cozy in the rooms of AA simply because the dynamics of the group mirror that of the newcomer’s dysfunctional family of origin.
- Don’t think, don’t feel.
- If you do feel, be advised that certain feelings are not allowed.
- We know what’s best for you.
- You don’t know what’s best for you, and we won’t even ask your opinion.
- The family is correct, it is your feelings which are screwed up.
- You must honor and respect us. You must be grateful for us. We gave you life. You are not allowed to be angry at us.
- “Ouch! It hurts!” you say — “We’re only doing this because we love you” — they respond
- “This doesn’t make sense!” you say — “Do it because I told you so!” — they respond
- We will love you only if you do “this”, “that” or “the other”… we will love you conditionally
- Don’t speak the truth — We can’t handle it.
- Be sure to always pretend that everything is allright, otherwise the family will fall apart.
from AA Deprogramming
I’m almost finished with this tedious string of AA angst. I know it’s boring or upsetting to probably everyone but me, and why am I apologizing? I notice my mind simply will not allow me to have these feelings, examine the Program and my experiences with it, without a sense of alarm, that I have stepped outside a force field and better scurry back in before my skin melts.
Pretty chilling stuff, that quote above. It’s true – for the most part. Fortunately I have spoken with three people in AA that have been open-minded enough to allow me to be where I’m at without castigation or telling me without hesitation that I am an arrogant narcissist who is judgmental and has no idea what she needs. Three. I am blown away and very happy to report this has been helpful – I’m not 1000% alone. I can be rigorously honest with folks without them being threatened and retreating to knee-jerk one-size-fits all fundamentalism.
I see my language and tone has tempered but a little. I’m accepting thatanger and resentment are healthy emotions and responses sometimes. It is the longevity and handling of them that can be a “character defect.” These feelings will pass and I will have experienced reality in person and move on. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater then. As I said in an email:
“I realize the problem is definitely centered in me and what I expect in the way of support and friendship. that isn’t what aa is for. AA is A A. Take it or leave it. Quit hoping to get something out of it besides what it is.”
Here I am in day 3 of tears, guts hurting, huge conflict and misgivings. It is astonishing how heartbreaking and fear-inducing contemplating quitting AA is, how identical the feelings are to quitting drinking:
Can’t live with it or without it. Maybe there’s a way to make it work. I’ll just try one more time…only on weekends….
…and no matter what transpires when I try one more time and it is a ridiculous frustrating experience it will be my fault and my defects and lack of willingness that caused failure.
Can that really be true? Is it a fact that everyone in AA is healthy, has a good sense of boundaries, is openminded, values helping others as if their life depended on it, is reliable and honest, except me? Is it also true that if I have a feeling that is pro-AA I am in spiritual light, and if something about my community causes me disturbance the only truth about it is there is something wrong with me? I believe that self-examination and humility are crucial to sobriety, but some of these black and white premises are unrealistic moonshine that undermines the program’s credibility to me.
An AA told me yesterday that “I have no idea what I need.” An AA who has had about 5 superficial under-ten-minute conversations with me. I’m turning to the handful of people who actually know me for support, but none of them are around in person and I’m lonely. Clearly I am troubled and need to work some things out.
I feel like I’m going through a horrible detox. I am going to visit a couple of churches, keep being mindful and spiritually focused as I can. I have overreacted to recent events, yes. I also refuse to accept all my questions and thoughts and feelings are to be patronizingly dismissed.
After writing the above I am in the end able to see this : I am indeed hurting the most because of my own heart in the end. It is my fault. I have wanted things to go smoothly, I have wanted compassion, support, and friends. That’s why A A causes me so much anguish. That’s not what AA is for. AA is AA. My challenge is to be ok, at peace, and move forward.
Accompany him to his first meeting. Take him along with you when you call on the next patient. Telephone him when there are other patients. Drop in at his home occasionally. Telephone him as often as possible. Urge him to look up the new friends he has made. Counsel and advise him. [……] He probably will be lonely. He may be too timid to seek the companionship of his new friends.
Experience has proved this to be a very critical period. So your labors have not ended. Give him as much attention as you did when you first called on him — until he can find the road by himself.
Remember, you depend on the newcomer to keep you sober as much as he depends on you. So never lose touch with your responsibility, which never ends.
The above is quoted from the purported first written study guide/ pamphlet used in the earliest meetings of AA. It is an example of the material used in the AA that had a 75% success rate.
Read this this morning pretty much first thing. I’ve been enjoying reading historical AA writings, but this made me feel sick. I had woken up sad because I am about to give up trying to use AA for support. I’ve been hurt more than I’ve been helped. And if it’s all my fault, so be it; I’m going to have to accept it’s not a helpful fit and whatever psycho-social-emotional wherewithal is required I lack.
I have a couple of numbers for members of Women for Sobriety I am going to call; I wrote asking about local meetings after visiting their forums/website a few weeks ago. I’ll talk about that some more later.
I threw my AA books in the trash. I didn’t want to. I might get them out. I wish it would be helpful to me, it is a place where I can ostensibly meet people but, if I’m honest, I’m banging my head against a wall. It reminds me of alcoholic drinking: the little good bits here and there create hope for more, and what I get over and over is…not helpful.
Not that the element of freedom and therefore of sin is absent from alcoholism. It is present, but in a complex and obscure way. There is a mental element in alcoholism; there is probably a physical element in it in many cases; but a third element, the spiritual one, must also be considered.
Therapist K said to me a couple weeks ago (she works sometimes at the detox I was in twice this summer) she had talked about me some with Dr. V, my Dr there and now outside, and they were in agreement that I had a ton of psychological mess tangled in my alcoholism. ( I knew that, but I wanted to see how long a sentence I could write.)
It’s deadly clear to me – my decisions to drink are acts of violence, deeply ingrained self-debasement rituals. They are also decidedly medical; the physical aspect is most clear to me when I consider memories of lying drunk in the dark, compulsively picking up an empty bottle and trying it over and over all night, a genius of alcoholic sorrow.
The remarks block quoted above intrigued me – I may not have ever seen any writing, commentary, or speaker throw in a matter-of-fact reference to freedom (sin!) in the middle of an essay about powerlessness. I love it. I believe it’s all true and everyone is right. I am a real alcoholic, yes, but I have to live with what I could live with. (What I still could if the supernatural Santa Christ stops favoring me.)
The paradox is as comfortable and friendly as your neighborhood “make a decision.” Which I say 100% not tongue in cheek. For real. Even in powerlessness, I have to decide.
Which is spiritual sounding, so probably spiritual really. Brilliant how it all comes together. Seriously, though, it makes sense that this wheel of categorically ridiculous wastrel abject torment is equal parts mind body spirit. And spirit is moving itself up in priorities. I tried meditating today. I listen to zencast. I do the mindfulness thing all the time! Plus, somehow I want to go to meetings, so I’m rolling with it these days. Disillusionment is wary faith for now. I seem to care about others sometimes. (That’s another post.)