In January, Time reported on a new study that concluded that people in “spiritual” recovery programs suffered a greater incidence of depression within the first four months of beginning, compared with people in secular programs. If you Work the Program, I guess this is when you say, “That’s bullshit and you know it! Denial is not a river in Egypt! Sputt, sputt… pbbbbth… ” It’s also where you say, “What am I gonna believe? Science or my lying eyes?” And “People who work the steps are genuinely happier people.” And then you say, “What are you trying to accomplish by removing people’s last hope!?”
Anyway, it’s very, very interesting. I’ll try to find a source for the original study that doesn’t require one to pay $30:
In last month’s Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, University of New Mexico addiction specialist William Miller and his colleagues presented findings from two controlled trials in which patients underwent drug treatment. Some of the patients received spiritual guidance as part of the treatment — learning such practices as prayer, meditation and service to others, all of which are central to 12-step programs. Others received secular psychotherapy. Because of the enduring popularity of AA and similar programs that involve a spiritual component, Miller and his team expected the patients in the spiritual group to do better than those in the secular group. They were wrong — at least in the short term.
While both groups eventually benefited relatively equally from their treatment — abusing substances on fewer days — it took longer to see improvement among those in the spiritual group. What’s more, those who received spiritual guidance reported being significantly more anxious and depressed after four months than those who got secular help. Those problems abated at about the eight-month point, but because substance abusers are at high risk for suicide, some worry that it may not be a good idea to put them through demanding spiritual calisthenics in the early months of their recovery.
These results make plain sense to me. As is par for the course with A.A., their directive to hand yourself over to God’s will is contradictory. There is nothing spiritual about Steps Two and Three. They are the opposite of spirituality:
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
If you’re a Christian (disclaimer: I’m not), you have to believe that this is the kind of crap that Jesus came here to rectify. He kicked the ass of Leviticus and replaced it with The Beatitudes and The Golden Rule — he fought for this. He fought against the kind of panty-sniffers who would go around clutching a Big Book and spouting aphorisms, gaslighting broken people. Sincerely turning yourself over to a Higher Power means accepting your God-given birthright of self-will (Intention), and using that as your foundation to create your reality.
There is no God in A.A. It offers the opposite of God — as is consistent with its offering the opposite of everything it says it offers. It offers religion. As M.A. points out in his post, they know they’re dealing with broken people, and the method is to open the door and then wear them down:
When dealing with such a person, you had better use everyday language to describe spiritual principles. There is no use arousing any prejudice he may have against certain theological terms and conceptions about which he may already be confused. Don’t raise such issues, no matter what your own convictions are. – The Big Book
In other words, eventually, these people will “get it,” no rush… just ease them in. This is gaslighting. It’s sanctioned crazymaking. And this “program” — with its 3% suicide rate and its 0% success rate, is pretty much all we’ve got here. A program, which has no other purpose than to perpetuate itself, like a multi-level marketing outfit, is our go-to guy.
If you go listen to Bill Wilson on youtube, you will hear him say that the survival of the group is paramout. That’s nothing if not religion. Just because they say it’s not, and just because they say you can turn your life over to your pet rock, and just because they say that any of this makes sense, doesn’t mean it makes any more sense than saying that you can “take what you need and leave the rest” and “work the steps or die” at the same time.
The thing is that when you offer people “hope,” while simultaneously stripping them of their own self-will (power, intention), you’re deliberately setting up a soul-sucking scenario that legitimizes the very dynamics of a classic abusive relationship, and this will certainly foster depression. Perhaps these poor people are depressed until they “get it.” And perhaps, once they “get it,” they are accepted, and once they’re accepted, the depression lifts.
I swear, if Jesus himself walked into an A.A. meeting, they’d tell him to take the cotton out of his ears, so that he can take some direction from the wormholed brain of the resident knucklehead oldtimer as he tells his drunkalog for the hojillionth time.
Now, if you take a different approach, which tells a broken person that they can heal, can overcome, and take complete control of themselves, that they can make a decision and choose to use a whole array of tools (of which God might be one), you’re honoring their spirituality and thus their humanity. And you’re giving them an exit strategy. (In A.A., there is no such thing as recovery.) They have hope combined with intention, and can see themselves actualizing themselves without the mediation of alocohol or religion. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Real freedom.
A.A. uses religion because its ultimate goal is to perpetuate itself — to protect the group. And if you think the fact that A.A. meetings are free, open to all comers, you have got to take into consideration that there are people who are very invested in your free meetings. Drug and alcohol counslors are trained in 12-step recovery, and recommend it as a matter of course; courts send people to A.A.; rehab centers use 12-step programs as their foundation; 12-step recovery is taught in higher education… There are people getting rich off of A.A. It is an enormous business that some people are very invested in — your depression be damned.