Bullshit slogan of the day:
“There is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem.”

This is one of AA’s more ironic clichés. They profess alcoholism to be a disease, and then go about treating it as a moral failing. The Big Book was written in 1939, and since that time science has improved the treatment, or found cures, for just about every imaginable disease. Treatment for alcohol addiction is the lone exception, because it is the only disease where the primary means of treating has been a spiritual means. It is also the only form of treatment where those in charge are not interested in advancing and refining the status quo. This is understandable, because only science changes with greater understanding – religion does not.

The use of any prescription drug is frowned upon by hardcore AAs, who will tell a person that they are simply replacing one drug for another. Although there is a percentage of AAs who continue to take their prescribed medications, many are talked into giving up on their medication against medical advice. This might make little sense to those looking in at this from the outside, but for those within the bubble of AA (and those who have been there), it makes perfect sense. Once a person has gone through a proper amount of conditioning through Big Book study, 90 meetings in 90 days, following the teachings of a sponsor with no counseling qualifications and having the idea that the steps are infallible if a person simply “works them” – any questioning of the dogma (and yes, relying on means of recovery other than the steps is a form of questioning) is tantamount to heresy. There is a reason AAs are told not to think, and it is because reliance on an invisible higher power to rid them of their addiction makes as much rational sense as faith healing.

There are obviously psychological reasons for alcohol abuse, and there are certainly psychological consequences to it, as well. Those should not be discounted, but to say that alcoholism is not largely – and perhaps mostly – a chemical problem is ignorant. There are correlations between certain ethnic groups or within families, and alcoholism – and though we don’t necessarily know the specific cause of each of these, we won’t get closer to that cause if we simply acquiesce to the idea that entire populations of people have a collective character flaw. Native Americans have the highest percentage of alcohol abuse, but to say they are more morally flawed than other groups is as absurd as saying that Jews are cheap and black people are lazy. Yet, the approach that AA takes with their group that meets on the Native reserve ten miles from my home, is to tell them it is their moral failings, not their body chemistry, that are the culprit.
The operative word in understanding this cliché is the word “problem”. I have often heard that the first step is the most important, because without it, the other steps are meaningless. I agree with this. The need to quit drinking is the nexus of Alcoholics Anonymous. Without it, AA would be…well, the Oxford Group. So, alcohol addiction brings people there, and brings them back when they fall off of the wagon. It is the one commonality all members have, and it is also an ingenious tool to bring people into a cult. Most alcoholics, like myself, won’t address our problem until it has had a negative affect on our lives. We arrive to AA already compromised, at least some degree, so half the battle in turning a person over to the beliefs of the group are already won when a person walks in the door to their first meeting. There is no need for tactics like starvation or sleep depravation to help beat a recruit down, as many have likely done that to themselves already. The first step becomes the easiest, but after it is accepted, it becomes an afterthought, because drinking is not the “problem”, and step one is the only one that mentions the word “drinking”. The problem, and the primary objective of the group, rests in the next ten steps.

Bill Wilson discovered this almost by accident, as his original objective in joining the Oxford Group was a religious one. His motive was to adhere to the tenets of the group to rid himself of his moral failings and defects of character, and alcoholism just happened to be one of his. It also happened to be the failing that others within the group had, and like minds tend to gravitate toward each other. Alcohol addiction may have been their common trait, but recovery from that addiction was not their primary purpose. It was simply their moral failing of choice, their best recruiting tool, and the catalyst that morphed their branch of the Oxford Group into Alcoholics Anonymous.

The AA of today is no different, and though alcoholism is what brings people through the door, it is considered by those who run the show to be a symptom of the primary disease – that being original sin. Alcoholism is simply a symptom of our inherent moral failings, and treating the symptom is analogous to suppressing a cough and believing that it cures the flu. There is a cousin to this saying: “take the alcohol out of the asshole, you still have an asshole”. I think they should change AA to mean Assholes Anonymous. It just seems more fitting.