There is a saying that AA stands for “Altered Attitudes”, which is one of the slogans with which I actually agree. The AA experience is about changing almost everything, especially attitudes. The purpose of the steps is not to quit drinking, although that is what gets people through the door – it is about conditioning others to alter their fundamental belief systems to make AA the central focus of their lives. Remember, that AA’s stated belief is that the individual is subservient to the group. This is done by diminishing the individual, and praising the group. This isn’t just done in AA. It is a common cult tactic, as described in the cult awareness videos we posted here. One common thing you will see in AA is individuals saying such things as “before I joined AA, I was (insert pejorative here), but now I am (insert glowing individual trait here) – and I owe it all to AA“.

The ways of achieving this are to tear down the individual, and build up the group. Another thing often heard is “I had to be torn down before I could be built back up again”. This is done in a couple of ways. The first is take away the individuals freewill, which is achieved in accepting steps one through three. In those steps, people who have difficulty accepting a hands on god are encouraged to make the AA group itself their higher power™, and to give control over to the group. In step four, the individual is told to make a “searching and fearless moral inventory” about himself or herself. Where the first three steps strip an individual of any self determination, the fourth step tears the individual down; and when an individual is torn down, the group stands waiting at their psychological bottom to pick them up, and save them from themselves.

What exactly is a moral inventory, and how does it work? Is it like a retail inventory, or a checklist on where an individual stands at that given moment in their personal morality? Not really. It is interesting to see the difference in definitions of the word inventory, when comparing the actual definition, to the AA definition. AA does with it what they so often do with words, and redefine it to suit their purpose. In this case the purpose is to tear down the individual. Here is a Fourt Step Worksheet, that has been used in AA for 70 years. In it, they include their definition of a moral inventory. Compare the difference between the actual definition, and AA’s definition:

Moral Inventory:

Merriam-Webster: an itemized list of current assets; a list of traits, preferences, attitudes, interests, or abilities used to evaluate personal characteristics or skills

Alcoholics Anonymous: a list of personality defects, violations of moral principles, defects in character, maladjustments, and dysfunctional behavior

So, AA redefines the term from “assets” to “liabilities”.

All kinds of people join Alcoholics Anonymous, including good, honest, nice, caring, giving people; as well as selfish, mean spirited, assholes. People who become alcoholics are no different than the general population. Most people with a drinking problem have done or said some things for which they regret. Some of which is caused by drinking, and some of as a result of being human. Although alcohol addiction changes people, no doubt, nothing has been shown alcoholics to be inherently different than non-alcoholics, aside from what was written in the ‘Big Book’. I recently read very good book called The Heart of Addiction by Lance Dodes, a researcher and Physician at Harvard Medical School, where he writes about these myths in greater detail. We’ll probably review this book on this blog in the near future, but I would suggest anyone read it, as it has some great, sound, scientific information about addiction.

The difference between the two viewpoints of an alcoholic stereotype – one from an addiction researcher, and the other from Alcoholics Anonymous – is that one view is founded on science, and the other is found upon the religious doctrine of original sin. AA took from the Oxford group certain beliefs about human nature, which took its beliefs from their view of Christianity and the human condition. Original sin states that we as people are inherently bad, which is a philosophical topic I am not trying to lead into here. I’m simply trying give some context in how these myths about alcoholics were perpetuated. AA, which was not even AA for the first few years of its existence, but was simply an offshoot of the Oxford group; simply replaced the world “person” with “alcoholic”, and viola! A Stereotype was born. Now, I’m not arguing for or against the concept of original sin. I’m simply saying it doesn’t apply only to alcoholics.

So, take out a pen a do yourself a moral inventory. A real one. You have a lot of good characteristics. We all do. You have bad traits, as well, but so what. Because you don’t drink anymore, the good will shine, and the bad will be reduced. That is what happens when we quit drinking. Life becomes better. For you, and for your family, and for your friends. Real family, and real friends who stood by you while you were drunk, and accepted you for who you are, character flaws and all — because they knew you were not much different than them. You just drank too much.