Stinkin Thinkin Frequently Asked Questions and Repetitive Sentiments

I know that when AA scolds come here to wag their fingers at us, or take the time out of their serenity to insist that they are serene and to point out that they pity our anger, I know they’re not really interested in engaging in a dialog. They’re hit and run. If they were actually curious about our motives here they’d be inspired to peruse the blog, and what they learn will inform their questions and comments, which would be much different. And if they did, they would have found their questions answered and comments addressed over and over again, because I keep answering them, for some reason (You know when you take a screwdriver, like this, and you jam it into your ear, like this… I hate that!). They’d also be able to actually take issue with what we’ve said, rather than dropping in to take pot-shots at our sobriety, motives, mental health, and emotional state.

They’re not here to engage – which we are very open to. We’re game. We don’t censor. Granted, we’re not going to mollycoddle anyone. I mean, you have to be able to take the heat. But we’re open to debate. So, let’s just get these FAQs and RSs out of the way, so when you drop in with some variation on the theme, you can just peruse this page and get the answers to the questions you aren’t really asking.

Now, these questions are more along the lines of the rhetorical questions used by authoritarian types to shame their kids, like, “What is the matter with you?!” They’re the kinds of questions that set the asker up to be pissed of by an answer, but also to insist upon an answer if they get none: “Seriously! What is the matter with you?!”

Off the top of my head, I am going to compose a typical AA response to Stinkin’ Thinkin’ (seriously, do you guys have some kind of a template you use? Or is it just one single person writing the same thing over and over again on every forum on the internet?), and then I will respond, and if you still have questions beyond these, feel free to ask:

I was appalled by your blog. I am so serene, happy and healed through AA that I cannot understand why you would devote all your time to attacking something that has been of such great benefit to so many people! I mean, if you’ve found your way to sobriety through another program, then more power to you. I really mean that! I wish you all the best of luck! Congratulations!

But, if you truly have, then why are you so angry? Why are you so negative? Why don’t you do something positive? Support what works for you, and leave everyone else alone. You know, some poor suffering alcoholic could come here, see what you’re doing, and die of it! You might have blood on your hands. You are misguided in thinking that you’re performing any service to the world by spouting off “science” and “statistics.” I am living proof that AA works – I don’t need a study to tell me that AA works! I would be dead without AA, and that’s all I need to know.

AA is not a cult. I can believe whatever I want, and leave the rest. Go if you want to. Don’t go, if you don’t want to. I’m happy.


AA Member

How’d I do? If you were going to write some variation on this theme, you can save yourself, and us, some time. We’ve heard it. Just read the FAQ/RS. Also, please feel free to add your own.

Why are you doing this?

We are doing this because AA has harmed an enormous number of individuals. The very aspect of AA that you like to point to as a wonderful feature of AA – the fact that it is unregulated, no one’s in charge, the “inmates run the asylum” (oh, haha! You’re not a glum lot, are you?) – is the very reason that sponsors can take advantage of their “pigeons;” that old-timers can authoritatively offer bogus medical advice; that 13th-Stepping is rampant and makes AA unsafe for women and minors (See the August ’09 issue of Grapevine)…

We’re doing this because our readers have had their lives wasted in meetings, trying to conform, at the risk of “Incarceration, institutions, or death,” losing themselves for the sake of the program. They’ve been demoralized by the belief that AA can’t fail; it can only be failed. So they try again, and again. And the more people try, the more likely they’re bound to go out on a bender. The more they feel they’ve failed the more they debase themselves.

AA is the only game in town. If you live in a small town, for instance, AA is all you have to work with. If you end up in court with a DUI, you’re going to be sentenced to attend AA meetings. And if you end up in rehab, you’re going to be 12-stepped there, and your “aftercare” is going to be AA. If your family does an intervention, it will be done by an AA/12-stepping advocate. And if you go for addictions treatment, your counselor will be uneducated in anything but 12-Step. And you’ll end up in AA.

We do what we do because we care about the “still suffering alcoholic” who has already been through AA more times than they can count, been 12-Stepped at rehab, and blames themselves for not being able to “get it.”  They might not feel powerless over their addiction, but they do feel powerless to make AA work for them. We’re here to show them that there are options; that there are people who get them (not “it”). And we do what we do to provide a community hub for those who think they’re alone and aren’t capable of the honesty it takes to work the program. They can vent here, and laugh here, and find some validation and hope. And we encourage it.

More than that, what we’re doing is muckraking, in the time-honored sense of the word. AA and 12-Step is has a monopoly. Sure there are some alternatives, but none of these alternatives are offered in your general addictions treatment facility. And none of these alternatives have the power to lobby in Washington the way that AA does (by proxy, of course – Hazelden and Betty Ford, for instance, who hire the same lobbying firms that the alcohol industry does, by the way – do some research on, which is a website that will tell you who’s giving money to whom and for what – just the facts) to get insurance money.

AA is not a benevolent, altruistic organization. And it’s not free. It is a business. A big business. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., for instance, is a publishing company. Its function is to protect their copyright and trademark – and it has stated publicly that its operations are not bound by the traditions of the program. They are free to act outside the Traditions and principles which are, supposedly, the hallmark of enlightenment, and which they are in the business of espousing (which is weird, don’t you think?). What reason would AA have to maintain a corporate entity at this point?

The result is that a 70-year-old spiritual cure, that does not work, is the Gold Standard of addiction care in this country. Conventional Wisdom is that it’s tried and true. But it’s leaving wrecked lives in its wake. If you doubt that, just look on the sidewalks on your way to the grocery store. You know that all the destroyed people you see staggering around, pissing in alleys, sleeping in bus stops, digging through your trash, know the steps by heart.

I believe that alcoholism, and addiction in general, is one of our most pressing issues. And I also believe that the 12-Step stranglehold on the entire treatment industry is stymieing real innovation and evolution in the way we treat it. It’s deep, vast, complex, and it’s a crime that the only valid treatment requires a vague spiritual epiphany, and boils down to “getting it.”

If AA took its rightful, honest place in our society, as a spiritual path toward enlightenment, with sobriety being just one of its perks, then we’d have no blog. If it were just one of many options for the most vulnerable of our citizens, then we’d be blogging about our pets. But it’s not. It’s the foundation of about every addictions treatment program in this country. The reason its not is entirely financial, and a lot of people are being chewed up to grease the wheels.

Do you know that you are killing alcoholics!

Let me answer this one with a couple of questions: If an alcoholic woman goes to AA and is stalked by members of her group, is it her responsibility to look at her part, draw her boundaries, and take care of herself? If a member is told by his sponsor that in order to be truly sober, he should go off his meds, it is his responsibility to take his health into his own hands and do what’s best for him? Shouldn’t they both try different meetings?

If they are responsible for themselves among your own kind, then why aren’t they responsible for themselves among ours?

Furthermore, if you are so worried about the one alcoholic, for whom AA might have worked, who reads our blog and decides not to go, why are you not equally concerned about the twenty others who enter AA believing that it’s the last house on the block?

Why are you so angry?

This question always cracks me up because it’s so unselfaware . You know, anger is a healthy human emotion that serves as a fundamental, necessary survival mechanism. It spurs people to leave abusive relationships, for instance. To fight for their lives. It is also the fire that inspires change in this world. Were it not for anger, we would not have a civil rights movement; without anger, no one would be fighting for marriage equality.

Anger is the correct response to the violation of one’s personal boundaries and integrity. Therefore, you will see a lot of anger here. Unapologetic anger.  

In AA, there is a freaky taboo against feeling anger, and probably for good reason – as far as the program itself is concerned. If I were going to develop my own version of The Borg, the first thing I’d do is make the normal emotional response to personal violation shameful.

So, two things: 1. Yeah, many of us are angry. Some of our friends here have spent a considerable chunk of their lives working the program, and they are angry at what they’ve lost, and they finally have permission to be angry. They can be angry here. 2. Accusations of anger fall on bemused ears here, because outside of AA, people are allowed to be angry. You’re not going to be able to shame us with that, the same way that you shame each other. We just think, “Yeah, and…?”

If you genuinely want to know why we’re angry, and expressing it, I’ll tell you that it’s because many of us have wasted years and years being shamed by the likes of you, with your taboos that violate human nature. So, you know, you might as well tell it to the gas pipe, or your next vict… um, pigeon.

If it doesn’t work for you, then go somewhere else, but don’t attack something that works for so many people.

First of all, are you seriously telling us what we should be doing? That’s a little presumptuous, don’t you think? We’ve got a bug up our butts and we’re not afraid to use it. How about, instead of telling us what to write about, you go somewhere else and read stuff that doesn’t appall you? Second of all, incidentally, we are a supportive group, but this is not a support board. We are about the business of Recovery Reform. It is “broke,” and it needs fixed. You’re not going to fix it, are you? We’re making some noise. I’m sure the Muzak is still playing the dayroom.

How’s your sobriety?

Of course, this isn’t an expression of concern. Genuine concern of this sort would be expressed privately. It’s a passive-aggressive implication: “You’re probably only saying this because you failed AA, and you’re blaming AA for it, and you’re drunk (or high or tweaking or something), and therefore should not be taken seriously.” I should point out to you that when you repress your anger (see above), it comes out in all these puckery passive-aggressive ways, like, yanno, “By the way, how’s your sobriety?”

I know this kind of dysfunction is standard fare in AA, but outside of AA, where people have a broader scope, it’s just ugly. We can actually see it.

Now, among the movers and shakers of human history, there have been many brilliant drunks, and many more boring tight-asses. I’m not saying that one needs to be drunk to be brilliant – as we are living proof of, because we are brilliant – but that questioning our sobriety is not a valid argument against anything we say here. And, as I mentioned, it only makes your position seem weak in comparison, if that’s all you’re throwing down.

Maybe we are all hammered. Let’s just make it a given that we are, OK? You can stop asking now, because I’ll be goddamned before I waste my time trying to prove my sobriety to you. So, we’re all drunk. Now what? We still have a lot of valid questions and observations on the table.

If you found something else that works for you, then I’m happy for you! More power to you! But…

As Dr. Laura says, everything before the “but” is a lie.  After the “but” is usually something like, “Why do you feel the need to attack…?” which is, of course, another creepy, passive-aggressive commentary on our sobriety. If we were truly sober, we wouldn’t be so angry, right? We might not be drinking, but if we feel the need to attack, then we’re on some kind of raging dry drunk (evidenced by our anger), and therefore not really sober, and, so, whatever it was didn’t really work. Just so you know, when you say “I’m happy for you,” I say “Kiss my ass.”

I am living proof that AA works. It’s all the proof anyone needs.

There are more people for whom AA doesn’t work. How is your success proof that it works, when the twenty failures to your one success is not proof that it doesn’t? Is this the logic you’re working with in the program? That Explains A Lot.