AA in the News

In an article in some major newspaper (can’t remember) leading up to the “Beer Summit,” I read a comment from an appalled reader about how insensitive the beer element of this summit is to alcoholics, AA members and addicts… for some sputtering outraged reason I couldn’t really parse. People have had so fucking much to say about this (even deconstructing the class-conscious message they sent in choosing to pow-wow over a beer, instead of over a bottle of wine). Anyway, I wasn’t really tempted to post about this one commenter’s conniption.

But, over on Examiner.com (which is proving to be a gold-mine lately), there’s a piece up by L. Steven Sieden, titled “Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction group members upset about Obama’s ‘Beer Summit’” in which he reports:

At a time when addiction is front and center as an issue (especially for youth), members of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are openly upset about this public use of alcohol.

Although these organizations do not formally endorse or dispute any political initiatives, individual members are not happy about it.   They, like most responsible parents of young children, would prefer that Obama had invited the two men to the White House for lunch or tea or something else.

I know it’s common practice for reporters, who want to interject their opinions into the news, to use the old, “Some people say…” as a way of  saying what they think (or what their moms think) — or they use it as a way of generating controversy out of thin air. I don’t want to accuse this writer of doing such a thing, but the absence of any sources whatsoever is glaring. Of course, when you’re talking about AA, you can always point out — as he does — that AA does not involve itself in public controversy.

If you google around to see who’s saying this, you’ll find Mr. Sieden’s article dominating the search results. I am curious about who these people are. It’s not that I doubt that there are people taking issue with it, because you know how the people are — they’re always appalled. But I didn’t even see anything on the MADD website about it. I didn’t do too much poking around, because I figure that if there were as much of an outcry as Sieden says, it wouldn’t take a lot of sleuthing to come up with it. And if I have to comb through the internet looking for it, then it’s probably not an outcry of any measure.

But “Alcoholics Anonymous” is in his title. And if he’s not speaking for AA, but just reporting, and if AA is not talking, then where’s he getting his information? Does being a “reporter” and an AA member (which he does not say he is) give you license to write about what your pals say at the Meeting after the Meeting? To speak for AA without speaking for AA? If you’re a member, can you say, “Members say…” because you say it, without being accountable for your opinion?

I found it interesting that Sieden didn’t mention the fact that Vice President Biden chose a non-alcoholic beer, because he doesn’t drink alcohol. You’d think that this would be noteworthy. The guys sit down for a beer, and the guy who doesn’t drink alcohol still doesn’t drink alcohol, and is still a guy!


Treating Alcohol Addiction: Can A Pill Replace Abstinence

At issue is the definition of treatment. In the U.S., successful treatment of addiction has traditionally been an all-or-nothing undertaking, involving complete abstinence — as promulgated by supporters of 12-step programs like AA — rather than a regimen of moderation. For many, that definition includes abstinence even from drugs that would help fight cravings. Indeed, for decades, experts have debated whether drug addicts who cannot or will not quit should even be offered ongoing treatments that would reduce harm related to their drug abuse. Although many providers have recently become more open to new options, the majority of American addiction treatment continues to use the 12-step abstinence model.

It’s up.

Thanks Uberdog.


Really, that’s the title of the article.

Alcoholics Anonymous may have pioneered the concept of alcoholism as a disease, but will scientific research that proves the point eventually make AA obsolete?

Hilarity ensues…

(For instance, here’s a good one: “We learn in various ways and one of them is by seeing somebody else do something. There’s a specific neurological system called mirror neurons involved in this kind of learning. So AA newcomers get to see what sober people are like,” he said.”)


Hey Uberdog,

Get after it, man!

This is Part Three of Steve Orma’s “Alcoholics Anonymous: A Critique of the 12-Step Model.

Here is Part One.

And here is Part Two.



When news of the economic crisis hit, pundits took the term “recovery” to its most inane and obvious conclusion by suggesting that what we need is to institute a fiscal 12-Step program. There’s nothing clever about this analogy; it’s just the first thing that came to mind, and they went with it – because people have to have something to say about every last little thing before they even have time to process it.

But what this easy analogy displays is that, generally speaking, the 12-Step, model as an effective recovery treatment, is credible. That’s the given. It’s acceptable in public to take AA as a given, but it’s not going to work to suggest, for instance, that Scientologists take over the economy. No one with any play said that we should get Zen about it.

There’s a piece up now on the Huffington Post which takes this analogy beyond the pale. The author compares our “culture” itself to an alcoholic, and frames his apocalyptic scenario with AA.

The conventional wisdom in Alcoholics Anonymous is that alcoholism is a ‘disease’ of the ego — self-centeredness. Basically the alcoholic becomes trapped in his or her own point of view and denies any other perspective on ‘reality’. The alcohol is a symptom of a loss of control and choice — a condition of cognitive blindness and a self-destructive pattern of behavior.

I have distinguished that culture works the same way. That is, the ego is to the individual what culture is to an organization or society — a self-referential structure of interpretation (a worldview) that blinds us to possibilities, robs us of any semblance of choice, and eventually results in some form of ‘hitting bottom’. The belief in AA is that no one really ‘gets it’ and does what needs to be done to sober up until this happens. The only question is where is the bottom?

I introduce this analogy because it has become obvious over the past few years that our way of life (as we’ve known it) is changing radically and at a pace that was unimaginable not long ago. Every day we see more and more evidence that this is nothing compared to what’s coming.

I actually like the analogy he makes between our culture and the ego. It works well in a limited way, but works only outside the AA model. Within the model, his whole construction disintegrates, because alcoholism is not a disease of the ego. It’s a disease of the soul. The ego’s influence is a symptom of the soul’s sickness.

Unraveling this kind of fast-and-loose is important, I think, because people generally do not understand what AA is all about. A post like this, published in a prominent place, is indicative of the fact that people are, as a rule, uninformed about AA. It’s yet another ass-mined article presenting AA as a benign, enlightened organization that has something to offer.

You will notice, when you peruse the comment(s) that no AA will throw down to correct this writer. AA’s will let this stand, because it’s a nice plug. And the general public doesn’t have the knowledge to question the analogy. I think it would be so interesting to take this guy’s analogy, and using actually AA, take it to its logical conclusion. If our culture is our soul… If hitting bottom is necessary…

There’s this article in the Sacramento Bee  featuring the drug program at the El Dorado, CA court. It’s a pretty innocuous article — a puff piece, featuring a success story. I wanted to post about this article, because I found a couple of points interesting. The first is their “success rate” which they place at 49%:

So far, 250 people have successfully completed the program since it started in 2005 in El Dorado Superior Court. That’s a 49 percent success rate, county data show – above the statewide average of 35 percent.

What was interesting to me about this quote is that it doesn’t mean anything. It seems their only standard for success is graduation from the program. So, among people who would have ended up behind bars and opted (dur!) for the drug program, 45% stuck it out for a year and a half — with the threat of bars hanging over their head. And what does the 35% refer to?

And then, on the day our success story graduates, we learn this:

On the same afternoon that Phimister praised and rewarded Nicole Tennis and a dozen participants for progressing well, he also sent several people to jail for trying to circumvent the system.

“Unfortunately, we seemed to have a pandemic of dilution,” Phimister said.

He chided one tearful woman for diluting her samples, then sentenced her to 210 days in county jail: “You’ve played with the system. You’ve taken advantage of people who tried to help you.

Yeah, I know, you can lead a horse to water… But if we’re talking about people with a “disease” over which they are powerless… OK, here’s what I think: If you are going to take the position that addicts are powerless over their disease, and based on this assumption, you are going to offer them a recovery program instead of jail, then doesn’t it also follow that you will treat a relapse (which is just evidence of powerlessness) as part of the recovery process? And, thus, take punishment off the table completely?  

Well, I checked out the comments over there, and saw one lone voice of opposition, so I got his back, and it seems I’ve poked the hornets’ nest.

[Edited to fix the url]


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