Crock of Shit

Here is an interesting article from the New York Times about about belladonna and its use in treating alcohol addiction. Bill Wilson used it when he had his famous “white light experience”. For any AAs out there who are working those steps with rigorous honesty, and have still not had their spiritual awakening, you might consider tossing a bit of belladonna into the mix. That picture of Jesus or chia pet or pine tree or whatever you happen to be using as your higher power, is sure to come to life:

On the second or third day of his treatment, Mr. Wilson had his now famous spiritual awakening. Earlier that evening, Mr. Thacher had visited and tried to persuade Mr. Wilson to turn himself over to the care of a Christian deity who would liberate him from the ravages of alcohol. Hours later, depressed and delirious, Mr. Wilson cried out: “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!” He then witnessed a blinding light and felt an ecstatic sense of freedom and peace. When Mr. Wilson told Dr. Silkworth about the event, the physician responded: “Something has happened to you I don’t understand. But you had better hang on to it.”


LUNATICS ANONYMOUS: I have been sober for two years today. You’re not sober, you’re just abstinent. OK, I’m just abstinent, not sober and I haven’t had a drink for two years. You might be abstinent but, you’re not sober. You’re just a dry drunk. OK, I’m just a sober dry drunk. No, you’re not sober. OK, I’m just an abstinent dry drunk. You might be dry but, you don’t have sobriety. I thought I was sober. You might be sober but, you don’t have good sobriety. Is there a difference? Yes, there is. There is abstinent sobriety but, you have bad sobriety. What, I have bad sobriety? Yes, because you are not in recovery. I thought I was in recovery whereas I haven’t had a drink in two years. You’re not in recovery, you are only around recovery. You never recover. I thought that because I’m in recovery that I was sober. No, you never recover, you’re just abstinent. But, I attend A.A. every day. That doesn’t matter because, you are only around A.A., and you’re not in A.A. But, I’m in the program. Yes, you’re in the program but, you’re not working a good program. OK, I’m only around A.A., working a bad program and not sober. But, I am working the 12 steps. No, you only think you are working the steps. I thought if I was abstinent and attending A.A. that I was in recovery. No, that’s your problem, you only thought you were sober. I thought that I had good sobriety as I was attending A.A. That’s another problem you have. You’re thinking, when you were told to sit down, take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. But, I can’t talk with the cotton in my mouth. That’s good, because you don’t know what you are talking about, just sit there for 90 days and don’t talk or think. But, I think I am sober. No, you’re just not drinking, you don’t have quality sobriety. What, there is good sobriety and bad sobriety and now quality sobriety? Yes there is and you don’t have either or. You’re just a dry drunk. How can I be drunk if I’m sober? I told you that you’re not sober, you’re just not drinking. OK. F**K this bullshit, I think I’ll go the bar and have a few drinks.

Re-posted with permission from Lunatics Anonymous

AA and twelve-step treatment is but one little corner of the world of quackery. There is a long list of treatments that fall under under the pseudoscience banner, and high on the list is homeopathy. Simply stated, homeopathic medicine is not medicine, and homeopaths are quacks. There, I’ve put that to rest.

Now that I got that out of the way, I wanted to point the readers here to a blog entry from PZ Myers over at Pharyngula. This is the most read science blog on the internet, and in my opinion is the best. I have found it particularly informative because I am a non-scientist, and he explains things in an understandable and entertaining way. Those who have not read the blog should check it out.

One thing that bothers me as much as pseudoscience, is the suppression of free thought, so when I learned that WordPress had shut down a blog that was critical of homeopathy, based on a complaint from a quack homeopathic doctor – specifically Christopher Maloney – I felt compelled to join in the chorus of protesters. The whole story can be read here at Pharyngula.

Real science is not afraid of being challenged. In fact, this is the basis of peer review and the scientific method, and is how we advance in our understanding. Homeopaths, like AA, avoid real science like the plague. Apparently, they react to criticism in the same way, as well.

Recently, the Huffington Post has been needling Glenn Beck (gratefully recovering aloholic) by documenting all his whackadoom conspiracy rants. One recent display of lunacy is his art history class, proving that the artwork in Rockefeller Center is communist/fascist [someone needs to open a book] propaganda, and therefore… idunno oil companies are… something… and Rockefeller is a progressive commie fascist.

This made me laugh, mostly because it’s funny. I mean, Beck is on the verge of an epic meltdown, and I can’t tell you how much it delights me to watch spontaneous human combustion in slow motion. (Yeah, I know. I’m not raising the dead in the marketplace yet, so take your own inventory.)

The other reason it made me laugh is that Beck is a man who owes his life to John D. Rockefeller, who was a patron of Bill W.’s and Dr. Bob’s, and also funded the publication of The Big Book. The money JDR donated to these two men paid their mortgages, and supported them financially, while they expanded AA. Look it up: Rockefeller + Alcoholics Anonymous).

And of course, aside from his teetotaling ways, it was his progressive sensibility (the one Beck is fah-reaking out about) that inspired Rockefeller to donate the money to this cause, and, yes, also to add the stipulation that this money was to be used to make AA self-sufficient. Despite my feeeeelings about AA, this is commendable.

Sometimes, you give a person a few fish AND you also teach them to fish, so they have something to eat while they learn to fish. These guys did that. (But then, sometimes you give a person a few fish because you want them beholden to you… Give someone a fish, and you own the poor sucker.)

I know that our readers are generally averse to seeing political discussion here on Stinkin’ Thinkin’. If you’re one of those readers, I hope you’ll indulge me. I’m an unapologetic long-haired-hippie-type-pinko-fag. I just couldn’t help but draw some parallels here.

There’s no way to quantify this, but it seems to me that, generally, AA old-timers are very conservative people. I’m sure there are exceptions. But, as I’ve gone on and on about here, an authoritarian mindset seems to be a prerequisite for making AA “work” (and I’m talking in the conventional sense of AA, not the By the Book way). I’m not saying that AAs are all authoritarian types, however. For every one who embraces their inner panty-sniffer, there are even more who will submit to their authority. These submissive types also have an authoritarian mindset; they just inhabit the other side of the coin.

It’s so odd how they, and the political conservatives, lay claim to an ideology that, in principle, is very generous, and somehow manage to use it to make selfishness a virtue.  Here’s an interesting example.

And here’s just something funny.

PS – This is aslo funny: I actually went to Beck’s website to very sweetly let him know that Rockefeller funded AA, and his anti-spam-fill-in-the-secret-code word was “PREACH.” As MA says, I shit you not.

For those of you who may have missed it, decidedly non-anonymous AA/12-step evangelist Representative Patrick Kennedy is — surprise! surprise!headed back to the hospital for the umpteenth time to work on his “recovery”.

I hate to kick a guy when he’s down, but Kennedy’s dilemma is yet one more clear-cut case of it [AA] most decidedly
NOT WORKING no matter how hard or long you work it.  In his own words: “I have always said that recovery is a life-long process and that I will do whatever it takes to preserve my health.”

Thanks Pat.  It warms my heart & renews my faith in the democratic process to know that my federal tax dollars are going towards drying your sorry ass out … again.

Even better (or worse — depending on your perspective), Kennedy’s long-time also decidedly non-anonymous AA sponsor former Representative Jim Ramstad was once famously quoted as saying:

“If we could turn Congress into one big AA meeting, where people would be required to say what they mean and mean what they say, it would be a lot better Congress.”

Yeah that would be just great, wouldn’t it?  Of course, those congressional recesses would have to be a lot more frequent in order to accomodate all those jaunts to rehab.  There’s an economic stimulus Hazelden & Dr. Drew can get behind.

Back in more loving, serving, grateful days Kennedy & Ramstad were happy to share “the solution” for all the world to read about in the paper of record:

Sponsor Jim isn’t quite so chatty these days. I have to wonder how many of his sponsee’s are keeping an eye out for some other meeting-making politico type who ‘has what they want’.

Rarely have we seen a person fail … .


And if you’re ever in NYC, there are a few East River Bridge crossings I might interest you in purchasing.

So many AAs have an amazing inability to introspect. We see it both here on this blog, and with real life AAs. Sometimes that comes out as comically ironic, as with an Angry AA who verbally tries to beat us into submission of the idea that we could have the same serenity he has (read: Tipsy McStaggar). Sometimes it comes out as pure hypocrisy, as with those who preach a program of brutal honesty, but teach manipulative, bait and switch recruiting tactics.

These examples are like my hair loss, being both sad and funny at the same time. What is not so funny is when a sociopathic or narcissistic personality rises to to top of the AA food chain, becoming both a sponsor and a revered member of the fellowship. AA is chock full of old-timers with a god complex, because it provides many with the respect that they lack in their regular, day to day lives of working at a used car lot or managing the local Taco Bell. The run of the mill old-timers provide their own brand of detriment to the world, but these sadistic assholes inflict more damage on individual members than your basic 13th stepper or self appointed AA psychologist could ever impose an individual. Case in point: Richard Babinski, a convicted rapist and murderer, who is unrepentant, and denies having raped and murdered a woman in front of her son. Not only does Babinski deny the crime, he is now claiming to be an Ojibwa Native, which provides special status (including legal status) in Canada.

AA has been the landing strip of many convicts who have made their exits from prison, and who got their AA starts while they were locked up. A lot of 12th stepping happens in the joint, which makes sense. I mean, what better place to find a captive audience of rock bottomed alkies than inside a prison. The program is also highly effective, at least while these folks are still locked away. Sure, moonshine is made behind prison walls, but it is damn near impossible drink habitually in a place where liquor is disallowed, and one’s living quarters are searched on a regular basis. I recently saw a show on the A&E network that profiled potential parolees, and one of the inmates profiled bragged to the board that he had been attending AA meetings, and he hadn’t had a drink in seven years, which was, by chance, the exact amount of time he had been locked up. Big deal! I haven’t had a blowfish in the past seven years, as they aren’t readily available. It doesn’t mean that Blowfish Anonymous would be of much benefit to me. AA is used to demonstrate a desire to rehabilitate, and to take time off of a prison sentence. This is absurd. Hell, I think AA is a crazy, ineffective cult, but I might participate in some of the meetings if I were in prison and trying to chalk up good time. The boredom alone might be enough entice me to a meeting or two. No doubt Mr Babinski is using AA as a “get out of jail free” card. Of course, he seems to have missed the part about brutal honesty and making amends, but as I’ve often been told: the steps are a process, not an event.

Now it seems that Mr Babinski has been speaking to community groups (read: outside AA groups), and he planned to speak to some school children. Nice. I’m not sure what his topic of discussions are, but I am assuming it isn’t “remorse”. My suggestion to him would be to change that, and at least fake remorse. That happens a lot in AA, like when a sponsor talks his subject into apologizing. Making amends is one of the steps in AA. The problem is, forced remorse is about as effective as when my fifth grade teacher, Ms Solomon (who was as sadistic as any AA old-timer I have ever met) grabbed me and led me by the ear to apologize to Becky Randles for pushing her. I did apologize, but it wasn’t too sincere. Really, all I wanted was to have Ms Solomon let go of my ear. True remorse requires empathy, and empathy cannot be taught. It is innate, and self learned by way of maturity. Now, as an adult, I’m sorry that I pushed Becky. I don’t push people anymore.

Fortunately, this creep’s attempt to speak to children’s groups has been denied. He shouldn’t fret over this, because he will one day be released, and when he is released, AA will be there waiting for him with open arms – with a chair for him to sit alongside others, including many women. There, he will be free to fulfill his narcissistic desire to speak to a group and be listened to, and he will be enveloped with same admiration given to any old-timer. AAs are keen on saying that AA does contain this element, but so does the rest of society. This is might be true, but the only organization which ever welcomed me as a member, who also welcomed sociopathic felons of every stripe, was Alcoholics Anonymous. AA does not mirror any group to which I have ever belonged, including society as a whole. Sure, society contains every element, but I can choose to avoid what I don’t like, and society has a way of screening out its criminal element. Ironically, that element that is segregated from the majority population by way of our prison system, is to a large degree eventually funneled into groups like NA or AA as part of a parolee’s release plan. Richard Babinski will fit in well when he is released.

I just spent a few minutes on the site (the server appears to be pretty well hosed at the moment, so I’ll provide links in an updated post) responding to recent blog posts by Mark Dombeck, PhD & Allan Schwartz, PhD.  Dombeck’s dragging out the dead horse of “AA – Cult or Not?” while Schwartz opts for the kinder, gentler “Sober Conversation” about AA.

Far be it from me to call “bullshit” on guys who have professional credentials following their last names, but if the shoe fits … .

As far as the ‘cult’ debate goes, in my eyes it’s a non-issue.  Alcohol/drug abuse & dependency are health issues & should be treated as such.  Put a shotgun in my mouth & tell me to vote ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on the “Is AA a cult” proposition & I will reluctantly vote ‘yay’.  In real life, I’ve got no dog in that fight & it detracts from the larger, more cogent issues.

That said, for a therapeutic professional to willfully use the term in a blog post & invite commentary is utterly disingenuous.  ‘Cult’ is a loaded word.  Though it’s etymological origins are much less onerous, these days the term is clearly used in the perjorative sense.  You call an organization a ‘cult’ and thems is fightin’ words.

So the good Dr. Dombeck is throwing gas on a fire, then standing back in mock therapeutic dismay at just how high the temprature of the flames has gotten.  He goes on at some length about how his initial views of AA being the greatest thing since sliced bread have been softened somewhat having read the critiques of those ill-served by their association with the ‘fellowship’.  Still, he’s not above provoking yet another good WWW shouting match all in the name of ‘addiction therapy’.

Me … I’m not buying into the whole nonsensical argument.  It puts me in mind of the old Cheech & Chong bit: “It’s not a gang.  It’s a club.”

Who cares?

The issue that medical, scientific, & therapeutic professionals need to be grappling with is whether or not AA is effective, whether on the whole it helps people or hurts them.  And they need to be  addressing that issue with widespread & open research — not invitations to web-based fistfights.

Whether or not an organization is a ‘cult’ or ‘cult-like’ is not only meaningless (figuratively & legally), it detracts from the larger argument.  AA, whether it likes it or not, has positioned itself as the premier ‘solution’ for alcohol abuse & dependency.  It has monopolized the treatment industry & wormed its way into virtually every aspect of civic life.  While ‘AA’ may claim to be self-supporting, the GSO is under no such constraints & is in a very healthy financial position thanks to book sales & such.  AA is long overdue for public inspection & revision.  Its extraordinary claims (e.g. “millions saved”) need to be backed up by some extraordinary evidence.  Plain & simple.

Cults that are shown to not be very good at fulfilling their promises aren’t terribly effective at winning over new converts.  Throwing ‘cult’ & ‘AA’ together in a blog post, though, is pretty good for generating web traffic.

Dr. Schwarz in his post says he wants to engage the discussion in a constructive way, but dismissively uses the ‘anti AA’ rubric as a means for describing any & all criticisms of AA.  I’ve posted before on this subject on other boards, but this ‘anti AA’ label is one that I think should be actively fought against.  There is no organized ‘anti AA’ movement out there (although some might wish there were) & there is no uniform, monolithic critique of AA that every good ‘anti AA-er’ mouths.  I have never seen anyone with picket signs outside an AA meeting & I have rarely (if ever) read anywhere in print or on the web anyone call for the complete & utter destruction of AA.

‘Anti AA’ is a myth.

This is an important point for two reasons:

  1. One of the more pernicious aspects of the AA/12X12 ‘experience’ is the way in which undermines common language (e.g., ‘sobriety’ is transmuted from ‘not drunk’ or ‘of solemn demeanor’ to ‘closer to god’); AA recognizes the power of using language to its advantages
  2. By allowing your view to be defined as mere oppositional argument, you almost certainly yield the rhetorical highground

Case in point: the “Pro Life” lobby is more than happy to have reproductive rights activists & advocates thought of in the collective public consciousness reflexively as “Anti Life”.  What’s more monstrous than someone who’s against life?  It’s in that spirit that the term “anti AA” emerges.  Whether conscious of it or not, Dr. Schwarz marginalizes & minimizes critique of AA.  Trust me, AA & its advocates are more than happy to let you gather under that one umbrella.

I refuse to be classified as “anti AA” because it’s insulting & completely inaccurate.

What I am is “Pro Truth & Accountability”, “Pro Public Health & Welfare”, “Pro Helping Others Without Any Contingencies.”

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