If you’re anything like me (and H[ocus] P[ocus] save you if you are), you’ll be both shocked & amazed to know that ‘The Grapevine’ (The International Journal of Alcoholics Anonymous) gave me the official “thanks, but no thanks” on my  submission for publication, “12 Rights For AA New-Comers” (12 Rights For New-Comers To AA/12 Step):

Thank you for your e-mail submission to the AA Grapevine.  While I don’t think we’ll be using it, we are grateful for your interest in the magazine and hope you’ll feel free to send us more material in the future.  As you can imagine, we receive hundreds of manuscripts every month and many good manuscripts must be turned down because of space limitations. For more information about the Grapevine, its related items, including subscription information, guidelines for submitting articles, and current Calls for Articles, please see our Website:

Best wishes,

The Editors 
The AA Grapevine magazine

If you’re wondering what the smell coming off the ‘shock & amazement’ expressed earlier is, that’s sarcasm.  I really was under no illusion that The Grapevine had any interest in publishing anything that might actually empower individual AA members.  Still, a man’s gotta do … etcetera, etcetera.

I am curious as to why “The Editors” used the singular ‘I’ followed by the royal ‘we’ in offering up ‘their’ rejection of the material.  There go my dreams of conquering the publishing world starting with a by-line from The Grapevine.

In other news …

I went last night to hear author Eric Maisel speak on his new book, “The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without The Gods”.  The talk was sponsored by the local Center For Inquiry chapter and — while a little too top-heavy on the snarkiness toward theism & religion in general for my personal tastes — it was still two hours well spent.  You can listen to Maisel talk about his work here:

My ears perked up when Maisel talked about the linguistics of ‘belief’ and how as early as the 19th century academics had identified that it wasn’t the content of the language that was important so much as its ability to be memorable & easily repeated.  After all, what does, “God is good” really say about the probability of the existence of [g]od or an objective understanding of ‘goodness’?  It’s just a good catch-phrase — kind of like, “Utilize, don’t analyze.”  Language and its malleability within the 12-Step experience has long been a hobbyhorse of mine.

One very interesting part of Maisel’s presentation was his suggestion that atheists (existentialists, secular-humanists, non-believers, [fill-in-the-blank]ers) purposefully re-cast mystical language when they are confronted with it.  Specifically, he challenged his audience to ask of someone who claims to have had a ‘spiritual experience’, “What made that experience meaningful for you?”

The substitution is subtle but does, I think, greatly shift the terms of the discussion.

So I offer an open question to steppers, non-steppers, and all those somewhere in between: Is meaningful experience a fair substitution for spiritual experience?  If so, why, and if not, why not?

All input is welcome.

ADDENDUM: All input may indeed be welcome but irrational input will be ridiculed relentlessly for exactly what it is.  Now back to our regularly scheduled trolling … .

ADDENDUM II: Thanks so much for all the effluvia, kids.  It really was terribly invigorating reading all the commentary on this post … that never actually addressed anything in the post (yes, Cuda, I’m thinking of you).  But playtime’s over.  Go troll YouTube or ‘help’ people out in Colorado (again, Cuda, it’s all about you).  This post is officially closed for business.


For those of you interested in what real (as in rational, as in non ‘faith-based) scientists, MD’s, & psychotherapeutic professionals are up to in the alcohol/drug dependency field check out:

“Much of what we thought we knew about alcoholism was based on middle-aged people, primarily white men in treatment programs and Alcoholics Anonymous, but the NESARC data are turning what we thought we knew about alcoholism completely on its head,” Mark L. Willenbring, MD, director of the division of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

The tired, completely erroneous stepper dodge about alcoholism being some impenetrable, eternal ‘mystery‘ solved only by AA & 12X12 practice is slowly but surely being done away with.

And none too soon in my [humble] opinion.

Some extracurricular reading for those of you so inclined:

A recovering alcoholic in AA has to be vigilant or risk relapse (That makes me wonder why they use the term “recovering” at all, as “recovery” is the logical conclusion of the process, but, in AA, the word has no logical conclusion; perhaps “remission” might be more honest?), and the first sign that one is headed “out” is Stinkin’ Thinkin’ or Stinkin’ Drinkin’ Thinkin’. Nip that in the bud.

In 1985, Gayle Rosellini published a 24-page tract through Hazelden called Stinking Thinking, in which she says, “Attitudes are either a path to healthy and happy recovery or the road to relapse. It’s that simple.” And she goes on to say,

Unfortunately, those of us who are recovering from chemical dependency too often suffer from what A.A. members call stinking thinking. Stinking thinking is a bad attitude. It’s being negative, blaming, and chronically dissatisfied. And it’s sneaky. […] Stinking thinking is a major symptom of chemical dependency. We all suffer from it at one time or another and it doesn’t go away with thirty days of treatment. It can dog our heels even when we’re sober – wrecking our recovery.

Since Rosellini published her tract, the telltale signs of Stinking Thinking have evolved beyond the four types she proposed, and the definition has become both more broad and more specific and detailed. Broadly, stinking thinking is explained well in this 12-Step Workshop handout:

Without the meetings and the fellowship, I’ll begin to think that the problem is anything other than Powerless. And, I’ll forget what the solution is… the 12 Steps… and come up with all sorts of solutions of my own. In A.A., we call that “stinking thinking” and as alcoholics, we cannot afford the luxury of “stinking thinking” because stinking thinking produces “stinking results.”

This highlights the kernel of stinking thinking, which is, essentially, any deviation from the program – and, while deviation might be the result of one’s own dumdum justifications for going back to drinking, it could also generate from one’s utter dissatisfaction with the program for any number of logical and sound reasons.

And, to get more specific and detailed: “The Top Ten Types of Stinking Thinking” adapted from David D. Burns’ book, The Feeling Good Handbook, seems to have become the go-to list on many AA websites and blogs. This is a definitive list of distortions in thinking, which make a lot of sense. Because they make sense, it seems (more…)

Bonus: Not a slogan in sight.

From Cary Tennis’s March 19th Since You Asked advice column, “Sober and Boring” at Salon. An excerpt:

I crave your attention but I can’t do the old strip-tease for free. A body’s got to get paid. Truth be told I still want your whispered admiration and your secret envy of my coolness but not enough to wreck my car and go to jail for it. I have to be the boring one in the crowd of loud laughter or go down screaming to an early grave. I’ll live with that. I’m in it for the long haul now. Survival is my trump card. Survival breaks scissors, cuts paper, covers rock. My premature death lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, however amusing it might sound over Jameson and darts or a deafening Damned show where anyone skinny enough to wear all black and play guitar and shoot brown heroin in the men’s room can get on the guest list. Do the math.