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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Critics Say Washington AA Chapter Is Cultlike


By the time May Clancy turned 15 years old, she was well on her way to drinking herself to death. A middle-school student from Potomac, Md., she had been through 11 different psychiatric and alcohol-rehab programs in two years. Each time, she started drinking again as soon as she got out. Her parents were terrified. "We'd taken her to hospitals—everything possible to get her the best care that we could," says May's father, Mike. "And all these places told us that they didn't think she could make it without Alcoholics Anonymous.”

So in November 2005, when May agreed to begin attending meetings at Midtown, one of the oldest and largest AA groups in the Washington, D.C., area, it felt like a miracle. Other AA meetings in the city attracted mostly older men and women; Midtown was known as a place for recovering alcoholics in their teens and 20s. Some of the group's senior members were older, but there were also dozens of high-school and college kids with stories a lot like hers. From the moment she arrived, they seemed to go out of their way to welcome her. At first, May was thrilled to find a group of people who accepted her as she was. "When I went there," she says, "I didn't really talk to anybody, didn't trust anybody. And these people would hang out with me even if I didn't say anything, and include me in conversations. I was desperate to be liked at that point."

But something about Midtown was not right. After a few months, the group's embrace of May began to feel like a chokehold. She says the sponsor assigned to give her moral support and help keep her sober pressured her to cut off ties to anyone outside the group. Another member snatched her cell phone and deleted names in the directory. She says she was pressured to stop taking the medication a doctor had prescribed to manage her bipolar disorder: group members told her she couldn't be sober if she was taking any kind of drug. There was a hierarchy to the group. Younger members were sometimes expected to wash cars, clean houses and do other menial chores for more senior members.”

Source: Newsweek – Culture (5/6/07)

Comment: It all sounds very familiar! But when anonymity transmutes into secrecy and autonomy tyranny what do you expect!


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

See also:

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

'I was fresh meat': how AA meetings push some women into harmful dating

Former peer support group members attest to not-so-safe space that exposes recovering addicts to sexual harassment – and derails their journey to sobriety


According to New York psychotherapist Scott W Stern, when the general population thinks about recovery programs, there’s not a lot of distinction between treatment and support

Treatment, such as rehabilitation and therapy, is run by professionals who start with their clients from where they are and work with them through a variety of medical and psychological means to build their autonomy, he said. In contrast, support groups like AA or NA provide merely a peer-to-peer network of individuals supposedly working toward the same goal.

Such groups are not equipped to address many of the complex issues that come along with addiction, since they’re run by people who are not trained as professionals. “These groups are places anyone can walk into, where anything could happen,” he said.

In essence, an environment that is touted as a safe space can be anything but. From easier access to substances to sexual harassment, abuse or even outright murder, these programs can inflict further damage.” 

Meanwhile, members are expected to move through the organization’s 12 steps and accept the doctrine put forth by AA. Some of the women I talked to called the groups cult-like, saying that members cling to the written word in the Big Book and exclude anyone who might question it, leaving them alone when they stumble across what is commonly known as “the 13th step” – that is, when someone makes sexual advances on someone new to recovery”. 

Stern said the problem is compounded when sex offenders go through the drug courts and are ordered to go to 12-step meetings, which he said is a fairly common occurrence. 

For people with criminal records, it’s not uncommon that they will argue they were under the influence of substances,” he said. “Ninety percent of treatment facilities in the US are 12-step-facilitated, too, which means no matter your crime, you’re most likely going to end up at AA or NA.”

Stern suggests the judicial system should be revamped. However, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) said the way they mandate recovery has already undergone vast changes in recent years.

While it’s still not perfect, Terrence Walton, the NADCP’s chief of standards, said the courts mandate professional treatment before recommending a peer support group to facilitate long-term recovery. He also said that drug courts no longer specify AA/NA as the support group that must be attended, as was the case a decade ago. 

We don’t recommend AA to unwilling participants anymore because if you force someone to go to AA or NA with people who are not being forced to go there, it can be a bad mix. You need to want to participate for those programs to work,” Walton said.”

Source: The Guardian (online): Alcoholism 22 Sept 2015


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Thanks to our correspondents for drawing our attention to this article 

See also: 

AA Recovery rates
Primary Purpose/Back to Basics
Minority Report 2013

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Father Ed Dowling: Bill Wilson's Sponsor

Father Ed Dowling: Bill Wilson's Sponsor, Glenn F. Chesnut July 2015, ISBN 978-1-4917-7085-6, ebook ISBN 978-1-4917-7087-0, viii + 640 pp

For further writings see here


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

“Separates the men from the boys” - 12 and 12 on Step Six

The opening paragraph of the chapter on Step Six in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: "'This is the Step that separates the men from the boys.' So declares a well-loved clergyman who happens to be one of A.A.'s greatest friends. He goes on to explain that any person capable of enough willingness and honesty to try repeatedly Step Six on all his faults -- without any reservations whatever -- has indeed come a long way spiritually, and is therefore entitled to be called a man who is sincerely trying to grow in the image and likeness of his own Creator." 

It was almost certainly Father Ed Dowling who was the "well-loved clergyman who happens to be one of A.A.'s greatest friends."

But the dates make it a little awkward. The 12 + 12 was published in 1953, and Father Ed had had a retinal stroke by that point, and was left too blind to read. His sister (and others) were having to read to him. So he had heard the final draft of the 12 + 12 read to him aloud, but was surely not in any shape to make detailed comments on it, or additions to it, or whatever. This is important to remember.

And the only place I can find where Father Ed used that phrase in print was in an article he wrote in the NCCA (National Catholic Conference on Alcoholism) annual publication called the Blue book in that same year, 1953. If anybody can narrow down the exact time when the NCCA talk was given, and when the final draft of the 12 and 12 was finished, we might be able to see what the possibilities were that Bill Wilson could have read or heard some version of the NCCA talk before he wrote that particular part of the 12 + 12.

At any rate, here is the crucial paragraph in Father Ed's work:


I think the sixth step is the one which divides the men from the boys in A.A. It is love of the cross. The sixth step says that one is not almost, but entirely ready, not merely willing, but ready. The difference is between wanting and willing to have God remove all these defects of character. You have here, if you look into it, not the willingness of Simon Cyrene to suffer, but the great desire or love, similar to what Chesterton calls "Christ's love affair with the cross."


That paragraph is taken from "Catholic Asceticism and the Twelve Steps"

Reverend Edward Dowling, S.J., The Queen's Work, St. Louis, Missouri, NCCA Blue Book, 1953

In terms of the dates, it should also be remembered of course, that since Father Ed was Bill Wilson's sponsor, they could easily have discussed this idea in their private conversations long before 1953.

So from the wording and everything in the 12 + 12, I think Bill Wilson just about has to be talking about Father Ed Dowling. The phrase "a well-loved clergyman who happens to be one of A.A.'s greatest friends" does not seem to ring quite true if it were supposed to be talking about the Rev. Sam Shoemaker. The Rev. Sam abandoned AA to its fate in 1937 when a group of Oxford Group people in New York forced Bill and Lois out of the Oxford Group, and did not lift a finger to help their little group of recovering alcoholics survive.”

Source: AAHistoryLovers 


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous ….and serious research)

Our thanks to the AA member who pointed this correspondence out to us

See also: 

AA Recovery rates 
Primary Purpose/Back to Basics
Minority Report 2013

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (contd)

aacultwatch's perspective on:

(an almost as wildly discursive commentary as our 'take' on the Big Book)

This tome is much reviled in cult circles (especially amongst the Big Book nutters who regard it as almost heretical! (A point of interest: if you're looking for meetings largely free of the aforementioned 'fruitcakes', and for that matter sundry other screwballs, then a Twelve Step meeting following the format of the above text is usually a safe bet). The text we will be using is as indicated above. And now we come to:

Step Six (pp. 63-69)

Step Six

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

THIS is the Step that separates the men from the boys [or women from the girls … or sheep from the goats].” So declares a well-loved clergyman who happens to be one of A.A.’s greatest friends. He goes on to explain that any person capable of enough willingness and honesty to try repeatedly Step Six on all his faults—without any reservations whatever—has indeed come a long way spiritually, and is therefore entitled to be called a man who is sincerely trying to grow in the image and likeness of his own Creator [or, alternatively, live in accordance with those secular principles he or she has adopted].

Of course, the often disputed question of whether God can—and will, under certain conditions—remove defects of character will be answered with a prompt affirmative by almost any A.A. member. To him, this proposition will be no theory at all; it will be just about the largest fact in his life. He will usually offer his proof in a statement like this:

Sure, I was beaten, absolutely licked. My own willpower just wouldn’t work on alcohol. Change of scene, the best efforts of family, friends, doctors, and clergymen got no place with my alcoholism. I simply couldn’t stop drinking, and no human being could seem to do the job for me. But when I became willing to clean house and then asked a Higher Power, God as I understood Him, to give me release, my obsession to drink vanished. It was lifted right
out of me.”

In A.A. meetings all over the world, statements just like this are heard daily [as are many variations]. It is plain for everybody to see that each sober A.A. member has been granted [or merely acquired] a release from this very obstinate and potentially fatal obsession. So in a very complete and literal [perhaps not – this is clearly open to individual interpretation] way, all A.A.’s have “become entirely ready” to have God [or any objectified higher principle] remove the mania for alcohol from their lives. And God has proceeded to do exactly that.

Having been granted a perfect release from alcoholism, why then shouldn’t we be able to achieve by the same means a perfect release from every other difficulty or defect? This is a riddle of our existence, the full answer to which may be only in the mind of God [or perhaps it is amenable to thorough investigation]. Nevertheless, at least a part of the answer to it is apparent to us.

When men and women pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives, they commit a most unnatural act. Defying their instinctive desire for self-preservation, they seem bent upon self-destruction. They work against their own deepest instinct [but see “death drive”]. As they are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession [or alternatively they experience catharsis]. Here their powerful instinct to live can cooperate fully with their Creator’s desire to give them new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide [but see “death drive” above].

But most of our other difficulties don’t fall under such a category at all. Every [?] normal [?] person wants, for example, to eat, to reproduce, to be somebody in the society of his fellows. And he wishes to be reasonably safe and secure as he tries to attain these things. Indeed, God made him that way [or not]. He did not design man to destroy himself by alcohol, but He did give man instincts [again see “death drive” above] to help him to stay alive.

It is nowhere evident, at least in this life, that our Creator expects us fully to eliminate our instinctual drives. So far as we know, it is nowhere on the record that God has completely removed from any human being all his natural drives. [true in the sense of Divine intervention but inaccurate otherwise – see Buddha … and other “enlightened” men and women]

Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires, it isn’t strange that we often let these far exceed their intended purpose [this assumes the notion of 'intelligent design' as does most of Bill Wilson's analysis]. When they drive us blindly, or we wilfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth [or variance from the psychological or conative norm]. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins [no … we prefer “defects”].

If we ask, God will certainly [?] forgive our derelictions. But in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation. That is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves. He asks only that we try as best we know how to make progress in the building of character. [clearly all this can be reframed in purely secular (and psychological) terms without the need for any kind of divine objectification]

So Step Six—“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”—is A.A.’s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement [or perhaps none at all]. The key words “entirely ready” underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.

How many of us have this degree of readiness? In an absolute sense practically nobody has it. The best we can do, with all the honesty that we can summon, is to try to have it. Even then the best of us will discover to our dismay that there is always a sticking point, a point at which we say, “No, I can’t give this up yet.” And we shall often tread on even more dangerous ground when we cry, “This I will never give up!” Such is the power of our instincts to overreach themselves. No matter how far we have progressed, desires will always be found which oppose the grace of God [or to put it another way – the struggle between the id and the super-ego to employ one psychological model].

Some who feel they have done well may dispute this, so let’s try to think it through a little further. Practically everybody wishes to be rid of his most glaring and destructive handicaps. No one wants to be so proud that he is scorned as a braggart, nor so greedy that he is labelled a thief. No one wants to be angry enough to murder, lustful enough to rape, gluttonous enough to ruin his health. No one wants to be agonized by the chronic pain of envy or to be paralysed by sloth [but “Easy Does It” nonetheless!]. Of course, most human beings don’t suffer these defects at these rock-bottom levels.

We who have escaped these extremes are apt to congratulate ourselves. Yet can we? After all, hasn’t it been self-interest, pure and simple, that has enabled most of us to escape? [Can't see much wrong with acting on the basis of enlightened self-interest – especially if the outcome remains the same!] Not much spiritual effort is involved in avoiding excesses which will bring us punishment anyway. But when we face up to the less violent aspects of these very same defects, then where do we stand?

What we must recognize now is that we exult in some of our defects. We really love them [ooh we do... we do]. Who, for example, doesn’t like to feel just a little superior to the next fellow, or even quite a lot superior [damn right! Especially if it's true!! Kidding.. yeah]? Isn’t it true that we like to let greed masquerade as ambition? To think of liking lust seems impossible [nah .. it's easy]. But how many men and women speak love with their lips, and believe what they say, so that they can hide lust in a dark corner of their minds [let's face it! If it weren't for a bit of lust none of us would be here!]? And even while staying within conventional bounds, many people have to admit that their imaginary sex excursions are apt to be all dressed up as dreams of romance [Ah! La folie d'amour!].

Self-righteous anger also can be very enjoyable [it's fantastic! We highly recommend it]. In a perverse way [that's fun as well!] we can actually take satisfaction from the fact that many people annoy us, for it brings a comfortable feeling of superiority. Gossip [but see here] barbed with our anger, a polite form of murder by character assassination, has its satisfactions for us, too. Here we are not trying to help those we criticize; we are trying to proclaim our own righteousness [it's a dirty job, we know …. but someone's got to do it].

When gluttony is less than ruinous, we have a milder word for that, too; we call it “taking our comfort.” We live in a world riddled with envy. To a greater or less degree, everybody is infected with it. From this defect we must surely get a warped yet definite satisfaction [Oh yeah! We want more! In fact we want more than you!]. Else why would we consume such great amounts of time wishing for what we have not, rather than working for it, or angrily looking for attributes we shall never have, instead of adjusting to the fact, and accepting it? And how often we work hard with no better motive than to be secure and slothful later on— only we call that “retiring.” [only another …. years to go] Consider, too, our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables [we'll settle for sloth! It's too much effort to procras... yawn....]. Nearly anyone could submit a good list of such defects as these [we've got WAY more], and few of us would seriously think of giving them up, at least until they cause us excessive misery [how true! Mind you … our capacity for misery is absolutely ENORMOUS].

Some people, of course, may conclude that they are indeed ready to have all such defects taken from them [who are they kidding?]. But even these people, if they construct a list of still milder defects, will be obliged to admit that they prefer to hang on to some of them. Therefore, it seems plain that few of us can quickly or easily become ready to aim at spiritual and moral perfection; we want to settle for only as much perfection [can you have “as much perfection”?] as will get us by in life, according, of course, to our various and sundry ideas of what will get us by. So the difference between “the boys and the men” [etc] is the difference between striving for a self-determined objective and for the perfect objective which is of God [yeah. You've got us! We'll go for the former. Long live callow youth!].

Many will at once ask, “How can we accept the entire implication of Step Six? Why—that is perfection!” This sounds like a hard question, but practically speaking, it isn’t. Only Step One, where we made the 100 percent admission we were powerless over alcohol, can be practised with absolute perfection. The remaining eleven Steps state perfect ideals [is there any other kind?]. They are goals toward which we look, and the measuring sticks by which we estimate our progress . Seen in this light, Step Six is still difficult, but not at all impossible. The only urgent thing is that we make a beginning, and keep trying.

If we would gain any real advantage in the use of this Step on problems other than alcohol, we shall need to make a brand new venture into open-mindedness. We shall need to raise our eyes toward perfection, and be ready to walk in that direction. It will seldom matter how haltingly we walk. The only question will be “Are we ready?”

Looking again at those defects we are still unwilling to give up, we ought to erase the hard-and-fast lines that we have drawn. Perhaps we shall be obliged in some cases still to say, “This I cannot give up yet...,” but we should not say to ourselves, “This I will never give up!”

Let’s dispose of what appears to be a hazardous open end we have left. It is suggested that we ought to become entirely willing to aim toward perfection. We note that some delay, however, might be pardoned. That word, in the mind of a rationalizing alcoholic, could certainly be given a long-term meaning. He could say, “How very easy! Sure, I’ll head toward perfection, but I’m certainly not going to hurry any. Maybe I can postpone dealing with some of my problems indefinitely.” Of course, this won’t do. Such a bluffing of oneself will have to go the way of many another pleasant rationalization [but you'd be in good company! See St Augustine - "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.]. At the very least, we shall have to come to grips with some of our worst character defects and take action toward their removal as quickly as we can.

The moment we say, “No, never!” our minds close against the grace of God [or not]. Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be fatal. This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God’s will for us.” [or merely what we wish for ourselves]

(our emphases)(our observations in red print)

Coming next – Step Seven


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Alcoholics Anonymous: A profoundly UNdemocratic institution

We quote: 


I read with great interest the conflict (Lack of Unity?) you are suffering in regards to the "international gathering" in GB. You are right on the money (yes pun intended) when you attempt to point all parties to the Traditions. After all the goal of each and every Tradition is to promote unity and thereby insure that AA will be around for future drunks. Not future egos. Another reason for the formation of the Traditions is that Bill W. knew when ever drunks get together there will be problems that center around egos. 

Your Intergroup seems to be using the same technique as is practiced by similar power drivers here in the US. They are using the Traditions as a method of grabbing more power. When an open minded reading of any of the Traditions would reveal that they are power limiting devices. It is so common in the US to hear the justification that the Tradition says we are autonomous and then if that nonsense flies; they will become even more emboldened and say they can do what ever they feel is in the best interest of their group. As you have wisely pointed out the Tradition strongly limits that power by saying two strong suggestions that should limit every ego driven proposal. 

The Twelve and Twelve is written in the format of "here is the mistakes we have made so you don't have to make them". It further calls upon us to scan the horizon for similar mistakes. Then hopefully we won't have to make the old or the new mistakes. 

Now for some questions about service structure in GB versus the US. We have a Service Structure that starts with the groups who elect a GSR. The GSR attends Inter-area where they elect a delegate who goes to conference. We can send information up the food chain through our delegate and he can and does come back from conference with the goings on of the conference. The exchange of ideas is both ways. Each district has a chair (District Committee Member) who attends special meetings at the area meetings. 

We also have intergroup in large metropolitan areas. These sprung up in the early days and were present when Bill W got the 12 Traditions accepted at the 1950 international convention. They had been around since the start and were doing good work along the lines phone answering, literature clearing houses and even reaching out to the media. It was the intention of Bill W. to keep these as a hands on service structure and then have the GSR/AREA MEETING/DELEGATE/CONFERENCE in place for the working out of issues in the groups and between the groups. 

This all seems to get mucked up by a few things that seem to relate to your situation. One, the Intergroups don't want to give up power. They do not want to give it up to their own representatives of the groups. And they sure don't want to give it up to the GSR's and their pathway to worldwide experience. This conflict is so great that in some areas the Area assembly have formed liaison committees and invited representatives of the Intergroups to meet and find a way to cooperate. One geographic region took about 4 years to resolve the difficulties to any measure. 

The Intergroups here seem to quote their bylaws more than the Traditions. They want to claim that they are part of the Service Structure when at best Bill W. intended them to be an appendage. Finally they seem to go speak on behalf of AA in manners that match neither their Bylaws, the Service Structure Guidelines or the Traditions. 

The universal problem that effects all parties, Intergroup, GSR and AA member is that very few groups send a representative to either body. We all got too soft because AA WAS self correcting for so long. However, when outside influences start to impact AA and we do not have a strong Service Structure in place to deal with it the lack of self is the down fall of correcting. Some of these outside influences are mandating of attendees, non conference approved literature quoted in the meetings, "hardcore true to the roots groups" such as back to basics, primary purpose, etc. and a public media that as a result of the internet can not be contained by a letter from NY GSO. 

In short, we are creating more enemies than ever before and they all impact our "attraction"........

(our edits)


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS Thanks to our correspondent

See also:

Plymouth (cult) Intergroup corruption 

For AA Minority Report 2013 click here

Saturday, 12 September 2015

London Euston: Gratitude in Action Big Book Study (contd)

See below

The ignorance (or duplicity perhaps?) displayed by the organisers of this “International AA(?) Gathering” might be excused on the grounds that they constitute yet another gang of clueless Big Book 'chancers'. But London South West Intergroup surely cannot raise the same defence. Yet if you read the minutes of the intergroup discussion on this issue (which we have) you will find a lot of questions raised but very few answers forthcoming. Indeed it is quite worrying to observe the general lack of awareness of AA Traditions (not to mention guidelines) throughout, Traditions which this intergroup is supposed to uphold. It should be said at this juncture that it is not uncommon for GSR attendance at London South West IG meetings to be as low as 25 per cent. Therefore the latter can hardly be considered a representative body by any standard you might wish to apply. Perhaps we can take some consolation in this fact whilst clinging to the hope that the remainder of the groups are not so blighted as this particular part of the service structure. As far as we can discern only one group (New Malden Sunday) seemed to inject any clarity into the discussion arguing (quite correctly in our view) that both the organisers and the Intergroup itself were in clear breach of Tradition Four ie. both had failed to properly consult with all interested parties viz. the two London regions and their constituent intergroups. Proper discussion was further hampered by the actions of both the outgoing Chairman and her current replacement. The former's grasp of the Traditions (specifically Tradition Four) can best be described as not even rudimentary. Clearly she believed that the statement “each group is autonomous” adequately summed up the substance and intent of this particular guideline. It does not (we invite you to read the Tradition for yourself, and ponder all of its implications) Moreover her main function in the debate seemed to be to act as both 'apologist' and 'cheerleader' for the “International AA(?) Gathering” position whilst 'ramming' through the proposal at the greatest possible speed, and in the process obstructing even minimal reasoning. Her departure from Intergroup might be considered as something of a blessing until you consider the actions of her successor, and her own blatant disregard of AA guidelines....

(to be contd)


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS Thanks to our various correspondents

See also:

Plymouth (cult) Intergroup corruption

For AA Minority Report 2013 click here