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AA and Other Twelve Step Groups - Cults
Posted: 05 December 2006 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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For the last 18 months I have been involved in several online groups that discuss the cult aspects and subsequent harm caused by coerced (and chosen) involvement in AA/NA or any of the 12 step model groups prevalent in addiction treatment.

The basic premise is that AA et al are religious organizations and are minimally effective support groups.

Thoughts???

Elle

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Posted: 06 December 2006 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Hampstead Pete has written about this. I think he is still around here. He has posted his impressions regarding AA in which he likens it to religion.

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Posted: 06 December 2006 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I went on line about 10 years ago and was stunned by how many people on the discussion forums were fundamentalist Christians.  I had lived 60 plus years in California where religion was not a big deal.  We accepted all religions in our school (yes private schools too) and our neighborhoods were filled with all kinds of different and interesting Gods.  I lived in the Santa Monica mountains where we were damned glad that our new neighbors weren’t Manson family members.

When I got established on line would ask several posters how they got involved in their strong Christian doctrines and t he majority admitted that they had addictions they could not handle on their own. 

Gambling, hard drugs, alcohol and pornography led the list that took them to A.A.  I had an interest in this as my mother had a chronic alcohol problem and I would drive her to AA meeting for years.  Nothing took!  She died a hopeless drunk so naturally I wanted to talk to some of these folks who had survived their addictions.

I found it so sad that my emails to and from these posters (we did not use the forum) had little desire to help themselves out of the gutter.  Loving families were abused and they knew it.  In every case it was Jesus who entered their souls/brains/lives and took over for them. 

The problem was that Jesus also took over their rational thinking and survival skills.  Everything had to come from Jesus or it was not acceptable.  Many families left these people, as wives, mothers and children could live with the problems but not the cure.  My mother actually sobered up for 3 years and none of us could tolerate her nasty personality.  The cure for all these addictions made the people themselves intolerable to live with.  I had a young executive in my office that quit drinking cold.  He ended up in A.A.  and became so abusive to the rest of the office that most of us left.

Putting up with a half-drunk in the office was one thing but putting up with a rude and disgusting man was another.  This Jesus Juice that was handed out did not help these people but turned them into a rage of Christian threats.

Several years later I began to recognize many of the religious right who simply insisted that everyone around them believe in Jesus or get out of their lives.  Many Conservative forums closed up with this problem.  It has become possible for me to meet some new person socially and see the personality and I can ask them “how long have you been dry?”  I have yet to miss.

A.A. is a cult but in many cases it saves lives.  The rest of us simply have to be forewarned about these people and learn to step away when they try to coax us into their beliefs.  Be careful, they often to do not take rejection calmly.

We have to learn that sometimes sobriety costs us our own family members.

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Posted: 12 December 2006 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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For the last 18 months I have been involved in several online groups that discuss the cult aspects and subsequent harm caused by coerced (and chosen) involvement in AA/NA or any of the 12 step model groups prevalent in addiction treatment.

The basic premise is that AA et al are religious organizations and are minimally effective support groups.

Thoughts???

Elle

I guess my first question to you is:  Why do you care what AA is or is not?  Are you being forced into the program against your will?  If you are, perhaps you belong there.  If not, why does it concern you?  I never gave a damn about religion ‘till a few years ago when the right-wing tried to make certain dogma the law of the land.  If you are being forced into the program, don’t worry, most “paper signers” disappear after their forced term is over, and you can too.  Believe me, no one will knock on your door begging you to return.

Yes, as Frankr said above, I consider AA a religion ‘cause it has many similarities.  I say that, however, after 17 years experience with AA while recovering from my own addiction.  In my view, anyone who understands addiction welcomes any means that someone may use to overcome it, no matter what form that takes.

Personally, I think a secular approach, such as SOS, is just as effective as AA, but then again I’m in the minority as an atheist.  In spite of having absolutely NO belief in the supernatural, I was able to recover in AA using the fellowship itself in place of any higher power.  Also, I never really bought into the “powerlessness” aspect of the program.

AA takes someone in, teaches them they have an illness they have absolutely no power over, and that they must turn this illness, and most aspects of their lives, over to a “god of their understanding.”  Some can do this, some can’t.  I couldn’t, but I wanted to stay sober more than I wanted to drink, so I stayed sober anyway.

Many come into AA & go right back out again ‘cause they just can’t get the “god stuff.”  Many who are very religious when they come in don’t stay either.  The ones that stay, like me, are the ones who come in willing to do ANYTHING to get the pain to stop.

Over the years, the religiosity bothered me more and more, ‘till finally I just couldn’t drag myself to meetings anymore.  I have started a secular SOS group here in Wilmington, and we are slowly but steadily growing.

The thing about AA that bothers me the most, I guess, is that they tell newcomers they are powerless over their addiction, and only some supernatural power can make them whole.  Those that are not hurting badly enough when they get in just turn around and leave as soon as they can, unless they are convinced they can form some relationship with some sort of higher power.  I was lucky, I guess, no one I hung around with in the early days made much of a big deal about god.  In meetings here in Wilmington, I have heard people share at meetings that only jesus can save you.  Bullshit!

All that said, AA has helped millions of people recover from addiction, and I take exception to those outside of the program who throw stones at it.  I came very near to dying from my addiction to alcohol, and I don’t give a damn how folks get off the stuff.  AA has what some folks need, and they should have access to it, whether it’s a religion or not.

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Posted: 12 December 2006 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Hamstead Pete.  In 2000 I was so shocked to see the input on the internet from so many Christians.  When I grew up America was not particularly religious at all.  We had no prayers in our schools and we sang only Christmas Carols for about a week before we broke for the holiday.  Maybe it was simply I was raised in California for nobody gave a damn where we went to Sunday School.  I remember running into the John Birch Society in the the 50s and thought they were nuts. 

So when many of my sites began to preach instead of post, I asked them why they were so involved in Jesus Christ.  An enormous percentage of them found religion in their 12 step programs.  I began to understand why these people with little knowledge of the bible suddenly became preachers in their own right.  They also had an anger in their words as if the rest of us were their enemies and would dare to question their motives.  One forum asked how many had been helped by AA and how long had they been off drugs or dry or what ever and the list was long.

Whatever works!!!

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Posted: 13 December 2006 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I attended OA meetings and why I left wasn’t the “higher power” aspect so much as the “powerless” aspect. I learned I can do it on my own and I don’t have to buy into the notion that we can’t do it without “god as we understand him.” I guess that’s why the program didn’t work for me. I hated telling people I was powerless. I got enough of that growing up.

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Posted: 13 December 2006 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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One of my favorite stand-up comedians is the late Mitch Hedberg,
He did a little sketch where he said:

“Alcoholism is the only disease you can get yelled at for having.
Dammit Otto you are an alcoholic!  Dammit Otto, you have lupus! One of those doesn’t sound right.”

I always thought that this statement “alcoholism is a disease” is a misnomer. If this is what AA preaches then I am not buying it.
I have a friend who has kicked the habit and still goes to AA after years of drought and it seems to work for him which is great.

The thing that bothers me is this “it is a disease and it isn’t your fault” approach. Perhaps I am reading this totally wrong but it smacks of this current tendency of people to blame all their ills on an external factor.
And that I can not stand. It makes you a victim and don’t we all just love being victims.

I don’t want to come over as callous especially towards those who are struggling with this, so I hope this doesn’t offend.

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But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”

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Posted: 14 December 2006 12:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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I always thought that this statement “alcoholism is a disease” is a misnomer. If this is what AA preaches then I am not buying it.

This is a hard thing to explain to someone who is not addicted, but I shall try.  Insofar as I understand your post, I agree with you.  AA preaches that the “only defense an alcoholic has against the first drink is the maintenance of their ‘spiritual condition.’”  Spiritual condition defined as one’s relationship with a higher power, and this is defined as the “disease of alcoholism,” over which the alcoholic is “powerless.”  I think we both agree that AA has this wrong.

Having said that, there is a disease aspect to addiction, and that is the fact that alcohol does not effect me like it effects others who can drink.  If you (assuming you are not an alcoholic) decide to have a drink, you can probably predict, if you wished to, how many you will choose to have.  I cannot!  If I have a drink, I cannot predict the outcome.  Having had a drink, the compulsion to have another is so strong in the alcoholic that few can resist the next one.  The trick is, of course, not to have the first one.

The other aspect of the disease is one of progression.  Any recovered alcoholic can look back at his own drinking history and see a clear progression in amounts of alcohol consumed per a given period.  One or two turns into bottles ( or cases) per day.  In my case, when I quit I was consuming at least two 1.75’s every three days, plus beer and wine.

The experiences of many, many alkies who have returned to AA is that, no matter how long the period of abstinence, they very shortly returned to the consumption rate they experienced when they quit.  That is what kills most of us, we quit for a bit, then sell ourselves on the idea that since we have quit for so long, perhaps we can drink successfully.  That is the thrust of AA, to replace the “obsession to drink” as they call it, with a relationship with some higher power, without whom the alcoholic has no hope.

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Posted: 14 December 2006 01:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Well Pete, you have done what millions of others couldn’t do.  Hats off to you!  My mother had 40 years of alcohol in her system that robbed her of a musical profession.  One can be a good musician if you are playing Pop but Bach requires a sober mind and hands.

I was lucky, I had my mother as a great example of why my kids should not drink.  We had no many alcoholics in my mother’s generation they did study of my family at UCLA.  The scientist who did the study had known my mother for many years as he ran a drunk tank (now called a rehab) and never understood why she fell into years of a drunken state of un-consciousness.  My girls saw first hand what alcohol could do to their lives.  Her problem was her inability to handle anxiety.  Anything she was to be involved in caused her to drink to such a point she could not be a part of it.  I never remember her being around at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I was 18 before I realized Mother’s day was not on a Tuesday.  My own birthdays passed her by without notice.  Naturally I became a non-drinker almost from the beginning.  I think it was 1964 when I took my own last drink. 

My father also had a drinking problem and ran his car off Sunset Boulevard to his death at 38.  My mother set herself on fire at the age of 72 due to being falling down drunk trying to light a cigarette.

It is so sad when I read how many young people will end up being alcoholics when they are simply trying to be cool.  Being cool is to live without addiction.

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Posted: 14 December 2006 02:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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It is so sad when I read how many young people will end up being alcoholics when they are simply trying to be cool. Being cool is to live without addiction.

The frustrating thing about it is that there is absolutely NO one-fits-all solution!  No single model that will work for everyone.  The addict must want, really want to recover.  Even that, I suspect, isn’t always enough, there is considerable luck involved.  I have observed, over the years, that different things resonate with different people.  Recovery, to me, is a little like Zen:  You really can’t teach it, not all of it, the addict MUST do quite a bit of the work himself in order to recover.

I don’t pretend to know any answers for anyone other than myself.  I would be willing to do absolutely anything to spare my children, grandchildren, or indeed anyone from the ravages of addiction, but there is nothing I can do other than be here.

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Posted: 14 December 2006 02:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Pete, being aware of the problem is 90% of the battle.  Talk openly to your kids and be honest with them.  Being a good example is the only way to guide the kids.  My mother became a bad example and that worked too!

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Posted: 14 December 2006 02:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Quote from Hampstede: “I guess my first question to you is:  Why do you care what AA is or is not?  Are you being forced into the program against your will?  If you are, perhaps you belong there.  If not, why does it concern you?  I never gave a damn about religion ‘till a few years ago when the right-wing tried to make certain dogma the law of the land.  If you are being forced into the program, don’t worry, most “paper signers” disappear after their forced term is over, and you can too.” 

——————————————————————————————
Your questioning struck me as offensive & judgemental towards me when I came back to my original post.

I was interested in the atheist response to AA - not a personal attack that is way off base I might add.

I really don’t need to tell you or anyone else why it concerns me.

Thanks for the welcome.

[ Edited: 25 December 2006 05:57 AM by ]
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Posted: 14 December 2006 03:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Sorry, upon rereading my post it was harsh.  Although I no longer consider myself “in” AA, and agree with some of what you said, I am a little sensitive when folks from outside beat on AA, or any other recovery model for that matter.

By the way, if you would like to explore recovery from a secular standpoint, whether for information or whatever, here is a link:

 

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Posted: 14 December 2006 03:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Gosh Elle, he gave you his opinion of AA.  That is what you requested.  I added my own opinion of AA, which failed with my mother.  This is an open and fair forum.  No one means to offend.  Well, I do once in a while.  I welcome you and hope you have read Sam’s books.  I gave many copies to my friends last year, but this year they beat me to it and bought them on their own.

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Posted: 17 December 2006 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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I, too, almost died from drinking, and AA taught me sobriety. The thing is, no matter what you believe in or not, there is always something greater than yourself. Science is greater than you, as is gravity. {try flying like Superman if you don’t buy this} The point of this is that alcoholics, because of the psychology of addiction, believe that they are the center of the universe, and that everything bows down to them. The “powerless” idea is that we cannot control how much we drink, not that we are inherently spineless people overall.

I have not been to a meeting since 1998, but I just had 20 years of sobriety last month. The principles work, whether you are in a meeting or not. 

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Posted: 17 December 2006 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Purple, it is the same with over eating.  Being raised in California and working around the Studios it was absolutely essential that we all keep our weight under a certain poundage.  We had health farms all over the place and many of us would pay a visit several times a year.  It was a terrible obsession and many of my girls friends simply put their fingers down their throats and heaved up every meal they ate.  Or enemas was another trick.  All the doctors isssued magic appetite takers and many of us were addicted to the pills more than what they offered.

By the time I had my girls, I simply fed them well but without sugar or fat.  We all stayed thin and knew our desired weight limits.  When my younger girl headed off to boarding school at Berkeley her weight soared.  It broke my heart but it was no longer in my responsibility to say anything. 

I had to face a series of surgeries as my female parts had to go.  I had tumors that were leaning on the parts that I would need.  Everything came out and I started gaining weight.  I’m talking 50 pounds.  I tried every diet, acupuncture, hypnosis and a 12 atep programs called overeaters.  I’ve done weight watchers and one thing always sits in the back of my mind.  I remember 30 years of being hungry.  Those pills were an illusion.  I talked to a very well known actress named Shelley Winters who I had seen in several doctor’s offices over the years and she explained her 30 years of being in the camera and her body nearly fainting from hunger. 

I’ve often wondered if alcohol can do this as well as my addiction?  In order for me to lose any weight I have be hungry again.  I’ve tried them all even fasting but my mind will not allow it.

Okay at 73, being 50 pounds overweight is not a problem as most of us carry at least that much weight in this senior development.  I increase my physical activities and can hold at my current weight.  There are no cameras here or anyone commenting on my appearance so I will do what Shelly did and learn to live with it.  My weight has not affected my health but has put a strain on my knees.  Another actress is our generation looks wonderful with 50 pounds added and that is Elizabeth Taylor.  She is now comfortable with the extra weight and we all know how she struggled when the cameras were on. 

We all have addictions to something and if we can get over them when we need to that is all that counts.  The memory of being hungry must be similar to the desire for a drink.  I offer you my deepest congratulations for you success.

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