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After 75 Years of Alcoholics Anonymous, It's Time to Admit We Have a Problem


Health & Wellness  (tags: AA, 12 step programs, health, research, medicine, treatment, illness )

Carrie
- 199 days ago - psmag.com
For much of the past 50 years or so, voicing any serious skepticism toward Alcoholics Anonymous or any other 12-step program was sacrilege--the equivalent, in polite company, of questioning the virtue of American mothers or the patriotism of our troops.



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Comments

Roger Garin-michaud (61)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 2:01 pm
very interesting,
noted, thanks
 

Freya H. (304)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 2:32 pm
About time people started yanking the halo away from AA! There are plenty of purely secular organizations that perform a similar function without the higher power crap.
 

Gary A L. (133)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 4:57 pm
if anyone bothered to read the literature they would find out that the old timers always said that we don't have all the answers it's only since the rehab's and those who profit from others misery that this mantra has evolved so that alcoholics became a profit making machine for people who did not want anyone to get better thankfully I escaped that trap and by the way Freya No one should be wearing any Halo's
 

Azaima A. (216)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 6:08 pm
Emotional freedom technique works quickly on addictions. thetappingsolution.com
 

Donn M. (1)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 8:51 pm
Well, whatever works. Be it AA or something else.
 

Jeanne Young (19)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 9:05 pm
I wouldn't want to claim expertise - BUT - - -
I seriously doubt that ANY treatment MANDATED and COERCED, for ANY disease that involves ANY uncomfortable, difficult, painful, ( - - - - - -YOU fill in the appropriate description) processes and events would be very effective - - - -
Of COURSE there are "secular organizations" that have a good success rate (BTW - Anyone care to tell me just WHICH religion you believe AA represents???)
The article, as I read and re-read it, seems like so much of "backlash response" No quarrel, 12-step programs are NOT the panacea that has been claimed for ( but not usually BY) them - - -Absolutely - as a culture/society. we desperately NEED to find better preventions/cures for addictive behaviors than we currently have
PLEASE read with an open mind the actual literature and wording of (especially AA and NA) 12 step Programs before making any serious judgements about them - - -
With this article I just keep seeing an (imperfect) baby going out with the (imperfect) bathwater - - -
Balance and rationality would be good, all the way around, IMHO
 

AlexAWAY Genovia (44)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 9:42 pm
If you've ever been to AA, you know it operates much like a cult.

Thanks for the article Carrie.
 

Suheyla C. (229)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 10:32 pm
Thanks noted
 

Elizabeth M. (66)
Tuesday February 11, 2014, 10:46 pm
Thank You Carrie, very interesting article.
 

Kelly Rogers (303)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 12:56 am
One thing needs TO BE C L E A R, ALCOHOLISM I S N O T DRUG ADDICTION. Alcoholism is Alcoholism and Drug Addiction is Drug Addiction. Treatment Centers are not apart of AA and have nothing to do with AA, support systems can come from anywhere. AA is not broken. Actually, Dr. Fosdick was our society's great Medical benefactor and explained" how it was a disease and our bodies are psychically and mentally different than our fellows". I believe the Lasaker Award given to AA is a Medical award. I think the reason why AA, CA, NA, OA, GA, EA, et al do not work is because it involves a lot of work and first of all admitting you have a problem with a subsistence. I do not know about you, my brain needs a GOOD WASHING, I am saying this in response to AA being a cult. It is not a Cult, how many cults do you know of that let you come and go as much as you like and go to other cult meetings in the area as many times a week as you want and gain friendships go out to coffee, date, have sex, go to the movies, move out of town, teach you an instrument, go to gigs, be a roadie, go the gym, have friends, do different types of service work in defferent areas for the cult in the state and out of state????? I am sorry you had that experience, Alexandria
 

Gloria picchetti (286)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 1:34 am
The steps are annoying but what is nice about AA is the gathering of really good speakers.
 

Dimitris Dallis (2)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 2:14 am
Yes we do. Especially when we work in a bar... :)
 

Lona Goudswaard (68)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 7:22 am
Thanks for this well balanced article, Carrie. I only found out about the religious side of the AA after a previous article you posted on the subject. I never attended a meeting so all my information on AA was through what I saw on TV and in films, and they never pray there ;-).

But all kidding aside, if the AA is stuck on (Christian) religion and so many people are court-mandated to follow the 12 steps while there is little or no proof they actually work, then yes, there is a problem with AA. As with everything else, any kind of rehab is big business and the AA seems to be favourite with the courts and probably will do everything to stay in that position, but the people with an addiction, and therefore society, would be much better off if they were allowed to pick a method that suits them. But a good start would be not to call everyone who turns up in front of a judge for the first time an alcoholic. Most of those people who 'heal' themselves weren't addicted in the strict sense of the word to start with.
 

Gary A L. (133)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 8:18 am
Itís really a disgrace that people who have no qualifications make judgments and speak as if they had any clue as to what AA is all about Carrie you are about as off base as one person can possibly be and I for one find it repulsive
 

Evanola Davis (64)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 8:25 am
Sometimes I think rehab/recovery programs become just as much of a crutch as the alcohol/drug dependencies.
 

GGmaSheila D. (164)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 9:17 am
My only experience was with small town Al-Anon. Went to one meeting. They did not want to talk about experiences, problems, or help with suggestions on how to deal with an addicted husband. They only said that God would show me the way...Let us pray. It was a prayer meeting, nothing more. Never went back. From what I understood, this was the same as the AA meetings there - run by a local pastor...

While AA may be the answer for some, it's not the be-all answer across the board for all alcoholics. Other groups may be the help some people need. If you're in AA and it's working for you then Kudos. However, the Justice system shouldn't automatically make people go...and stay going if it doesn't help.

While I had a negative experience, others may have felt right at home. It has its place...just not for everyone.
 

Ben Oscarsito (354)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 10:09 am
I was addicted to alcohol for more than 25 years. -Now I have been sober (Free from all kind of drugs) for 22 years. And I say thanks to myself for that!
 

Joanne Dixon (38)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 10:27 am
"Sometimes I think rehab/recovery programs become just as much of a crutch as the alcohol/drug dependencies." But what kind of person snatches a crutch away from a person missing a leg (and with no prosthesis)? In other words, WTF is wrong with a crutch if one has a legitimate need for it?

AA's "higher power" is neither God nor religion - unless that happens to work for you. AA does not have, and has never claimed (officially) to have all the answers. Of course there are going to be individuals and chapters that are not run in accordance with the principles. Any group that is "run by" any one person is automatically not run in accordance with the principles. It's a group, not a one-person show. I am really sorry to and for everyone who has had a bad experience with it.
 

Birgit W. (144)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 10:41 am
Thanks for sharing.
 

Lindsay Kemp (1)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 12:12 pm
Noted, thanks for sharing
 

Kamia T. (66)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 12:39 pm
So I'm going to be a heretic, but as a person who's now been clean and sober for over 35 years, I'm sick of seeing alcoholism or drug addiction characterized as a disease. If they are, they're the only diseases I know of that you go buy voluntarily. The are choices. Poor ones -- made in response to a) maybe a genetic predisposition, but b) pain, sorrow, hurt or whatever that you choose not to deal with. And baby dragons, left unconquered, simply become big ones. That's why until YOU hit bottom, and want to sober up, it doesn't matter if you go to rehab, AA, Al-Anon, Narc-Anon or wherever, none of it works. Each person has to make the choice to fight their dragons, and WHATEVER helps them -- in my case the Bible and a good friend/sponsor - then so hurray to that method!
 

Carrie B. (309)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 2:14 pm
I didn't write the article Gary ~ I just posted because I thought it was interesting and gave a different perspective.
 

Allan Yorkowitz (453)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 3:34 pm
I'm sorry I could not up load the article. All I know is, the 2 people who are in AA have been off liquor for decades. AND they attend meetings to this day.
 

Bette-Ann Libin (11)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 10:32 pm
Why are we nit picking AA when, in fact, it has helped millions of people throughout the world and in doing so has helped multitudes of millions in the form of family, friends and employment? My mother always said "don't look a gift horse in the mouth".... I, for one, find the idea of women in AA meetings potentially being vulnerable to sexual predators a ridiculous assumption! If you have another program that works, let's try it and discuss this again in 50 years....
 

june t. (65)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 10:56 pm
I've been to a couple 12 step groups and never found them to push a religious agenda. The higher power was just something greater than yourself, whether it be your concept of God or a light bulb. Maybe I was lucky and the people who ran the meetings were good, I don't have enough fingers to count all the people I know who were helped.

Also, it was affordable - basically free. Maybe that's the main reason why the courts send people to AA, the cost is minimal and even poor people can go to a 12 step program. That said, I know it isn't for everyone, but I would never criticize a properly run 12 step program. We have the freedom to go elsewhere if it isn't your cup of tea. Do whatever works for you.
 

Carrie B. (309)
Wednesday February 12, 2014, 10:56 pm
I really don't think this is "nit picking" AA. My personal feeling is that those needing help with substance abuse will find whatever is best for them ~ if they are ready for help. This is not a "one size fits all" remedy. When a person recognizes that he or she has a problem, a program of individual preference is the answer. Some may choose to go it alone. Whatever is right for one may not be right for all.

This piece points out some things that might be important to those looking for help. Just remember that help is available for those who want it. Maybe AA ~ maybe not. Just ask a physician, social worker, or anyone you trust to give you good advice. And remember ~ if at first you don't succeed...
 

Jonathan Harper (0)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 4:25 am
noted
 

Gary A L. (133)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 10:50 am
First of all the article is a hatchet job the people sited are not qualified to make the statements they do second and most important is that Alcoholism is a separate entity from drug addiction. Alcoholism has been classified as a disease by the American medical association what qualifications do the author or any of the sources have? Try none the problems with AA and recovery are far more complex and diverse than can be discussed here. When people demean the work of recovery groups real people suffer before posting an article one should research the legitimacy of the article
 

Carrie B. (309)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 12:51 pm
Gary, why do you sound so angry? This is imply information people should be aware of.
 

Bette-Ann Libin (11)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 1:08 pm
I think Gary is simply pointing out that alcoholism is, in fact, a disease. Diseases, while often a culmination of health issues and self sabotaging behavior, are not something one has control over. I applaud those of you who feel differently and have managed your alcoholism by sheer will...millions are not equipped for such "cold turkey" method. For those millions who have remained sober through AA, AA is their one and only lifeline to sobriety....
 

Patsy Olive (0)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 5:27 pm
Noted.
 

Jeanne Young (19)
Thursday February 13, 2014, 6:46 pm
WOW, Carrie - Posted an article and stirred up a hornets' nest, eh?

AFAIK, at this point of medical/psych classifications of "disease" - - -Wait for it - - - CAFFEINE addiction is a listed disease condition, added recently - - -

Can anyone explain to me why alcoho; ism is a disease and drug addiction ISN'T??? This is a very real question, I'd like to understand
 

Gary A L. (133)
Friday February 14, 2014, 8:24 am
the AMA has identified a gene which is common in alcoholics and not present in others also Carrie I have not called you out by name in an effort to not have this become personal in answer your implying that I'm angry I'm not what i am is curious as to why you would not address any of the points in my posts when I went to the internet rage your link to story I was not surprised to see ads for treatment centers so really it's all about money it this new editor post article to degrade AA in hopes people will sign up with his advertisers wow there's some journalistic integrity Carrie if you wish to respond please do so with your response to the points I made and not imply that I'm angry to diminish the validity of my post
 

Past Member (0)
Friday February 14, 2014, 10:01 am
Those that are saying that alcohol addiction isn't the same as drug addiction are correct. Alcohol kills many times over the amount of deaths from drug addiction. That includes both legal and illegal drugs.

Annual Causes of Death in the United States
 

Gary A L. (133)
Friday February 14, 2014, 10:32 am
Mj m I reported your slander maybe you should check yourself
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 12:01 pm
OK folks, let's try to stay civil. Accusing someone of being drunk on a post about AA is really hitting below the belt. I am sorry Gary.

Let me try to make myself and my feelings clear. I posted this article because I found it interesting in that it gave a different perspective about AA. It should be considered an opinion piece ~ rather than a statement of scientific fact. I know that AA has helped and continues to help many people, but it is not the answer for everyone.

I had an older sister who died at the age of 39 as the result of alcoholism. She was beautiful, intelligent, and tortured. She had her PhD. in psychology by the age of 29 and knew all the tricks of the trade. Over the years I have learned and accepted the fact that she did not want help ~ she wanted to die ~ and she did. Her emotional pain over her divorce from another psychologist who was emotionally cruel, and the suicide of our older brother who also was an alcoholic and drug addict was more than she could bear. His last phone call (answering service)was to her. She did not return the call because she was emotionally and physically exhausted.

No one could have helped her because ~ as I later learned ~ she did not want help. She wanted to die.

There is no magic bullet for the treatment of alcoholism and or drug addiction. It is personal and NO program will work unless a person sincerely wants and accepts help.
 

Past Member (0)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:03 pm
You "reported my slander maybe". Which is it, Gary? And how is inquiring about your aversion to punctuation, in any way slanderous?
 

Past Member (0)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:12 pm
And Carrie, it seems to me an appropriate question, since this IS an article about the harm that alcohol does. Isn't it very possible that a drunk might have less concern with punctuation?

Gary's comments make as much sense as a drunk's slobbering his sad story in the local bar.

The dumbing down of America rolls on.
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:18 pm
MJM, please stop your unwarranted and uncalled for attacks. You are being very unkind and argumentative.
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 2:40 pm
Punctuation? I do not care ~ nor does any other rational person!
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 3:41 pm
I rarely flag anyone because I feel we all have the right to express ourselves, ~ but more importantly ~ I want other care2 members to see the type of people we are dealing with on a daily basis. I know it is not pretty, but sometimes we have to face those who are cruel and say things that are unwarranted and dishonest.
 

Gary A L. (133)
Friday February 14, 2014, 4:04 pm
thank you Carrie I will write you privately
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 7:13 pm
Thank you Gary. Once again I have to apologize for the unkindness shown to you here.
 

Gary A L. (133)
Friday February 14, 2014, 8:01 pm
BTW Carrie it wasn't you who was unkind. The other is probably not able to accept responsibility for their behavior
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 8:26 pm
Thank you Gary
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 8:31 pm
Gary,I understand your pain and suffering more than many here will understand. Please forgive any and all unkind comments.
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 8:37 pm
My heart grieves for those who are so insensitive and unkind that they would others with unkind words. May God forgive you.
 

Carrie B. (309)
Friday February 14, 2014, 9:01 pm
Sorry ~ that they would be unkind or cruel to others with unkind words.
 

monka blanke (74)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 4:54 am
I fully agree: "There is no magic bullet for the treatment of alcoholism and or drug addiction. It is personal and NO program will work unless a person sincerely wants and accepts help," thanks Carrie.
 

Micheael Kirkbym (85)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 7:10 am
Alcoholism and drug addiction may have two different faces when it comes to unveiling the situation that hides behind the masks we wear; but the cause is the same. Addiction manifests many of the same behaviourisms when in the throws of addiction.
Firstly you have to want to quit. Can't actually means NO and this is one of the games your mind plays. You WON'T quit unless your are fully committed to making the sacrifices necessary to beat your "addiction".
In perspective it is not that the alcohol/drug is addictive; it's your mind and the established thought processes of pain/pleasure that need to change. That is why it is so hard. Substances establish pain/pleasure neuro pathways that circumvent normal neural pathways. In order to reopen the normal pathways you have to change behavioural patterns such as eliminating the things and people that are associated with the substance abuse patterns. That is what addiction treatment is really all about: changing your habits in order to retrain the brain. Your brain will lie to you. Count on it. You can't have just one and for most people the only way is cold turkey.
For me AA wasn't the program that I needed. AA does many good things for a lot of people and I for one will not badmouth it. If it wasn't for AA there would be a lot of people who weren't able to mend their lives. If telling your story; listening to others' tales of addiction and having a buddy to help you when you get into trouble are wrong then I think maybe the commentator's science needs to take into the account the factor of human weakness and strength in numbers. Not all of us can walk that path alone.
I don't need to tell my story countless times over and I've heard so many stories about what lead to this person's addiction and the results of that addiction. Yes, I heard the derision among the AA crowd that I wasn't really an alcoholic, blah, blah, blah but I was drinking a bottle a night of very good whisky for the last eight years of the ride. Yes there are those problems too among the established agencies. For me I got more out of one month's sessions with a trained psychologist than I would have out of twelve months or twelve steps with AA. That's just me though and what works for me may not work for others. I've always had a strong will and death and me why, we're old friends. He'll win in the end but not without a good fight and I'll be sober.
 

Lloyd H. (46)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 9:30 am
Kelly and others exemplify one of the bigger problems, particularly in America, the totally facetious dogma that Alcohol is not a Drug, does not work like a drug and must be treated differently. Pay close attention to the conversations and one thing you will notice is "drugs AND alcohol" there is a constant separation of the two that is simply just not justified or true. Another doggerel is that 'alcoholism' can be cured, it can not and neither can addiction to any other drug, once an addict always an addict, you never go beyond the remission stage, believe me been there done that dry for 22 years. Another thing that is never, or very seldom, mentioned is the plain and simple fact that one is more likely to die during alcohol detox than detox from any other drug including any of the opiates. And the AA Bible humping 12 step does nothing more than add the addiction to religion as a substitute crutch for dealing with reality. And while I know it will anger many, there is more than a grain of truth in the Karl Marx description of religion as the "opiate of the masses". Consider, religion is just as capable of making people crazy and violent as some drugs, suicide bombers, Planned Parenthood clinic bombers, arson, acid throwing, allowing people in need of medical treatment to die, wars, the list goes on and on. Religion takes personal responsibility out of the equation with lines like 'The Bible says so, God told me, that is a sin' you get my meaning. Consider also the extreme similarities between say a Rave and a Church service, lights, music, theater, the sense of being transported to another level, the sense of surrendering to the cosmic., of not being in charge.
 

Pamela W. (75)
Monday February 17, 2014, 4:21 am
Sorry Carrie - I haven't noted this one as I still have VIVID memories about the last time an article about AA was on C2 threads .... we had a veritable INVASION of ANTI-AA posts which were really vicious in their propos towards and about anyone remoted connected with, or having been a member of, AA !!! It turned out, through a bit of research that the majority of "THEM" were one-and-the-same person ..... a PROFESSIONAL campaigner against AA (using multiple identities) who "trolls" the Internet looking for such discussions in order to spread his propaganda !!!! The thread was a real HATE-FEST and I wouldn't like to see it happen again here. Really sorry Carrie - I know your intentions are good but this is not a good idea IMO.
 

Carrie B. (309)
Monday February 17, 2014, 9:45 pm
Information and opinions are not a good idea? Since when? This is in no way a HATE-FEST nor was ever intended as such.
 

Pamela W. (75)
Tuesday February 18, 2014, 6:31 am
Carrie ...... with all due respect, please READ my comment to you (thoroughly) and you will realize I never said that at all. I couldn't have been more explicit - and I even explained my reasons (the PREVIOUS article and what IT became) ...........
 
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