Sunday, July 24, 2005

Proof of the pudding...or the sauce, as it were?

It's interesting to me that almost every time I do a call-in show--and I've done more than 60 of them now--I'll hear from people who chastise me for my critical take on Alcoholics Anonymous. They'll swear by the role that AA has played in their lives, telling me that they still "fight the fight" every day, that even decades after their first AA visit, they still consider themselves alcoholics (or "drunks," to quote several of them). Just yesterday, a woman told me, "I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have that lifeline." And yet--as I've tried to gently point out once or twice--do they not see the paradox/irony of such remarks? Sure, it's possible that AA is correct: that alcoholism is indeed a crippling lifelong affliction that one never really escapes. But isn't it also possible that AA's approach to alcoholism is simply ineffective, and that's why these poor folks still feel locked into their addictions, and their unforunate self-image as "drunks," even 20, 30 years later? Does this not, just maybe, prove (or at least testify to) my point about self-help and helplessness?


We Be Bloggin at Recovery-Inn said...

I see that you as many are going to 12 step groups who do not have to go to your groups but I just wanted to post this for you since you feel you must.

The one thing I have found sincere about A.A. over many other ways I tried to get clean and sober was its humility when it came to having to blow out someone else's candles to make its shine brighter. Not having to begrudge anyone another way, and even when the recovery process is in action encouraging people to seek other areas to better their lives.

When anyone comes in and wants to debate this program that has saved millions I take it as a compliment. What better way to toot your own horn than to take the most popular recovery group in the world on? If another program works I will be interested in checking in out when it on its own merit , not bashing another shows that it has merit in how it works.

Many have tried, and still try to gain attention from going to A.A. or 12 step related groups to prove themselves. The great fact is we just plain do not have to justify what works for us...isn't that freedom?? betcha...

Anonymous said...

To use the word Sham and Alcholics Anonymous in the same venue is disgraceful.

Our network wonders...why are you going to 12 step groups that are clearly for those who want to be there since we do not seek out anyone and try to put us down? How about going after groups that go out and take money in the name of religion, and or these rehabs that do what A.A. does for free for $30,000 a pop? Why are you insisent to drop kick someone who does not bother anyone? That is the real question here.

Good luck..if Rationale Recovery did not make it after years of invading our sites you better have more than transmitting something you do not have, and that is a clue.

Steve Salerno said...

First of all, thank you for posting. Remember that it is my hope--my SINCERE hope--to get a meaningful give-and-take going here. Second, I have no problem with people who feel that a given program "works for them." If AA has kept you (or someone you love) clean and sober, that is a wonderful achievement. The problem is the lack of evidence, in any kind of scientific format, that proves that AA works for the *majority* of people who try it. (Keep in mind that there are people who swear they were cured via faith healing. I interviewed several of them in writing my book.) And that's the key point here. With alcoholism (and drug abuse, and other related conditions) being as serious a problem as they are (to the tune of several billion dollars per year in direct costs and lost productivity), we need to KNOW what our best options are. All of the research I did for my book tells me that (a) we have no such body of knowledge about AA, other than the sorts of anecdotal success stories you describe, and (b) AA has consistently fought any attempts to scrutinize its methods or its so-called cure rate. In addition, there is a great deal of evidence that AA has played fast and loose with many of the numbers it does use. (The head of NIH's alcoholism unit admitted as much to me.) I am not trying to attack anyone, offend anyone, or even hurt anyone's feelings. I am simply asking one of the questions that motivated me to write my book in the first place: Don't YOU want to know--for sure--what works? Suppose you went to a surgeon and asked him for a thorough explanation of the science behind the procedure he planned to perform on your child, and also for his success rate, and he replied, "Well, it's a mystical thing, you just have to trust it." You'd turn around and walk right out the door, and you know it. But when it comes to AA (and many other forms of self-help) we don't do that. Why not?

bill said...

Interesting comment Steve. Tony Robbins also had similar comments. Does this mean he is in good company or vice versa?

We Be Bloggin at Recovery-Inn said...

Thank you for replying. I am curious at a few of the things you claim in your response however.
1. What is your basis for saying A.A. has fought anyone about our recovery rate? Who are these people that we are debating with and where?
2. The program does work. Do you believe that if it did not after 50 years the rooms would still be going stronger than ever? Something like a meeting somewhere in the world every 5 minutes. Now this is fact of those registered and there are many more at people's homes that are not.
3. You said you interview a few of them, a few of who? If someone drank again that has no bearing on Alcoholics Anonymous. No one including A.A. can force a drink down your throat of one away from it if you want a drink.
4. A.A. does not claim it has any monopoly on sobriety. It shows people a way, maybe another way for some or mabye even the majority who knows? No one. Drinking is only a symptom do stopping is not A.A.'s main purpose , its staying stopped, most alcoholics have stopped over and over but could not stay stopped for any length of time.

What consitutes success? Those who do not make it? There are probably no exagerations hundreds of thousands who did meetings, and now do not drink as a result of learning about thier alcholism and working the steps. No where other than members making up thier own rules for sobriety in the Big Book or 12 and 12 does it say you have to do meetings forever. So the statistics can never be estimated only the rate of those who failed. And I say failed again as no one forces anyone to drink. For those of us who are real alcoholics our roads get real narrow and the last house on the block after all the self help books, rehabs, jails and institutions we end up back sick as hell in a A.A. meeting. We all have tried anything but working on ourselves and the program is not easy. Its simple but not easy and most people at first balk. But I see the people every day that come in in worse and worse shape until they surrender to maybe we know a little about drunks..we are them you know. So anyone who is not alcoholic is like talking to a person of color who is not that color in my opinion ..ignorant and trying to solve mysteries without any clues.

We pride ourselves on not winning any awards or getting rich off of what we have to give. And again if others choose to use what works for millions to do whatever it is they are doing that is ok also, its just my opinion that A.A. is a enormous target of opportunity. And that this is a life and death condition that sooner or later maybe to late the person just may find a seat here with their name on it that works.

I am one of those people who do not do meetings anymore, and my life is pretty good today as A.A. gave me a new design for living without chemistry sets. It showed me why, and how. The rest is icing on the cake. I have seen hundreds just on my side of it get a life that is pretty close to a modern miracle. Its something that the layman will never understand, or maybe even people who think they are alcoholic and really were not at all.

Thanks for the opportunity to share on your blog. I read a few of the other articles and had to laugh as you have found your calling..just hope its what makes your heart happy/