Tuesday, July 3, 2007

More Adventures in AA: Choose a higher being as you understand him, so long as it is our God

More adventures from AA. Seems my atheist friend was put into the position of having to choose a higher power. Having no gods at her disposal from which to choose, she chose a person, someone she respected very much, who had accomplished much in life, and could assist her in her recovery. It sounded like a novel approach to me, and one that could work. Not so said the AA people. Her higher power couldn't be a person, because "a person might turn on you, whereas God wouldn't".

Uh, can you say "worldwide flood"? You know, that loving act in Judeo/Christian tradition that has the One True God (tm) drowning every man, woman and child on earth, save the few lucky ones that got on the big boat. And isn't this the same god that promises to torment us on a lake of fire for all eternity if we do not accept that he came down in the form of man to die for our sakes to prevent him from condemning us all for something someone else did? Don't ask me, I didn't make this stuff up.

So I guess they need to change their steps. It's not "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him", but rather "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him, so long as that falls within the bounds arbitrarily chosen by AA."

For years I have been skeptical of the claims made by AA proponents as to its effectiveness. It seemed to me that many people didn't get well, they just substituted one dependent behavior (frequent meetings and catchy slogans like "progress, not perfection") for another. One can also peruse the Wikipedia entry on AA and look at many studies done on the 12-step program as well as other techniques. The evidence is inconclusive as to how effective the 12-step program is. In particular note the Project Match results, which compared the 12-step program to other treatment techniques and concluded:

"The conclusion of the research was that patient-treatment matching is not necessary in alcoholism treatment, because the three techniques were approximately equal in effectiveness...However overall success rates for all treatments were, and continue to be, less than spectacular. Based on information from Dr. Mark Willenbring of the NIAAA, Newsweek reported in their February 2007 issue that 'A year after completing a rehab program, about a third of alcoholics are sober, an additional 40 percent are substantially improved but still drink heavily on occasion, and a quarter have completely relapsed.'"

From my POV it is obvious why the 12-step program would not produce stellar recovery rates. If someone is told they are powerless to help themselves (which in general I agree with regard to addicts), and then told to turn their lives over to God, then they are essentially depending on themselves, which we already know won't work. Dressing it all up in God language doesn't change anything.

But the real tragedy is for people like my friend here. Eager to recover and willing to do what it takes, she's told she can't because she doesn't share the religious sympathies of the program facilitators. People like her have enough to overcome without being told they have to give up their thinking along with their drinking.


Anonymous said...

AA: Give up your thinking, along with your drinking.

I like it!

Unknown said...

A recent copy of Reader's Digest has a couple of articles on Alcoholics Anonymous. The crux of the articles is that the famous 12 Steps, don't work at all. Apparently, there's no data to support the claim that Alcoholics Anonymous is successful at getting people to stop drinking. For those of you who don't know, here they are [Alcoholics Anonymous]. From my own experience, the 12 Steps, shut down the critical thinking section of ones brain. What do you think? Comments are welcome!!