Skeptics in the Pub-AA and God
I went down to Portsmouth on Thursday, to see Jon who writes a leaving AA based blog, speak on the subject “Inside AA, can God cure alcoholics”. This took place in the Portsmouth Skeptics in the pub group, who are a friendly bunch of people, that have regular meetings, where somebody gives a talk about a subject that invites scepticism. I had not been to one of these meetings before, but they take place all over the country and look very interesting. I will hopefully attend a few more, and there are three groups in London.
Jon has similar views to me about AA, but stayed there a lot longer. He did work the steps in the normal AA manner, where as I did not complete them, after a disagreement with my last sponsor, who would not take me through the steps as I was taking antidepressants, and he felt they would interfere with the spiritual AA solution. I began to regard my sponsor as an idiot after listening to many of his ideas, and although I did meet many people who were rational in AA, there are also a lot of people with blind faith in the spiritual side of the 12 step program.
I thought Jon did a really good talk about the background of AA and how it grew from the religious “Oxford group” and how many feel it is “Divinely inspired”. He talked about how many people have been helped by attending AA, which are a huge amount compared to any other method, but pointed out that it probably down to being part of a peer support group, rather than anything to do with “Higher Powers” and “God”, which is the reason most in AA, give for their sobriety.
He spoke about how many in AA suffer from depression (as in other alcohol support groups), and how there is no solution in AA, other than spiritual ritual and prayer for dealing with it. He spoke about the way that sponsors are completely untrained to deal with many of the issues that can be brought up by people needing support, and mentioned specific examples. AA has not moved with the times, and many people have no idea that it is offering a “God based” solution.
He talked about how AA is not as effective as it could be, as it does not help people who are struggling with the programme, find rational solutions such as CBT support, or an introduction to the Sinclair Method. It basically tells you to come back when you are ready for a spiritual solution. This is something that I really have a problem with AA about. Jon talked about the out of date literature on offer at AA and the lack of change. I can remember looking at the scrolls, at the front of the second AA meeting I was in, reading all the God stuff, and then asking if there were other solutions for alcoholism, which did not go too well! I think many people who need help, simply walk away from recovery after seeing what AA offers, because they do not find out about the other solutions that may help them. People want help, not some crazy religion.
Jon talked about the “Sinclair Method”, which we both see as something that could help a lot of people, and that seemed to get a lot of interest. There did not appear to be other people who had heard of it and this is generally quite normal in the UK, as other approaches are stifled out by the large AA movement, that gets so much attention in traditional media. Many people really have problems staying abstinent in the 12 step program, yet no mention is made about a solution that is scientific, that can have great results. This is despite the passage in the “Big Book”, that says that one day science may find a solution. The solution has been found, but AA has become so religious and spiritual and held back by dogma, that it chooses to ignore something as important as the “Sinclair Method”, that could be seen as a failure on AA’s part to “always help and alcoholic”.
Jon will be doing another talk about “AA and God” in Lewes on the 22 April, and he is well worth hearing! I was reflecting on what he had said on the drive back to London, and thought about all the people I know in person who have moved on from AA, that I keep in contact with, as well as the few people I know who still attend. It struck me that they all have used other methods that are scientific based, at some point to beat addiction, rather that just rely on AA. You can see the difference in them as a result. They are well rounded individuals, who fit in with everyone in society. Many AA members who spend a lot of time in meetings and cannot hold a conversation without incorporating AA slogans, remind me of Mormons or Jehovah witnesses, with their “blissed out” expressions. They do not come across as rational members of society, and have made AA and its “Higher Power” their religion. Unfortunately this often leads to serious problems in the long term and probably explains why there are so few members in an average AA meeting, with a really long period of sobriety. Those that throw themselves into recovery, and use a variety of solutions to deal with the issues they face, seem to do well. Those who sit in meetings chanting slogans, sadly often end up as neurotic and fail to develop in life. They cannot put addiction behind them and sadly have to deal with it a day at a time.