The Sober Truth Book – Lance Dodes
The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry
Lance M. Dodes, M.D. ,Zachary Dodes
I have just finished this book that came out this week, and would certainly recommend it to anybody who has any involvement with alcohol or other addiction, especially those whose idea of treatment is to simply enrol people in a 12 step program. It deals with the very sensitive subject of AA, which many people feel is a great institution, in a rational manner, by looking at the statistics which prove that it is not effective for the vast majority of people who try the method, dreamed up by Bill Wilson in the 1930’s. It shows how AA has grown on the back of evangelism and dubious recommendations, and how the treatment industry has been heavily influenced by followers of the 12 step world, which has resulted in many being given advice that has not helped them.
The book takes you through the history of AA, especially the early days. It talks about how Bill Wilson, had a vision of God that was very similar to something that his grandfather had claimed, while hallucinating on drugs, in a treatment centre. He talks about how the steps have moralised addiction, which is the wrong approach after they were taken from the rather Christian fundamentalist “Oxford group”, and are certainly not anything to do with treatment. He explains how stories of relapse from many of the original members, were kept from the “Big Book” and how AA even locked one member in a hotel room for several days to keep him sober, before he made a radio broadcast.
He goes on to show that despite the “Big Book” being ridiculed by the medical profession when it was first published, that AA was able to grow and become accepted as a solution, mainly due to evangelism of its members. he takes us through various studies and presents data that shows that AA is not effective for 90% of the people who try it and that it may also harm many. This was relevant to me as I suffered really bad depression, as did Bill Wilson when I went to AA, and I feel this was due to some of the advice I was given in the rooms. He rates AA as having a 5% to 10% success rate which would roughly be what I observed when I was a member, and was part of what made me decide to look elsewhere for a solution.
He breaks down many of the myths of AA and 12 step based treatment, such as it is best to treated by another alcoholic. (The best treatment I received was given by people who had years of medical training – not poorly trained AA members who had taken a short course in counselling, who could not see past the 12 steps). He talks about the lack of training of staff in treatment centres who are often more like AA sponsors, rather than psychologists and the lack of looking at the issues that are affecting an individual through proper analysis. He discusses the fact that alcoholism is not a disease or genetic, but why many in the treatment field have a lot to gain by pushing these theories , which have been disproved.
He includes the experiences of several ex members of AA, who felt that it was not a good solution and who have moved on, to live successful lives, despite the warnings that many in AA give you. People talk about advice being given to stop medication (this happened in my AA group) and controlling and predatory behaviour. He mentions that Bill Wilson was a womanizer and caused problems by 13 stepping which is the term used for predatory behaviour, which is often ignored in AA groups.
He points out that many who move away from AA do not have much of a voice compared to those who are evangelical about it in the press. He also points out the reasons that the minority of people who do like AA, after trying its methods, seem to think it is a universal solution. It is often being in a fellowship that helps, or taking action about recovery such as getting involved with newcomers, rather than the steps themselves, or the miraculous intervention of God. AA members tend to give AA and the steps as the reason for any success in stopping drinking, rather than anything they have done.
I hope this book will help many look at the recovery world in a new way, and that treatment methods can move on, from the faith healing and moralization, of a made up disease, that has become common practice thanks to those who are happy to push the 12 step world onto anyone who will listen. The likes of Dr Drew and his “celebrity rehab” program still push the old-fashioned ideas of AA despite several suicides, of the people who have followed these methods. America does have a history of producing strange religious groups, such as the Mormons, Scientology and many creationist groups that will always lobby against scientific progress or rational solutions to suit their own cause, which is something that many religions have done over time. I always felt AA was more about subjugation to God, rather than simply a recovery program, and this book has confirmed I was right to be wary of many of the claims that are made in the 12 step world.
I think we have to be really careful when pushing a solution that we may feel has worked for us onto others. We are not all the same and have different reasons for choosing to drink and get involved with drugs, which can result in addiction and other health issues. This book highlights many of the problems with the AA solution, which makes powerlessness a core part of its solution, which often adds to feelings of helplessness in many who suffer from addiction, resulting in a very poor outcome. AA simply blames any failure of one its members (about 97% do drink at some point in AA) on not following the program properly and then humiliate the “failure” by making then go back to day one again, even though a few blips are generally what happens in recovery. Breaking somebody is not often the best way to cure them!
Here is a link to the official book site http://sobertruthbook.com
Here is the author’s site http://www.lancedodes.com
Here is an earlier post by me which includes links to press articles https://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/sober-truth-debunking-bad-science-12-step-programs-rehab-industry/
Here is a link to Monica Richardson talking to Lance Dodes about the book and other recovery related issues. Monica was in AA for 36 years, but now campaigns for increased safety in AA after becoming aware of some unpleasant practices by AA members. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/saferecovery/2014/03/26/dr-lance-dodes-author-of-the-sober-truth