Saturday, September 20, 2008

A.A. - Cult or Cure? Part II

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Over Eaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous...this list goes on and on. Hard core members of A.A. swear by the program citing the Twelve Steps as the be-all end-all for sobriety. But is A.A. itself responsible for the sobriety of the addicts and alcoholics who fade in and out of the organization?

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I believe A.A. is a powerful program that helps keep people sober. I have attended many meetings and functions that have helped my sobriety. I do not, however, credit it for giving me or for maintaining the healthier, happier life I now live, nor do I continue to attend meetings.

I do agree with the theory of the 'dry drunk'. (or the smokeless, powder less, pill-less addict) My belief is that while a person can get sober through sheer will-power, that doesn't bring any more happiness or fulfillment as a human. They are simply sober with no 'tools', or chemicals, to ease the pain of being human.

I owe my sobriety, and my life, to the changes I have made cognitively and spiritually, aided by in-patient rehab, ongoing therapy...and A.A. All of which had played a part in giving me the tools I needed to bring myself out of my head and into the world around me.

In the rooms of A.A. I have found, at times, peace and acceptance, blind faith, hypocrisy and little, if any, critical thinking: the same things I have found in organized religion. My intent here is not to bash or discredit A.A. My intent is to take an objective look at the program.

The AA GSO (Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Organization) has, for years, conducted surveys every three years. They count members and ask about length of sobriety. A document was published by the A.A. world services, for internal use only. (Document number 5M/12-90/TC) Below are the findings of those surveys showing staggering drop out and relapse rate of newcomers.

81% are gone (19% remain) after 1 month;
90% are gone (10% remain) after 3 months,
93% are gone (7% remain) after 6 months,
and 95% are gone (5% remain) at the end of one year.

Do these numbers add up to success?

The principles espoused by 12 Step Programs manifest in in such universals as The Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. Without listing all twelve steps here, the basic tenants are: realize there is something greater than yourself, adhere to rigorous honesty in all aspects of your life, admit when you're wrong, make amends whenever possible, take responsibility for your actions, get out of your own damn head in order to give back to others what you've taken and have gratitude for what you have in your life and the world around you.

Does lack of membership in any organization deem someone incapable of these qualities? Is A.A. the only way to come to this realization?

(to be continued...)
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