The press and other news media have for years left AA alone or reported only slanted bias positive articles showing only what is perceived as the good side of AA and ignoring the rest.

This has led to a public perception that is not based on the full story.

They are based on Propaganda and out and out lies.

These stories are so hard to find, Why?  Don't we have a Free Press any more or did we really ever have one?

Today we have the Internet and I hope it will bridge the Great Divide.

We have so much Propaganda and Out and Out Lies being printed about AA that our free press is promoting the largest Religious Cult in the world and almost everyone is afraid to speak out.

Here are some exceptions.

Here you get to get a glimpse of the truth.


We need more Articles


To reprint of any articles you will need the permission the author because these articles are copyrighted by the author.  Thanks to the author for giving permission to put these articles on this web page.


Now that the party's over...
Jack Marx

Jack Marx

Alcoholism: Busting the AA Monopoly
by "John"

Now that the party's over...
Jack Marx

January 01, 2005

With the festive season behind us and resolutions to consider, a few people may be considering kicking the bottle, and for the more serious drinkers AA is the only known path - the 20th Century medical marvel whose results place the fellowship beyond recrimination. But before you step into that blasted scout hall, read this.

In November of 1999, the US Supreme Court ruled that atheist drink-driver Robert Warner had been “denied his constitutional rights” when he was forced, as a condition of his probation, to attend the “deeply religious” meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a bitter judgement for AA, a movement which, since its inception in the 1930s, has successfully battled the stigma of religion and thus enjoyed a level of legitimacy in the public mindset not usually afforded to churches.

The damage controllers had barely convened in April 2000 when Audrey Kishline, co-founder of “alternative to AA” therapy group Moderation Management, killed a man and his 12-year-old daughter while driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. The tragedy might have been a public-relations triumph for AA had it occurred a few months earlier - in January, after successfully moderating her drinking for nearly a decade, Kishline had shocked her peers and supporters by suddenly denouncing MM and converting to the AA program.

As Kishline took the witness stand, and the abstinence-verses-moderation debate found popular forum, unsavoury news arrived from across the Atlantic: an internal AA General Service memo containing information of an extremely delicate nature had been faxed to a wrong number. The receivers made good use of the document – July 5 was a slow news day at the Glasgow Herald.

"There appears to be a growing number of cases around the country of police (and other agency involvement) in allegations of unlawful sexual conduct by AA members," the memo revealed. “There is a small minority of men and women who operate with sick but hidden agendas, and…seek self-gratification, often at the expense of other members or potential members."

The memo concluded with startling candour: AA, it warned, had the "potential to become a breeding ground for predatory behaviour".
By the end of the year, American self-help bookshelves, once dominated by tomes spouting AA and 12-step therapy wisdom, became home for ideas that only months before had seemed like heresy: Marianne Gillian’s How Alcoholics Anonymous Failed Me, Ken Ragge’s The Real AA, Charles’s Bufe’s AA: Cult or Cure? and Stanton Peele’s The Diseasing of America, prodigiously sub-titled: How We Allowed Recovery Zealots and the Treatment Industry to Convince Us We Are Out of Control. Alcoholics Anonymous, the self-proclaimed “20th century miracle”, staggered into the new millennium under siege.

“It’s like any religion,” says Dr. Stanton Peele, a New York psychologist and undoubtedly AA‘s most vociferous medical critic. “If it works for you, then fine. Plenty of people go to church on Sundays, they’ve been doing it for years and I don’t have a problem with that. But in America, AA is institutionalised. We have a 12 step Government whose courts are sending people to AA as a form of policy. It’s medically wrong and ethically reprehensible and completely against our constitution. And I have a big problem with that.”

Jack Trimpey, the 60-year-old Californian founder of anti-12-step therapy group Rational Recovery, is even less diplomatic.
“It’s a dangerous…religious…cult,” he says, dumping the words like burdensome sacks he’s been carrying around for years, “and one that has become a potent political force because of its uncanny ability to present a pious exterior. The truth is, these people are hucksters with carney mentalities, and what they’re selling you is absolution from moral responsibility, which in turn absolves them of theirs.”

While Peele and Trimpey form the vanguard in the American rebellion against AA, they are by no means drinking buddies. They openly dislike each other (Trimpey regularly refers to Peele as “Dr Beast at Large”, Peele to “Jack’s inability to play with others”), and their respective agendas are so different as to be hostile.

For Peele, author of several scientifically applauded books on addiction, AA is flawed therapy whose hymnal supplication to the “disease” and “denial” concepts and ironclad edict of abstinence spell disaster not just for those who seek help, but those who seek to provide it. The solutions to addiction are mercurial as addiction itself, and Peele sees AA’s refusal to acknowledge this as tantamount to malpractice.

“If you go to a hospital and you say you’re sick,” he says, “they’ll give you penicillin or something. If it doesn’t work for you and you don’t get better, they won’t keep plying you with penicillin – they’ll try something else, then something else again until you’re well. In AA, if you say the treatment isn’t working for you they tell you that you’re the problem, not the treatment, and that your ‘denial’ of the treatment is a symptom of the ‘disease’ and you therefore need AA even more. It’s this crazy kind of all-or-nothing attitude with 12-step therapy that is actually setting us all back.”

Trimpey, something of a moral crusader by contrast, cares little for the adventures of medical science, which knows “exactly zero about addiction”. He cares even less for those who hand over responsibility for their addiction to AA and thus “deserve all the mistreatment and misguidance they will get”. For Trimpey, himself a former addict, it’s a simple matter of “taking control of one’s hands and feet” and not doing that which is “plainly stupid”.

“The founding principle of AA is: ‘we are powerless over the desire to get shitfaced drunk! We are exempt from the moral standards that apply to all others, because we are alcoholics.’ That’s just stupid, and there is no justification for calling stupidity a disease.”

One instinctively feels Trimpey’s explosive declarations should be treated with caution; they have that soapbox ring to them. At the same time, in an argument beleaguered with bickering doctors, fragile theories, flaky statistics, loose-limbed hypotheses and bubbling beakers of psychobabble, the vulcanised simplicity of a Trimpey analogy seems to sledge through confusion like the original blunt instrument.

“I always ask people to try to imagine that initial meeting between Bill Wilson and Bob Smith,” says Trimpey, referring to AA's founding fathers. “One says, ‘You know, just between you and me I can’t stop drinking.’ And then the other says, ‘Well, you know what? Neither can I.’ ‘Well, I tell you what: I’ll watch you if you watch me.’ ‘OK, because I sure can’t trust myself.’ So they look over each other’s shoulder, taking responsibility for each other’s behaviour rather than their own conduct, and they call the whole thing a disease. Now, whatever else was discussed in that meeting, whatever grew from that initial spark of an idea, is the product of a perverse mentality of moral irresponsibility taking place between a doctor and a stockbroker who are both, by their own definitions, constitutionally derelict.”

When New York stockbroker Bill Wilson and proctologist Bob Smith sat down in Akron, Ohio, in 1935 and promised each other they’d never drink again, they gave birth to the single most famous lay-treatment in the history of the world. Its doctrine, mapped in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (1939) was simple enough: stay sober “one day at a time”, attend meetings regularly, methodically ascend the “Twelve Steps of AA” and the house will not only stay dry, but be spiritually renovated.

And therein lay the catch: “recovery” could only be possible when one put one’s life “in God’s hands” and followed “the dictates of a higher power”. A “daily reprieve” was all that was promised (“we are never cured of alcoholism”), contingent on the daily prayer: "How can I best serve Thee, Thy will (not mine) be done." For the “spiritually sick” alcoholic, it was clear this would be no trivial conversion.

And where the spirit was weak, the flesh was ailing: alcoholism was “an illness” of “mind and body”, a “fatal malady” as unfathomable to medical science as it was to the individual unfortunate enough to fall prey to the “hopelessness of alcoholism”.
“Doctors are rightly loath to tell alcoholic patients the whole story,” said the Big Book, and thus “many are doomed who never realise their predicament”.

The “disease concept” was not new – Dr Benjamin Rush, a founder of the Temperance movement, had tabled it as early as 1784 in Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits on the Human Mind and Body – but it was far from accepted, with a 1943 poll by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research showing only six per cent of Americans believing alcoholism to be anything other than lousy behaviour. The success of AA as both a treatment for the individual and a movement to be taken seriously would require a successful mutiny against accepted scientific and public opinion.

In 1944, Marty Mann, a professional publicist who became the “first woman to stay sober in AA”, organised the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), the public-relations arm of AA “resolved,” as Mann herself declared, “to let America know that alcoholism is a disease.”

According to the official NCADD history:
"She knew it would be an enormous undertaking that would need the support of an established academic institution so she turned to her friends at Yale University where E.M. Jellinek--father of the modern disease concept--and some of the most progressive minds in the country had been working to transform alcoholism from a moral problem into a public health issue."

It was a tidy quid pro quo: Mann offered Jellinek “the public relations skills she had developed while working at Macy's department store” in exchange for “the support of an established academic institution.”

This uneasy relationship, in which supply and demand seemed to travel like a secret code between the two parties, resulted in Jellinek’s papers, "Phases in the Drinking History of Alcoholics” (1946) and “Phases of Alcohol Addiction," carried in the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol in 1946 and 1952 respectively. Both were widely publicised (a 1957 Roper poll yielded a healthy 58 per cent in favour of the “disease concept”) and by the time he published his seminal work, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism in 1960, Jellinek had given Mann her rebellion, as well as a place for himself at the scientific table (alcohol science's most prestigious annual prize, the "Jellinek Memorial Award," commonly known as “The Bunky”, is presented each year in the U.S. for outstanding research in the alcohol field).

There had always been doubters within the medical community, but the first public criticism of AA to be widely distributed appeared in Harpers Magazine in January 1963. Under the headline “Alcoholics Can Be Cured – Despite AA”, Dr A. H. Cain, himself an ex-member of the Fellowship, claimed AA had become “a dogmatic cult” and urged “a thorough investigation of Alcoholics Anonymous in the interest of our public health”. A few months later, Bill Wilson, addressing the AA General Service Conference in New Jersey, coaxed titters of amusement when responding to the controversy:

“It is a mark of maturity on our part that members of the Fellowship seem to have been less disturbed by the critical article than our non-alcoholic friends have been."

With that comment, Alcoholics Anonymous turned a corner: there was something patronising in Wilson’s allusion, a self-satisfied purr in his reference to “our non-alcoholic friends” and their inability to stay cool under pressure. Suddenly, it seemed, AA members were being invited by the Fellowship’s founding father to view themselves not so much as damaged individuals forced to seek repair, but as Fellows of an enlightened elite – indeed, a “higher power”- that dwelled somewhere above the Pickwickian lumpenmasse.

But it was the unstoppable “self-help” phenomenon of the 70s and 80s that truly engaged AA with the Zeitgeist. This neurotic epoch, characterised by the logically burlesque notion of the “self-help group”, saw twelve-step therapy – a wisdom designed specifically for people with alcohol dependency – franchised from one notional asylum to the next, ‘assisting’ everyone from victims of rape to those with an unhealthy enthusiasm for community arts projects: Narcotics Anonymous, Over-Eaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Shoplifters Anonymous, Suicide Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous, Parents Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Molesters Anonymous, Abortion Survivors Anonymous, Addicted Jews In Recovery Anonymous, Homosexuals Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous, Dollars Anonymous, Fear of Success Anonymous, Media Anonymous, Shame Anonymous, Vulgarity Anonymous, Professional Artists Anonymous and, for those who may feel suffocated by so much anonymity, Fellowships Anonymous and Recoveries Anonymous. These groups – just a sample of hundreds - are neither inventions nor parodies, but actual twelve-step organisations (the addresses and phone numbers of which can be found on the Internet today).

If proof was required that AA and its doctrines had been warmly received by society at large, here it was at last, the ultimate evidence of embrace: AA and 20th century culture had reproduced, the names of their offspring fluttering from community noticeboards all over the world.

“It’s an evangelical movement about saving souls,” says Dr James Bell, a Sydney physician who specialises in addiction. “You can look at it as an intelligent, well thought-out approach to people with alcohol problems, but the underlying motif is still recovery through spiritual enlightenment.”

Bell, former director of Sydney’s Langton Centre, has seen many addicts come and go – and come again, for “none of the treatments we have today are terribly good.

“But AA is not a treatment and shouldn’t be regarded as anything to do with treatment,” he says. “It tends to be very confronting: ‘I can do it, therefore you can do it.’ In a lot of people that actually generates some antagonism and feelings of failure. It confirms their badness for them. The approach that most professionals would argue is more appropriate is a much more accepting, non-judgemental approach whereby one works with someone to try and find out what’s going on, rather than to set up two black and white alternatives.”

One of the most worrying examples of AA’s dogmatism can be heard in any one of the city’s remaindered halls every evening: the gateway to Chapter Five of The Big Book, read aloud at the opening of most AA meetings:

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.”

“Terribly judgemental!” says Bell. “That’s like saying, ‘If you’re a loser, it won’t work for you’. Despite the overtly non-judgemental design of AA – the belief that alcoholism is a disease, that it’s not a matter of guilt – there remains this spectre of, ‘You’re getting this one chance and, if you don’t take it, then you’re basically a very flawed person with some serious character defects.’
“Like many evangelical movements, AA has become a victim of its own excesses in terms of fundamentalism. And fundamentalism is a narrow church, a church of blacks and whites. Of course, life is full of greys and soft edges and tolerance and forbearance and humour, all of which are conspicuously lacking in a world of fundamentalist zeal.”

That AA is a religious movement is a truth so self-evident it’s a wonder debate still exists. References to “God” – a proper noun always – appear in The Big Book 136 times, with a further 348 references to “Him”. Prayers ride on language more suited to the King James Bible than a manuscript from post-Volstead New York:
"God, I offer myself to Thee - to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will…Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!"

Chapter Four, entitled "We Agnostics", goes to pains to reassure the “anti-religious” that the higher power need only be “God as you understand him”, then very clearly refers to agnosticism as “prejudice”, experienced pre-recovery by the authors who “often found ourselves handicapped by obstinacy” before “casting aside such feelings” to become “open-minded on spiritual matters”.

“We hope,” says The Big Book, “no one else will be prejudiced for as long as some of us were.”

It’s a persistent theme in AA, the notion that any feeling or thought that may arise within the mind of a newcomer – no matter how complex or wrought by individual experience – is already notorious to the Fellowship. The new AA member is thus a thoroughly predictable unit, whose doubts or reservations about any aspect of the Fellowship can be dismissed as products of a monstrous symptom of early recovery – a psychological bogeyman made famous in the 1960s by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: “denial”.

“There is no such thing as denial,” declares Jack Trimpey. “Problem drinkers always know they’re problem drinkers, which is why they go, often quite trustingly, to AA in the first place. Denial is a semantic ratchet with which to wrench people into AA and keep them there. And let’s not forget it’s also a tool with which they forgive themselves. They say, ‘For the 29 years that I drank outrageously, spending my family’s money on alcohol to the tune of $300 a week while my kids didn’t have any shoes, I was unaware!’ Their ‘denial’, which is a ‘symptom’ of the ‘disease’, becomes the medical absolution of moral culpability.”

An example, no less typical for being asinine, can be found in the Rutgers University doctoral dissertation of Dr Janet Woititz, author of the bestselling Adult Children of Alcoholics (1990). Attempting to show that children of alcoholics benefited from 12-step programs, Woititz in fact found that those who attended Alateen had significantly lower self-esteem than those who did not. Finding her own evidence somewhat burdensome, Woititz concluded that "the non-Alateen children are still in the process of denial."

The dangers of this type of thinking should be palpable to anyone familiar with the controversy surrounding “Repressed Memory Syndrome” in the 80s and 90s.

But such criticisms of AA and 12-step therapy are primarily cosmetic. One might just as well cite the maddeningly infinite list of slogans with their cheap, meaningless magic (“Live simply so that others can simply live!”), or the inherently tedious biographical tales of inebriated excess (every bit as engaging in a scout hall as they are in a pub) as reason enough to stay away.

The crucial questions about AA that beg to be answered are “does AA work?” and “does AA do harm?” Another must precede both of these questions: “Can we trust our information?” Unfortunately, while the answer to that question might not be a definitive “no”, it certainly isn’t “yes”.

“The whole notion of AA belongs to a different realm of discourse to the realm of empirical science,” says Bell. “It’s not about evidence, as in controlled trials or statistical analyses. It’s about testimony.”

After over a century of attempted identification, the disease known as alcoholism remains quite the phantom. While almost all human ailments, from cancer to constipation, can be accurately diagnosed using blood tests, biopsies, scans or any number of invasive physical examinations, alcoholism – by any other name – exists only in the testimony of the sufferer. And verbal testimony constitutes wayward science at the best of times, let alone when the witness may be little more than a ventriloquist dummy for the types of psychopathology commonly associated with alcoholism: paranoia, self-loathing, delusion, or, indeed, “denial”.

Ironically enough, the futility of this situation is no more strikingly evident than in the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST), a diagnostic questionnaire developed by Melvin Selzer, M.D. in 1971 and still widely used today. Question #8 of the test, for which an affirmative answer rates extremely high marks, is: “Have you ever attended a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous?” Which is surely akin to ascertaining whether someone is dead by asking them if they have ever attended their own funeral.

So what of Jellinek’s famous “disease” papers? How did one man do in the 1940s that which nobody has seemed capable of doing since? Ron Roizen PhD, a doctor of sociology from the Berkeley University of California, has spent the better part of 30 years studying the social history of post-repeal America.

“Jellinek's data came from a survey he did not design,” he says. “It was generated by Marty Mann and distributed to AA members through its newsletter, The Grapevine.” Not being of scientific stock, Mann approached Jellinek and asked that he process the data into scientifically acceptable form. Jellinek did his best – of the 158 questionnaires returned, many, he discovered, had been answered by groups of Fellowship members who had pooled and averaged their responses, and no questionnaires from women were used at all.

“In the paper itself,” says Roizen, “there is a fascinating introduction in which you see the apologetic nature of Jellinek – not apologetic towards Mann, but towards his scientific audience - for the fact that he’s dealing with such crappy data.”

Before his death in 1963, Jellinek would state that "…Alcoholics Anonymous have naturally created the picture of alcoholism in their own image."

In 1996, Roizen noticed that one of the Jellinek’s early papers was signed "E.M. Jellinek, Sc.D. (Hon.)", the parenthetical "Hon." indicating that his doctorate was honorary rather than earned – “a specification which magically disappeared from later papers”.

Curious, Roizen obtained a copy of Jellinek’s curriculum vitae from the Historical Register of Yale University, as well as a later-in-life c.v. Jellinek had given to Stanford University. The two documents did not match, with Jellinek completing degrees and doctorates almost simultaneously at an assortment of universities from Europe to Central America.

“Let’s just say,” says Roizen, “that if Jellinek’s c.v. was a piece of evidence in a court of law, if someone had prodded it, it wouldn’t have stood up.”

Further investigation of the student transcripts from University Registrars at Berlin and Liepzig Universities – the two solid entries on both c.v.s - reveals that Elvin Morton Jellinek did not even complete a degree, but had, in fact, been dropped from University rolls for failure to attend lectures or take classes. His subject preferences displayed a taste for linguistics.
The “father of the disease model of alcoholism” was, in anyone’s language, a fraud.

"It is now clear,” wrote Nick Heather and Ian Robertson in Problem Drinking, “that the disease perspective was not based on any sound scientific knowledge but on the folk wisdom of alcoholics and their helpers, on hearsay, myth, tradition, rumour and ex cathedra pronouncements of prominent alcoholics and alchologists.”

One of the the world's most respectable studies regarding the value of AA is that detailed in The Natural History of Alcoholism (1993) by Dr George E. Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The book is based on a 40-year study of about 600 men from two “social groups” – a college group and an “inner-city” group - along with 100 men and women from Vaillant’s own Cambridge Mass. Clinic. Vaillant’s extraordinary efforts produced a dense and baffling forest of data, but two important results stand out: more than half of the alcoholics in the inner city group “naturally evolved” out of their drinking problems without the assistance of treatment, while 95 per cent of the patients treated at Vaillant’s own clinic, where AA attendance was compulsory, had relapsed in the eight-year period following treatment, showing no greater progress than comparable groups of untreated alcoholics.

Vaillant’s findings – all the more credible for the fact they present evidence that counters Vaillant’s own interests - seemed to support the gloomy statistics revealed at the 1989 Triennial Alcoholics Anonymous Membership Survey, which stated that only five per cent of newcomers continued with the Fellowship past the first year, with a 50 per cent dropout within 30 days.

“There is compelling evidence,” writes Vaillant, “that the results of our treatment were no better than the natural history of the disease.” Sensationally, Vaillant goes on to warn the recovery community "not to interfere with the recovery process," for “it may be easier for improper treatment to retard recovery than for proper treatment to hasten it."

“Anything that has the power to do good also has the power, one must assume, to do harm,” says Dr Bell. “For me, one of the serious concerns about AA is the notion that sobriety is absolute – that you’re either recovering or you’re a drunk, even when you’re not drinking. This has a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophesy for many people, who may have been sober for a while and then one day – perhaps because they’re simply finding things a bit stressful or whatever – they have a drink. In the support of the movement they’ve accepted the all-or-nothing notion that you’re either saved or you’re lost, and so they say, ‘Oh, hell, I’ve relapsed, I’m on the outer again.’ In that situation the acceptance of AA and all of its slogans can make the catastrophe of the relapse greater for the individual.”

In their 1990 study, The Quantification of Drug Caused Morbidity and Mortality in Australia, Holman and Armstrong found that 21 per cent of all alcohol-related deaths were the result of suicide. While we can only speculate on how many of those lives ended themselves because of alcohol, Stephen Jurd, director of the Herbert Street Clinic in North Sydney for Alcohol and Drug Abuse and a staunch supporter of AA, hints at an area where the answer may be found:
“The one thing that’s actually wrong with AA, particularly in Australia, is that you can go to meetings every day for six months, be a hard worker, get to know everybody, stack the chairs up at the end of the meetings, stop going and nobody calls you. The follow-up is inadequate.”

Which is not to say that AA should be hauled in for questioning; simply that it has a responsibility that extends beyond the warmth of the Fellowship. Having successfully sold itself to the world, it should now be willing to participate in, rather than blithely dismiss, any investigation into the impact it has on the community. Testimonials from satisfied customers tell us – according to AAs own figures – only five per cent of the story.

“There is a tremendous cost from the many downsides of 12-step groups,” says Stanton Peele. “And if a treatment not only doesn’t treat the problem but gives you a whole new set of problems again, then hey, buddy, it’s a bad treatment.”

Jack Trimpey, in his own way, concurs.

“You put thirty people in a room called Sex Addicts Anonymous, thirty people, men and women, standing up one by one and saying, ‘You know what? I just can’t say no!’ then I’ll tell you what; somebody’s going to leave with an erection.”

Australia was quick to jump on the AA wagon (the first AA meeting in Australia was held in Rydalmere in 1945) and while the movement here is strong, it is only a shadow of the institution it remains in the US. Australia does not have the same evangelical tradition as America, a legacy, perhaps, of being founded by convicts rather than by pilgrim fathers.

However, Australia’s resistance to evangelical fundamentalism is likely to change.

In 1998, John Howard responded to community anxiety over the rise of heroin addiction by launching the Australian National Council on Drugs, installing as Chairman Major Brian Watters of the Salvation Army. His second in charge was a policeman.

When in July 2000, Howard announced the establishment of the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation foundation, $115 million over 4 years was directed towards “community-based education and rehabilitation projects”, on “advice from the Australian National Council on Drugs”. Much of this funding has gone towards faith-based treatment approaches, almost all incorporating a 12-step approach. With the rise of Drug Courts, young people on drug charges are regularly sentenced to rehabilitation in faith-based treatment programs.

Unlike the situation in America, where there are constitutional restraints on public funding for evangelical groups, Australians are unlikely to win the support of the High Court if they object to being forced to engage in evangelical treatment.

Our hunger for conspicuous heroes, combined with a growing frontline of “fundamentalist zeal”, is bound to provide more ‘solutions’ to ‘problems’ than much-needed answers to questions.

And there’s no point in waiting for answers to come from America.
Languishing in her prison cell in the United States, Audrey Kishline released a contrite statement that ended with a startling admission:

“When I failed at moderation, and then failed at abstinence, I was too full of embarrassment and shame to seek help.”

Stacia Murphy, president of the NCADD, responded:

“It’s a pity this terrible tragedy could not have been avoided by Audrey realising this much sooner.

“Unfortunately, the disease of alcoholism, which is characterised by denial, prevented this from occurring.”

Jack Marx



This is another article by Jack Marx Sour Grapes



Jack Marx

Many years ago I became concerned enough about my drinking to attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. From the moment I stepped out of the meeting and onto the street, I felt it had worked something of a miracle on me, the type of miracle the movement is famous for. Many years later, I stepped out of an AA meeting onto the exact same street, determined, as I am today, never to return. What happened in between is a drawn-out rendering of that day in my youth when I decided, after six violent hours of bruising bones and feeling like a loser, that there was no shame in admitting that riding a horse was not for me – especially when the horse itself was a thug.

AA, as a doctor once told me, is “an evangelical movement about saving souls”. At its core it has a good heart – it wants to save people from their demons. But, as with the death penalty, McCarthyism, the Conquistadors and other such crusades against evil, the pious ambitions of AA make the movement blind to its own hooliganism. As disinterested in individuality as the SS, and unaccountable for its actions as the KKK, AA preaches, bullies and lies to achieve its ends, and it does so with all the righteous impunity of a secret sect. Unlike other religious cults, however, AA’s victims are those who escape from its grip and return to society, their brains so laundered by fundamentalist claptrap that a glass of beer can take on the menace of a loaded pistol. That I eluded such a fate myself is thanks to nothing but sheer good luck – those not as fortunate as I can’t tell us about it, their stools at the bars and chairs in AA inhabited by new people entirely disinterested in tales of the dead ones who went before them.

AA began in 1935 when New York stockbroker Bill Wilson and proctologist Bob Smith agreed to hand over responsibility for their sobriety to each other. Their personal triumph over booze was documented in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (1939), still worshiped by the fellowship as the Islamite does the Koran. Six decades later and the basic principles of AA haven’t changed at all; go to meetings as often as you can, follow the “12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous” and you’ll get sober.

Before I stepped into AA I was in undoubtedly in strife. I’d become a slave to booze and was drinking against my will. I’d wake each morning and plead with myself not to do it again, the afternoon finding me with a beer in my hand, as if the morning and all its thoughts had been a mere dream between drinks. One half of my life was out of control, and AA was the only door I knew. It didn’t occur to me that I might benefit from visiting a doctor, an error that grinds at me to this day.
At my first AA meeting I was asked to “share”, to stand in front of the crowd, declare myself an alcoholic and tell my own pathetic tale. This I did, squirting a few as I went, and the evening ended like a scene straight out of Fight Club, with warm embraces and encouraging words. From a distance, it’s easy to be cynical about such stuff, but after so long of feeling like I harboured an embarrassing secret, to be welcomed not in spite of that secret but because of it was a relief one really has to experience to fully appreciate. That I remained completely sober for the next ten months is testament to the power of the moment.

I learned a lot from AA in that first year. I learned that alcoholism was not just lousy behaviour, but “a disease”, recognised as such by the World Health Organization. I learned that most of my friends were alcoholics and didn’t know it. I learned that AA, with a success rate of over 70 per cent, was the only proven way to stay sober, that the medical profession knew next to nothing about alcoholism, and that there were no drugs invented that could help us. I learned that drinking in moderation was impossible for me, and that willpower was useless, the “disease of alcoholism” born of spiritual delinquency. My salvation could only come from a radical transformation of my personality, which would occur once I had ascended the 12 Steps and “handed my will over to God”.

Most importantly, I learned that any doubts I had about any of this – any reservations I may have harboured about whether I really belonged in AA – were naught but symptoms of the disease. “Denial”, they called it, and alcoholics were always in it. My great uncle stopped drinking of his own free will the day he was married and never touched another drop. He, AA revealed to me, was a “dry drunk”, “in denial” of his need for AA till the day the old sucker died. And to think I worshiped him once upon a time…

Looking back, I can see that I had problems with AA right from the first meeting – a lot of what I was hearing struck me as good old-fashioned, five-star bigotry. But I was sick, nervous and worried, and when you’re hanging from the edge of a building you don’t care if it’s Hitler who extends his hand. You’ll do him the courtesy of listening to his horseshit if it means he’s not going to let go.

So that’s what I did for nearly five years. I tried, as members often advised me, to “take what you need and leave the rest”. I turned a deaf ear to the daggy desk-calendar wisdom, the smarmy new-age sloganeering, the rogue hard-liners who’d corner you outside the meeting and tick you off for not attending regularly enough. Like many other “recoverers”, I relapsed and relapsed again, returning each time to AA more desperate and confused than before. And I noticed something else, too; my drinking mind had become suicidal. Where once I had woken each morning with a hangover the size of Belgium and little else besides, I was now waking with a sense of complete hopelessness and unsalvageable remorse, the words of the Big Book in my head:
“Those who do not recover are…men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates…they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average.”

And, of course, there was this “God” business, the central creed of AA that says I must, whether I like it or not, have faith in a “higher power”. The fellowship went to pains to assure me that this deity need simply be “God as you understand him”, a force I recognised to be greater than my own. As one member suggested, “God for you can be the bus that goes past the bottle shop without stopping”, and for a while I took that on board. But after a few months of praying to public transport I feared I was developing problems that not even AA could fix.

One night, the duplicity of AA became impossible for me to ignore any longer. A 30-something fellow got up and told of how he kept bumping into his old drinking buddies. “I see them in the street,” he said, “with their cool clothes and their fancy cars and their spunky girlfriends on their arms, and I think to myself, ‘Yeah, yeah…see you in AA!’”

As this utterance stirred howls of self-satisfied laughter from the brethren, I realised what a blind delusion AA was after all. Here we were in some miserable scout hall at 8pm on a Friday night, dipping stale shortbread into styrene cups of International Roast, listening to bore after bore and their monotonous drinking stories, and we were ‘the enlightened’, we were the champions. What utter rot. In a city swinging with music and dancing and laughter and boys and girls falling in love, we were the big losers, and anyone who didn’t realise that was in denial alright.

I began to question my involvement with this crowd, and in the next year or so, with naught but a telephone and the library to guide me, I did a little research into where I’d been spending my evenings.

Alcoholism is not a disease, and the World Health Organisation has never declared that it is. The “disease concept of alcoholism” was popularised by E.M. Jellinek, a doctor of questionable credentials who was hired by AA in the 1940s to tell the world what the fellowship wanted it to hear. AA’s success was nowhere near 70 per cent, the most reliable figures (from the 1989 Triennial Alcoholics Anonymous Membership Survey, in fact) showed that only five per cent of members remained in the fellowship beyond one year, and what happened to the rest was anyone’s guess. I learned that medical science had discovered a great deal about addiction since the 1930s, and that had I gone to a doctor instead of AA all those years ago, I might have been prescribed Campral, or Antabuse, or Naltrexone, drugs that enjoy moderate levels of success in treating problem drinkers – levels of success that AA could only dream about.

But why would AA lie? How could a non-profit organization, whose sole purpose was to help people, do society - not to mention its own membership - the disservice of defrauding it?

The answer is that there is no organization in AA at all. There is no visible hierarchy to be consulted, or called to account, or induced to control the preachings of its membership. There is a central committee out there somewhere, renting the halls and buying the shortbread and coffee, but for all intents and purposes AA is its membership, the sick people who come for relief. It’s a nifty, egalitarian idea and one of which AA is very proud, but no clearer example of the lunatics running the asylum can be found in modern western culture. When one staggers into AA, weak, impressionable and desperately in need of help, one’s liberators come not as dependable professionals, but as fellow sufferers who, by their very own definition, are spiritually damaged and morally irresponsible, their lives hostage to “a disease” over which they have no control. And I know through my own experience that it is not the well-adjusted members who pounce upon the new AA enrolments, but the zealots, whose lives drained like baths when they pulled the plug on their drinking. It is they who seek validation from the conversion of the ‘unenlightened’.

For these people – the loudest revellers at the AA party – alcohol is the most important thing in the universe, even more crucial to existence than it ever was in the bars. Every aspect of life, be it romance, career, even your own children, must take second place to your relationship with booze. How you are coping with that relationship is paramount, and is the only thing the fellowship wants to hear about. In essence, AA is like a gathering of stalkers – while someone else is out there happily married to Martini, this flock of rejects is rocking back and forward in their chairs, obsessing about how hung up on the bitch they’ve been for years.
AA works for some people, but it doesn’t work for most. That’s fine. Where it becomes almost criminal is in the fellowship’s dogmatic insistence that those for whom it does not work are losers in the face of God. Exactly how many poor, desperate souls have ended their lives with a head full of AA bogeymen we will never know.

My ultimate salvation came at the hands of another human being – a girl I fell in love with, who decided I was worth marrying, for some reason. It was a lucky break, and one that AA warned I should never, ever accept. It’s just transferring the problem, they say, and should that girl ever go I’ll just fall back into the arms of alcoholism again. It’s just the sort of lifeless, loveless spite you’d expect from a crowd who were happy to fill their evenings with talk of something they can never do. One might just as well say I should never have bothered being born, for one day I will surely lose this beautiful life of mine, and then what am I going to do?
I still drink from time to time, though it no longer dominates my life. Having a home and a family who loves me was, it seems, what I was searching for all along. Sometimes I’ll go for weeks without a drink, and some nights I’ll drink way too much. I still think about sex as if I’m a teenager, still avoid hard work where I can, still lie to protect myself and I get violent urges when I hear a song by Supertramp. But those things fall under the broad category of ‘my personality’, and for all its failings I’ve grown quite fond of it. And anyway, if I did want my personality changed – if that’s what I were seeking rather than just control over alcohol – I wouldn’t entrust the transformation to the thoughts of a Wall Street gambler and a man who peered up people’s arseholes back in the ‘30s.

The last time I went to an AA meeting was years ago. Afterwards, outside the hall, a woman approached who recognised me from my first meeting of years before. She asked why she hadn’t seen me in a while, and I replied that these days I had a wife and a little boy, “…a pretty full life”.

She narrowed her eyes, took a drag of her cigarette, blew a cloud of smoke into the air and muttered darkly:

“Maybe you should be concentrating more on your alcoholism.”

Jack Marx


Alcoholism: Busting the AA Monopoly
by "John" Thursday, Oct 13 2005, 2:10pm

Is there really only one true faith?

Alcoholism is a bad thing, right? Anybody who makes any attempt to eradicate it deserves our gratitude and encouragement. Well, that’s not the story at all, as it turns out. There is only one way to do it and it’s the Alcoholics Anonymous way. At least according to AA themselves, that is. Theirs is the only thing that works and they are 100% infallible in what they say and do. Jesus Christ had more self-doubt than the AA.

This article is written by an alcoholic, a person who progressed from a glass or two of wine with the evening meal to a minimum of one bottle a night. Holding it at just the one bottle is something of an achievement, in fact. At this rate, I’m not long for this world. This is a shocking state of affairs for a parent of two suffering children in what should be the prime of his life, as a husband whose partner is at her wits end and as a member of the community in which my participation is unreliable and self-centred. I am failing significantly on all three counts because of this problem. More than that, I am a burden to everyone who knows me. But the demon has gotten hold of me and, along with many other alcoholics, I seem utterly powerless over this situation. I alternate between a remorseful and hung-over drunk in the morning and a blithe, carefree ‘it’s-only- a- drink- and- it- makes- me- feel-so-nice why- shouldn’t-I’ evening tippler. This is the remorseful me speaking. Anyway, that’s the personal history over with, just so you know where I’m coming from and that I’m not monkeying around with this subject. Do I want to do something about all this? Is the Pope Catholic?

And here is the crux of the problem that I bring to you. Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-step system simply doesn’t work. Not for the vast majority of drunks who go to them for help.

Let’s understand one thing, before we continue though: AA didn’t make me or any other alcoholic become alcoholic and they have many things to say about alcoholism and alcoholics which are painfully true to confront at times. Whatever is said below, their literature is worth reading if you are a drunk.

But for many people, fact is, they make the situation a lot worse. Here is a statistic that non-alcoholics may not be aware of: AA doesn’t work for 80% of the people who try them out. And that’s AA’s own figure – other people say the figure is as high as 95/98%. If this was a drug we were talking about, it wouldn’t even get off the ground. But the exact opposite has happened where AA are concerned and they have grown to a worldwide organisation of 2,076935 transient members in 105,294 groups. The number of alcoholics around the world far exceeds that and many of us are floundering; desperate to get this compulsion under control. And in a country where alcoholism has practically become our way of life, this situation needs urgent reassessment. Ireland, the home of the alcoholic. ‘Give me two drinks bar-tender, one for me and one for the road.’

So how does something which is so unsuccessful become so well-established? AA has insinuated its way into the hearts and minds of every profession, that’s how. From judges in court recommending treatment ‘programmes’ for offenders, to marriage guidance counsellors looking at red-faced, bleary-eyed men and women, AA are the automatic port of call wherever the alcoholism problem raises its head. Some of these professionals will be members of AA themselves of course.

I am writing under an assumed identity and everyone knows about the fabled anonymity of the AA. A cast iron secret never, ever to be shared with anyone or even discussed outside of group meetings. Members however are free to associate in certain ways and there is actually something very sinister about this aspect of AA. There are networks of AA members everywhere that most people are not aware of. The influence which AA members have is unknown and unkowable unless someone breaks ranks. When you consider the true success rate of the AA programme against its pheonomenal power and influence as an organisation, it seems logical to at least ask how the latter was really achieved.

According to the AA, recovery is restricted to those who are ‘emotionally capable’. And that it seems is only between 2-20% of the millions of ‘the stream of despair, illness, misery and death’ who pass through AA each year. AA have the explanation for their lack of success neatly sewn up: it is not, it turns out, your physical disposition that is responsible after all, when it comes to recovery, it is the fault of the alcoholic themselves.

This is a pretty neat psychological trick to be playing on vulnerable people. You are first of all taught to excoriate yourself, reduce yourself to an object of utter humiliation and virtual self-loathing. Nothing that has ever gone wrong in your life is ever the fault of anyone or anything else but you - the whole sorry, god-awful mess is down to you alone. Any idea that well, yes, you’ve been an awful shit a good bit of the time but maybe you were a victim yourself occasionally will be immediately stamped on as evidence of your lack of ‘emotional stability’. There are no other bad people in the world - except other alcoholics. You must do ‘a fearless and searching moral inventory’ to ascertain the full extent of your awfulness. Your poor, unsuspecting friends and family will, subsequently, be confronted and generally embarrassed by apologies for incidents and accidents that may have taken place 20 years earlier. And when you have stripped away every vestige of self-respect you are then ready to replace your mental faculties with the contents of ‘The Book’ – the AA bible. AA have a lot of neat psychological tricks, since I am on the subject. ‘Analysis paralysis’ is a term they use to describe those who are struggling with questions that AA don’t seem to be able to answer. Thinking is to be discouraged. Your intelligence is redefined as supidity and unpleasantness in the AA world.

The AA philosophy is full of contradictions and paradoxes like these. When you try to talk to one of the long-term members, you are basically talking to ‘The Book’. Virtually everything they say to you will be a quote from it: maxims and bon-mots with a cutesy-clever ring to them that divert you from your question and throw you back, always and ever, on the idea that it is not the answer that you need to worry about but that you shouldn’t actually be asking the question in the first place. A lot of people commit suicide. AA reserves its bitterest contempt for those people – so that even this evidence of the organisations failure amounts, in the wholly self-serving AA logic, only to proof of the person’s disgusting state of emotional incapability.

But alcoholism is an addiction, right? So how can the above be true at the same time? It is high time that responsible state bodies or others who are in a position to do it, looked very carefully at the suicide rates among former AA members. This is not a benign organisation for many people – in fact for most of us who come into contact with them, they do nothing but make you feel a whole lot worse and a lot less able to deal with the drinking. The idea that you are a piece of dirt, really, takes hold and where once you felt at least some optimism about making the attempt, now you feel so awful about yourself that you wont even try for fear of failing and the renewed and increased sense of self-loathing that goes with it. We need to start prising the deeply embedded claws of the AA out of the body politic and put them back in the corner where they rightly belong. At the very least let’s know them for what they really are: an organisation with a negligible track record of actually curing alcoholism. (Cutesy AA response to which is ‘there is no cure’! You need to stay with us for life!)

Something is wrong here, surely? At AA meetings you will meet a representative sample of the general population: cleaners, pub owners, doctors, teachers, wives, college students – everybody is there. One thing that strikes you after a while is how much intelligence there is in evidence. Alcoholism is a condition that forces you to cut to the chase, to get your brain fully onto the job in hand. There is no room for stupidity when dealing with it and there are very few displays of emotional incapability at those meetings, in reality. Our stories are horrendous in almost every case and the atmosphere is one of intense, quiet remorse.

This drinker would like to know how much money is spent on researching alcoholism? Curious that we don’t seem to have much information about how alcohol acts on us to create this dependency. Call me paranoid (and I admit I’ve got a hangover) but isn’t there a massive alcohol industry out there which is making billions of dollars of profit out of this misery every day? What percentage of that profit is made from alcoholics? Most of it, probably. The industry is adamant there is no harm in drinking modestly. But alcohol is an addictive substance, just like cigarettes, or heroin and we don’t advise that it’s OK to have a little of what you fancy where they are concerned. There is one well-known alternative therapist who says that basically, we are all alcoholics to the extent that we drink at all. It is only a question of degree. Everyone who drinks is involved. We’ve made alcohol so central to our lives – from birth until death literally - that unless we do a radical rethink the problem is in danger of undermining our society. On any given day the number of people out there who are affected mentally and physically to a greater or lesser extent by alcohol is huge and this must be having an enormous impact on our society, not just in terms of the typical drunk but of more subtle things that are not attributed to it at all. Even three glasses of wine will impair the judgment of the drinker the next day.

For all these reasons we need to look much harder at ways and means of tackling this problem once and for all. A tough and objective analysis is needed where AA are concerned. If it works for a few people, fair enough. But let’s stop this lunacy of pretending that it is the only solution or that is even a good one.

The AA website:

AA Success Rates (by the AA)



NEWSWEEK: Recovering Alcoholics Taking Sides in Dispute Against a Washington D.C.-Area 'AA' Group

NEW YORK, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- After a few months at Midtown, one of the oldest and largest Alcoholics Anonymous groups in the Washington, D.C., area, 15-year-old May Clancy felt that something about the group was not right. The group's embrace began to feel like a chokehold. She tells Newsweek that the sponsor assigned to give her moral support and help keep her sober pressured her to cut off ties to anyone outside the group. Another member snatched her cell phone and deleted names in the directory. She says she was pressured to stop taking the medication a doctor had prescribed to manage her bipolar disorder: group members told her she couldn't be sober if she was taking any kind of drug. There was a hierarchy to the group. Younger members were sometimes expected to wash cars, clean houses and do other menial chores for more senior members, according to a report in the current issue of Newsweek.

(Photo: )

May tells Newsweek Reporter Nick Summers that she was especially uncomfortable with the emphasis on dating within the group and sex between members. She would listen as girls her age compared notes on the men in the group they had been encouraged to sleep with, some of whom were decades older. Her suspicions were confirmed when she left Midtown and began attending a different AA meeting. She was surprised-and relieved-to find that many of Midtown's common practices were exactly the opposite of what Alcoholics Anonymous literature teaches. By design, there are no "leaders" in AA groups who exert control over other members, AA doesn't expect members to ignore doctors' prescriptions and it doesn't tell them to turn their backs on friends and family.

As Summers reports in the May 7 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 30), May is one of hundreds of recovering alcoholics who are taking sides in a bitter, unprecedented dispute among Alcoholics Anonymous adherents that pits members of Midtown, who insist the organization has saved their lives and kept them sober, against angry former members, who charge it is a coercive, cultlike group that uses the trusted AA name to induce young alcoholics into a radical fringe movement that has little resemblance to traditional AA.

Many of the people involved in the dispute are recovering alcoholics and have been reluctant to go public with their allegations-both because it is a violation of AA's "anonymous" credo, and because they do not want it known that they are alcoholics, Summers reports. But in dozens of interviews with Newsweek, recovering alcoholics and mental-health professionals describe a group that exerts an unusual amount of control and sometimes seems to put the social desires of some members above the recovery of others.

Despite repeated requests for comment, no current Midtown members agreed to be interviewed on the record, citing AA's tradition of anonymity in the press and their belief that negative publicity scares on-the-fence alcoholics from getting the help they need. But those who spoke or e-mailed without giving their names for publication say that Midtown is a flourishing group that has saved their lives, and that those who criticize it resent their success, have scores to settle or are simply making it all up, Summers reports.

The group's practices have raised concerns among some recovery professionals. Jay Eubanks, who oversees the Gaithersburg, Md., branch of the Kolmac Clinic chain of intensive outpatient rehabs, says patients who come to him from Midtown often need "damage control" to unlearn what the group taught them. "They start isolating people, getting them away from any feedback other than their own... Only go to their meetings, only talk to people in their group. If you're seeing a therapist, stop seeing a therapist; if you're in treatment, stop going to treatment; if you're being medicated, stop seeing a doctor," he tells Newsweek.

Other recovery specialists are more conflicted. Beth Kane-Davidson, director of the addictions center at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., tells Newsweek that the center stopped steering patients to Midtown during the last year. But, she adds, "the flip side is I know people in the group that have long-term sobriety and are doing great." For some recovering alcoholics, she says, "Midtown has been a real godsend. It's taken them in and structured their activities, and filled the void left because they're not using anymore. But where do you draw the line? Given that the line is so fine, we try to err on the safe side."

(Read article at

Photo: NewsCom: Archive: PhotoExpress Network: PRN1PRN Photo Desk,


CONTACT: Jan Angilella of Newsweek, +1-212-445-5638

Web site:


Source: PRNewswire




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