Monday, April 11, 2011

Dialogue with FTG

Friend said:
Oh, I got through!

Let me try again:

Excellent post, McGow. I wish you well with your new direction.

Joe, I wanted to address your comment about our unwillingness to dialog or find common ground with you all. Since you don't read ST, I'm sure you haven't seen the instances when we've said that we have some common ground with you Big Book guys.

I'm not sure if I can leave a link, but I wanted to direct you to a comment I wrote last year. At the end of the comment, I detail all the points I think we have in common. (You'll see that didn't go over very well.) I hope you have a look at it though, because I think the comment might be a good kick off to a real dialog.

You can find it on this thread:

(I added a space in the url, after "thinkin" in case it was the link that kept my comment from posting earlier.)

If that doesn't lead you to the comment, the time stamp on the comment is March 5 2010 11:10


Addition to Joe's Post ... by McGowdog

I just opened this up to see if ftg's link will work now.

Joe said:

Ok Friend, I tracked down your comment from March 5, 2010 regarding Court ordered attendance at AA meetings. I didn't find a detailed list of common points, though. But that may be my fault.

by ftg:

Here are things we agree on, at least things I thought we agreed on:

AA shouldn’t be the addictions treatment institution that it is, especially when the “inmates are running the asylum.”

In its present incarnation, as the cultic cesspool of Big Fish, who have no qualification to be sponsoring anyone, it does more harm than good.

People shouldn’t be sentenced to attend AA meetings.

There should be more medically sound and responsible addictions treatment available to those for whom BB AA doesn’t work. But the fact that everyone seems to think that AA is the answer tends to put this on the back burner.

Institutions like Hazelden should get the hell out of the way of progress; stop lobbying with the liquor companies; stop using AA as aftercare.

Dipshits like “Dr. Bob and Bill,” et al make a living off promoting the Conventional Wisdom that AA is for everyone.

AA should exist in its more proper niche as a spiritual/religious… whatever, where it can be honest about what it is, and stick to its principles, with some oversight and responsibility.

So, I THINK we agree on these points, but when we give examples (like my numerous “Keep Coming Back” posts, giving examples of people who have been sentenced to AA meetings), yall insist that no one HAS to go.

When we bring up the abysmal success rates, you guys fight about that, as if you believe that Pop AA really works (I mean, no one’s talking about BB AA meetings when they are talking statistics, and you do know that. Considering your own way of doing AA, success rates should be utterly irrelevant to you.)

I mean, you guys say it’s not for everyone, and when we point out the reasons why, you guys flip out.

I really do want to know why you feel that we are more of a danger to your conception of AA than AA itself is? I kinda like having you all around here, but I really think you picked the wrong hill to die on.

I might misremember this, but I asked Danny (real live recovered alcoholic) about this, and I think the bottom line there was that Pop AA is a good place to 12th Step new members for “Real AA.”

While we don’t believe what Danny believes, I still had a respectful dialog/argument with him, when he was around, which I suspect is because he’s confident about his position and we’re confident about ours. Neither has a reason to feel at all threatened by the other. There’s some common ground; there are places we agree to disagree, and there are issues we spar over.

Again, What gives?


  1. joe said...
    Friend, as I said, I haven't read much of ST but what I have seen leaves me with the impression that many members seem focused on only bashing AA. Yet I said further on in my comment that many of you will see what Patrick is trying to do here and will perhaps join us sometimes. You, MA and a few of the others (even Gunthar, God love him) who's comments I've read appear to be willing to listen to other views without going off the deep end.

    I seem to recall MA remarking that he accepts some responsibility for the current situation because of some inflammatory remarks he's made in the past. We're just as guilty. But it's time for this foolishness to stop.

    We both agree on a lot of things regarding AA and recovery in general. We also disagree on some points, but that's a good thing as disagreement leads to dialogue. I'll check out the comment you refer to and will get back to you on this blog about it. Hey, we have to begin somewhere.

    Thanks, Joe

  2. Joe said:
    Ok Friend, I tracked down your comment from March 5, 2010 regarding Court ordered attendance at AA meetings. I didn't find a detailed list of common points, though. But that may be my fault.

    And you've touched on a sore point here, at least for me. I'm very much against the idea of court-mandated attendance. I see a lot of them in meetings, and it's obvious that most resent being there. I don't blame them. Most of the attendees aren't alcoholics to begin with, so they'll get nothing but resentment from having to be at a meeting.

    Yet it's interesting to note that on the old GSO tri-annual survey, about 8-10% of the members with more than a year of sobriety say they were introduced to AA by this process. I have several friends in the program who were fall into this category. These people were alcoholics, and what they learned was enough to put them on a path to recovery.

    So. Do I like the process? No. I don't think AA should be involved in coercion, and that what's happening as we're supposed to sign the slips verifying that the person did indeed attend the meeting.

    But we have sort of a conundrum here as the program does work in certain instances. If there was a better way to screen those who may benefit from mandatory attendance, that would be one solution. Another would be offer a variety of programs and allow the miscreant to choose their own. (Other than ASAP or similar ones that run upwards of $500,00. Another great rip off)

    If you or any others have suggestion, I'd love to hear them. The problem is that we're getting in Patrick's way here so I'm going to start a new post and get out of his way. Look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Naw, nobody in my way. I just got home from work and I'm glad to see this.

    What a trip!

    ftg, just ask Jim, Rob B, Joe and the gang how hard it's been to get a post through without getting the thing deleted. To be safe, I copy my own post before I hit that Post Comment button to be safe. I think it's a loggin problem or just a Blogspot problem. I think you probably are glad to be using Wordpress instead.

  4. Hope you don't mind my cut and paste Gurl.

    So... dipshits like Bill and Bob? I'll give you Bill. He was a bum who lived off his wife's small purse... but didn't Good Ole Dr. Bob make money off being a doctor... when he wasn't uncorking some corker? (a little Big Book humor there)

  5. Gurl, good points in there. I'd have no problem with A.A. going to the courts, probation, counselors, DAs, treatment providers, medical folks, shrinks, etc. and saying up front that A.A. is for those who are willing to consider a spiritual solution to their problem with booze.

    Some folks are sentenced to A.A. and this is no way to be sent there in the first place... even though that's the way it went with me. But... once I got there, I was once made to feel unwelcome because I was "just there to get my papers signed". So do you want to know what the McGowdog did with that situation? Y'all have heard it before... and someone even commented on my violent tendencies. But I still love this story, so here goes;

    I remember this guru fuck named Ed from EDIT Club in Denver (Easy Does IT... clever, huh?) tell me that about getting my papers signed. So I walked away pissed and stayed sober for a year. When I got that one year medallion, I went back to EDIT to find Ed and tell him I was gonna shove that round chip up his ass. But I couldn't find the old fart fuck.

    Sorry about my language. But that's pretty much what I did there. So my point?

    Folks ought to get the option; do A.A.? Or... you can go see a shrink and log some hours in at the aftercare recovery process of your choice.

    If all else fails... lie. Don't go to the fucking meetings. Just forge the chairperson's name and make up a group name... like "The Romper Room Group".

    You said something about us flipping out when you guys point out the problems with POP A.A., ... Good point. We feel it's our right to bash and if y'all bash it, we'll stand up and defend it. Funny, huh? Must be a human nature thing.

    Another good point you made was that we defend the A.A. success rate as being higher than the 8% to 10% or 5% or whatever... but if you ask us what is the success rate of POP A.A., we'll say... "oh, probably -15%." -15 percent? How the hell could that be? If you think about bad A.A., you will become miraculously shit-faced. But if you ask us what is the success rate of By-The-Book A.A.? What's the success rate there? Who cares. If you do it this way, you'll be sober and won't give a shit about such trivia.

    Good points there Gurl.

    If my mentor Frank McKibbon says A.A. has a 6% Success rate, I'll say, "Yessir. You must be right." But if an anti/XAer says it, I'll say, "Bullshit! How dare you dog our program!" There again... must be a human nature thing.

  6. Ok, Now I have them. Thanks, Patrick.

    And by the way, I think your post about changing the mission statement should appear before this one if you can make that happen. People tend to be attracted to the most recent post and ignore anything prior. We need to pursue your idea of changing the mission statement. This dialogue will continue regardless of where it appears.

    Part I
    So, FTG, on with the discussion. To begin with AA should not be an addictions treatment institution and as far as I know, it isn’t. But here we may be caught up in definitions. AA is a treatment program, not an institution. An institution as I perceive it involves treatment facilities and the like. AA has no such facilities. But again, what do you mean by institution?

    As to the “inmates running the asylum”, that’s a tad bit of a sweeping generalization, isn’t it? It goes along with the “cultic cesspool of Big Fish” comment. But I’m gonna stop here as I think it may be best to express what I think AA is and ought to be, as that will address many of your points. Again, this is as Joe sees it:

    AA is a spiritually- based 12- step recovery program. It is not a religion, yet people often call it one as they consider religion and spirituality to be one in the same. I wrote a post a few months back on the subject of spirituality. You may want to read that to understand my concept of spirituality. It’s in the Feb 2011 archive, 3 parts.

    AA is not the only game in town and certainly doesn’t work for everyone. There are many other secular programs out there that are more appropriate for a lot of people. I’ve often recommended to folks on SR to get out of AA if it isn’t working and try something else.

    AA is, however, the oldest and largest program out there and regardless of what others may say, it is successful. Yet the success of AA is entirely dependent on the individual, and here it gets a bit complicated. Many people are in AA who have no business being there. They aren’t alcoholics. They may be hard drinkers, problem drinkers, whatever. But they aren’t alcoholics.

    These people will find little of value in AA as it wasn’t designed for them. It was conceived as a program for the “real” alcoholic, and even here we split hairs around definitions. There is no universally accepted definition of an alcoholic or alcoholism. Even the AMA’s definition disagrees with DSM-IV. My definition of an alcoholic is based on my experience. An alcoholic is a person who cannot not drink. AA is a program for people like me – alcoholics defined by their inability to not drink.

  7. Part II

    We in AA are often the cause of people belonging to the program who have no business being there. This philosophy of “keep coming back” is ok if you’re talking to a true alcoholic who’s trying to understand what’s going on. But I see too many examples of us trying to convince a non- alcoholic that he’s merely in denial and he’ll eventually see the error of his ways if he does the “90 in 90”. Bullshit. We need to do a better job of getting a newcomer to understand what alcoholism really is (as I define it). Too many problem drinkers are being forced into this one size fits all you’re an alcoholic model. And treatment centers are at fault for a lot of this, too.

    Why AA works, and here I’m stating that it does work, cannot be explained by any scientific, medical, psychological, or whatever have you study of the program. No one can explain exactly why it works, even those of us in the program. Many tried, none to my knowledge have succeeded. There simply is no empirical data to support the success of AA. We have our own ideas (help from a higher power, etc), but nothing that can be empirically demonstrated. And to be honest with you, I really don’t care. For me and countless others who’ve gotten sober in AA, the why is irrelevant.

    The program is abused by many treatment centers. I have no doubt about this. If a center wants to use the 12-step approach in their methodology, that’s their prerogative. But too often they bastardize AA to suit their own purposes. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that counselors who are most successful in treating alcoholics are themselves alcoholics. And it doesn’t matter if the program is AA, SMART, or whatever. Too often a center will push AA (or any other program) on patients using non-alcoholic counselors who have no idea what they’re talking about.

    On the other hand, many treatment centers or programs vilify AA (Thaddeus Jude comes to mind here, as does Stanton Peele) for the sole purpose of selling their own “proven” scientific approach to addiction treatment. You sell your product by attacking the competition. It’s the American way.

    You cannot statistically prove the success rate of AA (or, for that matter, any other treatment program). To begin with, what’s success? One year of sobriety, ten years? Hell, we can’t even agree on what alcoholism is, so how can we agree on what sobriety is? This isn’t a cop out. I don’t think AA has a great success rate but that’s from my personal experience. I don’t think any other program does, either, regardless of the statistical data they throw at you. I have a degree in Mathematics and can make statistics say anything you want them to say. God knows I see enough of this bullshit on the Internet, particularly from agent Orange.

    But is that a reflection on the efficacy of the program or the commitment of the individual to get sober? George Vaillant theorized in his “The Natural History of Alcoholism Revisited” that any program will be successful if the individual wants sobriety badly enough. Both Peele and Orange love attacking Vaillant, by the way, and I can’t figure out why. He’s the first to say that there’s no empirical proof that AA is successful, and nowhere does he offer any statistical data to support its success. Yet they attack his statistics?

    But that’s just a brief synopsis on Joe’s personal view of AA. It probably encompasses many of the points you brought out. I’ll leave the cult issue, Bill and Bob, and other topics for another day.

    Patrick brought out the problem with the blog deleting entries as we try to post them. I will usually type up a lengthy comment like this one on Word, then copy and paste it to the blog.

  8. Ooh, I wanted to clear up a thing: When I wrote "Dr. Bob and Bill" in that comment, I meant "Dr. Dave and Bill" -- That is Dr. Dave Manville and his sidekick Bill, who write that insufferable addiction column in the New York Post.

  9. Also, before I forget, here's another, older, post I wrote trying to hash out the idea of finding common ground: http://stinkin-thinkin.com/2009/05/20/we-got-nothin/

    Joe, I'm going to read your comments and respond presently.

  10. Friend, Got it. Not familiar with Dr Dave Manville and Bill. I'll look them up.

    I like your 2009 post. A few of the comments? Well....

  11. How about Dr. Dave Moore and his sidekick, Bill Manville? Yep, Dipshits is one way to describe them. Just please don't think that people like that are atypical representatives of AA. That would be like me classifying all the anti/ex crowd in with agent Orange.

  12. There are some points that we'll never agree on – and those points tend to have to do with the very nature of AA (“real alcoholics”; spirituality vs. religion; etc.). Where we agree is on the nature of the industry and culture of lunacy that has developed around AA: the court mandated meetings; the 12-Step rehabs; the revolving door; the abuses that result from wacky people getting overly involved in other people's private lives, etc. I think we agree on it for different reasons in some cases, but I think that there are some areas where we mesh.

    I think a couple of things you touched on are incredibly important and would be an enormous step: screening people for AA and offering an array of options for people that don't fit. I'm not sure how people can be screened for AA, though it is clear to me that AA is just the right thing for some people. If I were to suggest two approaches to screening, it would be for mental illness and predators. So many people suffering from underlying mental health issues are sent to AA – or go there on their own, because that's what people are supposed to do in our culture when they drink too much. What they need, of course, is medical supervision. What ends up happening, though, is that these people either end up trying to use AA to cope with mental illness – and in some cases, being told to go off their medications by the meddling MOTRs – or they end up victimizing other members.

    And, as far as predators go, the courts routinely send abusive and predatory people to AA, because they happen to have a drinking problem, too, or because alcohol was involved in the crime. I have posted numerous stories of violent people or scam artists who go before a judge for committing a crime, and they are shunted into AA. Of course, their first problem is that they are violent, abusive, or predatory, and since people in AA are anonymous, no one has to know that.

    As far as options go: I would like to see SMART and the Sinclair Method offered more widely. You might be interested to know that in all the counties in Colorado the court systems are taking a serious look at using the Sinclair Method. Because the 12 Step industry is so pervasive, however, there's going to be resistance to options. People are sent to rehab or sober living facilities – both of which make gobs of money off the court system and generally have nothing to offer but the 12-Steps and they use AA as aftercare of part of their programs. We've seen instances where judges were getting kickbacks by sending people to facilities. In fact, my bother-in-law's sister was mandated by a judge (in Colorado, no less!) to move into a sober living facility that his own wife happens to own. It's a mess. Even the GSO – which I know you hold no truck with – encourages members to 12 Step the court system, and justifies breaking tradition to do so.


  13. 2/2

    Regarding efficacy: I guess I won't banter numbers around with you, because I can't add on my own fingers. I'll be completely outclassed. But, this might interest you: We had a throw down with JD a couple of weeks ago, in which he challenged us to go to SMART program, and ask them for people who were 7 years sober in the program, and his definition of sober was: complete abstinence from all substances, including pot, and medications prescribed (not abused!) for pain and metal illness. I pointed out to him that if someone's still sitting in a SMART meeting 7 years later, then it's not working. People graduate from SMART. So, what he was asking, in essence, was for us to find people who are using AA's point of reference for sobriety.

    To my mind, success would be the ability to move on with a full life, free from addictive/self-destructive behavior or compulsions. Whether or not one can drink moderately or smoke pot once in a while or whether someone takes medication for pain or mental illness just doesn't seem relevant. The abuse or addictive use of these things, to the point where one's freedom is compromised is what's meaningful to me. But, like you said, such things are difficult to quantify, no matter what program you're looking at. I don't even know how one would begin comparing success in AA to success in another program, considering how different the definitions and goal posts are. There are so many things to hammer down – like the notion of the real alcoholic for instance, which I assume would be someone who could never operate under my definition of success. And people who aren't real alcoholics could never work AA.

    I think the main thing for us to keep in mind when we talk to each other about this is that we are talking about AA in its current, popular incarnation. It's the AA that everyone knows about, that Ann Landers sends her readers to, that Dr. Dave and Bill promote in every column, that people are being sentenced to, etc. It's the AA that I'd find if I walked into the meeting at the church across the street. If everyone did AA the way you Big Book guys do, we wouldn't have a blog. We might disagree on the nature of the program itself, but something like that isn't worth hassling about any more than it would be worth hassling with someone about their parenting decisions or their personal beliefs.

    Hey, I'm glad we're talking!

  14. Part I
    Friend, I think the definition of an alcoholic is important for a number of reasons. When I talk about an alcoholic (and I really don't like the term "real" alcoholic) I mean someone who's physically and psychologically addicted to alcohol. This person cannot live without alcohol, and when going through detox should be carefully monitored as it may kill them. Once this person takes a drink they have no control over how much they consume. This means that they can never drink again once they stop. If they do they end up right back where they started – out of control. “Normal” drinking is impossible for these people.

    I say this is important so as to differentiate my concept of an alcoholic from those feel an alcoholic is anyone with a "problem" with alcohol. This could include anyone who has gotten a DUI, perhaps becomes hostile or violent when drunk, or just drinks an awful lot more than the average drinker. These people have no problem with not drinking. They can have one drink and walk away.

    The reason I want to clarify the definition is so that when I say alcoholic, you know the type of drinker I refer to. If you disagree with this definition, that's fine. If I understand how you define the term, then I know the type of drinker you refer to.

    The AA program was created for my alcoholic. Anyone else will get little or nothing from joining. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people in meetings these days who really don’t belong there. You refer to these folks. But over time, if these people stay around they tend to gain influence in how the program is run. And their idea of AA is far from what the Big Book outlines. They are the ones who can destroy my alcoholic’s chances of recovery.

    As to screening people to see if they “qualify” for AA, my experience is that this is impossible. Most who do belong in AA and really want to get sober will stick around, those who don’t will eventually leave. Except, of course, those who I just referred to that’ll stay for some strange reason but shouldn’t.

    In a perfect world everyone would be screened to see if they are alcoholics or not, but this isn’t a perfect world and we can’t even agree on what the term means. Options should be offered, though, to those being sent to treatment. On this we agree. AA isn’t the only game in town. What particularly pisses me off is the ASAP program (here in VA, anyway), where those convicted of a DUI or other alcohol related offense are required to attend to the tune of $350.00. But that’s another story.

  15. Part II
    The predators, the 13th steppers, the control freaks all exist in the program. I wish they didn’t. If I come across one, and it’s been a very rare experience that I have, I’ll run their asses out in a heartbeat. But my experience has been that for the most part AA members are pretty decent people. I have rarely come across the version of AA that many folks on ST consider to be atypical. I realize that it exists, but don’t see it as a big a problem as others may. Again, I have to go by my personal experience.

    If you’ve read any of my posts or comments on this blog you’ll see that I don’t view ST, Orange, Stanton Peele, or any other anti-AA site as a threat to the program. What I do worry about is the direction that AA seems to be headed-away from that outlined in the Big Book. We talk about this a lot around here.

    Your concept of success in sobriety is similar to mine. It would be the ability to live a happy, productive life without the use of alcohol. For my alcoholic, this means total abstinence is required, not only from alcohol but also from drugs. And here I’m talking about drug abuse. Many alcoholics we see walk through the doors today also have a problem with drug addiction. And that’s another issue I have-GSO has it’s head in the sand about this.

    How do we measure success? As I said, I don’t think we can. In some cases it’s talking apples and oranges. Is one program more successful than another? Is mine better than yours? Stupid questions, actually. It’s like saying that I’m not drinking better than you’re not drinking. Are my some of my alcoholics capable of getting sober by will power alone? Sure. I just wasn’t one of them.

    If a particular program is successful for you then go for it. I’m in no position to say it’s a good or bad program. For you it’s good and it’s your sobriety that matters. For me, AA was the only thing that worked.

    Keep in touch.

  16. I

    My alcoholic is slightly different than Joe's. I think that the alcoholic part is the same... physiological part, mental part, but I differ in the line between alky and hard drinker.

    I don't think the hard drinker can necessarily drink two and stop... for they have either the inability to control the stop OR the inability to control the start. The alky has the inability to both... together.

    They may, for instance, may not be able to stop once they start, but given a sufficiently strong reason, can stay stopped and just don't drink. But they may be the person who must drink every day, but stops at 2 or 10.

    For the alky, It's both... not either or.

    As friend points out, the A.A. book talks about the steps being useful for all. The fellowship took that wrongly to mean inclusive.

    Bill and Bob didn't give a distinct enough exit strategy to those who refuse the spiritual life. Some dipshits took it upon themselves to use doorknobs and the like.

  17. There's also an certain element who believe in a higher power, but don't believe that this power can or will help them them get sober. As I recall, this was Gunthar's experience.

    But when we talk about a higher power we're talking about Faith, and that's something that, in my opinion, is a non-debatable issue. Some people believe in a higher power, some don't, and the rest aren't sure. To each his own here.

    I believe in God, you may or may not. It's not a religious thing here. If I said I was a Baptist and Methodists will all burn in Hell, then we're talking religion. (I'm not a Baptist and have nothing against the Methodists, by the way).

    Go to an AA meeting in Japan, India, or Hong Kong (I have) and you won't find any reference to God nor, in many cases, a higher power as we understand it.

    It's the culture that determines a one's belief system for the most part. We're primarily a Judeo-Christian society so we call our concept of a higher power God. Some societies believe in the Buddha, others worship nature itself.

    The dipshits with the doorknobs? Well, as we say, some are sicker than others...

  18. I say they are willful.

    Use your "doorknob" to leave A.A. and go find something else.

    If that works,

    Then move along.

    If that don't work,

    Then try some controlled drinking again.

    If that works, then you're cured.

    If that doesn't work,

    Then try the God thing again,

    Else try some secular method and leave A.A.

    There, a simple program for recovery.