Letters, We Get Mail, CXLI

Date: Mon, July 21, 2008 7:44 pm     (answered 31 August 2009)
From: "michael m."

I have but 1 question? How did you come up with the 31 questions to test for a cult?


Hi Michael,

Thanks for the question.

I'm not sure which way you mean that — why 31, or why those particular questions?

(Note that, in the year since you wrote that question, the 31 questions have become 100.)

Well, first off, 31 was just how many items I had when I started writing that cult test.

Why those particular questions? Well, it started with an article that I read about 20 years ago, I think in The Utne Reader, or maybe Mother Jones. Whatever magazine it was, they had an issue that was devoted to cults and failed gurus and disillusioned followers. They had a cult test that consisted of just 10 questions. I could only remember the first five:

  1. The guru is always right.
  2. You are always wrong.
  3. No exit.
  4. No graduates.
  5. Cult-speak.

Then I just took it from there. I read a lot of books about cults, and collected items, and expanded the list. I also drew upon my own memories of involvement with cults in the nineteen-sixties and -seventies. So the list was 31 items the first time I published it.

But then more things kept showing up and occurring to me, so eventually, I bit the bullet and rewrote the list and expanded it to 100 questions. Even that number is arbitrary. I still have a few more good items that would expand it to 105 or so, but right now, I'm content with a nice round number like 100.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    The greatest of mankind's criminals are those who delude themselves
**    into thinking that they have done 'the right thing.'
**        ==   Rayna Butler

Date: Sat, July 26, 2008 11:11 am     (answered 31 August 2009)
From: "Brian L."
Subject: RE: AA


I accidentally came across some of your writings by way of Google. I am so very glad that I did. I am very new to AA (57 days) and have found one source of disappointment after another.

So many broken men and women who tell me things that just are not any of their business and so many examples of characters who try telling me what it is that I am thinking and feeling that I hardly find a meeting wherein I don't bridle against people who seem to not know how to think for themselves.

I guess it is the brain washing that I find offensive. I have a very short history of moderate drinking that I caught very early on as becoming problem drinking. I have been told that my brain is pickled and that I can't think for myself. The truth is, I am struggling due to major depression. There are so very few people in AA who seem to understand that one can be seriously ill, emotionally and need a great deal of help without the dogma of AA.

What I need to do is separate the aspects of AA that I can use from the junk that I just don't need. I am very glad that I came across your writings in that I have found a voice that seems to be in touch with the reality that I have always known prior to entering into AA. For that I thank you.


Hello Brian,

Thank you for the letter and the compliments. I hope that you are feeling better now.

So have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Serene I fold my hands and wait,
**        Nor care for wind or tide nor sea;
**     I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
**        For lo! my own shall come to me.
**           ==  John Burroughs, Waiting

May 15, 2009, Friday: Day 15, continued:

Canada Geese gosling sounding off
One of the goslings expressing his opinion of things.
I think this is one of the "family of 9" kids.

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

Date: Wed, July 23, 2008 6:59 am     (answered 31 August 2009)
From: "Paul C."
Subject: AA

After 32 years in AA — I got so much pleasure from your analyses,lambasting one man's stats. — and the coming forth with an academic torrent of your own — a real laugh.

I am extremely happy to be one of the small percentage you mention — and have been able to help others — oh, and as for the numbskull Bush in his "protected environment" — who cares? Only in America as they say!

Hello Paul,

Thanks for the letter. It is good that you are sober and healthy, and it would be nice to believe that you are helping others. But if by "helping", you mean that you are introducing alcoholics to the 12-Step program, then that is a problem. There is zero evidence that the A.A. program helps alcoholics. Rather, the evidence is that the A.A. program does serious harm to alcoholics. Involvement in A.A. has been shown to:

  1. raise the rate of binge drinking,
  2. raise the rate of rearrests,
  3. increase the costs of hospitalization later, and
  4. raise the death rate in alcoholics.
  5. And although this has not been formally tested and measured, the evidence is growing that A.A. also raises the suicide rate in alcoholics.

So if we are really going to help alcoholics, we have to come up with something better than A.A.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious
**     that there is such a thing as physical morality.
**         ==  Herbert Spencer, Education

Date: Sun, July 27, 2008 5:54 pm     (answered 31 August 2009)
From: "David P."
Subject: What is Your Point about Bill W

I hated the thought of AA when I went into the program and wanted no part of this "cult" Much of that bias against the "cult" was based on your writings that I assiduously reviewed in my state of denial.

Finally, having failed at Moderation Management and "my" program, I tucked my tail between my legs and joined the cult. My life has changed and every day is better.

For your information, it is well known in the program that Bill W was a sex addict, the subject of another fellowship (slaa). The bottom line is that as unwieldy as 12 step is, it is the best and only thing going that helps drunks live sober. Sure, it is a primitive set of morals but what difference does it make that the founder was a brutish, sexist hypocrite. The end justifies the means. You sound like an atheist drunk with a bad case of sour grapes. I used to be just like that.

Thanks God I know go to meetings every day, pray,. have a sponsor, have a higher power (that I call HP, having no clue what or who "god is") a therapist, and psychiatric medication. I was so postiive that I was not an alcy that I started neurofeedback to "cure" it. I had an EEG done and sure enough, my addicted brain showed up in black and white. Thank God for Bill W, warts and all. I hope you find your own serenity some day.

David L. P., Esq. Atlanta, Georgia

TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the Treasury Department, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Hello David,

Thank you for a suspicious piece of propaganda.

There is no EEG test that shows "the addicted brain" in black and white. Do you even know what an EEG is?

Hint: What an EEG produces is a bunch of squiggly lines that look like oscilloscope traces. An EEG (Electro-Encephalograph) is a graph of the instantaneous voltages at various points on the scalp, which shows the firing of bunches of neurons in the underlying parts of the brain. There is no picture of "the addicted brain". Just squiggly lines. There is no squiggly line that says, "This guy has an addicted brain, and he needs to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous." The only thing that an EEG could possibly show is, if you are going into convulsions from Delerium Tremens and acute alcohol withdrawal, the EEG will show that.

Is the rest of your letter equally untrue or inaccurate?

You say that you pray to a "Higher Power" that you don't call "god" (lower-case 'g'), because you don't know what It is? Then how do you know that your made-up "Higher Power" can really do miracles and save you? How do you know that It will even bother to answer your prayers, whatever It is? Why should It? Do you pay "Higher Power" to work for you? (And what do you pay It with? Silver? Gold? First-born sons? Your soul?)

You say that you don't know what "Higher Power" is, and yet you presume to know how to manipulate "Higher Power" and get It to do what you want, like keep you sober, and restore you to sanity, and take care of your will and your life for you, and remove your moral shortcomings and defects of character, etc. Where did you get the magical knowledge of how to get unknown "Higher Powers" to do all of that stuff for you?

I mean, you were made a born alcoholic, weren't you? And wasn't that the Will Of Higher Power? And Higher Power let you drink for years and years, didn't It? That was the wish of Higher Power too, wasn't it? It must have been, because you supposedly had no choice in the matter. H.P. made you powerless over alcohol, didn't It, so that was Its Plan, not yours, wasn't it? But the minute you walked into an A.A. meeting, you suddenly got the magical ability to incant certain words ("Dear Higher Power, Please gimme, gimme, gimme... Gimme sobriety, gimme power...") and suddenly Higher Power has to do what you wish, and change Its Divine Plan to agree with yours. How does that differ from demonology, summoning up spirits and getting them to do your bidding?

Speaking of demons, how do you know that you aren't praying to one? You said that you don't call your "Higher Power" "god" because you don't know what it is. So it could be anything, like a lying little monster who tells you that bad moral standards are really okay. You can't protest that your "Higher Power" is a good being, because you just said that you don't even know what it is. (And remember that Bill Wilson bragged that he made contact with all kinds of evil spirits during his séances.)

Such attitudes are way beyond dubious theology. It sounds like you are wallowing in self-indulgent superstition. Good luck.

Speaking of theology, I'm not an atheist either. That is such a standard Stepper cheap shot — accusing critics of being atheists. Can't you do better than that?

Lastly, you actually rationalize questionable moral standards? What kind of spirituality is that?
"The end justifies the means." (That is a standard cult characteristic. Look here.)
"Sure, it is a primitive set of morals but what difference does it make that the founder was a brutish, sexist hypocrite."
Well, it makes a big difference. Especially when you discover that "The Founder" was lying, and that his program is just some old cult religion trash that he copied from another fake holy man and sold to the suckers so that he never had to work a straight job again.

Oh, and A.A. is not the only thing that works. In fact, it doesn't work at all. The fact that you enjoy participating in a cult religion does not necessarily make it a good sobriety program.

Have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     And I'm still waiting for someone to start SFS —
**     Satanists For Sobriety — a 12-Step program where
**     there is no doubt who "Higher Power" really is.
**     Then, what I really want to know is: Will the churches
**     still let that 12-Step group meet in their basements?

[William N.'s previous letter is here.]

Date: Wed, August 6, 2008 7:53 am     (answered 2 September 2009)
From: "william n."
Subject: Taking them On

Orange, Thanks to you & your website I am "taking on" the local recovery industry army in my bucolic county of Hunterdon, NJ. Here's a letter to the editor to a local paper. I stole some stuff from you, but I know you won't mind and it's all for the greater good. Now, if we could get more people to write letters to the editors, and to their congress-people, etc....

Letter to the Editor:

I'm responding to a letter about Heath Ledger by Koren Rife, who wrote on behalf of the "dedicated experts" at Seabrook House. Mr. Rife worries [that] those [people] whose family members are suffering from substance abuse "won't know where to get help" for their loved ones because the truth of Ledger's life will have been glossed over. He warns us that the most important thing to remember about Heath Ledger is that he abused drugs. This is so typical of the recovery industry's contempt for the very people they purport to want to help.

People know where to get help. Unfortunately, 93% of the time the help they will get will be a 12-step oriented program like the one offered at Seabrook House and at local halfway houses near you. Programs like AA foisted on vulnerable patients by the courts, employers, and ignorant counselors are useless, ineffective, and in fact contraindicative. I speak from personal knowledge on both sides of this issue.

Until a family member gets shoved into one, most people have no idea of what their loved one is getting into. The 12-step program claims the person abusing the substance has a "spiritual" disease and therefore must seek a "spiritual solution." Each step is supposed to help one attain the required spiritual awakening.

Except that the 12-step program is more like a religious cult than a spiritual awakening. Oh, members crow about it being "spiritual—not religious," but in fact the following courts have ruled that Alcoholics Anonymous is a religious organization: the Federal 7th Circuit Court in Wisconsin, 1984; the Federal District Court for Southern New York, 1994; the New York Court of Appeals, 1996; the New York State Supreme Court, 1996; the Tennessee State Supreme Court; the Federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, 1996; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh District, 1996; the Federal Appeals Court in Chicago, 1996; and even the U.S. Supreme Court, 1997.

The reason the courts reached this decision is because a) people were complaining about having their religious rights violated by being shoved into a religious organization like AA as a condition of probation or sentencing, and b) they didn't want to have to attend a program that was not only ineffective but actually dangerous.

Hopefully more courts will agree with the above and maybe this tragic practice will be stopped. If AA didn't have the courts as recruiters, the program would have very very few believers still in it. So much for a "program of attraction," as they like to boast.

Multiple studies have shown AA's ineffectiveness:

Dr. Jeffrey Brandsma (Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia) found going to AA caused five times much binge drinking as those not attending AA;

Dr. Keith Ditman, MD found in "A Controlled Experiment on the Use of Court Probation for Drunk Arrests", published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that AA attendees were rearrested for drunkenness nearly twice as often as those had had not attended AA, or who had not attended ANY treatment;

AA's own triennial studies conducted by the A.A. headquarters (the GSO), say that: 81% of the newcomers are gone within 30 days, 90% are gone in 3 months, and 95% are gone after one year. That automatically gives A.A. a failure rate of at least 95%. But AA does not count all of those people who only attend a few meetings before quitting — they don't qualify as members. This is called "cherry-picking." If those were included however, then the numbers would be much worse, believe it or not.

The most damning evidence came from a current leader of Alcoholics Anonymous, Prof. George Vaillant, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous [World] Services, Inc. He found that AA was completely ineffective for getting alcoholics to quit drinking, and the biggest effect of A.A. was to raise the death rate in alcoholics. No other way of treating alcoholics produced such a high death rate as did Alcoholics Anonymous. He called AA's death rate "appalling."

Every year The Hunterdon County United Way donates money to a couple of local halfway houses. This year it will be $24,000 to one and about $32,000 to the other. Is this the best thing to do with the money given the studies listed above? By giving to these AA recovery centers are we really doing right by the folks who need help? Are we setting them up for bigger, more tragic failures down the road? What about the many local churches who think they are doing God's work by allowing AA meetings to be held in their basements? I wonder if the local clergy realizes the 12-step program is heretical and actually anti-Christian.

The good news is most people quit their addictions on their own. It's called "spontaneous remission." Of course, the halfway houses/treatment centers will never tell you that, as it is in their interest to keep the donations and grants flowing in. They will tell you are completely powerless over your drinking or drugging. Being surrounded by a group of people who keep telling you that you are powerless over alcohol, and that your will power is useless, is not getting "support". It is getting sabotaged. There are other recovery options around like Women For Sobriety, Rational Recovery, and SMART Recovery. And don't forget recovery groups around called "your family," and "your friends."

Good luck to all of you who are trying to stop or at least slow down. You can do it.

(I signed my full name in the letter, of course...)

Hello again, William,

Thanks for the work. We shall overcome, eventually.

And have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     In heaven they scorn to serve,
**     So now in hell they reign.
**         ==  John Fletcher, The Purple Land

[William N.'s next letter is here.]

Date: Wed, July 30, 2008 8:30 pm     (answered 2 September 2009)
From: CW
Subject: I've written you before

Dear agent orange:

As a sober member of AA for 32 years, I have read some of your rants with curiosity — not about your strange conclusions about the fellowship — but about your own obvious pathology. It is not what you say so much as it is the furious, almost hysterical tone. Some of your criticisms of AA, while terribly exaggerated, distorted and twisted, have some basis in fact. There are peculiarities about AA that I myself find troublesome and even harmful. But you are simply throwing a tantrum about AA, and one wonders why.

Let me just say this: I had a lot of trouble getting sober. I was an agnostic, and in many fundamental ways I still am. I came into AA in 1976 because I simply didn't know where else to turn. I fancied myself to be an intellectual because of my unusually high IQ. I did a lot of sneering. I thought AA was "quaint." I scoffed at a lot of what I heard in those early days. And yet, here I am, having recently celebrated my 32nd AA anniversary. I am married to an alcoholic who has but ten days less sobriety than I. I have a host of friends in the fellowship. I have helped found five different AA groups and seen all of them grow and flourish. I attend meetings regularly of a group for AAs who have 30 years or more in the program, and it is attended by as many as 40 men and women, many of whom I have known since I first came into AA.

I have heard, and still hear, things in AA that I disagree with profoundly. There are many "holes" in the literature regarding the origin of the illness, and many inconsistencies in Bill Wilson's ramblings about recovery, particularly in the book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. But there is also an enormous amount of wisdom and common sense there too. And the steps themselves are as simple and direct as a set of instructions for building a Leggo tractor. There is nothing sinister or even mysterious about them. And in spite of your insistence (and reliance on a series of flawed studies) that "AA doesn't work," I have spent my entire 32 years in AA in one city, where I have attended at least 35 or 40 different groups, and I have seen it work, first-hand. And as a board member of our local council on alcohol and drug abuse, I have heard the testimony of doctor after doctor, therapist after therapist, who praise AA for its high success rate and who have witnessed none of the baleful results you claim occur.

I have attended literally thousands of AA meetings, and have spoken in AA hundreds of times. I have spent thousands of hours talking to fellow AAs and listening to them talk. There are oddballs in AA, showoffs, grandstanders, con artists, sexual predators. There are also doctors, lawyers, judges, accountants, school teachers, corporate CEOs, atheist college professors, ministers and the occasional priest, social workers, nurses, members of the military, PhD psychologists, computer software designers, used car salesmen, ex-convicts, massage therapists, ad men and women, radio and television performers and executives. I have found no one in AA whom I believed to be deluded or captive of some sinister cult. The most normal people, the kindest people, the most generous people, the funniest people, and the brightest, most imaginative people I have ever known I have met in AA. And they are also the people in my life that I love the most, and who love me too. Oh, yes, and they are the happiest people I have ever known.

And then, I run across you and your weird web site and your raging hatred of AA and I wonder where this boiling resentment came from. And I compare you with those hundreds and thousands of AAs I have met and loved over all these years, who went on those 12 step calls and came to the meetings and helped others in ways far beyond sobriety, and the contrast is so stark and vivid as to be the difference between Dante's inferno and a walk in the park on a day in spring. You are obviously living in some sort of hell of your own making, and for that I am sorry for you. I don't really think you do AA any harm, although that is clearly your intent. But I do hope you find peace somehow, and escape from this obsession that seems to torture you and consume you.


Hello CW,

Okay, I let you go on and on and deliver your speech.

There is not a single number there, in all of your rap, nor any actual evidence that A.A. works to make alcoholics quit drinking. It's all Frank Buchman's favorite trick of vague, Undisprovable Statements, like, "Senior military men in America have realized the necessity...", and "An American General told Frank Buchman two years ago..."

It's all fluff without any actual facts that can be verified.

Do you have any hard evidence, rather than hear-say?

Oh, and of course you are using a couple more of the standard Steppers' debating techniques, like ad hominem, and "I'm listing my shortcomings, but I'm really talking about you." But that kind of just comes with the territory, doesn't it?

Date: Fri, August 1, 2008 9:19 am     (answered 2 September 2009)
From: CW
Subject: Recovery rates

Dear agent orange:

I didn't address the foolishness of the recovery rate mythology, but will go into detail later. Most of the studies you cite have long been dismissed as deeply flawed, including the Vaillant study that you rave about so often. A recent 27 page research paper of AA recovery rates shows that the old numbers — 50% and 25% — still are valid today by any reasonable measure.

Meanwhile, these macro numbers are at least entertaining. It is estimated that there are 17,500,000 alcoholics in the United States (out of 45 million "problem" drinkers). It is estimated that only 15% of the alcoholics will seek treatment, or 2,625,000. AA has 1,200,000 members in the U.S., about 46% of the total who seek treatment. And you say "AA doesn't work?" What have you been smoking?

More later.


A "recent research paper"? You mean a piece of propaganda that is designed to fool the unwary?

The only thing that produces valid results is properly-conducted Randomized Longitudinal Controlled Studies. That is, real controlled tests.

"Papers" that try to contrive an A.A. success rate of 25% or 50% are frauds, and nothing more.

By the way, what is the name of this "recent research paper", and who wrote it, and where was it published? Leaving out that information is a glaring omission.

The rest of your argument is just the usual minimization and denial tap-dance — "the A.A. recovery rate mythology". It isn't mythology, it's the facts. The mythology is the often-incanted lie about "RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail...", and "...50% got sober at once, and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses" (Big Book, page XX of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions)

You have not produced any actual facts to support your belief that A.A. works to make alcoholics quit drinking. Casually mentioning, without naming, some paper that allegedly says something, is not even hear-say evidence.

I can't let this line go without comment:

Most of the studies you cite have long been dismissed as deeply flawed, including the Vaillant study that you rave about so often."

  1. Oh really? "...have long been dismissed..." That is the propaganda trick of Use of the Passive Voice, where all kinds of things allegedly get done by invisible, unnamed people.

  2. So precisely who "dismissed" those studies, besides some angry Steppers who don't like the results of the tests, and wish that those inconvenient truths would just go away? Who says that those studies are "deeply flawed", and what do they know? Flawed how? Please provide some citations or references to something valid and authoritative.

  3. Your claim that most of the valid clinical tests of A.A.'s effectiveness are "dismissed as deeply flawed" is the propaganda trick of Spurious Deligitimization of Evidence. You have provided no evidence that any of those tests or studies is flawed.

  4. And you said, "most of". So which tests are still considered valid? You didn't say. You imply that the tests that you don't like are the "dismissed" ones, but you didn't really say which tests you consider flawed, and which are okay, did you?

  5. And what new, superior, better-done tests — Randomized Longitudinal Controlled Studies — gave better results from A.A. treatment? And what doctors did those tests? Please be very specific. I want names, dates, publications, and page numbers. I showed you mine, now show me yours.

This paragraph is particularly interesting because it demonstrates your lack of working logic:

It is estimated that there are 17,500,000 alcoholics in the United States (out of 45 million "problem" drinkers). It is estimated that only 15% of the alcoholics will seek treatment, or 2,625,000. AA has 1,200,000 members in the U.S., about 46% of the total who seek treatment. And you say "AA doesn't work?" What have you been smoking?

You have presented zero evidence that any A.A. members are sober, or that A.A. works.

  • You threw out a few numbers: the number of estimated alcoholics in the USA, and how of them many seek treatment, apparently ever seek treatment at any time in their lives.
  • Then you gave an unverified A.A. membership count. There is no official membership list, and they cannot eliminate duplicates. They can't even tell who is just visiting, or who dropped out after three or four meetings.
  • Then you claimed that the A.A. membership was roughly equal to half of the number of alcoholics who seek treatment sometime in their lives. So what?
  • Then you merely assumed that some or all of those A.A. members were sober, and claimed that A.A. works. There is no actual evidence of any sobriety there. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.
    You just assumed the very thing that you were trying to prove — that A.A. works to sober up alcoholics. That's the propaganda trick of Petitio Principii, Assume Facts Not In Evidence.
  • Nor did you provide anything like a sobriety rate — like what percentage of the newcomers get 5 or 10 or 20 years of sobriety — that would reveal how well the A.A. program really works.
  • And you think that is an argument that proves that A.A. works? What have you been smoking?

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "You have no conception these days of how much failure we had.
**  You had to cull over hundreds of these drunks to get a handful
**  to take the bait."
**  Bill Wilson describing early recruiting efforts for Alcoholics Anonymous,
**  at the memorial service for Dr. Bob, Nov. 15, 1952; file available here.
** "There were alcoholics in the hospitals of whom A.A. could
** touch and help only about five percent. The doctors started
** giving them a dose of LSD, so that the resistance would be
** broken down. And they had about fifteen percent recoveries."
** == Nell Wing — PASS IT ON, page 370.
** (Nell Wing was an early secretary of A.A. and Bill Wilson.)
** Apparently, for treating alcoholics, LSD works three times
** better than cult religion.

Date: Thu, July 31, 2008 5:16 pm     (answered 2 September 2009)
From: Gerard
Subject: comment & question

Hey Orange.

My name is Gerard, I'm 28, started AA at about... 22 and broke free maybe a year ago, and I would like to say that I enjoy alot of what you post; you seem kinda bent on what... I don't exactly know what your "primary purpose" would be? But I hope you don't feel angry at them, or, any other thing on your psyche; I know that I did for too long, then, studied the teachings of emptiness in madhyamika school of Buddhism, and saw how things operate in reality, so, not to much to do with AA as its own singular cause; you attended for some time, I attended for some time, we both were there, so, we both are why things are the way they are to some extent! care to differ?

So, you may say thats not enough? Maybe? So then look to particle physics and see that everything is one substance, and absolutely nothing done was done by a do-er!

If you understand what I am saying here then you could see that as fast as you want to waste time with how you view AA, or, all your views on how things are happening according to you is as fast as I could deconstruct your entire website with less than a thought (but who is thinking anyway, yes?)

You could run even deeper if you wanted?? Anyways? ... I heard of documentation of proof that the authors of the BB had relapsed after writing it somewhere down the road, if you have that could you let me know?



Hello Gerard,

While this may all just be a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago (Grateful Dead song there), the suffering of our fellow humans (and other sentient beings) is real. So, after we get out of our own kharmic predicaments, we are stuck with the job of reducing their suffering. One way to do that is to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of this planet — that is, the truth to noise ratio.

Telling the truth about alcoholism, addiction, and recovery, and how well various things work to help people to get free and sober, is a small part of the job. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.

I have no documentary evidence that either Bill Wilson or Dr. Bob relapsed after writing the Big Book, just unconfirmed reports from various people that Bill Wilson relapsed all of the time.

Have a good day.

== Orange

P.S.: I see that I forgot to answer your question about Big Book authors relapsing. Yes, that is documented. Bill Wilson's wife, Lois Wilson, had a personal secretary named Francis Hartigan. He wrote a biography of Bill Wilson named Bill W. A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson. Hartigan wrote that Bill Wilson kept the first copy of the Big Book that came off of the presses, and in that book, Bill ticked off the names of the authors of the autobiographical stories who relapsed.

We have to wonder why both the Wilsons and the Smiths did not simply give up. Today the nation's best alcoholism treatment centers report success rates ranging from 25 percent to 50 percent. During Bill's stay in Akron, he and Bob calculated their success rate to be about 5 percent, and among the few who seemed to catch on, not all of them were able to maintain consistent sobriety. The first edition of AA's Big Book, published in 1939, contains the personal recovery stories of many of AA's earliest members. Some years later, Bill made notations in the first copy of the book to come off the press, indicating which individuals portrayed therein had stayed sober. A good 50 percent of them had not.
Bill W. A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson, Francis Hartigan, pages 91-92.

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**      Give fools their gold, and knaves their power;
**      Let fortune's bubbles rise and fall;
**      Who sows a field, or trains a flower,
**      Or plants a tree, is more than all.
**         == Whittier, A Song of Harvest

Date: Thu, July 31, 2008 5:02 pm     (answered 2 September 2009)
From: "Adrian"
Subject: step one

Hi i'm an AA member in the UK and i agree about the dropout rate. From my experience a lot of people come to meetings once or twice and thats it. But those who stay or swallow there pride and return straight after a slip generally do quite well. I find it works for those who are serious about quitting. I have also known people who quit through willpower alone but they had to take anti craving drugs and seemed to have a much tougher time for the first year with the support of AA. I would say if anyone is serious about quitting, go to AA and if you cannot take on board the steps just do step one, and make use of the support.

Hello Adrian,

Thanks for the letter.

I also find that "those who are serious about quitting" tend to do well. Motivation and will power are very important for success in quitting bad habits. That has nothing to do with A.A., of course; A.A. just steals the credit when one of those sincere, determined, motivated, people does quit drinking.

I don't know what people you are talking about who do worse without A.A. and have to take "anti-craving drugs". Do you have a citation, or any official report of that? When was it ever established that A.A. is a substitute for "anti-craving drugs"?

I don't take any such "anti-craving drugs", and never did — other than the fact that I used nicotine patches for two weeks to quit smoking, at the same time as I quit drinking.

Step One is not "support", it is sabotage.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    Being surrounded by a group of people who keep
**    telling you that you are powerless over alcohol,
**    and that your will power is useless, is not
**    getting "support". It is getting sabotaged.
**    With friends like them, you don't need any enemies.

Date: Thu, July 31, 2008 10:24 pm     (answered 2 September 2009)
From: "Nikki C."
Subject: your site is so great

thank you for all your work. I'm finding your research so valuable in figuring out the problems with the 12 step program that I have recently become involved with. I've been aware of charlotte kasl since the original work and have always been critical, however NOTHING like what you have offered here.

nikki c.

p.s. i liked what you wrote about tobacco as well and have been amazed at how NA is ignoring that addiction altogether and I believe EVERY person in the group smokes. are there any other writings you could easily direct me to on that subject with regards to AA or NA or twelve step program in general?

Hi Nikki,

Thanks for the letter and all of the compliments.

I can't think of anything that is specifically the 12-Step philosophy on tobacco, but some things are relevant.

  1. The single most relevant item is probably Bill Wilson's rationalization of smoking tobacco as being okay — "She sees she was wrong to make a burning issue out of such a matter when his more serious ailments were being rapidly cured."
    That's at the start of the file The Funny Spirituality of Bill Wilson and A.A..

  2. Here is a rationalization of smoking from the book Alcoholic Thinking.

  3. Another Stepper's rationalization of the A.A. attitude towards tobacco here.

  4. There is my criminal Stepper "counselor" telling me not to quit smoking, here. and here and here.

  5. A letter describes A.A. tobacco deaths here.

  6. Then there is the mention of Nicotine Anonymous in the file on "Snake Oil".

  7. There is a short mention of Nicotine Anonymous here, and more about tobacco in the same file here.

  8. My story of tobacco, here.

  9. If you are studying the subject of tobacco, you must include this: the funny satirical movie Cold Turkey, which starred Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart in two of their best performances.

  10. Health authorities report that tobacco will kill 1 billion people in this century.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Tobacco is a dirty weed: I like it.
**     It satisfies no normal need: I like it.
**     It makes you thin, it makes you lean,
**     It takes the hair right off your bean.
**     It's the worst darned stuff I've ever seen:
**      I like it.
**          ==  G. Hemminger, Tobacco

May 15, 2009, Friday: Day 15, continued:

Canada Geese gosling sleeping
This gosling is taking a nap, and using its own back as a pillow.
You can do that if your neck is a goose-neck.

Date: Sat, August 2, 2008 4:19 pm     (answered 3 September 2009)
From: Furyofthemaker
Subject: help for anyone in a.a. looking to get out

im a 30 yr old man my 39 yr old wife is in a.a. and i see the awful affects it's having on her mentally and physically. how do i get her out before we loose everything? that is the goal from what i can see, to make her hit rock bottom. shes been in for 2 1/2 mon. now she's moved out in a "home". she lies and tries to get her hands on as much money as possible from me. she treats me very badly. what do i do ? is there a legal way to go about this? i love my wife and miss her very much. please help me

Hello Fury,

Sorry to take so long to answer. Sometimes the email really piles up and gets backlogged, and this was one of those times. I'm just going back through old email, trying to get caught up, and found this.

Obviously, the situation must have ended, one way or another, by now.

In general, getting a loved one out of a cult can be extremely difficult, if he or she has really gone off the deep end, which it sounds like your wife did. She's over 21 years of age, and free to do what she wishes, so legally, there is not much that you can do.

A good source of advice for getting someone out of a cult is Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan.

But still, there is no guaranteed cure or sure answer. Often, you have little choice but to let them do what they think they have to do, and hope that they will come to their senses and recover eventually.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
**     Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the truth!
**     Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature's rule!
**     Cursed be the gold that gilds the straighten'd forehead of the fool!
**     ==  Tennyson, Locksley Hall

Date: Sat, August 2, 2008 5:53 pm     (answered 3 September 2009)
From: "Marty N."
Subject: Thank you for your work

Dear Orange,

I have studied your work for about 1-year now. I have relapsed many times. As of now I'm sober 6-months. About 2-months ago I had one bottle of beer along with my wife (she has no problem).

No monsters come after me, no string of events happened, etc... I just wanted to see if Ol' Bill was right about one drink. I can safely say, in my case, he is wrong. However, I do not think it a good idea to drink regularly, just a personal choice.

I cleared my head. Much of this was helped by your work. I want to take the time to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I never write letters like this, but I feel you deserve it. Please keep up your hard work. You are objective, non-partial, and just. I have never caught you making not even one unfounded slander. I have read most of your work.

My life is mine again to do As I choose.

Thanks for your papers,

Marty N.
Linden, AL

Hi Marty,

Thanks for the letter and all of the compliments, and I'm glad to hear that you have broken free and are doing well. It sounds like you have things figured out very well indeed — one drink won't kill you, but you are better off if you don't.

So have a good day, and a good life.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Tis strange but true, for truth is always strange,—
**     Stranger than fiction.
**         ==  Byron, Don Juan

Date: Mon, August 4, 2008 6:48 am     (answered 3 September 2009)
From: "Justin B."

Are you somebody who tried to get sober and couldn't? What do you do for a living? You spend some much time in something that will really have very little impact on society as a whole if any. There are much more scandalous things in this world than alcoholics anonymous. Yet, you spend all your time on this? There must be something I'm missing. There has to be a reason why you devote so much to it. Maybe a family member tried to get sober and couldn't? I have no idea. If you could please respond I would be very interested to know.

And yes. I am someone who spent a lot of time in and out of institutions. I went to my first one when I was 12 for depression. Then later on I started going for drugs and alcohol abuse. However I am now 14 months sober and life is good. I have started to rebuild relationships with my family. I am self-supporting and happy. And this is as a result of alcoholics anonymous and a God of MY understanding. Not yours or anyone else's in or out of AA. So I don't want to hear about how AA doesn't work or it's a cult or anything else negative you want to say. I am just curious as to why you spend so much time on the subject. What happened?


Hello Justin,

I am not somebody who couldn't get sober. I am just seven weeks short of 9 years sober now. I tell the truth about alcoholism and recovery because somebody has to do it.

The fact that you enjoy A.A. meetings does not make it a good or effective method for helping alcoholics. And yes, there are bigger causes of death than alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, but not many. And quack cures — "scandalous things" —don't help anybody.

You can find a list of links to more autobiographical information here.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    "Now I know what it's like to be high on life.
**    It isn't as good, but my driving has improved."
**      == Nina, on "Just Shoot Me", 13 Jan 2006.

Date: Wed, August 6, 2008 2:48 pm     (answered 3 September 2009)
From: "anonymous"
Subject: AA

Dear orange:

Your site is excellent. It is well written. You deal very well with the AA zealots. Some thoughts of mine: AA is a placebo, when it "works". It may come to the same thing, but involvment in AA may be a replacement habit.

I suspect that the hard core member ship is really low. Just enough to keep it going. AA does need coercion to get attendees. Most of those do attend are NOT alcoholics — even as defined by AA. Very few people with a drinking problem fulfill the definition of alcoholic — as defined by AA.

People who stay in AA are there because they derive benefit from it. For many, it is their only real social outlet. It gives them a sense of belonging and easy answers. Some stay from fear.

There is a lunatic fringe in AA: program zealots; those with untreated personality disorders. It is they who send you the poison pen letters.


Hi anonymous,

Thanks for the letter, and thanks for the compliments.

About the size of the core group: I was kind of thinking the same thing. The dropout rate is so high that the long-term core group cannot be very big. Just today I was thinking about the big conventions where they get 5,000 or 10,000 people together and do a "count-down of years", as they call it, which is a routine where they recognize how much sober time the old-timers have, and cheer for them.

Well, another letter that I was answering today claimed that there were 1,200,000 A.A. members in the U.S.A. (which I think is a little high, maybe way too high, but we'll let that one slide for the moment). Well, 10,000 is only 1/120th of 1,200,000. So, at some gigantic convention where they are celebrating the sobriety time of 10,000 old-timers, they are actually cheering and bragging about how much sober time 0.8% of their membership has.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent
**     a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.
**         ==  Eric Hoffer

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Last updated 10 March 2015.
The most recent version of this file can be found at http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters141.html