Letters, We Get Mail, CCLXXXVI

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Date: Thu, January 26, 2012 7:59 pm     (answered 29 January 2012)
From: "Jordan C."
Subject: Sounds like u need to do the fifth step again!

Sounds like u need to do the fifth step again! Alota thought spent on something u resented doing. Forgive, at least forget & move the fuck on to more relevent & productive pursuits... such as happiness now that you've mastered sobriety. Try outsmarting the cult of yoga, now that you debunked AA... ha,ha,ha...

Hello Jordan,

Thanks for the letters. I have never done a Fifth Step, and never will. Why would I want to do the practices of an old pro-Nazi cult religion from the nineteen-thirties?

Cult of Yoga? Yoga is not a cult. It is a system of exercises.

Now I know of a couple of cults that taught yoga, and I have criticized them. Check out SYDA — "Siddha Yoga", and Yogi Bhajan's "3HO".

Date: Thu, January 26, 2012 8:50 pm     (answered 29 January 2012)
From: "Jordan C."
Subject: A.A./Carl Jung/Rowland Hazard/Ebby Thacher


That is an interesting essay. Notice that Dick B. began by saying,

"I don't know for sure the answer to any of the foregoing questions."

That kind of matters, you know.

Some lines sound especially impressive, like where Dick B. declared,

I personally have copies of the correspondence that I obtained with permission from Bill's home at Stepping Stones. And see Pass It On. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1984; Francis Hartigan, Bill W.; Lois Wilson. Lois Remembers, p. 93 in a letter to Bill Wilson.

Well, yes, we all have copies of PASS IT ON and those other books, and have read the letter from Carl Jung to Bill Wilson. If you have another letter, please publish it. Is there any other letter from Carl Jung besides the already-published one? Where is the evidence?

Dick B. hints that the letter or letters of Carl Jung support the story. The published letter does not. Carl Jung's letter to Bill Wilson was published long ago, and much of it is merely a form letter that may well have been written by one of Carl Jung's assistants, either Jolande Jacobi or Aniella Jaffe. At that time, Carl Jung was not in good health, and Jolanda or Aniella handled a lot of Jung's correspondence for him.

You can read Carl Jung's letter to Bill Wilson here.

And no matter who wrote the letter, it did not even say that Rowland Hazard was one of Jung's patients, never mind verifying the ridiculous story that Jung told Rowland that he had to have a religious experience or he would die.

This line sounds authoritative, but is not:

"the Rowland Hazard/Carl Jung account has been related by Rowland Hazard personally to many on the New York A.A. scene — people such as Bill's sponsor Ebby Thacher, Rowland's pastor Dr. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., Rowland's Oxford Group colleagues — F. Shepard Cornell and Cebra Graves, Bill Wilson himself, Professor Philip Marshall Brown of Princeton, and Shoemaker's associates Rev. W. Irving Harris and his wife Julia."

The fact that several cult religion members are reported to have said that Rowland Hazard went around telling a story is hardly convincing evidence. At best, it is hearsay — the same troubled alcoholic is said to have told a story to several people, many of whom were unreliable alcoholic witnesses themselves, who then went back to drinking. And others were crazy religious cult members who followed a man — Dr. Frank Buchman — who repeatedly went to Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies and Sieg-Heiled Adolf Hitler. And those people most assuredly "had an ax to grind", as Dick B. called it. The accuracy and veracity of their recollections are highly questionable. The Oxford Group was notorious for lying whenever it was to their advantage. Most of their published history is false, just sanitized fairy tales.

If the telling was so accurate, why are people just now trying to figure out when Rowland even saw Carl Jung?

Remember that Rowland never got sober. He was cursed by the drink compulsion. The "cure" that Rowland supposedly got from Carl Jung did not work. Rowland flipped out and joined the Oxford Group cult religion for a little while, and helped to recruit Bill Wilson into the cult, and then went back to drinking, and died drunk. So much for "Carl Jung's religious cure". So much for the Oxford Group religious cure.

There is nothing in the writings of Carl Jung to verify the confrontational technique of telling patients that they will die unless they get a religious experience. That was not Carl Jung's style.

But this is really the best laugh:

Fourth, as if seeking to enshrine the account in the very foundation of Calvary Church in New York, the story persists to this day as visitors are guided through Calvary and shown the stained glass windows in the church which are dedicated to Rowland Hazard — A.A.'s Rowland Hazard, as their literature remarks.

The Oxford Group cult religion devoted a stained glass window to Rowland Hazard, so that makes the Jung story true? That is outrageously bad logic.

(Or was it some Alcoholics Anonymous members who put the window in there years after Rev. Samuel Shoemaker Jr. quit the Oxford Group?)

By the way, it was not "A.A.'s Rowland Hazard". Rowland Hazard was never an Alcoholics Anonymous member. He was an Oxford Group member who helped Ebby Thacher to recruit Bill Wilson into the Oxford Group cult.

That web page is quite a piece of propaganda.

Date: Thu, January 26, 2012 8:57 pm     (answered 29 January 2012)
From: "Jordan C."
Subject: According to both Bluhm and Finch, these Hazard family documents clearly place Rowland in Jung's care for some months beginning in 1926 rather than 1930 or 1931. It appears likely that Wilson was simply repeating Cebra G.'s (inaccurate) recollection

According to both Bluhm and Finch, these Hazard family documents clearly place Rowland in Jung's care for some months beginning in 1926 rather than 1930 or 1931. It appears likely that Wilson was simply repeating Cebra G.'s (inaccurate) recollection of the dates of Rowland's initial treatment by Jung. [21]
From wiki on R. Hazard III...

Yes, Cora Finch has written to me about her research, and I agreed that it was likely that Rowland Hazard was in Europe in the nineteen-twenties, not the -thirties, and possibly a patient of Carl Jung then. But Carl Jung did not verify that. It is possible that Rowland Hazard merely spoke to Carl Jung for an hour, asking him about the treatment of alcoholism. Jung's letter to Wilson did not describe a course of treatment. It sounded more like a newspaper reporter's interview, and Jung said that he couldn't reveal the whole truth to Rowland Hazard for fear of being misunderstood.

And yes, the story got garbled in Bill Wilson's mind. It may also have been garbled in Rowland Hazard's mind. He was drinking himself to death, you know. That's why he had to see so many psychiatrists. It is highly unlikely that Carl Jung told Rowland Hazard that he needed to go join a fascistic cult religion, which is what Rowland did.

We have been corresponding about this for many years:

  1. Rowland Hazard was treated by Courtney Bayler, not Carl Jung, in 1931.

  2. Carl Jung's letter to Bill Wilson.

  3. There are 2 reasons that Jung's reply doesn't mean he once spoke to Hazard.

  4. [Bill Wilson] would allude to Rowland as having a "spiritual experience."

  5. http://www.stellarfire.org — Cora Finch's research into Rowland Hazard and Carl Jung, and the possible influence that Carl Jung may have had on early Alcoholics Anonymous

  6. Letter from Cora Finch

  7. Letter from Rajiv B.

What is missing from the documentation is any evidence that Carl Jung taught Rowland Hazard that his situation was hopeless, and he would die unless he had a religious experience. It was Dr. Silkworth who taught such nonsense, not Carl Jung. It was Dr. Silkworth who taught Bill Wilson that he should scare alcoholics with death threats to get them to join A.A.

Bill Wilson documented the origins of that fear induction strategy:

Then came that little man that we who live in this area saw so much, him with the kind blue eyes and white hair, Doc Silkworth. You'll remember that Doc said to me, "look Bill, you're preaching at these people too much. You've got the cart before the horse. This 'white flash' experience of yours scares those drunks to death. Why don't you put the fear of God into them first. You're always talking about James and The Varieties of Religious Experiences and how you have to deflate people before they can know God, how they must have humility. So, why don't you use the tool of the medical hopelessness of alcoholism for practically all those involved. Why don't you talk to the drunk about that allergy they've got and that obsession that makes them keep on drinking and guarantees that they will die. Maybe when you punch it into them hard it will deflate them enough so that they will find what you found."
Bill Wilson, speaking at the Memorial service for Dr. Bob, Nov. 15, 1952, file available here.

Likewise, it was William James, not Carl Jung, who said that "the only radical remedy ... for dipsomania is religiomania."
Bill Wilson thought that Carl Jung said it. Wrong. Footnote 1 on page 263 of The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James, says:
'"The only radical remedy I know for dipsomania is religiomania," is a saying I have heard quoted from some medical man.'

William James published Varieties in 1902, but he didn't meet Carl Jung until 1909, so it is unlikely that James got that line from Jung. Rather, because Bill Wilson was stoned out of his gourd on belladonna and alcohol withdrawal when he read Varieties in Charlie Towns' Hospital in December of 1934, he just got things all mixed up in his mind.

Above all, I think that this is the most important point: It doesn't matter whether Carl Jung said something really stupid like that Rowland Hazard had to get a religious conversion experience. Carl Jung wasn't God. Carl Jung wasn't even right about a lot of stuff. Heck, Carl Jung was a Nazi sympathizer himself, who had some very nasty racist things to say about Jews and Blacks. And the so-called "religious conversion" didn't work. Rowland Hazard went back to drinking.

If I was A.A., I'd try hard to forget all about the Rowland Hazard and Carl Jung story.

They can do that, just like how they have forgotten about Florence Rankin, who was "A Feminine Victory" in the First Edition of the Big Book, but who relapsed and committed suicide, and Ernie Galbraith, the constantly-relapsing A.A. Number Four who seduced Doctor Bob's daughter Susan, and "Tall Man", the fake Indian in the Third Edition of the Big Book...

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    Jede Form von Süchtigkeit is von übel, gleichgültig,
**    ob es sich um Alkohol oder Morphium oder Idealismus handelt.
**    Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic
**    be alcohol or morphine or idealism.
**       ==  Carl Gustav Jung (1875—1961),
**           Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken (1962) ch. 12

[The next letter from Jordan_C is here.]

[ Link here = http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html#James_S ]

Date: Sat, January 28, 2012 6:09 am     (answered 29 January 2012)
From: "James S."
Subject: re 12 step program and Celebrate Recovery

Dear A. Orange,

Someone highly recommended your site to reveal roots of 12 Steps. So I thought you might like to know that a former AA as well as Celebrate Recovery person created a website exposing both:


Your site is great because it documents facts, science, medical, etc.

12 step exposure is great because it compare the AA and CR teachings to Scripture.

Kindest regards,

James S.

Hello James,

Thanks for the tip. More grist for the mill.

By the way, did you see the web page, The Heresy of the Twelve Steps?

You might find that interesting.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     What is the difference between surrendering your Will
**     and your life to "Higher Power" in Step Three, and
**     selling your soul to the Devil in trade for sobriety?

[The previous letter from Andrew_S is here.]

[ Link here = http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html#Andrew_S ]

Date: Sun, January 29, 2012 1:25 am     (answered 4 February 2012)
From: "Andrew S."
Subject: Re: AA's Problems


You are guilty are using the same rhetorical techniques you attack AA advocates for using. Some people might dismiss your central thesis because of this logical inconsistency.

Hello again, Andrew,

No, I do not use dishonest and deceptive propaganda tricks to make people believe a bunch of untrue things. I do not lie to my audience. That is the difference between my debating style and Alcoholics Anonymous.

In addition, it adds to your tone of hostility and paranoia. If you are truly confident in your argument, you don't have to belittle and browbeat people with slightly different opinions. If you are truly confident, you'd have a sense of humor about the complexity and confusion that goes hand in hand with the fight against addiction.

I don't think I "belittle and browbeat" my critics. In fact, I go out of the way to be civil while they call me all kinds of obscene names and claim that telling the truth is "doing a disservice to those seeking sobriety".

For instance, I pointed out that you criticized me for using the "Not As Bad" propaganda trick and then turned around and used the same trick to defend Winston Churchill. In reply to that you said, "Nice try at a debate point though."

No, I did not use the same trick. I just explained that in the previous letter. Saying that Winston Churchill was not at all like Adolf Hitler is not using a lame rationalization that "Winston wasn't as bad as Adolf."

You do understand that that is smarmy and condescending, don't you? That is something an asshole would say.

Just what is "smarmy and condescending"? Defending Winston Churchill? A lot of Brits will disagree with you on that point.

I agree with you on your central premise. That's why I am puzzled with your condescending and hostile attitude.

You keep saying that you agree with me on my central premise, but then you repeat A.A. propaganda and misinformation, and then get angry when I refute that misinformation.

When I described AA as having a compelling origin myth, that was not a positive statement of opinion. It was an objective statement; AA has a explanation for its origins that seems to compel people to believe in its program. 'Myth' connotes falsehood; a view directly in line with your own. Why do you think that that is a pro-AA statement? It's only an explanation for why AA can propagate itself despite a lack of success.

Thanks for a good example of just what I was talking about. Having a "compelling origin myth" is not a good thing. That is a fancy way of saying that the A.A. history is a lie.

In a previous letter, you declared, "We need origin myths for the important things in our lives." You also listed the lack of a "compelling origin myth" as one of the deficiencies of alternative treatments for alcohol abuse. I can only interpret that as a veiled promotion of Alcoholics Anonymous. And now you complain that I'm paranoid and being unfair when I criticize the "compelling origin myth" thing?

And that argument is beyond ridiculous. When somebody has an infection and goes to the doctor for a shot of penicillin, the patient does not have to get treated to a falsified and glorified history of Sir Alexander Fleming. The patient does not need a "compelling origin myth", he just needs the penicillin. But since A.A. does not have any real medicine to offer, they brag about "compelling origin myths" and "fellowship" and "walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe".

I described AA as a program that can grant illusory clarity to sick people. You assumed that was a positive statement. It's not; it's neutral. I've never advocated using falsehood of any sort to treat any medical condition. You assumed that was a defense of AA and that I was prescribing it for alcoholics. You are setting up a straw man (a misleading representation of my views) and beating it to death.

You are doing it again, even while you are saying that you are not doing it. The "illusory clarity" is a very bad thing, not a neutral or good thing. There is nothing neutral about giving newcomers illusions about what will keep them from dying.

The argument that A.A. is a "useful lie" is an old one. William L. Playfair, M.D., wrote a whole book that debunked that concept: The Useful Lie, Crossway Books, 1991.

Likewise, there is also the "placebo effect" argument that claims that alcoholics benefit from some vague A.A. "placebo effect" because A.A. tells a bunch of happy fairy tales. That was a favorite excuse that Dr. George Vaillant used to try to claim that A.A. was a good thing even when it killed more alcoholics than it saved.

I described aspects of AA that bear further examination. I wasn't prescribing AA or its principles for the treatment of alcoholism.

But you were defending A.A. with irrational arguments while claiming that you weren't.

We do not need any "further examination" of the bad aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous. That misleading phrase implies that maybe, some time in the future, after further study and reconsideration, we shall discover that lying to sick people the way that A.A. does is actually a jolly good thing after all.

No, we won't, and no, it isn't.

I don't think you're evil. I don't think you're deluded. I don't think that your consciously distorting facts. I think that you're a jive turkey defending an objectively true statement with the close-mindedness and dogma of a zealot. And, yes, that is an ad hominem attack because your ethical and emotional credibility help inform how much I can trust what you say. I don't trust jive turkeys and know-it-alls, even when they are factually right.

Sorry if you think that I am a zealot. Nevertheless, I will not silently accept so-called "counselors" and "therapists" and "sponsors" shoving A.A. misinformation on sick people, and passing that off as "help".

When I survey the writing regarding addiction (and I am including you in here) I am reminded of this: "My function is to raise the possibility, 'Hey, you know, some of this stuff might be bullshit.'" — Robert Anton Wilson

I think that some of your views are bullshit. Specifically, you have a universal view of addiction based on your successful recovery. Just like an AA who would have gone into spontaneous remission despite AA. You attribute your recovery to a moral transformation. It could be causation or correlation; fundamentally, it's anecdotal evidence about a statistical group of one. Despite that, it has the weight of truth for you. In reality, from an objective viewpoint, it's just bullshit. Good bullshit perhaps, helpful bullshit maybe, but really just bullshit.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong. What the heck are you reading? Apparently not my web site. I never claimed that I had a "moral transformation". That is Bill Wilson's baloney. I said that I got so sick that I was dying, so I quit all of my bad habits at once to save my life. I quit alcohol, drugs, and tobacco within a three week period to get my health back. (And that was 11 years ago, and I'm still clean and sober and tobacco-free.)

I never claimed that I had a "moral transformation", or a "spiritual experience", or any of that grandiose Bill Wilson garbage. My experience was coming down with the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia so bad that I could hardly breathe, never mind smoke a cigarette, and my "great spiritual awakening" was, "Being this sick really sucks!"

And I have never stereotyped addicts and claimed that there was one answer, or one kind of addiction, or one kind of treatment. I cannot begin to count how many times I have said that addiction and alcohol abuse have many very different causes ranging from bipolar disorders to childhood abuse, and from depression to narcissistic personality disorder, to other mental illnesses and physical illnesses, to genetics, to various unknown factors. There are many, many different causes for drug and alcohol abuse, and there is no one-size-fits-all cure. Note that the 12-Step program is a "one-size-fits-all" quack cure.

Saying that the only difference between AA and the People's Temple is a matter of degree is bullshit. That's a semantically empty statement; the only difference between the Columbia Record Club and the People's Temple is a matter of degree. What empirical evidence would exist to make your statement false? I can't think of any, thus it is semantically empty bullshit.

Have you actually read much about the People's Temple? The similarities in the mind games are disturbing. You should start your reading with Six Years with God by Jeanne Mills. Click on that name, and then you can continue down the bibliography list of books about Jim Jones. If you read much about the history of Jim Jones and the People's Temple, you will recognize a lot of the mind games, like the constant put-downs, and claims that you are just a disgusting sinner who needs to get straight with God, and demands for abject obedience, and on and on. And remember that the People's Temple was also supposedly a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. There is a lot of similarity to A.A.

By the way, the author, Jeanne Mills, is dead. Some of Jim Jones's "Angels" killed her and her husband and daughter as punishment for her writing the book.

Having a laundry list of common propaganda techniques is bullshit. Objectively true statements can be falsely linked with a similar rhetorical ploy. What's important is how these enthymemes are used, in what context and if the author's opinions are presented as opinions rather than fact. I pointed out that falsehood and deception are nearly universal in political discourse with the example's of Winston Churchill's use of a voice actor. Now, one can say "Ah! That's a minimization! You are minimizing falsehood by pointing out a justified use of it. That's moral relativity! You are advocating evil because it is universally practiced to a lessor degree! That's black and white thinking because you are painting Churchill as a devil!"

You are still just arguing that dishonest and deceptive propaganda techniques are okay for A.A. to use. I still maintain that such misinformation has no place in the treatment of sick people.

And there is no similarity between Winston Churchill sometimes sometimes hiding the truth in order to win World War II, and Alcoholics Anonymous lying to sick people. Especially not when the A.A. lies are harmful things like, "You are powerless over alcohol. You have a spiritual disease that cannot ever be cured. You drink alcohol because you have moral shortcomings and defects of character and resentments. You are insane. Your thinking is alcoholic. You should just do what your sponsor says. And stop taking the medications that the doctor gave you. RARELY have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path."

Really, what I did was state a historical fact to support a common sense assertion: people in power tend to manipulate the truth to achieve their ends. The underlying truth of those two facts is not diminished by spouting a laundry list of objections.

The fact that politicians lie does not make it okay for addictions counselors to lie. Or A.A. sponsors, or pro-A.A. doctors, or whatever... That is another rationalization, which is another propaganda trick. Alcoholics Anonymous is not entitled to lie to sick people. Period.

Bullshit in the service of truth is still just bullshit. You are jiving me and I don't appreciate it. You may have the logos for your argument, but by intentionally misrepresenting my argument and mis-using your laundry list of propaganda techniques you have lost ethos and pathos. In my opinion, you don't have the ethical authority to speak compellingly on the subject of addiction. I don't think you have the emotional maturity to deal with people who don't agree 100% with you.

I like your first line, "Bullshit in the service of truth is still just bullshit." Please go repeat that at every A.A. meeting you can. Explain to them that spouting "creation myths", untruths, historical fairy tales, cult religion dogma, and misinformation about alcohol addiction is not helping the sick people.

I have not misrepresented your arguments. You have repeatedly said that you agreed with me about A.A. not working, and then you proceeded to list a lot of false arguments for why we should accept A.A. anyway, and A.A. isn't really so bad. Like,

  • "we also need to look at the cost of the program and the overall utility and happiness a person receives"
  • "My personal experience is that old timers receive a great deal of happiness and satisfaction from this program."
  • "I think it can be taken for granted that the expense of providing comprehensive health care for everyone is greater than the cost of AA meetings."
  • "To me AA would be about a 4 or 5 on a 1-10 cult scale; about the same as the Episcopalian Church."
  • "The human soul has a strange attraction to rigamarole and ceremonial trappings. We need origin myths for the important things in our lives. When we are often at our weakest, we need symbols and pageantry and some higher authority that can give us illusory clarity."
  • "It is almost unfair to use reason and logic to criticize spiritual organizations"
  • "I think the only difference between you and me is that I think this is benign foolishness, not dangerous."

Of course I disagreed with those arguments. Quackery is very harmful and dangerous. It kills people. And lying to sick people about what might help to cure them, and how well the suggested cure really works, is inexcusable. It is also illegal for doctors to do that. But since A.A. sponsors are not licensed to practice medicine, they can get away with it.

What you have glossed over and not even mentioned is the harmful effects that come from practicing the 12 Steps and believing the A.A. ideology and associating with A.A. That is not just "benign foolishness". You should go read the list of A.A. horror stories.

Then, you even said that I should stop having "irrational faith in reason". That is plainly advocating unthinking insanity.

And then you complain that I strongly disagree with those statements?

It seems to me that you should clarify your thinking and recognize the contradictions. If you really agree with me that A.A. is ineffective quackery, then you should notice that the "overall utility and happiness a person receives" is a negative number. It does not matter how much you like A.A. meetings, or what kind of warm and fuzzy feelings of "fellowship" you get there, people are dying over this stuff. Misinformation has no place in the treatment of a disease, which is what A.A. calls drinking alcohol.

It's also condescending to rip someone apart for fifty paragraphs and belittle their opinions and then to end the conversation with: Have a Good Day,

Andrew S.

I always end my letters with "Have a good day." It is better than "Sincerely yours", which is totally inappropriate for a lot of the letters that I receive.

So, have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**         If you are going through hell, keep going.
**            — Sir Winston Churchill (1874—1965)

[The next letter from Andrew_S is here.]

May 27, 2009, Wednesday:

Great Blue Heron Beethoven the Great Blue Heron, getting blown in the wind

Great Blue Heron
Beethoven the Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron
Beethoven the Great Blue Heron

[More gosling photos below, here.]

[ Link here = http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html#Kate_W ]

Date: Sun, January 29, 2012 4:55 pm     (answered 4 February 2012)
From: "Kate W."
Subject: 'It Works'... Apparently

Dear Orange,

I am a great admirer and have a deep respect for your work.

I left AA about 18 months ago, but still like to look at various 12 Step and Anti-12 Step websites.

Something that I see come up often is the claim that 'it works for me'. But claimants never really define what is meant by such a claim. What does the AA program aim to do, and what does it mean for AA to succeed? There are two main types of problem with claiming AA works:

Logical Problem

When someone says 'It works', I usually ask them what they mean by that, how they define their terms as follows:

  1. I start by questioning what they mean by 'It'. What are they referring to: the 12 Steps, meetings, fellowship, coffee, biscuits, God, the guiding will of a doorknob — who knows! When one questions this, a response is usually given along the lines of 'I don't care how it works, it just does', completely avoiding the issue altogether.

  2. I may then question what they mean by 'works'. This elicits a response along the lines of 'I have been sober for xxx years'. There are so many flaws in their conclusions that it can be difficult to proceed from here. Generally, it is implied that AA works because the individual has maintained sobriety for a length of time. But AA (the book) doesn't claim to get people sober — it claims to help people find a power greater than themselves. It is that power that gets alcoholics sober, not AA. So the primary measure of success should not be sobriety, but a belief in and connection with a Higher Power.

Scientific Problem

Aside from making sense of the AA-speak, there is the further problem of claiming 'It works' from a scientific perspective. One individual's sobriety (or a million for that matter) cannot be attributed to AA without comparisons with a control group. And studies that have done so have proved AA to be just as effective as (and more harmful than) nothing at all! Sobriety could be linked just as tenuously with drinking coffee and reading books written in the 1930s!

As much as I like to debate this issue, it can be very frustrating to try and talk logic with idiots. AA members make blanket statements without any thought at all. I often feel like I am wasting my breath, because they usually conclude by saying 'well, I'm sober today and that's all that matters'. But I don't think it is all that matters. They should be held accountable for their claims. Do avoid such accountability is disrespectful and offensive.

I would appreciate any advice you can offer on how to deal with such claims.



Hello Kate,

Thanks for the letter. You nailed it. You described the problem precisely. Unfortunately, I don't have an easy answer to your question.

The first problem is that the people who jabber such illogical statements do not want to hear the truth. They want to hear their favorite superstitions repeated. I am reminded of Carl Sagan's statement:

You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe.
== Carl Sagan

They believe because they want to believe. They don't want to hear your arguments, and they don't care about logic or facts or testable cause-and-effect relationships. They want to believe what they have chosen to believe. And that is that.


There is no rational argument that can address the claims of a group of people who claim absolute authority from an invisible man whose voice is heard only in their heads.
== PZ Myers, biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

This is good, too:

The common dogma [of fundamentalists] is fear of modern knowledge, inability to cope with the fast change in a scientific-technological society, and the real breakdown in apparent moral order in recent years.... That is why hate is the major fuel, fear is the cement of the movement, and superstitious ignorance is the best defense against the dangerous new knowledge. ... When you bring up arguments that cast serious doubts on their cherished beliefs you are not simply making a rhetorical point, you are threatening their whole Universe and their immortality. That provokes anger and quite frequently violence. ... Unfortunately you cannot reason with them and you even risk violence in confronting them. Their numbers will decline only when society stabilizes, and adapts to modernity.
== G. Gaia

All that you can do is shun them and seek more pleasant company. Which you have apparently already done by quitting A.A. and going your own way.

Now there is one more aspect to the struggle — how to counter-act the stream of misinformation that comes out of their propaganda mill. The only solution that I know is to just keep on telling the truth. Learn the truth, and then broadcast it, and refute the misinformation whereever they publish it. Like how I'm doing it with this web site. But the audience that you will win over is the people who want to know the truth, not the true believers.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     Most ignorance is vincible ignorance:
**      we don't know because we don't want to know.
**         == Aldous Huxley

[ Link here = http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html#Nancy_M ]

Date: Sun, January 29, 2012 7:54 pm     (answered 4 February 2012)
From: "Nancy M."
Subject: Re: Thanks


Thanks for writing the truth about AA and other 12 Step Programs. For far too long I felt I was the only one who thought AA, Al-Anon, and 12 Step Programs weren't healthy and were actually detrimental to relationships, marriages, and families. And I was right.

I'm the spouse of a nine year veteran of Al-Anon and am not an alcoholic or drug addict. My husband started going to Al-Anon because he couldn't control situations, albeit some bad ones, in our home. I am accused of being a drug addict (not true), and we have 2 alcohol and/or drug addicted daughters. So, yes, we had problems and were trying to work them out. I've switched to past tense because that's what my 30 year marriage is — past. Our divorce was finalized 09/26/10, and Al-Anon played a big part in destroying it. I find it quite ironic that, Al-Anon, a group dedicated to helping relationships & families, uses insidious and unethical ways to end them.

For years I watched my beautiful gentle husband turn into someone I don't know or like. And I believe if a person is borderline narcissistic, like my husband, he's going to find validation at every meeting for his selfishness, irresponsibility, and inability to cope with anything that stands in the way of his "happiness" and "health first." He found his way out of commitment and love for his family by following and living the Al-Anon philosophy and 12 Steps. He's changed so completely, is so enmeshed in the Al-Anon way of life, that his basic values and core character traits are gone — replaced by an ugly cruel individuality.

I don't know if you'll receive this and read it, but if you do, I'd really like to be able to email you once in a while and release some of my pent up Al-Anon resentments. I've been to meetings, read just about every Al-Anon book, pamphlet, and brochure in an effort to save my marriage, but I simply could not abide in the Al-Anon philosophy and found those that worship at the "Altar of Al-Anon" to be anything but Christian.

Well, I'm feeling better and hope to hear from you someday soon. Thanks again for the enlightenment and the tremendous amount of research you've done. I appreciate it.


Hello Nancy,

Thanks for the letter. I'm sorry to hear about your problems and the destruction of your marriage. And yes, your letter got to me, and I read it. And yes, you may write again.

And I'm adding your letter to the list of A.A. horror stories.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     "I will realize that, even in doing nothing about my problems,
**     I am actively practicing the Al-Anon idea."
**       ==  One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, p. 143

[The next letter from Nancy_M is here.]

May 27, 2009, Wednesday, Downtown Portland, Waterfront Park:

Beethoven the Great Blue Heron
Beethoven the Great Blue Heron, facing into the wind

Mallard Duck
Mallard Duck, hanging out on the dock and hoping to get some munchies

Mallard Duck and Drake
The Mallard Duck and her mate, hoping to get some munchies

[The story of Carmen continues here.]

[The previous letter from Luke_D is here.]

[ Link here = http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html#Luke_D ]

Date: Mon, January 30, 2012 6:54 am     (answered 5 February 2012)
From: "Luke D."
Subject: Re: incredibly thorough failure


I agree with your assertion with a qualification. A.A. is most useful when it "sobers up" an alcoholic, but it is far from useless when it doesn't immediately do so. Sometimes it takes people a few tries before they get it. The first trials, the first failures, inform the later success. This happens way more often than not.

Hello again, Luke,

But how "useful" is A.A. when the sponsor tells the sponsee not to take his psychiatric medications, because "Meds still the small, quiet voice of God", and then the sponsee commits suicide?

How about the sponsor telling the young women to have sex with them to learn how to have "sober sex"?

How about people turning into religious fanatics who think that God is holding their hand and telling them what to do?

And how useful is A.A. when it tells people that they are alcoholics who cannot ever recover or get cured?

Second: your measures are invalid. Measuring success, whether total, forever sobriety, or incremental personal growth toward sobriety, can certainly not be measured by something so abstruse as accounting for medallions and coins, tokens of symbol. You can get only an insignificantly rough idea of abstinence and personal healing by accounting for coin sales and distribution.

I agree that there are better ways to determine success than to count the coins given out. The clinical tests done by doctors are more reliable. So read about these tests:

  1. Dr. Brandsma found that A.A. increased binge drinking, and
  2. Dr. Ditman found that A.A. increased the rate of rearrests of alcoholics, and
  3. Dr. Walsh found that A.A. increased the cost of hospitalization of alcoholics.
  4. And Dr. Vaillant found that A.A. increased the death rate of alcoholics, while producing a zero-percent improvement in sobriety. No other way of treating alcoholics produced as high a death rate.

By the way, you didn't actually answer the question about the numbers of coins given out. Neat way to dodge the question.

Unless you accept that there is good qualitative and anecdotal evidence to debate your claims, you end your argument before it can begin. Empirical, quantitative studies, in this sense, would require way, way, way more depth than your meager yet expansive and imaginative interpretations. The confounding variables are as many as there are thoughts in a human mind, and they shift ridiculously fast, as fast as neuronal activity allows.

Huh? You are demanding that "anecdotal evidence" be accepted as evidence that A.A. really works after all? Get real. Anecdotal evidence is the last refuge of a snake oil salesman —
"Yes, Joe Blow was sick as a dog and talking about what he wanted on his headstone, until he drank five bottles of Dr. Phineas T. Farnsworth's Magic Snake Oil Elixir, and now he's up and chasing the pretty girls around the block."

You want "Empirical, quantitative studies"? Read the doctors' studies that I just listed above.

The rest of your complaint about "confounding variables" is just an attempt at Escape via Relativism, as in
"Oh, it's all so confusing with so many variables, that nobody knows what the truth is."
Baloney. We do know what the truth is.

If you really want to debunk AA and its usefulness, by looking beyond the pond scum floating around on the surface (which I would understand), you ought to change drastically your level of open-mindedness and also your seeming reliance on totally flawed experimental design.

You have not actually presented a single fact there. Pond scum? I quote the best doctors' tests of A.A. treatment, even one done by a doctor who became a member of the A.A. Board of Trustees, and you complain about pond scum and "flawed experimental design"? And what evidence do you have to support your complaint that the doctors' tests were flawed?

Look at court-ordered A.A.s for a moment. Who decided to mandate so many persons to a voluntary group that has, as one of its core traditions, the principal of attraction rather than promotion (i.e., you'll come here and seek our help if you feel like you need to or like you have no other options)? Why did they choose to send people to A.A. rather than the myriad other recovery programs, like S.O.S., Addict's Victorious, Counseling on its own, etc? It is because there is a thing that actually works in AA, that if given over to can bring anybody back from active alcoholism. It is a true thing and I would say many people have seen it revolutionize their lives for the better. Many people filter in and out of AA every day, and sometimes after years of failures, they get the esoteric knowledge they need to stay sober. The esoteric knowledge is almost always simpler than is satisfying to our intellects.

Thanks for bringing up the hypocrisy of the A.A. attitude towards court-ordered attendees. A.A. says that A.A. is a program of "attraction, not promotion", and then they publish a document on their web site that explains how A.A. will cooperate with the courts in forcing people into A.A. meetings. Go read:

The reason that the judges sent victims to A.A. was because that was all there was, and the A.A. propaganda machine was good at fooling people for 70 years. And sending people to A.A. meetings was a cheap, easy way to get rid of them. But the times have changed. It is now unConstitutional to force people into A.A., and people are given a choice of organizations in many cases. And where they are not given a choice, and forced to attend A.A. meetings, they can sue the judge.

Your anecdotal evidence — not even evidence, really, just hints of happy stories — is still just anecdotal evidence. For some more anecdotal evidence, go read the list of A.A. horror stories and the list of A.A. suicide stories. Those people did not find A.A. to be such a wonderful positive experience. It "revolutionized their lives" alright, and put them in misery, or into the grave.

I propose that, even though it might yet not be possible to measure (which does NOT mean that it does not exist):

1. If a person meets the AA definition of Alcoholism, and

2. They make an urgent and strenuous effort and complete the twelve steps with a recovered member of A.A., that

3. They will achieve sobriety, which includes continuous abstinence from drinking and marked improvement in all personal relationships and duties.

And then, They will keep this sobriety for as long as they maintain their steps 10, 11, and 12 on a daily basis. To a truly desperate alcoholic, this proposition is preferable to more jail, institutions, or the looming death.

Only measuring against these standards should you judge AA's usefulness to suffering alcoholics. If you go otherwise, you are doing yourself short.


Luke D.

Luke, that last list is a bunch of qualifiers that mask the A.A. failure rate. Of course A.A. will look really good if you cherry-pick who goes into A.A. and then only count those people who appear to have "worked the program perfectly". But that has nothing to do with the real world where A.A. does not help real people.

That list of qualifiers is like how my Vanilla Ice Cream Program never fails to get alcoholics sober:

  1. Alcoholics must always eat vanilla ice cream instead of drink alcohol. Always.
  2. NEVER have I seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed my path.

Now, the question you avoided:

What is the actual A.A. cure rate?

Without any qualifiers, or any nonsense about whether they "Worked The Steps" right, what is the real A.A. cure rate? What percentage of the A.A. newcomers actually get sober in A.A.?

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     If someone has cancer or diabetes or coronary disease,
**     we don't use a quack doctor to treat those sick people —
**     a quack whose only qualification is that he used to drink
**     too much alcohol or take too many drugs, and who is now
**     a member of a cult religion. But with the so-called
**     "disease" of addiction, the standard treatment is
**     to have former alcoholics or dopers dispensing their
**     platitudes and slogans, and insisting that "spirituality"
**     is the cure.

Date: Tue, February 28, 2012 9:05 pm     (answered 5 March 2012)
From: "Luke D."
Subject: Re: incredibly thorough failure

Good luck to you.

[The previous letter from Barrett_B is here.]

[ Link here = http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html#Barrett_B ]

Date: Mon, January 30, 2012 4:22 pm     (answered 5 February 2012)
From: "Barrett Buckalew"
Subject: Re: who are you?

Suppose your right? Then what?
I,m not a theologian but I have found
the bible to answer all questions
including the horrific crimes of man.
I agree life is not fair and I sometimes doubt,
and it seems after losing my ex wife, my parents and watching
my only child lose her way I should give up according to your
thinking. You are right life ant fair but I won't give up because;

Jesus loves me yes I know for the bible
tells me so.
Chill out your right, Orange!Bill and Dr. Bob were a couple of goofs.
That's the miracle!
AA helped me in a turbulent time in my life.
The so called Church let me down when I needed them most
and AA was a place for me to go to get companionship and
acceptance. I am training to be a A & D counselor now to give back
and I will recommend AA to clients because it works!

Thank you,
Keep up the good work,

Hello Barrett,

A.A. does not work, and there is no miracle to it. Read this: The Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment.

Apparently, your education to be a drug and alcohol counselor consists of training to be a recruiter for a non-Christian cult religion. You should read the file The Heresy of the Twelve Steps for some hints about just how unChristian the A.A. theology really is. If you like the Bible, you should be aware of the huge conflicts between A.A. teachings and Biblical teachings.

It's all fine and well that you found some companionship at an A.A. meeting, but that does not make it a good organization, or make their methods actually work to sober up alcoholics. Cults routinely love-bomb the newcomers to get them to keep coming back. As soon as a new face comes in the door, they go into the routine of "Oh we are so glad that you came. Welcome home. We love you and understand you like nobody else does. Let us love you until you can love yourself." Does that sound familiar?

Here is the Cult Test description of "love bombing".

Have a good day now.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**     What is the difference between surrendering your Will
**     and your life to "Higher Power" in Step Three, and
**     selling your soul to the Devil in trade for sobriety?

[The next letter from Barrett_B is here.]

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Last updated 8 January 2014.
The most recent version of this file can be found at http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-letters286.html