Letters, We Get Mail, III

Orange, Your work is simply the most outstanding on the myth of AA ever written. Your research and it's depth and foot notes to back it up are outstanding. You must have spent years studying all of your work to have been so through in getting the dirt on Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, now it does seem to me that Dr. Bob seems to have kept him self from getting as dirty as Bill Wilson did, but one is judged by the company one keeps, and there is lots of room for Dr. Bob to be scutinized too. I refer people to your web site when they are fed up with AA meetings. I have visited your web site many times and I always find something new that I didn't know before about AA and the damage it does to it's adherants. Keep up the good work, some day perhaps AA will at long last be debunked once and for all along with the entire "treatment" industry, and that alone will a great reward for your efforts to expose the truth. The government grants for the "treatment industry" should be cut off and the useless war on drugs ended.


Hi Eric,

Thanks for all of the compliments. You're laying it on so heavy that I'm in danger of getting a fat ego and having to go to an A.A. meeting to "get my ego deflated".

(Just kidding.)

And yes, it actually has been two years now that I've been working on this.

And Doctor Bob really is an interesting case, isn't he? He generally has the reputation for being the wise, reserved one who sort of kept Bill Wilson from going off on tangents. But another picture of Doctor Bob is emerging, too — that of a dogmatic, autocratic petty tyrant — a fool who grovelled before his wife as she searched his pockets to see if he was sneaking booze into the house, but who was a harsh tyrant to his children.

The most damning information about Doctor Bob comes from his own daughter, Sue Smith, who described in her book Children of the Healer how he forced on her the older man Ernie Galbraith, A.A. Number Four, the author of the Big Book first edition story, The Seven-Month Slip. Sue was in love with her high-school sweet-heart Ray Windows, but Ray was only a janitor, so Doctor Bob didn't like him. So Doctor Bob used Ernie Galbraith to break up Sue and Ray.

But Ernie Galbraith turned out to be a constantly-relapsing philanderer. A.A. didn't sober him up at all, or make him holy. Doctor Bob should have gotten a huge hint about Ernie's character from reading Ernie's autobiographical Big Book story — the seven-month 'slip' was seven months long, not just some little lapse after seven months of sobriety. But no, Doctor Bob couldn't see it.

Ernie's story was removed from the second edition of the Big Book, but it took Sue many more years to get divorced from Ernie. Then she finally married Ray. What a heart-breaking story. Alcoholics Anonymous was a personal disaster for Sue Smith, and did nothing for her but get her married to a repulsive old alcoholic for 20 years.

Oh well, thanks for writing. Have a good day.

— Orange

Ken H. of the United Kingdom wrote:


I have just come across your website by accident, and discovered your lamentable critique of Alcoholics Anonymous; a diatribe with all the intellectual rigour of a Mickey Mouse cartoon.
You have the absolute gall to open your 'menu' page with the famous quote from Spencer, then completely ignore it, and treat it as though it were actually supporting your 'case.'
It does not.
With that one single solitary 'Sin of Ommission' you have completely shot yourself in the foot.
Your Contempt, Sir, not only prior to, but during, and evidently, after, too! - is utterly transparent. Your cynicism belongs to you, and you alone.
You are not an Alcoholic, are you?
There is a perfectly simple, and very blunt answer to all the hundreds of pages you have so assiduously written to no avail whatsoever.
Nobody has the answer to Alcoholism. (or Addiction. Period.)
Alcoholics Anonymous has never claimed to have the answer. Does not claim so. Will never claim so.
You completely miss the point. Alcoholics Anonymous has changed, and improved the quality of my life beyond my wildest dreams.
The attempts of anybody to belittle it, or to denigrate it, are absolutely laughable.

yours sincerely
Ken H.

Hello Ken,
That's quite a letter. I can almost hear a stuffy, haughty, British upper-class accent in it, just from reading it. (Or maybe I've just been watching too much Public Television lately.)

Your letter is a good example of the debating technique called "ad hominem" — attack the speaker, rather than refuting his statements. You accuse me of all kinds of things, but you never actually offer any facts to back up your statements, or to disprove my statements.

You are unhappy that I quote Spencer. You somehow feel that it is inappropriate for me to quote one of the eminent defenders of Darwin's Theory of Evolution — a man who argued for science with facts and logic — a man who argued against blind faith and dogmatic religion.

You complain:

You have the absolute gall to open your 'menu' page with the famous quote from Spencer, then completely ignore it, and treat it as though it were actually supporting your 'case.' It does not.

What Spencer wrote was:

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
HERBERT SPENCER, Principles of Biology, London, 1864.

And what I actually wrote was:

The above famous quote was put in the Big Book by William G. Wilson, in Appendix II, "Spiritual Experience", in the back of the second and third editions. Bill Wilson was trying to imply that we should not dismiss his "spiritual cure for alcoholism" without trying it.

That is curious because Herbert Spencer was actually a social Darwinist whose attitude towards alcoholics was something like, "Let them all die. Getting rid of such inferior people will just help to clean out the gene pool." And Herbert Spencer was actually arguing against religious beliefs, and in favor of Charles Darwin's new theory of evolution, in 1864.

Nevertheless, that quote sounds like good advice. So let's really, honestly, investigate Alcoholics Anonymous, without rejecting criticism of A.A. before investigation of all of the facts...

I did not claim that Spencer supported my case. I said that Spencer's suggestion — investigate the facts before jumping to conclusions — sounded like good advice.
(Please learn to read English, since you are English.)

Then I devote the whole rest of my web site to gathering and investigating the actual facts, like

If you had bothered to read the introduction, you would also know that I actually started off with a very positive idea of Alcoholics Anonymous, back in the days when I knew very little about it. Like everyone else, I had been fooled by the Alcoholics Anonymous publicity machine, and thought that A.A. was just the biggest and best self-help organization in the country. But my feelings about A.A. gradually grew more and more negative as I learned more of the truth about it. It was only by investigation of the facts, both by going to a lot of meetings, and by reading a lot of books, that I learned the truth.

If you have any real facts to offer, I'd love to see them. I am always interested in more facts. I am interested in the truth, above all. So please send your facts. And any supporting documentation that you have will also be most welcome.

But please, send real facts, not hearsay, rumors, or anecdotal stories. Hand-picked stories about a few poster children, like Bill Wilson put in the Big Book, prove nothing. (Wilson always left out all of the stories of A.A. failures.) The best information is scientifically-conducted tests with controls. Carefully-done surveys can also be informative.

I'd especially like to see the results of the British tests of Alcoholics Anonymous. (I hear that they showed that A.A. didn't work at all.) Have you heard about them? Have you read the report?
[Later: Found it; listed it here.]

You imply that I am not really an alcoholic. Brother, how I wish that accusation were true. (I wasted so many years and blew so many opportunities.) Everybody who knows me agrees that I'm an alcoholic. My ex-wife says that I am one. My A.A.-indoctrinated counselor said that I was an alcoholic. My doctor says that I'm one. My doctor said, "Quit drinking or die. Your choice." My doctor even said that I was a "late-stage alcoholic", and said that the death rate for them was the same as for cancer — 50%.

The only people who say that I'm not really an alcoholic are a few A.A. people who can't stand the idea that I have successfully, happily quit drinking without A.A. or the Twelve Steps. They always want to say,
"Well, *real* alcoholics can't quit without A.A. and doing the Twelve Steps, so you aren't really an alcoholic, are you?"

Well, yes I am, unfortunately.

You say that Alcoholics Anonymous does not have the answer to alcoholism. Now there I agree with you, totally.

But then you also say,
"Alcoholics Anonymous has never claimed to have the answer. Does not claim so. Will never claim so."

Sorry, but you are wrong. You must be completely ignorant of the whole history of Alcoholics Anonymous, and you also haven't bothered to read either the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, or my web pages, either.

Bill Wilson always claimed that A.A. did have the answer, and he even said that A.A. *was THE answer*.

Just to make sure that I wasn't imagining things, I grabbed one of my copies of the Big Book, and turned to the very first page — the very first paragraph — of the foreword to the first edition, and read:

We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.
The Big Book, Foreword to the First Edition, William G. Wilson, page xiii of the 3rd edition.

So not only did Bill Wilson claim to have a working cure for alcoholism that had already cured over 100 alcoholics, he also claimed that he had a "spiritual" way of life that would be good for everybody else too. And Wilson also claimed that the Big Book was a precise manual that told exactly how to recover from alcoholism. That is claiming to have the answer.

And even before that, in the Prospectus for the stock offering for the 100 Men Corporation, which raised the money to finance the writing and printing of the Big Book, Wilson wrote:

Being convinced there was no other way out, the new man would look with more favor and willingness upon a spiritual method in spite of any prejudice he might have had.

In the spring of 1935 Mr. Wilson went to Akron, Ohio, on business. While there he communicated his ideas to three other alcoholics. Leaving the three men, he returned to New York in the fall of 1935, continuing his activities there. These early seeds are now bearing amazing fruit. The original Akron three have expanded themselves into more than seventy. Scattered about New York and in the seaboard states there are about forty. Men have even come out of insane asylums and resumed their community and family lives. Business and professional people have regained their standing.

In all, about two-hundred cases of hopeless alcoholism have been dealt with. As will be seen, about fifty percent of these have recovered. This, of course, is unprecedented — never has such a thing happened before.

This work has claimed the attention of prominent doctors and institutions who say without hesitation that in a few years time, as it gains impetous, thousands of hitherto incurable cases may recover. Such people as the chief physician of Charles B. Towns Hospital and psychiatrists of the Johns Hopkins Hospital at Baltimore express such opinions.
The One Hundred Men Corporation Prospectus, December 1938, page 4.

Again, Bill Wilson claimed to have a great new cure for alcoholism, one which had already made many "hopeless" alcoholics recover — "never has such a thing happened before" — and one which he said some doctors believed promised to liberate great numbers of alcoholics from hospitals and sanitariums. Wilson even claimed a very high success rate for his "spiritual" treatment program — he said that 50% of the alcoholics recovered. (Unfortunately, Bill's claims were fraudulent.)

Also note that Wilson used the word "recovered" — past tense — in both of those quotes. He didn't say that alcoholics would never fully recover, or that there was no answer for alcoholism, or no cure, or that alcoholics had to stay in recovery for life. Wilson said that they had recovered as a result of his new "spiritual" treatment.

Only later did he change his story to
"We are not cured of alcoholism. What we have is a daily reprieve..."
--The Big Book, page 85.
(Wilson had good reason to change his rap — his New York A.A. group had a terrible relapse rate...)

Wilson continued to claim that A.A. was the answer — even the only answer for alcoholism — in both the Big Book and in his second book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:

Some of them may sink and perhaps never get up, but if our experience is a criterion, more than half of those approached will become fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 163.

Note that there is no third choice: either sink or join A.A..
Recovery without A.A. is not considered possible.

The Big Book and 12x12 also say:

...he was insisting that he had found the only cure.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 257.

...they had found the only remedy...
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 259.

Any willing newcomer feels sure A.A. is the only safe harbor for the foundering vessel he has become.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 35.

Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems.
(The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, page 42.)

We will seldom be interested in liquor.   ...
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.   ...
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, pages 84-85.

And above all:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [my required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to [my] spiritual principles.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 174.

Bill says that you will die from alcoholism if you don't follow his instructions and work his program and do his 12 steps. (Bill also implied that only his 12 steps embodied the real spiritual principles of the Cosmos.)

Then, Bill Wilson spent many years touring the country, grand-standing, breaking his anonymity, and selling A.A. as the answer to alcoholics' problems. By 1944, Bill Wilson was the most famous "anonymous" person in America. Then Bill Wilson and Marty Mann even went and testified before Congress, pushing Alcoholics Anonymous as the solution to the nation's alcohol problem. (That was, of course, a violation of the Eleventh Tradition, which says that Alcoholics Anonymous is supposed to be a program of attraction, not promotion. And talk about breaking your anonymity — you just can't do it any bigger than by publicly testifying before Congress as the leader of Alcoholics Anonymous.)

So you can discard your statement that A.A. has never claimed to have the answer to alcoholism. It has always claimed to have the answer, and Wilson claimed that Alcoholics Anonymous was THE answer.

Oh, and one other thing: Please write to the Hazelden Foundation (in Center City, Minnesota, USA), and tell them that A.A. does not have the answer to alcoholism, so please quit charging people $15,000 for a 28-day stay where they teach the patients The Twelve Steps as the answer to all alcohol and drug problems. And also tell Hazelden to quit teaching A.A. members how to use the police and judges to force more people into A.A. meetings as part of their 12th step work. (See The Hazelden Little Red Book.)

You leave us with a big question: You say, "Alcoholics Anonymous has changed, and improved the quality of my life beyond my wildest dreams" even while you also say that A.A. does not have the answer to alcoholism. So what exactly did A.A. do for you if it didn't save you from alcoholism?

Is it going to be the "wonderful brotherhood and fellowship" rap, or will it be the religious "brought me to know God and gave me a spiritual way of life" rap?

Looking forward to seeing your facts. Have a good day.


[Letter 2:]

Dear Sir,

I would prefer to address you by name, but you don't supply one. I am certainly not going to call you 'Orange' I appear to have been mistaken. Apparently you are an alcoholic. I'm left wondering why you have so much antithesis toward AA, but you don't say.

I have often thought about breaking my anonymity. But so far, it looks unwise, as it would create problems that I don't need.

You are equally mistaken about me. Working-class to the core, such stiffness as I have comes from encroaching age. Haughty? - afraid not. I am eminently approachable. I live too close to life to afford such dubious luxuries. British I must confess to, 'tho I don't brag about it; (we all have a cross to bear.)

Okay, so I guess I've been watching too much Public Television, and my imagination is getting the better of me. :-)
Here in the USA, public TV is loaded with English shows and those stilted accents. PBS just finished The Forsyth Saga, and they always run Keeping Up Appearances and Mystery Theater, which is all English stuff like Inspector Morse. And now they are also running Rumpole of the Bailey. Oh well, enough of that.

It is difficult to engage in 'ad hominem' argument with someone one doesn't know from Adam. - in fact, impossible- it becomes a tautology.

You're doing it again, right there.

I take issue with what you are saying; not who you are.

You take issue, but you don't supply any evidence to support your opinions.

The old chestnut about Scientific Fact is whistling down the wind as far as I am concerned. It would be an understatement to say it doesn't impress me. Karl Popper I am impressed by. He coined the notion of the 'Negative Hypothesis.'
It becomes a crutch in the hands of 'professional' sceptics of the James Randi persuasion (now there is a con artist,) who use it completely superficially and somewhat more indiscriminately than Popper - who think all they have to say is 'I don't believe it, - prove it' and that lets them off the hook from doing any more thinking. Who on earth said that Alcoholics Anonymous was Scientifically based?
It isn't, so how can it be subjested to any 'Scientific' scrutiny?
In any event, Science is not Universal Omnipotent Truth, even less so the actual practice of it (because it is practiced by Humans)
I find 'Facts' such wonderful things. They can be arbitrarily assigned as many different perspectives as the people who wield them like a Sword of Damocles - Scientists are people, and they engage in this process just the same, i.e.manipulate them.

That is dangerous thin ice you are walking on. You dismiss scientific thinking and facts as worthless?

You imply that Alcoholics Anonymous is not based on Science, and has no scientific basis. I agree with that statement. But what *is* A.A. based on, then? Superstition? Faith in the strange theology of William G. Wilson? Wishful thinking? Voodoo medicine?

For your information, a great many things, including the effectiveness of A.A. as an alcoholism treatment program, can be tested, using the scientific method, no matter whether they are "based on Science" or not.

For example, we could most assuredly test my joke ballerina tutu program, or the Baskin Robbins ice cream cure, scientifically. And we could do it right alongside testing A.A.. What we would do is: Get a group of 400 alcoholics from somewhere, maybe a hospital or a court. Perhaps take 400 people who were convicted of drunk driving, who have been identified as "alcohol abusers" by a counselor or doctor, and send them to one of four programs, randomly selected:

  1. Dancing in a ballerina's tutu whenever alcohol cravings strike.
  2. Going to Baskin Robbins and eating ice cream whenever cravings strike.
  3. Going to Alcoholic Anonymous 3 times a week or more.
  4. No treatment of any kind. This is the control group, against which we measure all of the other groups.
Then we wait a year, to let the various treatment programs have time to work, and then we count and measure, and we see how many alcoholics are abstaining, and how many are still drinking abusively, how many are drinking moderately, and how many are dead. And we compare those numbers to what the control group scored, to see what the effect of the treatment actually was.

And that, dear sir, is the heart of the scientific method. Do you think that is an unfair test? I don't.

Parts of that test have already been done. The first two, the ballerina dancing, and the ice cream treatment, have not, to the best of my knowledge. But the last two have. And the results were that No treatment at all was better than A.A..

Lastly, if you dismiss facts as worthless, then what do you use as the basis of your life? What do you trust? What do you base your decisions on? Are you a follower of Buchmanism who believes that the rational thinking mind is all a mistake, an illusion to be gotten rid of?

In fact, how are we to argue or discuss anything, if facts are worthless, and to be dismissed if we don't like them?

I am reminded of the quote from the American Revolutionary War hero (to you, the "American Rebellion villain") Ethan Allen, the leader of the Green Mountain Boys in their capture of Fort Ticonderoga, who had this to say on the subject:

Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason with or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle that they are laboring to dethrone: but if they argue without reason (which, in order to be consistent with themselves they must do), they are out of reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument.

Indeed. If you dismiss all scientifically-determined facts as worthless because you don't like them, or don't understand the scientific method, then upon what facts or method of argument shall we base our discussion? What methods of logic or thought are acceptable to your mind? What kind of critical, skeptical, or logical thinking do you approve of, if any? How shall we get some facts? Bill Wilson's ouija board? Shirley MacLaine's channelling?

By the way, you also just pulled an Ad Hominem attack on James Randi. Upon what basis do you call him a con artist? Is the thinking of skeptics and other people "of the James Randi persuasion" really completely superficial and indiscriminate? Do you have any facts to support such a denunciation?

Bill Wilson is not AA, any more than God is Religion - now your invective, weighed against various personalities within the movement, or anyone involved, is 'ad hominem.'

That becomes yet another bait-and-switch stunt.
"Pay no attention to Bill Wilson; we don't. Alcoholic Anonymous is not based on Bill Wilson or his teachings. We ignore the insane or dishonest things that he wrote in the Big Book."
Then again,
"Alcoholic Anonymous IS based on Bill Wilson and his teachings, after all. In fact, we will start every A.A. meeting by reading lists of his lies from pages 58 and 59 of the Big Book."

Ad Hominem is based on "attack the speaker, rather than the argument." I enjoy showing Wilson to be a liar by attacking his statements. "My invective", as you call it, is based on a huge stack of facts. I criticize Bill Wilson not just by calling him a liar, but by specifically listing what lies he told, and telling what the truth is. Just read the web pages on

— just for starters...

You would appear to have a personal grudge against AA, which, in and of itself, is fine, — you may be perfectly justified. Perhaps you were badly treated by someone in AA or whatever. But I am curious as to how this has turned into what appears to me as a vendetta, and a determination to trash the movement. It is obviously doomed to failure, and is absolutely 'whistling down the wind'

"The movement" resembles the Bataan Death March more than anything else.
"The movement" is killing people, including friends and aquaintances, by shoving ineffective voodoo medicine and faith healing on a lot of people who are seeking something real to help them with a deadly illness. Lies don't work. Lies are not good. And A.A. lies all of the time. And A.A. is not "a useful lie" like some of its proponents have called it.

Worse yet, A.A. still uses covert coercion to force more people into its meetings. Every time you see somebody getting a slip signed, you are seeing another victim of A.A.'s coercive recruiting schemes. (Perhaps you don't see it so much in England; I hear that it is *much* more common in the USA than in England.)

A.A. is simply an evil cult, not a self-help group. (I know that some of the individual members are quite well-meaning, really nice people, but that does not make A.A. a good organization.) A.A. is no more helpful or beneficial than Scientology, another cult based on *non-Scientific* irrational babble. Scientology also has a phony drug and alcohol rehabilitation program called Narconon that claims to use Scientology "principles" to "fix addicts' minds." (And a couple of my best friends were Scientologists, and wonderful people, and that's how I know so much about Scientology. They were wonderful people, but that doesn't make Scientology a wonderful organization.)

You are absolutely, unquestioningly, entitled to your viewpoint. But it will remain your viewpoint. You are the one who is stuck with it. You know that. I know that. You can no more bring down AA by railing against it, than King Canute could command the Sea to recede.

I want to end some specific bad practices. I doubt that I will ever see the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous religion, per se. (Likewise, I doubt if I will ever see the ends of Scientology, the Hari Krishnas, or the Moonies. Heck, I still actually get email from followers of Frank Buchman. Believe it or not, some of those nuts are still around.) As I have said before, I don't care if some crazy burned-out alcoholics want to huddle in church basements and convince each other that they are God's chosen children. I feel sorry for them. They are pathetic.

But I do want to end:

  1. Coercive recruiting, using the legal system and health care systems to shove more people into the cult.
  2. Medical malpractice, foisting cult religion and faith healing on people as treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction, and then charging people's health insurance plans for such voodoo medicine.
  3. Constantly spreading misinformation about alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. Such false information hurts people by making their recovery harder. It even kills people.
    In particular, I want people to know that A.A. does not have an effective treatment or cure for alcoholism. The over-all success rate of A.A. is zero or less, when compared to the normal rate of spontaneous remission.

What do I get out of AA? - it teaches me Honesty, with which I make painfully slow and imperfect progress. The fact that this has to do with me, and me alone, is what I have brought into the programme myself. There is a lot more besides, and a lot more to be said, but enough for now. I must work. I look forward to your reply, - I don't think we have finished crossing swords just yet - perhaps even discovering your name.

Ken H.

How can you make claims to "Honesty" (with a capital 'H') when you dismiss a lot of facts out of hand, just because you don't like them, or don't like where they came from, or don't like who said them?

On what basis do you decide that you like some facts, and will be "Honest" about them, while you automatically dismiss other facts as being worthless? (Besides the obvious bias you have against "Science" and skeptical thinking.) How is that "Honesty"? It looks more like what Bill Wilson called "prejudice". And it also looks like what Herbert Spencer called "contempt prior to investigation."

Or does "Honesty" just mean that you have learned to beat up on yourself and believe all kinds of negative things about yourself, and then confess or "admit" those things in meetings, because that is what you were told you had to do, or else you would die of alcoholism?

Inquiring minds want to know.

By the way, I am still waiting to see some actual new facts here, rather than just more Ad Hominem attacks on skeptical thinkers like James Randi.

And you seem to have forgotten about your absolute statement,
"Alcoholics Anonymous has never claimed to have the answer. Does not claim so. Will never claim so."
and just changed the subject to James Randi... (That's the propaganda and debating technique called "Divert Attention" — when you are losing a point, change the subject.)

Oh well, have a good day anyway. I'm looking forwards to your next set of "facts".

— Orange

[Letter 3:]

Dear Sir,
I'm done here. I have nothing further to add, and this discussion is obviously going to get nowhere. I need it like I need a hole in the head.

Ken H.

Subject: .2 on your page that says The Twelve Biggest Falsehoods Of AA

Where you have .2 and you wrote under it this was found in the third edition of the Big Book page 42, I got my book out and checked it with what you said and you did NOT quote it exactly. If you are quoting pages incorrectly then how much truth is in your whole site? AA has saved millions of lives so what do you or anyone else care if its bull crap? If it saves peoples lives I think that's enough Are you a paid counselor? If you don't agree with AA then at least be honest in what you are telling people. You may kill people by not speaking the truth.


Hello, Cathy,

It took me a while, but I finally figured out that your ".2" meant "point two" or "item two", not two tenths of something.

What you are reading is paraphrased, not direct quotes. Most of that web page is paraphrased. You have to go down to item four to see a direct quote. It is clearly indicated by the fact that it is indented, block-quoted, and displayed in a different font to make it stand out as a quote. Also, many of the other direct quotes are also in quotation marks.

What I wrote is this: (Note how it is now formatted as a quote, because I am now directly quoting myself.)

  • 2. You are powerless over alcohol. You can't quit. Your life is unmanageable. There you are, facing ruin again, and still you can't stop. The more you struggle, the worse you get. Even if you quit drinking, we can prophesy that you will suffer from strange mental blank spots where will power and self-knowledge will be useless, and you will start drinking again without even knowing what you are doing. Your defense must come from a Higher Power. (The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, pages 41-42.)

That statement is really assembled from several pages. I referred to pages 41 to 42 because that is where the major items come from — the "prophesying" of "strange mental blank spots" where "will power and self-knowledge will be useless".

The "powerless over alcohol" and "unmanageable lives" phrases come from Step One, of course, which is printed on page 59.

The line "His defense must come from a Higher Power" comes from the bottom of page 43.

And frankly, I forget where I read the line "There you are, facing ruin again, and still you can't stop. The more you struggle, the worse you get." But it's paraphrased from another one of those standard "you are powerless" sermons.

I am surprised that you are incapable of recognizing any of those famous items as coming from different parts of the Big Book. But whatever...

On to some more important points:

  1. You are nit-picking. Declaring that the whole web site is invalid because you don't understand paraphrasing is just another bogus propaganda technique, one which I have already written about. The last nit-picker declared that the whole web site was invalid because I had misspelled the name "Henrietta Seiberling".

  2. A.A. has not saved millions of lives. That is the standard Big Lie — another old propaganda technique. Read the file on "The Effectiveness of the Twelve Step Treatment". Millions of people have been cycled through the A.A. mill. A few quit drinking; most didn't. Those who quit drinking did so in spite of A.A. as much as because of it. Basically, those who quit drinking were those who were going to quit drinking anyway because they were just sick and tired of being sick and tired. Cult religion, voodoo medicine, and faith healing is not a good treatment program for alcoholism.

  3. If A.A. saved lives I would be all for it. But the real evidence shows that A.A. does not save lives. In fact, one of the leaders of A.A., Professor George Vaillant of Harvard University, a member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., showed by his own 8-year long test that A.A. kills. Vaillant tried to prove that his beloved A.A. works, but his A.A.-based treatment program had the highest death rate of any program that he examined, a death rate that Vaillant himself called "appalling". After 8 years of A.A. treatment, 29% of his patients were dead.

    Anything else, including no treatment at all was better than A.A.. But Professor Vaillant is such a true believer in the 12-step religion that he still wants to send all of the alcoholics to A.A. anyway, to "confess their sins to a high-status healer", even if it won't save their lives.

  4. Likewise, a couple of other good scientific tests of A.A. have also shown A.A. treatment to be worse than no treatment.

  5. I am not a paid counselor.

  6. I am being honest in what I am telling people. I go to great pains to make sure that everything I write here is true. If anyone discovers any error, which has happened a couple of times, I fix it immediately. (By way of contrast, the errors and falsehoods in the first 164 pages of the Big Book will never be fixed.) It is Alcoholics Anonymous that is not being honest. Open your eyes. You were reading a page which lists about 24 of the biggest lies that A.A. tells. They are real. I'm telling the truth. A.A. isn't.

  7. You are correct when you say that not telling the truth may kill people. A.A. kills people with its lies. That's why I feel that I have to tell the truth about it.

— Orange

[Letter 2:]

How many lives does alcohol take if a person is a true alcoholic?
What ever it takes to have a useful, happy life and not a life full of pain, is better then a active life with alcohol and full of pain, not to mention the pain it causes for almost every person that is close to the alcoholic. What happened in your life that made you so upset about AA? My dad died a active alcoholic and I would have gave anything to have seen him get sober and live a happy life. I am not a bible thumper but if he got sober by being a bible thumper I would have been happy just that he was sober. What ever it takes, for someone suffering from this disease, is a lot better then suffering with it. I am sorry that you are so upset about this program

Hello, Cathy,
Starting at the top, you ask,
"How many lives does alcohol take if a person is a true alcoholic?"

I don't know if that is a trick question or not, but the apparent answer would be, "Either one or zero, depending on whether he kills himself on booze or finally quits drinking."
Perhaps you meant to ask something else.

Then you say,
What ever it takes to have a useful, happy life and not a life full of pain, is better then a active life with alcohol and full of pain, not to mention the pain it causes for almost every person that is close to the alcoholic.

Now I agree with that, within limits. We can obviously rule out grossly illegal or immoral methods, which I'm sure you didn't mean. (Be careful with absolute words like "whatever".) But what works? That is the big question, isn't it?

Then you ask,
What happened in your life that made you so upset about AA?

I'm getting tired of repeating the list, but here goes, one more time:

  1. Bad therapy program, dogmatic cult religion instead of real therapy, as described in the introduction.
  2. Bad therapy program, dogmatic cult religion instead of real therapy, as described in the page on The Bait-And-Switch Con Game.
  3. Telling people with mental problems not to take their doctor-prescribed medications, telling them that their sobriety wasn't complete if they were taking medications. I have first-hand experience with this, as it was done to my best friend in the treatment program by his sponsor and the other old-timers in his Dual Recovery group. (Before you object that that is D.R.A., not A.A., I must say that they are all the same 12-step religion.)
  4. Generally stupid, bad advice given to friends who may well die because of it, starting with the girl described in the introduction, and continuing with a lot of others.
  5. Cult religion, faith healing, and voodoo medicine is not an effective cure for alcoholism. The A.A. program is useless, and a total failure. It just does not work. It even has a success rate that is less than zero.
  6. Also, a few years off of the bottle does not make someone a skilled therapist or a qualified recovery counselor, but A.A. and N.A. are just chock full of self-proclaimed know-it-all sponsors who feel entitled to deliver lectures on everything from God to medicine. But once again, the only tool in their toolbox is the disproven, ineffective, 12-step program.
  7. Coercive Recruiting. Far too many 12-Steppers abuse their positions of authority to force people to join their cult. I have personally seen a lot of it, starting with my own (child-pornographer pedophile) 12-step "counselor" ordering me to get a sponsor. Only 12-step groups have sponsors, so that was a veiled order to join a 12-step group. And he kept insisting, and I kept finding the sponsor candidates disgusting. (Fortunately, he got sick, and was replaced by another counselor who didn't push the issue, so I never got a sponsor.) Then another friend lapsed (not relapsed) — he had a couple of beers at his own birthday party — and was ordered to do 90 in 90 by his housing counselor (the counselor who controls who gets to sleep in a shelter, and who sleeps in the rain). When the friend said that he didn't like cult religion and wanted to do some other kind of meetings besides 12-steps, perhaps SMART or RR, the counselor said, "No, they MUST be 12-step meetings." The friend quit the program and disappeared. And it just goes on and on like that...

    All of that is in addition to courts telling drunk drivers "90 meetings or 90 days in jail." No other cult in America gets away with such stuff.

Is that enough items for you?

Then you say,
My dad died a active alcoholic and I would have gave anything to have seen him get sober and live a happy life. I am not a bible thumper but if he got sober by being a bible thumper I would have been happy just that he was sober.

I can sympathize with that. My father died of alcoholism, too. And you know, he went through all of the programs, a few years between them, and none of them worked. Oh, they all worked for a while, but none of them worked in the long run. First, there was the Veterans Administration, and then he did a couple of years in a Christian Brotherhood monastery (relapsed the first day out of the monastery), and then he did 7 years in A.A.. A.A. kept him sober longer than anybody else (7 years), but he still went out and died drunk.
Actually, I think I should rephrase that — he stayed sober in A.A. longer than in either of the previous two programs. But he already had two terrible crash-and-burn experiences to scare him into staying sober (like crawling back from Mexico with burning veins — he had so much alcohol in his blood that his veins were literally burning). He had to know that if he relapsed again, it was the end. So that kept him scared sober, for a while.

Now I don't blame A.A. for his death. He made his own choices, the same as we all do. If I go out and kill myself, it's my own stupid fault and nobody else's.

But remember that the reverse is also true: If I stay sober and don't die from alcoholism, then I get the credit, not some program.

The last part of your letter says that you would have been happy if he would have gotten sober some way or other, and ...
"What ever it takes, for someone suffering from this disease, is a lot better then suffering with it."

I understand. But wishful thinking does not help anyone. Imagining that Alcoholics Anonymous has a working program is simply wishful thinking. All that happens is, a few people out of the river of people who go through the rooms decide that they like the cult, so they stick around while they quit drinking, and then A.A. takes the credit for their successes. If the A.A. program actually worked, I would be all for it. I could even agree with the rationalization that
"Alcoholics Anonymous is a useful lie. It has a placebo effect that saves lives."
— if it worked, but it doesn't work. It doesn't save lives. It has a zero percent success rate, above normal spontaneous remission, or even less. Sometimes A.A. kills, like Professor George Vaillant demonstrated.

I think it's pretty safe to say that all of the people you see sitting in the rooms would have quit drinking anyway, without A.A. or the Twelve Steps. The real numbers say that 50% or more of all alcoholics finally just quit, rather than die, and 80% of them do it alone, without any "treatment".

Lastly you say,
I am sorry that you are so upset about this program."

Yeh, well, it came as a big surprise to me to find that voodoo medicine and faith healing was actually the national official "treatment program" for a deadly medical condition (not 'disease').

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

— Orange

I've heard of Bill's filandering and his use of LSD. All of us are contradictory animals. Bill was a rightwing republican and supported U.S. involvement in World War 2.

Myself, I have 20 1/2 years of sobriety so his legacy and program works. The most important AA slogan we have is to thine own self be true. Bill knew he was wrong to cheat on Lois but to him, sex felt good. It's strange how women have such power over men biologically. These women were individuals too and they could've refused his entreaties and flirtations.

God has blessed me with being a homely man. And I do know that women are an oppressed sex. I don't get along too good with attractive women. Fortunately I have a beautiful wife thanks to my sobriety. Yes, men are generally foul creatures and so sexually driven that they'll forsake concious and morals for the opposite sex if they are so empowered.

Leaders are magical people and they are needed in order to provide humanity with direction when we are floundering as a species. Yet, leaders are flawed. Every woman, man, and child has a part to play in our world so we must let ourselves play the roles and fate will sort out the winners from the losers and in heaven there will be no more secret sealed archives.


Hello Brian,

Congratulations on your two decades of sobriety.

But I can't agree on the cause of your sobriety. I suspect that you are confusing cause and effect with correlation or coincidence. It's just like Dumbo's Magic Flying Feather. (Remember the Walt Disney movie Dumbo?) He couldn't fly until he got that magic feather; then he could. Dumbo just "knew" that the feather was the cause of his success. Likewise, many A.A. members are convinced that their sobriety was caused by the 12 steps, or by going to meetings, or by some other part of the A.A. program, rather than by the fact that they are sober because they are not swallowing alcoholic drinks any more, and that was their own choice and their own accomplishment. They ignore obvious factors like that they quit drinking because they got tired of the down side, the horrible negative consequences of drinking. They got sick and tired of being sick and tired. They decided that they wanted to live. They did all of the hard work and A.A. took all of the credit.

This is a common problem. Quackwatch wrote:

Many dubious methods remain on the market primarily because satisfied customers offer testimonials to their worth. Essentially, these people say: "I tried it, and I got better, so it must be effective." The electronic and print media typically portray testimonials as valid evidence. But without proper testing, it is difficult or impossible to determine whether this is so.
Many diseases are self-limiting. If the condition is not chronic or fatal, the body's own recuperative processes usually restore the sufferer to health. Thus, to demonstrate that a therapy is effective, its proponents must show that the number of patients listed as improved exceeds the number expected to recover without any treatment at all (or that they recover reliably faster than if left untreated). Without detailed records of successes and failures for a large enough number of patients with the same complaint, someone cannot legitimately claim to have exceeded the published norms for unaided recovery.
Buyer Beware!
The job of distinguishing real from spurious causal relationships requires well designed studies and logical abstractions from large bodies of data. Many sources of error can mislead people who rely on intuition or informal reasoning to analyze complex events.

Before agreeing to any kind of treatment, you should feel confident that it makes sense and has been scientifically validated through studies that control for placebo responses, compliance effects, and judgmental errors. You should be very wary if the "evidence" consists merely of testimonials, self-published pamphlets or books, or items from the popular media.
See: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/altbelief.html

Especially note the lines:

"The job of distinguishing real from spurious causal relationships requires well designed studies and logical abstractions from large bodies of data. Many sources of error can mislead people who rely on intuition or informal reasoning to analyze complex events."

That is precisely the problem with a few A.A. survivors (out of hundreds of failures) claiming that A.A. or the Twelve Steps made them quit drinking. Only a well-designed test can be trusted, and all of those tests have shown that A.A. does not make people quit drinking. A.A. scores no better than any other treatment, or no treatment at all.

Again, it's the same old problem as:

A bunch of people went to a Baptist church for years.
During those years, many of the women got pregnant and had babies.
That proves it: going to Baptist churches causes women to get pregnant and have babies.

That goofy logic is the same logic as A.A. uses to insist that it's a proven fact that going to A.A. meetings and doing the Twelve Steps causes people to quit drinking.

[ One reader complained,
"What is it with you and the Baptists?
Why are you always picking on us Baptists?
You got something against Baptists?"

My answer was,
"No, not at all. I wanted to pick on the Catholics, but couldn't, because women don't get pregnant from going to Catholic churches.

Boys do." ]

Bill Wilson's sexual infidelity is not a major point; it is just another hypocrisy. Other faults were far more important:

  1. The "spiritual" cure for alcoholism is a hoax and doesn't work. The claimed success rate is a fraud, and Bill Wilson knew that. He "cooked the books" while writing the opening chapters of the Big Book.
  2. The A.A. program is sheer insanity. It is literally the ravings of a lunatic. See the file on "The Funny Spirituality of A.A.".
  3. Bill Wilson robbed A.A. for everything he could get. He wasn't just a quirky leader, he was a felon, guilty of grand theft and securities fraud. In the Big Book deal, he was supposed to get $1000 for writing the opening chapters of the book as flat-rate contract labor (see the "author" item), while the Alcoholic Foundation was supposed to get the royalties. After Bill stole the copyright to the book, he blackmailed A.A. into giving him royalties for life. When other members objected to Bill's dishonesty, Dr. Bob told them not to make trouble, for the good of the fellowship. Then Bill cut Dr. Bob in on the deal and Dr. Bob also got royalties for life. Nobody else got anything. On top of that, A.A. then bought Bill a Cadillac car and a house in the country. Not bad for writing 9 or 10 chapters and stealing Henry Parkhurst's work, as well as the work of all of the other authors.
  4. All that Bill Wilson did to get his "spiritual" cure for alcoholism was repackage the Oxford Group cult religion. It was a bad cult when Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman ran it, and it was still bad when Bill Wilson ran it.
  5. A.A. kills. All of the fair and unbiased tests of the A.A. program have shown that A.A. is no better than any other "treatment" program, or even no treatment at all. In fact, some tests have shown that A.A. is worse than no treatment. Even one of the leaders of A.A., Professor George Vaillant, showed with his own 8-year test of A.A., that A.A. had a higher death rate than anything else. After eight years of A.A. "treatment", 29% of Vaillant's patients were dead.
  6. A.A. immorally, illegally, and unconstitutionally uses covert coercion to recruit new members.

Bill Wilson's sexual infidelity pales beside big problems like that. If the A.A. program really worked, and cheating on his wife was his only hypocrisy, I'd also be ready to label him a great man. But he was just a sleazy con artist and a fraud.

But there is one aspect of that sexual infidelity that we should not overlook: Bill was exploiting women who came to A.A. seeking help with their alcoholism. It would have been a very different thing if Bill Wilson had had affairs with women outside of A.A., but that isn't what Bill did. Bill chose to act as a sexual predator and victimize women who were sick, weak, shaky, and desperately seeking help. That is unconscionable. That is not the behavior of a healer. Any doctor who screws his women patients gets his license to practice medicine revoked.

I strongly disagree with the statement,
"Leaders are magical people and they are needed in order to provide humanity with direction when we are floundering as a species."
First off, we aren't floundering as a species.
Secondly, we don't need charismatic cult leaders.
Third, Bill Wilson wasn't magical, and he wasn't leading us anywhere.

He was just feathering his own nest so that he never had to work again. He made a lot of loud grandiose claims of success when he had nothing but failure to show for his cult religion. Bill Wilson didn't even introduce new concepts about recovery from alcoholism or a more charitable attitude towards alcoholics. Bill pointedly overlooked the contributions of the earlier temperance movements like the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Washingtonian Society, and the Keeley League.

Bill was really not much different from all of those phony TV evangelists who were sent to prison in the last couple of decades. I seem to recall that they were also fundamentalists and Republicans, too. (They had good reason to want to "get big government off of the little businessman's back." Those darned pesky laws against grand theft and criminal fraud were such an inconvenience... — A problem that a Republican corporation called Enron would run into a little later.)

Oh well, have a good day anyway. Thanks for writing.

— Orange

Hi, loved your site. I'm curious though, if AA is a cult, what are its members in it for? I should clarify — Scientology exists as a moneymaking organization, but since AA is non-profit, what are its unofficial "leaders" hoping to gain? Just curious.

Hi, R.S.,
That's a good question. And I think that the answer, to a great extent, is pretty much the same as why people stay in all of the other cults. The list of things that comes to mind is:

  1. To avoid death. That is, members believe that membership in A.A. will save them from a horrible death by alcoholism. Conversely, they have been made to believe that if they leave A.A., they are doomed to die drunk in a gutter. That is the standard cult practice, Phobia Induction, implanting fears and making members afraid to leave.

  2. Social club. They enjoy the social get-togethers. It is their circle of "friends".
    The flip side of this item is, if they quit A.A., their "friends" won't like them any more.

  3. Social Status. The old-timers have a lot of accumulated Time and status, and are the honored elders and Trusted Servants inside of A.A.. But outside of A.A., they have no special status, and are just some more old nobodys...

  4. Feelings of Grandiose Self-importance. "We are special" "We are chosen." They feel that they are doing the Will of God, and "helping others selflessly" by recruiting more cult members.

    Many cult members like to imagine that their cult is The Wave Of The Future, a big movement that is sweeping the world, ushering in The New Age of Peace and Enlightenment, and A.A. is no different. A.A. members call it things like "The Movement". A.A. members imagine that A.A. is actually some new enlightened mode of recovery from alcohol or drugs that will sweep the world and reform "the recovery community", rather than just a recycled, tired old cult religion with no new answers to anything.

  5. Sacred Science — Only A.A. has the magic answer. Members actually believe the cult dogma, and actually believe that only this group has THE BIG ANSWER. And they believe that they really have to go recruit more cult members, in order to save their lives. (BOTH lives. That is, that sentence works both ways: They believe that they have to recruit to save the other people's lives, and they believe that they have to go recruiting to save their own lives.) And they believe that they have to indoctrinate and convert newcomers for their own good. (Again, for the good of both of them.) And they believe that any newcomer who disagrees with the cult dogma is of course diseased and in denial, because A.A. teachings are of course the true and correct answer to everything.

    And of course they reject any information that does not accord with their own beliefs; it has to be wrong, automatically, because it doesn't accord with their own beliefs. That circular logic keeps people brainwashing themselves endlessly, and never learning anything different.

    (Oh, and by the way, here is where Scientology is not "just in it for the money." Some cynical branch managers may be, but the rank and file actually do believe that Scientology has fantastic new technology [LRH tech] that will solve all of their mental problems and give them great mind powers — even immortality. — Which leads to the following item:)

  6. The Promised Goodies. All cults hold out the promise of something great if you kiss enough ass and follow the rules long enough. They offer enlightenment, spiritual virtue, sainthood, immortality, a ticket to Heaven, mental, physical, or spiritual powers, recovery, sanity, or something.

    In A.A., The Promises are even written up as a formal list. Bill Wilson promised members a whole lot more than just sobriety or survival.

    Conversely, they say, "Don't Leave Five Minutes Before The Miracle!"
    So you can't ever leave, or you will miss out on the promised goodies.

  7. Old-timers don't want to admit that they have been so wrong for so long.
    "Do you expect me to believe that I wasted 12 years of my life in a cult?"
    That was a real statement made by an A.A. member in a newsgroup. He wasn't about to believe that he had wasted so many years in a cult. So that person will continue to convince himself that it is a wonderful organization, not a cult, just because he doesn't want to believe that he wasted a lot of time on something foolish.
    As they say in A.A., Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

  8. Giggly Wonderfulness and Starry-Eyed Faith is a lot of fun for some people. Spiritual make-believe is a real kick. It's a lot more fun to imagine that you "are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with The Spirit of the Universe", than to imagine that you are just another person who has been unwise.

    In addition, it just seems to be a common human trait that people wish to feel that their suffering was for some higher purpose. It is a lot easier for people to believe that they went through Hell so that they would be prepared to help others, than to believe that they went through Hell solely because they made some foolish choices.

  9. Absolute Certainty. Dogmatic cult religions say that you don't need to worry about being wrong:
    "There is no question that we are absolutely right about everything, and have a simple answer to everything."
    "The answer to all problems is 'Do the Twelve Steps, Get a sponsor, and Read the Big Book.'"

    Such simple, absolutely-true answers also spare the cult member from the hard work of thinking, and let him avoid the discomfort of having doubts.

  10. Disturbed Followers. Some members have mental problems. First they were obsessed with drinking alcohol, and now they are obsessed with cult religion. People who insist on believing a bunch of illogical, irrational, unrealistic, contradictory nonsense really do need their heads examined.

One item that is missing from the list is, of course, a charismatic leader. The current A.A. leaders, like the executives and trustees of A.A.W.S. (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.), do live very comfortable lives and enjoy a lot of status and prestige, but they seem to me to be almost irrelevant (except for the crimes that they commit). A.A. is one of those cults with dead leaders, like the Hari Krishnas or Scientology or Siddha Yoga, where current members now just worship the dead founders. Bill Wilson and Doctor Bob are of course the dead saints of Alcoholics Anonymous.

And last but not least, the members actually do quit and leave. All of the above items imply that members stay in the group. Some do, but not for very long. A.A. suffers from a horrendous dropout rate. The A.A. clubhouse has a revolving door on the front of it. The A.A. G.S.O.'s own surveys have shown that 81% are gone after a month, 90% are gone after 3 months, and 95% are gone after a year. And the attrition continues, with even 20-year old-timers dropping out. A.A. even has to use coercive recruiting techniques to keep its numbers up. It isn't growing any more.

So thanks for the question. That was a good one.

Have a good day.

— Orange

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