Letters, We Get Mail, LXV

Date: Mon, August 14, 2006 5:54 pm
From: "Scott S."
Subject: Fwd: Success vs. Gloom-and-Doom

Dear Agent Orange,

I thought you might be interested in this. This regards the graph you posted here: http://www.orange-papers.info/orange-effectiveness.html#AA_dropouts

Love your site!


Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2006 17:51:48 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Success vs. Gloom-and-Doom


Glenn directed me to you with regard to the posting here:

I've looked this over many times, and looked at the other side as well, and have come to the conclusion that both sides have misinterpreted the data. This should make EVERYONE UN-happy! (I attach the graph for your convenience.)

It is correct that the graph does not, as presented, represent drop-out or retention, though it at first appears to (we KNOW there is a high drop-out rate, but that is not what the graph represents, based on the language). The graph shows a distribution of people "within the first year" broken down by the number of months they "remained".

There is nothing to indicate that those numbers represent sober time, either. And certainly nothing to indicate "success". The title of the graph is "% of those coming to AA within the first year that have remained the indicated number of months". And the only conclusions we can draw are those indicated, to wit, that the percentage of those "within the first year" who had "remained" for one month is 19%, that the percentage of those "within the first year" who have "remained" for two months is 13%, and so on. (Having "remained" for one month, and having "been sober" for one month, are two different animals and are not synonymous.)

The heading of the graph is worded carefully (though it is still oddly unclarified and strangely misleading to some). The document is one of AA's own, intended for internal use. Had the statisticians meant to indicate sober time, they surely would have stated that clearly. They did not. And unless we get some documentation showing that they intended differently, we must accept the graph for only what it is: a distribution of people "within the first year" who were present at a meeting during the survey time and who reported that they had "remained the indicated number of months".

I have a serious problem with aa-ny's statistical manipulation as well. He arbitrarily eradicates a full 43% of respondents (all of those who had not "remained" for over three months, even though these numbers are supplied FOR A REASON on the AA graph), and an entire one-third of the timeframe (months 0 up to 4). Can you imagine if the pharmaceutical industry did this with its research???

aa-ny decides arbitrarily to move the start point to 4 Months (actually, if he wanted to be accurate with his manipulation, he should have moved it to 3 months, because the heading indicates that the plot points represent people who have "remained" to the point indicated, meaning that the plot point shown at Month 1 represents those who had "remained" to that point, and not people who had not yet been there for a full month.). THEN aa-ny ADDS A COLUMN TO INDICATE RETENTION, BUT HE'S ALREADY TOLD US THAT THE GRAPH DOES NOT SHOW RETENTION RATES! He pulls some numbers out of a hat, then goes on to show that 56% of people with over three months stay for a year (again, he needs to move the start point back to the 3-Month plot point instead of 4, which would give us 50%).

That's bad statistical "analysis" to the point that we can't call it statistics at all. It is made-up numbers, with nearly half of the sample thrown out and then some numbers that didn't previously exist ADDED for no valid reason. We have absolutely no idea from the data provided on the graph how many people or what percentage of people who were recorded at four months were still around at twelve months. And if we did, why can we not then apply this same formula to those who were recorded at one month??? And even if we were able to do THAT, it wouldn't prove "success", because there is no indication that the people at any point on the graph was sober.

aa-ny says that he uses an AA definition of alcoholism, but the closest the book Alcoholics Anonymous comes to a definition of alcoholism is where we are told that alcoholism "is an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer."

AA in its preamble says that the only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking. Period.

aa-ny is correct that not all people who come to AA are alcoholics (but he is remiss in not noting that those who are not alcoholics, but who claim to be, are going to appear to have substantial clean time, which skews the numbers in his favor, but which, of course, are bogus because those people aren't alcoholic to begin with!). But he is incorrect when he concludes that just because a person doesn't make it to 90 days, he is not an alcoholic. AA itself says that "[b]efore these people came to A.A., most of them had tried to control their drinking on their own..."
This passage does not mention anything at all about 90 days in the program being necessary to prove one's alcoholism: it says clearly that "most of them" who visited AA had experienced trouble with their drinking. And of course that is actually one of the definitions of alcoholism: having trouble controlling your drinking.

ALMOST ALL PEOPLE WHO COME INTO AA HAVE A NOTICEABLE DRINKING PROBLEM AND ADMIT IT PUBLICLY IN THE ROOMS well before 90 days, and if we are to accept that alcoholism is only "self-diagnosable" as some insist (it IS medically diagnosable, thank you very much), and a person admits he is an alcoholic, and he is suffering so much that he is sitting in an AA room, then we can consider him to be an alcoholic, whether he makes it to 90 days or not. To argue otherwise is ludicrous, and goes against the very grain of AA itself.

Finally, the numbers are provided by AA itself. aa-ny has no basis for eliminating 43% of AA's numbers, and one-third of its timeframe, to suit his own purposes. His argument is invalid and misleading. If he'd wanted to make the numbers look even better, he could have made the start point the 11-month mark, and then those who make 11 months have an 83% chance of making 12 months!!

The graph shows only what it shows, and without supporting documentation (raw numbers, research methods, how were these surveys conducted?, were they identical at all five survey years?, what is the margin of error?, were surveys conducted by professionals?), we cannot derive any more from the numbers than what they are actually stated to represent.

Scott S.
Fort Lauderdale

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the letter. That's some perceptive analysis.

I'm happy to report that I had a similar take on the "ny-aa" responses to that famous chart. (So I'm not upset by the alternate analysis of the numbers.) My responses are printed here and here.

We agree that there is a lot of funny twisting of the numbers going on there. It is probably true that the chart is simply a one-day snap-shot of the A.A. members who were in their first year of membership and present on the survey day, rather than a longitudinal survey that tracked the survival rate of the newcomers. But, either way, that chart still reveals a huge attrition rate in the A.A. membership.

I've been looking around and asking around for a mathematical transform that can calculate the drop-out rate from the data that is "% of those coming to AA within the first year that have remained the indicated number of months", but have had no luck yet.

It may well be that the number cannot be directly calculated from only that data. As I stated in my second response to ny-aa, there is one big hole in the logic: those people who are remaining might be remaining out of 100 newcomers, or 200, or 50, or anything, but they don't say what the number is. The retention rate depends on that missing number. The best we can do is fudge in the missing information from other sources, like the fact that everybody from Nell Wing to Francis Hartigan to Prof. George E. Vaillant to A.A. Australia all reported a 5% recovery or retention rate.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** "A well conducted professional study" showed that
** "some 5% of newcomers are still attending meetings
** after 12 months. This is a truly terrible statistic.
** Again we must ask 'Where does the fault lie?'"
** == Dr. Ron Whitington — Chairman General Service Board,
** AA Around Australia, Spring Edition No 90, October 1994

Date: Tue, August 15, 2006 3:19 pm
From: "lacey"
Subject: Patty-Cake Treatment Program


Most interesting site

I especially like the approach to provide references

problem; the Patty-Cake Treatment Program is very interesting for many reasons.

I would like to read more and check the primary reference if possible.

What is your source/primary reference?

I get only your stuff when I research google


A fellow traveller

Hi Lacey,

I'm still looking for that reference myself. It's the hardest-to-find thing in the whole bibliography. See this letter about the same thing.

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  One day two cows were chatting over the fence between their
**  two fields. The first cow said, "I'm telling you, this mad
**  cow disease is getting pretty scary! I've heard it's
**  spreading so fast that it's already on Farmer Bill's land
**  just down the road!"
**  The second cow replied, "So what? It doesn't affect us
**  chickens!"

Date: Wed, August 16, 2006 2:18 pm
From: "Sharen K."
Subject: Placebo Effect & AA

Hi Again, Orange!

Regarding any effectiveness that AA might have, two possibilities should be kept in mind: the placebo effect, and the healthy influences of simply associating with a group of friendly supportive people.

Regarding the placebo effect, the following, from Malignant Sadness, the Anatomy of Depression, by Lewis Wolpert, tells of how effective placebos are even for treating clinical depression:

It is essential to recognise the extent to which patients can recover on their own and it is claimed that 80 per cent of all depressions will eventually undergo remission without treatment, though this may take a year or longer. The placebo effect can also be surprisingly powerful; the patient's belief that the treatment can work even though the 'dummy' medication they are taking contains no active ingredient, or the very act of talking to a psychiatrist, can, in trial after trial, give a positive response of around 30 to 40 per cent. The placebo effect as measured in trials is made up of several elements which are very difficult to disentangle: natural remission, spontaneous fluctuations and the true placebo effect. A further complicating factor in these trials is that as many as one third of those taking part may drop out of the trial, and yet another problem is patient compliance; they often do not take their medication as directed. One more factor to be taken into account is the interpretation of the results of the trial, including an assessment of how well it has been designed; there is a tendency for those with particular views, say in favour of medication or psychotherapy, to bias their interpretation in their preferred direction.

In a review of over 70 studies in 1993 it was found that two thirds of patients given antidepressant drugs responded, in comparison to one third who responded to a placebo. That the placebo treatment had so large an effect is in itself striking, as is the fact that about one third of those in the trial did not respond at all. Also the criteria for a positive response affect the success of treatments; if one uses the criterion that there are no depressive symptoms for two months then the response rate falls to just more than a third.

Also, even many of those whose responses to the drugs, came mainly from their physical effects, also had some positive effects from knowing that what they did was supposed to be effective in helping them. I'm on a mailing list for those was different degrees of bipolar disorder. (Since I don't have destructive symptoms I don't really have a disorder, but since my basically healthy hyperthymic temperament puts me in the bipolar spectrum, and I'm quite familiar with all the attributes, I could contribute to the list.) Recently on that list was an article which begins:

TUESDAY, Aug.1 (HealthDay News) — Factors such as patient beliefs and expectations, treatment history, and doctor-patient relationships may influence the success of drug therapy for major depression, a University of California, Los Angeles study suggests.

Using electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements, the researchers identified changes in brain activity among patients during a one-week placebo lead-in phase — in which patients take a placebo — before they actually started taking antidepressant medication.

and goes on to say that those who had those partial responses to the placebo, "were associated with lower depression scores after eight weeks of antidepressant treatment." The antidepressants are relatively more effective on those who'd shown a placebo effect to the initial placebos.

Depression is certainly more determined by biology, than are addictions. Everyone knows that addicts do indeed decide to quit after they'd "hit bottom," but those with clinical depressions can't choose to stop the depressions. Therefore, I'd think that when people go to AA confident that it's an effective treatment for alcoholism, the placebo effect alone would be even more effective than it is for depression.

Also, I've heard that, after a layperson using common sense suggested the idea, researchers had proven that recovering addicts, by participating in the positive interactions with others in Twelve-Step group meetings, cause their brain chemicals involved in feelings of pleasure, to function more normally again. The drugs had caused their brains to produce less pleasure-causing chemicals naturally, and the healthy interactions in the group meetings cause the brains to start producing normal amounts. OK, that should mean that the same thing should happen in any group of people who are supportive of each other. In an adversarial society such as ours, it may be difficult to get together a group in which the people take seriously an obligation to be supportive of each other, but if you get a group like that, it would have the same naturally positive effect.


(Ever since I was a teenager, anyone who didn't have a chronically manic personality seemed half dead to me, smirk, smirk.)

Hi Sharen,

Thanks for information on the placebo effect. Undoubtedly, a lot of cases of recovery from alcoholism can be attributed to the placebo effect, and a lot more to normal spontaneous remission. In fact, those two things explain the entire apparent A.A. success rate.

And guess what magic number is missing? I have never seen a number for what percentage of "alcoholics" are actually suffering from depression, and trying to fix their mental disorder by self-medicating with alcohol. There are undoubtedly a lot of them. Heck, Bill Wilson was one of them.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    O, it is excellent, To have a giant's strength;
**    but it is tyrannous, To use it like a giant.
**      ==  William Shakespeare 1564-1616

Date: Wed, August 16, 2006 6:18 pm
From: "Cliff B."
Subject: Propaganda and Debating Techniques

I read about 50% of what you've wrote here and it was a good read ... for a while ...

I wish you could have been more varied in your examples, the constant A.A bashing (While I agree with the majority of it) wears thin after a while. You make it so apparent you have a problem with A.A. that you almost start to fall into some of the techniques you describe.

In my opinion, you have two different papers here, but you've combined them and it makes for somewhat boring reading after so long. There should probably be on paper on all the reasons you hate A.A. and one paper describing the various propaganda and debating techniques ... when you harp on this one group in a paper that isn't "supposed" to be about them it's obvious you have another agenda (Even if you didn't mean for it to come out that way).

I will finish the paper but just from highlighting all the cases of "A.A." I know I'm going to have a tough time finishing ...

Anyway, I figured you could use some feedback from someone who wasn't just yelling at you for your criticism of the United States government or A.A.

Take care, Cliff B.

Hi Cliff,

Thanks for the letter.

There are actually at least five different books in the web site:

  1. Criticism of A.A.
  2. History of Frank Buchman, the Oxford Group and Moral Re-Armament, segueing into a history of Alcoholics Anonymous
  3. The Cult Test and discussion of what constitutes a cult, and analysis of A.A. as a cult
  4. Propaganda and Debating Techniques
  5. A Discussion of alcoholism and drug addiction and recovery techniques

Alas, they are all interlinked and interrelated. One of my big objections to Alcoholics Anonymous is all of the deceptive propaganda techniques that they use, especially in their literature. That's what actually got the Propaganda Techniques study started. So of course many of the examples given there come from Alcoholics Anonymous. And more come from the Oxford Group.

I don't think that there is any way to untangle those five books into five separate web sites.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    It is not without good reason said, that he who has not a
**    good memory should never take upon him the trade of lying.
**       ==  Michel Eyquem 1533-1592

Date: Wed, August 16, 2006 7:44 pm
From: "John M."
Subject: Random thoughts

Hey Orange: just thinking about this whole disease theory and the rearrest of Koren Robinson on DUI charges.

1. Koren went to a rehab center to get a cure for alcoholism. Now that he's relapsed, can he demand a refund? Oh, wait, that's on him that he wasn't cured, not the rehab center telling him alcoholism was a disease, so as our friend in the newsgroups would say, "the spin (err responsibility) stops there"

2. Let's assume alcoholism is a disease, and from the sayings of AA, we know that you can get "reinfected" if you return to your drinking places ("wet faces and wet places"). Now, given that, why do they say "the newcomer is the most important person". Clearly, you're infecting the "recovering" members with the newcomer who is still drunk.

On another note, I'm looking at your site and reformatting it a little using PHP (non-databases). Have you thought of organizing it a little bit differently. It seems that the letters are overflowing.

Hi John,

Thanks for the letter. You make some good points.

Yeh, why don't those expensive treatment programs give guarantees and refunds for failure? (Heck, they don't even give a clear, concise description of what you will get for your money.)

I especially liked the question of newcomers infecting the old-timers with alcoholism. I mean really. If associating with drinkers is dangerous for a recovering alcoholic, then going to an A.A. meeting should be very dangerous. :-)

Yes, the letters section just gets bigger and bigger. I have no idea what I will do about that.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
**       ==  Thomas Jefferson 1743-1826

Date: Thu, August 17, 2006 8:13 am
From: "James B."
Subject: Orange

Check him out Orange, looks interesting:


Yes, thanks for the tip. This guy is extreme —
"return to the good old days of the Oxford Group cult"?

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

Date: Thu, August 17, 2006 8:30 am
From: John R. S.
Subject: Question!

Hi, A. Orange

I've just received your writting on and about AA, I find much of it very interesting.

Are you a member of AA?

Thanking you in advance for your reply.

Are you familiar with,

Jon R. S.

Hi Jon,

Thanks for the questions. No, I do not call myself a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I've been to a zillion A.A. and N.A. meetings, but do not claim membership in either organization, or give them any credit for my successful recovery.

Yes, I'm familiar with http://alcoholicsanonymous.9f.com, and have that web site in my file of links. I like what they have to say.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "The reason that I don't belong to any clubs is that I
**   would never join a club that would have me as a member."
**    ==  W. C. Fields

Date: Thu, August 17, 2006 2:32 pm
From: "Ellie K."
Subject: peeking into your site

Dear Agent Orange

I've only touched the surface of what you've written. I haven't read enough yet to judge your credibility overall but I plan on reading more. Whether I end up agreeing with you in the longrun and about how much remains to be seen, but I try to have an open mind. I mean who do I hurt if I don't and block myself to information that could help me? Not you. Those who complain about you to AOL and Yahoo and those who censor you and try to have you shut down because they don't like what you say are fools. That's a part of the Bible I certainly have to agree with, basically that wise men love knowledge and are open to the truth while fools shun it. I especially appreciate this that you wrote about censorship:

"But what kind of a country will we have if no one can say anything that someone else objects to, even if it is true? What happens to the open forum? What happens to the free marketplace of ideas? What happens to freedom of speech? (I never censored my critics. I printed their letters that criticized me, in full, for all to see.) What happens to democracy? What kind of a strange, shallow, styrofoam society will we have if nobody and nothing can ever be "controversial"?"

I'm not a member of AA but I am of Alanon and I will continue to be unless and until I think it's in my best interest to back out. In my 5 months of attending meetings at the same place once or twice a week, I haven't seen a lot of the same crap that goes on in AA that a dear friend has shared with me (who told me of your site) going on in Alanon. My friend has floored me with information about the stuff that goes on and I wonder why not near as much of the same has seeped into Alanon.

I do have an open mind though and I am looking and listening a little more closely now. I don't accept all of its teachings. I don't have a sponsor. I don't believe in telling another person in the program who I don't really know about the results of a 4th step, not only because I may not need to hear my voice say (and thus affirm) certain things out loud but ya just never can tell what might be too much for another to hear, or what they might get a secret kick out of hearing.

A 4th step in itself however has revealed part of myself to me I might otherwise not have discovered. Maybe, maybe not. I have made significant strides in my life since. But I also did before so I can't discount that. What's Alanon and what's just me and sheer determination and help from God? I'm looking into that.

I did quit smoking pre Alanon, last September. Didn't have a support group or work the steps. Smoked for 34 years then decided last Spring I wanted to enter 2006 as a non smoker. And I journaled about it and prayed about it and tried to rework my faulty programming about it. Then one day while smoking my heart went nuts and I threw down the cigarette and declared myself to be a non smoker.

And that was that along with 1/2 cigarette more 16 hrs later, more self talk about being a non smoker, ("Non smokers don't smoke.") reaffirming my desires in my journal, and praying through the rough spots.

I also read a lot of articles that helped keep me strong early on at a site I reccomend:

There I downloaded this little doodad I can attach to emails or just look at now and then to remind myself how many "nicotine doses" I've gone without and how much money I saved. It gives me these little thrills as I see the #'s and $'s nearing certain digits. Certainly alcoholics who need to know something about the length of time could probably get as much out of something like that if not more than somebody handing them a chip. I'm celebrating 10 months, 3 weeks 3 days and 18 hrs and 17 minutes NICOTINE FREE btw! That's abstienence from 9,829 doses of varied poisons and a savings of $933.76 !!

I'll be in touch after I read more. Thanks for your dedication. Check out my own site sometime if you'd like (link below).

Ellie K.


Hi Ellie,

Thanks for the letter and all of the compliments. And congratulations on quitting smoking. It sure is nice to wake up in the morning, and find that your chest and throat don't hurt at all, isn't it?

Why it's a whole new life.

And those "quit meters" are a kick:

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend;
**  inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
**    —  Groucho Marx

Date: Thu, August 17, 2006 3:15 pm
From: "Claire C."
Subject: AA

I have a drinking problem, i.e. I drink too much. I've been going to AA for a few years and can't stand it. As an atheist Jew, political leftist, the 12 step philosophy that people have no control over themselves or the world makes me want to throw up.

Sitting in meetings with people who "turn themselves over [to] the will of god" while the world is blowing itself up makes absolutely no logical sense.

Thanks for your article.

Claire C.

Hello Claire,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments.

If you haven't already found it, check out this list of alternatives:

Oh, by the way, have you seen a doctor? It occurs to me that there might be some underlying medical reason why you are drinking more than you wish. Don't overlook that angle.

Good luck, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** And the Lord our God spake, and He saeth: "There's a
** football game today between the New England Patriots
** and the Green Bay Packers. How should I fix that game?
** How much have those players been praying? Who has the
** most pleasing prayers? Whom should I make win the game?"

Date: Fri, August 18, 2006 4:34 am
From: "shon n."
Subject: THANK YOU

Dear A Orange,

I had been in AA for twenty seven years, five years intensely then a non meeting attending member for eighteen then three back to meetings. I maintained my sobriety and am still grateful that AA was there but after going back and attending meetings I saw its ineffectiveness.

I saw the treatment ghetto AA clubs, the Big Book fanatics, the cultness of it all, and worse I saw people not being helped. There were many helped but there were hundreds that were not being well served by its method of spiritual Ultimatium. The group confessional led to an air of original sinness, Total Acceptanceness and chronic self hating.

I had read Francis Hartigan's book on Bill Wilson's infidelity and how he took the Big Book and made it his own cash cow.

Your web site was crucial in my self dePROGRAMMING.


Mel Gibson will be quite at home in AA but he has too much spiritual Ultimatumness already as his movies demonstrate quite graphically.

AA-centered treatment is a scurge on the person who has a problem because they made a bad decision to take in alcohol.

Just try to limit your bad decisions, it is as simple as that.

AA can ruin your life by making you accept too much when you should be deciding not to take that first drink. AA is a waste of time and it is full of spiritual Ultimators who will tell you how to run your life by telling you not to run your life by letting something else run it. Confusing isn't it.

love you A Orange and you have done a good job .....

Of course there is the delima of trying to help those folks who are making those bad decision to drink and then they end up on Cops.

Hello Shon,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments. I love to hear from the old-timers who have watched A.A. for a lot of years.

Oh, and congratulations on a zillion years of sobriety.

About Rational Recovery — I agree that we should avoid anything that will turn into another cult. In defense of Jack Trimpey and R.R., I've heard that is why he shut it down. That is, the people who wanted to quit drinking did, and left the meetings; while the chronic meeting attenders remained, until R.R. was just filling up with people who wanted to have another life-long club. So Trimpey disbanded it.

Now that's just a rumor, and I haven't gotten anything from Trimpey explaining it one way or the other. But it makes sense. There is no doubt that R.R. is disbanded and shut down. Now it's a book and a course, and nobody can turn it into a cult.

There is still SMART, but so far, it shows no signs of turning into a cult. Thank goodness.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**    "Do, or do not. There is no 'try'."
**       ==  Yoda ('The Empire Strikes Back')

Date: Fri, August 18, 2006 6:51 am
From: "kiki s."
Subject: mel gibson

really curious as to why no one has ever written an article on the real A.A. everything you have written is the truth, unfortunately i experienced it.

mel gibson is the latest example on how A.A. doesn't have to advertise itself. judges, doctors, therapists even movies are doing it for them. mel gibson is being forced to attend A.A.

i really liked your article or whatever, just wish someone would actually expose the real A.A. in a documentary, newspaper, somebody do something.! mcs

Hi Kiki,

Thanks for the letter and the compliments.

The problem of why you don't hear the truth more is certainly a frustrating one. It seems to be a combination of inertia, ignorance, and institutional cowardice. A lot of organizations and institutions and news networks don't want to get involved in a big controversial information war, and A.A. has a reputation for viciously attacking those who criticize it, or threaten its hegemony.

And they have an immense propaganda mill that continues to crank out dishonest and misleading publicity that is designed to make people believe that A.A. works well.

Mel Gibson getting sentenced to A.A. meetings is a joke — he's been going to A.A. for many years, and is an A.A. true believer. The rumor is that he would even hold on-location A.A. meetings while filming Braveheart (where lots of the other actors were also A.A. members). Just stop filming and have an A.A. meeting, right there, while still dressed in kilts.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have helped him much.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** The history of human opinion is scarcely anything more
** than the history of human errors. = Voltaire (1694-1778)

Date: Fri, August 18, 2006 11:34 am
From: "Fred F."
Subject: OK, so Bill Wilson's a scumbag- what did you expect from an alcoholic?

My first visit here. Stopped drinking (for the second time) about 2 years ago; going to AA.

This website has an astonishing amount of information, and is draped in an even more astonishing amount of vitriolic hatred for AA. What Step were you on when you bailed out? And what has caused you to hate AA so much?

Fred (not a saint, either)

ps- the Vulcan race is fictional...

Hello Fred,

Thanks for the letter, and congratulations on your sobriety. You did it. Nobody quit drinking for you.

If you had bothered to read the introduction, you would have known that I bailed out of A.A. before doing any of the Steps. I got smart fast, and decided that cult religion wasn't my cup of tea.

Here is the usual list of pages that describe how I got the attitude that I have:

  1. the introduction, my introduction to A.A., and also
  2. the "treatment" bait-and-switch trick, and
  3. another friend goes missing.

Your title line reveals the contempt that Alcoholics Anonymous actually has for alcoholics, and the negative stereotype of 'the alcoholic' that A.A. spreads around: "What did you expect from an alcoholic?"

A.A. doesn't "unconditionally love" alcoholics at all.

That is quite a bait-and-switch trick:

  1. First it's, "Let us love you until you can love yourself. We offer you unconditional love and complete acceptance."
  2. Then it's contempt: "What did you expect from an alcoholic?"

You also use the standard A.A. dodge of "we are not saints" — which is supposed to mean that it is okay for A.A. members to commit all sorts of sins and crimes — it's just normal, because we are not saints.

So what are you?

The reason that I have so much vitriol for A.A. is because it is a vile, low, despicable crime to deliberately lie to sick people about what medicine or treatment might heal them.

  1. "RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path."
  2. "Of alcoholics who came to A.A. and really tried, 50% got sober at once and remained that way; 25% sobered up after some relapses..."

Those statements are lies. They are not mistakes or misconceptions. They are deliberate lies that are intended to fool people and get them to join Alcoholics Anonymous.

And that isn't spiritual.

Oh and of course I knew that the Vulcan race is fictional.
And so are Superman, Batman, and Spiderman.
And so is the A.A. Higher Power who grants wishes and delivers Miracles on Demand, but only if you confess your sins to Him first.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Foisting ineffective quack medicine on sick people is not
** a wonderful noble act of self-sacrifice to help others;
** it is the reprehensible behavior of a damned fool.

Date: Fri, August 18, 2006 3:02 pm
From: H.

Dear Orange:

There seems to be a debate within AA. The issue appears to be "weak AA" versus "strong AA". Weak AA appears to be come to meetings and don't pick up the first drink. Strong AA appears to study the big book and work the steps. Tied to that debate is the flat or declining membership of AA. There are indications that AA membership has not changed from ca 1988. Some in AA are arguing that this flat or declining membership is caused by the popularity of "weak AA"

I find this interesting; you may wish to explore this.

My second point: people with substance abuse problems must be able to make informed choices regarding options. AA is not, repeat not, the only option.

Please keep me anonymous.


Hello again, H.,

Yes on that division in A.A., and there is also the moderate wing of A.A. versus the "Back To The Basics" fundamentalists. (I think we are saying that same thing with different words.)

The fundamentalists declare that Bill Wilson's lies about the great early success rate of A.A. are all true, and that the reason that they are not getting anything like that success rate today is because somebody "modernized" and corrupted A.A., and if everybody will just become a true-believer Big Book thumper, that A.A. will return to its former glory.

See http://www.aabacktobasics.org/ for examples of that attitude.

This web page actually says that A.A. should go back to the practices of the Hitler-worshipping Oxford Group:

Even though he thought he was being true to the "original" program, he had inadvertently incorporated some material from the 1970's (specifically, the three and four column Fourth Step inventory) into the Beginners' Meetings, and as a result, he wasn't seeing the recovery rates that had been achieved by the Twelve Step pioneers.

Then in March of 1996, Wally met James Houck. At the time, James was 90 years old and had been a sober member of the Oxford Group for sixty-one years. Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith also were members of the Oxford Group before they founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. James was the last person alive who had attended Oxford Group meetings with Bill Wilson and knew, from first hand experience, the spiritual roots and the fundamental principles of the "original" Twelve Step program.

I think I'll use some other "basics" for my religion, thank you anyway.

And have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a
**  front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism."
**  == Dr. Frank Buchman, founder and leader of the
**     Oxford Group,  August 26, 1936.

Date: Fri, August 18, 2006 4:02 pm
From: "Sharen K."
Subject: Emailing: revealed

Hi Again, Orange!

You could be interested in the following, at http://www.positiveatheism.org/rw/revealed.htm.

More Revealed: A Critical Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps
by Ken Ragge
ALERT! Publishing; P.O. Box 50233; Henderson, Nevada 89016-0233

Hi again, Sharen,

Yes, I really like that book. It's a wealth of information on A.A., especially the early days.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  People who will not work for what is right
**  Are little better than those who are doing wrong.

Date: Sat, August 19, 2006 8:00 am
From: "Roy C."
Subject: Bill Wilson/LSD/"Pass it On"

Hi Orange

I stumbled across your site recently. As a disgruntled 15+ year sober non-believing intermittent heretical AA member, I find the site's content interesting, to put it mildly, replicating as it does many of my own observations over the years; plus of course a vast amount of additional material, for which I thank you.

I'm surprised that a quick site-search for "LSD" returns nothing, whilst a search for "Lysergic" merely returns hits on references to academic papers etc. A quick Google search led me to confirm my own memory — which I was beginning to mistrust — of the account in "Pass it on" of BW's over-enthusiastic endorsement of LSD as the instant route to spiritual enlightenment: not that I avoided falling into this trap myself of course... Unless I recall incorrectly (and it seems in character, so I don't think that I'm wrong) he was also keen on spooning LSD down the neck of anyone who would keep their mouth open long enough — including Lois, naturally. Even in the muddle of "early recovery" this struck me as pretty rich! So I'm surprised you don't include this episode amongst Bill's, ahem, "character defects".

Also, along with a few other equally sceptical friends I still have trouble imagining that I would have abstained from alcohol had it not been for the focus on the issue of alcolholism, and the social circle which AA gave me to replace what went before. Even within my own pre-existing social circle — not huge — I know a number of people to whom this also applies, and NO "AA failures". A statistically insiignificant sample, to be sure, but not I think insignificant per se.

One other matter I haven't yet encountered in your site. Having had a pre-"recovery" experience of hypnotherapy, I noticed quite quickly how the format of AA meetings reproduces elements of the induction/suggestion/release (my own inadequate formulation) format of hypnotherapy. I have always believed this to be a component in AA's effectiveness. Your carefully marshalled data claiming AA's counter-effectiveness is an now interesting concept to examine in the light of my own experience.

Apologies for sending you more mail. I don't doubt you receive more than enough already, but... I checked the SMART website. Zero participants in all chatrooms. This isn't exactly encouraging and certainly won't trouble AA.

[2nd letter from Roy:]

Date: Sat, August 19, 2006 9:00 am
From: "Roy C."
Subject: retraction

I just found the section about BW's use of LSD. Duh.

Hi Roy,

Thanks for the letter. No need to apologize for the email. I like getting various and sundry viewpoints.

About the LSD: Yes, I mention it, but don't want to really harp on it because I feel like that would be too easy of a cheap shot.

And I have very mixed feelings about LSD, being an old hippie and having taken it a couple of hundred times myself. So I certainly know what spiritual and religious feelings Bill Wilson was talking about, and I don't knock them myself, either.

Still, it is revealing that in the 1950s Bill Wilson claimed that LSD was giving him the same religious feelings as he got while detoxing in Towns' Hospital in 1934, and tripping on belladonna and seeing God. It would seem that most of Bill Wilson's ideas about spirituality were drug-induced. (Again, same as me.)

But somehow, I was never able to make the leap from drug-induced feelings of spirituality to believing that it's okay to lie to the newcomers in order to get them to join the organization.

I agree about the benefits of some kind of supportive social circle. That is probably the single best facet of "the recovery community". Of course, there are several groups or organizations that can give such social support.

And we still have the fact that A.A.'s actual success rate merely matches the success rate of the people who go it alone.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  'Tis pity wine should be so deleterious,
**  For tea and coffee leave us much more serious.
**      == Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron)

[another letter from Roy:]

From: "Roy C."
Subject: Re: Bill Wilson/LSD/"Pass it On"
Date: Wed, October 4, 2006 11:34 am

Thanks for taking the trouble to reply. The problem with creating such an interesting site is — I imagine — the deluge of unsolicited emails, many of which may well be, er, nuts?

Hi again, Roy,

Ummm, yeh.

We have plenty in common it seems; I was partial to the odd mind-boggling substance myself.

Not intending to drag you into a dialogue (aka "dialog") I find it very difficult trying to help other people who want to quit addictive consumption habits without pointing them at AA/NA by default. I have an old friend who's now into about three months of sobriety — I've been working on him for nearly 14 years — and it's a juggling act how to address his objections to AA as they're pretty much the same as my own. But there's no doubt that just being around a bunch of other people who are focussed on staying sober is indispensible, at least in the early stages. Where else could I suggest that he go?

Is it indispensible? Has the efficacy of recovery groups ever been proven?
We were just talking about that question in another exchange of letters, here. The gist of the message was that groups merely concentrate sick people who are not recovering. The healthy, recovering people leave and get on with their lives, and the sick people stay (and become the resident old-timers). Eventually the majority of the group is chronically sick.

See these two links:

I'm a bit underwhelmed by SMART I'm afraid. The technology is a mess (online meetings particularly) and it feels undisciplined and very lacking in participants with some decent length of sobriety. Still, if it works...

Ummm, I would have to say that nothing "works".
That is, no groups will "make" addicts quit doping, or "make" alcoholics quit drinking.
The idea that groups or meetings "work" is the myth of Alcoholics Anonymous (and Frank Buchman's Oxford Group cult from which Bill Wilson copied the idea).
Groups and meetings have never ever "worked".

The purpose of SMART is to teach some techniques about "How to Stop Driving Yourself Nuts". That can help people to quit bad habits, but the burden is still on the individual addict to decide to quit his self-destructive habits, and then really do it. Think of SMART as a class, like high school algebra, rather than a "recovery group".

Still, sometimes I feel guilty that I don't put in some time at the SMART online group, but I'm struggling just to catch up on my email.

Thanks for the site. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable to see that the conclusions I'd come to independently (partly as a result of reading "Natural History of Alcoholism") are well supported by facts.


Thanks for the thanks, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  Isn't it fantastic, how we got to be part of the small
**  group of hairless monkees who partied hearty and in a
**  mere 100 years, gleefully burned up the world's entire
**  supply of oil for the next 60 million years?

Date: Sat, August 19, 2006 7:54 pm
From: G.S.
Subject: AAWS Board of Trustees

Orange —

Do both the Class A (non-alcoholic) and the Class B (alcoholic) members of the Board of Trustees both receive a $75,000 annual salary?

Hi G.S.,

Thanks for the questions. I don't have the financial filings for Alcoholics Anonymous (World) Services, Inc. on hand, so I will have to answer these questions on a basis of "best recollection" and "what I have heard". (Although a lot of this information is available from the government, because since the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous (the "GSO") is officially a non-profit, they have to file financial statements with the government, and those documents are open to public inspection. See:
== General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous.

As far as I know, the Class A and Class B trustees of A.A.S. get the same $70,000 or $75,000 per year salary. On the other hand, the trustees of the GSO seem to be unpaid.

CORRECTION (2011.03.28): It turns out that the trustees are not paid. But other people get lots more. The President and General Manager of A.A. Greg Muth gets $125,000 from both AAWS and the GSB (General Service Board of A.A.), for a total of $250,000 per year. And then his friend Thomas Jasper gets $469,850 for being a "Senior Advisor". And many others get salaries in the range of $70,000 to $100,000 each. Look here.

Is AAWS incorporated as a company in the state of New York? How about the GSO?

Yes to both. Both are incorporated in New York, I think. Both have their headquarters in New York City.

To avoid confusion, let me define terms here: The old A.A.W.S. — "Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc." — the profit-making, book-publishing corporation — renamed itself a few years ago, dropping the word "World" from its name. So it appears to be just "A.A.S." now. The "GSO" as it is usually called, is a non-profit corporation, and is properly named the "General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous".)

The GSO owns 100% of the stock of the A.A.S. corporation, so the GSO gets all of the profits of A.A.S.

CORRECTION (2011.03.28): It turns out that A.A. quietly reincorporated Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. and changed it into another non-profit corporation many years ago, so that they wouldn't have to pay any taxes on book receipts.

Do they have paid employees or a Board of Trustees?

Actually, they have both, twice. There are two corporations, and two boards, and two sets of executives, and two headquarters office staffs. There is a 15-member Board of Trustees that governs AAS, and then there are the corporate executives, then there is a large paid headquarters office staff there. The Board of Trustees of the non-profit GSO appears to be unpaid, but their executives are paid even more than the executives of the AAS seem to be.

Is the GSO incorporated?

Yes, as a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation, under the IRS section 501(c), 527, or 4947(a) — the same rules that give tax exemptions to religious, educational, and charitable organizations.

Can you or anyone estimate the total salaries/compensation paid out annually by the AA organization?

The salaries of the Board of Trustees of A.A.S. is easy: 15 times $70,000 = $1,050,000 per year. The President of AAS is also a Trustee, so he gets two salaries, which total about $125,000 per year, I am told.

CORRECTION (2011.03.28): It turns out that the trustees are not paid. But other people get lots more. The President and General Manager of A.A. Greg Muth gets $125,000 from both AAWS and the GSB (General Service Board of A.A.), for a total of $250,000 per year. And then his friend Thomas Jasper gets $469,850 for being a "Senior Advisor". And many others get salaries in the range of $70,000 to $100,000 each. Look here.

The salaries of the office and headquarters staff of the A.A.S. is anybody's guess.

The Trustees of the GSO appear to be unpaid, but the executives are getting very large salaries. The most recent Form 990 that is available on the Internet (which is for 2004 — look here on the web [Now a dead link], or here for local copy:) says that the 5 highest paid employees excluding officers, directors, and trustees were:

Greg Muth General Manager $218,814.
Thomas Jasper Services Director $141,003.
Lillianna Murphy EDP Manager $175,742.
Adrienne Brown General Staff $85,678.
Doug Richardson Staff $85,343.

And then Schedule A says they have 12 other unnamed people who are paid more than $50,000 per year.

Curiously, their biggest contractor is Computer Solutions, who got paid $150,250 for computer consulting. (Why does it take so much computer work to promote Alcoholics Anonymous? $175,000 for the Electronic Data Processing Manager, and $150,000 more for computer consulting? What the heck are they computing? It isn't that big of a job to maintain a list of A.A. meetings.)

And page 18 of the 2004 filing says:

Valerie O'Neill Assistant Secretary $90,625.
Donald Mueror Assistant Treasurer $64,023.

If the assistants get that much, how much do the full-blown Secretary and Treasurer get? I'm still looking for that, along with the salaries of the President and Vice President(s).

On page 4, where the form asks for the salaries of "Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees", it just says "See Statement 12."

But Statement 12 on page 18 mostly lists unpaid Trustees. It does not list the executives or officers, other than the two Assistants just mentioned above — O'Neill and Mueror.

So how much are the Big Boys getting? That information seems to be missing. I wonder if that is illegal.

How about an estimate of the total annual income of the AA organization?

I hear that the A.A.S. has an annual income of around 11 or 12 million per year. Part of that is eaten up in the cost of doing business, and paying their Trustees and executives and staff. The left-over profits go to the GSO, which listed an income of $7,061,977 for 2004, and assets of $13,483,460, of which $9,702,384 is U.S. Treasury Bonds — pure negotiable cash assets.

(Not bad for an impoverished little club of ex-drunkards, huh?)

Thanks for your website.


Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the thanks, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** The finest structure can house the worst evil.

P.S.: UPDATE 2007.08.17:
Lillianna Murphy wrote in to say that the 2004 report is fraudulent — that she did not get paid anything like what the report says. Look here. So who pocketed the money?

P.S.: UPDATE 2009.04.02:
It appears that the copies of Form 990 that were on the Internet have gotten buried or erased. So here are local copies:

  1. 1999
  2. 2000
  3. 2001
  4. 2002
  5. 2003
  6. 2004
  7. 2005
  8. 2006
  9. 2007

[The previous letter from Sharen is here.]

Date: Sun, August 20, 2006 12:11 pm
From: "Sharen K."
Subject: A Concrete Example of Christian Forgiveness

Hi Again, Orange!

The following, at http://www.tribstar.com/local/local_story_231231544.html, tells of a priest and a nun telling a boy who'd been molested by another priest, to write to him saying that he'd forgiven him. That's certainly forgiveness along the lines of, "Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it." And, in truth, the Bible does quote Jesus as making some pretty extreme expectations on how much mere mortals are expected to forgive.


Hi again, Sharen,

That is a grim article, isn't it? I find all of the references to drugs and alcohol particularly revealing. So many of those abused boys went on to over-use drugs and alcohol later in life. Like one said,

"It isn't something that just happens and goes away," he said.
"It comes back when you least expect it. It comes back in negative ways."

And yet the A.A. answer is that those young men should confess their sins and wrongs and moral shortcomings...

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  People who will not work for what is right
**  Are little better than those who are doing wrong.

Date: Sun, August 20, 2006 12:31 pm
From: "Lori C."
Subject: Good job! You did your homework


I found your site and have read a great deal of it this sunny afternoon in St. Petersburg, Florida. First, let me say that this time I've been sober for almost seven months. I had two and a half years of sobriety, from June of 2000 until April of 2003 when I started drinking again. I was also dependent on Xanax and Paxil. Last February, when I tried to stop cold turkey off all three at once, I ended up in the hospital where I detoxed for three days. When they released me, they told my husband that the rest was "up to me whether or not I wanted to stop or die."

I tried going to AA again this time, and I enjoyed it at first, but then I was able to find a job which made it difficult to attend meetings. I had been feeling guilty about that and worried that if I didn't follow the "steps" I was doomed to start drinking again. I hope I don't, since I do believe my brain can't take it. My mother died of liver failure at the age of 56 — it seemed to attack her there. I will be 58 at the end of this month and my liver seems fine at the moment. The alcohol seemed to attack my brain.

Several things about Bill W had always bothered me. First, the idea of seeing a white light and finding God. That was hard to swallow. Also, I have never liked the idea of AA or any religion stating that they have the ONE answer.

So, if AA is not the answer, what is? I know that I have serious mental problems. My father was a manic depressive, like his mother, and he died of a heart attack at age 45. His father had also abused alcohol. His sister died an alcoholic at the age of 42.

I'd appreciate any insight about what I can do to stay sober. My life is better when I'm not drinking.



Hi Lori,

Thanks for the letter, and congratulations on your sobriety.

When you ask, "What is the answer?" the answer is actually so simple that a lot of people think that it can't be true. The answer is:

Just don't drink any more alcohol, not ever, not for any reason.
Just don't take that first drink, no matter what.

Programs or organizations have nothing to do with that. Neither do cult religions.

Now some people will object and say that they can't do it, or that they will fail and backslide, or relapse. My answer is, "Please don't be so pessimistic. Things don't have to be that bad."

Like Richard Bach (the author of Johnathan Livingston Seagull) said, "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours."

One thing that has helped me a lot is understanding how the craving center in the base brain will constantly complain and jabber and demand a hit of something to feel better. I wrote up a whole web page on that. See The Lizard-Brain Addiction Monster.

Also see my "Top 10" reading list for some really good books that will give you a lot of good advice and help.

And if you want some company, check out this list:

Hang in there, take care of yourself, and have a good day.

== Orange

P.S.: Did you know that Bill Wilson's "white light" experience was actually him detoxing in the hospital and tripping his brains out on hallucinogenic drugs, particularly belladonna? The popular quack cure of the time for alcoholism was to dose alcoholics with an appallingly toxic mess of drugs. It is no surprise that Bill Wilson saw "God" and had a "religious experience". He was just flat-assed stoned out of his gourd.

*             [email protected]        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** If alcoholism is really a disease, then A.A. sponsors are
** guilty of practicing medicine without a license. They are
** also guilty of treating a life-threatening illness without
** having any medical education or training.  They have never
** gone to medical school, and never done an internship or
** residency, and yet they presume to be qualified to make
** life-or-death decisions in the patients' treatment. That
** is what you call quackery.

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