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Monday, November 8, 2004 - 5:27amSanction this postReply
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Bob,

Interesting article!

Dr. Michael Hurd dedicates an entire chapter in his excellent book Effective Therapy to criticizing the Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step Program.  The critique hinges upon their employment of the mystical term "Higher Power" and the learned helplessness that comes with it.  I encourage you to read this book if you have not already done so.


Luke Setzer


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Monday, November 8, 2004 - 6:47amSanction this postReply
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While I did not care for the tone of the article, I agree that teaching people that they have no control over their lives is probably a good excuse for them to conclude 'fuck it--let'd go get drunk.' I like the author's "Four Step" program much better! The real question becomes--how do you get uneducated, non-thinkers to really accept that life is in their own hands and where they are in life is entirely up to them?

Don't get me wrong--some people have a realtively easy time of it and others face more than their share of adversity. For everyone, your only real choice is what you choose to do about it--wallow in defeat or stand up and make some progress. Presumably, AA meeting attendees understand, on some level, that they need to stop drinking. They just need to get to the point of deciding and acting on their decision. Or maybe its the sympathy, free coffee and pastry.

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Monday, November 8, 2004 - 7:02amSanction this postReply
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I think one of the worst parts about AA is the sense of co-dependency it breeds.  While the concept of a "Sponsor" may be helpful in the initial stages, to have such a method in place over the long-term reinforces the idea that a person is incapable of thinking for himself, and must rely on others to get through the day. 

There is a sense of helplessness inherent in AA's credo.  I have seen relatives of alcoholics brainwashed into believing they would one day plunge into the murky depths of alcoholism because they were genetically predisposed to such a condition, and must simply await the fateful day.

Also, there is no method in place for which a person to "finish" the program.  After Step Twelve, people are expected to stay in the program for life or risk falling off the wagon again.

A collective mentality at its finest. 

(Edited by Jennifer Iannolo on 11/08, 10:18am)

(Edited by Jennifer Iannolo on 11/08, 10:18am)


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Post 3

Monday, November 8, 2004 - 10:07amSanction this postReply
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Interesting article. Some thoughts: I do find the mysticism, and the dependence, not to metion the rituals, somewhat disturbing. Not just in AA, but in most self help and pop psychology forums including private individual therapy.

In the past however, I have referred clients to therapy, not based on the presenting problem, but based on a match between client and therapists philosophy of life. That I think a therapeautic alliance based on reason, cognitive behavioral "techniques", and reality is the best means nothing if the person I am referring is a mystic in philosophical outlook.

Woody Allen would get nothing out of therapy from Albert Ellis. So it is, I think, with regards to AA. For some who respond to, and share that particular world and philosophical view of life, it is the *best* place to be. For others, it would be worse than death. Some people are seemingly helped by AA. My father was one. Others need something more reality and reason based. Still others (a surprising number) stop drinking without help.

I think in the therapeautic marketplace, "help" for problems of living can be got from a variety of places.

John

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Monday, November 8, 2004 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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The worst part of AA is it treats Alcoholism as a disease. I read what Ms. Branden said on her site about smoking... she may be right about smoking not being that addictive, and even if it is... our minds and our own will is what keeps it going. I believe what she experienced was a change of mind to stop smoking, she no longer saw smoking in the same way, it was now more painful than pleasurable. This is what changes alcoholics also. But, they won't link pain to it and pleasure to getting off of it unless they have an end in mind, a paradigm shift. I believe all our motivation flows from what we see in our future, if someone sees nothing powerful to change themselves, they will never stop killing themselves.  The word addiction is a very vague word. Love is not much different. Love even has withdraw, and some people even commit suicide. Another word can be obsession or iron will. People frequently say addicts are weak willed, but they are using an iron will to get it, altering their lives and such. I believe we aren't even close to knowing the power of our minds, and how much we are in control. Addiction is reality avoidance at it's base more than anything...but it's not always easy to realize this. When AA tells people they are sick, that they must never ever drink again because they have the "disease" of alcoholism they are teaching people to be powerless, and that they aren't in control. I've actually seen studies where they could only get rodents addicted to alcohol or morphine when they are in tight uncomfortable living conditions....probably to curb the anxiety. So it seems not to be just a human thing, a flight from anxiety, it may become a learned automation...an anchor to relieve oneself from a burden. Whatever that burden is...oneself or existence. It then becomes repeated and drilled into the nervous system, this than makes one feel like they are out of control. But, we are always in control, if it's not a disease, and alcoholism is no disease.

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Monday, November 8, 2004 - 1:01pmSanction this postReply
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I have seen several people that I am close to turn their lives around through a twelve-step program. I have attended many meetings with them, and have developed a profound respect for the effectiveness of the program. The people who accept the twelve step message are facing reality in their own lives in most ways, not avoiding it.
I, too, have several disagreements philosophically with the message, but I can not deny the powerfully positive effect this program has had on people that I love. I am definitely drawn to a real courage I find in people who are successful with the program. I plan to really study it someday to see if I can reconcile the obvious contradictions I experience reading the twelve steps with the undeniable results I have seen.

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Post 6

Monday, November 8, 2004 - 2:51pmSanction this postReply
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Interesting article - I didn't know there was a religious component to AA.
 
I have read books that refer to a "higher-power" - and, although I find it irritating, I just start to translate "higher-power" for "the best I can be". Sometime, just sometimes, there is method in their madness - and I figure that it is my mission (if it looks worth it) to suck out the objective truth, and discard the rest.
 
About addiction:
I've just complete a course in Brain and Behaviour. We covered addiction, and there is some evidence that certain people are predisposed to addiction - they have a genetically inherited fault in their brain. When these people grow up and are exposed to triggers such as alcohol or drugs, you can pretty much guarantee that they'll become addicts.
 
Brain scans clearly show the difference between normal people and those prone to addiction. What I find interesting is the implications that this has for free-will. With the strongest wills in the world, these people will have a tough time gaining control over their addictions - whether they are objectivists or not!
 
Obviously, not all addicts have this problem (so I wouldn't cut them all some slack) - but a surprisingly large amount do.
 
The strength of addiction was demonstrated using laboratory rats (seen in a video). These rats were given the power to administer their own drugs... but! in order to get a dose, they had to cross from one side of the cage to the other. Each time they crossed, the floor of the cage was electrified to give them a terrific shock.
 
The shock was so large that normal rats would not cross the floor to get food, and would instead die of starvation. The addicted rats, however, kept crossing - suffering these enormous shocks - until they were too exhausted to move.
 
So, this helps explain the lengths some addicts will go to to get their fix. It is hard to take pity on those who get themselves into this position through lack of self discipline - but it seems equally hard to sanction as "losers" those who are, in effect, suffering from a physiological deformity.

This has caused me to soften my view of addicts somewhat. But I'd be interested to see what others think - maybe we should hand them all over to Orion? No?...



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Monday, November 8, 2004 - 3:33pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Luther, Scott, Jennifer, John, Shane and James for your comments.

I agree I took a less than benevolent tone in my article. I was trying to have fun, writing it like hard-boiled detective fiction, hence the references to my imaginary fedora and Mike Hammer.

This assignment was not supposed to be an analysis of AA, but simply a personal reaction to the experience of attending the meeting. The instructor wanted us to express how it made us feel. And I really found the the resemblance to attending a church service disturbing and the "twelve steps" repugnant:
  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs
I agree that AA does help many people, but as Ayn Rand said about religion, " ...as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very--how should I say it?--dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith." I believe that both religion and AA have good in them, but only where they deviate from their basic premises and embrace reality.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to AA such as Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) and Rational Recovery Systems (RRS). And there's also drug therapy, psychotherapy, family therapy, behavioral therapy and transactional analysis. And, of course, there are many people who conquer their addiction entirely on there own.

ABC News reporter John Stossel did a program called "'I Can't Help Myself', Is Addiction a Matter of Choice?" My favorite part from that story has a former addict saying, "I stopped because I have my own 12 step program and the first 11 steps don't mean [expletive] and the 12th is don't do it. And I didn't do it."

Okay, enough on this subject, as I said, I'm only taking this class for a pay raise. I'm going over to the comic book hero thread. That's a lot more interesting and fun. 


Post 8

Monday, November 8, 2004 - 3:40pmSanction this postReply
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James,

I totally agree with you, it was rather wrong of me to be that critical. It does help people, but I think it could do it better, and more effectively. Just like a belief in God helps many in life, but that doesn't mean it's right. But I do say, if it makes them better people and allows them to turn around their life for the better... good for them. I've also seen many people be totally turned off from this style though, and walk away in despair and sorrow, believing there is something wrong with them as a person.

Best Regards,
Shane


Post 9

Monday, November 8, 2004 - 4:00pmSanction this postReply
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Jonathan, you posted while I was still writing mine, so thanks for your comments, also.

 Yes, heredity, genetic and environmental predispositions, serotonin deficiency, endorphin deficiency, unusual brain electrical activity, biochemical differences, personality, and individual reaction to stress, etc. may all factor into making some individuals more susceptible to alcoholism and other addictions. And those are just "host" factors, not getting into "agent" and "environment" factors.

But none of this precludes that man has volition, the most important factor of all.

Everyone's on there own here now. I'm going off to contemplate comic book heroes.


Post 10

Monday, November 8, 2004 - 5:08pmSanction this postReply
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I agree....

Obviously serotonin and dopamine levels play a big part. But like you said Bob, all this is behaviorist thinking. Much science today does not even enter the thought of conscious will. Many don't even agree with it. They see low serotonin levels and give them drugs. Rather than wondering if there is something going on in their lives that maybe is really effecting them and creating this.


Could we not say these people may also be more prone to being compulsive over workers, lovers? Tremendous scientists, artists...entrepreneurs?  That iron will that we find in human beings that have a "genetically inherited fault in their brain" could be their greatest weapon and burden. But they shall choose were it goes. Often we see these people, and they can be perfectionists or losers, they will either be at the very bottom of the ladder in life, or the very top.They are not thick skinned, they are thin skinned, they are very hard on themselves and will frequently be driven by pain.  This is often their iron will.

It is not only  genetics that creates it's own opportunities and burdens, but desire and pain also. Which  is a reaction to other areas in our lives. Desire also creates talents. Often our good qualities come out of a reaction to other qualities we don't like about ourselves.


I don't see any of this as a burden of free will. Free will always rains. We choose. In that second when the addict feels and sees that drug, they are making a choice on what to focus on in their minds, what that drug means to them. Pain or Pleasure. I'm not saying it's easy, but neither is getting over Love.


I believe when we feel pain and pleasure our minds and bodies are telling us something. But much of science today doesn't seem to. For instance a wife is depressed all the time, she just can't seem to figure out why,(deep down she knows,) She is not happy in her marriage... but she's scared of being alone, of going and being on her own, what will she do financially? Will it be better out there? What if she never meets anyone else? But she represses all this, it's to hard to face, it would mean changing her whole life. She feels pain and depression, so she goes to the doctor. The doctor asks a few questions, and writes her a prescription for an anti-depressant. Now she's ok...she thinks anyway. Now she either feels great or she feels numb. Either way, she will no longer feel the pain to make her make those massive changes in her life to really be happy and have long lasting self esteem. She's in the comfort zone.


Post 11

Monday, November 8, 2004 - 11:31pmSanction this postReply
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AA has done a great deal to save the lives of several people who are very close to me.

It's easy to criticize something.  It's hard to create a program that successfully helps lots of people quit drinking.

One of the main ideas AA emphasizes is the serenity prayer.  They say it at every meeting, and Ayn Rand herself wrote about what an important idea it expresses:

"God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

One of the most important steps in AA is to make a list of all the things you've done wrong to other people in your life, and to make amends for them as well as you can.  I can't think of a better way for a person who's lived his life in a less than virtuous manner to begin to reclaim his self-esteem.

Sure, there are some bad philosophical ideas mixed in with AA.  But there are some great ideas in there too--great enough to really help save people's lives.  Like I said, it's easy to criticize.  It's easy to tear apart.  It would be hard to start a program or a movement that successfully helps to save more lives than AA.

"This is not a plan for atheists like me, in spite of the broad non-definition of God and religion so many profess."  You don't have to believe in God to benefit from AA.  Just don't focus on that part, and focus on the other ideas which are truly helpful.  It's easy to imagine how an alcoholic attempting to quit drinking could benefit from, among other things, having other people with a similar problem to talk about stuff with.

About the issue of whether or not alcoholism is a disease--I believe it is a disease, or a condition, meaning that certain people for physiological or genetic reasons have the potential to experience much greater cravings for alcohol than normal people.  It's much harder for these people to quit drinking.  It doesn't mean they don't have free will, or anything like that--it just means it's harder for them.  I believe there's a lot of evidence to support this view--for example, haven't studies shown that children of alcoholics have a much higher chance of becoming alcoholics, even if they are adopted into stable families, or something like that?  I'm not an expert on this kind of research, but I have the impression this is pretty well substantiated.



Post 12

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - 8:33amSanction this postReply
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To the AA fans:

http://www.positiveatheism.org/rw/ofcourse.htm

And if you want a method of recovery that does not involve serving a lunatic cult, I suggest going to www.rational.org



Post 13

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - 9:09pmSanction this postReply
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Okay, once sentence from the article:

"Its 12-step program suggests nothing on how to quit an addiction except to stop trying."
 
That statement is so *false*.  What does it say about the author that he would make such a damning statement that is so obviously false?  It makes me think that the author may be willing to make a lot of exaggerated, false statements in order to make his argument sound better.
 
I've gone along to a lot of AA meetings, I've had a lot of experience with the AA program even though I'm not an alcoholic--or even a drinker--myself.  In my experience, AA has never seemed anything like a cult.  It doesn't feel like a cult.  A lot of the people are very nice and successful and not strange--doctors and dentists, for example.  AA is just a bunch of people who get together and help each other quit drinking.
 
 


Post 14

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - 11:44pmSanction this postReply
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I personally love booze. A decent bottle of wine, a white russian, or even a Molson Golden, eh?

In my early 20s I would down 6-12 beers practically every night and I had to "experiment" with not drinking for a month to make sure I could stop. I was able to stop. Now, I'll have a few glasses of wine maybe 2-3 nights a week. It's rare that I get out of hand.

The motive for alcoholism is hard for me to understand. My understanding is that alcoholics booze themselves to sleep. Is that about right? Again, I like to drink too but I hate the sickening, spinning feeling you get from that third bottle of wine. It's important to show compassion for people who demonstrate a will to quit the abuse. This article shows no compassion, Bob. You're making fun of them.


Post 15

Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - 2:08amSanction this postReply
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I'm a vodka guy personally, and quite the hardcore drinker. Ask the SOLO UK chaps.

Here's another powerful article on The Fun Of Alcohol :-D

MH


Post 16

Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply
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MH:

Next time I visit London we should hit up some pubs and take some shots. I'm also somewhat of a vodka person.

Post 17

Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - 2:24pmSanction this postReply
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Msrs. Moore and Humpryes-

Oh, thank you!  It's wonderful to see a Randian celebration of ecstatic experiences!  I only drink professionally right now, since alcohol interferes with processing hormones, but before I transitioned I used to get smashing drunk about once a month as a fantastic experience, and I love liquers, particularly berries and tropical fruit varieties.  On the theory there's enough money in my business that this society will stretch to tolerate imagination, I've been assembling a collection of various liquers (16 so far) and other alcohols to be used as companion to my own style which I will include in my escort ads when I get a place where I can take incalls. 

Besides, once I'm done transitioning and don't need so many hormones, I certainly plan to use my collection on my own time!  Though likely not so often; this may seem wierd to some here, but I honestly can get into 'intoxicated' states of consciousness without using alcohol and such, a long as I'm feeling healthy and well-rested, it's just a matter of shifting a frame of mind; Paganism, and the Life, have some strange side benefits!  ;o

As for 'alcoholism', I don't think there's any contradiction to free will to say that some people are born with greater or lesser sensation to the inner and outer sensory experiences of alcohol; I think Msr. O'Connor gets things very philosophically correct.  Of course, the converse is that some people likely have a much greater and finer ability to appreciate alcohol and make use of an intoxicated state of consciousness.  I don't think there's any contradiction between recognizing the absolute freedom of the will and the rational nature of desire and saying that we all have different sensory complexes that may drastically influence what makes sense in our particular lives.  It's just like with gender; I think it's a complete myth that hormones or chromosomes determine our desires or values, but I think the difference in the rhythms and capacities of male and female bodies matter perhaps a great deal, and so all of the genetic and sociobiological stuff can be factually accurate but not theoretically true and certainly not ethically or politically consequent.  The same thing with alcohol; I think biology doesn't make right or wrong, but it can determine the context where the pursuit of happiness translates that drinking is a disvalue, marginal value, or major value to a particular individual.

And BTW, it's the same with marijuana and other drugs.  There's no rational ground to apply different standards to alcohol and other mind-altering substances.  Some drugs may bring too much pain or hindrance for too little pleasure (tobacco, cocaine, and antidepressants seem to me the most likely candidates), but that has nothing to do with their legal and social respectability.  Plenty of Objectivists smoke pot or have smoked pot and hide it in the closet, while wine-drinkers consider their use of the drug an aesthetic subtlety... and then a few conservative Objectivists go on about how drug users are irrationalist monsters. Come on, guys, let's use reason; it's all the same principle.*

my regards,

Jeanine Ring   ))(*)((   - "not all those who wander are lost"
 
* Except I personally will not deal with anyone who has used crystal meth in the last 24 hours.  No moralism, just a personal thing.  ~Ugh~, don't ask.


Post 18

Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - 10:40amSanction this postReply
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What a great group of people posting here.  I wish I could have you all over to the house for a drink, but I raise a glass (fill it with what you like) to your lively intellectual discourse.

With the same tone of personal responsibility that I see elsewhere on the site, I recommend to you the work of Andrew Saul, a teacher, lecturer and author who runs a site dedicated to the belief that health and medicine are largely dependent on personal responsibility.  www.doctoryourself.com

One of the articles on the site deals specifically with alchoholism, and a nutrient therapy for the disease.  http://www.doctoryourself.com/alcoholism.html

If dependence on alchohol is a disease, and that disease is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, then is it far fetched to believe that a "rebalancing" through proper nutrition might do the trick?  How many alchoholics have you known who have an emphasis on healthy diet as part of their get-well regimen?

Posting this information isn't done to promote any agenda, but as I said earlier, is done out of respect for what I perceive to be a community of kindred spirits.


Post 19

Thursday, November 11, 2004 - 2:01pmSanction this postReply
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Eat! Drink! Be Merry! And if you find that alcohol causes more problems than the fun it brings you, have the courage that many of the people at AA show every day and face that reality.

P.S. You will note that they have put up a new picture of me after just one Glennfiddich.

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