Rehab Centers help a large number of people to abstain from drinking. This should be the thing which should come in mind first if anybody is looking for getting over his/her drug addiction.
Photograph by Juan Carlos Ulate, Reuters
Published August 9, 2013
Science has never revealed as much about addiction—potential genetic causes, influences, and triggers, and the resultant brain activity—or offered as many opportunities and methods for initial treatment as it does now.
Even so, the grassroots 12-step program remains the preferred prescription for achieving long-term sobriety.
Since the inception of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)—the progenitor of 12-step programs—science has sometimes been at odds with the notion that laypeople can cure themselves.
Yet the success of the 12-step approach may ultimately be explained through medical science and psychology. Both offer substantive reasons for why it works.
Climbing the Steps to Recovery
The "miracle" of A.A. can be traced to the evening of June 10, 1935, when a struggling alcoholic named Bill Wilson, fighting to stay dry while on a business trip to Akron, Ohio, met with an apparently hopeless drinker named Bob Smith in order to quell his own thirst.
It had been suggested to Wilson, through a religious organization called the Oxford Group, that talking to wet drunks about his experiences and trying to help them get sober would, in turn, help him stay dry. Smith, once a respected physician in the community, was referred to him as someone at bottom, beyond help.
Their discussion sparked the insight that the best hope for sobriety was a daily reprieve from alcohol, which stood with the singular practice of helping others.
Over the next five years, a non-denominational program emerged that drew much of its spiritual doctrine from Christian practices. It embodied an action plan in the form of 12 "steps" that are essentially guidelines for right living, including taking a personal inventory of one's strengths and shortcomings, making restitution for past wrongs, and helping others find sobriety.
Photograph from Corbis
A.A. reports that more than two million members worldwide currently stay sober by regularly attending meetings and implementing these steps.
In recent decades, the 12 steps have been applied to other addictions—everything from drugs, food, and other substances to various compulsive behaviors around gambling or sex.
Most addicts receive less than 30 days of inpatient treatment. But they must also accept that they need ongoing outside help.
The 12-step approach, said Paul Gallant, an interventionist with 27 years of sobriety, is "so popular with treatment centers because it's proven to work. When a person completes treatment, they have a place to go.
"Self-knowledge is not a sufficient treatment for alcoholism," continued Gallant. "I've worked with people who have had years and years of psychotherapy and intensive analysis, but it's brought them no closer to ongoing abstinence."
However, experiencing what Gallant called a "psychic change," which in the 12-step world is linked to the marvel of a "spiritual awakening," often results in a distinct personality and behavioral transformation that leads to long-term sobriety.
"The not-drinking is really just a part of it," Gallant said. "It's not drinking and changing as a person. That psychic change needs to come from a program of spiritual development, and so far the greatest success has been Alcoholics Anonymous."
Established treatment facilities like Sierra Tucson offer everything from traditional medicine to such alternative approaches as equine therapy and healing circles.
According to Nia Sipp, staff psychiatrist with Sierra Tucson, the goal is not just removing the substance or behavior but also facilitating self-reflection and creating social systems. "Oftentimes people feel that it's about God and other things," Sipp said. But she believes that the A.A. concept is more about "the spirit of community."
Rev. Jack Abel, director of spiritual care at Caron Treatment Centers, agreed. "When we say spirituality, we're talking about connection. People who are addicted become disconnected. And spirituality, as it's emphasized in the program of the 12 steps, is profoundly reconnecting."
Photograph by Todd Bigelow, Aurora
According to Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer at Hazelden and sober 37 years, attending 12-step meetings does more than give an addict warm, fuzzy feelings.
The unconscious neurological pull of addiction undermines healthy survival drives, causing individuals to make disastrous choices, he said. "People will regularly risk their lives—risk everything—to continue use of a substance."
Addicts don't want to engage in these behaviors, but they can't control themselves. "The only way to truly treat it is with something more powerful," he said—something, like the 12 steps, that can change patterns in the brain.
Left Brain, Right Brain
Andrew Newberg studies neurotheology—the science of how spiritual practices affect the brain.
He avoids theological opinions, noting that the positive mental and emotional effects that might come from believing in God are real to the individual. "Irrespective of whether God truly exists or not," Newberg said, "the brain is less interested in the accuracy of reality than the adaptability of how we respond."
Bill Wilson had a famous "white light" experience in a hospital room, where he was recovering from what would be his last alcoholic bender. He claimed it was a spiritual awakening that not only changed his outlook but also removed his desire to drink.
Newberg said that "large-scale, existential-type crises" such as Wilson's can bring instant changes to the brain. New neuronal pathways are activated or reactivated. This instant rewiring, Newberg said, generates a sudden and intense "aha" moment.
Newberg speculates that such an event may occur because of differences between the brain's left and right hemispheres, which approach problems differently. The left side struggles to work through a problem from an analytical, black-and-white perspective.
But the right side may suddenly kick in and apply a very different, more holistic solution. In such a moment, the neurons of the brain are immediately realigned, spurred on by intense emotion relating to the crisis.
This same experience, sometimes described as a "eureka!" moment—or a cognitive insight phenomenon—is often referenced in relation to creative breakthroughs.
One 2008 study found that when the left side of the person's brain dwells on a problem, it produces an excessive amount of obstructive gamma waves. The more the person ruminates on the problem, the harder it becomes to solve.
Conversely, when concentration is relaxed—or as Newberg said, when the person manages to quiet the left side of the brain and involve the right—the sudden appearance of new answers and insights can feel profound.
David Shurtleff, acting deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), described addiction as a mainstream medical problem suffering from a lack of coordinated efforts.
The first four years of medical school routinely provide doctors with only a few hours of instruction on addiction. Shurtleff said his agency would like to see more training for primary care physicians, including equipping them with a standardized assessment to diagnose addiction. "We do the best we can," he said, "but it's an uphill fight."
Meanwhile, brain science marches on. Understanding of addiction at the cellular level continues to yield revelations that seem to cast light on why 12-step meetings succeed.
Power of Dopamine Receptors
D2 dopamine receptors connect dopamine, a key neurotransmitter, to neurons. When these receptors are not functioning—or there are too few of them available to connect the dopamine to neurons—memory, mood, and thinking may all be impaired.
A shortage of D2 receptors, some researchers surmise, could predispose a person to addiction.
Nora Volkow, NIDA's director, led two studies that involved artificially increasing the number of D2 receptors in rats by administering adenoviral vectors directly into their brains. Viral vectors transmit their genetic material and makeup into foreign cells, in this case increasing the number of D2 receptors in the new cells to match their own.
In one study involving rats and alcohol, the increased number of D2 receptors led the rodents to consume less alcohol, compared with their baseline intake.
In the other study, the D2-receptor increase caused rats to significantly reduce their intake of cocaine.
Michael Nader, a researcher at Wake Forest School of Medicine, is investigating ways to raise D2-receptor levels naturally. One experiment he helped conduct focused on five separate groups of four monkeys. Each had been self-administering cocaine to the point of habit and were then deprived of the drug for an eight-month period. To create a picture of D2-receptor availability, the monkeys were given a radioactive tracer that competes with dopamine for receptors.
The monkeys were then randomly put in social groups of four and given the opportunity to self-administer the drug again.
Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the monkeys over time showed fluctuations in dopamine levels, which allowed the researchers to estimate the changing numbers of available D2 receptors. After only three months, the socially dominant monkeys in each group had naturally increased their numbers of D2 receptors.
There was no increase in the subordinate monkeys. Further, the subordinate monkeys reverted to using cocaine at much higher levels than the dominant monkeys.
"There is an interesting relationship between D2-receptor numbers and vulnerability to drug addiction," Nader said. "It appears that individuals with low D2 measures are more vulnerable compared to individuals with high D2-receptor numbers."
Why did the socially dominant monkeys show D2-receptor increases? "One hypothesis," Nader said, "is environmental enrichment." For the monkeys, it seems, being dominant was the enriching trigger.
One physiological consequence of involvement in 12-step meetings, therefore, could be an increase in the natural production of D2 receptors. "That's another whole area to be studied beyond the animal world," Shurtleff said.
Need for Attachment
When someone becomes addicted, he said, mechanisms for healthy attachment are "hijacked," resulting in dependence on addictive substances or behaviors.
Some believe that addicts, even before their disease kicks in, struggle with knowing how to form emotional bonds that connect them to other people. Co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety, make it even harder to build those essential emotional attachments.
"We, as social mammals, cannot regulate our central nervous systems by ourselves," Flores said. "We need other people to do that."
While it's commonly understood that early childhood attachments to parents and family are necessary for healthy development, Flores maintains that emotional attachments remain necessary throughout adulthood.
This is where a 12-step program becomes valuable.
It's not enough, Flores said, to remove the addiction, which in itself has become an object of unhealthy emotional and physical attachment. To achieve long-term well-being, addicts need opportunities for forging healthy emotional attachments.
"What A.A. does on the basic level is what good psychotherapy does," Flores said. It provides "a community for people to break their isolation and to start to connect on an emotional level with other people."
Lee Ann Kaskutas, a scientist with the Alcohol Research Group, has faced skepticism from colleagues for studying A.A., in part because of the numerous spiritual references that go with the 12-step program. It puts A.A. on "the fringe" in the minds of many scientists, Kaskutas said.
Kaskutas, a self-proclaimed atheist, said that the 12 steps bear fruit regardless of one's spiritual beliefs. "If you don't believe in God, the way it weasels in is in the help and behaviors that the 12-step group inculcates."
Helping others, Kaskutas said, "is the internal combustion engine of A.A. I think that is the connection to spirituality."
People feel better about themselves after helping someone else, Kaskutas said. "So it's reinforcing—when you help somebody, I think your brain chemistry changes."
—Follow Jarret Liotta on Facebook.
It has worked for me for the past 12 plus years, but what you get out depends upon what you put in, like anything in life.
You usually get what you give
Thanks Jarret Liotta for your article. I really enjoyed reading it. Whether people like your article or not .. you seem to have stimulated a vigorous climate for many varied opinions. As member of AA for over three decades I love to stimulate debates within the fellowship myself. I will give back to AA all that I have to give BUT I WILL NOT GIVE BACK MY SOBRIETY. Doctor Bob himself is quoted in the AA Book .. Doctor Bob and the Good Oldtimers .. as follows: IF you love everyone in AA you have not been going to enough meetings!
Why all of this angst and anger and hostility and vitreol against A.A. I ask myself. What exactly is wrong with hundreds of thousands of alcoholics staying sober in A.A. and not driving drunk and killing people?
For over 70 years now clinicians not been able to catch up with AA and continue
to hold disgraceful "failure" rates for recovery (Even going so far
as to create the myth that it is not even possible to recover from alcoholism)
Meanwhile, AA’s "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program..."  of the 12 Step method remains, uncontested.
"Rare failure" is pretty darn good! And I can attest for the accuracy of the statement as it hold true to this day.
As this article once again shows, scientists will forever be trying to explain away Spirituality, God and miracles as "physiological consequences" or philological phenomenon.
It used to be simply ”the power of positive thinking" or "psychosomatic" projection and now as the nomenclature of their own secular, "findings" continue to expand, becoming even more complicated and top heavy with secular, non-solutions, real human experience such as "Spiritual awakening" are written off as being mere symptoms of "Dissociative Disorders" - abstinence the "natural production" of D2 (dopamine) receptors accompanying "Fellowship." God lord!. Giving God credit for nothing? Oh boy!
In presenting real, enduring solutions to addictions and alcoholism, Twelve Step fellowships that offer spiritual presentations to induce spontaneous spiritual experiences (miracles) are light years ahead of science and the Twelve Step approach remains the granddaddy of all recovery plans ever conceived.
Despite many attempts to capture and market its essence, the "Twelve
Steps" has never been successfully commercialized without spoiling its
effectiveness—a fact, which makes it the competitive, envy of the alcohol and
addictions treatment industry - to this day. Trying to do what only God can has
proven to be quite impossible.
~ dannyjschwarzhoff – RLRA
Real Live Recovered Alcoholic
 “Alcoholics Anonymous”, 4th edition, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 58:0
Another federal appeals court ruling finding 12-step based treatment to be religious, and finding that an atheist who refused 12-step treatment on religious grounds (and thus had parole revoked and returned to prison for 100 days) is entitled to compensation. Hah!
Say Jarett, I bet the atheist's D2 dopmaine receptors went way up on hearing this verdict that agains upholds the Constitution of the United States of America (Establishment Clause of the First Amendment) against theocracy.
The Paradox of Powerlessness
When I give up and realize how
powerless I am over alcohol, or relationships, or food, then I have
access to a power beyond my rational mind and then that power helps me
to conquer addictions easily and effectively over alcohol, cigarettes,
food, and even helps me to improve relationships. Today I am happier and
healthier and even wealthier (because of fewer medical problems)
because of the AA program.
Let the naysayers enjoy their rants and their lofty intellectual superiority as I move my life from away from struggles to more and more fun and ease.
What is cool about the AA program it give me the opportunity to meet interesting people who are moving ahead with their lives rewiring their brains for success. I meet them in my home town, at the beach, in foreign countries, or on cruises. It is all so much fun.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all
information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail
to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior
The Paradox of Powerlessness
When I give up and realize how powerless I am over alcohol, or relationships, or food, then I have access to a power beyond my rational mind and then that power helps me to conquer addictions easily and effectively over alcohol, cigarettes, food, and even helps me to improve relationships. Today I am happier and healthier and even wealthier (because of fewer medical problems) because of the AA program.
Let the naysayers enjoy their rants and their lofty intellectual superiority as I move my life from away from struggles to more and more fun and ease.
What is cool about the AA program it give me the opportunity to meet interesting people who are moving ahead with their lives rewiring their brains for success. I meet them in my home town, at the beach, in foreign countries, or on cruises. It is all so much fun.
IT astonishes me the transparency of those who protest a program that helps people - there are many ways for folks to recover - and yet, there is this venom in these posts about AA - nothing more that angry venting utilizing inflammatory language and statements that are completely irrelevant to the topic and smack of petty attempts to discredit an internationally accepted method of recovery. Most likely just an opportunity to vent some rage about being compelled to attend AA by family, treatment or court - It sure seems to me there are some folks here that got DUIs, were forced to go to treatment by family - and are still upset about having to go to AA- After you have done your probation, Don't go to AA if it doesn't work for you - Lots of people need a recovery program - it is really only for those who WANT the program - and Im sure someone else can use the chair - If the quality of your recovery was so great and useful - why not share what has worked for you ? Let me guess - some pharma and other substances that you feel don't qualify as addictive... In any case I honor National Geographic for introducing more information on Addiction and the scientific research advances that are being made. Countless lives are destroyed and lost each year and it is wonderful there are advances in medicine to help people who are seeking a better life.
Jarett, your RC-not-getting-mentioned-in-a-mainstream-cola-piece explanation doesn't make sense of your omission of other recovery options. Perhaps, it would, if the other options were as involved and ritualistic as AA, or at least as similar to AA as colas are to other colas. They are not, though, not by a long, long, longshot.
If anything, AA is the cola, while other methods are water, and this article asserts that science is supporting Coca Cola as a life saving elixir. If you are dying of dehydration, coke might help (or hurt, actually), but the water in it is really what you need, and no one has a patent on that.
The implication here is that science is supporting Coke over water, AA over less consuming (and less propagated) approaches.
The comments on this piece display more logic and perspective than the piece, itself, which must mean this is the Bizarro Internet.
Science debunked the merits of AA years ago. The self-reported success of the program cannot possibly be measured accurately. "Two million members worldwide" staying sober? You're considered "sober" by AA standards if you stumble into a meeting and walk out with a white chip. The "just for today" concept gets a lot of people through hard times, but it's hell on gathering sobriety data, especially if you throw in the fakers til they are makers.
There is such a taboo on drug use that AA is sadly one of the few circles where you might even hope to look at the numbers, but they aren't reliable, and, if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself in a (non-12 step) setting where people speak freely of their vices, you'll find a pretty high (non-AA) success rate among them.
It's unfortunate that AA tends to tout itself as the only game in town and that its devotees often end up working as addiction counselors, because many addicts would rather take their chances than adopt the AA lifestyle. It's just not for everybody, and though I appreciate what it has done for some of my closest friends, I will be candid and admit that those friends have been steered away from the psychological help that they needed before they ever even picked up a drink. It's shameful that AA is used in lieu of therapy, even in the actual rehabs. Many have no therapists on staff, just "counselors" from The Program. It's cheaper to report to a sponsor than to find a shrink, but I have to say there is a huge difference. If my pipes start leaking, I'm calling a plumber, not some other jack-a** with leaky pipes, you know?
@Skip HerdonSuperficially it might sound like you're making a valid argument.
"Our real purpose is to make ourselves of maximum use to God". (The Big Book, 3rd & 4th Editions, page 77.)
So is AA's purpose to keep people sober or to make themselves of maximum service to God, the one and only God, the AA God?
Was Bill W. making himself "of maximum use to God" when he 13-stepped newcomers? If so, what kind of God is that AA God of yours?
And Danny expects to be taken seriously. Amusing.
If you read all the comments I think you might get an idea why.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that it would be good to have hundreds of thousands of people driving drunk and killing people - sober by AA or any other method - or even a "non-alcoholic" driving drunk.
Thanks for your writing Danny. /s/ Skip a RLRA
@danny j schwarzhoffDanny said: "Meanwhile, AA’s 'Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program...'  of the 12 Step method remains, uncontested."
Danny, after dropping a load like that how do you expect anyone to take you seriously? I can give you countless numbers of failures, including those of AA members committing suicide (or were they not "thoroughly following 'our' path"?), and AA members killing people in auto accidents.
Real scientists (as opposed to real alcoholics) do not use faith healing to cure disease, any disease, including cancer or the fictitious disease of alcoholism.
Bill Wilson "captur[ed] and market[ed] its essence" long ago. The guy milked it for all it was worth, and the AAWS and the GSO, as well as countless rehabs, continue to do it today. And it was as ineffective back then as it is today.
Dude, they're sucking every dime they can out of your disease as well as your belief in that AA God.
Something that you left out was that Scientology has produced millions of "clears" but science has not succeeded in reproducing a single one.
Also, if God were really on your side you'd have a much better command of comma placement. If I were you I'd talk to your HP about that and ask him what the problem is.
@Fritz Miller "What is cool about the AA program it give me the opportunity to meet interesting people who are moving ahead with their lives rewiring their brains for success. I meet them in my home town, at the beach, in foreign countries, or on cruises. It is all so much fun"
This sounds like an old Army ad.
Happy you are doing well and are happy in life.
Now, on to the other 95%. They might like to get well and travel the world, too, and AA doesn't work for them. Taking an honest look at treatment methods isn't so much about you, personally, as it is about the rather large population of alcoholics out there who need something else. They do matter.
@Fritz Miller "... lofty intellectual superiority" sounds like a quote directly from Bill Wilson.
Reminds me of that old saying, "One man's savior is another man's (insert shyster, slug, or troll here)."
You might research even the origins of the allegedly Herbert Spencer quote you used toward the end of your blog. Incidentally, I wouldn't call accepting AA's definition of itself honest investigation. It's rather like asking the fox who's been stealing the chickens. They seldom own up to being the thieves themselves.
Those who are most likely to end up in "everlasting ignorance" are those who accept a totally subjective definition of an organization. Get information from out side of AA if you want another side. That's exactly what AA does not want you to do. According to AA advocates, you need an AA or Alanon involved spouse, AA involved children if possible, etc. That pretty well closes the loop and keeps you in a tight AA circle where those around you can control your thinking.
And all the parrots say is, "AA saved my life. AA saved my life. AA saved my life. SKRAAAAWWWWKKKK!"
Also, for some strange reason, AA may have helped you. It has harmed others.
I know someone in AA. Yes he stopped drinking, but is obese, gambles, smokes cigarettes and is generally not a nice person. While asking his higher power for help why didn't he slip in these vices also? Does god/higher power only answer what you ask for? If I was in the program I would be like you and go for broke - I would ask for everything and become the healthy person you became.
I am unsure why you attribute "The Paradox of Powerlessness" to becoming happier, healthier and wealthy. I would think that happened when you made the decision to stop being drunk (or maybe your D2-Receptors increased).
By the way - There are many interesting people who are successful (who never had their brains rewired) outside the program – they can also be fun!
Anyway - good for you - I don't think this would work for me since my rational mind would get in the way.
@Fritz Miller If I were you, I'd stay right where you're at.
Because there's a world out there. And if you look at it, you might see it.
Congratulations on your AA "success."
@Terrie Crowley Lobotomies were once accepted medical procedures. That doesn't make them alright, even though they may be effective in some ways.
The effectiveness of AA is only one aspect of it--and it doesn't appear to be very effective at all really, if you look at the studies. That may be beside the point, since if it doesn't work for someone, it's their fault. This slants the AA standard of effectiveness wouldn't you say? In it's favor?
Has there ever been a study regarding the amount of "spiritual growth" that AA provides? I'm just giving you a fer instance of the lies told at AA, since AA says it provides spiritual growth.
There are a lot of thieves and sexual predators in AA, whether you like it or not. It's actual effectiveness is not very impressive at all either--as I said, that's if you believe the studies.
If you believe AA, well, let's look at the organization's credibility. How was Bill W., a mere drunk, able to promise anyone anything unless he was some kind of messiah?
I don't want to be a slogan spewing parrot. I want a real mind with my sobriety. Anyone can get that who wants it. I have over twenty years without a drink. That seemed like a huge achievement twenty years ago, but these days I've achieved much more than that.
And I didn't do it by listening to old timers ramble in a meeting where their foremost goal was to seduce a confused newcomer.
AA gets most people nowhere. They have to get sober on their own.
@Terrie Crowley - Terrie says >> "there are many ways for folks to recover - and yet, there is this venom in these posts about AA" <<
First, speaking for myself, I am sick and tired of the lies and hypocrisy. For example, A.A. claims to be not religious, but that is a lie, as numerous courts have determined, including all four federal appeals courts and two state supreme courts have determined that A.A. is religious.
A program of proselytization about a prayer-answering favor-dispensing deity. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1144174#post32
Then we're told "the only requirement is a desire to stop drinking" but then we're told we have to "work the program" and do the (blatantly religious) steps and get a sponsor and do everything he/she says and do 90 meetings in 90 days.
Those of us who are atheists are sick and tired of being told to pray and read the Big Book -- which is full of nasty attacks on agnostics and atheists as e.g.. "Handicapped By Obstinacy" (p. 48), "prejudiced" and "unreasoning prejudice" (p. 48) "Rather Vain" (p. 49), "No Reasonable Conception Whatever" (p. 49), "Biased And Unreasonable" (p. 51), "Prey To Misery And Depression" (p. 52), "Couldn't Make A Living" (p. 52), "Full of Fear" (p. 52), "Our Ideas Did Not Work" (p. 52), "We Couldn't Quite Step Ashore" (p. 53), "Leaning Too Heavily On Reason" (p. 53), "Abjectly Faithful To The God Of Reason" (p. 54), "Whirling On To A Destiny Of Nothingness" (p. 54), "Fooling Ourselves" (p. 55), and on and on?.
Terrie says >> If the quality of your recovery was so great and useful - why not share what has worked for you ? Let me guess - some pharma and other substances that you feel don't qualify as addictive <<
Finally realizing I can't drink anymore, and that it was entirely up to me to not pick up the first drink.
As for your comment
"some pharma and other substances that you feel don't qualify as addictive"
-- that's another problem -- people are often told by A.A.-ers not to take anti-depressants or naltrexone or other prescribed medications because then we wouldn't be "sober". Or even to see therapists (yes, I know the Big Book is therapist-friendly if you know where to look, but what one encounters at meetings is different, in my and many others' experience).
Terrie says >> In any case I honor National Geographic for introducing more information on Addiction and the scientific research advances that are being made. Countless lives are destroyed and lost each year and it is wonderful there are advances in medicine to help people who are seeking a better life. <<
I didn't see anything scientific here except that socially dominant monkeys have higher levels of D2 receptors. And that addicts have lower levels of D2 receptors than non-addicts. And that A.A. is social. And from these 3 bits of information it reaches the conclusion that A.A. works (despite no studies showing it works any better than the rate of spontaneous remission). That's not science but just grasping at threads and drawing an unwarranted conclusion.
One thing left out of the discussion is the non-socially dominant -- like the shunned atheist who refuses to play along with a 12-step religious program but still desperately desires recovery and believes quite reasonably (see Tradition 3 - the only requirement...) that he has as much right to be there as do the religious people.
@Felona Nepal Can you show me where AA touts itself as the "only way?" Please direct me to the literature that stipulates that...im not familiar with it.
@Felona Nepal Felona - I must say that you have an interesting perception of AA - Im not sure really how much time or in what way you have been exposed to it - It is my experience that it is exceptional that real true, addicts make it completely abstinent and sober without some type of consistent support - To correct you - AA does promote folks to pursue therapy as the 12 steps are there as suggestions for living - Many people need outside help - it is very clearly stated in the literature - and you are correct AA is one pathway - however, been proven the most effective pathway for millions of addicts around the world for decades - It is not exactly true either that most in recovery go on to be addictions counselors - So not sure exactly what your personal exposure is to the program - you may want to check your facts - There is no one way - and AA will say - if you find another way that works, our hats are off to you! It is a program of attraction and has nothing invested whether people come in and stay or go - the truth is - it is up to the person - Most folks that have had exposure to AA and dont want to stay - in my experience - either 1 are not addicts or 2 Are still in denial - and just haven't had enough - either way - so be it - Criticizing it has no effect on the program itself - it has stood the test of time and saved countless lives - your disparaging commentary only shows the resentment and disdain you must carry from a bad experience - and you know resentments are poison - so let it go and may you be blessed with peace!
@Felona Nepal Regarding AA versus therapy, yes, it seems people would rather not face the real issues. Sadly, I know that feeling, but fortunately, I was less interested in running from my problems than I was in attending AA.
I lost interest in AA quickly and I'm thankful (not the same as grateful!).
@Jack Shuman Jack .. it does seem to be a fact .. that like it or not .. AA does help a large number of people to abstain from drinking. I can agree with the detractors right-down-the-line as to their points. Was Bill Wilson a 'saint'? NO! Was President Clinton or Kennedy (as regards to the female population). Bill Wilson acknowledged himself he was not. Is AA the only way? How could it be because there was no AA when Bill Wilson got sober. Does AA work for everyone? NO! Is AA for everyone? NO! Do the 12 steps work for everyone? NO!
But it does work for some! So why not just let-it-be? This entire discussion is outside of AA's 10th Tradition. AA boils down to this .. one alcoholic working with another alcoholic. There was NO book and NO steps until the late 1930s. Yet people were getting and some staying sober sans todays methods.
@Jack Shuman@danny j schwarzhoff
Oh,one more thing Jack. No need for concern about anyone sucking anything out of of "my disease." I dont have a disease.
Alcoholism isn't a disease. It's a Syndrome. A bundle of symptoms, mental and physical, indicating underlying "spiritual disease," and I have been cured of it.
@Jack Shuman@danny j schwarzhoff
How can I expect to be taken seriously? Here is how Jack. By basing all I say upon personal participation and verifiable, firsthand experience– observations seen repeated over and over for two decades. Not only my own but also those observed working with hundreds of alcoholics, drug, food and sex addicts, who recover - all over the world.
The results are universal and believe me THOSE people, in my realm of experience, who have recovered from alcoholism (and other obsessive conditions) and who likewise have their own direct experiences with still more full recoveries, would attest to the same.
I understand it is not YOUR experience, but it is that of many others and mine as well and to characterize my experience, thought verifiable and proven, as a “load,” without facts is . . . well . . . close-minded to say the least.
Here's why Jack: Since its first publication in 1939, AA’s “Big Book” that presents its recovery method has sold more than 30 million copies and has been translated into more than forty languages, with its Twelve Step principles now used as the model for more than sixty active recovery programs. This isn’t because it doesn’t work.
There are legions of recovered alcoholics who take their lead from the co-authors of that book: “One hundred men and women” who had established a relationship with God. They shared a common problem, discovered a common solution and wrote all about it.
The problem, they discovered, was caused by spiritual dysfunction. The solution they found came quite simply, by means of a spiritual awakening. The method they used themselves and propose in their book is designed to replicate that experience in those who adopt it. And it does.
It can be astounding to witness. (We are not talking about folks who merely “go-to meetings” now – those folks hardly EVER recover - I am refereeing solely to real alcoholics who actually follow the Spiritual Awakening plan delineated by those original "AA" co-authors.
One hundred somnambulant, obsessive miscreants discovered that upon a spiritual awakening, the obsession to drink was lifted—removed permanently. The experience placed them onto a moral path leading to the discovery of God.
Getting there took some simple acts of “human” will—just a smidge—but it was the only act of will that they would ever need to make for the rest of their lives. I have worked with many people over the years and I can say that without this spiritual awakening, no alcoholic (or drug addict) recovers.
Yet with it, no one with whom I have personally worked with has failed to recover. ZERO. Not a one. I know it is hard to believe Jack, but it is true.
Of course, by their own admission, AA has no monopoly on recovery from
alcoholism and its approach to God is rather drastic – certainly not for
everyone. Still, AA has earned my respect and I approve of AAs Twelve Step
If someone can have a spiritual awakening, whether as the result of the 12 Steps, by divine vision or even a blinding bolt of lightning striking them in the head, (does it really matter?), then they would also have experienced a complete overhaul and major repair of being, where a once sniveling, fearful, boorish person full of anger is transformed into a completely new person that not only does not drink, but also has a completely new attitude toward people, life, God and his role in the universe. The 12 steps do just that – all the time.
As doubtful as you are, (based on your inexperience with the spiritual
aspects of the 12 steps, I am certain, surely not intelligence – judging by the
way you write) your cynicism does not alter the history, and that back in
the 1930s nearly a hundred alcoholic men and woman adopted some specific
procedure and a spiritual lifestyle that endowed them with a spontaneous,
enduring spiritual awakening. Through that experience, they were relieved of
their desire to drink.
They decided to spread the word about the effective recovery method they used—through the wholesale distribution of a book delineating precisely how they recovered from alcoholism. “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism” endeavors to tell readers where to find God and how to find Him. It is one of the twentieth century’s greatest “How To” spiritual works. And millions have recovered through it, like it or not.
So Jack, that’s how I can drop that “load” as you call it, and how I am already taken quiet seriously by thousands of my readers all over the world, despite your view – PLOP. And if that “load” has landed on your head, please accept my apology. I really had no idea you were there when I wrote it. ~djs
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@Terrie Crowley @Felona Nepal As Paul stated, it is touted as the only way in the big book of lies. In the place he quotes and other places. It is stated all over the big book by inference. Only recently was anything other than the blunt statement that it is "the only way" or "the only way that I know of that people have any lasting sobriety." If not those words exactly, some variation thereof.
I haven't had a drink since 1987. Now what's next? I wasn't a "real alcoholic"?
Although you did not state AA was the only way, you said something to the effect that it was the most effective path or pathway. That is blatantly false and you are selling the program (attraction not promotion, remember?).
AA sells a wacky religion and then tries to say 1-) It's not a religion, and 2-) It's not selling anything, it's "attracting." A cult always presents itself as something it's not.
@Terrie Crowley -
Terrie writes >> Can you show me where AA touts itself as the "only way?" <<
Here's one for you:
"UNLESS EACH A.A. MEMBER follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant" - 12X12 (Trad 9) p. 174
@Terrie Crowley @Felona Nepal Terrie, in the real world, drinking gets you drunk, not resentments. Anger and resentments are honest human emotions which we can all have. If we don't drink and work on ourselves, we can have good lives.
No matter how many times you read chapter three about "real alcoholics" it does not make what you say true. An addict or alcoholic is just that, an addict or alcoholic.
"It is a program of attraction" (a lie, have you seen the tv ad for AA?), but it is always on the prowl for fresh meat--that's a fact.
The big book of lies says that resentments are poison to alcoholics, not normies. Many of us don't subscribe to the big book of lies. Instead we use our own minds. That's something that AAs seem to seldom do.
"Keep coming back. Fake it till you make it. We came, we came to, we came to believe. Polly want a cracker? Skraaak! Polly want a cracker?"
@Terrie Crowley Terry Crowley says: >> however, [AA has] been proven the most effective pathway for millions of addicts around the world for decades .. <<
Nope, it has not. For just one example, here is a list of addiction treatments ranked in order of their effectiveness...
where Twelve-step facilitation came in as #37 in effectiveness, and Alcoholics Anonymous as #38, of 48 treatment modalities analyzed.
This thread is full of mere assertions by Steppers about the effectiveness of A.A. without any evidence, all replied to with specific studies that say that A.A. and 12-step treatment is no more effective than the rate of spontaneous remission.
Terry says: >> It is not exactly true either that most in recovery go on to be addictions counselors ... you may want to check your facts <<
Uhh, look, Terry. Felona said "its [AA's] devotees OFTEN end up working as addiction counselors". That is not saying most do. I see you are familiar with the straw man debating technique -- twisting someone's words and then bashing the twisted version.
On the larger point, the vast majority of addiction treatment centers in the U.S. mandate A.A. or N.A. attendence, and the treatment industry is full of "two hatters" that are both A.A./N.A. members and counselors that mandate patients to attend AA/NA meetings.
Terry says: >> It is a program of attraction and has nothing invested whether people come in and stay or go - the truth is - it is up to the person <<
That is a lie. A.A.'s Member surveys show that most were coerced by others. Note also A.A. is complicit in government and employer schemes to coerce A.A. meeting attendance. See:
A.A.® Guidelines - Cooperating with Court, D.W.I. and Similar Programs, from G.S.O., Box 459, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163
which suggests ways that A.A. groups and members can enforce court-ordered attendance, by signing attendance slips for example, and even suggesting other schemes for verifying coercee attendance for groups that don't want to sign attendance slips (See section "E. Proof of attendance at A.A. meetings."). In other words, enrolling A.A. members to act as agents of government.
Danny - I am very interested in the hearing that you have been cured. I thought AA believed that this was not possible. I have so many questions.
Are you a special case?
Do you have a book to sell me so I can find out how?
Does AA mention this technique at meetings? I would think they would like the members to know all options available.
Once cured does the “cured alcoholic” still need to go to meetings? (I suppose they still do since there is still Step 12 – Carry the Message)
I read on the “Step Eleven Comes Alive” website you have been able to bring down your cholesterol levels using 12 Steps in combination with your techniques. This interests me personally, since I hate taking my medication. I am going to have to consult my doctors about this.
(Lastly – I see since your first post you have much better command of comma placement – It’s a Miracle!)
Danny, number one, the “rarely have we seen a person fail…” claim is and has been “contested.”To state otherwise is foolishness.Never a failure?Not one?Interesting.When I first went to an alcohol awareness program in the seventies, they claimed about a three percent success rate.Of course that’s of overall attendees, not those who have “thoroughly followed our path.”So I wonder who the judge is of whether someone “thoroughly followed our path” or not.Of course, co-founder Bill Wilson liked to lead newcomers down a path which some might say is not so spiritual.But we can forget all of that because we have the spiritual program of AA, even though it’s founder[s] were slugs I suppose.
Do you want to talk about the other slugs in the spiritual program of AA, or aren’t they “thoroughly following…”?Are the rapists and murderers in AA “thoroughly following…”?
And even Bill told a different story from your report of 100% success.
“You have no conception these days of how much failure we had. You had to cull over hundreds of these drunks to get a handful to take the bait.”--Bill Wilson, at the memorial service for Dr. Bob, Nov. 15, 1952 (thanks to orangepapers.com).
Would you say that implies less than a 100% success rate?Did you forget the ridiculous and weird claim that “some have to die so that others may live”?Or don’t the others “thoroughly follow…”
As far as the number of copies of the big old book of lies, the only thing that means is that it’s a money maker.Sure, they sell them cheap but at a profit.It cuts down on expenses when you have your marketing done for you by meeting makers pushing it at newbies accompanied with a death threat.
God is only on the side of only the RLRA’s Danny.Starving kids in Africa take a number.A Group of Drunks is the only God who would buy into that load of crap, Danny.
@Felona Nepal @Jack Shuman
@Jarret Liotta: excellent
Excellent for the great demonstration of grasping at a few bits of information and drawing a grand unwarranted conclusion. An excellent demonstration of the pseudo-scientific method. Maybe you should talk to your sponsor about how you might improve your work.
Many who have posted on this forum, alone, had real, medically diagnosable substance abuse problems, and now, they do not. The studies cited and linked support the anecdotes on this board about overcoming addiction outside of AA. They are not colorful, heartwarming fish tales, but they are real cases. real incidences of people leading healthy post-alcoholic lives without the program, and there are a LOT of them. Hardly, the "exception".
Yet, for many of these success stories, there is a wake of scorned AA members claiming that the ex-alcoholic was never the real deal to begin with, or that they are in denial and just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Where are these skeptics when teenagers with one or two drinking experiences enter the halls and claim to be addicts? Those kids are alcoholics as long as they say they are, right, according to "The Golden Rule'?
So, an alcoholic is anyone who thinks they need AA. If they discover that they do not need AA, they aren't really an alcoholic. By that cyclical definition, AA proves itself.
AA doesn't treat alcoholism, so much as it redefines it and treats that. A disease that can only be diagnosed by the person who suffers from it? Really. What hooey.
That said, really, I wouldn't begrudge anyone a respite from the throes of addiction. I am not feeling the serenity in some of your posts, Terrie, but, if you are staying off the sauce and you feel good about how you are doing it, keep it up.
If you are interested in anecdotes of success outside the program (and it seems you are), do a Google search. There are a lot of folks out there who are willing to share their experiences. I hope you find what you are looking for.
@Felona Nepal @Paul Peterson @Terrie Crowley Yes, it's typical of the AA cult strategy. It does not say in the literature that "AA is the only way," but it says exactly that in different ways. In meetings I've heard exactly that, worded exactly that way.
AA is a cult that was started by the L. Ron Hubbard of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson.
@Paul Peterson @Terrie Crowley and then, there's this kind of statement :"Most folks that have had exposure to AA and dont want to stay - in my experience - either 1 are not addicts or 2 Are still in denial ", in which the AA dismisses the likelihood that an addict might walk away from a meeting and beat his/her addiction elsewhere. Terrie, your posts are littered with these insinuations.
Terrie - Terrie screeches >> Paul how many AA mtgs have you been to and where? What is your personal experience with the program? <<
Many hundreds off and on over 30 years. In the early years I wasn't too bothered about the religiosity, but it got more and more annoying. Then I heard about all the court cases that found it to be religious, and coerced attendance to be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. I've been hearing and witnessing more people bashed for being atheists or other kinds of non-believers.
@Terrie Crowley - Is not A.A. instructing its groups on how to verify attendance helping enforce attendance? Without A.A. groups verifying attendance, the courts would not be able to coerce people to attend. So does this not make A.A. complicit in coerced attendance -- by performing the crucial role of verification? So cut the B.S.
As an atheist, I am pissed (your word) that anybody is coerced into a religious program -- the vast majority of U.S. courts, including all 4 federal appeals courts and both state supreme courts that have heard these cases agree that A.A. is religious - and therefore forcing people to go violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
More on A.A.'s religiosity (numerous quotes from the Big Book and the 12 X 12) and the court cases:
@Paul Peterson the text in this report reads "
Probation and parole officers, as well as judges, often require
people involved in alcohol‑related offenses to attend A.A. meetings.
That is PEOPLE who Broke the law! are required by the court - NOT by AA - check the facts you are posting -
let me guess - you got a DUI and were told to go to AA and you are still pissed off about it -
@Paul Peterson DUI is a crime and the courts send people to the program ...so "agents of the govt?" I think not - Paul how many AA mtgs have you been to and where? What is your personal experience with the program?
@Terrie Crowley No one owes you a story. You can ask and someone can tell if you they like. We don't know your story. Personally, I don't care.
You don't know mine. I can assure you it wasn't pretty. That fact doesn't make AA more effective or less a cult.
You like to believe that those who don't like AA are inexperienced and didn't give it an honest chance. I know that is false.
Furthermore, whistle blowers are never popular. That's a fact. AA is just a huge dysfunctional (and DANGEROUS) family.
@Terrie Crowley @Felona Nepal I am glad that you are successful in the path you have chosen, and, again, I wish you the best. Please, take that for the sincere sentiment that it is. Your effort to better yourself is noble.
It is not a lifestyle I would want for myself, but I support those who prosper in it.
It is unfortunate that AA is so routinely prescribed to people with substance abuse problems, because, statistically (I know, I know, statistics, right?), it is not a very effective method of treatment. I think we are failing our addicts and alcoholics when we put too much emphasis on one course of action with spotty results, as this article has.
That is what I am commenting on, this article, not your life, not my life, but the assertion that science has backed AA, when it, in fact, hasn't. I think the appropriate way to dispute the article's premise is with links to scientific research (which can be found throughout the comments' section).
I am sure you are a very kind person who has overcome some rough obstacles. I disagree with an article on the Internet that you relate to. Please, don't take that personally. I can tell the program is important to you. It is terribly flawed, in my opinion. I still hope it serves you well and that you enjoy years of good health and contentment.
@Felona Nepal @Terrie Crowley I pose one simple question - What is your personal experience in AA ? How many meetings did you attend and where? It sure seems to me - that you take this all personally Felona...what difference does it make to you if it works for people? No one is pushing you to go to AA - or? Were you forced to and are still having a tantrum about it? And you know nothing about me or my story - so you know what they say about "contempt before investigation?" - What is it dear one that irks you so about AA? It works if people work it - as suggested. So what is it? Enlighten me with your PERSONAL knowledge ...that bares a lot more weight than stats -
@Jack Shuman @Felona Nepal Oh, thank you! I just signed in and deleted the whole post you responded to, 'felt it had too many specifics and detracted from my other posts but, yes! I can't imagine spending all those years thinking I was one step away from ruining my life. I can't imagine running major life decisions past someone outside my household (a sponsor). That seems like a very anxious life.
I am very happy for those who have thrived under that system, but we really need to present better options to people, especially in treatment centers. It's debatable whether or not AA is a cult, but rehabs are definitely very cult-like, and AA is a (the only) staple in them.
I have wondered before what the 12 step program was like before the rehab boom and if it has become more and more of a cult-like entity because of the large sums of money at stake in the recovery industry. I have naively considered that the message was more benign in the old clubhouses than it is in lock down treatment facilities (and, subsequently, in the new clubhouses). However, some of the comments here prompted me to do research that set me straight.
It doesn't seem like it was ever a functional solution for alcoholism. It seems to have always been a sham. It has just become a more established one.
@Felona Nepal Anyway, glad you broke free and I'm sure you fared much better for it.
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