Twelve Steps and Twelve Apostles Both Fail You

The power of God is evident. We all must recognize a power greater than ourselves. It can't just be us and that's it. Right? Well, that's how I, and most of us, feel but how do we know? I've always heard that if you look for God you'll find him. So I went for an internet stroll looking for God in some of my life's experiences.

My last experience with an organized attempt at indoctrination came on the heels of my sinning. Me likely some alcohol. I'm 36 now and I've mellowed, but at 22 I was the designated drunk driver. I was taking friends home and in the midst of an argument I didn't slow my speed as I approached a town. Soon, the gum-balls would light up and I was dealing with drinking and driving. The charges were reduced to Reckless Driving and part of the deal was attending 12 AA meetings. I was about to come face to face with the power of God!

AA is an awkward place for newbies. Especially those whom couldn't care less about not drinking. For me, it smelled of religion, coffee and cigarettes and in that order. Many meetings open with a prayer. They are often held in church basements. You see the down and out people of the world there. It's a coming together of people looking for hope and reason. Just how religious are the Twelve Step? See for yourself.

Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable
Step 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out
Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

My plea bargain including AA is no longer legal. In September of 2007 the Ninth Circuit determined that Alcoholics Anonymous has enough religious components that it would be a violation of the First Amendment to require attendance. If only I would have had the money to challenge that at 22. All I got from AA was this blog post.

So if AA claims god is the only one with the power to save you from alcoholism and it's been around since the 30's, surely there is evidence to back that up. We'll see god in these statistics for sure! Many studies have been conducted seeking to determine the effectiveness of 12 step programs. The Cochrane Reviews looked into the eight studies conducted from 1966 to 2005. The conclusion... "No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or TSF approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems." What!? No God was found? The eight studies and 3417 subjects over 40 years are flawed.

The success rates of Twelve Step Programs including AA can't be shown to be above the rates of those whom just want to stop drinking on their own. To the Christians whom suggest that Jesus is there if you just look for him and open your heart... can you show me the power of your god in any tangible manner? If he can't even get someone to put down a bottle more successfully than the average alcoholic, why look to him for anything?

Views: 22

Tags: AA, Rate, Step, Studies, Success, twelve

Comment by Pinko Commie on March 19, 2010 at 1:57am
This reminds me of a story my dad used to tell quite a bit -

When my dad got home from Vietnam, he drove drunk quite a bit, enough to end up in a pretty bad car accident. He had to go to AA and was really pissed off by how it was basically court mandated church. The awesome thing was, he was so pissed that he quit drinking completely within the course of his AA 'treatment' and then told everyone at the end that he had quit drinking, he did it himself, it had nothing to do with belief in a higher power because he was an atheist, and that they were self defeating morons to convince themselves that they're powerless to help themselves.

This was one of the few stories my dad proudly told, and he told it every time anyone ever mentioned AA. Now that he's gone, I find myself telling it every time the subject comes up as well. I wish I could ask him how people reacted when he made his godless victory known, but he never really went into that. Personally, I would have clapped.
Comment by Silenus on March 19, 2010 at 9:05am
If someone doesn't want to quit than there not gonna to, it doesn't matter how many rehab centers they go to.
Comment by Pinko Commie on March 19, 2010 at 10:49pm
Brandon, what you're saying just doesn't make sense to me. Using your example of a doorknob, the steps would read as follows -

Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable
Step 2 - Came to believe that a doorknob greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of doorknob as we understood doorknob.
Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
Step 5 - Admitted to doorknob, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have doorknob remove all these defects of character
Step 7 - Humbly asked doorknob to remove our shortcomings
Step 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Step 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
Step 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with doorknob as we understood doorknob, praying only for knowledge of doorknob's will for us and the power to carry that out
Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

I do agree with you that the fact that it's free is awesome and for the people it's helped (and the people who love the people the program has helped) it probably seems far more effective than it actually might be. My argument is that the people who took the program in earnest likely would have come to the same result had they taken a similar program which did not rely so much on a 'higher power', be it god, a doorknob or whatever.

It does help some people, and because of that I wouldn't say the program is worthless, however I don't think it should be considered any better of a program than anything else out there. Church is free too, and that helps some people, but I still don't think that's enough to be pro-church.
Comment by Gaytor on March 20, 2010 at 12:48am
To be clear on is effectiveness, it's as effective as just quitting cold turkey. "A 5% success rate is nothing more than the rate of spontaneous remission in alcoholics and drug addicts. That is, out of any given group of alcoholics or drug addicts, approximately 5% per year will just wise up, and quit killing themselves." Link

What you are witnessing is a person giving up one addiction for another. That isn't recovery. Having to attend two, three, or more meetings a week to replace the drinking may be better for your liver, but there is still a behavior issue afoot even if you were to ignore it. It's codependency. Have you ever noticed that those whom find success meld right into the programs. They become counselors. It's self-reinforcing and a way for them to stay in the warm blanket of codependency. To have a full life it will be critical to address codependency as well. Doing, being and living as group suggests will not develop a sense of self or growth beyond the group. Eventually vacations are based on the annual national gatherings. There are those for whom this is the best life that they can expect. I would rather find a path that allows me to choose my life. (The brutal hangovers that started at about 30 made me ease up.)

I know of one person whom would be dead without a 12 step program/s (programs in his case). I know many more whom just stopped drinking. The point of the blog is that statistically, there is no notable success. The stats you hear from members are made up. Someone whom is on a path to death, if you find success in codependency, take it. Let me know how that turns out after you choose to live your life again. I bet that we are back to the 5% success rate in a hurry even after having done the steps. Remember when you are talking to these people too, these are the 5 percenters. Those whom just stop and get on with life don't have a group to tell you about their success and methods used.

I'm happy for your loved one's success, but easy on the Kool-Aide. I remember when I was a kid that was the greatest drink in the world too! There are multiple paths to success in life, AA just cannot prove themselves more successful than they next.
Comment by Gaytor on March 20, 2010 at 1:30am
Bullshit episode from years ago that I apparently fully bought into.





Comment by Robert Hinkey on March 20, 2010 at 2:23am
Anyone reading this and having a problem controlling their drug (alcohol is a drug) use and looking for a rational way of fighting the urges that does not require faith but is based on science should check out smartrecovery.org.

I tried the 12 steps and was constantly fighting over this higher power BS. They claim higher power can be anything but notice how it changes to god in the third step and onward. Anyone who has ever read the "Big Book" will notice that it's nothing but a way to convert the drunks to god. They end most of their meetings with the lords prayer. In one of the chapters Bill even states how wonderful it would be to have all the alcoholics united under ONE god.

I was relieved to find SMART and a group of rational people who told me I had all the power I needed to stop my addiction. Yes I needed help to see this clearly and many people do. I attended for a while, learned coping skills and said goodbye to the group. That's right they don't encourage you to trade one addiction for another. You are more then welcome to stay and help others if you wish to give back but it is not a requirement.
Comment by Johnny on April 18, 2010 at 10:37am
Comment by Chris H on April 19, 2010 at 3:59am
I am an Atheist Alcoholic. I attend AA once a week my wife whom has been a pillar for me in fighting this attends Al-Anon. The fact of this program is that it does not have a very high success rate. I heard that less than 1% that enters the doors or the program dies sober.

I spent a lot of years wallowing in an all consuming addiction. A hell hole which I cannot describe to anyone that has not been there or lived a life like that. What worked for me in sobering up in AA was not the religion, hell I am a very outspoken and sometimes abrasive atheist. As posted previously the 12 steps can be adapted to work for you. I have found that I have been met by the odd Christian that is less than sympathetic, even rude obnoxious and have this air of superiority about him. But hey, guess what. I choose my friends. I get to choose whether i will entertain pedantic rants regarding Christianity etc.

The AA principle is very clear. Take what you need and leave the rest.

I Identify with people that has had to battle something similar to what I have. It keeps me sober and I get to think rationally about life, love and lust.

It is easy to stand on the side lines and point fingers at things that you are not familiar with and specifically do not know first hand about. I have the utmost respect for anyone that can quit and stay sober without the friendship, support and guidance that I have received from people in AA. Albeit some of them religious.

The principle of a sponsor also says a lot for this program. I have a sponsor that I had to search far and wide for that suited my needs as an atheist. She is an amazing person that is guiding me through this process.

The principle of getting involved in service.... That reminds me regularly where I have been when I get to speak to "wet ones" recognizing my own fucked up life back then in others now seem to help me stay sober. That in itself ito. service is a selfish act. But being selfish while helping others with a problem I can identify with seems not to be a bad means to an end.

I see the AA group where I attend on Tuesday nights as a higher power. This group of fellows in addiction is part of something that is helping me. If you want to call it a higher power by all means do. I just know that I do not want to go back to where I spent 18 years of my life. Wasting this one chance I have on planning a life around alcohol seems a lot worse than taking some time and spending it in trying to make sense of how I will achieve sobriety.

The Op said that he got sentenced to attend meetings. I think the crux of it in this thread lies exactly in that comment. In my country this has never been the norm or something practiced in the judicial system. The starting point of sobriety is a where you reach a point where you come to that realization that you are indeed powerless over this addiction. No enforced attendance will bring that realization home. If you have not finished drinking, then you have not finished drinking. If your life hasn't become so crap from the addiction that you don't realize what it is doing to you and your loved ones then you will not stop whether you are forced to attend or not.

I agree that it should not be forced on all levels mentioned. That is not the intention of people in AA. Nor is it the intention of how the organisation wants to portray itself.

AA asks of me to have an open mind while it also gives me the power to take what I need and leave the rest. That sounds a lot like free thinking in principle to me.

I started a group on TA a while ago called Atheist Alcoholics. If anyone wants to join or share views on there you are also more than welcome.

Regards

Chris H
Comment by Robert Hinkey on April 19, 2010 at 11:54am
To find out some of the real facts behind Alcoholics Anonymous I suggest people watch the Penn and Teller episode and check out the site Orange Papers . It is in my opinion nothing more than a self perpetuating cult feeding on the weak in our society. How any atheist can support this organization leaves me perplexed.

Why would you twist your belief system to fit into something that goes against it when there are rational methods available? As I said before founding father Bill Wilson makes it clear that his goal is to bring everyone to god. Read the Big Book to find a whole chapter dedicated to Agnostics and Atheists that is called We Agnostics. In it he pleads that people who had cast off the notion of god bring it back into consideration as the only way to cure yourself is to find spirituality.

The twelve steps make no sense when you replace god with something else. They make no sense with god there. Why are you praying to the group (as you stated were your higher power) to remove all your faults?

Why subject yourself to ridicule by fundamentalists that scorn the notion of your lack of beliefs when you can use a rational method as proposed by SmartRecovery and be surrounded by a support group that uses rational thinking to help you overcome your addiction.

I am glad you were able to find a sponsor that will work with you and your atheistic beliefs. It was not the case for me as I went through sponsor after sponsor who told me I was doomed to continued relapse until I humbled myself and accepted the supernatural. Think of all the people this happens to. Can you really support this? It was just a few years ago that they decided to change ending their world meetings with the lords prayer because of the flack they were receiving from their Jewish members but the practice remains in the majority of their group meetings. The christian mentality reigns supreme within these groups and you are often considered an outcast if you are a "thinker" and not a mindless sheep that follows their agenda. "Keep it simple stupid" is often the mantra of the group when you question their motives.

I understand the need for support and guidance and that is precisely what a Smart Recovery meeting will bring you without the dogma attached to a 12 step program. And if you are being helped by helping others please consider starting a Smart meeting in your area as this organization could use people like you to aid others.

Your statement of powerlessness over your addiction makes no sense. Who is attending the meetings, who is making the choice not to dive back into addiction? It is not some supernatural force, it is you. That means you have all the power in the world. I say you have been misguided if you feel you are not the one doing the work. Give credit where credit is due.

Best of luck to you

Rob Hinkey

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