Alcoholics Anonymous is the cornerstone of recovery from alcoholism. Its 12-step model has been adapted for use with other addictions, spanning from drugs, to sex, to food, and beyond. To date, it’s the most successful means of lasting recovery from alcoholism. Yet it only has an approximated success rate of about 20%. This low success joins a string of other reasons physicians, alcoholics, and even AA members have begun attacking 12-step style recovery.
But the issues typically flung at alcohol recovery are the wrong ones.
Follow The Money
Alcoholics Anonymous is based around two things: AA meetings, and the book Alcoholics Anonymous from which the name of the program is derived. Both of these are severely flawed. Those flaws have begun to widen, and Alcoholics Anonymous has begun to crack as a result.
The meetings of AA are self-funded through contributions of the members. Those meetings contribute to the central service office of the AA organization. Due to the size of Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization itself is costly. Though the group is based on attraction, and not promotion, AA is still expensive. Printing books and providing resources to the numerous alcoholics is a difficult task. Difficulty translates into dollars spent. As such, AA needs a means of support.
That means of support exists in the form of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, colloquially known as the “Big Book”. Sales of Alcoholics Anonymous produce millions in estimated revenue, which is how AA as an organization stays afloat.
Without that book there isn’t enough revenue. And from that book comes the wellspring of AA’s problems as much as so many millions have found salvation in those pages.
The Problem With The Book Alcoholics Anonymous
The principal issue with the Alcoholics Anonymous book is that it is spiritual in nature. It’s not a scientific ledger. It’s 164 pages that outline the steps of recovery – while using a lot of purple prose, biblical references, and misogynistic instructions – followed by several anecdotal tales of recovery from alcoholism.
This alone discounts it as factually based. From the very beginning of this book – which is only in circulation to finance the group Alcoholics Anonymous – there isn’t any more evidence to support its claims of recovery than for divine miracles, alien abductions, or superpowers granted through energy manipulation.
Yet, it is the foundation upon which 12-step programs in general, and alcoholism recovery primarily is based.
From that wellspring comes the problems in AA. Alcoholics Anonymous begins with a spiritual book kept in print by desperate alcoholics solely to finance a group with a 20% success rate.
But, It Helps 20% of People
This is true. For the minority percentage of the population with a mild case of alcoholism or addiction, spiritual recovery like Alcoholics Anonymous does work. Recovery based around faith doesn’t require abolition, but it needs to stop being treated as if it’s a true treatment for the disease of alcoholism.
The problem is, modern medicine, the overblown recovery industry, and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous itself are poisoning any hope of finding a real solution, since the focus is on this spiritual program.
The Problem with Alcoholics Anonymous Groups
AA’s “Big Book” is the first prong of the problem. The second lies in the groups themselves, which is the other major cornerstone of AA.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is no training required to facilitate another person’s recovery. An alcoholic only needs to, as taken from the Big Book, “Have made some progress in recovery” (CHECK). Groups are run by volunteers with no training, who are often early in recovery themselves and forced into service by more experienced members who care little about the group.
Since the book and program are spiritual, the individuals who tend to find recovery effective are often the same type who gravitate toward the church and other faith-based institutions. Often, they have limited education, lower than average intelligence, and are able to suspend disbelief when presented with categorically illogical notions.
These people, volunteers with no training, a history of criminal behavior and falsifying claims, limited if any formal education and training, suffering from a mental illness by their own admission, are then asked to aid in the recovery of a mentally ill person in the depths of their disease.
The problem with AA isn’t scientific. It begins with there being no science anywhere in the program, a book of fairy tales latched onto by a group of desperately sick people who are then tasked with being the sole source of help for another mentally ill person.
That’s the lunatics running the asylum.
How Doctors Perpetuate The Problems with AA
The best and most visible example of physicians in the addiction and alcoholism recovery industry is Dr. Drew Pinsky. He’s the now infamous former host of the Loveline radio and television show. He’s also known for exploiting teenage mothers in the television program Teen Mom – which has helped launch the pornography careers of several young women in desperate need of help. He’s exploited addicts and the mentally ill on Celebrity Rehab, Rehab, and Sex Rehab to say nothing of his ongoing podcast, radio, and television career, all of which focus heavily on mental health issues, addiction and alcoholism recovery, and whatever other pop psychology is in vogue.
Though technically a physician, Dr. Drew is largely a media personality. But, he is indicative of a majority of the medical community’s stance on alcoholism and addiction recovery. Their claim is that 12-step programs are the most effective.
Any doctor who suggests a patient attend meetings run by unlicensed individuals which touts a wholly spiritual base should be stripped of his or her license. It’s unconscionable, to say nothing of scientifically unsound to ask people with a diagnosed mental illness to rely on spiritual healing run by unlicensed patients.
Yet, that is precisely what some doctors will say. As if prescribing holy water and prayer is a valid medical opinion. That is what they are doing on a daily basis.
Luckily, a few have debunked the myth of AA and suggest actual forms of real recovery.
By legitimizing this broken, unworkable system, physicians are acting irresponsibly, and breaking the Hippocratic oath. They are sending individuals with a fatal illness to faith healers.
The reason they do this is simple: it absolves them of responsibility. You can’t sue if they can blame you. They claim going to meetings and reading a spiritual book with no basis in fact will cure you, and then they walk away. It’s then your problem to make the magic work.
How the Recovery Industry Perpetuates the Problems with AA
Recovery is big business, because everyone is desperate for a solution to mental illness. Celebrities are forever going into rehab, and as they go, so go the masses. After all, those facilities have doctors on staff, which must make them legitimate. Right? It’s a medically controlled environment run by professionals. That’s much better than a meeting run by dry drunks.
The recovery industry is AA with a different face. The majority of the recovery that occurs in rehabilitation facilities is based around the 12-steps. Those that aren’t, are typically based around a different self-help program that dresses up recovery in the same way as Alcoholics Anonymous, which is to blame the addict when recovery doesn’t magically manifest.
Since there isn’t any hard science to point toward actual addiction or alcohol recovery, the recovery industry is able to sell as much spiritual snake oil as Alcoholics Anonymous. A few people walk away changed, usually within the bell curve of anomalous results, and most die of their disease.
But the recovery industry keeps moving along, since they too can claim it is the fault of the addict. They have the money either way.
Alcoholics Anonymous Kills
With a 20% success rate, for every 1 person who recovers using the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, 4 die. It’s not bad science. It’s a lack of science. It’s an organization that circulates a spiritual book to desperate, dying people, backed by physicians who don’t want to treat patients and a recovery industry that seeks only to exploit.
To be an alcoholic is to be forever sold lies. First the alcohol lies. Then the recovery program and the doctors and the magic book lie. All to take your money.