Cultish Aspects, Part III

More from Antonahill:

>AA does not control the information that members receive from books or TV or the internet or from other people. It does not shun people who fall away. The fact that it actually welcomes such people back probably saved my life.

Not “shun”, no. But harsh judgement is lobbed at those who do not follow the culture that is preached.

Not really, not in my experience.  I relapsed chronically for six years.  I have had exposure over time to people who have relapsed.  I have known people who did “not follow the culture that is preached.”  I have not heard them subjected to harsh judgment.

When someone struggles, especially over time, in my experience, AA members become more heavy and adamant about the AA “suggestions.”  Mostly that’s because we hate to see people suffer, and know that in our individual and collective experience, the more of the “culture” we leave out, the less likely we are to achieve, maintain, and thrive in sobriety.

As for people who don’t seem to be struggling, but are not following the culture by maybe leaving out important aspects, I hear warnings sometimes directed toward them, but it is always couched in the terms of personal experience, and always  meant as a warning.  So for example someone who likes to hang out with old friends at bars may get told that this isn’t a good idea.  I hope they do get told that.  But harsh judgment?  No.  In my experience, AAs are the most gentle people I’ve known.

>AA does tell alcoholics that they have no personal power.

Which is absurd. And having such an absurd notion as a central tenet is at elast irresponsible.

Take it in context.  An alcoholic presenting herself at an AA meeting as such by definition cannot stop drinking.  Most people don’t show up at AA because they have one bad hangover.  It takes a lot of devastation usually for someone to take that step inside the rooms.  Usually this person has tried many many other ways first, and has failed, hence her presence at an AA meeting.

Now AA’s first step is to admit powerlessness.  This is the way sober people in AA have begun to live a life of sobriety. They don’t have list of ways for alcoholics to gain control of their drinking.  In fact, they have a list of ways that alcoholics have tried and failed to gain control of their drinking.

This concept is so central to the AA philosophy for me.  It’s what has enabled me to stay away from alcohol for 25 years after having nearly been killed by it.  The higher power, for me, at first, was the program of AA as practiced by the people I met there.  My will was to continue drinking, to not get so messed up that I couldn’t function, but I could not follow my own will.  I had no power to do that.  I had to follow the will of AA in order to begin to recover.  I had to.  For others, they don’t have to, and something else works for them.  When they show up at an AA meeting, though, I and millions of others will tell them what worked for us.  That we had no personal power.  That as long as we struggled to gain and exercise personal power, we were unable to stop drinking.  That if they are fortunate to grasp this concept as we have, they may begin to recover in the same way we advocate and love.

>Rather it has a systematic way of making sure, in as much as it is possible, that people apologize and make restitution for the past bad things they have done. It has a systematic way of encouraging us to review our conduct daily and several times a day, and to use our power to perform right actions.

As fine as that may be, the fact is that AA is not required for such principles to exist or be practiced.

And let’s be honest. One step instructs the member to hand all flaws over to God. That is not a system. That is religious tripe.

This is related to what I tried to express in the previous section.  The “handing over” is not a passive thing.  I may have struggled, for example, with dishonesty.  My presence in AA proves my inability to get very far on my own.  With the literature and people of AA, I have concrete directions and limitless counsel on how to actually do that by living a more honest life.  Once I have handed over the defect of dishonesty, for example, I can’t then to on to happily lie.

>Still, when I consider a newcomer, brand new to the rooms of AA, my best advice and my greatest hope for that person is that he or she jump in, stay close, and recover. I’ve seen it go the other way too many times. I couldn’t recover on my own, even after I had studied to some degree the principles of AA. So many others also cannot.

By your own admission, the principles of AA are not new to it. By what reasoning then is it a good idea to join and maintain fellowship in AA? The fact is that people can and do stop excessive drinking all the time without AA. There is, then, no reason for AA to exist if all it’s really going to do is rehash some tried and some absurd principles.

The fact that people can and do did not help me stop drinking one bit.  I don’t find any of the principles to be absurd, but then again, I wouldn’t.

>In speaking completely for myself, I can say with certainty that all the good I have done over the past 24 years is a direct result of AA. Had I lived without it, I would have been a pathetic taker, institutionalized and disabled in one way or another.

This begs the questions, were you unaware of the essentials of ethics before AA? Had it never crossed your mind to take responsibility for your actions? To apologize for the wrong you had done to others? If it had, then you had no need for AA. If it hadn’t, then you need much more than AA to become a productive member of society.

I had been exposed to those principles before AA.  It had crossed my mind to live an upright and ethical life.  However, as a compulsive drinker, I could not do it.

I needed AA to give me the people to support me in real time.  This may seem pathetic to a stronger person who could maybe study the Bible, or ethics, absorb the concepts and go on to be nearly perfect.  For me and most people I know, however, we fall far, far short of ideal.  For active alcoholics it is in my opinion impossible to drink and live an ethical life.

There are alcoholics who do it on their own but there are also many, many, who cannot.  I could not, and in desperation I turned to AA.  It gave me spiritual and ethical principles that I could live and apply, and an unlimited resource of people to help me do it.

The miracle of AA for me happened when I no longer had to attend in order to stay sober, but I wanted to attend in order to continue to grow spiritually and live better.

I am always sorry when I hear that someone will not give AA a try because the religious aspects turn them off, or because they think it is a cult.  I sincerely urge anyone who is struggling with alcohol to give it a try for 90 days.  You have everything to gain.

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One thought on “Cultish Aspects, Part III

  1. And finally:

    >When someone struggles, especially over time, in my experience, AA members become more heavy and adamant about the AA “suggestions.” Mostly that’s because we hate to see people suffer, and know that in our individual and collective experience, the more of the “culture” we leave out, the less likely we are to achieve, maintain, and thrive in sobriety.

    Funny you mention leaving out the culture–a cult-like behavior. 🙂

    >AA does tell alcoholics that they have no personal power.

    >Which is absurd. And having such an absurd notion as a central tenet is at least irresponsible.

    >Take it in context. An alcoholic presenting herself at an AA meeting as such by definition cannot stop drinking.

    Perhaps “has not”, but not “cannot.”

    >Most people don’t show up at AA because they have one bad hangover. It takes a lot of devastation usually for someone to take that step inside the rooms. Usually this person has tried many many other ways first, and has failed, hence her presence at an AA meeting.

    I’ll grant that these experiences and perceptions pervade, but the literature doesn’t state, “Admit you’re powerless over alcohol–and we don’t mean that literally folks. Take it in context.” It says “Admit you are powerless.”

    >The higher power, for me, at first, was the program of AA as practiced by the people I met there.

    Even as early as Ala-Teen, I didn’t get this. If the “higher poer” is the program, why not just say “the program”? Why even mess with delusional theistic doctrines?

    >My will was to continue drinking, to not get so messed up that I couldn’t function, but I could not follow my own will. I had no power to do that. I had to follow the will of AA in order to begin to recover. I had to.

    Everyone acts the same way. “I had absolutely no power over myself!” Clealry you did because no one injected you with a not-drinking drug or hypnotized you or any other external means. You quit drinking because you chose to. Period. End of story.

    >The fact that people can and do did not help me stop drinking one bit. I don’t find any of the principles to be absurd, but then again, I wouldn’t.

    So despite the fact that you were the one who stopped drinking of your own accord, you still find the idea of powerlessness sound and despite the fact that there’s not a shred of evidence for any kind of higher power you also find that sound? In that case, I guess you’re just another delusional nut who happened to stop drinking.

    >I had been exposed to those principles before AA. It had crossed my mind to live an upright and ethical life. However, as a compulsive drinker, I could not do it.

    Obviously you could because you did.

    >I needed AA to give me the people to support me in real time.

    If fellowship is all people need, then why not just meet up and chat without the “benefit” of the literature and other silliness?

    >There are alcoholics who do it on their own but there are also many, many, who cannot. I could not, and in desperation I turned to AA. It gave me spiritual and ethical principles that I could live and apply, and an unlimited resource of people to help me do it.

    What do you mean by “spiritual” principles?

    >The miracle of AA for me happened when I no longer had to attend in order to stay sober, but I wanted to attend in order to continue to grow spiritually and live better.

    What do you mean by “grow spiritually”?

    Best,

    Anton.

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