Our Very Last Rude Letter
From A Twelve Stepper
I've read some of your "recovery watch" site -- particularly Cliff Walker's meandering -- with a great sense of humor and gratitude. I had approached RR 13 years ago and after one phone call realized that particular group was an AA bashing enterprise much too fixated on the "God" thing and everything that was wrong with AA. I realized that probably wasn't a healthy way to approach recovery. I, myself am a pantheist and love most of the flaws, perfections and imperfections in the world. Not that I agree with everything. Sadly, RR isn't putting on its best face in this particular website.
You place too much emphasis on the Big Book and I see little or no reference to the dozens of other publications, tapes, seminars, -- you name it -- that have come out of AA since the original Big Book was published. For some bizarre and paradoxical reason, Cliff evaluates AA from the perspective of perfection. In other words, if there is some aspect of AA that falls short, he's ready to jump on it. I think that posture is somewhat ironic, since, as an atheist, why should he care about perfection? I strongly recommend the book by Kurtz & Ketcham "The spirituality of imperfection."
Cliff "occasionaly" goes to meetings, and that's great. Cliff should spend more time reading the rest of the AA literature. And, if he'd been to the hundreds or thousands of meetings some of us have, he'd start to realize that neither is AA perfect nor is its publications or members. (Please don't pick on my numbers of attendance, since I'd then ask you why it's so important to report the number of hits to your website.) Again, it's ironic that an atheist approaches life from a perspective of perfection that usually a religious zealot might. Hence, the title of my email, "The religion of atheism." The discourse of the religious zealot and the atheistic zealot is remarkably similar. Zealotry does not work in AA, in any form. This kinds of people usually fall away ... Fine let 'em. They are always welcome back.
Regarding the 95 percent failure rate, I heard that figure from the eminent Abraham Twersky in my 2nd or 3rd month of recovery. Noone knows for sure what the actual recovery and failure rates are in AA. And I don't care. I took it as a challenge and have survived. "No Pain, No Gain" is precisely the reason why many drop out. And that's fine. Let 'em. Let 'em go out and do more research, let 'em go to RR, let 'em do whatever they please. AA bashing, RR bashing are certainly not signs of tolerance and recovery.
If Walker's central cause is to bash AA and "God" (whatever that is), that is hardly a program I'd recommend for anyone. But the more important point is that AA has plenty of recovering atheists and agnostics and belief in God is certainly not a requirement for membership. As a matter of fact, there are regions of the US that have already reworded some of the steps involving "God" to broaden the notion. There are the Unitarian version of the steps, atheist version of the steps, etc. Moreover, I've lost count of the number of times I've suggested RR and MM to people who just couldn't stand AA.
Oddly, and this owes to the all-or-none-thinking that many addictive personalities fall prey to, whoever said that one and only one belief or perspective is necessary? I've got days when I'm one and whole with the universe, I've got mornings like that, and then afternoons that spin wildly out of control. My state-of-mind can change from moment to moment, and my beliefs adjust accordingly. Long-term recovery has taught me that the search never ends, and I constantly try to adjust and re-evaluate and re-educate. There are some days I feel, write, and react like Cliff, but I try to avoid them. The strongest test of recovery is to read, observe, and test other ideas -- particularly ideas I might not agree with. I believe John Stuart Mill had some thoughts on this. Perhaps I didn't study the website carefully enough, but I haven't seen any citations in the AA literature referencing Jung, James, and others.
I firmly believe that time will tell which of these programs will last. Most important, Bill W. and others created the Traditions based on the failures of other "temperance" movements, including the Washingtonians. Therefore, my message is anonymous, nor is my message the opinion of AA. And, anyone who sticks his or her name on a message or letter representing AA is sticking his or her neck out.
Here's a challenge to Cliff: Since your organization does have opinions on outside issues, could you please post some positive ones too? Doesn't Fox News call that "Fair and Balanced Reporting?"
Finally, "keep coming back..." Or, "don't keep coming back". I don't care either way.
An Anonymous Agnostic and/or Pantheist and/or however-that-particular-time-of-day-might-seem-to-be-going (14 years of recovery). Currently in Northern Virginia.
"I'm a skeptic, not a bigot..."
We have been forced to become very selective about what material we will accept defending the Twelve Step Program. This decision came a few days ago following the exchange with David Ward, although it had been a long time coming.
Your letter does not start out any better, calling my writings "meanderings" and indulging in various other forms of name-calling and personal degradation, and misrepresenting both my relationship with AA and my position regarding that organization.
No constructive dialogue has ever resulted from conversations which start this way, so I am not going to take any more of my time dealing with your letter except to construct the form letter that we will probably send to Steppers who, in the future, start out behave like you did here.
We would be happy to receive any mail from Steppers which even starts out on an honest note, but the Steppers are not sending us any such mail (as an examination of the letters in or Forum with either "Alcoholics Anonymous" or "Twelve Step" in the title will show). There is a great imbalance here; not even Fundamentalist Christians who write to us (as a group) display the degree and consistency of degradation that the Steppers who write to us have (as a group) shown.
This imbalance makes it appear as if all Twelve Steppers behave the way you and the others have. I do not want it to appear as if we're deliberately trying to make Steppers look bad; however, we have yet to get what I would call a decent communication going with somebody who wrote to defend the Program against what little criticism we do have of it.
So I have put a lid on the topic of the Twelve Step program until such point as it appears that we've started to get letters from Steppers who are willing to at least discuss the issues we do bring up. This would particularly include
If we do get any letters from Steppers who start out cordially and who continue by sticking to the facts, we will gladly consider posting them in our Forum.
Meanwhile, you are encouraged to send your comments to some other group who still deals with this topic, such as SMART, RR, Stanton Peele, AA Deprogramming, or the like. Perhaps Audrey Kishline has moderated her stance somewhat since the last time we heard from her. However, I no longer work in the "recovery" field; thus, we will not spend any more of our time fielding rude letters from Twelve Steppers.
By the way, the statistics are there because so many readers have asked for a copy of them. When I don't have them readily available (such as when I place them on a separate page), I get lots of letters. That's all. I'm sure those who contribute money toward helping keep this whole thing up and running and those who link to this web site like to see how well we've been doing. Without the financial generosity, I flat-out couldn't do this because I live on a meager disability pension.
Besides, is there something wrong with a non-Catholic being proud of his accomplishment, the fruit of his own hands? Explain that one to me, and I'll consider your complaint.
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
people with no reason to believe
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