The Board of Damocles
by Cliff Walker

A law school graduate attended our group today, stating that something about his licensing was contingent on his attending treatment and meetings. I spoke about your challenge involving the claim that the legal profession lacks the record of abuse that the various boards of the medical professions boast. I glanced at our resident Dr. X-Ray II and described how such boards "hold people's careers over their heads."

Our resident Dr. X-Ray II muttered: "The Board of Damocles."

This one took me a minute. Dr. X-Ray II soon will have spent two years without a job. He went to an expensive "treatment" center, subjecting himself to the isolation and indoctrination techniques which many medical professionals endure to save their careers, but he refuses to tow the AA party line before the "Board of Damocles." They are making him pay.

I asked the group whether the same would apply if the crime in question were, for example, shoplifting -- or even embezzlement.

The soon-to-be lawyer said that he would need only to assure them that he had paid restitution and had fulfilled the obligations of the sentence. The phrase "double-standard" echoed through the room, and I challenged everybody to think of ways we can try to stop this madness.

To highlight the viciousness of this double-standard, I asked our resident Dr. X-Ray II how much time expired between the first time he was sent to "treatment" and the recent debacle, wherein he was presumed guilty and sent to treatment without proof of his having used alcohol. (He says it was a diabetic reaction which produced the odor, and I believe him. Policy requires that a suspected "alcoholic" be tested for the presence of intoxicants, but that did not happen. He was sent home for the day -- and never came back.)

Dr. X-Ray II said that thirteen years had passed between the two incidents, and that "there is no statute of limitations for someone accused of being 'an alcoholic.' You are also guilty until proven not 'in denial.'"

I reminded everyone that "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is required reading in the Portland groups for anyone who is mandated or coerced into "treatment" or recovery meetings. (The work-release folks, who use the RR meetings as a bi-weekly get-out-of-jail-free card, have exploited this requirement and have acquired the book for their library.) We had fun passing around our photo of McMurphy squirting water on everyone. The caption reads: "McMurphy chose 'treatment' over a brief prison sentence -- but never found a cure." Thanks to Dr. X-Ray I for this insight; I'm pumping this vivid and powerful metaphor for all it's worth.

Having been flattened by an acute depressive episode for the past month or two, I am back to my normal self again. We have a lot of fun and engage in serious talk about The System and what we each can do to change it. Most people are too afraid to use their own case to stand up to The System, but Dr. X-Ray II is setting a fine example of what you can do after it's all over: Sue their pants off! (He thinks his case is going well; in the depositions, almost everyone involved admits to the errors they made.)

Mainly, though, we spar back and forth with illustrations of AVRT. Most newer folks see it right away, but some are reluctant to see. This is when it gets fun, because the doubts can easily be shown as unfounded, and the reluctance revealed to be our old nemesis, The Beast. All the troubles and financial woes of coordinating a group evaporate whenever I see that "Oh, yeah!" look on someone's face after I've repeated their sentence back to them, substituting their "I-Me-My" excuses with "it" excuses. This look is not unlike like that of a puppy caught pooping behind the sofa -- not unlike that look on Jack's face while Lois was telling her story on the Maury Povitch show.

Cliff Walker