Online Discussion:
"You don't grant
the same consideration
to other paths"
    The names of the participants have been altered (except those of Cliff Walker and his friends), and the name of the online service has been kept hidden.
    Online jargon and abbreviations have been translated to regular idiom. All emphasis has been standardized by using italics for emphasis. Names of written works are also italicized.
    Spelling has been corrected, as well as some punctuation -- which would otherwise make a few of these tirades unintelligible to all but the most seasoned grade-school English teachers. This was done to keep lousy writing skills from detracting from the point being made by the writer.
    The practice of quoting previous posts in order to comment on them has been retained; the symbol (>>) followed by the name of the person being quoted preceeds any material quoted from a previous posting.


Wasn't it you who was quoting Rush L to the effect that "Words mean things"? Religion means a very specific set of things to most people. To many of us that meaning carries shame and blame. It is full of values. Religion also usually means a specific faith that encompasses certain beliefs and procedures. It is a church with all of the trappings. There are also the fringe cults like Jonestown and Waco.

Spirituality carries none of those connotations. It is not a closed box wrapped up in a lot of 'yougottas'. It is a wide realm, all inclusive, never exclusive -- as the Big Book says. In any case, it has worked for me. If I could have logiced myself into sobriety, I would have. I couldn't. AA worked. I know there are other methods. As I recall from the movie, Alvin York had to get struck by a bolt of lightning. Whatever works for you is just fine with me. It is unfortunate you can't grant the same possibility and consideration to other paths. There are many suffering. I tell you what. I'll say a prayer for you!

You can't. Nobody could. "Logic" is a noun, not a verb, so nobody could have "logiced" themselves anywhere.

I can use logic, however, to gather what you may be trying to say: "If I could have used logic to achieve lasting sobriety, I would have." Is that a fair description of your objection? I hope so. Let me comment on my understanding of your words:

I wholeheartedly agree with you!

It is very difficult to use logic to achieve sobriety because the addicted person's mind, with its all-encompassing and intensely focused appetites, does not play by the rules of logic. As you probably noticed, you need to use a different approach to beat addiction. Just because logic does not work on addiction does not mean your only other option is spirituality, the supernatural, "God," magic, "Him," religion, or whatever you call it (although for some folks, these methods work just fine).

Rational Recovery is rational in only one sense: We believe people's thoughts, ideas, and beliefs produce their emotional reactions. We get the "Rational" part of our name from the Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET) of Albert Ellis, Ph.D. However, RR no longer recommends the use of RET for quitting an addiciton. Some of us use it later, after we are confident that we have a handle on planned, permanent abstinence. RET is an interesting tool for minimizing (and often eliminating) unhealthy emotional responses such as panic, rage, depression, and jealousy. We also believe the name "Rational Recovery" helps the public see that, unlike AA, we do not employ faith-based methods.

But we absolutely do not use RET or anything else that even remotely resembles logic or rationality to help people get or stay clean and sober. In fact, our Addictive Voice Recognition Technique is quite irrational and the adherents of Ellis' methods loudly denounce us for this. We respond to them by demonstrating how to use the RET exercises to "rationalize" your way into a relapse -- right there on Ellis' own ABC charts. (We do use the ABC's, of course, but only after we have achieved sobriety -- not to get sober.)

I cannot speak of spirituality, because I believe there is no such thing as the realm of the spirit.

I will speak about AA and NA, though; I have lots of experience in that realm. I donated about a year and a quarter of my life, full time, to volunteer for a Narcotics Anonymous project (described in part 2 of this series). I began the project with an altruistic vision of how open and all-inclusive -- never exclusive -- NA should be. (I realize AA excludes drug addicts who are not "alcoholics," having read their pamphlet "Problems Other Than Alcohol" -- but I won't discuss that issue here.)

I learned it is inclusive, in one sense, and exclusive in the other. It is inclusive in that we cannot predict which newcomers will eventually stick around; therefore, we welcome anyone who wants to come. But they are exclusive in that have specific beliefs which turn many people off, and blow them right out the door.

Nevertheless, the Twelve Step programs have a specific set of beliefs about religious (or spiritual) matters; specifically, beliefs about God. You can have whatever higher power you want, as long as He: (1) exists; (2) can hear your prayers; (3) cares enough to respond; and (4) is powerful enough to intervene. You cannot engage in the central activity of a Twelve Step program -- working the Twelve Steps -- without these very specific beliefs.

Anyone who wants to participate in the superficial activities of a Twelve Step group (meetings, friends, service work, fun activities) will not be turned away for their lack of spirituality. They will, however, have a tough time finding respect and acceptance among other members; the non-spiritual aspects of membership will be incomplete.

This is why Jack Trimpey started a vastly different program -- one that many AA members try to discredit.

This is a lie. I demand an apology.

(I criticize AA, but never called it useless.)

Yes. Many are suffering and would get clean and sober if they only knew how.

Unfortunately, there is only one method that anyone recommends to those suffering people who seek answers: Alcoholics Anonymous. From Ann Landers to Dr. Joy Brown, from to the judge who presided over my case to the woman who teaches my friends' court-mandated SAD classes, we hear only about Alcoholics Anonymous -- nothing else even exists.

The sad part is that, of 100 people who join AA on a given day, only five of them will still be active in AA one year later ("Comments on AA's Triennial Surveys"; 1990; New York: AA World Services). AA is just fine for that five percent of the addicted population. I hope AA never gets rid of "the God part" because it is the main attraction for that five percent who manage to stick around in AA.

There are many suffering who have bolted right out of the AA meeting-room doors. I hope those who advise these individuals soon become willing to grant the same possibility and consideration to other paths: like simply quitting on one's own, Rational Recovery, Women for Sobriety, Men for Sobriety, Secular Organization for Sobriety, Methods of Moderation, Alcoholics Victorious, the Cognitive Therapies, Aversion Therapy, Behaviorism, Jesus, Psychoanalysis, agonist and antagonist drugs, and anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs.

If the Twelve Steps were not forced on people by choicelessness and legal mandates, I would not openly criticize their beliefs. Alcoholics Anonymous gave up its right to polite treatment when it allowed its evangelism to hurdle the United States Constitution and land in the corridors of public institutions. I know. I was sentenced to thirty (30) days in the Multnomah County (Oregon) Detention Center because I refused to go to a treatment center (I was never even charged in a drug-related crime).

I refused treatment because the curriculum of every treatment center in Oregon and Washington was based in the Twelve Steps of AA. Every center required clients to attend AA meetings -- where they intone the Lord's Prayer during each meeting, and where six of the Twelve Steps make a direct reference to God or Him.

No way!

Then, after 204 days (180 + 24), including a few weeks in solitary confinement, I agreed to try AA. I found that I could stomach Narcotics Anonymous because their book specifically welcomes atheists. The AA "Big Book" allows absolutely no room for atheists and humanists.

I was a loyal Narcotics Anonymous member for many years (though they never escaped my criticism; NA is not perfect like AA is). I have started NA groups and I have laid NA groups to rest. At one point, I took fifteen months out of my life to volunteer full time in an NA project. I was that grateful to NA for encouraging me to remain in the program despite my religious beliefs. The project was It Works: How and Why -- NA's new Steps and Traditions book.

You see, the rough draft had some rather thoughtless statements that, if published, would exclude me from membership in NA -- just like Chapter 4 of the "Big Book" excludes me from AA membership. I poured over those review forms with a fine-toothed comb and pointed out every statement that could possibly exclude any suffering addict from NA -- not just the anti-atheism parts.

For this effort, I took a lot of heat from the WSCNA Literature Committee -- and many people in Oregon as well. At one point, I was even publicly denounced and discredited by the Chair of the WSCLC in memos which were sent to NA leaders statewide.

You see, we are welcome to join the Program, but we won't get along in the Program unless we eventually change our ways and believe in God (or shut up).

Atheists and others are better off elsewhere.

That is the theme of one of his ads, yes. (Does my use of his name discredit me?) Mirriam Webster's Tenth Collegiate: What a concept!

spirituality n (15c) 1 : something that in ecclesiastical law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such 2 : CLERGY 3 : sensitivity or attachment to religious values 4 : the quality or state of being spiritual

1 spiritual adj (14c) 1: of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit : INCORPOREAL <man's ~~ needs> 2 a : of or relating to sacred matters <~~ songs> b : ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal <~~ authority> 3 : concerned with religious values 4 : related or joined in spirit <his ~~ heir> 5 a : of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena b : of or relating to spiritualism : SPIRITUALISTIC

2 spiritual n (1582) 1 pl : things of a spiritual, ecclesiastical, or religious nature 2 a : a religious song usu. of a deeply emotional character that was developed esp. among blacks in the southern U.S. 3 cap : any of a party of 13th and 14th century Franciscans advocating strict observance of poverty for their order

1 religious adj (13c) 1 : relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity <~~ attitudes> 2 : of, relating to, or devoted to religious beliefs or observances 3 a : scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b : FERVENT, ZEALOUS

2 religious n pl (13c) : member of a religious order under monastic vows

religion n (13c) 1 a : the state of a religious b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance 2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices 3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS 4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

It looks like "spiritual" means religious (in a very formal sense); a cleric (as opposed to a layman); incorporeal or not temporal; or supernatural -- having to do with the realm of the spirit (which realm many believe does not exist).

"Religion," on the other hand, also means worship of God or the supernatural; faithful devotion; or personal or institutionalized beliefs or actions. It is also used metaphorically to mean a special zeal toward certain beliefs or practices that would not otherwise be considered "religious," such as "She follows the Grateful Dead religiously." At one time it meant scrupulous conformity, but we don't use it that way today without explaining ourselves.

In the usual sense, religion is a specific set of beliefs that pertain to God and the supernatural -- like the beliefs held by most Twelve Steppers: "[We] became entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character" (Step 6); "Work the Steps or die, motherfucker!!" (a popular AA slogan).

And like I said, from the standpoint of a humanist these two words can be used interchangeably. To us, a rose by any other name is still a rose.

This popular (and false) distinction between the words "spiritual" and "religious" is a ploy to comfort those who are uneasy with the fact that they promote a religious organization. Many professionals who recommend AA to their clients have no idea that the Twelve Steps even mention the word "God." And the AA members would just as soon keep it that way: that's why they so spitefully condemn and discredit Rational Recovery -- the organization that dares expose AA's dishonesty to the public.