Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Stepping Is Harmful

Whenever effective new therapies for alcohol addiction are developed, they're presented with an odd timidity.  Most writeups begin by saying that they have absolutely nothing against AA, they know many people recovering in AA, it's a wonderful program which has saved millions of lives, etc.  Even The Cure For Alcoholism, written specifically to tell more people about an actual medical therapy that actually works, opens with the traditional kowtow to AA.

AA is not a wonderful program, and it has not saved millions of lives.  AA itself claims to have about two million members worldwide.  Even if zero of those people were coerced (unlikely) and even if every one of them were abstinent (ha!), we still could not say that "AA has saved millions of lives" because the great majority would not die if they left AA.  It did not save their lives.  They may say it did, and may even believe it did since they are threatened with "jails, institutions, or death" if they leave, but in fact it is one of the least successful recovery methods.

AA is actually harmful.  Every time its success rate has been examined by an objective party, it has proved to be no better than the natural history -- that is, the number of people who become abstinent in AA is the same as the number who become abstinent with no therapy or formal action at all.

But at least it doesn't hurt, right?

Well, actually, it does.  People exposed to AA are more likely to binge-drink.  Not only are AA members nine times more likely to binge-drink than people who receive real therapy, they're five times more likely to binge-drink than a control group who receives no intervention at all  (Outpatient Treatment of Alcoholism, by Jeffrey Brandsma, Maxie Maultsby, and Richard J. Welsh. University Park Press, Baltimore, MD., page 105).

AA causes binge-drinking, and it's binges which generally lead to arrests, DUI accidents, accidental deaths, and the other worst consequences of heavy drinking.

How does AA do so much damage?

The biggest problem is its insistence that we are, in AA's words, "powerless over alcohol."  People feeling the strong compulsion of conditioning may actually believe this.  Even those who know it's nonsense intellectually will be subconsciously affected after hearing it repeated daily for years -- that's just how humans are made.

And now for the big question:  Why am I talking about AA's bait-and-switch failure on a blog focused on the Sinclair Method?

It's because I recently encountered a sad case of someone trying to combine AA and TSM.  The poor guy has been taught that alcohol is too much for him to manage, and even though the conditioning is now broken, he continues to drink too much.

He is not one of the 10% who are not helped by the method.  He's drinking much less than the truly prodigious quantities he used to consume, which would not be true if he were one of the unfortunate 10%.  Yet he says, "I'm pretty sure that I am powerless over alcohol," even though his own direct experience contradicts that assertion.  He's back in the driver's seat, but continues to drive his life where AA told him he inevitably must.

If you've had Step experience that lasted for any length of time, you may need to get 12-Step dogma out of your head before you can accept your own cure.  You are not a helpless person who needs a miracle from a Higher Power.  You're simply a conditioned individual who can break the conditioning and resume life.


  1. I have never been to AA, so I don't know the scheme/manner of working, but read something about it. But the fact that you have a moral failure/defection and have to do an atonement to everybody in your life and have the same 'stamp' on your forehead for the rest of your life and will be hopeless, powerless and apparently no will to do it without God's will (or whatever higher power) does not work for me.

    If it works for others, fine. I like the community idea without conviction, but not the fact that you have already been convicted before you enter the whole programme and have to out it.

    Also, there are loads of pharmaceutical companies and addiction institutions who don't want their profit go and block any other way of thinking about curing dependency/addiction...

    Is commercial life and getting as much euro's on a patent again leading the way instead of trying to help people get better with a disease?

  2. The addiction centers had a great ride back in the 80s and 90s -- they charged $10k and up to tell people to go to AA meetings. The silliness didn't start dying down until insurance companies began refusing to pay for a "treatment" that didn't work.

    A lot of today's middle-aged addicts are people who were tossed into 12-step "treatment" in their youth.

    Some of these rip-off joints closed their doors, but others just added a bit of therapy and maybe a drug and kept operating as before. They're generally run by True Believers who actually think that a "spiritual malady" is a real thing which can be addressed by Stepping, so they're still around and still psychologically maiming people.

    I wonder how many people have PTSD stemming from confinement in a chemical dependence treatment center?

    It's a dirty, rotten shame.

  3. Reading reviews of naltrexone, I see nobody saying "I took it for a treatment cycle 10 years ago, and still don't drink" or "now drink socially".

    The effectiveness rate looks more like 35%, even if only considering short term results.

    If there were a truly effective, medically administered treatment, it would be REQUIRED. First by market demands, then by internal standards boards, then by the FDA.

    The fact that addiction treatment can still be pretty much "anything you want it to be" says a lot for the medical efficacy of most programs...

  4. Most people are never given the option.

    How are you figuring the 35%?