Over the weekend, The New York Times published one of those pieces. You know those pieces. They come out whenever an AA-slammer wants to sell more books or push their considerably dangerous agenda. The author of this one is Gabrielle Glaser, who published her AA-slamming book, Her Best Kept Secret—in which she claimed that women are questioning, in her words, “the efficacy and safety of…Alcoholics Anonymous”—last year but hey, I know firsthand how tough it is to sell books so the publicity parade for her marches on. While some AA-slammers have clearer motivations for their attacks—they’re addicts who tried the program, didn’t like or couldn’t do it and use their influence to convince the world that they’ve chosen the right path and the 12-steppers are wrong—Glaser’s motives are less clear.
But, like any piece with a strong agenda, Glaser cites studies that supposedly prove AA’s ineffectiveness, failing to mention those other studies that thoroughly contradict them. Glaser doesn’t, for example, mention the 2006 VA study which showed that sobriety at 16 years was associated with AA attendance and not with the quality of treatment people had received. Also not mentioned: two studies from 2003 which reported that a “spiritual awakening” by the third year of sobriety (a tenet of AA) was associated with three times higher abstinence rates.
I’m not saying that AA is the only way. I know people who stay sober without it and have heard great things about SMART Recovery. But it’s just plain irresponsible to plug Moderation Management and then frame the fact that its founder Audrey Kishline was involved in a fatal car crash while drunk into something that’s somehow AA’s fault since it happened three months into her “intention” to go there. It happened, as Kishline will admit, because she believed—and encouraged others to believe—that alcoholics could moderate their alcohol consumption. (I actually appeared on TV with Kishline and what she said then—and continues to say elsewhere—is that her life is now devoted to trying to educate people about the fact that moderation doesn’t work for addicts.)
And Please Leave Alanon Out of This
Glaser also takes the time to discourage parents of addicts from attending Alanon, using as her sole example a 23-year-old girl who binge drinks on the weekends while holding down a “responsible job.” While alcoholism is a self-diagnosed disease and certainly some weekend binge drinkers are addicts, the majority of those who identify as alcoholics drink more often than that and create far more wreckage than, from what that example shows…um, none. Glaser also fails to acknowledge that those parents who need to “disengage” and put their kids “out on the street” are often dealing with children whose diseases are so advanced that they’re stealing from the family or creating some other significant chaos for all.
Keeping People in Denial
The worst thing, to me, is that pieces like Glaser’s give alcoholics exactly what they want to hear when they’re determined to do anything possible to avoid having to change their lives. Look, before I came to AA, I bought all the anti-program books too and told the people I knew in the program that I could very easily quit cocaine but definitely continue to drink normally. Eventually, when my desperation hit a breaking point, I tossed those books aside and stopped telling people who were already sober why they were wrong. My best hope for alcoholics who read Glaser’s piece is for them to experience the same.