If You Break AA's 11th Tradition, Expect an Email from Headquarters

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If You Break AA’s 11th Tradition, Expect an Email from Headquarters

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writeaboutaaemailI’ve written plenty of articles on Alcoholics Anonymous, as have many writers for this site. If you’re a firm believer in the importance of the 11th Tradition, then you might think we writers who blow our anonymity are a pack of defiant jerks who would be better off using pseudonyms than putting our own interests before the group. This may be so, but guess what? We are legally entitled to write about AA publicly until our fingerprints wear off.

For those of you who might be unschooled in the 11th Tradition, it reads: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we must always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and film.”

Since my articles are particularly snarky and elucidate my personal conflicts with AA, I, unlike other writers who share openly about their experience in AA on AfterPartyMagazine, received a very creepy email from the AA General Service Office a few weeks back, an email reminding me to not use my full name when writing about the program. The entire letter can be found in my post on Medium (I posted it about 30 minutes after they sent it to me).

It took a while to sort through what exactly was being said in the letter, since much of it was shrouded in tangential and patronizing language, including, “First, let us express our deep gratitude to you. From the beginning of A.A. in 1935, its members have recognized that word-of-mouth is not sufficient by itself to carry the program’s message of hope and recovery to the many people still suffering from alcoholism.”

In reality, I’ve done nothing for the program as a writer in the media, so I couldn’t help but feel that whoever had penned the email had some passive-aggressive tendencies. But more important than the passive-aggression is the reality that AA thinks it’s okay to personally contact media professionals who are or who have been AA members. Though I’d like to make an eloquent and nuanced conclusion about this behavior, the first words that come to mind are simply “So not cool.”

Not cool. It is just not in any way appropriate to track down the personal emails of journalists or writers—someone took the time to get my email address, probably by visiting my website, since it’s not listed on any publication I write for—to slap them on the wrists and tell them to keep their mouths shut. Even if my posts were not critical of Alcoholics Anonymous, AA has no right to try to police what members do or do not say, write or post, even if they use their real names. After all, isn’t the entire program just a bunch of “suggestions”? The powers that be in AA have overstepped big time, and in the process they’ve attempted to rob me, and whomever else they sent that email to, of one of my most basic constitutional rights—freedom of speech. And let’s not forget freedom of the press, too.

The sentence that disturbed me the most in the email was: “In addition, and perhaps less understood, our tradition of anonymity acts as a restraint on A.A. members, reminding us that we are a program of principles, not personalities, and that no individual A.A. member may presume to act as a spokesman or leader of our fellowship” (emphasis mine).

The idea that AA is trying to “restrain” members in any way, shape or form, violates the notion that the traditions are “but suggestions.” The reality that General Service reached out in an effort to restrain me is, in my opinion, kinda culty. I wouldn’t go so far as to label AA a cult, especially since one of my pals is a former member of the Church of Scientology and has shared with me the horrors that go down in the church. Still, this former Scientologist (and if I dare drop his name they’ll hunt him down and likely draw up a lawsuit against him for libel and bleed him of all his savings) did see my email from AA email and say, “That’s something Scientology would do.”

Because I have not believed AA to be a cult, despite my issues with the program, I really cringed when that email hit my inbox. I’ve defended AA, even after leaving, saying essentially that though it’s kind of culty at times, it’s no way is it an actual cult. But this email left me sad, disappointed and forced to reconsider my stance.

My friend pointed out that since I am a writer and one with an axe to grind about the program, AA probably made a mistake sending me the letter. “Did it not occur to them that you’ll just turn around and put them on blast?” he asked, dumbfounded. “Common sense just isn’t common enough.”

What most people in AA bring up when discussing anonymity in the media boils down to this: “What if someone goes public that they’re in AA and then they relapse? Then no one will come to AA and they’ll conclude that it doesn’t work!” So yeah, if all those celebrities in AA come out vocally about the program but then relapse, all of a sudden AA’s reputation loses its sacredness. The program might lose influence, steam and perhaps even dwindle.

But anyone who’s participated in the program knows relapsing happens to countless members—it’s even proven through AA’s self studies, in addition to others performed by third-parties. So trying to shield the public from the reality that yes people in AA relapse seems absurd. Because people do. What’s wrong with some transparency?

And if AA doesn’t have a 100% recovery rate, why are they so eager to cover it up? Why not accept that it doesn’t always work and be like, “Hey, our program isn’t perfect. If it doesn’t work for you, why don’t you try SMART or Refuge Recovery or something else entirely that might work better for you?”

You know how many times I’ve heard a sponsor say that? Zero.

The reason is, of course, that according to AA doctrine, the program will work for you as long as you’re doing everything properly. In their mind, the “failures” are people who were “constitutionally incapable of being honest.”

Here I must add that no, I do not think AA is useless. There are people who swear by it, and if it helps keeps them sober, then of course it’s a good thing. But policing members for breaking their anonymity is simply not acceptable, whether the tsk-tsk is coming from other members or General Service. That email I received simply reminded me why I left the program in the first place. I’ve written for countless publications on countless different topics and never have I received an unsolicited email from any person, group, business or organization trying to coerce me to shut up or not use my real name. The point of being a journalist is to write the truth, and in doing so people can become informed and the world can become more transparent.

Freedom of speech is my right—it is the right of every American citizen. Freedom of the press is every journalist’s right. If you don’t agree—well, no need to send me an email about it.

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126 Comments

  1. Rehab reviews she probably moderate its website better. Like many people who slam AA(I am not a 12-stepper and never have been)they are trying to sell something.”Counselor Chick’s” real business is delivering cannabis to your home according to her blog.
    Every comment she makes is designed to bait you into responding. She either is getting paid to advertise for someone or she wants you to look at her business. Do not reply to any of her comments. You are just playing into her scheme to sell something. Her entire Persona could be fake for all we know.

  2. I think the 11th tradition has several safe guards built into it. If members were encourage to go live in the media as individuals it would scare potential members from reaching out for help for fear they will have to let the public know they have a problem. The anonymity is a protection for them and allows them to recover with confidentiality.
    Another point is there are many egos who would love the attention in the media, this tradition helps them to keep their egos in check.
    This policy has been has been suggested for over 60 years and it has served AA well. You can not argue with success with several million people achieving freedom from their addiction.
    The AA message is about the organizations primary purpose and mission, to help someone who has a problem with alcohol, it is not about the individual or the individuals personal opinions.
    AA/NA are two organizations who would love to be put out of business for lack of clients (members) because this would mean a solution for this illness has been achieved. I don’t see anything cultist about that.
    The letter from GSO is informational, the traditions are traditions for a reason, they can not be enforced nor is there any punishment as a result of not adhering to them. The members have voluntarily practiced them out of respect and for the self preservation of the fellowships integrity.
    A letter like this is to members not the media, the media can say what ever they choose, the traditions do not apply to them.

    • How magnanimous of you to allow her to say whatever she chooses.

      You are dead wrong. This form letter is a letter AAWS sends our regularly to the media in an attempt to coerce media members into participating in the lies.

      Cult. Cult. Cult.

  3. I discuss my experience in AA all the time blogging, writing etc. AA does not own my story and will never tell me how to express my journey. The days of secret handshakes and silencing those who have something to say about their experiences are over. We are not supposed to be a cult. I welcome their email. i could use a good laugh. I will blog about it.

    • You will unlikely receive the letter Brian because you are not threatening them with exposure of the truth.

      You ARE a cult and you were designed to be a cult from the get go. The steps were directly plagiarized from the fundamental Christian Oxford Group and rewritten replacing God with Higher Power.

      You are a lovely man Brian who has been sold a bill (literally) of goods that demands you say things like “we are not supposed to be a cult.”

      Your eating disorder story is powerful and deserves to be heard.

      The brainwashing that led to the AA apologies can be thrown out like the bad joke about your 3 failed marriages “one more and I get a set of steak knives.”

      You deserve far better than this for your life just as you deserved far better from your mom.

      Please read this excellent work.
      http://www.orange-papers.org/orange-cult_a0.html

      • SusanJones2007 on

        Oh, please. I write about try experience, too, and I have broken my anonymity in any number of forums. No one is telling her that she cannot write about AA. She received the same form letter that media outlets receive about breaking the anonymity of AA’s members. Nothing personal about nor is she being singled out. The email is largely unchanged from the same letter that has been sent out for decades. These second rate writers should possibly be flattered they are considered professional.

        • Second rate writers? This is one of the most important public health issues today and there are only a few handfuls of people who have had the courage to speak out because of the insults and threats.

          • Susanjones2007 on

            And Congress just passed something about addiction being a disease no one cares that Tracy wants to break her a man in today just not that of others

      • It’s a poorly written rant from someone with an AX to grind. He’s a drunk who was mandated to AA rather than serve prison time, and he’s angry about it. This book certainly doesn’t qualify as any type of academic work. Its basically and overblown blog.

        • Not so fast there Jake. Mr. Warner’s book is a revalation of wha the very revered AA program. The book point s out that AA is indeed a religious program full of religiuos activities.

          And Jake, you should perhaps go back to school so as to improve your grammer.

          I find the following quote interesting: “……….From the beginning of A.A. in 1935, its members have recognized that word-of-mouth is not sufficient by itself to carry the program’s message of hope and recovery to the many people still suffering from alcoholism.”

          One of AA’s many obfuscations is that the AA program is one of attraction, not promotion, yet AA itself is admitting that it needs promotin to survive. lol

  4. Julia Orlando on

    The shroud of “secrecy” can lend itself to continued shame and guilt. I was very open about being in recovery using the term “12 step” & Women for Sobriety. I knew if I held my head down that relapse was possible “for me”. If people knew about me, my recovery and the confident positive new life I built then recovery was attractive. That’s a purpose worth living for because I was not anonymous. I didn’t violate the steps or traditions. I simply moved on to work in depth with WFS. I had 4 years, using both programs, when I walked away from 12 step meetings. I was told I would be drinking within three months if I stopped going to meetings. I now have 15 years and 9 months sober, and I didn’t stop going to meetings, I have been leading WFS meetings because I know myself and the importance of support in every area of my life and the importance of transparency as a recovering alcoholic. People can see me out in the open and it makes me approachable. Do I recommend AA? Yes, because when I needed face to face support with people like myself they were there. We do whatever it takes even if we have to leave a lot there that we didn’t necessarily need. Tracy, I am offended for you and the email you received. Anonymity has its purpose and if someone needs it, they should maintain it. But there are other ways to attract and that is to go where help is needed, visibility in a cyber world where people are seeking help from the privacy of their homes is actually pretty anonymous!

    • What does this have to do with this article? Or is this just for you to defend the dangerous cult religion known as the 12 steps while advertising your new “programme?”

      Jean Kilpatrick invented WFS in direct opposition to the disempowering dogma of the 12 steps with emphasis on women’s needs. Unfortunately she is an AA apologist, which is more from a sense of self-preservation than anything else … since the AA cult disciples are so defensive.

      Her program is still about EMPOWERMENT when AA strips members of their power … Like the attempt to strip authors of their power to speak truth with a form letter.

      Does WFS send out letters like this? No way. Only AA is so completely full of egotistical, know-all-all brainwashed, gas lighting, abusive, pseudo-suggestive, coercive BILLShit.

      You still recommend AA even though you left. Thank you for the excellent example of “how it works.” Truly.

      Side note – the vast majority of people mature out of substance issues and moderate successfully. WFS is another “abstinence-or-nothing-disease-model” programme. If abstinence is your goal, WFS can help but so can CBT and Motivational Interviewing and Mindfulness and a myriad of EVIDENCE-BASED interventions.

      By the way — mentally healthy people, when alerted to the truth about the AA cult say, “huh, I didn’t know that about AA. That’s good to know.” Healthy people being the operative.

      If the truth about your “programme” produces a foaming-at-the-mouth anger in you … You might be in a dangerous cult religion. Hahahahahahahahaha!

      • James

        “the vast majority of people mature out of substance issues and moderate successfully.”
        What a load of nonsense. You’ve just proven that you know absolutely nothing about addiction, and you call yourself an expert. What you are is a crackpot lady… a total loon.

      • christopher wolcott on

        The notion that the vast majority of people with substance abuse issues “mature out of substance issues and moderate successfully” is simply not the case. Where you would have garnered such an outrageous idea, I’m not sure, but it’s not the case. Your overly aggressive and condemning posts must have a root cause, but how are you served by this contempt?There are valid points that the tools of AA and the model for recovery outlined in the 12 steps can be misused by those who choose to deem themselves capable of judging how others should or should not approach their individual recovery, but that is the exception to the rule and not indicative of the ideal – that each person take from the program what is relevant to them and that all each of us needs to do is to make a commitment to ourselves to be honest, humble and vulnerable. It is, not unlike the eightfold path of Buddhism, a program of action. The idea that every aspect has to pass some scrutiny or the whole thing gets damned is problematic and doesn’t help anybody get or stay sober. Whatever your axe is that you feel compelled to grind, get over it. Move on.

  5. Andrea Graves on

    Critics of this piece are totally missing the point it seems. It seems the author is trying to add transparency to what is normally a very closed and unknowable group — AA. I don’t think she’s whining or self-important for doing so when this issue affects people who need to recovery. So I don’t get where all this judgement is coming from toward the author for telling it like it is. Is recovery something we shouldn’t be honest about? Should we not move forward and make available other methods? AA has a shady history and is really outdated and exposing the weird things they do seems upstanding to me, not the other way around. Let this girl off the hook. At least she had the balls to speak her mind and put herself out there. That takes courage.

  6. I hope that any person searching for recovery may find it, by any means necessary. Whatever works for them, to each his own. To say that ANY organization is ALL right or ALL wrong is ridiculous. Especially when it comes to programs that are only trying to help desperate people find a way out of their chaos. Of it didn’t work for you, I hope you found something that did. As for me, I attempted recovery several times, many different ways before I found the right combination of actions to take that has worked for over four years now. In the past, when I relapsed, I did not blame the programs I tried for MY failure, whatever the case may have been. As for Counselorchick, I hope whoever you are counseling is aware that you have such bias toward 12 Step programs, and that perhaps they should choose not to drink Your koolaid. As a future CADC, I am learning to have an open mind and strive to help my clients do the same, by not pushing my personal opinions into their life. I have no opinion on what works and what doesn’t. I do not find myself to be so self-important that my opinion on that would even matter to anybody. I say, try whatever it takes to find recovery, so you don’t die. THAT is what really matters. To bad mouth any program that promotes recovery could be what causes someone to not try something that could have been just the right fit for them.

    • Andrea Graves on

      The author isn’t “self-important” for writing openly about a program of recovery that pretends to have no governing body or authority writing her. This is a weird move on behalf of AA that would leave anyone who knows what they SAY they stand for (unorganized, no authority, etc.) to believe that this is all BS. They clearly have someone taking time to email people who don’t follow the rules, and that is very troubling.

      • Even a future “CADC” has the need to attempt ad hominems and defend that which is indefensible. This cult religion should be banned from rehabs since it is merely a dubious at best self help group and is not based in evidence or science. Any treatment facility that pushes the “powerless-disease” dogma of the 12 steps (95% of this $35 billion dollar business), should not charge anything for their “services.” More people are HARMED by this cult religion than are helped by it … That has been proven beyond a doubt. Spontaneous remission does not count steppers.

        Thanks for hanging in here Andrea. These steppers are “sicker than others!” They have accepted this negative affirmation as their “way of life.”

        Touching their brainwashed nerves is worth all the BILLShit they spew. Clinicians who push the 12 step cult should not have licenses to practice.

        From booze/other drugs to AA koolaid.

        It works if you run from it! (As the vast majority do within the first three months of attempted brainwashing.)

        • And what evidence do you have that more people are harmed than helped? Did you conduct a study? Or is this just an anecdote about your experiences in AA?

        • It has become readily apparent, that you are not what you claim to be. No legit CDAC would act in the manner that you do. You should be treating people with respect and compassion and intelligence, but instead, you attack and berate and insult. I seriously doubt you have any credentials at all.

          • Not that I have need to defend my expertise to you or any other brainwashed stepper, but on social media … Where there is no informed consent or client/clinician relationship … I have FREEDOM OF SPEECH and nothing you desperate steppers say will stop the TRUTH from being exposed.

            Suck it up sunshine. All the ad hominem attempted attacks will only expose your little cult further. The brainwashing works!

            You all say the exact same BILLShit. Cult. Cult. Cult.

          • SusaJones2007 on

            Actually, she claims to have a cert in – of all things – 12 step from Hazelden. She says that any clinician who deals in 12 step should not be licensed is pretty funny given that she isn’t licensed. CA doesn’t require it. CC had success in AA when she used it, but she chose to go out.

          • Laura,
            You have done nothing but spew Ad Hom attacks on this page. You don’t have anything intelligent to add to the discourse, so you post links to articles that were debunks ages ago… The Orange papers? Seriously? thats what you’re trying to sell here?

          • Why steppers are so threatened by the brilliant orange papers is further proof of their deep and damaging brianwashing Monty. Good luck out there. Keep coming back!

            The truth is the truth whether you like it or not and, like Tracy and all the enlightened people, I will continue to speak the truth no matter how stepper disciples “balk.” But then again … You “seem to have been born that way.” How unfortunate you actually believe that BILLShit.
            For the rest of us, we will use our innate power to spread truth.
            I will spend not one more nanosecond reading nor responding to your ridiculous assertions and claims.
            The VAST majority of people unfortunate enough to find themselves “in the roomz” of your thought-control cult religion LEAVE for very good reason. It doesn’t work, no matter how you “work it.”
            “Go with god now. Easy does it. Keep it simple, stupid.”

          • Laura,
            There is nothing brilliant about your blog, and certainly no evidence that AA destroys self-esteem. How can you destroy people’s SELF-estem? Esteem comes from within, no one can give it to you, no one can take it away. Stop blaming AA for your problems in life. Get a grip and move on. It’s obvious that you are a sick person, maybe its time that you sought help, rather than just live in bitterness and illness.
            Your blog is a poorly written, badly sourced joke.

  7. Phil Johnson on

    Frightening, and right out of Bill WIlson’s mouth on page 69 of the AA General Service Manual:

    “Privately, however, we can inform Tradition-violators that they are out of order. When they persist, we can follow-up using such other resources of persuasion as we may have, and these are considerable. Manifested in this fashion, a persistent firmness will often bring the desired result.”

    http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_bm-31.pdf

    Okay. If that’s not a cultish, I don’t know what is. The rest of the page is also illuminating (and frightening). Lord knows what the other “resources of persuasion” are. But they’re “considerable”. I don’t even want to know.

    • Oh yeah the 12 steps are a full on cult religion. In fact, if you need a manual on how to set up a cult for longevity … AA and it’s “AA approved literature” should be your template!

      Wilson was as sick as sick can be … A guru pretending not be BE a guru. A charlatan pretending have had a “spiritual awakening.” A mysogynist posing as a savior. A scammer who would take your last ounce of self-esteem while convincing you that YOU are nothing but “character defects.”

      Brainwashing at its most debilitating defined by “time” spouting dogma that would take down the most majestic of animals. The human animal deserves far better.

      The “desired result” is keeping the cult alive no matter how many lives are destroyed. BRILLIANT!

      • You seem to be a very sad and bitter individual. I’m curious what AA did to you that made you this way, because it’s bordering insane. You’ve made 12 comments on this post in 2 days. You might want to seek professional help for your delusions. If you don’t like AA, or had bad experiences, thats fine, but to claim that it’s harmful is just ridiculous. People make their own decisions in life. You choose to be hateful. Thats a shame.

        • Typical Cult Stepper attempt at ad hominem attacks.

          You COUNTED my comments and noted the days they were posted! Hahahahaha! That’s priceless …

          Thank you so much for the most excellent example of “how it works!” (So desperate are these cult disciples to shut down the truth! You do the work for us!)

          • And yet, you’re the one that continually comments on the same post. A little bit obsessive, no? AA has helped millions of people recover. What have you done except launch baseless attacks? If you don’t like AA, and it didn’t work for you, thats terrific. I don’t attack SMART or Rational recovery, that for individuals to decide.

        • People don’t need a “programme” at all Jake. That idea is yet another 12 step invention to keep the “roomz” full at the expense of the members’ emotional health. Sorry your feelings are so hurt by the truth. Guess you’re just going to have to call your sponsor and up your attendance at meetings lest you become “one of the unfortunates.”

          My work is only based on SCIENCE and EVIDENCE and nothing will stop me from this highly important work. Suck it up sunshine.

          You have FAILED at shutting down the truth. Oh and btw, SMART is EVIDENCE-BASED help with TRAINED facilitators. SMART is about empowerment that encourages members to use the tools and move on with their lives, unlike the 12 step cult religion. You can check it but you can never check out. Keep coming back.

          I will waste not one more second responding to you. (But you are gaining on me with your number of comments here! LOL)

          I hope the brainwashing subsides soon and a genuine moment of clarity can happen for you.

          • No, thats ok. My feelings aren’t hurt at all. As a matter of fact, I feel terrific, and free. Free from your childish insults and your misspelled words. I don’t know what kind of doctor you think you are, but you must not be very successful, otherwise you wouldn’t be spending so much time on here. But keep up the insults, it really makes you look foolish.

            I’ve looked into SMART and Rational, and I’m just fine with my life as it is. I would like to see the SCIENCE that your work is supposedly based on.

          • Susanjones2007 on

            You did, Laura. So did your sister. She was sober in 12 step before seizing in her tub in that dump. It works for a lot of people.

      • He certainly would have tried. 13th stepping started with the guru! Of course!

        “Bill W.’s Disturbing Behavior
        Additionally, Bill Wilson struggled with depression throughout all his recovery that was so severe at times that he would hold his head in his hands and weep, he wasn’t able to respond to questions and he couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes it was accompanied by heart palpitations, a stomachache and feeling sick all over. His wife, Lois, often referred to him as “almost a hypochondriac” and he sometimes experienced hysteria and breathing problems that he felt he couldn’t control.

        Bill’s behavior indicated that he also had a very active sex addiction that completely ruled his life and often threatened to destroy everything he had worked for. Bill Wilson’s sex life is not well known or talked about because people of AA “shrouded it in secrecy.” It was intentionally kept out of official AA literature and archives because it would have a negative impact on the AA movement.

        Bill Wilson was the original 13 stepper. It is where the term was coined. If you’re unfamiliar with what a 13 stepper is, it is an elder member in AA who takes advantage of the newer and vulnerable members by using them for sex. Although Bill was married, he engaged in numerous affairs over the years with AA members, particularly the newcomers, and is said to have had an eye for the younger ladies. The older he got, the younger he liked them. The sad truth of the matter is that Bill W. used his position as a leader in the AA community to use and sexually exploit young women who were new to the program.

        His behavior was so out of control that it is rumored that certain members of AA were actually delegated the responsibility of following Bill Wilson and working as “watch dogs” to keep vulnerable young women out of his grip. Whenever they saw him zeroing in on his prey, one person would distract Bill while another person took the young woman under their wing for protection.

        Later on he maintained a long-term mistress with a woman who was 22 years younger than he was, Helen Wynn, and even left her 10 percent of earnings from the Big Book in his will. He had wanted to leave her a much heftier amount, but the AA trustees wouldn’t allow it. At more than one point Bill contemplated leaving his wife for Helen, but never went through with it out of fear for the controversy it would cause in AA.

        Bill Wilson’s sexual behavior with the women caused a great deal of controversy and concern throughout the AA community and even caused him loss of friendships. Tom Powers, a long time close friend, colleague and editor, actually left the fellowship and developed his own offshoot group as a result of his disappointment and disgust with Bill’s inability to control his sexual urges. He didn’t want to be publicly associated with Bill and is quoted as saying, “this sex thing ran through the whole business” and “Bill had to get this sex thing straightened out in program terms so he wasn’t lying about it all the time.”

        A lot of people, including trustees, worked very hard to keep Bill Wilson’s big sexual secret hidden and actually devoted their life to protecting the image of Bill W. in order to prevent public embarrassment of AA. Even his wife, Lois, accepted his infidelities, kept quiet and participated in the cover up.

        Friends who were close to Bill Wilson. would try and talk to him about the sex issue and he would acknowledge that they were right and try to mend his ways, but he just couldn’t do it. They report that it was a source of great inner conflict and agony for him. In Bill’s writings he often referred to the sex drive as a natural human trait that could at times rage out of control. His friends tell us he was tortured by his behavior that violated his own values and morals; however, he vacillated back and forth between attempting to change and then rationalizing and justifying his behavior when he fell backwards.

        In a program that Bill Wilson himself designed to demand rigorous honesty and unselfishness, Bill was living a lie and a very poor example of a man who was supposed to be living an unselfish, spiritual life. He was constantly cheating, lying and sneaking around on his wife and exploiting vulnerable women in the program with no regard for the impact it had on their life. His friends say he was consumed with remorse, self-loathing, guilt, despair and shame as a result of his inability to live up to his own expectations as well as others, and often felt he wasn’t worthy of leading AA.

        Sex was not the only addiction Bill Wilson was still struggling with. He was also a heavy chain smoker and caffeine consumer. It is reported that his wife, Lois, often complained of these behaviors and accused him of being addicted to them, but Bill brushed it off by referring to her as an overreacting nag.

        Bill repeatedly struggled with a battle to give up cigarettes. He would give them up for a while and then drive other people crazy by begging for theirs. He was rarely seen without a cigarette in his hand. Papers on his desk were consistently covered with ashes and little burn holes, and the edges of tables and desks were scarred with long cigarette burns.

        Bill Wilson was so addicted to nicotine that he continued to smoke even though he developed emphysema and became dependent upon an oxygen tank to get through the days. It was clear to Bill that smoking was the cause of his emphysema, but he couldn’t quit. Those close to him report that he often struggled with making a decision about what he needed or wanted more — cigarette or oxygen. More often than not the cigarette won out.

        In 1969, as he got sicker and sicker, he pretended to quit smoking, but he kept cigarettes hidden in his car and would sneak out for a drive to have a secret smoke. Bill Wilson literally smoked himself to death. He died from emphysema and pneumonia.

        Bill also continued to fight intense cravings for alcohol until the moment he died. As he lay on his deathbed, he wanted a drink so badly that he asked his assistants to bring him one on at least five different occasions; but knowing the disastrous impact it would have on AA, they refused. His cravings were so intense that on one of these occasions he became belligerent and threatened to punch a nurse.

        –Alternatives to AA website

  8. 1. The fact that you’re no longer a member (“I left the program…”) means you’re outside the scope of the Traditions anyway. Ignore at will.
    2. Even if you were a member, AA has no enforcement capabilities, so you could ignore the recommendation then too.
    3. I have been the head of a regional Public Information committee and I have sent such notes out to people in the media. It’s one alcoholic in AA writing to another in AA, reminding him or her of a principle we have long found useful. I had no follow-up or enforcement status. I was just reminding them.
    4. I have heard (and said) many times, “AA is not for everybody. Try whatever you like when it comes to getting sober. If you want to try us, we’ll work with you.” AA is the least restrictive fellowship I’ve ever run across.
    5. Many people have problems of one kind or another with AA, its program or its members. We’re just human beings who have found a way that works for us, we offer it to others, and we’re imperfect. Many people have indeed found sobriety and meaningful lives through or via AA. The door is open either way.
    6. I wish you well on all levels.
    7. As you know, I’m speaking for me, not for AA.

    • P.S. I would also write to people in the press who were obviously not members who used the full names of our members in stories, reminding them that anonymity is central to our identity and asking that they consider not doing so. Again, no enforcement capabilities.

      • Phil Johnson on

        This is still very Big Brother and in no way appropriate. Writers should be free to do as they please without the nudge-nudge, no matter how mild, from a religious group. If any organization took the time to get emails of writers to explain to them what to do, it would be creepy, wrong, and sort of 1984.

          • I’m sorry but I can’t take anything you say seriously after your assertion that it’s creepy to “take a lot of time ” to search out your email address, and then say that they must have gone to your website. Really how much time does that take? Freedom of speech cuts both ways, and freedom of writing . Writers should expect to get letters about what they write; it means they’re being read. It’s not shocking. I do think asking you not to use your full name is over the line, but you are very disingenuously blurring the issue by suggesting that that means they are trying to censor the actual writing and your opinion of AA. Where in the letter does it say ” and stop slamming us”? Agree with the person further down the thread who says asking that you respect Tradition 11(while ludicrous and outdated) is an ask, not censorship. They didn’t find your house and kids, or even snail mail you, they sent you an email. Get over it! Oh:
            And for all its failures, AA has also saved many lives.

    • It’s the rational- sounding AA cult religion apologists who are the most dangerous of all making it sound as if the chant “take-what-you-need” is actually possible. The big subterfuge in the “spiritual not religious” dogma quickly turns to “find God and call him by name.”

      You’re completely missing Tracy’s most insightful points by “allowing” her to break your cult traditions “at will.” How generous of you! You have absolutely no problems with “active” members of your cult religion using their entire names to push your dogma. Celebrities constantly push your cult dogma and you e got no problem with that.

      In fact, you’re supposed to stay out of “outside issues” like this very article. You break your beloved traditions all the time and just like the good steppers you are, you rationalize it and justify it for the cult. Constantly attempting to recruit perfectly healthy people into believing they need anything you have!

      Since you are so deeply brainwashed and so much a part of the organization, you can’t possibly speak for yourself … You have no self outside your cult-speak. “Rigorous honesty” is unavailable to you as long as you are in this state of perpetual cognitive dissonance.

      How dare you you attempt to shut down Tracy’s freedom of speech by giving her permission to have her freedom since she was smart enough to get out.

      As for your cult not being “perfect”? No. You are a member of the longest running most dogmatic highly brainwashing cult religion of all time. The program is perfect. It’s “alcoholics” who can’t trust their own ability to think!

      Long term members of the 12 step cult religion are insane powerless diseased condescending abusive harmful sicker than sick disciples. For ever and ever. Amen.

      Keep coming back b

      • Counsilorchick- If you are spewing your ‘facts’ for us, add a website with a ‘.edu’ after it, with p values and confidence intervals please. You are clearly personally wounded by the fellowship. I am truly sad for you and the amount of anger you harbor. My guess is that it is anger at yourself, and you are projecting it outward.

        Whatever works for someone, let it work. Allow someone their options, because if their answer is in the 12 steps, so be it. They should have the option available to them.

        • Susanjones2007 on

          She is angry at everyone. No one in her family talks to her. Fortunately, she has restraint on this forum or you wouldn’t be able to wade through the profanity.

          • CounselorChick is a very intelligent woman who has every right to be angry at a destructive cult. It’s very good and natural to be angry at fraud and blatant lies.

          • Susanjones2007 on

            Tom her frustration with as is not why her why her family doesn’t speak to her

    • Phil Johnson on

      Rob:
      1. Tracy received an unsolicited email from your organization telling her what to do and how to write, essentially encouraging her to avoid the truth. That’s out of line. Even if she is out of A.
      2. Even if AA doesn’t “enforce” the 11th Tradition, you’ve crossed a line to encourage it by contacting writers through their email addresses, implying that they need a little nudge nudge and haven’t already chosen to write what they’ve written on their own.
      3. How did you send out such notes? Were you literally patrolling the internet and media for these articles? Does that not seem sort of Big Brother-y? It’s very suspect behavior.
      4. THat’s nice that you say “AA is not for everybody.” Unfortunately, since sponsors are not trained or regulated, many say the opposite…that if it doesn’t work it’s because you have not “worked the program” right. THis leads many to worse addictions, including death, when abstinence fails them. AA is not a regulated or professional program. Because of this, a good portion of sponsors are dangerous. Telling people to get off medications, telling them what to do.
      5. You may be human beings but why are you allowed to engage behavioral and mental health and addiction treatment without any credentials whatsoever? It may have worked in 1935. In 2016 it’s a dangerous concept given how much more we know about addiction.
      6. THat’s nice of you.
      7. THat’s the problem. There’s no ONE AA way, and for vulnerable people with alcohol and drug problems, they can get suckered into dangerous sects or sponsors, or, if they read the literature, brainwash themselves.

      • Susanjones2007 on

        Phil, did you read the email? It asked one thing and that was to refrain from naming members. We say the same thing at open meetings.

  9. James

    Tracy,

    You have no problem trashing AA in the “media” but then you cry when they tell you to sit down and shut up. Fairly typical response.
    First of all, you really need to look up the word censorship, and have someone explain the 1st Amendment to you, because it’s fairly obvious that you lack understanding of what each means.

    And to the rest of the AA haters – you’re right.. AA IS a cult. And we like it that way. If you don’t want to stay sober, or if you don’t like AA, thats great. Have a nice life.
    And if you feel compelled to write disparaging articles about AA, well, that’s cool too. We all need something to read on the toilet. But if you decide to attack someone, and they attack you back (albeit in the most passive-aggressive manner ever), then don’t whine about it. It just makes you look silly.

    • James, you are brainwashed and clearly have no idea how to read. AA should be disparaged. It’s a freakshow religious cult that causes more harm than good. People who adhere blindly don’t know how to think for themselves. So any article that criticizes AA in any way is a total THREAT. Why are you so threatened? The program is outdated and useless. Read the BAD SCIENCE OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS. My life has increased in happiness ten fold since I left that wonky cult.

      • Yes! They can chant “happy, joyous and free” all day long but as long as they are threatened by the truth without the slightest ability to even consider they are HARMING themselves and others, they are chanting farts in the wind.

        There is no “miracle” and there is no “making it.” It’s by design from their World Services Cult Leaders.

        The more they attempt to beat up on the enlightened, the more they prove how brain damaged they are.

        Good for you for getting out!

      • james

        Anjelika,
        If you felt damaged by AA and decided to leave, thats good for you. I’m neither brainwashed, nor ignorant, nor do i need your advice on what I should read or how I should approach my own sobriety. I’m quite content being part of a cult who’s only aim is to help people in dire situations.
        As for the idea that it causes more harm than good, thats just ridiculous.

  10. Andrea Graves on

    Everyone criticizing the writer for standing up for free speech and choosing to fight censorship has a chip missing. Seriously…its so shockig that idiots from AA think it’s okay to tell writers what to do, and then criticize writers for speaking trutjfully. AA is not some holy sacred space. And to ask members to uphold their traditions is a sign that it’s a cult. And the comments here just point to how severely people have been programmed, brainwashed, how self-righteous and “grandiose” they are

  11. Her grandiosity is astounding.
    GSO is simply asking her to abide by something, as an AA members, that the ‘group conscience’ of AA ‘democratically’ decoded a long time ago.
    If her allegiance to her identity as a writer is stronger, she of course has a right to honour that. But any allegiance or dedication to AA principles, as an AA member, would necessitate staying anonymous.
    Of course she doesn’t have to.
    GSO is asking her to honour AA precepts – as an AA member. If it’s not important to her, she doesn’t have to do it – her ‘membership’ isn’t rescinded, she is simply disavowing her responsibility to its principles, and she’s allowed to so that.shes simply contaminating her own commitment to AA.
    But to be outraged at a reminder of what AA as a whole decided long ago n the interest of protecting itself is an outrageous bit of grandiosity. She’s a blogger for chrissakes! Nobody cares.

    • Andrea Graves on

      How is it grandiose to expose censorship attempts? Do you not realize the value and importance of free speech??? Are you not GETTING what the whole point of the article was? People should and do care, because AA has no right to do this. It’s frightening and unethical.

      • They do this in so many ways with all the chanting, mantras and disempowering dogma. It’s diabolical.

        You would really enjoy Robert Warner’s book, How AA Steals Your Soul. It lays out how they do it, when they pull the big switcheroos in the steps and what to do and say when they try to shut down truth.

        Thank you for your clear, intelligent and reasonable perspective! It’s so refreshing. This cult must be exposed!

    • I agree -this persons inflated sense of self has jeapordized the lives of many she comes off like a right wing fanatic that has to hold on to her constitutional rights so she can mentally masturbate while thumbing her nose at what her bandwagon is tooting as a brainwashing cult -it’s called behavioral modification with a suggestion of spiritual practice and you can come & go at will-I’ve researched their history I’m familiar with the Oxford group and I’m in the trenches practicing the 12th -the writers piece was too long to wade through but I got the point -keep it simple -you ain’t blowin the lid off nothing it’s not a cult it’s not a regime it’s a way to live without alcohol

        • James, you just said that AA IS a cult and ‘we’ like it that way. Tracy does not come across as a ‘right wing fanatic’ and critical thinking is not ‘mental masturbation’. Both you and Alice have shown exactly ‘How it works’.

          • James

            Tom,
            I read your blog. Saying that AA made you depressed and insane is like saying the gin mill made you drink. Stop whining and take responsibility for your own actions.

  12. Phil Johnson on

    WOAH, you people didn’t “read” the part that implored AA writers to not to use their FULL names? I really don’t understand what is OK about an organization sending emails requesting writers do or do not do any particular thing or say any particular thing. It’s very very creepy…and very unethical, especially given they’re targeting the press. Critical thinking skills needed, Susan, apparently, to read this article. And that’s what Tracy seems to do that the AA camp can’t tolerate – think critically. It is the duty of anyone in the press to tease out the intent behind these kinds of “policing” behaviors. And they are policing. It’s not overreacting to acknowledge that AA is just plain weird and completely inappropriate.

    • Exactly! But then again, AA disciples are brainwashed to think that their “best” thinking is their perpetual enemy and their only recourse is to listen to AA unless they want to end up in three and only three places … “Jail, Institutions, or Death.” Chant the chants enough and you cannot allow anyone to threaten your cult!

      They’ve given up their freedom of speech as a “way of life” and they will be damned sure to attempt to force you to give up yours right along with them. Just like the good “drunks” they are self-labeled, they do not like to drink alone.

      Booze to AA koolaid.

    • I think the bigger deal is that she no longer considers herself a member, neither do I, yet AA still does. Very cultist and controlling if someone decides individually to leave and the organization refuses to acknowledge it. Trying to control former members by asking them to adhere to their rules even after they leave is like my middle school Principle giving me detention for being late to work last week. Funny how after I left two years ago, none of my Aa friends call or come by my house anymore, even though I am financially, spiritually, and mentally better since leaving. Truth is, they can’t handle the fact that someone as addicted as I was could leave and not succumb to nails institutions or death.

      • They’re also hoping for you to come back with yor tail between your legs desperately searching for “what the have.” They’re hoping you fail! Some friends!

        When all they have is disempowering dogma that only gives them thought-stopping chants and mantras … They spend their lives “faking it till they make it!”

        Since there is no “making it” they are nothing but fakes, phonies, and abusive predators! And that’s just the “old timers!”

        Good for you for taking your life back! You are in the majority who find themselves unfortunate enough to spend time “in the roomz.”

        You deserve better than a life spent in a fake “spiritual awakening.”

    • Susajones2007 on

      If you want to use your own name, you can. Aa asks that you not use the names of others in the fellowship. Read more than the article. Read the email she claims to have been sent.

      • SusanJones2007 on

        Yet she mislead what it said. It doesn’t tell a person they cannot write about AA, just to maintain the anonymity of its members.

        More anti AA twists.

        As for truth, CC, you maintained seven years of great sobriety though 12 step. You were pleased about it. What happened?

    • Phil Johnson on

      Obviously it’s a form letter, but that’s not the point of Tracy’s piece. She even says “and whoever else got that letter”. It being a form letter does NOT make it OK. Why is everyone missing the point? It’s not ok to send that stuff out. It’s an effort to censor the press and therefore VERY alarmning.

      • They’ve been sending out this letter for years and years. The threat of exposure is very real for them. Thankfully, more people are calling BILLShit on this cult religion!

        Nice job Phil!

      • Susanjones2007 on

        It isn’t a crime to go to aa. It isn’t newsworthy, either. The letter asks that you respect others.

        • Keeping people in the dark is the opposite of respect. Creating a situation where nobody knows what happened because everyone is anonymous only serves the cultish interest of silence and secrecy.

          • james

            Oh, come on Tom… It’s not like anything is kept in the dark. It’s a well-known organization. It advertises on the internet. It’s book are on Amazon… it’s not exactly the Masons.

      • Good point. I wrote to G.S.O. and specifically cited this blog post and Tracy’s other post regarding the letter she received, and asked their opinion/response. The reply I received stated, in part: “This year our message was sent to over 29,000 email addresses on a mailing list of media members that we rented. We did not decide who would receive our message based upon any individuals’ names, if [sic] fact we never saw any of the names on the mailing list, we simply selected the titles and positions of media members for the mailing.” It goes on to state: “G.S.O. offers no opinion on any individual’s blog or internet posting.”

        So it appears to me that Tracy’s reception of the letter was a mass mailing that coincided with her blog posts, not that she was singled out for what she posted (assuming, of course, that the writer of the reply I received is telling the truth). That still doesn’t make mass-mailings in an effort to get journalists and press outlets to play along with AA’s traditions okay, but it does at least relieve me that no one at G.S.O. is trying to actively censor *specific individuals*.

  13. Peggy Ritter on

    First off, you are completely wrong. Even the Big book says AA is not the only way and that AA has no argument with those who choose other methods.
    Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself,
    we surely have no monopoly. Yet it is our great hope
    that all those who have as yet found no answer may
    begin to find one in the pages of this book and will
    presently join us on the high road to a new freedom.

    • SusanJones2007 on

      How did she scare the shit out of anyone? If anything, she demonstrated that she cannot read and that Anti AA followers don’t bother to read before they defend.

      AA isn’t going to know if she is a member, current or past, and they sent her a form letter that she is taking personally. It doesn’t say anything beyond remembering the tradition of anonymity and to not publish names of members.

      • Phil Johnson on

        @ How on earth does any organization send a letter to ALL of the press?? Do you guys know how the press works? Do you know hoe many hundreds of thousanda of people write for the press? Why dont you write all journalists and ask if they got the letter. Alliskn McCabe writes for the Fix, a recovery site. Thats why she got the letter. It is impossible that AA headquarters has gathered all journalists’emails to bomb them with this letter. You can write journalists who cover other beads and see if they received it. Highly doubt it. the reason Tracy got the email is because she’s written openly about AS MANY times. I know journalists writing on other topics. THEY didn’t get the letter. Honestly, you guys really need to think.more. Even the White House doesn’t have the resources to email blast “everyone in the press”. Obviously , they send to people who identify as AA members.

        • Susanjones2007 on

          It doesn’t send it to all. Tracy is writing for recovery sites. Not too hard to figure. And no one, including saws, tried to stop that.

  14. Believing that the 12 steps is not a cult in comparison to an even more obvious cult, does not negate it’s cult status.

    The 12 step cult is the most brilliant cult ever devised by DESIGN … “Spiritual not religious” for a start.

    The more I researched the damage done, in spite of friends who insisted “it works” and those members who foamed at the mouth with anger for anyone even questioned their “program,” the more I went from where you are …

    “It’s not really a cult but …”

    To where I am now. The 12 step programme is a full on slow emotional death cult religion.

    They gave you this enormous gift of exactly how much of a dangerous cult religion they are by sending this letter. Most people who get this letter are fooled by the “thank you in advance for your participation in our tradition of anonymity” subterfuge. Otherwise, you’re “killing alcoholics” if you turn one “real alcoholic” off from their faith healing way of life.

    You see .. It DOES work! They have been shutting down freedom of speech for almost a hundred years by making you think it was YOUR idea to stop writing the truth about them and their “program of suggestions.” Good for you for knowing that your thinking is not perpetually broken.

    Brilliant blog Tracey. Thank you for this most important work.

    • Amy Jamison on

      Dude. If her article was that pointless then why did you click on it? To leave that comment? What AA did, sending that email, was not OK, and people need to know about it.

        • Tom; all meetings are not public; there are closed meetings. And you are expressly requested to introduce yourself by your first name only. Yes one could find out who goes to meetings by parking outside of one, but there’s really no way around that.

      • SusanJones2007 on

        Because you can’t eat an article until you’ve read it, Amy.

        Sending that email was correct on the part of GSO. Not bothering to read it and then commenting on it is poor (but normal) form on the part of anti-AAs. All it asks is when writing to not real the names of AA members.

          • No, it also implies that the media’s role is to “carry the message of hope and recovery”, and keep people reluctant to seek AA’s help confident that their anonymity will be protected. However, this is a deliberate misrepresentation of what anonymity is about, since 12-step meetings are public meetings and you are expected to announce your name. Nobody is told to use a false name, but it’s quite likely that some of the more clever members do.

  15. SusanJones2007 on

    So much wrong here that it is funny. AA doesn’t say it has a 100% recovery rate and no one thinks that no one relapses in AA. In fact, there are people coming to AA who have not even made the decision if they think they are alcoholic or not.

  16. Hi Tracy – just wanted to point out a couple of things that don’t really have anything to do with your main thesis, but I think are important.

    The first amendment guarantees that you won’t be arrested for what you say; anyone can tell you to shut up (and you can keep right on talking).

    Also, IMHO no program will work unless one is 100% committed to recovery – not AA, not smart, not physical therapy for tennis elbow. That’s how I interpret the line about honesty.

    Anyway, interesting post. Thanks for your input.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Masters in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.

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