An Edited Response to a Query About A.A. Bashers
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
[A Christian physician sent me a letter this morning inquiring about a book by Lance Dodes, M.D., and the program of Smart Recovery as well. The real question is whether A.A. has a success rate as low as 5%. Since I have already written a book about Dodes and some of the other A.A. bashers, I declined to do so. My book is Dick B., God and Alcoholism: Our Growing Opportunity in the 21st Century, 2002. The comments about Dodes can be found on pages 31-33. Many other parts of the book talk about: (1) The Nonsense “gods” of recovery (2) “higher-power-ism” (3) The views of a good many M.D. writers who eschew A.A. (4) Anti-AA Christian writings by the Bobgans and also Dr. Playfair. (4) The substantial evidence of “cures.” (5) The detours presented by “new thought” and “spirituality” writings. (6) The real opportunity for looking at the heart of the A.A. program in the early years—abstinence, surrender to God, obedience of God, spiritual growth with the Bible and prayer, helping others get well, and fellowship with like-minded believers.]
Now for the Edited Response About the Anti-AA Folks and How I Answered My Physician Friend – a Christian and an AA
“I am quite familiar with the writing of James Dodes, M.D. You will find a discussion of him and his position and a critique thereof on pages 31-33 of my book God and Alcoholism: Our Growing Opportunity in the 21st Century.
First of all, Dodes never mentions God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, A.A. History, the early A.A. Christian Fellowship, or the distinction between the today’s widely varied A.A. membership composition and the Akron A.A. program laid out in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers at page 131 and also the book by my son and me–Stick with the Winners.
Second, take God out of A.A., and what have you? Nothing. Nothing that resembles the method by which the first three got sober; the Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship program succeeded so well; Bill Wilson’s “new version” of the program the Twelve Steps which was filled with mention of God, the Creator, Maker, Heavenly Father, Lord; or the great compromise which took God out of Steps Two, Three, and Eleven just before the Big Book went to the printer in 1939.
Third, he, who endeavors to analyze what A.A. is, needs to be examined as to what he knows about the nature of A.A. itself, namely that: (a) A.A. is not monolithic. (b) A.A. has about two million members who come and go with the wind, are not identified, and who flip from meeting to meeting. (c) Today there is no “qualification” of newcomers and therefore A.A. is filled with passers-through, “be-backs,” and “compulsory attenders.” The latter include those ordered to go to A.A. by courts, parole officers, and probation officials. They include those who are bussed to meetings by treatment programs. They include those who are “dumped” into A.A. without any orientation by their counselors or pastors or physicians or family or by people who make no investment in the A.A.’s program and often have little or no knowledge of what A.A. is about. (d) A.A. wears a coat of many colors—Unbelievers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, Hindus, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and some very very very sick people who don’t know what they are, where they are, how they are to beging, or who God is. (e) Moreover, he who writes about A.A. and fails to distinguish between the various epochs in its development and diverse program is writing about something that doesn’t exist.
One epoch involves how the first three got sober, were cured, and said so. The second epoch concerns the bible-oriented program that WAS A.A. from at least 1935 to 1938 and just seldom if ever gets mentioned today. The third consists of the “new version” where Bill put together a polyglot book.
The first part of the “first edition” of that basic text talks about a program that didn’t yet exist—the Twelve Steps and all the other chapters. It repeatedly uses the word “God” and is thoroughly discussed in Stick with the Winners! It deceptively talks about a program that was Oxford Group in character, non-biblical in content, and sports higher powers, new thought, and Bible ideas that are not identified as such.
As to the second part of the “first edition,” it contains the personal stories of pioneers. Most were from Akron or the Midwest area. Almost all, if not all, the stories were written before Bill completed putting his part, his chapters, and his program together. Though intended to be testimonials as to how and why Bill’s Twelve Steps worked the personal testimonials don’t mention his program, the Steps, or the Big Book.
The personal stories in the “first edition” are testimonials primarily by those who followed Dr. Bob’s Akron program. See Dick B. and Ken B., Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous: God’s Role in Recovery Confirmed, 2012. Sad yet significant it is, that for over 50 years the personal stories were, one by one, almost all removed from later editions of the Big Book. Why? Because they depicted some personal viewpoint and experience that some dude in NY didn’t like! And there and elsewhere excused the obliteration justifying it by the age of the drunks, the outrageous behavior supposedly exceeding that of the younger wrongdoers, and the lack of relevance, time-wise, in the accounts of how the really successful pioneers applied the principles of their Akron Christian Fellowship program.
The well-known failure rate of those who come to A.A. (not the A.A. Society itself but those drunks who participate in it) has been reliably estimated by men that I personally know and who are scientists.
One was the head of a major governmental alcoholism effort. One is a professor at University of New Mexico, J. Scott Tonigan, Ph.D. who is a statistician, and a psychologist. One is Joan Matthews Larson, Ph.D. who favors vitamins but who lays out the sad success rate. Again, I would say that most of these are right if you just look at statistics instead of people, if you just talk about science instead of God, and if you just talk about A.A. as if it has some special kind of deity which can be a tree, a door knob, a light bulb, the Big Dipper, Ralph, Gertrude, and the back end of a city bus.
I discuss all these writers in my God and Alcoholism book, and I strongly suggest that you read it thoroughly so that you will know the dramatis personae when you see the remarks of this or that pro-AA, self-proclaimed Christian A.A., Big Book thumper, agnostic, atheist, unbeliever, or raging bleeding deacon
Not that it is earth-shaking in importance, but my own observation as an active AA for 28 continuous years of membership and sobriety is that most AAs fail—possibly as many as 95%. Its archivist told me about 1991 that one-third were out the door in their first 90 days and that 50% were gone by the end of their first year.
The question is: Who are they? Did the failed ones dive into the program, turn to God for help, and then help others! Did they believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible! Do they know the slightest thing about the progression of A.A. history! Had they gotten tangled up with members of the opposite or same sex or unsupportive wives! If you think the 12 Steps really have an impact, have they studied them in the Big Book, the instructions for taking them, and in fact taken them! Do they even know that all those in early A.A. who made the grade almost uniformly said publically that they were cured! Do they have a common agreement on what “cured” and “recovered” and “in recovery” mean from a Conference-approved literature viewpoint or even from a “wisdom of the rooms” viewpoint.
My suggestion is that many of the bashers and doubters and revisionists have a bone to pick with A.A. But it is a bone that is bare when they learn or concede why many winners and successes have renounced alcohol and drugs for good, professed belief in God and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Who actually asked God for deliverance, and then grew spiritually through prayer and Bible study and reading. Who fellowshipped with like-minded believers, started helping others as soon as possible, and isolated themselves from the losers who have a grudge against A.A. Or those who have failed in A.A., or dislike A.A., or want to judge it only by evidence-based tests instead of the truth in God’s Word. Or who are atheists or agnostics or unbelievers, are really concerned that they might lose a client, a patient, a newcomer, or a member if they discuss God, or are grinding the axe of some particular denomination or facility.
Fortunately, I can introduce you to hundreds, probably thousands, across the nation and the world who satisfy the believer criteria above and who have been clean and sober for many years. In fact, I was writing books about them even before so many began writing, emailing, and phoning me—saying “I never knew” and “I want to know more.”
Richard, J.D., CDAAC