More bullshit A.A. hardliners preach: the veiled false dilemma

The Big Book of A.A. is cleverly written. Its author was very smart and persuasive as well as a shitbag. He was a Born Again Christian, meaning that, even sober, he was not living in reality whether he intended to or not.

The BAC flavor of Christopathy, then and today, is one one of those sects that tolerates nothing other than absolute obeisance to a openly narcissistic cock-slapper of a god, yet couches the whole relationship as mostly collegial rather than strictly abusive. By way of comparison, most Evangelical Christians, while ignorant by definition, are neurotypical, and are merely victims of childhood indoctrination with bad ideas. BACs maintain the basic extremist beliefs of standard ECs, but are virtually always mentally challenged. I don’t think this was nearly as true in Bill W’s day as it is now, but the simple fact is that he felt only those who’s had the kind of “saw God” experience he claimed to have had soon after sobering up (when his central nervous system was frantically bombarding him with the nasty phantasmagoria borne of chronic thiamine deficiency) stood a chance of “making it” in the long term.

This all dovetails into the lie that hardliners today buy into and propagate, 50 or so years after Bill W’s death, useful idiots that they are: The insistence that because people have stayed sober doing everything the Big Book “suggests” with great precision, this is not only the optimal route to sobriety but the only viable one.

If you’ve never seen A.A. logic — and believe me, the people using it are, in my experience never lying, and are instead always victims of the general 12-step philosophy — it consists mainly of “no true Scotsman” logical fallacies coupled to a lot false generalizing. The thrust is that anyone who does the 12 steps “as suggested” will stay sober and that many people who have tried other means have failed.

You might be able to see a few problems with this already even if you don’t give a shit about drunkenness, cock-slapping gods or anything in between. One is that it’s painfully easy to paint anyone who “relapses” as someone who actually wasn’t following the steps closely enough or with enough fervor, meaning the problem has nothing to do with an imaginary skylord or the 12 steps themselves and everything to do with the drunkard’s sloppiness. If someone claims to have been following the steps goes on a drinking tear, he or she is instructed to see what might have been lacking in his or her “program.”

Another is that giving accounts of people who don’t stay sober outside of A.A. establishes nothing whatsoever about the real efficacy of A.A.; it just underscores the fact that a lot of people never clean up for good, for all manner of reasons. What a lot of A.A. long-timers often don’t get is that not everyone who bails on A.A., periodically or permanently, can fairly be presumed to be drinking in the absence of other evidence. The simple fact is that, even though Bil W’s own trip to Switzerland to see Carl Jung didn’t amount to dick-all, there are a lot more mental-health options available now than there were when A.A. first struck, and also plenty of other groups where people gather to yammer about their pain, which never ends until they themselves do. We’re all going to die by the end of the week, hopefully of gunshot wounds to the recently bleached anus. Just seeing if you’re actually reading this crap.

Yet another element in this relates to the frailty of Pascal’s wager, which asserts that you have nothing to lose by believing in the Christian god since being wrong is of no consequence in the afterlife. I would argue that this is bullshit for one of the same reasons Pascal’s wager is a crock: It fails to account for sheer wasted time and energy. If one merely “decides” to believe in a given deity and nothing more, that’s one thing. But if he goes through his life making choices aimed at furthering his connection to the faith that are self-destructive, offensive or plain laughable, then the notion of zero opportunity cost falls out the window. And so it is with many folks who languish in the steps of A.A. because they wrongly believe the cult’s founder had their own best interests at heart, wasting hour after hour at unproductive, if often entertaining, meetings when they could be using other modalities to treat their incurable essential shittiness of character. (See, that’s another thing — the insistence that alcoholism is a disease like any other but also a moral failing. Smell the Bible much, fuckers?)

It must be emphasized that, while admitting to the notion of a higher power other than the Christian one to which he himself ardently subscribed may have been part of Bill W’s contribution to A.A., it could not have been part of his own world view, by definition. Bill W himself was commanded by his book of shit (the one he didn’t write) to treat the notion of other gods as a sin punishable by death. The idea that he believed that other people’s false gods (yes, his own was just as fake, but consider Bill’s own perspective here) could help them stay sober is laughable, for he had to be convinced they believed in nothing. Maybe he felt that this, while obviously suboptimal, would be enough to keep such misguided atheists and other non-Christians sober; maybe he felt it was a lost cause but felt obligated to speak to the comparatively few “out” non-believers of his time.

Either way, once again, the struggles of people to achieve a higher power they plainly don’t require for sobriety and general thriving is not their problem. It’s an intentional bug dumped into A.A. by Bill W to keep non-Christians from staying that way.


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