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. Continue reading “More bullshit A.A. hardliners preach: the veiled false dilemma”
One theme that invariably emerges when I regularly attend AA meetings — something that happens only when I get bored or lonely enough, which between mid-December and mid-January tends to be more often — is people with at least a couple of years of sobriety describing themselves as doing generally well in life, maybe even better than they expected at the start of the boozeless journey, but unable to settle on a higher power and feeling like they’re failing as a result. All signs are there that quitting drinking and being active about sobriety have been a smashing success for them, but the nature of “the program” compels them to fret needlessly about this “missing” element.
Even to those unaware of the history of the Big Book’s authorship, it should be clear that the chapter to the agnostic is a bald-faced bait-and-switch. It doesn’t really offer a path to working the steps for the godless, but rather unpretentiously cajoles the nonbeliever in the direction of faith. This is because the chapter was only included because a prominent businessman who happened to also be a prominent atheist (rare in those days) insisted on it; the Big Book was essentially Bill W’s sole creation.
The A.A. mantra that a higher power can be “anything you want” was clearly not a part of the worldview of Bill W, himself a full-force Born Again Christian. This is even more evident in the steps themselves; the scheme depends not just on any old “HP,” but one that is capable of not only moral judgment but moral enslavement. The “program” through Bill W’s lens is at least as much about atonement to a critical deity and adherence to its unknowable whims as it is about living well. Any higher power that could function within this scheme would have to possess all of the essential characteristics of the Abrahamic rage-god, even if we’re allowed to nominally declare it something else.
Nothing Bill W wrote suggests he believed that anything other than a “burning bush” moment could produce a lasting spiritual transformation, even if he appears to offer latitude in this area. This is cynical in the extreme and sets people up to fail, because some people have “spiritual experiences” they see as tantamount to a cure, and the next thing you know, they’re living in a van down by the river subsisting on government cheese and MD 20/20 in its whole grotesque range of flavors.
Some people simply aren’t constructed to approach sobriety with the metaphysical demands Bill W’s “suggestions” make on would-be step-completers. In my case I simply gave up and realized that I had managed half-consciously to set up my life over a period of years in such a way that I would basically have a hard time sustaining a return to drinking for more than a couple of hours without someone knowing about it. That’s as close as I can get to the level of absolute accountability the steps seem to demand.
If you are among the people who has been actively or passively convinced you’re cheating somehow by not having a reliable concept of a higher power, maybe just giving up on that part and taking recourse in Tradition Three is sufficient. Also, where I attend meetings, most people are receptive to such viewpoints; when I lived in the Bible Belt, not so much, and you may not have ready access to meetings where you won’t be silently or openly accused of excessive freelancing.
Certain people (me, for example) believe that they are basically fuckups at least as often as not when it comes to anything that matters. Whether this is true only or mostly in the hapless, entropy-soaked silt comprising our own thinking apparatus is irrelevant so long as the belief is persistent and powerful. So at the moment, quite apart from those who are currently using substances to escape reality in a manner that could be termed pathological,” it’s not hard to find people who have already tried that route and are instead struggling mightily against the pain of not hurting themselves on purpose, because the means of warding off the significant discomfort that can accompany merely existing in modern society almost always incur a cost.
And that’s really what not submitting to an unwanted craving of any sort is all about: I will refuse to treat this awful rage and irrational madness I have this second by dumping alcohol into my head, because the long-term benefits of resisting outweigh the ultra-short-term “benefits,” and the longer-term costs of ephemeral reassurance from a toxic chemical clearly outweigh the benefits. Or more succinctly, “this too shall pass,” though I avoid invoking even the more innocuous of the Christianity-based slogans that basically define the colossal shityard of terrible ideas Bill Wilson and Bob Smith introduced in the late 1930s known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
There are surely at least 50 million American adults who at this moment are in the grip of a compulsive behavior that will eventually land them in jail, a medical institution, in rehab or something much like it, or on a slab, probably before the age of 50, if it hasn’t already. (One of the joys of blogging for a small audience is that I can make up numbers as long as I admit it, or blow up backing up things I happen to know are true. I spend a great deal of my day harvesting hyperlinks and putting them in Web documents, and this is obviously my time to kick back and discuss how much I enjoy life.) Continue reading “1,000 days and a million heartfelt “recovery” banalities”
Two weeks ago, shortly before the Roy Moore-Doug Jones face-off in Alabama, an exterminator came to my home to humanely dispatch from the premises a mother raccoon, which had taken up residence somewhere between the second-floor ceiling and the roof in early December. As I returned from a run, he and the homeowner were talking about the potential debacle of a Senate race that was underway, and the exterminator, who looked exactly like Bruce Campbell in his Evil Dead days only bigger, mentioned that he was married to someone who worked for the Denver Office of the District Attorney and had met Moore years ago, long before most people outside of Alabama and atheist blogs had heard of him. When this Denver lawyer, who was part of a group hosting Moore and others from Alabama at a conference, learned that Moore was not only a lawyer but a judge, she was apparently stunned, given his startling lack of knowledge of everything related to the law, or the bench, or reality.
Maybe it’s not a good idea to use Roy Moore as an example of anything other than a demented, theocratic shitbag. But he did at one time manage to get a law degree. That’s supposedly not the easiest thing in the world, even in the decerebrate South.
One of the fun paradoxes of getting a college education is discovering that it’s possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in a given scientific while remaining largely ignorant of that discipline, even if you receive high grades at a reputable school. Continue reading “The unlimited limits of an education”
Long ago, people believed mental illness was the result of demonic possession or other “supernatural” forces. Today, mental problems are typically described as resulting from imbalances in neurochemistry, even though there is no such thing as neurochemical balance.
I think it’s time to adopt a more progressive model, which includes exactly three psychiatric states (independent of drug use):
Continue reading “Simplifying the DSM”
Building on an observation I made yesterday: When people who are clearly mentally unbalanced are at least coherent enough to form political opinions, in any contest they observe between a candidate who goes about things comparatively quietly and one whose chief strategy is inexhaustible high-volume raving about Stuff That Needs Fixing, they invariably go for the shrieking demagogue. Continue reading “Mental disarray and personal politics, part II”
I continue to be intrigued by people who self-identify as conservative in spite of having been supported by some combination of the government and other people’s charity for literally their entire lives. I ponder the underlying psychology and then conclude there’s actually nothing unusual about this seeming contradiction: If you can’t or won’t make your own way in life to an even marginal extent, it eases your internal conflict to symbolically align yourself with those who can and do.
I’m trying to come up with the liberal answer to this kind of person. Maybe a closet racist or closeted gay person who wishes to shed such biases because it’s “right” and who therefore superficially adopts anti-bigotry political stances?