The Downward Spiral
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 -dr.bomb
Groups could be good things in life. They can be great places where ideas are shared, problems worked out and for authentic change to occur. Ironically, they're not the best way to solve all problems. Specifically, they're the worst places around where one can learn to try to solve deeply personal problems.
In particular, groups are the worst places on this planet when it comes down to the problem of addiction. The very idea of a "self-help group" is contradictory since the only self-help is to simply do it yourself and quit!
Stepping back many decades in time, there was this one fledgling organization which was started by a couple of drunken religious fundamentalists who just also happened to be a doctor and a war veteran. After they met and talked for a few hours they proceeded to shift the focus of their religious group, The Oxford Group, towards the average drunken sot. And I'm sure that for a few years the groups that followed probably helped a few people to get off the sauce and move on in their lives.
But there was a catch: Only the smarter ones left and moved on. The slower ones stayed behind, believing that if they didn't stay with the group then they too would drink and die. And, over time, the group grew and grew.
Now, fast forward to the present day: A day well past the heyday of the '90s where critical information on that group known as Alcoholics Anonymous (and its other Twelve-Step sects) was widely available in book form with more books on the way. And one can look back to see the high-water mark where the tide started to recede in 2001.
What happened? Well, the same thing that turned a once-prestigious American institution into a highly virulent and dangerous government-supported pro-addiction religious cult: The slower ones stayed behind and, through the years, became the sedimentary bedrock from which A.A. built itself upon. And, inadvertently, splintered and adopted a secularized version of A.A.'s disease dogma.
Of course, I'm referring to the SCAAAM that hides behind the emperor's "alternative" clothes.
What's shocking is how fast this phenomena occurs within the pro-addiction cult at large. For example, Jack Trimpey of Rational Recovery saw it first-hand during the time R.R. once had meetings in the form of the Rational Recovery Self-help Network (R.R.S.N.) What he found out was that those who wanted to quit did so and got out of there. Then there were others, a disgruntled Stepper constituency, that merely was shopping around for another self-help group to spend its time within. These Steppers can be seen exactly as the sedimentary detritus that they are. In eight short years a rebellion occurred as Trimpey saw what was going on and changed R.R.'s direction from REBT (Rational-Emotive Bullshit Therapy) to AVRT, deemphasizing and finally losing the group format altogether. R.R. is still around but as a tiny independent commercial enterprise not supported by taxpayers.
The entrenched mass of sedimentary group addicts and professionals attempted a coup, a hostile takeover, to wrest R.R. from Trimpey's control. Only by one vote were these mutineers averted. Now, always the lovely bunch of progressives that they wish they could be, they look back wistfully as they sadly claim that their current group, SMART Recovery, is the old Rational Recovery: One organization remains mired in the past while the other moves on into the future. R.R. simply exists as a entity entrenched outside the RGM/ATI that simply teaches people how to quit their addiction once and for all.
Lest one thinks that such nonsense is merely a fluke, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.) has become nothing more than a splintered and secularized A.A.apologetics organization. Like its splinter offspring, LifeRing, all it offers is just more of the same dogma yet under a new deity of convenience as it understands it, Science. The irony is that a key part of scientific investigation is analysis of as much of the available information as possible then coming to a conclusion.
From the Bill Wilson quote on LifeRing's front page (the lie of "The roads to recovery are many.") (1) right on to SOS's own defensive claim that it has no Steps (despite having a page in which numerous permutations thereof are found) (2), one who was in A.A. can read further through these organizations' websites further as both bear an uncanny similarity to A.A. itself (3). From the need for meetings to how hard it appears to be and thus the need to just abstain One Day At A Time. Unlike A.A. it tries in vain in a typical misguided neoliberal fashion to embrace and to reach out to A.A. and its membership for some cred. It's no surprise that A.A. won't link and, despite its "spiritual" facade, will scorn all "alternatives" as being clones (which they are, for which A.A. does get one point right after all).
Even Women For Sobriety gets into the fray by offering a Sixteen Step program for the sake of advancing some more New Age hooey in lieu of actual direct advice on how just to quit for good by simply never again putting that substance into one's own body. Just like A.A., these "alternatives" just don't know how to quit.
While the figure that 95% of people leave these groups within the first year should be no surprise and, on the surface, sounds encouraging to those who are for the abolition of the pro-addiction system. Unfortunately, attention is drawn away from the five percent that returns year after year. According to A.A.'s own documentation, at the five year mark half of that specific population is still there. Meanwhile, another five percent is added to the ranks year after year. Depending upon how many newcomers pass through that population grows and grows until it dominates the organization in question. The end result of this buildup in regards to systemic corruption can be quite dramatic in how rapidly it metastasizes.
An inversion of reality ultimately occurs: These lifers believe that they know what they're doing since they've been in the organization so long. Time is wrongly believed to equate with experience rather being seen as protracted procrastination. Their own sedimentary peers within the organization believe that it's so difficult to quit and, thus the beginnings of a cult mentality based in dependency itself.
More time passes. These people get weirder and more militant. Some may have even developed their own skills in parroting the party line of their peers so well that they are the ones put on display as "miracles" of capital-"R" Recovery. Others become so hooked to Recovery that they can't fathom a life without it. Others are willing to defend it to the death while becoming tone-deaf to what's actually occurring in their midst. And since officially the organization itself, of which they convene within, doesn't concern itself with "outside issues", there are no reprisals should anything accidental happen.
More time, increased political clout and many suicides later, the organization itself is a full-blown cult. It itself is blithely unaware that itself is not what it claims to be. That, within the context of addiction "treatment" and Recovery itself, they'll tell anyone to "drink more" who doesn't believe the Wisdom within the rooms. Some pieces of the sediment may break off into splinter groups. And with only themselves consoling each other as having the real truth, they believe that the organization must come first or they will perish. Realizing their own mortality, they need to recruit and don't care as to how coercive that recruitment may be.
Sub-literate in its very nature, this new foundation of the organization only believes what others with Time believe. The more Time one has the more a newcomer feels that they're closer to the truth of Recovery itself. These Oldtimers are seen as sages; archivists of the sacred wisdom of the long-lost lore of the organization itself. These seers have seen it all; these know-it-alls claim to know what it's like and ultimately can't see the contradictory dogma before them (4).
And none of the wisdom of those not in the organization is to be found: People free in the jobs, families and a life ultimately free from addiction itself. After all, why "keep coming back" if one is certain they will drink/use or never will again? Again, self-doubt is the tie that binds the cult together. Independent thought is ultimately discouraged by the mob mentality at large.
So what is one to do in regards to avoiding The Downward Spiral?
Remember that the system will adapt solely for the sake of its own survival. While A.A. is on the way out that doesn't mean that the system has changed for the better. In fact, as the system becomes fossilized further only total abolition can be found to be the most cost-effective lifesaving measure.
Anyone can quit an addiction for good. Quitting is risk free, doesn't endanger society and is that one standard for REAL recovery not used as the basis for effacy within the pro-addiction system. Just don't trust those deep within The Downward Spiral with any help in that endeavor.
1) Retrieved from the LifeRing home page on 2007/02/19.
2) See http://www.sossobriety.org/12steps.htm - Remember that ambivalence is the heart of addiction itself.
3) See http://www.cfiwest.org/sos/brochures/30days.htm - One example is, "Choose to stay sober one day at a time. You can do for a 24-hour period what you could not conceive of doing for a lifetime." You can read on and see how much other conditional baggage is added on which makes quitting appear more difficult than it really is.
4) Remember Donald Lee? I do and that altercation between him and me served as the pivotal point where my disillusionment with the SCAAAM began. The initial confrontation began within 12-Step-Free, an online "alternative" to other Recovery-oriented E-mail lists. As I recall it appears that I was the only one who took offense at "There is some truth and logic in the written words, throughout the 12 steps." This only shows how the cult mentality can blind others to the fatally obvious.
5) See http://www.rational.org/blog/33/ - Sadly, Trimpey commits the same error and underestimates the intelligence of the general public. After all, democracy works as long as people have as much accurate and factual information to go on. It would be better if Trimpey would've just quoted A.A. and hoisted 12-Step upon its own petard...and NEVER pulling any punches while doing so. Michael's comment entry says it all:
Last updated 2007/02/28
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