Further Reading

How can I talk AAese?

Dear Stanton:

I agree with most of what I've read on your website and some of your books. I use to go to AA and was totally sold on the program until recently when I started taking an addicition counseling cirriculum at a local college. One of my teachers is a clinical psychotherapist and also runs a SMART recovery program. I have since retired my old disease concepts in favor of the more practical approach of the cognitive behavior variety.

We are currently in the process of trying to make available SMART as an alternitive to AA in the local court system. It is really amazing what a hold the 12-step program has on society. They actually go against the 12 traditions that they tout as far as "no affiliation" goes. I didn't realize that until I recently I quit returning to AA meetings. The whole AA method contradicts itself, but you don't see that when you are actively participating.

My question is, what can I say to fellow AA members when they incorrectly say that AA is the most successful alcoholism program in the world? What facts or statistic can I give to counter that statement?

Kelly Perkins
Anonymous Nomore


Dear Kelly:

Of course, you can refer to my books — particularly our new one, "Resisting 12-Step Coercion," showing that 12-step therapy and AA are of dubious efficacy. But do you think people really change through receiving that kind of information? In fact, I usually lie and make AA sound better when talking to AA proponents. But I try to get away from their "AA is the most successful program in the world" mind set by asking them, "Of those who attend AA, what percentage stay with the program?" They often give quite small numbers. Then you are open to suggest some alternatives be made available. YOU could talk to them in AAese (just like you did with me). That is, you could ask them, "What does it mean exactly in the 12 traditions that AA have no affiliations? Because I'm puzzled — AA is strongly affiliated with the court system."

Most AAers will acknowledge unease about the vast amount of coercion into AA (although, of course, they are really glad that the courts flood their system with new recruits). In fact, here is your semester assignment: "Write a brief argument to present to AA members which speaks to them in terms of their values and principles and which persuades them it is not a danger for them to encourage that alternatives be offered along with AA." Perhaps you could say to them. "What are you afraid of?"

Meanwhile, in "Resisting," we have a summary chapter that presents in a brief form the arguments — the lack of overall effectiveness of 12-step programs, the benefits of allowing people to choose their therapy, AA's and 12-step program's failure to follow informed consent procedures, the court decisions indicating that mandatory AA assignments violate the first amendment, and so on — that should be presented to court personnel.

Yours best,
Stanton