My whole family is in AA

Dear Dr. Peele:

My name is [name deleted], and recently I had the great fortune of stumbling across your web-page. Wow! What a life-changing event that has turned out to be! I will not bore you with a comprehensive biography, but I want to tell you a couple of things.

First, your message, as presented in the chosen excerpts of your impressive corpus of writings, resonated with me almost as if I'd formulated it myself. I have battled drug dependency; my father is a "recovering" alcoholic (Of course, right? As with the Hebrew forefathers, Drug addict begat Drug addict, begat Drug addict, begat Drug addict, and so on).

My father found salvation in AA — 10-15 meetings per week, sponsoring other alcoholics, speaking at a variety of life-improvement forums. An impressionable, but at the same time inner-directed, 18 year-old, I was taught the life-guiding system that is AA (and Al-Anon) and all its concomitant implications. I should have bought it hook, line, and sinker, right? I mean, AA apparently had saved my father's life. It preserved my parents' marriage. Why so skeptical?

My answer is, in short, "I don't know." But from the outset the essence of it did not make sense to me. Disease? Hereditary predisposition? Hmmm.

But the biggest stumbling block to my acceptance was the foundational recovery concept of the addict's absolute lack of control over the substance. Want to piss me off? Then tell me that you — or O.J. or Jimmy Swaggart or the Son of Sam — are not responsible for your own choices and actions. Talk about Denial! (I despise the Recovery Movement vernacular, which nowadays is a standard part of the American language.)


As I presented my argument to my dad, a wry smile inched across his face. He knew AA was a crock, too! "But don't tell Mom. This is the only way she'll ever accept the things I've done." Hmmm. And to my consternation, I discovered that many other 12-steppers had drawn similar conclusions, also.

Sincerely and appreciatively,

[name deleted]

P.S. I regret ending on a critical note, but I must say that I found your cursory descriptions of tolerance and withdrawal (especially withdrawal) wholly unsatisfactory. Understanding the limitations often encountered when constructing a web-page, I ask that you direct me to a succinct presentation of your views on these concepts.



Dear ----:

My fullest exploration of the meaning of withdrawal and tolerance is in The Meaning of Addiction.