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The AA Echo Chamber

Posted by on in Alcoholism
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Next time you're in an AA meeting, take a look around the room. Maybe there are 25 people and, with rare exception, most of them are sober, right? In fact, many are months removed from their last drink, and you've probably got a group that has decades of sobriety. Putting aside where each person may be in their own recovery, that room is irrefutable evidence that AA works, right?

OK, multiply the number of people by 20. You've got 500 alcoholics now. Can't fit them, right?  Imagine them on each others' laps, standing in the doorway, lining the hallways.  Maybe you can hear them murmuring outside in the parking lot, unable to get in the door. What you've now added is the number of people who came to AA and left after a year, according to AA's own study:

"After just one month in the Fellowship, 81% of the new members have dropped out.  After three months, 90% gave left, and 95% have discontinued attendance inside one year." (Kolenda, 2003, Golden Text Publishing)

Now look around the room at the mostly drunk, strung-out, quivering mass of humanity. Still think AA works?

Most members of the AA fellowship will tell you that AA works because it works for them.  I know this because it's precisely what I did for 10 years.  It was the newcomers' responsibility to get it, not mine to impart it.   If they stopped showing up, I got good at shrugging my shoulders and saying, "they aren't ready," or worse, "they don't want it."

So, as one of the lucky 5% who could stay sober based on slogans, I looked down on the relapsers as weak and uncommitted.   I became a member in good standing of the AA echo chamber, where we clapped each other on the back each week and reminded ourselves that it was, after all, a "selfish program."

I now realize that I was criminally negligent in my responsibilities as an AA member.  What I discovered was not that AA didn't work, but that what I was hearing and repeating in meetings was, at best, a horribly mangled version of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and, at worst, utterly contradictory.

I've been accused of attacking AA in this blog, and it could not be further from the truth.  What I'm attacking is the imposter program that's quietly taken up residence in our rooms, slowly, over decades, with such quietness that most don't even realize the deception has taken place.  It's part of the amends I'm trying to make to the people I told to "not drink and go to meetings" when they needed so much more, when they needed the actual program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and not some silly pep-rally for abstinence.

When I said the 3rd step prayer with my sponsor, he asked me if I would make a deal with the God that I was still unsure existed but wanted desperately to find.  He asked me if in exchange for being relieved of the insanity of alcoholism, would I help God's children?

Sure, I answered.  Whatever.  Just make this stop.

Thump is just part of my end of the bargain.


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