12 Steps Backward

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
My fews on The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Submitted: March 21, 2016

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Submitted: March 21, 2016

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The following essay consists of my experiences and opinions of the failing substance abuse methods currently being practiced. Including the A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) focused treatment standard, the A.A. meeting, and most importantly the 12 steps of A.A.

One of the most impractical and downright dangerous words spouted arrogantly in treatment is "relapse". This word insinuates that if you are "in recovery" and you use so much as a hit of marijuana, you have failed the program completely, and are in fact right back where you started. Time to return to treatment and restart the steps. You obviously did everything wrong. The A.A. big book promotes this attitude with entries such as, "rarely have we seen a person entirety commit themselves to our simple program fail". So not only are you a failure, you're also a dumbass. Thanks big book, I think I'll go chug a bottle of vodka now. In the A.A. meeting its well known that attendees keep track of their days sober. Often even saying the number of substance free days after there first name and drug of choice. As if their whole existence consists of their fight against addiction, depressing.

Step one - We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

Most of the big book contains what can only be described as biblical phrasing. The thoughts and concepts are vague and open to multiple interpretations. Though one of the most repeated words is power. In this case powerless. I can't think of a more definite word in all of the English language. It's so haunting, so absolute. I mean if we are truly powerless why even attempt sobriety? Seems it would be a futile endeavor. So already on step one we are primed for failure.

Step Two - We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This is by far the most discussed and disputed of the steps, and for good reason. First of all, there's that nasty word "power" again. This time higher power, AKA God. Sure they will tell you over and over again that your higher power can be ANYTHING more powerful than yourself. You know like an avalanche or maybe AIDS. No joke. But it's obvious to me that the book is speaking about something that has omnipotent control over a persons life. Obviously being killed by an avalanche or contracting AIDS will not restore us to sanity. So what other options do we have when considering our all important higher power? Zero. No sugar coating this one. God is your only option. Which completely contradicts the whole reason A.A. was created in the first place. At the time of it's inception the only option for alcoholism was faith based. While A.A. was created and accepted as an alternative to faith based recovery. When in fact it is just another, more convoluted version of it. Even the A.A. meetings themselves are akin to religious services. They take place in churches, everyone follows readings from the same book, and they even pass around a collection plate. Religion is about as separate from A.A. as religion is separate from state.

Step Three - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

Let's say for argument sake that we believe in God and wish to turn our will and lives over to him. Exactly how much of our will should we turn over to God? Should God decide if we should buy a new car? Go to work? Brush our teeth? Confused? I was. So I asked my treatment counsellor these questions. He responded by saying that this is why we recite the daily "meditation", not prayer mind you - "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". This "meditation" simply puts your life and your will back in your own hands. It's a completely nonsensical circle. The fact is its impossible to turn your life and will over to God.

Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

This step is designed to make us aware of our personal moral standards, and make us recognise of all the moral standards we did not live up to while intoxicated. This is the most harmful of all the steps by far. People who enter treatment are some of the most depressed people in the world. Why does it make sense for us to dig up our past drunkcapades? Obviously we already feel remorse, otherwise we wouldn't be in treatment in the first place. The problem is, we didn't do any of those things, a modified version of us did. We would have never done them sober. So why dwell on them? All it does is further harm our already fragile psyche. It's also contradictory to some of A.A.s main teachings. Their favorite phrase in any A.A. meeting "one day at a time". How can we take it one day at a time when we are firmly stuck in the past?

Step Five - Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

This step is obviously just another unsuccessful attempt to make A.A. seem separate from faith based recovery. So I won't repeat myself by discussing it. I will just say we already have something in existence which meets all these requirements. A confessional booth. But hey, if confessing your sins makes you feel better go for it.

Step Six - We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

If there's one thing current treatment centers want to make sure we understand, it's that something is very, very wrong with us. We have huge problems on a cellular level that must be repaired if we have any chance at a normal life. This is entirely false. People become addicts for any number of reasons. Social reasons such as getting molested as a child or not fitting in as a teenager. Or clinical reasons such as depression or anxiety. So yes, in order to stay sober we probably need to change our outlooks on life or at the bare minimum start taking medication. But there's nothing wrong with us that isn't wrong with the general population. Everyone has a coping mechanism. Every single person. It's human nature. There's external, such as bullying, criticizing or putting down others. Then there's internal such as overeating, cutting, and substance abuse. Our mechanism is just the most harmful and least socially acceptable. But we are not any more deranged than people who participate in these more accepted activities.

Step Seven - Humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings.

If only it were that easy. Imagine if a magic man could magically remove our short comings, brilliant. Well If by our shortcomings we are referring to the factor(s) which contribute to our substance use, would our time not be better spent figuring out how to deal with these factors instead of wishing them away? We are constantly bombarded with the notion that we cannot help ourselves. When in it's actually quite the opposite. We are the only ones who can help ourselves. You can't magic your way out of substance abuse.

Step Eight - Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

The vagueness utilized in this step is staggering. One way to interpret this pointless step is that we are supposed to apologize to everyone we have ever hurt in our whole lives. Completely ludicrous. I don't see how spending the next 90 years tracking down and apologizing to every person we ever wronged would be beneficial to our cause. Another way to interpret is that we are required to apologize to the people we wronged while intoxicated. Well this could also be quite a long list. But the most detrimental affect of this step is making us feel like evil people. When we are certainly not. It was not our intention to harm anyone but ourselves. The harming of others was simply a side effect.

Step Nine - Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

It seems to me that this list of steps was purposely increased in number to make twelve of them. Why do we need a step to prepare us to do something before the step telling us to do it? That's what doing something is, you prepare for it then you do it, one step. The only reason they made it twelve steps is to seem official. The same amount of information could be achieved in seven steps. But I digress. In treatment we are told this step will free us of our guilt. Though why are addicts the only people forced to do this? Everyone on earth has guilt, and it's a good thing. Guilt defines who we are as individuals and is mandatory if we wish to become better people and not repeat past mistakes.

Step Ten - continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

In this step the objective is to constantly think about our daily actions and interactions, and decide if we are morally accepting of them. If not we must admit it. This is to avoid the possibility of becoming the much feared "dry drunk". Another favorite phrase of recovery. The concept is that we can be substance free but still behave like a drunk. How does a dry drunk behave? Treatment centers are not afraid to tell us! They like to say little gems such as "addicts don't have relationships they hold hostages" and "never turn your back on an addict". Yes, they actually say these things. Those are some pretty presumptuous and demeaning things to say to another person. They are using fear tactics, plain and simple, and the message is clear. Even if you're sober you still have deep issues until you complete the steps.

Step Eleven - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out.

So in short. Become a servant of God? What about the small fraction of us that have no desire to become priests or nuns? Carrying out the will of God has absolutely nothing to do with remaining sober. This idea takes us as people with thoughts, ideas and agendas entirely out of the equation. We are simply empty vessels, only reacting to what we perceive as Gods will. Doesn't sound much like a fulfilling way to spend a life.

Step Twelve - Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics, and practice these principles in all our affairs.

The people who truly believe that A.A. has changed their lives are not afraid to utilize this step to its full potential. Hundreds of thousands of A.A. missionaries wander the globe looking for their next soul to save. Sound familiar? Even though studies show that A.A. isn't anymore affective than the faith based recovery that has been the previous treatment standard. If someone gets sober doing they steps, they were going to get sober regardless. Some people are just ready and others are not.

So why are these archaic treatments still being employed when they are so ineffective? Most treatment centers boast an almost 100% success rate, which is true. They are successful at graduating almost everyone from their programs. What they don't tell you that six months from graduation 80% of those folks who just graduated treatment, will be back to using. Let's take a look back to the beginning of A.A. and good old Bill Wilson. As co-founder of A.A. he is responsible for the creation of the 12 steps and the original A.A. "Big Book". Why do we put so much stock in one mans ideas regarding addiction treatment? Especially a man who was known to say random things like he won the first world war single handedly. A person saying things like this hint at the possibility old Bill had a few mental issues. Maybe even a God complex. The point is, he wanted to be famous, and he achieved his goal. He was even portrayed in a feature length film being played by James Woods. So it appears that our whole reason for using the 12 steps is simply because they were implemented at a time when there were no better options. That time has long past. Alternative recovery methods are constantly being suggested and shot down as hogwash. Most likely due to the fact that changing every treatment centers recovery program would be a huge and expensive undertaking. At the cost of over $1,000 a day per treatment resident, they are not about to risk changing anything. So they stubbornly stick to their current methods, however misguided they may be. Though in my opinion there are a of few simple ways to make treatment more effective. Instead of going and getting emotionally assaulted for 30 days and leaving worse off than when we came in, we could focus on getting to the root of why we use. Employ doctors and physiatrists instead of chaplains and counselors. Find out if our reasons for using are clinical or emotional, and address them individually in a professional manner.

To my fellow addicts. I just want you to know that you don't need an A.A. focused treatment plan to quit, in all probability it will only make you worse. Remember, to use a substance you need to physically pick it up and consume it, all you need to focus on is not doing that. Tons of people quit by themselves everyday. Just remember you are the one with power and control over your own life.


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