Alcoholics Anonymous as a Cult
Scorecard, Answers 71 to 80.

(To go back and forth between the questions and the answers for Alcoholics Anonymous, click on the numbers of the questions and answers.)

71. We Have The Panacea.
A.A. scores a 10.

A.A. most assuredly claims to have A Simple Formula for Happiness, and a Simple Cure-All. Just follow the simple 12-Step program, and do what your sponsor says, and you too can end up in a state of eternal bliss where you only feel "Serenity and Gratitude", they say.

"The answer to all problems is, 'Do the Twelve Steps, Get a sponsor, and Read the Big Book.'"

The Big Book says:

Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, page 42.

The tremendous fact for every one of us is that we have discovered a common solution. We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree, and upon which we can join in brotherly and harmonious action.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 2, "There Is A Solution", page 17.

Here was a book that said I could do something that all these doctors and priests and ministers and psychiatrists that I'd been going to for years couldn't do!
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 473.

An enthusiastic newly-converted A.A. member declared:

My wife hears my voice and knows that I have found the answer to life.
The Big Book, Fitz M., the story "Our Southern Friend", page 505 of the 3rd Edition, page 216 of the 4th edition.

An earlier member of the Board of Trustees of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., wrote,

... the A.A. group is to be understood as an unusually intimate primary group which sponsors, in a potent learning situation, a new way of life — a new subculture.
Alcoholics Anonymous: An Interpretation, Milton A. Maxwell, Ph.D., writing in
Society, Culture, and Drinking Patterns, David J. Pittman and Charles R. Snyder, editors, page 582.

Not to be left out, a counselor who makes money by claiming to heal the grandchildren of alcoholics from the "spiritual disease" of "co-dependency" with an expensive 12-step inpatient program tells us:

There is no better means to discovery of a Higher Power than within a 12-step program.
Grandchildren of Alcoholics; Another Generation of Co-dependency by Ann W. Smith, page 125.

The cure for a "disease" is the "discovery" of a "Higher Power"? That is quackery.

Bill Wilson wrote that his second book, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, was a manual for how to live happily by using the Twelve Steps, and that his many years of working the program had not produced any ill effects:

A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole.
Many people, nonalcoholics, report that as a result of the practice of A.A.'s Twelve Steps, they have been able to meet other difficulties of life. They think that the Twelve Steps can mean more than sobriety for problem drinkers. They see in them a way to happy and effective living for many, alcoholic or not.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, pages 15-16.

Note that Bill Wilson was pushing his Twelve Steps as a way of life for everyone, alcoholic and non-alcoholic alike, and Bill claimed that the Twelve Steps would solve many more problems in life than just alcoholism. That is because Twelve Steps are not really about alcoholism at all. The Twelve Steps are a formula for converting people into true believers in Bill Wilson's cult religion — for converting them to "our way of life". That's why the Steps were supposedly just as good for non-alcoholics as for alcoholics.

And then Bill added:

But dependence upon an A.A. group or Higher Power hasn't produced any baleful results.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 38.

In Bill Wilson's case, that was a shameless barefaced lie. What Bill didn't bother to tell his readers was that he was actually so unhappy, so mentally ill and so depressed, that he was completely disabled and non-functional, and under the care of two psychiatrists — Dr. Harry Tiebout and Dr. Frances Weeks — for more than 11 years.1 When Bill Wilson wrote those words, after 16 years of Working The Steps, Bill was actually so depressed that all he could do was lay in bed and stare at the ceiling all day long, or just sit in his office and hold his head in his hands all day long. But Bill Wilson didn't tell prospective new members about that, while he was urging everybody to Work The Steps, and claiming that he had a magical never-fails formula for "happy and effective living"...

No baleful results indeed.

What kind of a man does it take, to look you straight in the eye and lie to your face, knowingly giving you false information and bad advice about critical life-or-death matters like alcohol addiction and recovery?

"Here, just buy my book, and join my 'spiritual' group, and send some more money to my office, and believe in my Higher Power as I dictate, and work my Steps, which I wrote, and you will be happy, happy, happy, just like me."

"Gumglop is the answer to alcoholism."

"So what's gumglop?"

"Well, gumglop is like..." — wave your hands in the air, and say — "like really great stuff, and it's good for you and will make you more moral and a better person too."

"So what's gumglop, really?"

"Well, it's like great stuff, and it's like the Will of God, and ... But it isn't religious."

72. Progressive Indoctrination and Progressive Commitments
A.A. scores a 10.

The A.A. program is loaded with deceptive progressive commitments and bait-and-switch tricks. Even the "One Day At A Time" and "Just For Today" slogans are used to make people do things for many years, even for the rest of their lives, just one day at a time.

First, they tell you that "You must admit you have a problem", but then that gets changed into "You must admit that you are powerless and you have a disease from which you can never recover." There is a huge difference between agreeing that you have a problem, and believing that you have an incurable fatal disease over which you have no control.

The Alcoholics Anonymous program is advertised as an easy-going voluntary program where you don't have to believe much or do anything in particular:

Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe anything. All of its Twelve Steps are but suggestions.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 26.

But then you are supposed to start sharing in Bill Wilson's religious beliefs:

  • As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe, we emphatically assure him that he is on his way.
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, We Agnostics, Page 47.

  •       My friend suggested what then seemed a novel idea. He said, "Why don't you choose your own conception of God?"
          That statement hit me hard. It melted the icy intellectual mountain in whose shadow I had lived and shivered many years. I stood in the sunlight at last.
          It was only a matter of being willing to believe in a Power greater than myself. Nothing more was required of me to make my beginning.
    Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 1, "Bill's Story", Page 12.

Soon, we learn that such vague religious beliefs are not nearly good enough. We must believe much more. Bill Wilson devoted all of chapter four of the Big Book to lecturing us about how we must all "have faith" (in his religion). There, Bill Wilson actually declared that we must abandon intelligence and "Reason" and just have faith in his teachings. Bill felt that being intelligent and having a working brain was a serious impediment to success in his program. But in the recruiting manual (chapter 7 of the Big Book), Bill Wilson taught recruiters to tone down the message, so as to not scare away the newcomers.

Bill Wilson knew that his religious beliefs were extreme, and that newcomers would leave if they were told the whole truth, so Bill taught a policy of hiding the truth from newcomers and only revealing the true nature of the Alcoholics Anonymous program a little bit at a time — his "teaspoons, not buckets" doctrine:

When first contacted, most alcoholics just wanted to find sobriety, nothing else. They clung to their other defects, letting go only little by little. They simply did not want to get "too good too soon." The Oxford Groups' absolute concepts — absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness, and absolute love — were frequently too much for the drunks. These ideas had to be fed with teaspoons rather than by buckets.
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age, William G. Wilson, pages 74-75.

But "just finding sobriety" is what Alcoholics Anonymous was supposed to be about — it's what they advertise to the public. They don't tell prospective new members that A.A. is really a strange religion that will allegedly lead you to the One True God of Alcoholics Anonymous, and teach you to practice Frank Buchman's Four Absolutes.

Likewise, as far as doing the Twelve Steps goes, the tone gradually changes. They start off with the tolerant declaration that you don't have to do anything — it's all just easy-going "suggestions" — but then we start to hear that we must follow Bill Wilson's instructions, or else. Again, you start with:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe anything. All of its Twelve Steps are but suggestions.
    Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 26.

  • Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
    The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, chapter 5, How It Works, page 59.

But then the steps are accompanied by increasing demands for total commitment to Bill's program — you must be willing to "go to any length" and "let go absolutely":

If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it — then you are ready to take certain steps.   ...
Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the results were nil until we let go absolutely.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, chapter 5, How It Works, page 58.

And then in the next chapter, at the Fifth Step, Bill Wilson suddenly declared that the "suggested" Steps were now "vital steps", and he threw in little fear-mongering to scare people into compliance:

If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William Wilson, chapter 6, Into Action, page 72.

And another A.A. member tells us that we must "have faith" in the A.A. program:

I was beginning to see that I would require implicit faith, like a small child, if I was going to get anywhere.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, The News Hawk, Page 259.

And then, finally, we get the death threats — we must do what Bill Wilson says or else we will die:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested [Bill Wilson's required] Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to spiritual principles [Bill Wilson's cult religion practices].
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 174.

And a commonplace A.A. slogan is:

"If you don't work the program, then your fate will invariably be 'Jails, Institutions, or Death'."

That is quite a progression, from "you don't have to believe anything", and "the steps are just suggestions", to "you must have implicit faith", and "Work the Steps or Die!"

A book called the "Serenity Bible", which was written by a couple of hard-core Steppers who ran a rehab center in Texas, describes the A.A. progressive commitments precisely, gradually progressing from "you may have any beliefs", to "you will know the one true God of A.A.":

We may start out as agnostics. We may then come to view the group or recovery process as our higher power, looking to other people for strength. Gradually, we accept a vague notion of god, which grows to a more specific monotheistic god. We may even begin to pray to and dialogue with this god. Eventually we come to know the one true God.
Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, Complete with New Testament Psalms & Proverbs, Dr. Robert Hemfelt and Dr. Richard Fowler, page 78.

See the file on The Bait-And-Switch Con Game for many more examples of progressive commitments.

73. Magical, Mystical, Unexplainable Workings
A.A. scores a 10 and deserves more.

A.A. members claim that the Twelve-Step program works in some magical, mystical, "spiritual" way that cannot be explained logically or rationally. If you ask an old-timer, "Well, how does this program work, exactly?", the old-timer will often just grin and say, "Just keep coming back, and eventually you will get the idea."

The Twelve Steps do not actually tell anyone to quit drinking, or to help anyone else to quit drinking. The Steps are all about

  • admitting that you are powerless and insane, and your life is "unmanageable",
  • and then surrendering your will to something or somebody else,
  • and then listing and confessing all of your sins,
  • and then begging God or some other "Higher Power" to remove your "moral shortcomings" and "defects of character",
  • and then begging God to tell you what to do in a séance,
  • and then recruiting more members for the cult.
Obviously, those old cult religion practices from the Oxford Group have nothing to do with drinking alcohol, and they never did. Nevertheless, that routine is supposed to somehow magically make people abstain from drinking alcohol. It is even supposed to take away the desire to drink alcohol. In the Big Book, Bill Wilson opined,

We will seldom be interested in liquor.   ...
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.   ...
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, pages 84-85.

Some A.A. apologists and promoters repeat the old Oxford Group religious dogma that excessive alcohol drinking is caused by unconfessed sins and unrevealed secrets, and that confessing all of one's sins in Step Five will remove the desire to drink alcohol, which is a crazy claim that is not backed up by a shred of medical or psychological or scientific evidence:

For those recovering from addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.
If you keep relapsing or can't put 90 days together...

      Many times folks find themselves unable to maintain sobriety because they are using the substance in order not to feel the pain of their secret. "You are as sick as your secrets" is an expression that makes a lot of sense. Keeping your secrets keeps you stuck. The alcoholic family system is a place of lots of secrets. You may need, if this is your situation, to work first with a professional who understands substance abuse and understands what it means to be an ACoA. The purpose of this is to expose your secret — if only to you and your therapist — and drain some of the pus out. (Some folks are able to use the fifth step of AA to do this, but it doesn't work for everyone.)
Adult Children of Alcoholics, Janet Geringer Woititz, Ed.D., page 192-194.

This is absurd psycho-babble. People become alcoholics or drug addicts because they feel bad and want to feel good, and they use alcohol and drugs to try to feel good most all of the time, not because they have a secret. This is blatant pseudo-science and quack medicine. Where does the authoress get this garbage? (Besides from Bill Wilson's cult religion...) Has there ever been even one valid psychological study that showed that people drink alcohol to excess and become alcoholics or drug addicts because they have unrevealed secrets or unconfessed sins? I don't think so.

Note that "a professional who understands what it means to be an ACoA" is really code language for "a money-taker who believes in (or at least promotes) the myth of 'codependency' in Adult Children of Alcoholics".

In C. Thomas Anderson's piece of propaganda, "Doctors in A.A....", he wrote:

To get the full benefit of AA, Dr. Ken notes, he had to stop analyzing his experiences, as he had been trained to do in medical school: "Once I stopped thinking and got in touch with my feelings, it was an overwhelming transformation.... I found what I had always been looking for — to love myself and be loved by other people."
Certainly, however, the spiritual dimension that is so strong in AA is at odds with the scientific, medical tradition. Says Dr. Ken: "We [physicians] tend to be analytical. Spirituality is a gut or heart-felt experience that certainly can't be scientifically studied and falls outside our training."
Dr. Whitfield agrees that AA's effectiveness can't be explained in scientific terms, or tested in controlled studies. That makes it easy for physicians to reject AA, despite abundant anecdotal evidence that the 12 Steps do work, at least for some people.
Says Dr. Earle: "Our scientific training makes us want to know the reason for everything. Once you don't have to know the reason for everything, you're coming home, baby, you're really coming home."
Doctors in A.A.; the profession's skepticism persists, but MDs in Alcoholics Anonymous say the 12-step program could benefit all physicians, C. Thomas Anderson, American Medical News, Jan 12, 1990 v33 n2 p33(2)

Doctors can "really come home" to the cult if they just stop thinking.
That one is almost beyond belief — "Doctors should quit thinking analytically or rationally or scientifically."
How is a doctor supposed to correctly diagnose a disease if he isn't thinking analytically or rationally or scientifically any more?

The author claimed that "Certainly, however, the spiritual dimension that is so strong in AA is at odds with the scientific, medical tradition."
That is blatant cult propaganda. The "medical tradition" is not against "spirituality", it is against quackery and superstition and things that don't work to cure the patients.

When it says:
"Dr. Whitfield agrees that AA's effectiveness can't be explained in scientific terms, or tested in controlled studies."
what that really means is,
"A.A. doesn't work. It isn't effective at all. That's why it fails every real test."
Dr. Whitfield is merely trying to claim that A.A. works in some magical, mystical, unexplainable manner that cannot be measured. Such deceit is the last refuge of a quack doctor who is pushing ineffective cures. Of course success can be measured, easily — either the alcoholics quit drinking, or they don't. Just count heads. It is very simple. Just count heads after a few years, and see how many got sober, and how many didn't. Then you will know what A.A.'s effectiveness is. And when you do that, you will see that A.A. does not work.

A.A. promoters constantly repeat the chant that A.A. cannot be studied scientifically, because every careful objective study of A.A. — every randomized longitudinal controlled study — that has ever been done showed that A.A. doesn't work, it doesn't save the alcoholics' lives, it doesn't increase sobriety, and it is just another crazy irrational cult religion that increases the death rate in alcoholics.

Dr. Ken allegedly stated, "Spirituality is a gut or heart-felt experience that certainly can't be scientifically studied..."
That is nonsense. Spirituality is not emotionalism; it is not getting gut feelings; it is not getting a giddy warm rush by marching around singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" like the Oxford Groups did.
Furthermore, emotional states — even "gut or heart-felt experiences" — certainly can be studied scientifically. Psychologists do it every day.

Besides which, that is another bait-and-switch trick. Dr. Whitfield is changing the subject. The goal of the Alcoholics Anonymous program was supposed to be to save alcoholics from death by alcohol addiction, not to induce warm and fuzzy feelings that cannot be studied. But since A.A. is a total failure as a treatment for alcohol abuse, Dr. Whitfield switched to talking about emotional states — "spirituality" and "gut- or heart-felt experiences". That is deceptive and dishonest.

Lastly, Dr. Earle argued that doctors can benefit from A.A. if they stop thinking, and stop wanting to know the reason (causes) for everything — When you stop thinking, you can really feel happy in the cult:
"Once you don't have to know the reason for everything, you're coming home, baby, you're really coming home."

Such blatant anti-intellectualism is beneath contempt. Nobody in his right mind would want to be treated by such a cultish non-thinking doctor who is pushing voodoo medicine as a magical, unexplainable, treatment for the deadly, often-fatal, condition called alcoholism.

74. Trance-Inducing Practices
A.A. scores a 10.

Step Eleven specifically demands that the A.A. follower "channel" God. (Yes, channelling, just like Shirley MacLaine taught.) The A.A. member is supposed to just sit quietly, and pray and meditate until he hears God talking to him. Then he assumes that his own internal mental noise, the voices in his head, are The Voice of God, talking to him and giving him religious instruction and marching orders:

11. 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 that out.

See the file "The Heresy of the Twelve Steps" for a longer description of the Buchmanite (and A.A.) practice of Receiving Guidance.

75. New Identity — Redefinition of Self — Revision of Personal History
You must redefine yourself and your memories of your previous life in cult terms.
A.A. scores a 10.

  • A.A. newcomers learn to adopt the identity of "alcoholic". They are taught to introduce themselves like, "Hi. My name is Joe, and I'm an alcoholic."

  • And the beginners learn that all alcoholics are selfish, sinful, headstrong, argumentative, dishonest, manipulative, in denial, resentful, self-pitying, world champion rationalizers, and prime examples of self-will run riot and instinct run wild.

  • Newcomers to A.A. must analyze their previous lives, and redefine their alcohol-drinking behavior as sin, selfishness, resentments, moral shortcomings, and "sitting on the pity pot".

  • They must make long lists of every sin or wrong they ever committed, listing the causes of those sins as resentments, moral shortcomings, selfishness, ego, dishonesty, denial, self-seeking, refusal to admit powerlessness, and "trying to play God".

  • They learn that their former thinking was "alcoholic", and that they must now think the A.A. way.

  • The beginners also learn that they cannot control their drinking at all — that they are "powerless over alcohol".

    Note the inherent contradiction there: If you are really powerless over alcohol, and powerless over your alcohol addiction, then how could you possibly just quit drinking alcohol by an act of determined will power?
    (Nevertheless, many alcoholics do quit within days of their first A.A. meeting, often before their first A.A. meeting, and often before "working a strong program" or doing the Twelve Steps.)

    • The A.A. apologists answer that you don't quit — "Will power and self-knowledge are useless. Quitting isn't an option for addicts like us." They say that God does the quitting for them, because they do the Twelve Steps.
    • But then they say that you are supposed to quit drinking so that the Twelve Steps will work.
    • But then they say that you are supposed to do the Twelve Steps so that you can quit drinking.
    • Or they say that you are supposed to do the Twelve Steps so that you can stay sober.
    • It's like a chicken-and-egg question: "Which comes first, sobriety or doing the 12 steps?" Which causes which?

  • All happy memories of drinking will be suppressed, and negative memories enhanced, until you are reciting monologues about how you never enjoyed drinking at all; it was just one long miserable addiction.
    (Which brings up a stupid question, "How can you be threatened by Ecstatic Recall if you never enjoyed drinking in the first place?")

  • You will begin to talk about your "Higher Power" endlessly, and "normal" people will begin to wonder if you have flipped out and become a religious fanatic.

  • You will begin to tell your friends that the reason you drank was because you had gotten too far away from God... They will sadly shake their heads behind your back and say, "Well, I guess if it helps to keep him from drinking... Any port in a storm..."

    "And... I believe addictions are also caused by a sense of spiritual separation from God, or one's Higher Power, or union with the All-That-Is."
    Addiction: A Spiritual Crisis, Judith Wagner, Tampa Bay New Times, Winter 1991, page 18.

Andrew Meacham wrote:

As an AA member from 1981 to 1988, I sometimes felt myself saying things I did not mean and did not believe. I would prepare to make a point in which I did believe and found myself saying something like, "Well, you know, before I got into the program all I did was drink."
      Somewhere within, I'd hear the sound of screeching brakes: "What?!" It was a ridiculous statement. I had worked full-time (never missed a day because of drinking), acted in dozens of theatrical productions, written articles and short stories, dated, took vacations, read books, played basketball — all during the time I was supposedly laid up drunk. Yet for a long time it was very difficult not to practice this reverse denial.
      As an individual blends into the ... [therapeutic community], he redefines his past in terms of the new present.
      So there is a difference between the "rigorous honesty" exalted in AA literature, and the "narrative bending" that is expected in the social reality of the AA program. The coercion can be gentle and loving, or it can be harsh and upbraiding. But it is there; shaping descriptions, "suggesting" vocabularies, "ever reminding us to place principles (theirs) before personalities (our own)."
      "Principles before personalities" is the final and crowning phrase of the Twelve Traditions.
Selling Serenity, Life Among the Recovery Stars, Andrew Meacham, pages 116-119.

76. Membership Rivalry
A.A. scores a 0.

A.A. members do not directly vie with one another for the guru's attention, or for status within the group. While everyone is trying to become part of the inner circle of respected and venerated old-timers, that is accomplished more by maintaining sobriety for years, going to a zillion meetings, parroting the standard party line at meetings, and sponsoring newcomers, rather than by directly competing with other members. And, as in so many other cults, relatively new recruits earn their spurs by criticizing outsiders and defending A.A. from critics, rather than by attacking fellow members.

77. True Believers
A.A. scores a 10.

The committed members are real true believers, as described by Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer.

It doesn't matter how carefully and patiently you point out the inconsistencies and contradictions in the cult's theology, it doesn't matter how clearly you show that something is ridiculous nonsense, the true believers will just smile and say "Yes, but..." and then proceed to explain how a doctrine that is clearly illogical, and perhaps even impossible, is really correct — even inspired cosmic wisdom.

The true believers aren't about to allow their opinions to be swayed by mere facts:

"The truth of the matter is I know it works b/c it works. You may not believe that, but I don't need facts to believe it."

And there is no shortage of true believers who are ready to lash out angrily and hatefully whenever anyone dares to criticize A.A. or its beliefs. Many people are not interested in the truth at all. They say that they are, but they are not. Rather, they just want to hear some affirmation of their own beliefs — that is, their own superstitions. They incant the line from page 58 of the Big Book about Alcoholics Anonymous being a lifestyle of rigorous honesty, and then they stubbornly refuse to hear the truth.

I regularly receive emails from true-believer A.A. members who claim that I am wrong about something or other. When I answer, showing them the evidence that supports my statements, they simply ignore it and change the subject, and complain about something else. They simply will not allow their opinions to be changed by mere facts. They are in denial. That is not good mental health, nor is it recovery, nor is it a lifestyle of "rigorous honesty." That is a lifestyle of self-deception.

78. Scapegoating and Excommunication
A.A. only scores a 2, for the shunning and ostracism of people who quit the program, and for blaming non-A.A. spouses for relapses.

A.A. doesn't generally use scapegoats — they just individually blame every person who relapses, by saying that they didn't work The Steps right, or they didn't Work A Strong Program.

A.A. doesn't tend to excommunicate people — rather, it wants them to Keep Coming Back. So relapses don't result in banishment.

However, criticism of the A.A. program is grounds for instant ostracism. Telling the truth about the real history of A.A. and its founders is grounds for excommunication.

And A.A. has an unfortunate tendency to tell members to dump their non-A.A. spouses and marry within A.A., so that all A.A. members will have "someone who understands", rather than a spouse who might "trigger them" and "cause a relapse". That is also the cult characteristic of Devaluing the Outsider.

79. Promised Powers or Knowledge
A.A. scores a 10.

Bill Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous make all kinds of promises of great benefits that are supposed to accrue to A.A. members — spiritual experiences, psychic guidance from God, and the total transformation of one's life, ending up in a state of bliss where one only feels "Serenity and Gratitude".

Bill Wilson actually promised us that God would just magically remove our cravings for alcohol, with no effort on our part (if we did Bill's Twelve Steps correctly, which is a lot of effort):

We will seldom be interested in liquor.   ...
We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given to us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.   ...
We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, Chapter 3, More About Alcoholism, pages 84-85.

Bill Wilson also promised that newcomers to A.A. would get other benefits, like becoming sane psychics from doing Step Eleven:

      ... Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision.   ...   We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely on it.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, pages 86 to 87.

So, eventually, Bill says, our thinking will be "on the plane of inspiration" (whatever that means).
(Just ignore the fact that we will be doing absurd crazy things in the short term, while we imagine that every goofy thought that goes through our heads is the Voice of God, telling us what to do.)

Bill Wilson promised people a "spiritual experience" from confessing their sins to their sponsors:

We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 6, Into Action, page 75.

Bill Wilson even went so far as to write down a list of promised goodies, as "The Promises". What are "The Promises?" The Promises are the things that Bill Wilson says the A.A. members will get after they do Steps One through Eight, and are halfways through Step Nine.

        If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
        Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, pages 83-84.

It's a shame that this stuff doesn't really work. We could be cranking out saints on an assembly-line basis if it did...

Another critic noted that "The Promises" were written in the future tense, not the present, and asked "Why?"

A possible answer that he suggested is that the early AA members were themselves still waiting for the great results of doing the Twelve Steps when they published the Big Book. Bill Wilson and his colleagues were trying to reassure themselves that the Promised Land lay just around the corner...

80. It's a con. You don't get the promised goodies.
A.A. scores a 10.

You don't get the promised goodies. It's all a hoax.

  • The Promises don't materialize in your life. You don't get the promised Serenity and Peace and Gratitude, etc.
    (Remember that what Bill Wilson actually got from 10 years of Working The Steps was 11 more years of chronic, crippling clinical depression, not "Serenity and Gratitude".)

  • You don't get Heaven on Earth, and you don't get rocketed into a fourth dimension, like Bill said:

    We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.
    The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, chapter 2, There Is A Solution, page 25.

  • You don't get a wonderful "spiritual experience" from confessing your sins to your sponsor.

  • And above all, the Alcoholics Anonymous program does not make people quit drinking alcohol. God does not just magically remove the desire to drink "without any thought or effort on our part", like Bill Wilson said. You still have to quit the hard way, just like everybody else.

That was all just Bill Wilson's crazy delusional ravings, not a shred of truth in it. You never get the promised goodies. What more can I say?

to answers 81 to 90.


1) 'PASS IT ON' The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., pages 293-294, and
A History of Addiction & Recovery in the United States, Michael Lemanski, page 59.
Bill's 11-year long fit of deep, crippling, chronic depression lasted from 1944 to 1955.
Also see: Nan Robertson, Getting Better Inside Alcoholics Anonymous, page 80.
Also see: Francis Hartigan, Bill W., page 166: "By 1945, Bill [Wilson] was in treatment with another psychotherapist, Dr. Frances Weeks, a Jungian."

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Last updated 17 January 2015.
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