Anniversary Post: Alcoholics Anonymous

Bill WilsonOn this day 1934, according to Alcoholics Anonymous lore, Bill Wilson had taken his last drink. This has led to decades of drunks and other addicts all over the world suffering for far longer than was necessary. You see, AA is a religious program — a way to purify the soul. And in that way, I suspect it isn’t any worse than most other notions that Christians have about spirituality. But I have absolutely no idea what this has to do with drugs. It’s only thanks to decades of propaganda that anyone thinks addiction is a moral problem.

But you have to ask yourself: how did good ol’ Bill W get sober? I contend that it has squat to do with working the steps and all that malarkey. Rather, creating and building the group gave him something to do. I’ve long argued that rather than provide drug “treatment” in jail, they should provide job training. Give them something to do when they get out other than sit in useless — as much as it’s been tested, counterproductive — meetings.

“It works if you work it!” That’s what the AA bots say. Of course, that’s ridiculous. According to AA, addiction is a disease, yet its cure is some kind of spiritual self-help program? If you had cancer, would you ever consider an oncologist who told you that in order to cure the cancer, you were going to have a make a list of everyone you harmed and make amends? Of course not. You’d think she was crazy, or some sort of bizarre witch-doctor. And you’d find someone else.

Of course, the great legacy of Bill Wilson — the reason that he is known — is because AA became part of the criminal justice system. It needed something to do with all the drug users (Only some addicts!) that the state was arresting. So when a convict was on probation or parole, the state couldn’t just forget about “helping” the poor sod. Just the same, the state wasn’t willing to actually pay for anything that might work. And there was AA: the perfect thing! Did it work? No one cared. That’s the American way: it doesn’t matter that you actually accomplish something, so long as you look like you are working the problem. In that way, AA is perfect for America.

There is no question that Bill Wilson’s legacy is terrible. He has caused so much harm, it would be hard to calculate. Yet there are millions who admire him. This is because he created a cult. But not just any cult: a cult that was useful to the state! And then, with court-mandated “treatment,” lots of hospitals and private companies got into the 12-step gravy train. It’s been absolutely fantastic — for everyone but the addicts and their friends and family. For them, it’s sucked. Thanks Bill W!

10 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Alcoholics Anonymous

  1. Judges care now. There is a very slow but steady movement to evidence based sentencing for treatment. Part of the problem is the stubborn belief that these are people who should be only punished and not treated. Another part of the problem is cost-even if much of it is borne by the Defendant.

    But with the emergence of drug courts it does appear to be working better now for addicts:

    Perhaps if the people back in the fifties had this info…naaaaaah, things would have mostly turned out the same. *sigh*

    • Or, we simply could legalize drugs. Because drug laws are against human dignity and do nothing to keep us safer or happier.

      • Possibly-until then, it is better to get some kind of treatment for a person when they are charged with other offenses instead of just ignoring the problem and hope it goes away on its own. A person who is high on something and breaks into a house to eat a sandwich has committed a series of crimes but why toss her into prison? She didn’t hurt anyone.

        Even if you legalize drugs, you still have the problems inherent when you have an addict who commits a crime so drug courts are a good solution to deal with the entire issue and not just the facet of addiction.

      • Sure. But I’m afraid I’ve given up hope on that way. The best way forward seems to be a slow liberalization of laws. And I would like to get major changes to way methadone is dispensed in this country. But that’s not going to happen, because a lot of rich people are making too much money off it. Of course, you could say that more generally about the drug war and all that.

    • Last time I checked, every time one of these court mandated religious indoctrinations was questioned by a higher court, they failed the constitutional test. And there is now major pushback from the medical community. But it is still a huge problem. I used to have better intelligence, with people telling me what they were going through. But I don’t much anymore.

      • I can believe it because they are an interference with the free exercise of religion.

        It is a huge problem still. Even full legalization of every drug known to man is still going to have the same issues I mentioned-someone is addicted to drugs or using them to self medicate and then commits a crime while on the drugs. So the government has to get dragged in and since the system is going to be fairly large with the sheer number of people in any given area, you have more of a hamfisted method of dealing with the problem. The drug courts are an attempt, not a perfect attempt, but an attempt to deal with it without using those annoying mandatory minimums created because no one thought to ask the judges to create their own sentencing guidelines and it lets the local politician Look Tough On Crime(TM).

        And it keeps the sammich makers from going to prison.

        • Well, the libertarian answer would be, “Not our problem.” But I completely agree with you. I had thought I had said that. The problem remains, although clearly, it would be less of a problem. The bigger problem would be overdoses, especially with opioids because of the way only some aspects of the drug produce tolerance.

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