Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, December 17, 2004

My name is Slag, and I'm an alcoholic...

...Not really, but I do want to use my position here at Total Drek to draw attention to what I think is one of the world's truly great organizations. By great, I mean both effective and morally good. The group is Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alcoholics Anonymous is currently helping more than 2,000,000 people around the world in their struggle with alcoholism. No one knows the exact number of members; AA has no formal command structure, and thrives on anonymity. But it's safe to say that AA makes a major positive impact on the lives of millions, and on the world at large.

Alcoholism is one of the biggest problems of modern industrialized societies, all over the world. Maybe some of you sociologists can figure out some reasons why it's such a problem. But nearly everyone has a family member, friend, or co-worker who is an alcoholic, so nearly everyone is aware of alcoholism's potential to destroy lives.

Decades ago, doctors thought severe alcoholism was basically incurable. Alcoholics went into hospitals, recovered and sobered up, and went back out to drink again. Then, in 1935, a salesman from New York met a doctor in Akron, Ohio. History has recorded their names, but A.A. members, keeping with their tradition of anonymity, still refer to them as Bill W. and Dr. Bob. Bill W. and Dr. Bob met regularly to discuss their common problem of alcoholism, and they both noticed that their temptation to drink lessened when they spoke to each other about their problem. They personally invited other alcoholics to join their meetings, and the movement began to grow. Groups started in Cleveland, New York, and other cities.

Four years later, the movement named itself Alcoholics Anonymous and published the Big Book, a guide to the organization's recovery program. Today, A.A. meetings happen nearly every hour of every day, all over the world.

Meetings vary a little in form and content, but the basic premise is always the same. The goal of each meeting, according to A.A. tradition, is for alcoholics to share the "experience, strength, and hope" they have found in their lives. Several people speak during each meeting. Usually, people don't respond to others' statements; each person's perspective is respected as both unique and applicable to all.

New A.A. members find a sponsor, someone who has been in the program for at least six months. With his or her sponsor, the new member works through A.A.'s 12 steps to recovery (I'll post more about those later). The A.A. program is definitely a spiritual program, relying on a "Higher Power" throughout the program. But - and this is the beautiful thing that separates A.A. from the many programs that are secretly religious recruiting tools - A.A. won't tell you what the Higher Power is. A.A. has helped Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists conquer alcoholism. A prominent A.A. brochure features a message from an atheist alcoholic whose life changed when he joined A.A., and who encourages other atheists to consider A.A. for what it is - an organization open to all, committed to helping people struggle with and overcome the problem of alcoholism.

I'll be posting about Alcoholics Anonymous in four parts. This is part one. Part two comes next Monday. I'll talk more about the 12 steps, and describe how millions of individual alcoholics have found recovery through the steps. Next Wednesday, in part three, I'll talk about A.A.'s "12 Traditions," and how A.A. groups and A.A. as a whole function. Next Friday, in part four, I'll give some of my own reflections about why I think A.A. is such a great organization, and such a positive influence on the world.

I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.


Blogger Drek said...

Woah, four posts? Kickass! You realize that by the time you're done you'll probably have exceeded the output of the Berkeley Public Sociology crowd, right?

You know, come to think about it, maybe the Berkeley folks ARE achieving a dialogue with the public. The public, after all, doesn't seem to read much sociology, so Public Sociology doesn't write much. Fabulous! It's like a tautology made flesh!

Slag, I think you're right about the good that Alcoholics Anonymous does, but I also think it's a shame that it has religious overtones. The atheist alcoholic you mentioned commented:

I was not able to accept A.A. or the very real help it could give until I made a rationalistic interpretation of the program. I am still an atheist, but I am a grateful atheist.Atheists going into a somewhat-religious context are stuck trying to reinterpret things in a way that is compatible with their beliefs. Sometimes this is easier than others. Granted, if AA wasn't explicitly religious the theists of the world would face a similar interpretation issue but, well, in my experience it isn't usually hard to get a theist to inject religion and god into anything.

I'm just glad that AA is sufficiently vague with its religious content that atheists at least have an opportunity to try to adjust.

Friday, December 17, 2004 9:55:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan Raddick said...

Drek, I can't seem to read anything in the Public Sociology blog. Does it work for you?

FYI, here is some more information on the experience of atheists and agnostics in A.A., from the "Big Book," the central text of the A.A. movement.

Monday, December 20, 2004 7:47:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Allow me to educate you, my child. Once, there was a blog called "Public Sociology," organized by some folks at Berkeley. They intended their blog to be a resource for the public who wished a dialogue with sociology, and vice versa. For a time they were hosted on blogspot, as we are. Yet, Slag, they were dreamers, and desired their own webspace under their own control. So, they migrated out of Blogspot and into their own fresh territory, and they saw that it was good.

Except that it wasn't good, becuase their new system never worked quite right, their archiving system was broken from the start, and they just gave up on posting after a handful of tries. So, if you can't see anything, it's mostly because there isn't anything to see. It's a pathetic shell of a blog. And don't any of you fuckers from Berkeley give me any lip about that either! I write more in an average week than you did in your entire blog. You want to argue with me, cool! Do it on your friggin blog!In regards to the AA .pdf: Well, on the positive side, I'm happy the authors found a way to gain an upper hand on their alcoholism. I am similarly supportive of their contention that open-mindedness is the best policy. Frankly, I couldn't agree with that more. However, beyond that, I have to say that the .pdf you linked to is one of the single most offensive things I've read in months. It reads much like one of those missives from individuals claiming that their homosexuality was "cured" by the power of Jesus Christ. Beyond that, it includes some intensely half-assed logic and, were I not busy, I'd probably consider using it as source material for a post.

Ironically, though, it would seem to contradict our earlier agreement that Atheists can find a way to exist in AA without necessarily becoming Theists. Man, I am feeling the love.

Monday, December 20, 2004 9:44:00 PM  

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