Los Angeles is home to the Pacific Group, one of the most respected (or notorious depending on who you ask) Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the country. Its influence has spread all the way to New York, so it should be no surprise that Southern Califonia is awash in it. That influence is why I stopped attending meetings once I had some time under my belt.
So I get a small joy reading stories bashing AA, and I come by that honestly. Gabrielle Glaser’s The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous in The Atlantic is a good piece, and echoes many of the issues that I had with the organization. AA groups can be very cult-like. The 12 steps are demonstrably not the only way to get and stay sober. The program is 80 years old, and we know more about the brain than we did in the 1930s. There’s really no scientific evidence that the steps actually work. The list goes on.
I’m only going to speak for myself. When I dragged my butt into that church basement, sweating and shaking, I really only needed a few things: Somewhere to go other than my house or a liquor store, people who weren’t mad at me, people who understood me, and things to do when I wasn’t at the meeting or hanging out with my new friends. And when I repeatedly fell on my face in those early months, I needed the greeter at my home group, a former Marine, to punch me on the shoulder and say, “Welcome back, Fuckstick.”In other words, I didn’t need rational things, and I suspect that I’m not alone.
Glaser writes about experimenting with naltrexone, an opioid blocker that appears to reduce alcohol cravings, and reports that it worked for her. This tells me that Glaser is not a problem drinker.
See, for me one of the biggest obstacles to sobriety was filling up all of that extra time. A person who is in some ways suicidal has bigger problems than alcohol cravings. He’s not safe alone with his own thoughts. If Antabuse didn’t stop me from drinking, naltrexone certainly would not have.
I would be happy to see AA either lose its dominance in the recovery industry or reform into something different. Even if that happens, though, I suspect that people looking to recover will still need new friends and a place to go when they decide to get better.
I don’t know exactly why I wrote this, and it might not stay up. Perhaps it will help someone or make some conversation.