Archive for September 15th, 2013

The Death of the Old AA

Bill W, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, took his terminal alcoholism to the world top psychiatrist in Switzerland.   That man, at enormous expense, told him that alcoholism was quite simply a terminal disease.   As with cancer, he had seen a few seemingly miraculous recoveries, but, as in the case of cancer still today, no one can explain those and they are vanishingly rare.
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Then the world’s top psychiatrist, whose name I cannot remember, told Bill W flatly he would have to take his wallet and go elsewhere.

Freud would probably have taken his money until he died drunk and talked about sex.

So Bill W and Doctor Bob established AA before WWII and the drunks saved each other, or at least they had a place to go to die.

AA established a heroic record. What a recovering AA alkie would do for his fellow drunk to keep him from relapsing was heroic.

Routinely heroic, unheralded, and anonymous. A lot of what they did was more dangerous than those in WWII, who bored us all sick with what heroes they were at age 20, did.

But then came the professionals. Psychiatrists, who had opted out of dealing with alkies and junkies before it started to pay, returned.

Then the fight against drug addiction became fashionable.

Clinics became fashionable and profitable. The Recovery Industry charged three hundred bucks a day for AA meetings AND “therapy.”   Therapy, talk sessions by “credentialed experts,” was suddenly in.

I watched the old Bill W business, where unpaid alkies helped new alkies, die. I ended up being the only person who would give a ride to someone who called in asking for one.

But in a way, the old AA worked because it was like us: they didn’t theorize, they went out and TRIED things. If it didn’t work, you would find your sponsorees dying as a result. The old AA worked because it dealt with their realest of realities and adjusted every day.

The industry that has replaced the old AA lives by who gets published in the latest article. Whether anything works means nothing to these paycheck “recovery” pros. It reminds me of many of our membership organizations.