Sunday, June 15, 2014

How AA's Freakazoid Focus Excludes and Abuses Seculars

I hope I never need a 12-step program, partly because as an atheist I can see immediately that they are nothing but god-bothering bullshit.

But mostly because as an atheist with an addiction I would be sentenced to jail for refusing to submit to freakazoid conversion therapy.

Julie M. Rodriguez at Truthout:

An atheist man from California is suing the state after he was jailed for failing to participate in a court-ordered 12-step drug addiction program in 2007. After serving time for methamphetamine possession, Barry A. Hazle, Jr., was told that he would have to attend a local, religiously-oriented organization as a condition of his parole.

Hazle, a lifelong atheist and member of several secular humanist groups, expressed his discomfort to his parole officer. But the answer wasn’t what he was hoping for — he was told there were no alternative groups available. Despite his misgivings, Hazle attended the group as ordered. When he continued to raise objections about the nature of the program, he was arrested for violating his parole and sent back to state prison for another 100 days.

Unfortunately, this is an all too-familiar story for many who are struggling with addiction. If you’ve never been to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or a similar 12-step recovery program, you may not realize that these organizations are all, at their heart, deeply religious. While they don’t endorse any particular sect or denomination, 5 of the 12 steps explicitly require members to accept and acknowledge the existence of God.

This wouldn’t be a problem if secular alternatives to these programs were available for people struggling with addiction. That leads to another fact that may surprise you: by and large, few non-religious alternatives for drug and alcohol addiction exist. In many parts of the country, they’re not available at all.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media is still promoting AA's freakazoid falsehoods, as in articles like this one.

Striking back are a few brave seculars trying to break the freakazoid death-grip on recovery.

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist:

G. Jeffrey MacDonald of Religion News Service points out that AA is going through a crisis right now, wondering how flexible they can be with the religion issue:
Has AA become too God-focused and rigid? Or have groups watered down beliefs and methods so much that they’re now ineffective? 
“Some think AA is not strict enough,” said Lee Ann Kaskutas, senior scientist at the Public Health Institute’s Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville, Calif. “Others think it’s too strict, so they want to change AA and make it get with the times.” 
With more than 100,000 local meetings and an estimated two million members worldwide, AA is grappling with how much diversity it can handle. Over the past two years, umbrella organizations in Indianapolis and Toronto have delisted groups that replaced AA’s 12 steps to recovery with secular alternatives. More than 90 unofficial, self-described “agnostic AA” groups now meet regularly in the United States.

Roger C. brings a different concern. Those who insist on doing the original 12 steps, he says, are apt to alienate nonbelievers, who might never get the help they need. 
Some get turned off “when someone comes up to you as a new member of AA and tells you, ‘if you don’t find God, you’re going to die a drunk,’” Roger C says. “That rigidity is very religious, very intolerant and very hurtful to a number of recovering alcoholics who are looking for an avenue to get sober.”
The fact that Agnostic AA groups (sometimes called “We Agnostics“) exist was a surprise to me when I first heard about them only a few weeks ago.

I contacted Julio, a regional representative for Alcoholics Anonymous, to ask him about these groups a couple of weeks ago — how long they’ve existed, how they’re seen by AA, and whether the groups have AA’s “stamp of approval.”

In essence, he told me AA groups are autonomous so there’s really nothing stopping them from popping up and thriving:


In fact, it may even be helping them. In 2009, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published a paper showing that a controlled secular group abused fewer substances than a controlled spiritual group:
While both groups eventually benefited relatively equally from their treatment — abusing substances on fewer days — it took longer to see improvement among those in the spiritual group. What’s more, those who received spiritual guidance reported being significantly more anxious and depressed after four months than those who got secular help. Those problems abated at about the eight-month point, but because substance abusers are at high risk for suicide, some worry that it may not be a good idea to put them through demanding spiritual calisthenics in the early months of their recovery.
This isn’t to say AA’s method isn’t effective — it’s worked for a lot of people. But it would be beneficial for everybody if they were more explicit about the fact that God doesn’t need to be a part of everybody’s recovery plan.

1 comment:

Luke Barlowe said...

Instead or going to AA, why don't the religious nuts just pray about it!