So earlier this week I posted a piece about "powerlessness" here at OS. Powerlessness is an AA concept which I think is counterproductive. I believe that people can learn to make wise choices, to acknowledge that their behaviors are volitional. It seems to me that teaching people that they have no control is to provide a handy excuse for continual relapses. It's the same reason I don't care for giving one's control up to a sponsor or to a higher power, and the same reason I argue against the disease model of addiction. In my mind, it's all about working out those self-control muscles, re-establishing control over unwanted behaviors, and believing in one's own ability to change.
Someone posted a nasty comment about how I should seek my supervisor's guidance because I clearly have an issue with AA (for some underlying, undisclosed reason). I must, then, be providing insufficient guidance to my clients by leaving out or arguing against AA's methods. I am not talking to my clients here; I'm trying to have a grown up conversation on a few issues, and I had hoped that the idea I was presenting about powerlessness would be taken up for conversation.
Let me start by saying that AA is everywhere in this country; it's literally unavoidable. Where I worked, three of the four counselors are AA proponents, and my own clients got all kinds of lectures about it from them. One rejected everything but AA doctrine and frequently went to complain to the director. The director was also CBT trained (on top of being an AAer), and he said he hired me to round out the team, to make the place as eclectic as possible, to provide as much information as possible so clients have more tools to choose. The steps were posted on the wall. H & I meetings were held there on a weekly basis. And virtually all of our residents had been thoroughly versed in the approach, having been through multiple programs before.
In my group, people were free to disagree with whatever I said, and I never tried to get successful AA members to leave their program. The things I talk about in these posts is fairly inappropriate for a group session. I never mentioned the Orange Papers. I have read some on that site, but some anti-AA folks are vitriolic, and some of the stuff there is mocking and condescending. I do not think AA is a cult. I never said, nor do I believe, that AA is bound to fail its members. I never suggested that people should drop out or should decide against trying that approach or any useful concepts and tools that can be found there.
I believe in providing as many useful tools from all sources as I can find. People should feel free to find a set of tools or an approach that suits them best.
If I were to have the ability to update the Big Book, I'd like to see the spirituality portion taken out entirely because it so offends so many people, and I would get rid of the whole powerlessness concept because it is incorrect and wrong-headed.
In truth, all recovery resources have something to offer, and all have significant overlap. Often you'll find different terms being used for the same general ideas across the different approaches. Approaches can be combined, and custom recovery plans, fashioned by the individual, may be the best choice of all. In future posts, I'll talk about the various specific tools that can be added to any program, and I may post more about small issues in various approaches that don't make sense to me.
You can choose to take it personally, but it is not intended to harm anyone; it's offered to help and to clarify my own ideas about how I go about my job and the future of the field.
I would very much appreciate it if no further personal attacks took place. I understand that people really want to believe that what they are doing to help themselves. I even get that exposure of these issues can result AA members feel a bit less sure about how solid they are in their sobriety, like it's somehow less trustworthy and helpful, like it has changed somehow as a result of someone disagreeing with a few issues. The defensiveness struck me as fear. I get that.
If people disagree, that's perfectly fine. We can talk about the issues, or we can agree to disagree. But please stop assuming that my purpose is to destroy AA. That just isn't so.