August 26, 2004

Penn & Teller inspired post.

As I'm sitting here, a certain episode of Penn & Teller's program is currently on the tube. This one is in regards to twelve step recovery programs. I thought that I'd do a little fisking of the twelve steps myself. I got the listing of the steps from here.

#1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

We admitted that we had no self-control. We drank because we wanted to drink, and we wanted to drink more than we wanted to do anything else. Maybe diving into a bottle was better than actually dealing with stuff. Who cares? It was funner.

#2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Gave up our own will, in order to rely on an abstract. We looked to the heavens and decided that they were better than our own minds, because we were always juiced up, and our minds were a little imbalanced.

#3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Completely threw our hands in the air, and stated that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves, so we should just let someone else take care of it. I don't trust anybody actually around me to help, so I believe that I'll let "God" do all the work. Let's all head over to the nearest church basement and let "God's chosen representative (tm)" tell us how to live our lives. "Just think of the stories we can get these people to tell, that is if they can remember any of them."

#4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Whose "morals"? Ours or someone elses?

#5) Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

I fucked up, and I told somebody else about it. They didn't beat me or call me bad names, so I guess it was a good thing. Who cares if it was a bus driver and a voice in my head that I told it to?

#6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

I am not perfect and that is unnacceptible! I must be perfect in the eyes of someone! Wait, I'll make someone up who thinks I'm okay!

#7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Oh crap! Now I actually have to ask the person I just made up to do, what I made him up for. What kind of crap is this?

#8) Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

First I'd like to recognize Mom. She went through labor to bring me into this world, so I am willing to watch Fahrenheit 9/11, 911 times to atone for the grievous pain I caused her.

#9) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Obviously the F 9/11 thing won't work, as watching that "film" 911 times will only encourage him to make more. I could never do that to society.

#10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

"Socks, check. Shirt, Check. Clean underwear, Weeeeeeelllllllll...I'm wrong for not having clean underwear!" Someone hug me.

#11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

"Hey there dude. I know I just created you out of thin air 'n stuff, but can you tell me what you want me to do? Oh yeah, and make me do it too?"

#12) Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

"So stranger. I notice that you are imbibing a substance that I no longer partake of. Let me introduce you to the fellow that I "just made up". He's really groovy, and will fix all your problems. All you gotta do is ask him."

I say "Do it your Damn-Self". If you can't find any "real people" out there to help you out and give you the support that you need, you need to find some new friends and/or family.

If you don't want to quit, then you won't. If you do (no I mean really do) want to give it up, you will. It's just that simple. Make up your mind and do what you want to do.

One step. Much simpler.

Posted by Johnny - Oh at August 26, 2004 11:50 PM

LOL! That was damn funny.

Posted by: Sally at August 27, 2004 07:29 AM

"Just Do It" theology eh? Nice.

Often as not however, giving up alcohol is not as simple as putting away the bottle -- it means putting away your friends, your hobby, your lifestyle, your self-esteem, sometimes even your job or your family. Giving all that stuff up is not exactly a "just do it" proposition -- and assuming that you still agree than a recovered alcoholic is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing -- then why you would go to the trouble of mocking them, and impuning their personal God is beyond me.

Or do you just enjoy kicking a man when he's down?

Posted by: Marty at August 27, 2004 09:59 AM

Well Marty, I just have a problem with the mere idea that "giving yourself over" to a man-made abstract designed to explain the inexplicable, and also a rudimentary government structure (God, and The Church respectively) will somehow make you a better person. In the P&T show, they showed some numbers that stated that the success rate of AA and other 12 step programs over the course of 1 year is approx. 5%. they also stated that the success rate of people who decided to give up their alcohol drinking on their own is approx. 5%, as well, but without all the cult-like "giving you rself over".

I am a big supporter of the idea of personal responsibility. The guy who fails to quit on his own, can only look himself in the mirror and know that he's let himself down. The person who joined AA, and followed all of it's precepts to the letter, and still fail's to quit, has an easy scapegoat for his failure. "God let me down." "It's his will." "It must not have been part of His plan." It seems to me to be an easy way to shrug off your individual guilt, and to place the responsibility elsewhere.

That's not to say that I'm against a person trying to stop their destructive behavior, and using AA as a way to do it. If it helps them to stay motivated, and keeps them from being destructive, then do it. More power to you. I just believe that a person should blame themselves for their shortcoming's, and not something else.

Of course, these are my own opinions and observations. Mileage may vary. I'm just happy that I live in a society that allows me to express them.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 27, 2004 03:09 PM

Johnny would never do anything of the sort, Marty. I'm confused though. How could QUITTING drinking make you lose your family/job/self-esteem? I'm not being nasty. I really would like to know.

Posted by: Sally at August 27, 2004 03:16 PM

To answer your question for Marty (from my point of view), I think it has something to do with the "Bird's of a feather, flock together" concept. Drinking is a social exercise, for the most part, so drinker's will gravitate toward other's who drink.

The Family may be full of drunks, and that's what got the individual started down the wrong road. After he's an accomplished drinker, then he starts hanging out with other drinker's socially, and goes to work for a company that is full of people who take their "2 martini lunches", on a daily basis.

This person joins AA, and begins to progress through the steps. He starts to see his life in a different way after he quits drinking. His whole perspective changes, and the things that used to bring him happiness (or a facsimile thereof) is gone, and everyone who surrounds him still does it.

If he is following the steps properly, the biggest one that will impact his social/business life is step 12. Once he starts trying to convince the people around him that they should come on in and change their way of looking at things, he will generally be viewed as a "tee-totaller".

His Family and Friends will no longer want to be around him, just because he will "go on a rant" whenever someone cracks a beer. His boss may let him go, because the boss doesn't trust anyone who won't have a drink with him, or doesn't want the employee disrupting the workplace with his "sermons" against alcohol.

As for "self-esteem", I posit that human beings are social animals, and after all the things that I've described above have transpired, he will now have little to no social interaction's with which to reaffirm himself. Therefore, he will begin to feel a certain "unworthiness", and can slide into depression. Not to mention the fact that the whole "Making Amends" aspect of things outlined in step nine, makes you demean yourself in front of/to others. If I had to do that on a daily basis, my self-esteem would be in the dirt.

Anyway Sally, that's my take on things.

Marty. Let us know if I've incorrectly interpreted something here, or have left something out.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 27, 2004 09:26 PM

The one friend of mine who goes to AA "religiously" doesn't give a shit about the divine inspiration or assistance involved. Though he doesn't say it, and doesn't push it at all, he believes it works. And, in his case, so do I. If you ever look at what drove him to the point of looking for help and actually quitting, it comes down to your view: "Just do it, YOURSELF!" But he has friends who know that, under the influence, he is an ugly and potentially dangerous man. (Although, there are many funny stories to tell!) I personally don't think that he has ever needed backup, but there are many of us here for him.

And, to Marty, I don't think John was mocking anyone. Just the program. If it works for you, great! But if it doesn't, don't ever use it as an excuse.

Posted by: That 1 Guy at August 28, 2004 03:20 AM

Almost off-topic at this point, but is this season 2 of P&T BS? I bought season 1 on DVD & I'm lovin' it!

Posted by: Harvey at August 28, 2004 12:33 PM

(mumbling) stupid drunk blogging ... What I meant by my friend not saying it, was actually, that he doesn't run around telling everyone that AA works.

Posted by: That 1 Guy at August 28, 2004 02:01 PM

Harvey. Yup, New stuff that you can't see yet. :^P

T1g. Thanks for the clarification, but I believe your point came across anyway.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 28, 2004 02:39 PM

JO, i think you did a fine job of explaining what i meant to Sally. One half of "putting it in Gods hands" is "relinquishing your own control (or obvious lack therof)". This often means giving up your friends, your family, and everything else that enables you to keep on thinking you've got it all together -- when you're still killing youself with drink. It also means suffering the same sort of ridicule in your original post.

Interesting recidivism (sp?) rates there. 5% huh? You know i spend a lot of time over at XGW where they do the same sort of insulting and God hating thing, expect its directed towards people who want to stop being gay, instead of stop being drunks. One of there biggest peices of evidence that "gays can't change" is the piss-poor success rates of ex-gay programs. Along the lines of 5%. Just an interesting parallel - i'm not saying anything here, but may soon, on my own site.

Oh and Johnny, please do me a favor. Stop pretending that your "made up" god is the same as the One i worship. It's insulting to all 3 of us, and just makes you look silly. Just because He hasn't revealed himself to you yet is not proof that he can't, or won't, or doesn't exist.

Posted by: Marty at August 28, 2004 02:43 PM

Thanks, Marty and Johnny for the explanation of the earlier point :-)

Posted by: Sally at August 28, 2004 03:04 PM

Thanks for stopping in and catching up Marty. Your comments are always welcome.

You're right about the whole 5% phenomena. I wonder if the success rate of other recovery-type endeavors comes out around there as well. Maybe there's a dynamic out there that drives something like that.

I plan on doing a post about my atheism here shortly, and hopefully I can convey my point of view on that subject in a properly respectful light. Thanks for letting me know that I insulted you. I appreciate honesty in all its forms, and if I don't know I'm doing it, I can't correct the behavior.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 28, 2004 03:12 PM

As Sally will (if pushed) testify I used to drink heavily (for a whole bunch of reasons) and one day I decided to stop - period. No AA, no God, no-one pushing me to do it. I just decided I didn't want to. Again, as Sally will testify, I have the drive and type of personality that allows me to do that. I still go to pubs, there is alchohol in the house, I never get tempted and haven't touched any in 11 years now not even with any relapses.

I don't agree with AA - I think the idea of being a constant "recovering" alchoholic is B/S. It is constantly questioning your commitment and thus never actually rewarding or congratulating you for conquering your demons. Anything, be it church or AA, where you are having any kind of dependency is wrong. Kind of like kicking Heroin for methodone - sure it is supposed to help but people become addicted to the substitute.

What AA doesn't do is address the root causes of WHY you drink - it just tells you drink is bad. Group therapy is something that reminds me of psychiatric treatment sessions for people without problems. Address the issues with the people who are directly affected by them - friends and family because it may be there is something they can do (change a behaviour perhaps) to help you.

it is wrong for people to stand up and say "You are wrong about this because that worked for me!" because people are individuals and in groups of any kind (be it AA or church) this is something you lose. You are not Alex the loving father, Alex the adoring husband - you are Alex the recovering alchoholic or Alex the congregation member.

Posted by: Alex at August 28, 2004 03:37 PM

Interesting point Alex. Do these organizations actually cause self-esteem issue's just by forcing someone to redefine who they are? Could be, could be. I also appreciate the fact that you take pride in YOUR accomplishment over alcohol. You did it, and you SHOULD be proud of yourself. The only person who can take that away from you, is you. Thanks for sharing.

BTW You're welcome, Sally. :^)

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 28, 2004 07:22 PM

Hey Johnny, can you provide me with the source for that 5% statistic? Things are coming to a head over at VM....

Posted by: Marty at August 31, 2004 11:46 AM

Here's one source. I hop eit works to your point.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at September 1, 2004 12:16 AM
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