July 30, 2014

Penn & Teller Bullshit: Alcoholics Anonymous

The comedy/magic duo Penn & Teller, have been doing a show called Bullshit! for several years now where they expose scams and bust cultural myths.  One classic episode examined Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s a great primer on what’s wrong with the organization.  With all the traffic I’m getting right now from people interested in Charlie Sheen’s claims that AA is a cult and an ineffective solution for addiction, I thought this would be a good time to post it.

Specifically, they cover the basic facts that addiction is not a real disease, that AA is indeed religious faith healing, that it has a 5 percent success rate, and that it is no more effective than rates of natural recovery.  If you want to know more about these claims, explore this site for in-depth discussion, if you’re a newbie who wants the basics presented in an entertaining form, watch the videos below.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Comments

  1. Steve Moniker says:

    I love P&T’s Bullshit, this one is really cool.

    Penn – Just F’n quit!

  2. This video helped me soo much when I found it. I called Dee- dee and we have become friends. Talking to her made me feel sane.

  3. Elizabeth Dubey says:

    Well I drank for 40 yeas then went to AA. Sure, it saved me from doing time after my DUI, but the people there are a-holes.

    • rjean99 says:

      Yes, let’s follow the advice of paid comedians.

      “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.”

      “Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn’t done so YET”

      Take it or leave it. Going on 26 years sober (and I’m only 47) still actively involved in AA not because I have the urge to drink, precisely the opposite. I have found a way of life (and yes, I have a VERY full life outside of AA, too) that works for me and I want to share it. I’ve seen miracles. But again, our public relations policy is based on attraction, not promotion, so if you want to drink or find another way to get sober, our hats are off to you. The solution for me has been AA. Why would I want to f*ck with it?

      “There is a principle which is a bar against all information,
      which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail
      to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is
      contempt prior to investigation.”

      • Heather says:

        As someone formerly in “the program” for years, I can say that every single person in there speak this way – down to the EXACT words. Nobody has their own beliefs/opinions and they push this crap on you making you feel guilty if you don’t live up to the insanely ridiculous expectations of the program.

        • NA and AA are complete B*LLSH*T. Anyone, i repeat ANYONE who says that AA/NA saved them is a complete coward. Your only going to to clean yourself up by your own free will.

    • rjean99 says:

      Oh, by the way, yes, we drunks know a thing or two about bullshit – we invented it :) In fact, it’s the only thing we spew when we are justifying and rationalizing our way back to another drink.

      Also, AA does not claim professionalism or to be an organization (“we ought NEVER be organized”). We are a fellowship (OR a movement if you prefer)

      “No dues or fees, does not endorse or oppose any cause, has no affiliation – our PRIMARY purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics.”

      Read the 12 traditions and 12 concepts if you really want to know what AA is and what it isn’t. My guess is, most don’t really want to know, and that’s fine.

      The only thing I agree with is that we are responsible for our own actions. AA has helped me to take responsibility for ALL aspects of my life and realizing I have nobody to blame but myself for ANY of my problems TODAY. Yes, I have chosen to arrest my disease through AA. However, I cannot be cured. If I pick up a drink, the drink takes me. The idea that someday I can drink normally, that’s the disease of alcoholism. Our book says “Many pursue this idea into the gates of insanity or death”. Whether you call it a disease or not, this is a FACT. I choose to believe that is not just a disease, but a DEADLY disease that kills people and destroys families. I didn’t choose to be an alcoholic but you’re right, I did make the choice to get sober and call AA. After screwing around and almost dying on a couple of occasions I finally became willing to take AA’s SUGGESTED steps and stop blaming everyone and everything, including AA, for MY disease.

      Stopping is NOT the problem, staying stopped and understanding that ONLY complete abstinence was the only way and that the FIRST drink gets me drunk is the foundation of recovery. However, when I tried to stay sober on this knowledge alone, it usually lasted a few months if I was lucky. Most people I see (if they are REAL alcoholics) cannot stay sober on knowledge of the disease. Admittedly, I have seen people get and stay sober all by themselves or via other methods of treatment. They are probably not REAL alcoholics. And I’ve also seen “white knuckle” real alcoholics kill themselves or go insane after years of being “dry” due to not having a spiritual program.

      Again, AA does not claim to be the only answer and does not claim to solve any problems other than alcohol. We even tell people when they come in with their bullshit to go try some more controlled drinking. Some make it back, some don’t.

      So yes, we do have a choice, but once I take that drink, I have lost MY choice and become alcohols bitch due to that first drink triggering a craving no non-alcoholic could possibly understand (been there done that may times before I was convinced). Non alcoholics I do not expect to relate to this, but you that are (and hopefully you KNOW who you are and join us on the road to happy destiny) can understand. That’s how it works for “countless” (we don’t need to PROVE anything to P&T with stats, they are free to believe OR not believe)

      Technically, I am violating one of our traditions as we are not supposed to have opinions on outside issues. P&T, you are just an outside issue to AA. I do love your work though. Funny stuff. Just hope it hasn’t killed anybody by scaring them away from AA or reinforcing their denial.

      • RJean,

        Quit with your bullsh*t while you are ahead. You have been brainwashing yourself for the last 20+ years, and you are still stupid enough to claim that people who don’t use AA to stay sober are not “REAL” alcoholics. The only “real” thing about AA is that it is a place where you can receive daily doses of negative reinforcement along with some horrendous negative energy to boot. You sound like a textbook cult follower, spouting out stuff from the book and stuff that AA circulates through it’s meetings nonstop. I didn’t make it back and found my own way to quit drinking, and could not be any happier. Suffice to say, I should probably remind you of AA’s horrific success rate. You are no better off going to AA than you are trying to stop on your own. Going to AA is enough to make one get back on the bottle. Have fun calling yourself an alcoholic for the rest of your life!

        • rjean99 says:

          Our hats our off to you! I will now resign from the debating society so I can stop being negative and go help another alcoholic, which for me has always been a positive experience, whether they stay sober or not, it helps me to stay sober. Again, working for 25+ years now. How long are you sober if you don’t mind my asking?

          • Rjean,
            I have been sober for several years now, not that I can see why that matters. I’m not trying to take anything away from you. I think it is wonderful that AA has kept you sober for the last 25+ years, and congratulations on giving up the bottle and staying off it. The problem I have with AA is that the people in it are convinced that they are helpless without AA, and the kind of nonsense you commented about earlier, referring to the opinion that you are only a true alcoholic if you got sober through AA. I’m not sure if you realize it, but that line of reasoning literally sounds insane. The first comment you wrote earlier sure does sound like promotion opposed to attraction. I’m here to let you know that people come to the realization that they cannot drink or use anymore, and they simply stop doing it. I know that it is hard for you to believe, since you and your associates believe this to be impossible, or discredit us as “fake alcoholics” in order to reinforce your own beliefs. But the fact of the matter is that it is true. I’m sure it is easy for you to spew out twelve step and big book to people who have no idea as to what you are talking about, but it is a little more difficult when you are talking with someone who has had extensive experience within the gloomy rooms of AA. My motto is different than yours. I encourage promotion, letting people know that they have the power within themselves to break free from alcoholism. And I sure do not see myself as someone who is qualified in classifying anyone as a real or fake alcoholic.

          • sober 25 years says:

            The only thing that really works in AA is the fellowship. There are spiritual principles taught there as well, but the mental illness of members is too much.

        • rjean99 says:

          http://aa.org/en_pdfs/mg-11_coopwithprofe.pdf

          All of AA’s steps, traditions, etc. are suggested. Again, take it or leave it. You can call it a cult or brainwashing, whatever you want. The FACT is, I’m sober, happy, joyous and free. Can’t see much negative about that….

          “We are not in competition with these non-A.A.s; we have our separate
          functions. A.A. is not in the business of education, research,
          medicine, counseling, treatment, prevention, or funding. We simply
          have a message to carry about a program of recovery for alcoholics—
          a program that works for hundreds of thousands who want it.
          The professional can reach out to alcoholics—by education, counseling,
          and rehabilitative treatment—and can also be of aid through
          making the community aware of the millions still suffering from the
          progressive illness of alcoholism.”

          • Alfred Wilkinson says:

            Hey rjean99, you are dumb as a bag of hammers. Nothing in ANY of those grammatical nightmares could be called a determinable point, instead it is a bunch of emotional appeal from an unreliable narrator.

            You are the stereotypical AA douchebag. Completely unwavering in your “loyalty” to your unapologetic christian indoctrination club, but without a fucking discernable human trait.

            Here is the reality: Alcoholism is NOT A DISEASE. TAKE SOME FUCKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE. And stop mentioning your sobriety EVERY FUCKING OTHER SENTENCE. It is meaningless to me: the point you are trying to make is that AA is a path to recovery…yet YOU and THOSE LIKE YOU IN AA are NOT ANYONE’s idea of recovery.

            If you look at how AA works, all the pathetic orwellian newspeak and one-liners, it is actually quite terrifying there is an organization with such presence in society and EVERY city, big or small..that is in a position to prey upon people who are in a desperate state of mind.

            You may well be of sober body jean, but you are NOT of sober mind. You are a dry drunk, just like 90% of the other poor saps that give their lives and their souls over to these snake oil salesmen.

      • Hi RJean,

        I don’t understand the point of this double-talk:

        “Also, AA does not claim professionalism or to be an organization (“we ought NEVER be organized”). We are a fellowship (OR a movement if you prefer)”

        What’s your point? BTW, here’s the dictionary definition of “organize”:

        organize |ˈôrgəˌnīz|
        verb [ with obj. ]
        1 arrange into a structured whole; order: organize lessons in a planned way.
        • coordinate the activities of (a person or group of people) efficiently: organize and lead a group of people.
        • form (a number of people) into a labor union, political group, etc.: an attempt to organize unskilled workers | [ no obj. ] : campaigns brought women together to organize.
        • form (a labor union, political group, etc.).
        • archaic arrange or form into a living being or tissue: the soul doth organize the body.
        2 make arrangements or preparations for (an event or activity); coordinate: the union organized a 24-hour general strike | social and cultural programs are organized by the committee.
        • take responsibility for providing or arranging: he is sometimes asked to stay behind, organizing transportation.

        organization |ˌôrgəniˈzāSHən|
        noun
        1 an organized body of people with a particular purpose, esp. a business, society, association, etc.: a research organization.

        • Steven,
          Unfortunately you will find many adherents of AA spouting out stuff from the books that they have never even taken the time to analyze on their own. Going through the motions basically.

    • Yes, AA/NA is full of self-absorbed, pontificating assholes. I didn’t like most of these people when I was abusing drugs (alcohol is a drug), so it stands to reason that I don’t like most of them now. I still go to meetings to remind me of my week willed failures. It’s better than paying for group therapy.

  4. rjean99 makes an important point which is puzzling to me nonetheless, namely that a REAL alcoholic is helpless after the first drink, and their only choice is to never start. These folks really believe it, to their core. (NA has some outliers too – folks with 20+ years who claim they are still addicts, it is in their nature.) What defines these outliers, who claim to be REAL alcoholics?

    • You’ve got the answer Kelly: the belief in the diseased/powerless/defective etc self-image is the only thing that separates the “real alcoholic” from the “unreal alcoholics”.

      To teach this pessimistic explanatory style to troubled people is 100% psychologically unsound. It’s one thing for common AA members to do it, but when credentialed therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors do it, then I think that malpractice lawsuits are in order.

      • I’m in a writing mood tonight. I used to go to NA, and I dropped out and since mid April have been enjoying an occasional glass of wine ALWAYS WITH dinner. I kind of like how it makes me feel relaxed and I listen better instead of talking so much. However, most nights, I prefer my tea.. With that said, supposedly I have been “releasing my addiction all over again”. Nothing has been “released all over again”. The Narcotics Anonymous pre-meeting reading is total BULLSH$$T.

    • “Since AA’s beginning, about 60% to 80% of those who show up at AA meetings observe but do not really try AA. They engage in investigation but not participation. Many are simply uninterested or unaware that AA can help them. That others are not seeking a solution in AA may well be a function of their intrinsic nature of being averse or unable to admit what they are, recognize how their life is unmanageable and being willing to do something about it. Given these traits and potential size of the population it should not be surprising that AA successes are made up of a fraction of those who show up at AA meetings or are contacted by AA members. AA faces a daunting challenge trying to help this segment of the problem population because it intrinsically refuses or resists being helped: The size of this population does not denigrate the efficacy of AA (past or present) or represent AA failure. It illustrates the very difficult nature of AA’s mission to assist prospects who are commonly unwilling and uncooperative in seeking a solution even in the face of alcohol problems having the severest of consequences.
      Sometimes labeled as “denial” or “defiance” it is a morbid peculiarity that makes alcoholism so powerfully destructive. It also speaks to the core principle of AA’s First Step, the preeminent action of a prospect admitting to an alcohol problem and being receptive to a well-tested solution (i.e. “We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics”). 23″

      • Rjean..you don’t know when to give up do you? You said you would no longer comment and go back to “helping” other delusional AA cronies like yourself. Yet here you are again spewing out AA’s pathetic excuses as to why it is such a big failure. By AA’s own admission, it has a 5% success rate. Wtf are you so proud of? After one year of your miserable negative energy filled meetings..95% of the sane people have fled. Honor your word and creed and quit promoting your pathetic cowardly group.

      • luanne rene says:

        You re not near as intelligent as you wish to appear . . . . point : since a a s supposedly entirely voluntary and the only requirement is a person has to want to quit drinking then what the hell are you all doing trying to recruit unwilling and uncooperative ‘prospects” as you call them .. (just the fact you call people prospects is disturbing but hey the deprogramming therapists appreciate the business so keep up the good work ). .. this is what you said ” AA faces a daunting challenge trying to help this segment of the problem population because it intrinsically refuses or resists being helped: The size of this population does not denigrate the efficacy of AA (past or present) or represent AA failure. It illustrates the very difficult nature of AA’s mission to assist prospects who are commonly unwilling and uncooperative in seeking a solution even in the face of alcohol problems having the severest of consequences.

  5. DopelessHopeFeind says:

    If you are sober and never been happier.. Why are you spending time in a fucking message board bashing a recovery program? I can tell you one thing, nobody involved in AA would ever creat a message board talking shit about however it was you got sober. I’m personally glad I’m a part of AA because it had taught me how to not be a resentful prick who goes around putting down a program of recovery. My suggestion is to find a different hobby, brother.

    • To the hopeless dope fiend who posted above:
      Yes..you pricks say (and post) often that AA is the ONLY way to stay sober. Tell me how that does not put down other ways of getting sober, genius? I’m personally glad I am not a part of your cult because you sound like a resentful prick. You need another cult and need to learn how to spell while you’re at it, “brother”.

      • To Dopeless,

        Why do I spend time on a message board that questions “recovery”?

        1. Because AA/NA claims about alcoholism, addiction & recovery tend to go unquestioned in our society; although, despite many decades of efforts to establish (or claims to have established) scientific proof of the existence of “addiction”, there is still no way to separate out those who are not addicted from those who are.

        In science, even well-established facts & well-supported theories are regularly questioned & refined – or discarded – based on better evidence. But in the case of alcoholism/addiction/recovery, there is no evidence the phenomenon exists, so it is more than proper that it be questioned vigorously, and certainly not be treated as established fact. Alcoholism/addiction/recovery is not a fact.

        The alcoholism/addiction/recovery scenario rests on the idea that even when there are no drugs or alcohol in someone’s body, these “substances” continue to have an effect on behavior. But, if that were so, why would anyone have to take any drug more than once? People take drugs agains & again because They Wear Off. Blaming behavior that happened when there are no drugs/alcohol in the person’s body on drugs/alcohol is inconsistent with the science of pharmacology.

        The idea that alcohol and various classes of drugs that have different chemical structures, affect different ares of the brain and have different half-lives al have the same effects of people in the course of “addiction” (such as things that upset family, schools, employers & courts to the point of taking action, like cheating on lovers, stealing from employers, friends or family, committing crimes, borrowing & never re-paying money) is also inconsistent with the science of pharmacology.

        2. I’m a law-abiding chronic pain patient. When I was diagnosed with the condition I have that is extremely painful (scientific medicine counts it among the most painful conditions, in the same category as late stage bone cancer), I was told I would need strong pain medication for the rest of my life. My first reaction was fear, because our social discourse so strongly supports the association between these drugs & people behaving in unethical ways, cheating on lovers, losing jobs, stealing, even assaulting people. Fortunately, I discovered good scientific information that pain patients don’t lose their ethics because of treatment – and I am still the same law-abiding person I always was (a recent large scale scientific study also concludes that opiate pain meds do not cause pain patients to behave in unethical, unsavory or criminal ways).

        But, because of the claims of proponents of alcoholism/addiction/recovery claims, law-abiding pain patients are subject to the actions of politicians who want a cheap & (to them at least) painless way to look tough on crime create or tighten restrictions on the availability of pain medications to law-abiding pain patients – in essence punishing law-abiding people with health problems in response to claims made by people who’ve committed crimes & want to get more lenient treatment by courts, claiming the drugs (or alcohol) caused their crimes. Meanwhile, law-abiding people with health problems are subject to serious restrictions like being forced to submit to drug tests to prove they take their meds, being permitted only a 30 day supply, having to get physical paper prescriptions (no calling the pharmacy for a refill), only being allowed to get pain prescriptions from one physician (last year I had surgery & the hospital policy was to not release someone who had the surgery I did without a pain prescription, but my prescribing doctor was out of the country.

        3. Our justice system & our jails, which my tax dollars pay for, sentence people based on claims that “addiction made me do it” & “I’m out-of-control”. But really, to do the sorts of sneaky things that get the attention of one’s family, school, employer &/or a court usually involves long-term keeping of secrets (requiring control – and a decent memory), often involve lots of actions that occurred when the person wasn’t under the influence – cheating on a lover, stealing, lying, etc.

        I’m not saying all people – or even most – who use/have used drugs are sneaky, cheat people or are criminals. But many people who commit crimes, upset their families with bad behavior or cheat on lovers, when everyone is fed up with them, often fall back on the claim that it was the “addiction”. But, if that were true, why do so many people manage to use drugs occasionally & not end up in trouble for such acts – and why do so many people manage to commit such acts & never use drugs (or some, even alcohol)? If these drugs dissolve ethics, why is there so much scientific evidence that this does not happen to pain patients who take large amounts of these drugs every day?

        4. Alcoholism/addiction/recovery claims have also been inserted into our medical system, and are now taught at medical schools (alongside other nonscientific ideas like “complementary medicine”)

        Oh, AA may not have a message board to convince people to join one of their groups, but considering they’ve convinced the court system i America to force people to attend AA/NA meetings (when if a judge wants proof someone isn’t drinking or using drugs, perfectly serviceable blood, urine & hair tests exist); AA /NA members insert alcoholism/addiction/recovery storylines in movies, books & TV episodes; our taxes support “recovery” programs.

    • I go to AA, 10 years sober, & I comment on any groups that have cultlike qualities, which AA does. I also slam rehab facilities that are a joke, so yes, someone in AA does do exactly what you said doesn’t happen. Your defensiveness is typical of culty organizations. It may be odd that I both go & think it’s cult, but it’s actually just honesty on my part. “Rigorous honesty” in AA cult-speak. I get some support from the fellowship. I also know the “suggestions” and half the other AA talk is contradictory and involves a lot of flawed reasoning. Tons of double standards. If someone doesn’t drink, AA & a higher power get credit, but they don’t get the blame if someone does drink. Classic double standard. If things go well in a person’s life, well, it’s of course due to AA & a higher power, but when life sucks, they of course have nothing to do with it. There’s something wrong with the person, they aren’t surrendering, or some AA line like that. Meetings are all about personal accountability, while simultaneously telling people to surrender & not run their own lives. I could list 10 pages of such contradictions, double standards, & flawed reasoning. It’s irrational, but if you dare mention the irrationality of it, there’s usually a group shaming and someone telling you that you’re just being alcoholic & want to drink. I’ve watched it for years, trying to take the good stuff & ignore the bad, but it’s definitely got a cult tinge to it. In fact, I almost felt guilty honestly responding to this, as if it’s breaking some AA loyalty or something. “I might lead someone out to drink,” even though “I can’t keep someone sober.” You know all that bs. Anyway, my hesitation in itself is kind of a cult effect. Oh well, what can you do.

  6. I attended 12 step meetings starting April 1994, first NA then AA and I can only say from my own experience that it ain’t all that. My “awakening” was gradual which is why it took me so long to realize that the common sense view espoused by P&T is true for me. AA is a helpful component in the recovery process but the tendency among some of its staunch adherents is to “hide out” in meetings and many people won’t associate with non – AAs, even going so far into the delusion that they are a “chosen people” and Bill Wilson and Dr Bob a modern day Moses leading out of the desert an endless procession of once hopeless and pathetic sots. I’ve come to realize also that abstinence is just as absurd as round the clock inebriation. Moderation is the key. So I attend to other things in my life and stop obsessing about drinking or not drinking. I go to work, for example, and don’t jeopardize my position by driving drunk. I take yoga classes and jog. I pursue other hobbies and relationships. And I stop believing that the bogeyman is hiding under my bed, waiting, lurking, doing push-ups until my next drink. Gimme a fucking break. What childish nonsense. So far I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth and AA should wake up and realize that the world is not, in fact, flat. The recovery process does not exist within a vacuum and much of what I learned over the years was not from AA but god forbid I should introduce such concepts into the conversation and I’d be warned of the dire consequences of independent thought. I’m also sorry to say that the criticism I am now levelling are charges I was once myself guilty of. I was blind and now I see. Wake up and think for yourself! Recall Plato’s allegory of the cave. And stop manipulating people with fear.

    • Bigpete, you rock!!!

      • Kelly, I agree – Big Pete is onto something.

        Also, Big Pete mentioned something important – the AAers who cut off contact with people who aren’t part of the club. Many years ago, before I had occasion to learn about the beliefs & techniques of the AA/NA movement, I had a sad experience of this. A person whom I considered a good friend who took up with AA/NA (right when he started dating a long-term AA/NA member he “discovered” he was an “addict”) & I tried inviting him to get together for tea (I would never try to coerce someone into indulging in something they don’t want to do, and thought a non-substance social activity might be a nice diversion, and besides, I wanted to see my friend). He very coldly cut me off & informed me that I was part of the old life he had to cut off in the interest of his “sobriety”, as if I were some sort of threat. It was painful & baffling. I can only imagine the heartbreak of family members & spouses who are dumped as sacrifices to AA/NA ideology.

        Oh, also, Big Pete, I totally agree about the time one can spend doing productive things instead of continually participating in meetings. What’s the point of quitting drink/drugs if one must spend all one’s time talking about damage drink/drugs once did to one’s life and how close one is to going back to drink/drugs if not for talking about how awful it would be to go back to drink/drugs? It’s like these people never heard of getting directing their attention to something more productive.

        • NA is not as hard core as AA, at least in my area. My former sponsor, who is one of my best friends, just celebrated another clean day birthday at an NA meeting. I shared at the meeting that I no longer go to meetings, and nobody had a problem with it. I told another guy after the meeting that I drink alcohol, and he had no problem with it. My friend does not believe it’s a disease, she is friends with me although I do drink alcohol, and she is an active member of NA. She still needs what NA gives her – a place to grow, share, and belong. She is a woman I admire, yet she goes to a group I have left.

          • I think whether NA is more or less hardcore depends on the group. The first people I met who self-idnetified as NAers tried to enforce NA rules & ideology in our workplace – a workplace that had nothing to do with drugs or drug issues.

          • NA, AA, SLAA, OA, whatthefuckeverA … they’re all based on the 12 steps and therefore they are all dangerous cult religions. Stop it.

  7. The AA people also need to realize that not all of us are religious. Not all of us were indoctrinated as children or have religious family members.

    Some of us are rational. Some of us refer to FACTS and DATA when determining what works and what does not. Some of us prefer research and wonder over scripture and ignorance. We do not deal in absolutes, we live in the real world.

    If you want to quit drinking then don’t drink, sh*thead. Same for people who are “addicted” to food – stop shoving sh*t into your mouth, Porkey. Eat a damn carrot or something.

    If you need religion to kick your bad habit then that’s fine and dandy, but to say that it is the only true route is sooooo arrogant, and typical of anything faith-based.

  8. drinking/doing drugs is a behavior.
    behavior dictates outcome.
    change your behavior, change the outcome.

    SIMPLE.
    you are not helpless. deal with your problems, go to therapy, whatever it takes.

    youre no longer dependent on alcohol but now you’re brainwashed.
    congrats, you’ve accomplished nothing.

    • Christian says:

      how do you know what someone has accomplished in their new found sobriety and who are you to judge what one’s accomplishments mean to them? I’ve watched people in the rooms of aa go from being comitted due to alcoholic insanity/ wet brain to being able to speak again to then reason again to then take care of themselves again to then begin a family and a business and utimaltey helping others in similar situation do the same. Are you part of the solution in someones life or are you part of the problem? Are you helping others get well with your redirect or are you trying to discourage someone from something that they can make their own choice to partake in at no cost or obligation other than the willingness to get well. You tell me what the answer is and show me how to do it successfully like the millions before me in the rooms and fellowship of a.a and I’ll gladly listen and sing your song to the countless people who still suffer, but until then, which you and I know in our hearts is a day that will never come through modern science I’m sticking with the god of my understanding who I was reunited with through the loving caring human beings in the beautiful rooms of alcoholics anymous. you just read the words of a living miracle. you might not think so because you have a poor outlook and attitude but If you were to ask my mother and father they would confirm that I am. They have their son back from the brink of self destruction, yes I said “self” destruction, and would love to tell you just how I’ve “accomplished nothing” through giving my will to the lord without having to pay a therapist or a yoga instructor or make excuses as to why I’m “NOT” helpless or “DON’T” need the program and can have a few drinks because I’m in control. Sorry don’t buy that line, I’ve proved to myself and don’t need to convince you or anyone one else that I’m powerless of drugs and alcohol. The writings on the wall on to many faces and obituaries and families in this country. If your not part of the solution take a hike. You wouldn’t be here spewing your hate if you didn’t somewhere have a resentment that a.a didn’t work for you or you didn’t feel welcomed in the rooms or that people in a.a are asshole. Your the problem in your life and as long as you depend on your best thinking you and your super sized ego will continue to live a lie and never find true peace and serenity. The truth my friends is the way and the light and as good old Jack would say ” you can’t handle the truth”

  9. I’ve found Penn and Teller’s show to be guilty of cherry-picking on many occasions, but I think the one on AA is really fair and does a great job of covering the key points about how absurd the “recovery community” is.

  10. Ill chime in here as an alcoholic who goes to AA and hasnt drank in 4 years.
    (im not promoting AA, and realize its not for everyone and is not the only way to get better)

    Is it a Cult? In a sense yes, I mean we read from books that some dude wrote, have these steps etc lol. But its not a cult in the sense that you cant leave, are looked down upon if you do etc. However there are plenty of members who use it as a cult and I personally think it could be dangerous for the new person coming in and finding a sponsor who could be an asshole or nutcase.

    Is it religious? I’m in the NE, so maybe it different down south. Here you are more likely to hear someone bashing religion at a meeting then you are to hear Jesus or another god praised etc. Lots of people are borderline agnostic but admit they couldn’t cure themselves. They just let go of trying to fix themselves.

    The 5% thing- Id say that might be high, but there is a catch. Yes 5% of people who go to an AA meeting get drunk. Id say close to 100% of the people who do everything suggested stay sober for a long period of time. Sure they might relapse a few times(most dont), but they tend to come back so the amount of damage they are doing is much less.

    Is it a drug, is it a sickness?- I don’t know, doesn’t matter to me.

    Therapy- Many AA people need therapy outside of AA and many go to therapy.

    AA teaches very little about how not to drink, most people have issues that caused them to drink, many people behave badly in general. Most of AA is about being a better person in general. AA meetings are one thing, but just talking to someone else outside a meeting is what helps me. You talk to someone who has the same problem as you and you tend to stress less.

    Don’t listen to people who say they found AA and now they live these amazing lives and are joyous and free. The truth is AA can allow someone to live a normal life, and have ups and downs the same as anyone else.

    That being said, I love Penn and Teller, they are 100% entitled to their views. People who go to AA and get it shouldnt be upset by this. If you are sober and not hurting anyone then there is no reason to expect anyone to understand it.

    • I go to AA & I agree with a lot of this, but people are definitely looked down on for leaving. “They went back out,” head shaking. “They just couldn’t get ‘it.” That sort of thing. I’ve definitely seen people, many people, cut off contact with a person who leaves, and there are plenty of derogatory comments and comparisons about how not to do it like that person, who “wouldn’t take suggestions,” etc.
      I’m down south, and it’s definitely got a religious tinge, and also, there are references to a specific higher power all over meeting rooms & in the Big Book, so I’d call that very close to religious. Standard Christian prayers at the end of most meetings. “Spiritual” moreso than religious, maybe, but there’s as much dogma in AA as in some churches.
      There is also a threat to those who might consider leaving. No one is holding a gun to their head, but they don’t always do that in major cults, either. They tell people how they can’t live outside the cult, or in AA, how “you’ll die” if you drink again. That’s some pretty serious pressure. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s just culty.
      It does help me have a relatively normal life with some support and a broad selection of people who freely share their experience, which has often helped me. I see the good in it as well as the bad.

  11. I like how Penn and Teller try to dismiss alcoholism/addiction and claim it is not a disease, rather a behavioral problem, resting solely on the shoulders of the user. If diabetes is in fact a disease (treatable by drugs alone), then the behavioral factors that caused the disease in so many of the cases (think – eating that 10th piece of cake) are not important.

    The fact is, if a diabetic continues with their horrid dietary habits, their disease will continue to worsen. The same is to be said of alcoholism or addiction – the underlying psychological problems encouraging the addict to use must be addressed. In order to lift the obsession with the drink/drug, they must address these issues. Simply taking Natlrexone will not relieve them of this desire – the same way taking an insulin regulating medication will not stop you from eating that cake nor stop you from yearning to stuff your face just one last time. People with diabetes disgust me as much as any alcoholic or addict. Fat, disgusting diabetics…how dare you.

    • Max, I’d like to point out that Naltrexone and Insulin are two completely different compounds that have no commonality. Insulin is a peptide hormone, produced by beta cells of the pancreas, and is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, skeletal muscles, and fat tissue to absorb glucose from the blood. In the liver and skeletal muscles, glucose is stored as glycogen, and in fat cells (adipocytes) it is stored as triglycerides. It has nothing to do with stopping or controlling sugar addiction. Naltrexone, on the other hand, blocks the the receptor sites in the brain from alcohol induced opiate compounds, ( endorphins), which give the positive reinforcement to the addicted behavior. Naltrexone should only be taken when consuming alcohol, not as a prophylaxes as some advocate. It is an antagonist against the addiction. May I suggest you learn more about this system. Google the Sinclair Method for more info.

      I’m an ex-Alcoholic that tried AA and other 12 step programs with little success. The Sinclair Method saved my life.

  12. Below, is a link to the most recent compendium on addiction medicine from Columbia university.

    Like most of you I’m a big fan of Penn and Teller and have seen their live act numerous times. I also agree with many of their observation and conclusions. However, since the first airing of this show, addiction medicine research has made it more and more clear that persons who have addiction issues, ( around 10% of the population) clearly have a genetic predispositions to such behaviors, to the point where researcher have now narrowed it down, not to one gene, but to several groups of genes in the genome.

    My problem with P & T is that they are sometimes guilty of their own bias zealotry, By having a ” Harvard Professor” of a small minority, state “addiction is not a disease”, is really a disservice in the cause of fighting chronic addictive diseases. Yes, addiction disease and Cancers are oranges and Apples on the Disease tree, they have very little in common; Much like Parkinson’s or cancer, or cancer and type 1 diabetes, yet they are all diseases with sufferers having an underlining genetic predisposition for contraction. These are the facts.

    Where I do agree wit P & T, is that AA is a quasi religious cult and the people that swear by it, are mostly religious.
    Just their, ( AA’s) mere statement that ” Modern science has not come up with better ways to combat addiction”, are a denial of the facts, which are evidence based,and clearly outlined in this paper.

    http://www.casacolumbia.org/upload/2012/20120626addictionmed.pdf

  13. After being involved in AA for years I found that it actually worsened my drinking. I understand all too well that dark place that leads people into the “rooms.” For me it is really quite simple, people self medicate, and depending on their level of emotional pain may run into problems. People tend to kick the can down the road so to speak and never really address the root problem but just soothe it with alcohol or dope or whatever. People that do all this name calling and AA bashing are fucking ridiculous, when did AA come beating your door down talking shit about your lifestyle? I have read this silly conversation and have to admit that AA twisted me up pretty well. I do however have to look at my track record with honesty and take responsibility for my own actions. Its all fucking semantics people, just like behavioral problems described in the latest DSM are just different ways of categorizing dysfunction. Do what works for you and leave people the fuck alone.

  14. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhggggggggggggggggggggggg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I didn’t see the P&T thing. I go to AA meetings. I think it’s bullshit too. But I still go. But not for much longer. I do what I have to do.
    The only real comment I want to make is this: AA works 100% of the time if you do what it says to do. ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY TRUE.
    And the first thing it tells you to do is to stop drinking. So if you say fuck the steps, and all of the other nonsense and just stop drinking, “just for today” and do it every day. YOU WIN! AA WORKS! So does waking up every day looking in the mirror and promise yourself you are not going to drink today and don’t. Do this every day, you win! You’re done drinking. No matter what formula you use, if you follow it 100% you are not going to drink again. Unless you want to. And if you can have the occasional beer or glass of wine and not get hammered or go off the deep end on a drinking binge, that does not mean you were never an alcoholic. It means you learned and adjusted. Jeeze, I can’t wait until this AA attendance thing is over with. I will say there are some ‘normal’ people in AA. But most of the ones that have been hanging around forever are usually total f’ing idiots. To tell me that if I ‘don’t keep coming back I will die” is nonsense. It should be outlawed. Because it ruins more lives than it fixes. Well, time for me to get ready to go to my meeting. Have a good nite all.
    Oh yeah, last week a guy told me to get down on “all fours” and pray tonight. I didn’t want to burst his bubble and tell him what a fucking idiot he sounded like. I just nodded -it seriously made me want to drink!
    I do think AA serves a good purpose and does help some individuals – those who cannot think for themselves. But overall it should be exposed for what it truly is.
    Okay, more than one remark.

    I just thought of something. Does the AA big book actually say to stop drinking? I’m not sure it does.

  15. Joe Jelovcic says:

    My name is joe and im an addict. So my solution is simple right? Dont do drugs. BUT AT BAY AREA RECOVERY CENTER I CANT HAVE THIS OPTIMISM!. I was using methamphetamine to manage my adhd after adderall failed. I was functional (went to work every day on time never used on the job and was an exceptional employee). My family became concerned, had me arrested and arranged as a condition of bond that i attend rehab for 30 days (without ever discussing rehab with me but whatever). So here i am, having jesus shoved down my throat and whenever i say “you know, its just as easy as just not doing drugs” i get shot down with sob stories from a bunch of people who accept no will blame or responsibility for their actions. I am forced to believe that i am unable to just quit “without the help of god” of my own accord and honestly i think this sort of thinking to be extremely counter intuitive. Someone please help me, i never did anything criminal aside from drug possession in my life. Really. No stealing cheating or even fights. I know i typed this out poorly but im in a rush as internet access is forbidden until the program is completed and im literally typing this on my phone afraid that i wont be able to leave after the required thirty days unless i submit myself to the will of god. This is coersion, and religious persecution as i am an atheist. Its seriously not a complicated issue to just not use drugs. My phone number is 3474637235 please save me before i accidentally drink the kool aid. Did i mention we close each meeting with the lords prayer? A god of my own understanding my ass

    • Joe, sorry you have snitches for loved ones. AS soon as you get out of that assumed 12 step hell hole, enroll yourself in a Cognitive behavioral Therapy program (CBT). If you’re in a 12 step and they tell you they use CBT as well, they’re lying. CBT gives you the power by practiced exorcise drills and positive thoughts to change the way you perceive realty and yourself. 12 step tells you you are powerless against your demons, ( drugs) 12 step is diametrically opposed to self empowerment. you need a higher power.

      Good luck

      • Joe Jelovcic says:

        Thank you for your reply. I got out a few months ago plead guilty to a crime i didnt commit and im back on amphetamines for my adhd. Im not an addict any more than the next person with a medical condition i only used that opening phrase as a play on how you must introduce yourself in AA. I plan on fighting this monster because im sick with a real disease and didnt deserve this punishment. My only crime was not being able to pay attention

  16. Im forced to go to AA meetings because of a PV. Yes I had a serious drinking problem. But this AA crap is dangerous. Admit you’re powerless huh? why so you can be a leaf in the wind and when uncomfortable or perilous situations come up you just resign to them without using your head? Truth is, it’s total brainwashing. I hear surrender and powerless and higher power and I think God (or whatever mysterious, unimaginable, forces that created life) if he/she/itwhatever you grok on must just fucking hate it. Why would I, if I created life, want living creatures asking me to do everything for them? what would be the fucking point of giving them individuality? Make choices, even horrible ones, it’s your life. I want to see you live. If living for you is fucking up and being miserable all the time, so be it. I would like to see you healthy and happy, but if I force it, is it really those things at all? FUCKED UP. I use the parent metaphor. Parents want the best for their kids. But the best parents know they have to find themselves and need room (mistakes/rewards etc.) to grow, understand and appreciate their lives. GOD WOULD NOT WANT YOU TO GIVE IT ALL. Nor would he create you “powerless” over a choice you can make. One drink, fifty, whatever. As far as obedience, I think it is necessary at times. BUT NOT ALL THE TIME. obedience can teach us to see the forest for the trees and not live by the second. It does not teach us how to be free. I could go on, but I think I made a pretty good case. As far as inventory and all that shit, if you really think you need to fix something, then do it. Simple.

  17. Al Winston says:

    Penn & Teller: Stage Magicians, Libertarians, Arrogant Uninformed Idiots. Their claims of ‘facts’ are ‘way off. God is not mentioned in the AA twelve steps, in fact the ‘big book’ has an entire section on incorporating the process if you’re agnostic. The 5% success rate of AA . . . AA never denies it. But doing nothing does NOT have a 5% ‘success’ rate, by the time the untreated alcoholic is cured, they are unemployed, divorced, disowned, and/or dead. The 5% success rate matches that of $50,000+ ‘programs’, and AA charges . . . NOTHING. There is no “church of AA” where you drop money. There is no political machine for AA where power is accumulated as in a real cult. What the hell did the producer/writer of the program do for research of this show, talk to some buddies of his at a fucking bar? AA also never claimed to be the ONLY approach, only AN approach. Yet the writers/producers slept through that AA session. P&T: The Rush Limbaugh of Libertarians. Penn needs to shut up as much as Teller.

    • Al Winston says:

      One thing they got right: Alcoholism isn’t a disease. It’s a condition. Like depression, schizophrenia, hypertension . . .as such, it’s not ‘cured’ but managed. Unless the P&T writers think they have a cure for hypertension, of course. They are sooooooo much smarter than anyone else, after all.(not)

      • Al, I have to take issue with your take. Here is Websters definition on disease:
        A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.

        schizophrenia is a genetic disease http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28401693 as also you can be genetically predisposed to depression, ( bi-polar) , and hypertension is also a genetic predisposition. New research is showing a genetic predisposition as well to Alcoholism http://alcoholism.about.com/od/genetics/a/genome_map.htm

        Don’t be surprised 20 years from now there will be outright cures for many of these diseases through genetic engineering

        Here, I have to take issue again, because you say God is not mentioned in the BIG BOOK’S 12 steps. God is directly mentioned in 5 of the steps and indirectly in the 7th step
        1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 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. 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. – See more at: http://www.bettyfordcenter.org/recovery/recovery/12-steps-of-alcoholics-anonymous.php#sthash.B4VVW6Fy.dpuf

        • Thanks for taking on the claim that god isn’t mentioned in the steps. Even with all of the hate and nonsense directed my way, believe it or not, that’s one of the more shocking comments I’ve received on this site – for it’s sheer idiocy.

          • Having been to dozens of AA meetings, you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see that AA is a faith based treatment. Reading the Big Book, which I have, every other page is filled with God this and higher power that.

        • Joe Jelovcic says:

          You are so lucky that I do not know you, I would physically beat you like Salk beat polio. There is no gene for alcoholism, that is a lie. C’mon kids its time to cure cancer.
          If you have a “gene for alcoholism” and never had a drink, are you still an alcoholic? You couldn’t possibly, its paradoxical in nature. You are an alcoholic, but never had a drink of alcohol. Hmmmmm…………..
          SAY THERE IS A GENE FOR ALCOHOLISM that means that every person who does not drink who has this gene must be treated in the same way. That means that they are 1. Powerless over a substance that they never ingested 2. Came to believe that GOD can cure their alcoholism that they never had 3. Made a decision to turn their lives over to the care of GOD 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves 5. Admitted to God, to themself, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs, not related to alcohol 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character (again did not have a single drink) 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 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. 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, meanwhile have no actual anecdotal evidence to support their claims about how alcoholism is bad considering that they never had a drink in their life. I would find it of the upmost irony if it turned out Penn had this “gene for alcoholism”
          Case in point, missionaries on a pilgrimage. Thats all AA is. I hope you all die from cancer

    • Al,
      Noone said “doing nothing” you moron. People quitting by their own means, without going into a program or treatment of some kind, have the same success rate as the washed up losers in your AA meetings. I’ll take the first option rather than being swarmed by 13th stepper sharks and people of dubious moral character around me, spewing out empty verbal diarrhea to anyone within earshot. You don’t need a political machine to have a cult. You just need a bunch of emotionally screwed up gullible kool aid drinkers. While not saying it directly, it is always implied at meetings that if you’re not at the meetings, you’re doomed. Don’t try to weasel an explanation to cover that fact up, as I’ve been there and done that. (Wasting countless hours of my life) But I don’t expect a liberal fruitcake like yourself to understand concepts such as common sense, nonetheless topics like addiction and cults.

  18. Joe Jelovcic says:

    You know what the “cure” for “alcoholism” is? Not stopping drinking, fucking drink less. Excessive Drinking is a behavior prompted by real psychiatric conditions like depression and bi-polar disorder. There is nothing wrong with getting twisted on occation, these fucking people are just shown at their most vunerable, when on the verge of divorce or something along those lines. It should come as no shock that christianity preys on the vunerability of those who are going through rough patches. You don’t have to totally stop drinking all you have to do is learn to control yourself. Thats a discipline.
    Oh btw if theres anybody reading this comment struggling with substance abuse and going through this insane program, I want you to know that you do not need a higher power. You are powerful and you don’t need god or a tree, you just need yourself. If you can’t do it maybe its because you just do not want to but there are plenty of real doctors looking to help people struggling with withdrawals from substance abuse, fucking scum of the earth “treatment facilities” (money grubbing evil egomaniacal pieces of garbage who if there is a hell theres a special place reserved for those pieces of shit) even prescribe suboxone to people getting off heroin. Yea, its that easy, just actually want to quit

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