I just got back from a couple meetings in Weho tonight. I definitely think things are changing. There was much less talk of the Steps, Big Book doctrine, mischief, disease and near-death experiences, and there was more talk of fellowship and the common types of problems that everyone experiences. In particular, several people including the speaker talked about using opiates for medical treatment without any significant issues. They used the word ‘disease’ sparingly. They didn’t recount mischief or ‘almost died from my disease’, and the laugh lines were sparser. Of course, “I always thought that drinking and drugs made people more interesting” got the usual round of hee-haws.
The first meeting was ‘closed’ but it was a big crowd and they weren’t checking IDs. The speaker was a mid-50’s guy with 25 years sober (excluding prescribed opiates). He spent his 20’s in a drug and alcohol induced haze (mostly drugs) trying to get a guy to love him by buying him drugs and then trying to keep up with the guy’s prodigious drug use. Then finally he realized that strategy wasn’t working (after a decade) and goes to Minnesota for detox from his ‘addiction’ and then moves to LA and really hasn’t looked back since. The main thing he learned at AA is that you can’t get someone to love you by buying them drugs, though it definitely helps for making friends.
After the speech, people discussed the usual issues of trying to find their place in the city and seeing others check in and out. But no one complained about cravings. In fact, it seemed almost a relief to most that they didn’t have to drink anymore. Not a single mention of a specific step, or a question about ‘powerlessness’. Of course, they continued to push the magick of sponsorship, and several people mentioned the blossoming of long term (and seemingly healthy) relationships that arose out of them. Obviously it’s a very intimate experience. (I think a policy of banning such practice would have little practical value.)
The second meeting was an open ‘tag’ meeting in which non-alcoholics were asked to pass. Of course, when I got tagged I said I wasn’t alcoholic, but appreciated the opportunity to share and it means a lot to me (what can they say to that?) and discussed a personal issue that resonated with some of the things others said. I ended with “Though I’m not an alcoholic, I definitely share a lot of the same problems as people here and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss them.” I didn’t sense any ill will as I spoke.
The best part was a young man who shared that he was just released on Prop 47. “I voted for you!” I exclaimed. (Just in my head tho.) Well so he gets out of jail and goes to his dealer’s place and gets high in the park on everything he can get his hands on. But it wasn’t “I had intense cravings from being in jail for so long.” It was: “I was bored and I didn’t know what to do.” Sad – obviously there was no one waiting for him. But that is loneliness, not addiction. In fact, a speaker called addiction ‘the disease of loneliness and isolation’. Well now we’re getting somewhere. (The boy seemed sober and in good spirits so hopefully his court-mandated AA won’t brainwash him into powerlessness and self-destruction.)
At the end I mouthed the “Freedom Prayer” over the Serenity Prayer:
God, thank you for teaching me the difference between right and wrong and giving me the freedom to choose between them.
I think things are changing at AA, and for the better. Of course, I still think it’s a dangerous cult, but they will start to realize that on their own as they drop the dogma. My problem with AA is not that it’s religious or even satanic (all psychological treatments are religious or ‘wishful thinking’ to some extent and even the psychology ‘experts’ can’t seem to tell the difference between religion and science anyway) but the fact that it requires confession of powerlessness which easily leads to abuse, exploitation and death. Even though everyone introduced themselves as alcoholic/addict, no one said anything like “I am powerless to my disease” or “I need to always remind myself that it’s a ‘cunning and baffling’ disease.” That was refreshing – perhaps people are getting wise to the cult tactic. Of course, every meeting is different.