Published in the July 2008 BETTER TIMES, a monthly newsletter for AA Members in The Greater Toronto Area.
Myth 1: 90 meetings in 90 days. Not in our Big Book. Therefore not something the founders of our program suggested as part of the program of recovery. It may help some people but it is misleading, in that it suggests this action will help a still-suffering alcoholic recover and takes the focus off the 12 Steps. I have witnessed hundreds of members recover in 7 days or less by taking the Steps. Many have never gone to a single AA meeting, let alone 90.
Myth 2: Get a Sponsor. I have seen many recover by following the suggestions in the Big Book and none of them ever had a sponsor. Sponsorship as it is practiced today creates a human dependence, which is entirely opposed to creating a dependence on a God of our own understanding.
Myth 3: Join a Group. A group is not a Fellowship. A Fellowship venerates, cherishes and honours the newcomer. It does not celebrate those who have already achieved sobriety. A true Fellowship does not care for chips/medallions to honour recovery.
Myth 4: Don’t date in the 1st year of recovery. What nonsense! This is not a suggestion in our Big Book; in fact, it says the opposite. “Once a man has recovered, he can come and go as he pleases as long as his motives are good”. This myth has found its way into AA via treatment centres. Not part of the program.
Myth 5: Don’t work with others until you have 5 years or more. Nonsense. The Big Book says “unless a man enlarges his spiritual life through self-sacrifice and constructive work for another alcoholic, he cannot survive the trials ahead. If he does not do this work, he will surely drink again.” The Big Book tells us to work with others RIGHT AWAY.
…There are MANY MORE MYTHS I CAN SHARE with you if you have an open-mind and don’t mind the truth, as opposed to most of the myths I read in the Better Times. Perhaps the name should be changed to “Better Myths” or maybe “Deceitful Times.” If you read this, have even 1 ounce of integrity left in your soul, I challenge you to publish a further article about all the myths I have found that are not intended to be in our program. However, if you have no integrity left in your soul, then I welcome you to go to 90 meetings in 90 days and try to find some.
All the best — Cora G.
32 thoughts on “MYTHS IN AA”
AA Myths – A Rebuttal by
Tom S. Toronto Intergroup, CPC committee
Published in the August 2008 BETTER TIMES, a monthly newsletter for AA Members in The Greater Toronto Area.
It’s a long time since I have had such a good laugh as when I read the article "Myths in AA". (July 2008)
For those who find it hard to attend meetings, the author says she "has witnessed hundreds of members recover in 7 days or less by taking the Steps. Many have never gone to a single AA meeting…" I mean, who needs meetings? As far as getting a sponsor, the author has "seen many recover (there’s that word ‘many" again). How many is "many’? 5, 500? And none of them ever had a sponsor." (Quotes from the article)
To say that "Sponsorship as it is practiced today creates a human dependence" is vague, though possibly as true, as saying that sex as it is practiced today creates cases of venereal disease.
Why bother joining a group? Just because the Traditions, Concepts and General Service structure are predicated on the group doesn’t take away from the fact that "a group is not a Fellowship." Since, "A true Fellowship does not care for chips/medallions…" I suppose those poor dupes who have received chips or medallions can consider themselves seriously deluded.
So much for joining a group.
However, here’s some good news! For those like the hundreds of members, though without a group or sponsor, who have been witnessed by the author to recover in 7 days or less, they can start dating, as it says in the Big Book," Once a man has recovered, he can come and go as he pleases as long as his motives are good". The myth about "Don’t work with others until you have 5 years or more." Being described as "Nonsense" seems self-evident. Is there anybody in AA who can name 3, or even 1 person who seriously believes and would admit to cautioning newcomers to wait until they have 5 years or more, before they work with others? It doesn’t say 5 years of what.
I must confess I was absolutely shocked to see such a great article, "AA Myths", printed in the "Better Times" publication! Who says AA is dying with a watered-down message of "meeting makers make it".
Hats off to Cora G. for having the courage to point out the myths of the diluted AA rhetoric we hear so much of in the AA rooms today.
I sure she took some criticism from many in the fellowship, particularly from those who practice a weak program of "Don’t drink and go to meetings, get a sponsor and join a home group". This approach, by the way, was given to us courtesy of the Treatment centre industry which has inundated our fellowship with "hard-drinkers", that is non-alcoholic types, along with a proliferation of recovery rhetoric from a professional class of therapists, counselors, and treatment center personnel.
Thank God for Big Book Sponsorship. Here we can find the original, undiluted recovery recipe that the original 100 forged to help "real" alcoholics recover from a seamingly hopeless state of mind and body.
Do continue, Cora…to share your research / insights.
This "third-party expertise" helps: as a reference to quote for any spouting the untruth; as confirmation of my own experience.
Good points made Cora, except on Sponsorship. The sponsors role is vital for permanent recovery. It is called working with others. The sponsors duty is to show the suffering alcoholic precisely how to recover by following the clear cut directions in the basic text .See forwards both 1 and 2 also page 89 etc. Bill also mentions it in the 12×12. I think your ego got in the way in your last sentences with the judgments you made regarding people’s spiritual integrity too. I am a big book student and the men I sponsor are strongly advised to sponsor and search out suffering alcoholics as per BB. We go through the steps rapidly as they were designed. The problem with contemporary AA today is poor and ineffective sponsorship. I keep my ego out of it by just keeping it simple and following the recipe in the book. Keep up the good work and the passion, I love it! But on this I agree to disagree.
Trevor Field — Australia
After 18 years and thousands of meetings
it is still interesting to study the myths and miracles of AA.
With the opinionized BS that is the norm rather then the exception it is no wonder the attrition is so great.
AA, practiced as it is laid out in the BB still works for me and countless others.
I enjoy different points of view, but, to blame anybody else for watering down A.A. is rot. If a newcomer does not get sober, it is our fault not theirs. The main aim of A.A. is to get the newcomer to one more meeting and really this is all anybody needs.
Re Tim’s comment of "The main aim of A.A. is to get the newcomer to one more meeting and really this is all anybody needs".
Meeting makers don’t make it. We Recover by the Steps We take not the meetings we make. AA is full of opinions, I found out the hard way and suffered in and out of AA Meetings for 16 years. The main offenders were folks with double digit sobriety who told me lies based on parroting others opinions. Today I know the truth that the AA Recovery program is located in the Basic Text. I know that the sooner I do the Steps the sooner I will find the solution to all my problems. To put it simply I was an Alcoholic who could not manage my own life and no Human Power ( Meetings ) could relive my Alcoholism, that God could and would if I sought God.
When I first read the last paragraph in Bill Dotson’s story ( Alcoholic Number 3 ) I thought to myself "ah that’s nice but not for me". Today I realize too, that I came to AA to try to get sober but I too found a loving God and it is about the most wonderful that can happen to a man.
The AA message, the real AA message is in the 12th Step. It is about waking up to this loving source that removes the obsession (The main part of the illness) This happens by doing all 12 steps. It guarantees Permanent recovery too!
The main problem in AA today is poor and in effective Sponsorship and watered down A.A. (http://www.bigbooksponsorship.org/index.cfm?Fuseaction=ArticleDisplay&ArticleID=444&SectionID=131) Gresham’s Law by Tom P. Jr. explains this well. So at the end of the day it is up to us, the Recovered members in the fellowship to rise above the tide of weak contemporary AA and start telling the truth ( Rigorous Honesty) about Where the AA Program is located and How to get to the Solution ASAP.
Oh God! This site is a life saver – literally!
Brilliant. I have recently very gently given my views on sponsorship and been shouted down – why? I am following the Big Book and Living Sober AA Literature. I totally agree that today’s sponsorship – yes, it maybe helpful in the beginning but seems to have developed into a life sentence…for both parties. That is NOT what the Big Book Advocates…The Big Book advocates ‘freedom’ from many things…not suffocation.
This site offers a ’12 step work-book’ and questionnaires. Why on earth would anyone following the steps exactly as described in the BB need a work-book? Just use the BB. Unlike the work-book, in the BB on the grudge list there are no 4th or 5th columns, the fear and sex inventory are just ‘listed’ it doesn’t say where. The wording of the 3rd step prayer is optional, there is no ‘ Moral Inventory Checklist’, step 7 is just the prayer – on and on. This sites talk of sticking to the BB does not match up with the practice it advocates.
Re: Grovewest: The workbook that you can download is from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and contains all the instructions for taking the 12 Steps. It’s about 32 pages of instructions. Most of what is in the first 164 pages of the Big Book is commentary on those instructions. As to the fourth and fifth columns in Step Four, if you have read your BB, you can easily see how a fourth (Where were we to blame, we saw our faults and listed them. p 67), and fifth column ( were willing to set matters straight p 67) emerges. You need to put "anal retentive" down as one of your character defects and I will list sarcasm on my Step 10 later today. ;)
Amazing what a bit of fear can do..I think the argument may be if you change the Step 10 wording from "at once" to "later today", what else is your opinion? Just sayin..
One of the few I’ve found on the internet that makes sense.
Definitely sober. I do have one small objection: 90 in 90.
I personally consider that the frequency of meetings should match the frequency of drinking. Others say 30 in 30. Many as you are obviously aware, 90 in 90. Now hear me out: If its true that one or more can help another recover in 7 days then how many more over periods of 30, 90 or whatever frequency.
in short its perhaps not frequency but what’s occurring at them…something at least I an going to consider after reading your article.
PS: I’d be interested in the 7 day recovery you mentioned.
if you can send me something on this I’d appreciate it.
Isn’t anybody else tired of being a sponsor? Why do people ask me to sponsor them and then keep on calling but never want to read the Big Book, do service or practice the principles of AA?
Has AA changed?
Recovered member of AA and CA and wholly grateful to god for making me once again useful to god and my fellows.
Cora forgot to mention the ubiquitous: "Don’t make any major changes in the first year!"
Talk about a year of living hell! I’d drink over that suggestion! Not to mention I’d still be just as mentally sick as I was the day I walked into AA.
Most people, by the time they get to the rooms are so smashed to pieces that there is little or no chance of them recovering by themselves even with a big book. History shows us that you need someone to guide you through the steps! Rowland Hazard needed the oxford group as did Ebby Thacher. Bill W needed Ebby, Dr Bob needed Bill W, Clarence Snyder needed Dr Bob. And we all know about the 93% success rate that Clarence had in Cleveland!! To say you don’t need a sponsor is ridiculous.
Get a sponsor, work the steps, get a higher power and then go and give that away to someone who hasn’t yet found it.
Get involved in service and get out of your own head.
in my honest opinion, if you’re telling people to stay away from a drink a day at a time and keep coming to meetings, you are watering down an already watered down message. And if you are coming to meetings and not working the steps and are happy in your sobriety, you don’t need to be in the meeting! You certainly aren’t suffering with the 3 fold illness I’m suffering from.
What you’re actually doing is creating a social club where you can all come and tell your war stories. That’s fine, just don’t do it in an AA meeting, do it in your own time. Because what you’re actually doing is giving people the wrong solution to a spiritual disease.
Ben: No one is advocating not working with someone who can show you how to work the steps in a rapid and effective fashion…the myth is about all those co-dependent sponsor/sponsee relationships out there in the rooms of 12 Step recovery. See article: http://bigbooksponsorship.org/articles-alcoholism-addiction-12-step-program-recovery/aa-myths/aa-myths-myth-sponsorship/
I apologise for my rant. I totally agree that treating your sponsor as your higher power is not healthy and you will definitely not get well by doing so. But if your sponsor is working a diligent programme, they have a conscious contact with god and they are deeply entrenched in service-unity-recovery, then the newcomer better be taking daily advice from that person until they are in a similar position themselves, or they run the risk of self sufficiency and ultimately relapse. My advice to the newcomer will always be “get a sponsor and work the steps”.
After years in and out, making meetings, listening to drunkologs and waiting for a miracle …one day at a time, I called this new sponsor, told her, “I was going crazy listening to this and was ready to get into the steps”. She told me we were on Step One, really? because for the last month we’ve been reading 3 pages of the Big Book a week and are at the first page of the preface to the 4th edition. If this women would have simply taken me through the steps, I would be in the process of spiritual recovery and awakening, instead she wanted to have phone calls everyday from a sick person to discuss how this sick person (me) felt each day. Playing junior therapist rather then AA sponsor. I don’t want to be anyone’s sponsor for ever! It seems a lot of sponsors take chances on people’s lives, keeping them in a state of limbo, rather then work on the steps and begin a path to wellness because their sick ego needs lost Little ducklings to follow them around.
Just be honest with yourself, do you have a connection to the 12 steps and the big book (I.e. something to offer)? Can you be honest with the women who approach you about what and how you’re willing to offer help? If not, there are many other types of service. Sponsees don’t benefit or apperciate being in stagnant relationships or in emotional bond age either.
My first sponsor was like that. I had to call him everyday,and he usually wouldn’t answer. IF I said anything about this, he would tell me I needed to learn patience. Really? You told me to call you everyday. I too got the step one thing when I requested help with step work. Really? I knew in my soul that I was powerless, that my life was unmanageable before I came in, and leaving me to twist is helping me with that how? The guy I have now worked me through the steps in a little over a month, thoroughly. He says I need to wait at least a year before I get a sponsee, but I’ll let God handle that one. When It is time for me to have a sponsee, God will send him to me.
I have seen people relapse who do not do the steps right away. People are often told to wait one year before doing them in some cases. One of my friends did not complete the program as far as I know and “decided” to pick up a drink after fifteen months and busted; now he is back in detox and not doing the program.
The steps lead to a spiritual awakening that is vital to ensuring we recover from the hopeless state of mind and body that was described by Dr Silkworth in the AA text the “big book”.
90 meetings in 90 days was not in the big book. However green recruits will need support to get through their early days in sobriety. Look at the AA logo, the three sided triangle of Service, Unity and Recovery. To have recovery we need unity and to keep AA alive we need to be of service to AA and spread the AA message to other alcoholics who still suffer. An AA meeting is a great way to help people recover.
In the early days of AA, newcomers were greeted at meetings and assigned a supporter who helped them through the steps. The concept of one alcoholic working with another was mentioned in the AA text. In order to ensure he did not bust Bill W worked with Dr Bob and helped him to become sober.
We need to get newcomers to undertake the steps as soon as possible, and to do the steps as they are outlined in the AA text. Get rid of non AA ideas that come from rehabs and other pyschobabble crap and get back to the original format of AA.
Meetings + Program = Recovery.
I guess once again I have set the cat among the pigeons.
Seems to me that the author of this “Myths of A.A.” could have spent all those hours instead by helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety.
May I thank everyone who left a reply? I learned a lot!
When the Big Book was written A.A. was only about 4 years old and there were only about 100 members who had gotten sober and stayed sober – most not for the full 4 years however. On top of that the BB was written based primarily on the experiences of a fairly small subset of those 100 people plus a lot of input from non-alcoholic friends of the fellowship. They knew from the get go that the book would need to supplemented as time went on. (“He will show you how to create the fellowship you crave…We know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us….
Alcoholics Anonymous will be glad to hear from you. Address P.O. Box 459
Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163” – pg 164 BB). Since the BB was written a lot has changed. Go to AA.ORG and look at all the conference approved literature. At a minimum every alcoholic should read Living Sober and the Twelve and Twelve, and would benefit greatly by reading all the rest of the literature as well as attending a variety of literature meetings on a regular basis. A lot that’s been written in the prior comments comes from a character defect of the writers who are consumed with grandiosity and failure to give up control to the God of their understanding. These people MUST read “How it Works” up until the start of the instructions for step 4 – OVER AND OVER – and understand it and internalize it. If they don’t they risk not having a secure and serene recovery.
in my experience, recovery comes from doing the work, not from reading the instructions, but from following them! most of us are not avid readers. Others have read enough self-help books to fill a library! the basic instructions are set forth in the big book. It’s not rocket science to follow them, if I have the direction of someone who has done the work. Recovery is guaranteed if you work the steps and help others to do so. The ” We know only a little” refers to spiritual progress and searching which has to go on for a lifetime; it certainly was not meant to suggest that all of the essential directions for recovery are not in the big book.
I’ve always found the worship of time to be troublesome. At many recent meetings I’ve heard announcements that such and such meeting needs support and that it’s one of the oldest meetings in the area. What they don’t mention is those particular meetings had twenty plus year bullies and tyrants who drove away all of the young people because they were resistant to minor changes to the meeting format, like it’s some sacred fuckin’ Ark of the Covenant, and would whine and put down everyone until they got their own way again. They also would hit on girls barely out of their teens, driving them away which in turn drove away the young guys. Now they come hat in hand begging to be saved from problems of their own making (so much for taking responsibility for your own actions, huh?).
There were many nicer people of long term dryness, but they sat back and let the idiots have run of the show and would chastise newcomers for complaining, “he’s been sober for 25 years, so you should listen and accept him as he is” but the old coot never has too accept anything or anyone. I guess that’s where my post is heading, the abuse of spiritual principles like acceptance, forgiveness, tolerance and open mindedness. As they preach this, they turn a blind eye to the prick who continues to violate the personal boundaries and safety of newer members all in the supposed practice of said principles. As Edmund Burke once wrote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” and AA is dying because supposedly good men/women are standing by and doing nothing to time tyrants.
Nobody has EVER…EVER…gotten sober…and remained sober by starting out with a list of things they are not willing to do.
An interesting article. I feel, as a recovered alcoholic, that it is my job to explain to the newcomer what AA “is” and “isn’t” There are two columns that hold up AA, right? 1)The Fellowship (coffee, “90 in 90”, pamphlets, “keep coming back”, pizza after the meeting, cake and cookies, ANYTHING outside the program of recovery.) 2) The program of recovery as directed in the text book. If friendships and contacts emerge from Fellowship activities, that is fantastic! BUT The Fellowship’s main job is to support all newcomers as they what? Take the steps and RECOVER, as taught by another recovered alcoholic, through the steps as printed in the text book.
That’s it—That’s all.
Jim P. Thank you for your comment. I was grateful to see a current comment. I was dumped by sponsor today because I never call her and don’t “do” as much. I can respect that. As I fight the knee-jerk response to immediately call her back and say “I’ll go to as many meetings as you want, call you every week, and do as much service work as you” I found this page instead.
I always felt sponsoring was overwhelming and so I never could keep up. But I can sponsor through the big book in the way outlined on this site. That is what I love. Not a checklist of things that I must do in order to move on to a next step.
I’m not as dependent as I was 9.5 years ago. I can seek a God consciousness without depending on a sponsor for every little thing. God forbid I say something like this in a meeting because it will sound like an excuse and there is a certain sense of shame that comes with it. I know that people are just afraid for me but I’m looking for a different, non-fear based big-book program of LIVING.
Just remember, as my friend Mat H. in Macon, GA used to say” You must work the STEPS…….NOT the Promises.”
All I can say is thankfully we now have secular AA, LifeRing , Dharma recovery and Smart Recovery. The BB written by a man with less than 5 years sober, it is outdated and poorly edited. Almost 400 million people in the USA and AA only has 1.3 million members.
Thanks for this list Cora!
Bravo and ditto.
Your post was clear, TRUTHFUL, and courageous.