Published date : October 14, 2018
Alcoholics Anonymous has long been vulnerable to some creeping fundamentalism with cult-like tendencies. One longtime member recounts his brushes with a few pernicious corruptions of this fellowship. Do not drink it. Art: Danny Jock It was springtime, and the moneyed Upper East Side was in full bloom. The AA meeting, known as AG, was -
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olding its anniversary party. The large Christ Church on Park Avenue had members milling about in its courtyard, sipping the Starbucks coffee the band serves, a couple of smoking on the sidewalk. Inside, a beaming young woman offered me a name label, and wished me luck in finding a chair. I knew the meeting was well attended, however, the church was overflowing with members. AG is well-known in New York AA. Based on who's speaking, it represents"Real Recovery" or an off-putting, overly rigid interpretation of AA doctrine. AG members have firmly worded suggestions about sobriety: You ought to have a sponsor that has a sponsor that has gone through the 12 Steps with another AG member; when you speak at any AA meeting you should put on a suit and tie or the female equivalent; the use of anti-depressants is discouraged; as well as using profanity isn't allowed through credentials. Sponsored ad "It is the difference between rape and sex. It's technically the same, but the spirit of it is the difference between hell and heaven." This large Tuesday night assembly is your social centerpiece of this AG way of life. It is structured with several minutes of introductory comments and news about the group from enthusiastic members standing at the altar, before the countless members in pews. Then two newer members receive up and share their stories of recovery for 15 minutes. And then comes the keynote speaker--vetted before the occasion --most usually a member practiced in entertaining large crowds. Afterwards there is a prayer, along with a formal line-up to thank the three speakers for their services. Recordings of the speakers are available for sale. AG started in 1992 as an offshoot of this Pacific Group at Brentwood, California, that was founded by AA legend Clancy I., who got sober in 1958. Members of the Pacific Group often consult with PG as"the single largest weekly AA meeting on earth"--a tellingly questionable claim, given that we now have over 114,000 AA meetings worldwide. PG has a reputation such as that of AG, only more so. Adherents insist theirs is the only true path of retrieval, also demean"AA lite"--groups which focus merely on drinking stories and complaints. People that are uncomfortable with PG point to the insularity of the group, the rejection of AA members lacking excitement for PG rules, and the thought of"greater than" sobriety. As one regular AA member stated,"If sobriety is grace, and grace is an undeserved gift, how can I be arrogant about this gift of sobriety?" "It's the difference between rape and sex. It is technically the same, but the spirit of it is that the gap between hell and paradise." On this particular evening, he told a story very familiar to AAs from the many tapes and conventions he has spoken at over time. He had been entertaining, pausing for laughs and striking punctuation. Sponsored ad A young guy piped up from the balcony to say,"Excuse me Sir, we have no profanity in this meeting." It was clear that he was trying a teasing tone. It was clear he'd misjudged the space. The monumental hall froze, not unlike in an abusive family when a child calls out their cruel father. At the moment, as I fiddled with my name tag, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see long term, revered freedom in action. How would the guy whose AA tapes had helped me stay sober 20 years before gracefully handle this disturbance. In the event, there was no sympathy for the psychology of the recently sober young guy. Instead, Clancy played into the audience. And then, countless sober men and women burst into laughter. Some applauded, as if they were watching Louis CK take down a heckler. The young man turned bright red, and awkwardly hurried out of the church. Of the several hundred attendees--many of whom claim to be"recovered" from alcoholism, and that their main action each day would be to"transmit the message to the alcoholic who still suffers"--none followed the young guy outside. Instead, they turned their focus to Clancy and revved up the remainder of his inaugural address, in which he promised the room that their brand of sobriety was stronger, more real and more lasting than any other. Cults have leaders, deprive you of worldly goods, cut you off from family and friends, and also demand a complete dedication to their precepts. AG and PG just have the first and last of those characteristics. But both the cult of nature --the near deification of both Clancy and a handful of pretenders to the throne--and the insistence on one"true path" of sobriety are 12th-Step work during its worst, inducing vulnerable men and women to be forever turned off the low-key, profoundly useful AA meetings at most. The Atlantic Group did not exist when I got married, but Clancy's moment of righteous wrongness reminded me of the commencement of my first AA meeting, which was held in precisely the exact same district courtroom where I were arraigned for attempted murder. Alcoholics Anonymous has been vulnerable to some creeping fundamentalism with cult-like tendencies. 1 longtime member recounts his claws using a few pernicious corruptions of this fellowship. Do not drink it. Art: Danny Jock (page two ) The banner ads with the Steps and Traditions were hanging around both sides of the judge's seat, which had been occupied by my probation officer. He was also the PO for the 30 other guys scattered about the courtroom. A number of us were still leaving the state prison system and switching back to society, whereas others had been avoiding time from the county prison. The PO, William Nagle, did most of the talking, speaking from the second individual. He spoke a little about his own drinking, and the way he figured out a means to stop, and was now sober 20 decades. He introduced a speaker who'd been through his schedule; the guy talked about his drug use, his prison time and the way Nagle'd saved his own life. The message was,"After we were hard guys, doing bad things, today we are tough guys doing good things." Sponsored ad We attended this meeting four times per week. About the judge's seat, in which the gavel came down sentencing us to this particular program, was a indication that said,"The Senate is a freedom, not a punishment." Aside from the four meetings, we lived on the top floor of a flophouse on Main Street, and on my very first day, once I signed my welfare check over, I was given $20 and advised to get some work clothes at the Salvation Army. We slept at a large room with a dozen bunk beds, along with the times started at 5am, crossing the roads or shoveling snow from the winter, hauling garbage, cleaning parks and delivering food to shut-ins. On Sundayswe held a car wash in the parking lot of the identical courthouse. I raised my hand and shared the the meetings outdoors looked different. I was instantly cut off:"That's because those folks are faggots who never shopped for real!" Although Bill would scream at me every day, calling me an"ingrate" due to my scowl and absence of street-sweeping abilities, I immediately got accustomed to the regular. It was summertime, and being outside doing manual labor with a bunch of thugs was a fantastic distraction. We might all chain-smoke while we all labored . Bill massaged the machine to ensure an old DUI I'd from Boston was thrown out, along with the DMV ordered for a brand new driver's permit --my first in 2 years--so that I could be one of his drivers. When anybody was defiant, they would be advised that they might be sent directly to jail to serve their sentences. A few members chose to return to prison, saying it was a better life indoors, however I felt pretty lucky. Shortly, 30 days had gone by, and for the first time in a few years I was a month sober and clean --at least physically. I was 22 at that time, and the most depressing part of the program, other than being screamed at and with 1,000 hours of community service to work off, has been the"AA" encounters. I presumed this was the way all AA and NA meetings werea man who knew better than everyone raving about our transgressions, hinting that we become much better and repeating this the only means to prevent was to perform what he explained. Sponsored ad One afternoon, a newer member invited me to a local AA meeting. We sat in a musty, smoky old cellar, surrounded by men and women laughing, laughing, smoking and hugging. Then everyone quieted down and a man stood up at a podium. He was very mild in his delivery, and also the area laughed easily. Then a young woman told her long, involved drinking narrative. As we left early, to fulfill our house curfew, a man said he expected we had come back again. The distinction from what I was used to have been just like day and night. Nobody cried --and sobriety seemed like it might be enjoyable. At the next courtroom meeting, I raised my hands and shared which the meetings outside seemed different. I was cut off by Bill, who cried,"That is because those folks are all faggots who never shopped real! Next." The next day, involving sweeping the roads and loading the trucks up to clean out the playground, I sat smoking with just two of the elderly members. One of them had the tattoo on his inner arm by a concentration campand also the other, in his 50s, was clearly mentally ill. I asked them how long they had been using Honor Court. Neither could really remember. They said that they had been homeless, and Bill had spared their life. I asked when they'd be departing. I asked me,"Where do we go?" I asked my lawyer how lots of my thousand hours of community service was paid off in the last month. I was called into Bill's office (another sign on his desk explained,"When I want your opinion I will give it to you") and screamed at again. "You believe you are much better than anybody here, you are not, you're worse. From our count you have worked in the previous four weeks. You aren't going anyplace." I called my attorney again, and after some negotiations, during which I had been threatened with both serving my suspended sentence along with additional time for a range of offenses, I had been assigned a new PO and allowed to perform the balance of my community service elsewhere. It was clearly a shady operation--the welfare checks cashed right over to Nagle, the ease of the town having clean streets and parks without paying salaries, the direct transport of prisoners into the app, the establishment of trusties and novices, the accidental threats of violence and jail time for non compliance and largely the fact that the program was run by a really serious tender drunk who never let a day pass without even yelling obscenities to at least one among the team. The business had nothing more to do with AA beyond the use of the name to justify its presence to the courtroom (a parallel to this custom of court-mandated AA attendance). The entire entity rested on the character quirks of a guy who had quite real authority over all people. If that was not a cult, then it was surely a cult of nature. This was borne out when Nagle died, and the organization crumbled very quickly, indulged in corruption and scandal, his legacy a workplace full of dodgy paperwork, and court home connections with no pushy spirit, town contracts lacking his aggression and 30 guys who were equally intimidating and upsetting, on a fantastic day, strolling the town's roads with heavy brooms. The creep section of Honor Court was out for most of the town to seescowling convicts forcing brooms and yanking weeds. But after cults of character I experienced were more pernicious still, because of their veneer of civility. Alcoholics Anonymous has been exposed to some creeping fundamentalism using cult-like tendencies. 1 longtime member recounts his claws using a few pernicious corruptions of this fellowship. Do not drink it. I sat at front and listened to some young guy who declared there wasn't any point in speaking about his drinking since it was the application of recovery which mattered. It was basically a lecture regarding the Measures, but the area up it, and the stocks all verified that his conversation was"brilliant" I thought about the efficacy of spirituality with no context, but that I was happy to be in a meeting. Then he told me when I did six matters daily for 30 daysprayed, called himread the Big Book etc.--he ensured me ideal happiness. He also gave me a meeting record, circling some meetings that are recommended, and starring several others which I need to"avoid like the plague" Sponsored ad I followed his guide. In the beginning the meetings appeared positive, friendly and incredibly apparent. They were likewise insistent --the very same folks were called to talk about, who stated that their drinking and ancient AA encounter was impossible, but they discovered that the Joys of Recovery and life was fantastic. There wasn't a sign of battle or criticism, along with the occasional hardship was styled with gratitude for its struggle. Shortly, I discovered a focus on the way in which the message wasn't being transported properly from Joys, the way that there was"light sobriety" and also"genuine Gee," and the way we had to head out into ordinary AA meetings to"carry the message" to people in Native AA. I was relatively fresh at the moment, therefore there was a charm from the haughty superiority, the idea that I had gained entry to AA's VIP space, the common certainty that this was the genuine path. I felt contained and better-than--in case not everybody else--then my previous self. I could not wait to go home and let me host the way the app actually functioned. DavidI was soon amazed to understand, had set Joys. He stayed its own genial godfather. He sponsored many associates, who sponsored numerous others, etc. His way of having consisted of sponsees phoning him daily, and being advised to beg and call him the following moment. He insisted that the life has been"fantastic" Sponsored ad 1 day, after another joyous Joys assembly, I sat in the coffee store with David and also half a dozen acolytes, also requested David, innocently, that that his host was. The table went really silent. David explained he'd had an extremely capable sponsor who'd died--which he was put on the road and had us all his sponsees, to direct him. I had been struck, however, at the amount people admitted his quickly-made stage. That day David took me aside and informed me how it was time to perform the Steps . I'd known him for 3 months now. I were removed through the Measures , but he insisted he can tell I wanted broader step-work. He encouraged me to attend it instantly, giving me that an addendum he had written on the best way best to perform the job correctly. He implied that I focus on the next portion of this Fourth-Step stock, in which we analyze our sex lives. We fulfilled in David's modest apartment, and he had me see several pages, quitting me together with pointed questions. He wished to understand mechanisms: exactly what I was most excited about, exactly what my girlfriend enjoyed, how frequently we had sexual intercourse. I answered a few of the questions, wondering why he had been interested. Then I suddenly understood I was a 22-year-old guy, being asked questions about my sexual life with a 60-something-year-old stranger. Inside his house. He can also have been licking his lips and rubbing his hands as he chased me to provide additional questions--not suggestions or advice or even, God forbidhis own expertise, which it participates me to masturbatory voyeurism together with the recently sober. I informed him that I was uneasy and that his motivations were bothering. He smiled a smile I had seen earlier, and explained that my resurrection was in peril when I did not marry my girlfriend and also move to have kids. I began to thing and that he raised his hands. "I have forgotten about AA than you could possibly understand," he began to shout. "You realize how blessed you are that I am talking about you! Your connection with this woman isn't sober." That was the conclusion of this. Many tales were told:'' One celebrity was cautioned never to discuss her attempted suicide; yet another was advised to set the equivalent of 20 from the basket; sponsees were encouraged to"vote with their host," at company meetings regarding AA policy. The assembly was infested with Joys individuals --such as David in his habitual back-row seat. The Joys individuals are called on to state their own view of the way AA needs to really be, condemning the vast majority of the space to their failings. I requested one non-Joys routine why their behaviour was tolerated: '' He told me that they were benign and needed support --which at AA despair gets us but endurance keeps us sober. "We may not be permitted to share in their encounters, but they're totally free to share ours," he explained. "You could tell they are in pain, and should they want assistance, we could give it" So that was exactly what being sober seemed like. As soon as I moved to New York 20 decades ago, I understood only enough to adhere to routine meetings. I learned about local variations of Joys, however they handily remained in their cocoons of self-congratulation--sometimes heading out to talk from the next individual and distribute complicated step-work graphs, amid interested claims of performing all 12 Steps each morning. 1 dayI happened on a meeting Known as the Big Book Study Group. The assembly involves a moderator--instead of the speakerwho shares their own particular expertise of moving through the novel with their host. Three highlighter pens are all utilized to denote segments which confound, are fine and are unpleasant. The assembly starts with the scanning of a prayer, taped to the very first page of this publication. The moderator then goes through every line in the publication, providing explanations of those concealed meanings. If you request these devotees to host you, then they will say they're"not a coffee-shop host," and unless you're seriously interested in your restoration, they won't be able to assist you. I asked somebody what the hell had been happening, and they informed me that this was that the Atlantic Group. They had drifted. In Addition to this Pacific Group, AG is closely Related to the violent Midtown Group. Members sit at more frequent AA meetings. They have lots of tell-tale signals. They utilize the term,"You are not quite sober if..." and speak of being"altered" The ironies of those collections are legion. I have discovered one larger-than-usual bunch of members that arrived following a year of drinking, in age 13 or 14. Nothing wrong with this, but being "oldtimers" in their early 30s, they are inclined to lack compassion or encounter for those that drank for a long time, overlooking the feeling of fellowship that based and educates all AA. This untrue feel of this ladder lends itself into some patronizing charity to the part of patrons, instead of the spirit of the 12th Measure --to maintain our sanity, we must give it (our experience, strength and trust ) away. Inside their faux-tough-guy, undeserved harshness"regained" mindset there's a scarcity of this kindness that attracted me into AA. However, there is not just one person I have met in AA within 35 years that has got the right to inform anybody what to do Then there's that underlined, quoted and also honored Big Book comprising heaps of AA tales, and the very first credentials in AA. Every narrative keeps a similar pattern: a comprehensive record of ingesting, followed with a short happy ending. Therefore it follows that none of the very first hundred"recovered" associates --any other Big Book contributor--could be vetted to talk at AG. The publication amazes the Transformers' principal purpose. Then there is the methodology--a replica of homilies, a detailed reading of the book, and also a powerful proposal, sometimes insistence, to not find out counsel, particularly between psychiatry or drugs. Each Wednesday night for several years. He arrived at our interview. Boy was a wreck " More chronic alcoholics I've known have been drawn to AG's certainty, just to be let down from the autonomous mantras and patrons who provide assignments, instead of listen. 1 friend suggested that it was because his host lacked the capacity to empathize with his expertise as a alcoholic. The number of alcoholics needing have become in these meetings, presumed that this was the manner AA meetings have been actually held, and walked off just to drink ? Just how far anti-12th-Step function has got the Atlantic Group handled in the previous two decades? For all of the shock-tactic provenance-lacking data about AA (only in nine associates remain sober, etc.), that is a few we could not understand. Really, it is known so far as"AG," it appears divorced by the acronym it insists it's perfected. Just like a shy spouse in a violent family, the GSO encircle the Tradition each time a criticism reaches them"Every group is autonomous, so" they intone--maybe not addressing the next clause of this convention:". . .except in things impacting AA as a whole" It might appear benign, particularly to people who don't rely upon AA. Nevertheless, the actual difficulty with these classes is that while they maintain a monopoly in a excellence of sobriety--that my powerlessness is much far better than yours--that they aren't technically AA encounters. They convolute the Measures. I requested one AA member, that contributed a story to this latest version of the Big Book, the reason he constantly recounts his extensive ingesting background when he talks. He informed me of what Bill wrote concerning our energetic:"If a alcoholic has implanted in the mind of the real nature of the malady, he'll not ever be the exact same again." In addition, he reminded me of this reason why that actual AA worked --after antabuse, rehabilitation, psychiatric hospital, prison, advisers and DUI course all collapsed. "I tell you exactly what I would like to keep sober. It is wise to do exactly the same. However, there is not just one person I have met in AA within 35 years that has got the right to inform anybody exactly what to do. We all can do is let you know exactly what we all do." And that is the gap. Even the better-than, slicked up, specialist AA clinic reminds me of those professionals whose job it had been to attempt to assist me once I was distressed, using their clip-boards along with quotas, legal dangers and wellness warnings, their shallow worries and patronizing smugness. They did, but encourage heterosexual female associates to sleep using middle-aged man members, such as Quinones. The team was also called The Q Group, following their chief. Following the allegations came to light, even a number of the churches hosting their own encounters finished their agreements. A comment from the guy who sponsored Quinones was also telling. "There have been some excesses," he stated,"but they've helped more sober alcoholics at Washington than another type from far." Be aware that previous jab in other AA meetings, as well as the shrug on that which, in his condition, could be lawfully considered statutory rape. He continued,"It was a problem [the sexual abuse of adolescent girls] but where you've got a great deal of youthful, neurotic men and women, they are likely to cling to one another." Be aware the fault of these"youthful, neurotic men and women," also called newcomers looking for experience, hope and strength. Amid all this ugliness, self love and self gratification, it is useful to come back to AA's background, '' the execution of the customs and theories to better ward off these aberrations of both AA and also to keep in mind the creators, although quite human, understood exactly what they're doing. Let us keep it easy." Alcoholics Anonymous has been exposed to some creeping fundamentalism using cult-like tendencies. 1 longtime member recounts his claws using a few pernicious corruptions of this fellowship. Do not drink it. (page two ) The banner ads together with the Steps and Traditions were dangling on both sides of the judge's seat, which had been inhabited by my brand new probation officer. He was likewise the PO for its 30 other guys scattered about the court. A number of people were also leaving the state prison system and transitioning back into society, even whereas some were preventing time at the county prison. He spoke a bit about his own drinkingand the way he figured out a means to prevent, and was sober 20 decades. He also introduced a speaker who'd been throughout his schedule; the guy spoke about his drug use, his prison time and also the way Nagle'd saved his own life. Regardless of it being known as an AA meeting, there wasn't any reference of AA, of those Measures or of retrieval. The concept was,"After we were tough men, doing terrible things, today we're tough men doing great things." Sponsored ad We appreciated this meeting four times every week. About the judge's seat, in which the gavel came down Legislation us to the particular program, was a indication which said,"The Senate is still a freedom, not a punishment." We slept at a massive room with a couple bunk beds, along with the times began at 5am, crossing the roads or shoveling snow from the winter, hauling garbage, cleaning parks and bringing foods to shut-ins. I raised my hands and shared which the meetings outdoors looked different. I was instantly cut off:"That is because those individuals are faggots who never shopped real!" Although Bill would yell at me each afternoon, calling me an"ingrate" due to my scowl and deficiency of street-sweeping skills, I immediately got accustomed to the regular. It was summer, and being outdoors doing manual labour with a lot of thugs was a fantastic distraction. We can all chain-smoke while we all labored out. Bill massaged the machine that an older DUI I'd from Boston was thrown outside, along with the DMV ordered to get a brand new driver's permit --my first in 2 decades --so I might be one of his own drivers. When anybody was rebellious, they'd be advised that they might be sent straight to prison to serve their sentences. A few members opted to return to prison, stating it was a much better life indoors, however I felt quite lucky. Shortly, 30 days had gone , and also for the very first time in a decade that I had been a month sober and clean --physically. I was 22 at that moment, and also the most depressing portion of the app, besides being shouted at and using 1,000 hours of community service to work away, has been that the"AA" encounters. I presumed that was how all AA and NA meetings werea guy who understood better than everybody whined about our transgressions, hinting that we become much better and replicating the only means to prevent was to perform exactly what he explained. Sponsored ad We sat at a humid, smoky old cellar, surrounded by men and women laughing, laughing, smoking and hugging. Then everybody quieted down and a guy stood up in a podium. He was rather mild in his delivery, and also the area laughed easily. Then a young lady told her involved drinking narrative. As we left , to fulfill our home curfew, a guy said he expected we would return again. The gap in what I was used to have been just like day and night. Nobody cried --and sobriety seemed like it may be fun. At the following court assembly, I lifted my hands and shared the the meetings outdoors looked different. I was instantly cut by Bill, that cried,"That is because those individuals are faggots who never shopped real! Next." The following day, involving sweeping the roads and loading the trucks up to clean out the playground, I sat smoking using just two of the elderly members. Neither could really recall. They said that they were homeless, which Bill had rescued their lifetime. I asked if they'd be departing. I asked my attorney how a lot of my million hours of community support was paid in the previous month. "You believe you are much better than anybody here, you are not, you are worse. From our count you have worked in the previous four months. You are not going anyplace." I phoned my attorney back and after several discussions, through which I had been threatened with serving my suspended sentence and also additional time for a plethora of crimes, I had been assigned a new PO and permitted to perform the remainder of my network support elsewhere. It was obviously a dishonest performance --that the welfare checks cashed right around to Nagle, the ease of town with clean roads and parks with no paying wages, the immediate transport of prisoners to the application, the establishment of trusties and novices, the accidental dangers of violence and prison time for non compliance and mostly the fact that the app has been conducted with a really considerable tender drunk who not let a day pass without even yelling obscenities to one among their team. The company had nothing more to do with AA past the usage of this title to warrant its presence to the courtroom (a parallel to this custom of court-mandated AA presence ). The whole thing depended on the personality quirks of a guy who had quite real authority over most people. If this was not a cult, then it was surely a cult of nature. This was carried out when Nagle expired, along with the company crumbled quickly, indulged in corruption and scandal, his heritage a workplace filled with dodgy paperwork, and court home connections with no pushy soul, town contracts missing his aggression and 30 guys who were equally intimidating and upsetting, on a fantastic day, drifting the city's roads with thick brooms. The creep section of Honor Court was outside for most of the city to seescowling convicts forcing brooms and yanking weeds. But after cults of character I experienced were pernicious nevertheless, as a result of the own veneer of civility.