Mike Pond Responds to His Critics in AA

Thanks to the hundreds of you who emailed in response to our film Wasted, the vast majority complimentary. I am humbled and very gratified the film provided help and hope to so many.

I also received several harsh and critical emails from some AA members and heard I was the subject of angry Twitter and Facebook threads, some of which were cut and pasted to me. All -I note – violate a key AA tradition, “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

It was really disheartening how many members needed to publicly bash me for questioning the effectiveness of AA. These emails went further, accusing me of being on the take from big pharma, even getting my Vivitrol shots for free. I have seen several similar comments on the CBC Wasted website.

As writer and inspirational speaker Brene Brown is fond of saying, “A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor.” I feel the need to respond, rather than to allow flagrantly incorrect allegations to make the rounds of social media.

I am benefiting financially from the pharmaceutical industry.

Maureen and I paid over $6000 US dollars out of our own pockets for my Vivitrol (naltrexone) injections. They worked and I am very grateful. We do not receive any money from any drug company.

I am ignorant of AA and know nothing of its traditions.

I have a life-long relationship with AA. I remember going to Al-Anon meetings as a little boy with my mother. Many military wives went as drinking was endemic on bases. Mom loved the social support; I loved the Koolaid and donuts. Dad’s AA sponsor often visited our home. They would read the Big Book together and laugh a lot. Dad’s sponsor embodied the true spirit and intent of AA’s founders – meeting the alcoholic where he was at and staying patiently with him until he got sober. But for all his efforts, Dad kept drinking. He dropped out of AA and continued to drink for 2 decades, stopping for good on his own in his 50’s.

In 2005, when my drinking got severe I began working the program with earnest. I belonged to a home group. I ran a step group and met with my sponsor regularly. I attended 5 meetings a week. I prayed, meditated, did a lot of service work, carried the message to other alcoholics and practiced the principles. But I could not stay sober and I discovered many others could not as well.

I am trying to destroy the program.

Despite my own failure, I continued to endorse the program to others. As a psychotherapist, I refer everyone with a substance use disorder to AA or similar mutual help support groups. Countless evidence-based studies prove support and fellowship helps when battling an alcohol use disorder. I think good advice is everyone battling alcoholism should consider attending AA, no one should be forced to do so. I know AA has saved millions of lives. I am NOT anti-AA. I am anti the self-righteous, ‘holier than thou” attitudes that permeate the emails sent to me. These attitudes are in part why only one in ten struggling with a substance use disorder voluntarily seek help. Judgment and shame means people die.

Bill Wilson - AA Founder

Bill Wilson – AA Founder

The final words on this subject, I’ll leave to AA founder Bill W.

“AA has no monopoly on reviving alcoholics.” (Wilson, 1944/1988, p.98)

“In no circumstances should members feel that Alcoholics Anonymous is the know-all and do-all of alcoholism.” (Wilson, 1965/1988, p. 332)

“When you consider the ramifications of this disease, we have just scratched the surface. I think we should humbly remember this.” (Wilson, 1969, p. 9)

“Please know that we [AA] hold ourselves ready for scientific investigation; that we fully realize that we are but a small part of the total effort going on in this broad field and so wish to aid where we can”. (Wilson, 1950)

“AA is not treatment it is a movement. It is a way of living life for those who want to quit drinking” Bill Wilson. Central Office, New York City

“Let us think of unity among all those who work in the field…Let us stand together in the spirit of service” (Wilson, 1958)

“Then, too, it would be a product of false pride to believe that Alcoholics Anonymous is a cure-all, even for alcoholism.” (Wilson, 1963/1988, p. 346)

“It is an historical fact that practically all groupings of men and women tend to become more dogmatic; their beliefs and practices harden and sometimes freeze. This is a natural and almost inevitable process…. But dogma also has its liabilities. Simply because we have convictions that work well for us, it becomes very easy to assume that we have all the truth….This isn’t good dogma; it’s very bad dogma. It could be especially destructive for us of AA to indulge in this sort of thing.” (Wilson, 1965/1988, p. 333)

“It used to be the fashion among some of us in A.A. to decry psychiatry, even medical aid of any description, save that barely needed for sobering up. We pointed to the failures of psychiatry and religion. We were apt to thump our chests and exclaim, “Look at us. We can do it, but they can’t.” It is therefore with great relief that I can report this to be a vanishing attitude. Thoughtful AA members everywhere realize that psychiatrists and physicians helped to bring our Society into being in the first place and have held up our hands ever since…. So let’s bring to this floor the total resources that can be brought to bear on this problem…Let us think of unity among all those who work in the field…Let us stand together in the spirit of service.” (Wilson, 1958)

– Mike Pond

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20 Comments

ATNS Team

Need to know a bit more about you Brian to know what kind of help would be best. Will email you directly. Thanks for reaching out.

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Doreen

I looked forward to seeing the program Wasted on TV. I thought it was a very good job even though it brought a tear to my eye. We wish you only the very best Mike and will continue to pray for you.

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Beverly Sartain

Thank you for being courageous and sharing your truth. I didn’t get sober through AA though I recommend it as an avenue for recovery. People need to hear and know that there are many paths to healing.

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Laura Therrien

HOWA’A Mike‼️ Well said❗️I respect you for your honesty about this issue. Job well done.

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Kevin Sweeney

Page 164, paragraph 3: “ Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.”

Page 133, 2nd paragraph: “But this does not mean that we disregard human health measures. God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists, and practitioners of various kinds. Do not hesitate to take your health problems to such persons. Most of them give freely of themselves, that their fellows may enjoy sound minds and bodies. Try to remember that though God has wrought miracles among us, we should never belittle a good doctor or psychiatrist. Their services are often indispensable in treating a newcomer and in following his case afterward.”

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Jenn

I got sober in AA but agree with all of this. Who cares how someone gets sober as long as they do.
Thanks

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James Melrose

I saw Wasted and was captivated by your personal story. Your journey made for a compelling documemtary. Do what works for you. All the naysayers will give you the inspiration to write your truth. You do that very well by the way.

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TlatlaKwot

Well said, Mike..I myself continue to go to AA, as I believe that it works for ‘me’…the ‘brain’ does crazy things to us….’whatever works – just do it’…Note: Losing my brother to alcohol, makes me think hmm? “Wasted’?…Anyways, good words..thanx…Live, Laugh, Love….”One Day at a Time”….

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Deb R

Your books and tv documentary are a ray of HOPE. Keep up the good work. When the naysayers come out let it be proof that you are reaching the masses. It’s making them re-think and question their own past and it probably makes them uncomfortable a little. They too need to look forward.

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Brendan

Totally agree. AA just wasn’t for me and I attended 3 -5 meetings a week for 10 months, and did the steps, had a sponsor, and generally found no benefit in admitting a relapse, horrible shame, I went to AA to make sober friends, so I went for coffee with a member, …he brought the Big Book and all he did was read out loud from the book. Give it a break..Let’s talk about the weather or anything, we don’t need to dwell 24/7

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garry

Whatever works for you, I had difficulty expressing myself with numerous AA groups. The SMART program was my road to recovery.

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Michael Plouffe

Thank you for sharing your story Michael. Because you opened yourself publicly to others I am now taking naltrexone and gabapentin. I’m finding a huge difference with the lack of cravings this time around. Thank you once again to you and Maureen. All the best in your continued sobriety.

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vicki

My son is killing himself with Alcohol!!!!we live in a small city in Northern Ontario and there is nothing but AA and he’s tried that many times and fails…I don’t know what to do anymore i’m going to lose him to this disease….please could u point us in the right direction!!!!

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Michelle Verreault

I have just finished reading ” Wasted’ am today 65 days sober, at 68 years old , yes AA of course is a great program but it never worked for me , hearing about courageous people like u Mike helps me enormously , tks to u and Maureen for ur ‘ could not put it down’ book , I will re read it many times to solidify my recovery , I have read all books I can get my hands on on alcoholism but never has a true story inspired me into sobriety as yours has. Merci beaucoup !

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ATNS Team

Hello Michelle! First, congratulations on your “65 at 68.” This is tremendous success in my eyes! Second, Maureen and I thank you for your kind words about Wasted. It is so gratifying to get comments like yours. Third, there are many ways to recovery and “any positive change” is success. Keep up the good work. Best, Mike and Maureen.

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