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.
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