Sunday's NA meeting
“I have never spoken before in a meeting, and I am nervous. I am one week away from having 6 months clean.”
At Sunday night’s meeting, Millie spoke for the first time, and it made me consider again the merits and pitfalls of belief.
Me, I have been in recovery since the mid 80’s and have recently begun attending NA meetings again, just to feel more sane and to be there for newcomers; I know how great it was to have people at meetings with time when I started going.
Halfway through her sharing, she said:
“I wasn’t raised religious, but since coming into recovery I have been rethinking it.
I work long hours, and fell asleep at the wheel and drove into the river late one night.
I know that I am the only one that was there, I was the one who called 911, and there was only one set of footprints on the beach.
But since that time, I believe I have a guardian angel; I know I remember a brigh light shining in the window, before the police ever were there.”
She smiled as she said this, and it got me again rethinking about the power of belief and myth.
Me, I believe that she got clean, and had the presence of mind after her crash to call 911 and get herself out of the river; to me, her higher self is her higher power (and my own; I used to think that God just reached down and helped me get clean after watching me suffer for a time, but now realize that I made a choice to get clean, and that is why I am clean. It is scarier, because I can always make the opposite choice, but that is the power of choice, no?)
But this new found conviction of hers was giving her purpose and was helping her, and I would be the last one to try to take it away from her.
At what point does belief change over from helping to being detrimental?
What do you think?
Twelve Step meetings are not innocent. AA can scream that it is not religious to the cows come home. It most certainly is religion. Federal judges rule so. The peer pressure in Twelve Step meetings is brutal. Talk about JW being a cult. AA, as practiced, is a cult! There are several versions of AA in Manhattan. A group formed a group to stop the peer pressure and having God shoved down their throats. AA was founded as a religious body. There may be a way for it to be neutral so zealots would welcome regular people. I've never seen it. They would rob me of my sobriety. Also, the literature and the folding chairs, the reading of the text, etc. are so Witness like.
From one crutch to another: From leaning on drink to leaning on Guardian Angels. Whatever gets you through life, I guess.
I read an article a couple years ago (and it actually helped me in my awakening) that made a very strong case that AA (and by extension, many 12 step programs) is a cult, or at least on the cult spectrum. It was an interesting read.
Friday night I marked 9 years of sobriety thanks to AA. If you don't like it don't go there. We aren't banging on doors looking for recruits. You can keep drinking if you want for all we care.
I am not an alcoholic. When I was in utterly excruciating pain, a doctor suggested I go so I was not at home. She said suffering people are suffering people. I only attended open meetings. is it not AA like my country right or wrong? This problem over overly controlling members and others is discussed more than alcohol, food, or any addiction. An atheist wanted to read the text and substitute "higher power" for "God," One woman had such a fit! We had to read it as written, she said. She came close to physically attacking him.
I know for certain that many Twelve Step people "take what you live and live the rest." It is not so much the written materials as people acting out.
When I started Twelve Step, I was very impressed. My impression from mass media was that AA helped 99% of the people. It helps very few. If you are one of the few, you are lucky. So much was Witness like. My heart would beat so fast. I wanted to run of the room. It is not for many people.They tell you you meed AA endlessly. You don't.
I've heard there is a big difference between East Coast and West Coast meetings. What you are describing would never be tolerated at any meeting I've been to.
The major source of thinking of AA as a cult is one man, who has a website that promotes the idea.
I don't understand why he thinks this; AA membership is by choice.
Having said that, I haven't attended AA for years, only NA; NA deals with the issue as addiction, not the use of one substance or another.
My aim with the OP is to ask the question: when does belief turn the corner from being of help, ie, giving structure and purpose, the sense of a mission, to being damaging?
For starters, I dislike using the term "cult." It's been my experience that most conversations on the subject tell me more about the people talking than they do about cults. Everybody's idea of a "cult" translated as "people who think differenly than I do." I prefer to talk about "high control groups" or "toxic societies" as these terms are more descriptive or what a group does.
Having said that, to answer your question the big identifier is look at what actions are incorporated into the structure of the group. In the case of JW's, disfellowshipping, shunning and the sanctions against asking questions or holding different opinions are integrated into the official structure of the organization. Most of the elder's manual is devoted to discussion of these issues. At the same time, there are no tangible benefits to being a JW; and a lot of tangible disadvantages, such as seperation from the community and no higher education.
Shunning and removing people are not integrated into the structure of AA, although some individuals can still be control freaks. I tell people not to judge AA by one or two groups, to shop around some and find one that suits them. The odds are not good with any treatment program, but there are still a lot of people like me around, who have benefited from the program.
Personally, I see a world of difference between AA and the Watchtower.