AA "Religious"; W.D. Silkworth, M.D; Harry M. Tiebout, M.D.
Posted in the Bellingham Forum
#1 Dec 7, 2011
In 'AA Comes of Age', both W.D. Silkworth and Harry M. Tiebout refer to AA as religious:
p.304: "...under these conditions, the patient turns to religion with an entire willingnessand readily accepts, without reservation, a simple religious proposal...etc.
p.305: "considering the presence of the religious factor"
p.306: "Because of this initial confidence, identiacl experience, and the fact that the discussion is pitched on moral and religious grounds,..."
4. "...It is paramount to note that the religious factor is all important even from the beginning..."
p.309: "Alcoholics Anonymous is the name applied to a group of ex-alcoholics who, through a therapeutic program which a definite religious element....found an answer to his drinking problem in a personal religous experience."
#2 Dec 7, 2011
Pardon me...again, sloppy, hunt and peck...the above post is not exact quotes due to my trying to hurry--little time left on public library computer today. But quotes very close to exact...
#3 Dec 7, 2011
But, yes...AA is religious--that's the point I was trying to make here. Sloppy...
#4 Dec 7, 2011
Silkworth's quotes (above) are from 1939 and Tiebout's 1943--so AA's religiousness is made clear from the very beginning even though they soften it with reference to William James''Varieties of Religious of Religious Experience'(to show lack of dogmatism).
And AA's religiosity was not abandoned even after breaking away from the Oxford Groups. AA simply did not want to continue on with the Oxford Groups emphasis on absolutism and evangelicalism. Yet that did not mean AA's message was thereafter devoid of religion (for ex.: p. 292 of AA's Big Book 3rd edition--"Dr. Bob always emphasized the religious angle very strongly when working with others", etc.).
So I still think because of this that AA should not be court ordered. Seperation of church and state (considered in the context freedom of religion not freedom from religion--so as not to be knocking the helpfulness of AA actually having the religious element since it is one I agree with if not finding it exasperating at times to live up to). There's probably a less wordy way to express that but I'm too tired to know how at the moment.
Anyhow, that's another aspect of AA's cult like dynamics....it involves a history and appearance of being based in Christianity, yet one may never know what in hell they will actually experience in modern day AA involvement.
#5 Dec 7, 2011
Btw, those speeches by Silkworth and Tiebout in 'AA Comes of Age' were very helpful to read recently. Father Ed Dowling is also included, and his words were helpful to read too.
I wasn't clear on the other thread (spirituality vs. legalism in AA), but meant to say I was at that AA Area service meeting in Page, AZ in 1992 or 93. I was heavily involved in AA service at the time, and had recently been elected as the Alt-DCM (District Committee Member) of District 11-113 in Tucson. And had served as PI/CPC rep in Tucson simultaneously. That while attending community college f/t and working f/t, and commuting on a bicycle (w/out uses buses).
#6 Dec 7, 2011
So although on another thread here I recently wrote of having whatever degree of unwillingness to surrender to God and thereby work a better AA program over the years, such that, like Bill W., I was probably, and still may be, subsequently to some degree on a "dry drunk"; when looking back that heavy involvement in AA service shows I did have some degree of "working the program". All of that was with much good motive and showed I was indeed willing to take action to stay sober. It was not as altruisticly motivated as a person might like to be, but I was taking constructive action to stay sober. That was unpaid volunteer work, similar to AA service involvement when I lived in Seattle in 1987-1990. Involved on the Corrections Committee, etc. And volunteered for Providence Hospital (where I worked driving their wheelchair van) as a hospice volunteer making cold calls to people experiencing grief over loss of a loved one. Did that due to experience of my mother dying in 1978, when I was 13 y.o.
So, when people judge me so hatefully for being homeless for these past ten years, they do so thinking I'm lazy and unwilling to work. That is not so--it's due to the political blacklisting/persecution of which AA members are behind due to my addressing politically incorrect issues.
#7 Dec 7, 2011
Yes...homelessnes due to that and from tick bite/EM rash/Santa Rosa, CA. ER Lyme disease disease diagnosis 6/14/2001. Followed by Doxycycline antibiotic, used to treat the Lyme, causing a multitude of symptoms that continue to this day. No longer physiclaly active as I was before--hiking, skiing downhill/X-country in mountains, baseball, basketball, racquetball, hockey, all sorts of athletic stuff I could do with some capability--no more. Far too much fatigue, etc.+ neuro-psychiatric manifestations from the brain/spinal cord involvement.
#8 Dec 8, 2011
Here's interesting criticism of Tiebout/AA:
From 'The First Fascist Mad Scientist of Alcoholics Anonymous' by A. Orange (with some abbreviation):
"....When Dr. Tiebout embraced Wilson's ideas about ego, he also made exactly the same mistake as Wilson did: he stereotyped alcoholics. He declared that they are all alike, and that all alcoholics have inflated egos, and that they are all "pompous, self-important, strutting" fools. That is simply untrue, totally untrue. Just go to any A.A. meeting, and you will see that far more people are nervous and insecure than are arrogant and egotistical.
But Bill Wilson really did suffer from a hugely inflated ego — he had a messianic complex and delusions of grandeur, and a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, too. Bill Wilson really did need some "ego reduction."
So Bill did some psychological projection and declared that everyone else needed their ego shrunk. And Dr. Tiebout agreed. Bill's behavior was actually very typical of a cult leader: The SOS Europe web site had a great description of cults that included these lines:
A frequent tactic by cult leaders is to divert attention from their own sins by accusing others inside or outside their organization of the very crimes of which they themselves are guilty.(In psychology, this is called "projection.")
It's funny that Dr. Tiebout was unable to clearly see Bill Wilson's obvious psychiatric problems....
...Dr. Tiebout adopted Bill's definition of "ego" and also adopted Bill's stereotypical description of the alcoholic.
Dr. Tiebout stereotyped alcoholics as arrogant, undisciplined egotists:
Alcoholics have "unconquerable egos which bitterly oppose any thought of defeat."
Alcoholics have "headstrong ways."
Alcoholics need to be "cut down to size."
Alcoholics need "ego reduction."
Alcoholics must "learn to accept a disciplined way of life."
Alcoholics are "pompous, self-important, strutting individuals whose inferiorities are masked by a surface assurance."
Alcoholics appear "thick-skinned, insensitive, and nearly impervious [sic.] to the existence of others."
Alcoholics are "completely self-centered individuals who plow unthinkingly through life, intent on gathering unto themselves all of the comforts and satisfactions available."
Alcoholics are "generally considered the epitome of selfishness."
Now that certainly sounds like a guy whom you wouldn't mind kicking.(It is both amusing and tragic that the alcoholic whom Dr. Tiebout studied most, to get all of those ideas about bad alcoholics, was Bill Wilson.)
Other doctors have commented that a "one-size-fits-all" treatment program is a good way to kill a lot of patients. Nevertheless, that was what Dr. Harry Tiebout had in mind for all alcoholics. He did not bother to ask whether any particular alcoholic patient had a massively inflated ego, or a bad inferiority complex, or neither. Dr. Tiebout just wanted to crush all of their egos, whether they needed it or not."
#9 Dec 8, 2011
That's helpful criticism because "tough love" proponents in AA love to apply tough love to everyone they meet, and many people may instead be in need, dire need, of genuine love and support instead of what may well be a rationalization for abusive, hateful behaviour under the guise of "tough love".
One other thought here is that AA does indeed capitalize on the "edo reduction" process when it simultaneously suggests the newcomer make AA their higher power. That means the individual gets broken down completely and instead of then building a reliance on God, or even specifically Jesus Christ (because religious specifics are largely taboo in AA), they're coerced into a complete reliance on the AA Group; AA; the people that comprise it in their locality. And that most certainly is a cult like dynamic. Whether or not there is a cult leader is irrelevant.
#10 Dec 8, 2011
And that could be the larger context as to why Chuck M., myself, and others no longer found themselves welcome in AA--we learned the Traditions, and when applied in a non-fascist manner, it went against fascism being promoted in AA as a societal norm (see Tea Party; Occupy).
#11 Dec 9, 2011
The film 'days of Wine and Roses' w/ Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick shows AA in a positive light (they hadn't shown that to me when first getting sober 7/18/85 in a Salvation Army treatment ceneter--it wasn't until recently I saw that film at WWU library). Jack Klugman (?), the AA member that appears towards the end of the film, gives helpful feedback to Lemmon regarding the time Lemmon got drunk on the bottle he went to find in the greenhouse. Klugman pointed out he was suppose to get the bottle and return to drink it with his wife (Remick). But instead, he chose to enjoy it all to himself--selfish and self-centered (thus of course he became plastered and passed out in the greenhouse). Lemmon acknowledges that was true, something he hadn't considered before--that his behaviour (particularly in regards to alcohol in that instance) was selfish and self-centered.
The scene of Klugman helping him with that bit of amateur psychology, encouraging self examination in order to see and admit one's faults, or sins, is indicative AA when seen in a positive light. It was positive because Klugman helped him in a mutual manner--he didn't humiliate him in front of an AA group of 50 people, browbeat him, ridicule him, etc., in order to get the point across (what's too often considered "tough love"). He simply helped as a friend might--and that is where AA has changed in my opinion. Friendly helpfulness has been too often replaced by fascist humiliation and controlling/punishing members into some perceived conformity.
Years ago, it was certain groups that were like that--"FreeMonsters" (Fremont Group) in Seattle for example--people would say "don't go there--the people are hateful and abusive". But they were not simply an isolated group. AA as a whole has become de-sensitized to such hatred and abusiveness. It's occurred far too often over the years for me to forget it.
And teaching people when their new to make the AA goup, or AA, their higher power sets them up to become dependent on their oppressors. To where they accept the abuse becasue they believe they have to..."those who don't go to meetings get drunk". So conform and accept the abuse because you need us we don't need you--completely antithetical attitude to how AA began where one reaches out to the still suffering alcoholic because they need that still suffering alcoholic to reach out to.
And again, that attitude may ahve been borne in Bernard Smith's comments...I'll re-post them here from the other thread in a amoment...
#12 Dec 9, 2011
From Bernard B. Smith, Chairman, General Service Board of AA 1951-1956 (AA Comes of Age; p. 282):
"...:that while AA is important to the existence of the individual, no individual must be vital to the existence of AA. It is AA that is important, important to those whom society has rejected and to those who have rejected society, important indeed to all of human society as a symbol of the power of the great spiritual reservoir upon which all may draw who aspire to a true way of life."
#13 Dec 9, 2011
And to reiterate that prime example of when Chuck M. was prevented from sharing of his being HIV + or having AIDS in 1992 or so in Tucson...how might that have looked?
A person shares in an AA meeting they've just received a diagnosis of being HIV+ and are quite devastated. That life is so horrible, reality is so overwhelmingly negative for them at the moment that they just want to go and become oblvious to it all by getting drunk. But they continue to share that they cannot do that because they are alcoholic. That as difficult as the circumstances are, they want to stay sober and not drink over being HIV+(or having AIDS). So they are talking about it in one of the only places they're aware people would understand their alcoholic aspect--an AA meeting.
Why would that have been, and in so many AA meetings across the country still is, unacceptable?
Around that time I saw, as it was, a gay man attempting to share of his having AIDS in relation to his alcoholism in an AA meeting only to get shouted down and told it was in violation of Tradition 5 ("primary purpose") to do so. The hatred expressed towards him was vociferous and physically threatening. Oddly, it was a very big gay man (I knew him as gay since he was a prominent gay political leader in Tucson and before that in Seattle) that stood up from his chair and stood over the man as he insisted he not speak of the matter, citing Tradition 5. The man with with AIDS was crushed and humiliated. I was dumbstruck unfortunately, not having a thorough enough undrestanding of the Traditions at the time to mount an intellectual defense.
But never forgot how incredibly abusive that was, and that not only I, but others in attendance accepted it as perhaps the proper thing since a violation of the Traditions could spell doom for the Fellowship of AA. Interesting, because the time would come when I too would experience (more) abuse of the same kind in an AA meeting, and know how alone it feels when nobody speaks up for you in defense. Nor call the police because you had just been physcially assaulted (in an AA group comprised of about 30 people--St Mary's noon group--Anchorage, AK 1996). That was when I'd spoken openly of being gay as it related to my alcoholism and the chairman--a man that used to ride his Harley to the meetings and physically intimidate others--attacked me as I spoke, grabbing me with his claws on both sides of my chest (ribcage) and attempted to thrust me out of the meeting place. It didn't work, was able to fend off the aggressor, and protest he had no right, etc. But as I requested someone call the police, none would as they were largely in agreement with the attack. They collectively believed it was in violation of the Traditions for me to speak of being gay in realtion to my alcoholism.
So I knew then how it must have felt when that man with AIDS was left to experience abusiveness in AA with no one coming to his defense back in 1992.
Coincidentally, a similar occurrence in Woods Coffee here (Bellingham) last month when a man who believed I was in the bathroom too long, and was probbaly the one who banged so loudly and disrespectfully on the door thereby provoking me to anger, confronted me by shouting profanities in my face and that he was going to drag me by my beard out of the coffee shop (a poor man experiecnes similar in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov when he is literally dragged by his beard out of an establishment as a means of humiliated him). Made me wonder 1: if he was the owner of Woods (various reasons for suspecting that), and 2: if he were an AA member.
Yet, although a person speaking of AIDS in relation to their alcoholism remains unwelcome in AA, once noted how members responded to a man sharing of a cancer diagnosis and members responded with sympathy and support, encouraged him to stay sober, and commended him for his courage in speaking. What a stark contrast to those with AIDS! Why? And why does that remain commonplace in AA?
#14 Dec 9, 2011
Btw, nobody, including staff, would call the police when I requested it during or just after the physical threats against me by that man in Woods Coffee either. Police eventually were called, and I was the one "trespassed"; thread here on that, although post with description of that incident never appeared/removed. That's a horrible feeling when a group of people are filled withg hatred and ill will towards the person experiencing abuse, hoping they will be physically assaulted. Unfortunately, fascism is increasing in our society.
#15 Dec 11, 2011
Fifteen minutes go I was walking down the sidewalk on Railroad in front of a bagel shop approaching near where they hold an AA meeting. A man that has threatened me with violence three times in the past was standing on the sidewalk with two other men. I figured he was not going to let me pass since he was blocking the sidewalk (standing in the middle of it with his brindle colored big fat pitbull). I continued ahead, walking past him as he let his pitbull lunge growling after my dog (Polenka--husky/shepherd). I had Polenka on the other side of me so as to keep my body in between the two dogs in case that were to happen. The man said "this is the guy that needs his ass kicked". That is the same comment he has made on the past three occassions.
This time I turned around and said, "That is the third time you have said that. I have no idea what your problem is, but I have never disrespected you so please stop making physical threats to me". He said "you need to keep walking--you better keep walking right now or you are going to get your ass kicked". One of the men said to me, "I didn't hear anything. Nobody said anything to you. You need to keep walking.". I replied, "you're not being honest. You just heard this man make threats against me." I then said to the man making the threats that he needs to stop making threats to me. I walked a bit further, turned around and figured I shoul call the polcie since the pitbull lunging at my dog was an indication the threats are escalating.
I asked tweo different passaersby to call the police. The first refused. Said she did have a cell phone but would not call the police. The second said they did have a cell phone but would not call. That i shoul walk to the police station near the bus station. By that time the man with the pitbull had begun to walk towards Cornwall ave. and was near the taco shop (across street from record store adjacent to bus/police station). I walked towards where he turned the corner by the taco shop and by the time I got around the corner he was nowhere to be seen so he must have made a quick scurry down the alleyway behind the taco shop.
This man, and the two standing with him when the incident occurred, may have had attended the AA meeting and were outside on the sidewalk afterwards. In the past I noticed the man wearing a t-shirt (tank top) with AA insignia (triangle in circle) and "Hospitals and Institutions" written on it. AA service involves PI/CPC, and Hospitals and Institutions.
In Truckee three years ago, when I was posting on the local library internet about abuse I'd experienced in AA, similar threats occurred, I believe from AA members. They surrounded me and my dog outside the Starbucks there in Truckee, forming a half circle--4-5 people, each with a pitbull. They were unmistakenably threatening me with the pit bulls. At one point, a man removed the leash from his pitbulls collar as the pitbull stared menacingly at my dog, poised to attack. All the man had to do was give the command. It was having a loaded gun pointed at us.
But what's bothersome today is two people could have helped me in this situaton and both refused. Had the police been called right after the man made his threat and had his dog lunge at mine,police might have been able to intervene and the man identified. As it is, police were called, and I gave a description. The man is 40-50's, bulky, not too tall, black hair, black goatee; the pitbull is, again, brindle colored, and quite large; fat.
#16 Dec 11, 2011
I was also threatened with violence by AA members at Village Books here in Bellingham (Fairhaven) about a year or two ago. A woman was giving a talk about her book on alcoholism recovery. I distributed a flyer to people in attendance with information about AA, some of it criticism, explaining of abuse I (and others) have experienced in AA. When the woman finished her talk and opened the meeting up for Q&A, I began posing a question about her discussion and AA. A woman seated in the front row became irate as she interrupted shouted "How dare you criticize AA!". I tried to explain even AA literature states criticism is good for AA, particularly when the criticism is well founded and AA can be helped by it when considered maturely by its members. But I was shouted down by many in attendance. There were bikers (Harley Davidson) that immediately began to crowd around me, blocking my path from leaving as they began to pressure me to leave, saying I was out of line to be asking such questions. One man got right in my face in a threatening manner. It was clear they had prevented me from participating in the discussion, which I, like anyone else, should have been allowed to participate in. I left, and two people came outside and said it was very unfair the way I was just treated. I replied it was most likely due to AA members resentment against me that has built up over the years (I had a letter in Christianity Today in 2001 that criticized AA). Anyhow, I very much do believe it is AA members continuing threaten me with violence. Which actually proves the assertion there are cult like dynamics involved with Alcoholics Anonymous.
#17 Dec 14, 2011
This was helpful to read in 'Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers'(concerning one's "conscious contact" with God):
"Though Dr. Bob never had a sudden revelation, he did describe a moment at his desk to betty and his son.'It didn't last long,', he said,'but I had the most marvelous sense of peace, which transported me for a long time. It was truly 'the peace...which passeth all understanding,' and I shall never forget it'". P.309
So Dr. Bob didn't have that on a regular basis in his morning meditations. I was wondering recently, because my meditations (with God) have been unremarkable for many a year. Concluded that probably meant I've been on a dry drunk all this time (like they say Bill W. was, what with his severe depressions in sobriety and turning to LSD experimentation as maybe a cure for alcoholism).
But yes, like Dr. Bob I had at least one, if not several profound "conscious contacts" with God in early sobriety. Early sobriety was extremely difficult at times, not due to having a desire to drink (God had removed my desire from the start) but simply due to the emotions and ups and downs. But there were those profound times of tremendous peace with God during quiet time alone, and one time as I was in bed at night, God's presence was so tremendous that the joy and peace was manifested in humour. Incomparable humour, far, far greater than any the best comedians have conveyed. There are times when some of the really good comedians have had me laughing so much I couldn't imagine anything funnier, but that experiecne with God--again, it was incomparable. Profound, profound humour. How that fits in with Ivan's excellent argument for atheism in the pages preceding 'The Grand Inquisitor' in Dostoevsky's 'Brothers Karamazov', I don't know. That's an intellectual argument that is very hard to imagine be refuted.
But anyhow, that was helpful to read.
#18 Dec 15, 2011
As for the A. Orange criticism of Tiebout (above), just read a little more in that regard. In Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers, it explains how Dr. Bob was at times compassionate, but also could be very tough with a newcomer ("ego deflation" as referred to by Tiebout). What i hadn't recalled reading , however, was that it also explains that Dr. Bob and early AA members required newcomers to get on their knees and surrender their lives to God in front of them. Also, that Dr. Bob worked with a judge who would issue an alcoholic a court summons to attend AA (court ordered). Neither of those approaches sound very equal or mutual....
#19 Dec 15, 2011
Yeah, I didn't catch all that first time around reading 'Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers' many, many years ago (1990 or so). Another thing...it says Dr. Bob loved wearing expensive clothes of some of the finest material, and that he gave his wife diamonds and loved to wear diamong rings himself; that he gave his daughter a diamond ring. How did he get so rich within fifteen years of sobriety before he died? When he was first sober, he and Bill W. reportedly were living on a pittance from Rockefeller (who had refused to give more than $5,000 then). They were living on like $150/week.
#20 Dec 16, 2011
Maybe he wasn't spending it anymore on alcohol? But it sounded more like Richard Burton and Elizabeth taylor, not Dr. Bob and Anne smith. And definitely like St. Francis...
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