The negative reaction to this article doesn’t surprise me. As a one-time binge drinker who got into major difficulties over the use of drugs & alcohol, I went through rehab & exposure to AA/NA. One thing that struck me was Bill Wilson’s account of his own drinking, how utterly refractory & constant it was. In spite of the trouble it made for me & those around me, my drinking had never been that way. It was never constant. I could go months without having a drink, & I never really understood what alcoholics meant when they, like Bill W, spoke of craving a drink. Because I never did.
I’m not sure if the problem lays in how we define alcoholism, or addiction in general. Nearly anyone who uses powerful opiates often enough will become physically addicted. But that isn’t necessarily true of alcohol. Is it that people who were “problem drinkers” eventually ran afoul of the legal system & found themselves, willingly or not, attending 12 step programs? Back in the 80s nearly any first or second-time DUI was offered 12 step diversion as a way to reduce or avoid penalties. Most accepted it. Without question, many are people Bill W & the founders of AA would not have regarded as alcoholics.
One thing you learn in AA early on is that there’s no possible way someone like you — sitting in folding chair in some dank church basement, sipping stale coffee while listening to tales of degradation and failure isn’t an alcoholic. Any argument to the contrary is that old devil denial.
Reliance on 12 step first principles can be dangerous to some. After kicking heroin with the use of Methadone, 28 year old Robert Lepolzki found himself in court facing a drug charge from the bad old days. Judge Robert Gulotta, Jr ordered Lepolzki to stop using Methadone or any other opioid substitute else face hard jail time. Wrote the judge: “Methadone treatment programs are crutches — they are substitutes for drugs and drug cravings without enabling the participant to actually rid him or herself of the addiction”.
Lepolzki did manage to cast away his chemical crutch, permanently. Six months after appearing before Gulotta he died of an overdose of heroin.