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Science behind the 12 Steps? Joe Nowinski PhD's new book  

This year, a new book looks at 12 Step outcomes. It’s called, If You Work It It Works! The Science Behind 12 Step Recovery by psychologist and award winning author, Joe Nowinski PhD. It is a jargon-free look at how, 12 Step modality help alcoholics/addicts. I read it, I interviewed Dr. Nowinski and I will share our conversation with you in this show.

There is lots of debate on both sides of the 12 Step campfire. Gabrielle Glaser wrote a 2015 feature for the Atlantic called "The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous."

Her urgency has to do with how Obama Care dollars are going to be spent. Glaser says, "The debate over the efficacy of 12-step programs has been quietly bubbling for decades among addiction specialists. But it has taken on new urgency with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which requires all insurers and state Medicaid programs to pay for alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, extending coverage to 32 million Americans who did not previously have it and providing a higher level of coverage for an additional 30 million.The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. It also costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars in expenses related to health care, criminal justice, motor-vehicle crashes, and lost workplace productivity, according to the CDC. With the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of coverage, it’s time to ask some important questions: Which treatments should we be willing to pay for? Have they been proved effective?"

We'll talk about this. We will explore who or what is irrational, because Dr. Nowinski delivers the goods in terms of statistical facts on how meetings, sponsorship and engagement with the 12 Step fellowship improve results? Nowinski has the numbers; he knows how significantly these factors predict outcomes in people with low, medium and high engagement in 12 Step recovery models.

The Fix pitted advocate Joe Nowinski against the critical Lance Dodes earlier this year. READ IT HERE. We talked about the Lance Dodes book, The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science of the 12-Step and the Rehab Industry in Episode 04 of Rebellion Dogs Radio where we looked at 50 years of critics that have taken a hatchet to the AA tree. 

For a transcript of this show CLICK HERE :-)

Our show features a great new song by Halifax songwriter, Joel Plaskett, called, "The Park Avenue Sobriety Test."

As always, re-post this, like, link, or download to your heart's content.


Food Junkies: Food and other process addictions  

Listen now to Episode 10 of Rebellion Dogs Radio on Pod-0-matic HERE

What do Maxwell House Coffee, Grape-Nuts cereal, Kool-Ade, Jello and Marlborough cigarettes all have in common? Well their formulas are engineered by chemists that all work for the same companies. Companies that continue to get sued over misleading us about the health issues of their cigarettes are now processing many of the foods we eat each day.

How about that; “Don’t smoke, Suzzie, it’s addictive and it will make you unhealthy,” we say to our daughter as as we pour her a bowl of yogurt that may has more sugar than Honey-Nut Cheerios.  Have you ever heard of bliss-point? That’s the term chemists that make processed foods call the perfect amount of salt, sugar and fat that will create craving in you for more, will play with your brain chemistry and be whispering to your addictive tendencies while you hold hands and recite the Serenity Prayer.
Episode Ten of Rebellion Dogs Radio is please to invite Dr. Very Tarman to our show. Vera is Medical Director of Renascent Treatment Centres and she just authored a new book, Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction. We talk about process addiction in general – sex, food, gambling etc. We talk about the food industries role in consumer eating habits and we talk about the latest in addiction and recovery.

Not long ago, buying yogurt or granola meant you were buying health-food. It’s not so simple today. Food is designed to fight for stomach space against all the other consumer-goods companies. This episode of Rebellion Dogs Radio will help you get to know Dr. Vera better and her experience with addiction might surprise you. If it’s true that we are what we eat then we owe it to ourselves to better understand how the food industry is making Food Junkies out of us all.

We look at the DSM-5 which is the latest manual that helps doctors diagnose mental health and addiction problems. We'll also look at what  Dr. Gabor Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts), Marc Lewis (Memoirs of an Addicted Brian), Patrick Carnes (A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps) and Michael Moss (Salt Sugar Fat) have to say and more.

Food Junkies has been on the market for just over a month. It offers readers both the science and the craft of addiction and recovery. Expertise and real-life experience are combined in a book that I can't wait to tell you more about. Enjoy Episode Ten of Rebellion Dogs Radio.

Please feel free to download a free PDF transcript of this show HERE if you want to follow along or refer back to anything that was said on the show. As always, join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

More Dr. Vera on Addiction Unplugged.
Show notes for further exploration:
[2] Tarman, Dr. Vera, Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction, Toronto: Dundurn, 2014
[3] Thompson, Damian, The Fix: How Addiction is Taking Over Your World, London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2012
[4] Moss, Michael, Salt Sugar Fat, New York: Penguin Random House, 2014
[5] Maté, Gabor, Ted Talk,
[6] Kessler, David A., The End of Overeating: Talking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, New York: Rodale Books, 2009
[7] Lewis, Marc, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain. Toronto: Double Day Canada, 2011 pp. 158 – 159
[8] From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (section 312.31)
[10] Carnes, Patrick, A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Step, Center City: Hazelden Foundation, 1993,.

The Big Book: Sacred or outdated? What AA Stewards, past and present say about progress vs protection  

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous - On one side are the thumpers, muckers and literalists who claim than no modality has touched the healing force of the Twelve Steps as outlined in Alcoholics Anonymous. On the other side, reformers say it's misogynistic, religious, archaic, while it was a good start to the mutual-aid discussion, as the center-piece of any AA meeting today, it makes us look Amish-like, declining modern customs for the ways of our ancestors.

I have been in the middle of these debates. But today I ask, what does it matter? If you like the book, read it from Foreword to 164, over and over. If you don't, leave it be. Recommend that your group read something else, or nothing at all. Or maybe we should talk about a new book instead of a revised book - either/or instead of one or the other.

If you don't like back-to-basics style of AA, get REALLY back-to-basics with AA as an oral tradition, no book, a one-day-at-a-time program of showing up, opening up, helping others. There is no need to feel persecuted by a book that has no opinion on your impression of it and no wish to control you. The authors didn't canonize the founders or make the text sacred; my generation did that. Sorry - our bad.

Stewardship is about two roles - preparing and protecting. Ask any parent how hard it is to be good at both. On Episode Seven, we look at the opinions of trusted servants who have served at AA's General Service Conference in the 1980s, the turn of the century and current (Panel 63 General Service Conference). We will hear a plea for AA to always be progressive, to never rest on our laurels. We will hear the protective argument about how imaginative personalization of an age-old-process is sacrilege. One side says rigidity will cause the death of AA. The other side says experimentation isn't worth the risk. Bill Wilson said that both progress and protection were what he had in mind with the Twelve Traditions. "You can't have one without the other."

Sources used in today's radio show:
Better Times (Toronto September 2014) "Don't mess with the message"
Bob P's (1961 to 1986) "If you were to ask me what is the greatest danger facing A.A. today, I would have to answer: the growing rigidity -- the increasing demand for absolute answers to nit-picking questions; pressure for G.S.O. to "enforce" our Traditions; screening alcoholics at closed meetings; prohibiting non-Conference-approved literature, i.e., "banning books"; laying more and more rules on groups and members."
John K, 2003: "Our co-founders were pragmatists - try something,test it, change it, review it, test it, then change, review,test it again."

You will hear about our need for protection, of progress too, and how challenging it is to gain balance and consensus on both.

At the time of recording we have Southern Californian on our mind as the We Agnostics and Freethinkers International Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous is coming to Santa Monica November 6 to 8. So we invite LA newcomer Mia Dyson to perform her song, "Idyllwild," her little patch of Southern California.

Visit Pod-0-matic to hear or download the show:

For a transcript of Episode VII, click HERE

Rebellion Dogs Book Club: Podcast 6 talks about good reads  

Get your reading spectacles on – It’s Book Club time!Podcast #6 looks at great recovery books that widen our gateway.

On you will find a bookstore. We’re talking about reading on this blog-post (and podcast). Not only is planet Earth’s first secular daily reflection book, Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life available in our book store but many eBooks and hard-copy books by and for addicts/alcoholics/codependents are available.

As 12-Steppers, we are all readers/listeners and we are all storytellers or writers. It was flattering and fascinating for us to read Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous because Ernie Kurtz isn’t one of us. He is observing us and telling us and the whole world what he sees.

Chuck Palahniuk is an author we associate with fiction. He wrote Fight Club. He has a 2004 book called Stranger than Fiction: True Stories. In his introduction he talks about the similarities of crafting a true story and a fictional story. He studied us, too. Palahniuk attended self-help groups for those who suffered from various sicknesses and addictions. When we think about the relevance of reading about our stories or about telling our stories, there is value in hearing what outsiders say about our oral tradition of carrying the message. Chuck Palhniuk describes twelve-step groups (or other support groups) in this way:

“…they’ve come to serve the role that organized religion used to. We used to go to church to reveal the worst aspects of ourselves, our sins. To tell our stories. To be recognized. To be forgiven. And to be redeemed, accepted back in to our community. This ritual was our way to stay connected to people, and to resolve our anxiety before it could take us so far from humanity that we would be lost.
“In these places I found the truest stories. In support groups. In hospitals. Anywhere people had nothing left to lose, that’s where they told the most truth…
“While researching my fourth book, Choke, I sat in on sex-addicts talk therapy sessions, twice each week for six months. Wednesday and Friday nights.
“In so many ways, these rap sessions weren’t much different that the Thursday-night writers’ workshop I attended. Both groups were just people telling their stories. The sexaholics might’ve been a little less concerned about “craft,” but they still told their stories of anonymous bathroom sex and prostitutes with enough skill to get a good reaction from their audience. Many of these people had talked in meetings for so many years that hearing them, you heard a great soliloquy. A brilliant actor paying him- or herself. A one-person monologue that showed an instinct for slowly revealing key information, creating dramatic tension, setting up payoffs and completely enrolling the listener. …
“Telephone sex lines, illness support groups, twelve-step groups, all these places are schools for learning how to tell a story effectively. Out loud. To people. Not just to look for ideas, but how to perform.
“We live our lives according to stories. About being Irish or being balck. About working hard or shooting heroin. Being male or female. And we spend our lives looking for evidence—facts and proof—that support our story. As a writer, you just recognize that part of human nature.”

One of the things we notice when we look at AA’s new pamphlet, “Many Path’s to Spirituality,” the publication doesn’t try to define spirituality. It draws from the experience of spirituality expressed from a few very varied storytellers of different creedal and cultural backgrounds and it expresses that not only is there no wrong way to do AA, but that there isn’t even a preferred way to get and stay sober a’la Alcoholics Anonymous. It talks about many paths to experiencing spirituality without feeling obligated to defining it. Ours is an oral (or written) tradition of sharing our experiences. AA has been either lucky or wise in never hand-cuffing ourselves to a definition of addiction nor a definition of recovery. We describe how it looks and feels to each other. And that, is good enough. Certainly, it’s as good as it gets in the rooms of 12-Step recovery.

Listen to the podcast for a review of these books, available as eBooks or hard-copies.

My Name is Lillian and I’m an Alcoholic (and an Atheist):
A Skeptics Guide to the 12 Steps (1990) by Philip Z Vince Hawkings books include An Atheist’s Unofficial Guide to AA

Waiting: A Nonbeliever’s Higher Power by Marya Hornbacher.

A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous is by author, John Lauritsen

Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life & The Little Book: A Collection of Alternative 12 Steps are available at a discount when ordering six or more copies.

So there’s a glimpse into what’s on my bookshelf. Feel free to stockpile or order one-a-moth from or, if you have a favorite bookstore, they can order any of these. Let us know what we’re missing and/or should be talking up.
There have been some books that I have read and wouldn’t recommend. I stick to the, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” motto. That’s a rule I will break, but you really have to inspire me with stubbornness or stupidity for me to rant away with a counter-point. The book The Sober Truth (Episode Four) was one of these examples.

A PDF transcript of this show is available HERE. Come back and visit any time after August 8th. Enjoy the (Rebellion) Dog Days of summer.

Rebellion Dogs Radio # 5, Standing: Who get's a say in AA?  

Print or read the PDF   Hear it as a podcast from Pod0matic
“Who is more contemptible than he who scorns knowledge of himself?” John of Salisbury (1120 – 1180)

John Ralston Saul commentates on the relationships between citizenship, individualism and the public good. He argues that Western society, as a whole, suffers from “a fear of reality and a weakness for ideology.” As a way of describing our mental state while in the heart of addiction, AA members would be apt to describe ourselves as less in reality and more in delusion.

Today, let’s ask if AA as an organization ought to be mindful of our balancing act between reality and ideology. Are we as a fellowship losing touch with its own consciousness?
In his lectures and book, The Unconscious Civilization[i], John Ralston Saul suggests that John of Salisbury would give a nod to the adaptation of his quote above to “What is more contemptible than a society that scorns knowledge of itself?"

For those of who fashion ourselves as stewards of The Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Step/Twelve Tradition way of life, here is a question that relates to AA reality and ideology:
  • Is AA a fellowship with a manual, or
  • Is AA a book-based society?
Are we a fellowship or are we a program? While we might want to retreat to the noncommittal, “aren’t we both?” let’s look first at our Traditions. Do these twelve principles defend and define a fellowship or a program? The answer is quite apparent. Unity, membership requirements, how we govern our groups, how the groups relate to each other, how we cooperate with society as a whole, why anonymity—these tenets describe a fellowship. One Tradition, Tradition Five, reminds us to relate our message of hope to the still suffering alcoholic.

We are a fellowship. This reality is lost in our current vernacular. “When I joined the program,” is said so many times it is, to many, our collective reality. In fact, we joined a fellowship. Many of us applied a suggested program but there is no program to join. Am I splitting hairs? I don’t think so; I think this a fundamental explanation of some of the dogmatic tendencies in AA today.

If we were a book-based society—and we are not—then the book would be sacred. The sacred book could not be changed, nor should the words inside be liberally interpreted. While this is a knee-jerk reaction by many of the membership, The Big Book itself discourages us from this type of dogma, not once but twice: "The wording was, of course quite optional, so long as we voiced the ideas without reservation." (P. 63) “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize that we know only a little.” (P. 164)

For comparison's sake, let’s liken ourselves to a society of grade five math teachers. Since the late 1930s, the principles of math as it applies to grade five have not changed dramatically. Are we using the same text book to teach our children? No; we have found more contemporary ways to express these principles. While staying true to the same principles in grade five math, every generation of students gets the same or greater advantage compared to those who came before, based on these enhancements. How silly would we look if we reified the math-teaching process with a text book that was almost 80 years old, fearing that our mathematics would otherwise be watered down?

If this is an unfair comparison, I am all ears and eyes. Tell me why.

Recently I was chaired a panel at the 35th Eastern Ontario Spring Conference of AA in Ottawa Canada. This conference had something for everyone. Clancy I from Venice California was there. Big Book evangelist, Tom K from Boston was there. The old-timers panel was called “Sisters in Sobriety” with three 40 years+ sober women in AA. I was chairing a panel called “Unity Not Uniformity: Spiritual Variety in A.A." which was comprised of Atheist and Agnostic members with long term sobriety. I talked about stewardship in AA. “It’s Okay to want to be the Tradition Police in AA; that’s a good thing. But first, we have to put our time in at the Twelve Tradition Academy to learn about our history.”

When we study our history we see that history does have a tendency to repeat itself.
Our principles suggest that individualism is no threat to unity. As stated in Warranty Six in our A.A. World Service Manual,

“Much attention has been drawn to the extraordinary liberties which the A.A. Traditions accord to the individual member and to his group; no penalties to be inflicted for nonconformity to A.A. principles … no member to be expelled from A.A.—membership always to be the choice of the individual; each group to conduct its internal affairs as it wishes—it being merely requested to abstain from acts that might injure A.A. as a whole; and finally that any group of alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group provide that as a group, they have no other purpose or affiliation. . . we A.A.’s possess more and greater freedom than any other fellowship in the world.”[ii]

I listen to Ralston Saul’s Massey Lectures about “Unconscious Civilization” and I wonder if AA isn’t becoming an “increasingly conformist society that pays only lip service to democracy and individualism.” Is Individualism in AA today (the autonomy of members and our groups) seen as a single ambulatory center of selfishness? Selfishness is a narrower, more superficial definition of individualism than our founders might have intended.

Today, do we feel bound to unify, despite our differences? Or do we feel obliged to conform to a uniformed set of rituals? Bill Wilson seemed comfortable choosing spontaneity and chaos over control and order. Imagine if you or I were laying out the groundwork. Would we give groups and members such autonomy? While groups are asked to consider other groups or AA as a whole, policing that request is left to that group’s best judgment. Why? Bill W’s view was that Alcoholics Anonymous is self-correcting. While you can apply a theistic narrative if you wish, Bill was certain that adherence to the principles behind our Steps and Traditions were obligatory to a group’s or individual’s survival. Was it ever intended that we ought to be obligated to submit to these Steps or Traditions literally, as authority from Yahweh the Creator? No. The principles, if followed, would work, in accordance to any creed or worldview. Any who stray too far away will not have to be policed or governed; they will fall by the wayside all by themselves. Based on the experience that informed our Traditions, Bill W. didn’t seem so concerned that any individual or group could drag the fellowship down with them. It was the intolerance, not the refusal to conform, that he saw as detrimental.

In the story of Tradition Three from The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Wilson relates this story about applying rules upon membership:

“Maybe this sounds comical now. Maybe you think we oldtimers were pretty intolerant. But I can tell you there was nothing funny about the situation then. We were grim because we felt our lives and homes were threatened, and that was no laughing matter. Intolerant, you say? Well, we were frightened. Naturally, we began to act like most everybody does when afraid. After all, isn’t fear the true basis of intolerance? Yes, we were intolerant.
How could we then guess that all those fears were to prove groundless? How could we know that thousands of these sometimes frightening people were to make astonishing recoveries and become our greatest workers and most intimate friends?”[iii]

So, according to AA lore, everyone lives happily ever after if and when we mind our own business and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. What is “too seriously?” How about when we assume power or jurisdiction over another?

STANDING: losing your say in AA
In law, locus standi (standing) establishes who has a voice and who does not. Free defines the term as, “The legally protectable stake or interest that an individual has in a dispute that entitles him to bring the controversy before the court to obtain judicial relief.”

In Fire and Ashes, Michael Ignatieff talked about lessons learned the hard way about how sinister the political ploy of undermining someone’s standing can be. What if you no longer have a say in the political arena? Ignatieff came from a politically engaged Canadian family. His dad was active in Liberal politics and his childhood memories include dinner time political debate. As a reporter, educator and author, Michael Ignatieff had been teaching at Harvard where he had received his doctorate of history. Liberal insiders visited him and laid out a proposal to have him return to Canada join and the Liberal leadership race with the intention of eventually running the country as Prime Minister.

His key adversary, Steven Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada ran smear campaigns with the tag lines, “Michael Ignatieff – just visiting,” and “He didn’t come back for you.” The intended goal was not to rebut his criticism of how the Conservatives were running the country. It attacked the man, not the message; it suggested that Ignatieff had no standing in a discussion of what was best for Canada.

“Swift-boating,” is the term Ignatieff uses for undermining ones standing in the political arena. It refers to a successful attack on democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and his Vietnam record. As he returned home a decorated vet, he was critical of US conduct in the war. Kerry had seen action on a Swift Boat up the Mekong River in Vietnam and his anti-war ranting on Capitol Hill offended American prisoners of war and other US troops and their families.

There is always some truth to swift-boating. Ignatieff had been out of the country for thirty years. John Kerry was critical of the Vietnam War. Does that make either man unworthy of leading their country? Well, they don’t get to make their case, if they lose their standing.

When AA groups for agnostics and atheists are being ostracized by some of the more rigid local Intergroups, the Intergroup bodies assume governing power to revoke the agnostic groups’ standing in AA. Hasty and angry Intergroup bodies don’t hear the group’s rebuttal. In Intergroup’s rationalization, the nonconforming groups forfeit their AA group status for the crime of not adhering to the literal translation of AA’s Steps that the majority of groups do.

That much is true; some agnostic groups interpret the Steps in a secular (no God) way while others don’t read the Steps in meetings at all. The fact—the AA truth—is that there is no requirement for the membership or groups to strictly adhere to the Steps exactly as written. Because someone says “You can’t pick and choose what you like about the Steps and change the rest and still call yourself an AA group,” doesn’t make it true. AA doesn’t grant Intergroups authority over deciding who is or is not an AA group, nor what conventional or unconventional rituals can or cannot be practiced. On the contrary, “leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.”

When members are told that in order to share, they have to identify as, “My name is ________ and I am an alcoholic,” their standing is being threatened. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. How we identify ourselves—addict, person in long-term recovery, by first name only or full name—is an individual decision.

We don’t have a winning record with inclusivity as a fellowship. The first group conscience of Alcoholics Anonymous that entertained giving standing to women in AA decided, “No skirts.” Voting on including African Americans in AA was “No Negros.” The first LGBTQ groups that wanted standing were told “No sexual deviants in AA.” Young people have been shown the same bigotry, too. “I spilled more than you ever drank; what are you doing here?”

Almost all of us alcoholics have been denied standing just for being an alcoholic. Our word was nothing, our reputation was destroyed, our troubles elicited no sympathy. We were alkies, we were addicts, second class citizens. And sober, having suffered the indignity of it ourselves, we still dish it out to scapegoated others because their beliefs or some other characteristic disqualifies them from legitimacy (in our eyes). This is natural for humans. Not them but each and every one of us.

Fire and Ashes talks about the reluctant move towards wider, more inclusive standing:

“America, and the democracies that take inspiration from it, are inching a step closer to that place glimpsed by Martin Luther King when he spoke of a distant country where people would be judged not by the characteristics, but by their character. Despite the victories that Obama has won, however, the country is still distant. Democratic societies that have outlawed discrimination nonetheless retain a complex code that still allows class, education and citizenship to be used to deny standing and to turn citizens from friends into foes in our politics.”[iv]

This isn’t new territory for Michael Ignatieff. In his life as a journalist, Ignatieff was on the front line of conflicts between the Tutsi and Hutu factions in Rwanda, the Croatians and Serbs in the former Yugoslavia were shooting at each other, and at the pre-911 Taliban affront on Afghanistan, before many American’s could point out Afghanistan on a world map.

In The Warrior’s Honor, Ignatieff draws upon the more conservative political scientist Samuel P. Huntington to help make the point that some of these differences we are talking about are not as simple as, “I like the New England Patriots and you like the San Francisco 49ers.”

“The Clash of Civilizations, by Samuel Huntington states that it is liberal ‘secular myopia,’ he argues, to think that ethnic difference is minor. … Millennia of human history have shown that religion is not a small difference, he asserts, but possibly the most profound difference that can exist between people. The frequency, intensity and violence of fault line wars are greatly enhanced by beliefs in different gods.”

Ignatieff goes on to say about the warring Serbians and Croatians, so many expressed “surprise at the astonishing rapidity with which fifty years of ethnic coexistence was destroyed, perhaps forever.”[v]

So it’s one thing that we have meetings for the LGBTQ crowd or young people or for women. To be fair, AA was welcoming African Americans into the fold before Martin Luther King and Gay and Lesbian groups were part of AA when sodomy was still illegal and a dishonorable discharge awaited any gay man who came clean in the army. At least all of these special meetings of young, gay or female alkies were in agreement with the crowd as far as the “We Agnostics” line in the sand. On page 53 of the Big Book, we are confronted with, “We could not postpone or evade; we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t. What was our choice to be?” Most AAs through the ages agree on some Abrahamic Creator of the Universe or prayer answering, alcoholic saving power greater than our own will.

But when “God as we understand Him,” is “God is a myth,” or “I understand God to be born of fear and ignorance,” then this fault line difference is quite another thing. The reality that many stay sober without any supernatural dependency is a reality that, in some AA quarters, is giving way to a more dogmatic, uniformed God-conscious ideology of what AA is and has always been. Revisionist history is the foundation from the Back to Basics AA that remembers a time when everyone got sober and all the groups were harmonious. While there is nothing wrong with a literalist approach to AA, the problem comes when pluralism is abandoned and alternative paths to sobriety are dismissed as dry-drunk, second-rate alternatives or without standing.

Denying agnostic AA groups their standing in AA is a clear case of being discriminated against. Intergroups assume a governing role and avoid rebuttal by denying standing to agnostic groups. Are there more subtle systemic discriminations in AA, or as Ignatieff puts it, a “complex code that still allows class, education and citizenship to be used to deny standing?” Clues can be found in our demographics. Let’s look at how USA demographics (where ½ of AA members live) have changed from 1940 to 2010.
Demographics of USA 1940 to 2010
USA demographics 1940 2010
% of Caucasian (whites) 90% 72%
% who completed High School 24% 86%
% with a University Degree 5% 28%
% of one person households 8% 27%
% of female lead households 11% 20%

The USA looks very different over a 70 year period. What we call a family or household has changed. One person homes have risen from 8% to 27%; female led households have doubled from 11% to 20%. Americans are better educated; when AA started 5% of members had a university education. Now it’s 28%. America was 90% Caucasian when Bob and Bill met and in 2010, only 72% identified as white.[vi] On the question of racial diversity, in the 2011 Triennial AA survey we see that AA is whiter than America as a whole: 87% of AA is Caucasian while only 72% of America is. According to the 2011 survey by SAMHSA, of the people being treated for alcoholism, 68% are Caucasian. Looking ahead, with a 100 year old AA, Caucasians will not be a majority in the USA (estimated crossover to be 2043). Is there something systematic in the rituals and literature of AA that gives more standing to white skinned members or men over women?

“God as we understand Him” doesn’t fit all AAs today in the one-size-fits-all way it did in 1940. As more Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Atheists enter the rooms, what would be a more welcoming hand of AA for the newcomer of 2035 look like? Can we adapt? Will we adapt?

We say the Responsibility Declaration and we talk of AA inclusivity. Is our liberalism a myth (ideology) or reality? If we are inclusive, if we are accommodating, to what do we attribute the variance in statistics inside the rooms and the world just outside our meeting doors?

Ignatieff writes:
“Myth is a narrative shaped by desire, not by truth, formed not by the facts as best we can establish them but by our longing to be reassured and consoled. Coming awake means to renounce such longing, to recovery all the sharpness of the distinction between what is true and what we wish were true.”[vii]

The Warrior's Honor refers to the James Joyce line from Ulysses, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” With our emphasis on a spiritual awakening this idea should be like old home week for us. “Appendix II, The Spiritual Experience” describes most awakenings as being gradual. Maybe it’s a life’s work to renounce our longing for assurance and consolation. Could it be that it’s only human to surrender to self-constructed or mutually constructed realities that blot out the harsher truths? Constant vigilance is a more demanding master.

To follow the natural order of things is to resign ourselves to the finitude of all good things. AA, like any society, will decay if we follow our natural tendencies. To fend off this inevitability requires more than lip service to our brand of democracy. It requires each of us engaging in our citizenry and rising to the challenge, when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help. For AA to be there in 2035 we have to be firm with our principles and flexible with our method.
[ii] The AA World Service Manual (Twelve Concepts p. 74)
[iii] Anonymous, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, New York: Alcoholics Anonymous, 1953 p. 140 - 141
[iv] Ignatieff, Michael, Fire and Ashes, Toronto: Random House, 2013
[v] Ignatieff, Michael, The Warrior's Honor: Ethnic War and The Modern Conscience, Toronto: Viking, 1998 p 54, 55.
[vii] Ignatieff, Michael, The Warrior's Honor:. p 167

Rebellion Dogs Radio Episode One  

Welcome to Rebellion Dogs Addiction & Recovery Radio Show, bringing you a 21st century look at 12 Step life, with more bite and less dogma.

Play the show in your own audio player or download it. Please note, it's a big file and might take a couple of minutes to download. Otherwise, scroll down and use the Pod-o-matic player which fires up right away...

I am currently reading Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey’s Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2009). Kegan is on record as saying:
“Successfully functioning in a society with diverse values, traditions and lifestyles requires us: to have a relationship to our own reactions rather than be captive of them; to resist our tendencies to make right or true, that which is merely familiar, and wrong or false, that which is only strange.”
Who doesn’t dismiss or is at least get uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. However, what’s the danger of making sacred that with is familiar? What is the danger of dismissing or demonizing that which seems strange to our way of doing things?

Our blogs have been focused on the Vancouver situation for a couple of weeks and in 2014 they are treating as new, the same situation Bill Wilson dealt with 60 years ago: Who gets to say who or what is a real A.A. group?

In Bill W’s AA, if you want to change the Steps so they fit with your worldview – go for it. Will there be any pressure from AA to either conform or get the hell out of here – never. In a film about the Traditions Bill confesses that the Twelve Traditions are contrary to his own knee-jerk reactions. He had his own agenda and his own secret aims for AA. The Twelve Traditions reflect the experience that his fears proved to be groundless and his ambitions were purely egotistical. Our Traditions are not from the wisdom of AA elders but born of the bad experiences of following first impulses. In this inaugural podcast Bill W himself, warns us that the Traditions are to guard against temptations that are bound to resurface, the temptation to govern and the human tendency toward rigidity, fear and intolerance.

If we don’t know our history we are damned—damned to repeat it, so we take a time-capsule trip back to 1957 when AA history set in place the standard to deal with non-conforming AA groups that want to do their own thing and aren’t asking anyone’s permission to do it.

Coming Up this month we will be talking with a filmmaker from Oregon who will talk about why addicts are so fascinating, an addiction treatment professional from California who talks about the missing component to the Big Book approach – shame, guilt and trauma work, plus a University of Toronto Psychology teacher who will be talking to us about coming to terms with our own capacity for both evil and virtue.

That’s not very one-day-at-a-time now is it? As for February, I hope all those ideas will come from y’all. Let us know what’s on your mind. We’ll hunt down the answers.
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When You’re Not the Lead Dog© Joe C, Jesse Beatson, The Chronicles
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Like jumping from a ledge or retreating to a burning building
Time to choose the uncertain or settle for breaking even
A parable comes to mind from one of life’s wise Eskimos
I don’t remember it exactly but here is how it goes:
When you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes
Life’s a crowded room full of faceless strangers
When you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes
I can’t settle for getting by so bring on the dangers
You confess you have a dream – the other’s just don’t get it
Like an aging hipster, you don’t want to be pathetic
So you’re torn between a good living and a good life
You ask if it’s worth the risk, the sweat, the strife. You asking me?
When you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes
Life’s a crowded room full of faceless strangers
When you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes
I can’t settle for getting by so bring on the dangers
I won’t bah like a sheep, so I fight what I seek
You won’t put me to rest with my concerto incomplete
Life is not a punishment – more like a treasure hunt
So I’m jumping from the ledge and taking a run for the front