The Skepchick Serenity Prayer – click to embiggen

A twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles (accepted by members as ‘spiritual principles,’ based on the approved literature) outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the Twelve Steps were first published in the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism in 1939. The method was then adapted and became the foundation of other twelve-step programs. — the cesspit of lies

Powerlessness, Twelve-Stepism, and the Siege Mentality

    “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The idea that he is powerless over alcohol lets the user off the hook by absolving him from personal responsibility for his addiction while simultaneously granting ultimate power to the addiction itself, power so great as to be invincible by human standards. Only the supernatural is credited with having power enough, not to defeat the addiction, but to hold the monster at bay under caveat that the individual must completely relinquish personal autonomy or die of his addiction. The drug itself, in this case alcohol, is anthropomorphized. It is not only characterized as being powerful, but is imbued with the skills to be cunning and baffling. These concepts are so basic to Twelve Step theology that they have become ritualized and are read at the opening of virtually all A.A. meetings. This flawed premise, impotence of the individual, forms the basis of all A.A. indoctrination and must be reinforced constantly, not only in group meetings, but also in the day to day lives of the membership at large.[…]

Firmly entrenched in this irrational mind-set, the AA’ers circle the wagons, rigorously proscribing all communication which may question cult teachings, even to the point of ritualistically defining the method of expression and framework within which anything may be said in a meeting. “People disagreeing with [the] ideology…are likely to be criticized, punished, and eventually excluded or shunned by the group.” —, casting a skeptical eye over 12 step programmes

Having had a privileged perspective on the cult (I say that deliberately) of 12 step programmes, both by being in the belly of the beast of actual detox centres and knowing numerous people battling the personal demons of chemical dependencies1, I feel more qualified than many to actually comment on them.

While I acknowledge that they may work for some, I most strenuously object to the idea that they work for all – and it is this insistence by zealous evangelists from the various whatever Anonymous organisations, that it is the one and only recovery programme that works, is what tips them over from being helpful support networks for those in need into the territory of genuine cults.

These evangelists that make the claim that any of these *.A groups are not religious in nature are fucking liars and need to be called on it up front. Their most basic doctrines are firmly rooted guilt ridden xtianity, more precisely Calvinism and it’s noxious concepts of “total depravity” as expressed in its 5 points (aka TULIP)

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person — Mark 7:21-23

You see, when you arrive at any *.A you are to consider yourself abject and broken; you have no will of your own; you have no power over your world; you need to be saved, and salvation comes only through submission and faith. It is spelled out quite clearly in the first step of any 12 step programme –

1. We admitted we were powerless over (insert vice) – that our lives had become unmanageable.

Translation: you are a worthless husk with no mind of your own. You must open your soul and let the collective fill it. In practice, you must strip your individual and cultural identity and replace it with an identity that is approved by the group. This identity transplant is facilitated largely by the group meetings one is expected to attend – 30 meetings is 30 days is the mantra chanted to you after a stint in any detox unit. Failure to comply is a symptom of backsliding – and may invite intrusion into your world from other members fully of the faith to nudge you back on track, for your own good of course…

The majority of meetings themselves are more akin to Pentacostal revivals than sessions with any intrinsic therapeutic merit. You are initially surrounded by strangers, none of whom have any formal counselling training, and the meetings revolve around a perverse voyeuristic / exhibitionistic ritual of group confessional – again, why deny the theistic foundations? Speakers stand in front of the assembled flock and divulge their personal tragedies, griefs and transgressions in lurid detail (it is in no way unusual for those volunteering to “share” to one up the previous speaker in an unpleasant downward spiral)… and little more. There are cheers and tears and the whole event is bracketed by an opening ceremony, usually a roll call and a reading from the Big Book and closed by the traditional serenity prayer. You really can’t get closer to being in church without actually being in a church. It is a perverse spectacle.

And oh so reminiscent of freefromthoughtblogs, Skepchick and their mutant love-child, atheismplus. All *.A groups invest their substance of choice with a degree of insurmountable, demonic evil – power so great as to be invincible by human standards – much in the way that FTB et al frame The Patriarchy™. It is an evil so great that the only response is the mentality of the siege, to circle the wagons, rigorously proscribing all communication which may question cult teachings, even to the point of ritualistically defining the method of expression and framework within which anything may be said in a meeting. “People disagreeing with [the] ideology…are likely to be criticized, punished, and eventually excluded or shunned by the group.”

The parallels don’t stop there. Then there’s the neo-Calvinist putrescence of restoring guilt, fear and shame to sexuality itself. And let’s not forget the morbid confessional theatre… Surely not? Oh yes indeed. This A+ thread from its origins is still as barf inducing now as then –

Effects of not having privilege(Trigger Warning: Oppression)

But really, there is more than enough evidence and words written to date exposing the unspoken religiosity of the toxic thinking that has so thoroughly poisoned the minds of Myers and Watson and the troop of groupthinking monkeys that dance around the organ they grind. What interests me here is the 12 steps themselves – and as I revisited them, the realisation of how easily they can be adapted and repurposed. So, in honour of Becky Watson, the well poisoning queen herself, I present –

The Skepchick 12 Steps

1. We admitted we were powerless over mundane reality – that our insecurities had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could drag others down to our level and restore our safe space.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of The Sisterhood of the Oppressed as we understood Them.

4. Made a searching and fearless victimology of ourselves.

5. Admitted to The Sisterhood of the Oppressed, to ourselves and to the entire Internet the exact nature of our self-pity.

6. Were entirely ready to have The Sisterhood of the Oppressed remove any remaining dignity or strength of character.

7. Humbly asked The Sisterhood of the Oppressed to remove all fortitude and substance.

8. Made a list of all persons that could be framed as harming us, and became willing to assassinate the characters of them all.

9. Made direct efforts to smear such people wherever possible, except when to do so would would involve face-to-face contact.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and, when we found further circumstances to exploit, promptly gossiped, tweeted and blogged about it.

11. Sought through self-mortification and scab-picking to improve our conscious contact with The Sisterhood of the Oppressed as we understood Them, crying only for knowledge of Their will for us and the dogpile to carry that out.

12. Having had a narcissistic implosion as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to unenlightened Oppressed Sisters and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

[Handy Skepchick 12 step graphic]

Addendum for 12 steps true believers –

Please read before you send me your sermons telling me how dumb I am. I stated explicitly that your program does work for SOME people. I take objection to the “ALL PEOPLE” part. I will cut you a deal – if you can summon the humility and grace to clearly state *.A works for “some” people when you speak with people that are newly seeking help, AND that it may not necessarily work for them AND provide them with details of available alternatives (such as SMART Recovery) – basic steps any responsible help group should follow – then I will desist from calling you a cult. Until that happens though, if it quacks like a duck…

1 – Of course nowadays, chemicals are optional. These programmes have extended to other non-deliriant based vices such as gambling and sex.