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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Traditions! What Traditions?

Extract from the aacultwatch forum (old):
I remember during my involvement with the Vision for You cult in the late 1990's there were many splits and breakaways, usually over the most trifling and trivial of matters.

Outside the cult fold the Vision group earned itself the nickname "Division for You" ! The Vision itself was a breakaway from Joys. No doubt there have been subsequent splits and factions. It's the tedious nature of the Beast !

These cult groups break the Traditions in so many respects it is difficult to know where to start. Of course, they are always personality centered, with a "Leader" - a chief sponsor who fancies himself as a guru. The real requirement for membership of these groups is not a desire to stop drinking (as set out in the AA Traditions) but a desire to agree with and be obedient to this chief know-it-all sponsor in every respect. This is how these groups pervert the message of AA.

We now have a situation where some cult meetings are no longer referring to AA conference approved literature at all, but to something some headcase sponsor-guru has made up, as in Ealing right now, where an "abridged" version of the Big Book called the "Yellow Book of Big Book Quotes" is being used. This 28 page booklet is minus many serious omissions from what the Big Book actually says, and may well be in breach of copyright as it uses quotes from later editions of the Big Book. One individual personality - "Happy Dennis" - cobbled this perverted opus together and, aside from some dogrel "poetry" composed by Dennis himself, the AA name is linked to and used to promote an outside enterprise - a non-AA website largely concocted by David "The Icon" C which purports to be Big Book recovery but is actually no more than a collection of his private and narrow-minded religion-based opinions of what is in the Big Book.

These groups really are shameless in their disregard for AA Traditions. And the culture of these groups is dismissive and contemptuous of the fellowship as a whole. I know because I used to be part of it - to my past shame, yes, - but, believe me, experience is the best teacher!”

The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014


On our old site we had a section devoted to useful bits and pieces (interesting websites, downloads, “open source” software etc) we discovered on our ramblings around the good ole' world wide web. It's amazing the amount of stuff' that's floating around for free (much better than handing your hard earned cash over to some tax avoiding corporation ….. you know who you are!). So after much procrastination (our favourite defect of character) we've decided to reinstate this under the section entitled …. Guess? Go on!! You'll never get it! ….... Free Stuff! Yay!! (see also Free Stuff in our Links and Downloads section)

So to kick off:

Apache OpenOffice

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The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous …. and a good bargain!)

Primary Purpose/Back to Basics

See here


A loosely connected international network of websites has created a “virtual” Primary Purpose intergroup, facilitating the global communication of an ideology and a cause which comes from literature and website sources outside of AA. This website network has enabled the formation of affiliated AA groups in at least eleven countries, by like minded AA members who share this ideology and cause. This cause appears to be the introduction of Oxford Group principles and methods, which were criticised by Bill W. as not being inclusive to all alcoholics; and to teach an interpretation of the AA programme, sourced from outside of the group conscience of AA.”


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Some reflections on the Primary Purpose movement

The similarities between the more cult-like versions of AA and the more extreme versions of evangelical Christianity in the US today are clear. They have the same attitudes toward the sacred book, literalists, proof-texting, and refusing to look outside the book. They both aim for a rigid perfectionism which is destructive psychologically but can be maintained for a long period. And their means of recruitment are similar, including seminars, the use of mass media, etc.

See this somewhat old but useful treatment of extreme evangelicalism. The "softer" versions described here, briefly, are more similar to "traditional" AA, namely the willingness to accept less than perfection, the believe that we will continue to have problems in life, the willingness to use outside therapy as an aid.


Today's post (April 5) on Primary Purpose brings to mind some thoughts on how the more cult-like versions of AA manage to shoehorn in pretty much everything into "directive", or "strong" or "Book Book" sponsorship.

It comes in a variety of ways. One is the statement which one hears from them over here in NYC that "I have only one problem today and that is alcoholism." So everything is alcoholism. If you are bipolar, or depressed, or have marital problems, etc. etc., that's all "alcoholism" really and you should just follow your sponsor's advice and read the Big Book and that should take care of it. If it doesn't, then you must be doing something wrong, not praying enough, not doing enough service, not taking correct 10th steps. In extreme forms this gets to advising the sponsee to give up physician-prescribed medications for bipolar disease, or in a weaker version, not pointing out that some outside therapy might just help with those childhood sexual abuse issues and the emotional problems which arise from them.

A more insidious tack, since it is less easily recognized, is using steps 4 thru 7 to get at the "exact nature of our wrongs" and remove our "character defects". Here the sponsor tries to "go deeper", to become an expert on a type of folk-psychology, which uses the suggestions about anger, resentment, the seven deadly sins (in the 12 and 12) to get at the "exact nature" of the sponsees problems. So anger issues arising out of childhood sexual abuse is brought up in the 5th step? Well, we need our sponsor's advice on how to handle that? What's your part? Holding on to it? Well, let go of that anger then, pray about it, etc. The sponsor becomes an "expert" as opposed to just someone listening to a step. (Even though the BB says we can do a 5th step with perfect strangers if they more or less know what we are doing, or with physicians, or with religious ministers. No experts there on the 5th step. But that was the early days, the cult-like members may respond, we've gotten better now.) People suffer needlessly because they are not directed to real experts who might help them. This relates to the primary purpose in two ways. One, the cult sponsor can argue that his dealing with all these psychological issues on the sponsee are part of the primary purpose, they are part of alcoholism and they are part of steps 4 thru 6. So everything is now the primary purpose! Secondly, they argue, it would be a violation of AA principles to point out that outside help may be necessary for some of these issues (including perhaps other programs for an over-eater, etc.) because they cannot advocate for outside entities, that that is a violation of the primary purpose, which is to talk about the recovery from alcoholism alone. (Which alcoholism has grown to include everything wrong with a person and which can be cured by prayer, 10th steps, service and carrying the message, i.e. "getting outside yourself" or deflating the ego.)

Now I am all for spirituality as a help in this, and moral inventories are good, and pride, ego, anger, resentments are problems. Prayer is important to me, and I try to use all that, and service to stay on the AA beam. (As long as service does not rise to taking up my whole life, but is balanced by outside activities and involvement in non-AA institutions or groups.) But I also think there are problems other than alcoholism faced by AA members and we do them a disservice by claiming to be able to cure them of everything. Expansion of the notions of "defects of character" and "exact nature of our wrongs" is a way of really making parts of AA a cult by closing people off from any outside influence.

Again, it is like those evangelical Christians, they hold only the Bible is useful for all problems, and do not seek professional help with necessary.”


I think my observations on the NYC AA scene might be useful to you. As they say "Coming soon to a screen near you" if not already there on the other side of the pond. I am convinced, and I think you guys alluded to this, that only the intervention of an outside power (and not HP) will change AA and by that I mean the government via a few lawsuits where individuals or the fellowship are sued for some sort of misuse and mistreatment.

I was told yesterday, I am not sure if this is true, that court-mandated attendance at AA (which was pretty common in the US) for DUI's and other problems has been declared unconstitutional by a higher court in New York State because it violates individuals' freedom of religion, that is, that it mandated attendance at a religious event, regardless of AA's distinction between religion and spirtuality. As far as that court was concerned mentioning God was enough to make it fall under actions prohibited by the First Amendment.”

Part of our response:

Hi …...

Some good points. As you say the term "alcoholism" can be expanded almost indefinitely to include virtually anything you want. With that expansion comes a concomitant extension in the area of expertise possessed by those who pronounce themselves (usually) experts on recovery. The intrusive nature of sponsorship exemplified by cult members means they move beyond merely 'sharing their experience, strength and hope' towards 'treating' other peoples' 'alcoholism' however they might define it. Therefore they can play the role of counsellor, psychiatrist, spiritual adviser, health care professional, marriage guidance counsellor, mentor and general know-it-all to their heart's content! And all without the bother of having to study the subject in depth, or even operate within professional boundaries! Or to put it the AA way: they can't quite 'quit playing God'.....”


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

PS Our thanks to this contributor

Monday, 21 April 2014

GSO (GB) Leads Members Away from Traditions - Again!

See GSO website “Event Calendar” November 2014  

Costa Del Sol Intergroup “Back to Basics” Convention

Starring (take your pick!)

Clancy I

And by “popular demand”…

Bob D (Las Vegas) & Mary P (Los Angeles) – aka. Mary Poppins?

A Fun night out with local AA’s enjoying their recovery.” (According to Costa Del Sol Intergroup “Back to Basics” Convention) (Winter)

Comment: Why would gullible alcoholics spend their cash to travel to the Costa del Sol in a cold, wet November, when sane people go to Costa del Sol for hot beaches and tourist entertainment in summer? And why would GSO (GB) use its website to promote an event which abandons the principle of Tradition Twelve?

To find the answers to these intriguing questions see Clancy I’s comment in the Washington Post, 22/07/2007 “Midtown AA Group Leads Members Away from Traditions” by Marc Fisher 

Clancy I in “The Dark Legacy of a Rehab Cult” by J.D. Dickey, The Fix, 05/09/12

Clancy I in “AA Cults I Have Known” by Benjamin Aldo, The Fix, 07/25/13

The Pacific Group of Clancy I.” Orange Papers 

The Cult within AA – The Pacific Group” Shelley’s Blog 

Clancy Imislund , Managing Director, The Midnight Mission http://www.midnightmission.org/staff/clancy-imislund-2/ 

The Midnight Mission Leadership and Staff 

The Midnight Mission Financial Information 

Alcoholics and narcotics anonymous: A radical movement under threat”  Zafiridis P and Lainas S., 2012 (Department of Psychology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) Addiction Research and Theory, 20( 2) 93-104 http://www.researchgate.net/publication/232038226_Alcoholics_and_narcotics_anonymous_A_radical_movement_under_threat (Free download)

The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry” by Maia Szalavitz 

Aftermath – the Synanon Legacy" by Paul Morantz 

Coercive Persuasion and Attitude Change” Richard J Ofshe Encyclopedia of Sociology Vol. 1 

Extreme Influence – Thought Reform, High Control Groups, Interrogation and Recovered Memory Psychotherapy” Richard J Ofshe, Encyclopedia of Sociology, Vol. 2,  2001 

"Whatever Happened to Twelve-Step Programs?" Kurtz E (1999)

The use of confrontation in addiction treatment: History, science and time for change.” White, W. & Miller, W., 2007,Counselor, 8(4), 12-30) http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/2007ConfrontationinAddictionTreatment.pdf 

Trick or Treat? A Century of American Responses to Heroin Addiction’ White, W. L. (2002) 

Walk the Line” by Harry Shapiro and Carolyn Oubridrge, Druglink July/August 2012. 

Professional Service and Recovery Advocacy in England An Interview with Mark Gilman, MA Strategic Recovery Lead National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse” White, W. L. (2011) 

David Deitch, Ph.D. and George De Leon, Ph.D. on Recovery Management and the Future of the Therapeutic Community; William L. White, M.A; Counselor, 11(5), 38-49. 

Conversation with David Deitch,” Addiction, 1999, 94(6), 791-800 Wiley online Library

'The SYNANON Self Help Organization and its Contribution to the Understanding and Treatment of Addiction.' Zafiridis Ph. (2011), Therapeutic Communities, 32(2), 125 –141 

Retrospective Study of Similarities and Relations between the American Drug-Free and the European Therapeutic Communities for Children and Adults” Broekaert E, Vanderplasschen W., Temmerman I., Ottenberg D., Kaplan C., 2000, Journal of  Psychoactive Drugs 32(4) 407- 417 

Thought Reform Programs and the Production of Psychiatric Casualties” Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph. D., and Richard Ofshe, Ph. D., 1990, Psychiatric Annals 20(4)  

Attacks on Peripheral Versus Central Elements of Self and the Impact of Thought Reforming Techniques” Richard Ofshe, Ph.D. and Margaret T. Singer, Ph.D. 1986, Cultic Studies Journal, 3(1)

New York Notes- Are You Looking At Me”? Maia Szalavitz, 2013, Druglink 28(4) 29

(You may have to join the dots and book a holiday)


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

GSO (GB) Leads Members Away from Traditions

See GSO website “Event Calendar” April 2014

San Diego Spring Round Up” 

Location: Town & Country Resort Hotel, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108 

Thursday, April 17, 2014
Comedian and Ice Cream Social with Starbucks Coffee and Häagen-Dazs Ice cream - $30  
1/2 - Day Deep Sea Fishing Trip aboard the Chubasco II - $45 

Friday April 18, 2014
Golf Tournament, Riverwalk Golf Club  -   $75 

Saturday April 19, 2014
5K and 10K Fun Run/Walk- $20    

Saturday April 19, 2014,
Tennis Tournament, Peninsula Tennis Club - $15 

Saturday April 19, 2014
A.A. Breakfast/ Speaker - $36  

Al-Anon Luncheon / Speaker -$38 

A.A. Banquet / Speaker - $49 

San Diego Spring Roundup Radio Show!

Keith L of Midtown AA Group (note the promotional pop up of “Tough Love”)

San Diego Spring Roundup convention CDs for sale $7.00 each or- $60.00 for full set

San Diego Spring Roundup Commemorative Merchandise

T Shirts $13 Ladies V Neck $17 Sweatshirt $25 Embroidered polo $22 Souvenir Coffee cup $7 Souvenir Travel coffee mug $12

(Registration now closed)

Comment: Another promotional event that doesn’t say it is an AA event, but is clearly targeted at AA members. There’s loads of dosh to be made out of gullible alcoholics isn’t there? Just look at all those $$$$! We looked over the Roundup website to see what bona fide AA body is organising it and could only find a PO Box and a number of anonymous email addresses. While the gullible jump on a plane this Easter weekend to get fleeced and might even come back to the UK feeling grateful for it, what has happened to guardianship of traditions at GSO? Have they not heard of Traditions Five and Six?

Perhaps not?

For more information, email gso@alcoholics–anonymous.org.uk where helpful staff can advise you about the General Warranties of Conference. Here’s an extract from Warranty Five:

Privately, however, we can inform Traditions-violators that they are out of order. When they persist, we can follow up by using such other resources of persuasion as we may have, and these are often considerable…” (The AA Service Manual Combined with Twelve Concepts for World Service, p. 69) http://www.aa.org/pdf/products/en_bm-31.pdf

GSO staff can also advise you on how to submit a question/topic for Conference. If you’re stuck for ideas, here’s a suggestion for Conference 2015: “Should GSO (GB) use its website to indirectly promote Starbucks coffee, Häagen-Dazs ice cream and various other commercial enterprises. Yes or No?” Conference questions can be submitted directly to the Conference Co-ordinator at gso@alcoholics–anonymous.org.uk or via your local GSR, with appropriate background. (Hint, hint)

Now then, why would an alcoholic pay another $20 to have a fun run/walk, when the sane do it for free?

To find the answer to this intriguing question Google “Jogging in New York,” and then see the Washington Post’s “Midtown AA Group Leads Members Away from Traditions” http://blog.washingtonpost.com/rawfisher/2007/07/midtown_group_aa_group_leads_m.html and “The Dark Legacy of a Rehab Cult” http://www.thefix.com/content/aa-cults-synanon-legacy0009?page=all


The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Never had a bad day? What's wrong with you?

Extract from the aacultwatch forum (old):
“…..... The issue isn't to question the idea of sharing in a way that gives hope to the newcomer. That is what we should do - share experience, strength and hope, as indicated in our Preamble.

EXPERIENCE is, of course, what happens in our lives and can include delightful events or tragic events or just plain run-of-the-mill daily routine events. Sometimes sharing "bad" experiences can give the newcomer or others IDENTIFICATION. Identification is the starting point of all healing in AA. It has been my experience that I should never pre-judge what will or will not help my listeners.

STRENGTH is what I get from the High Power(s) of my understanding. This is what keeps me going, keeps me strong and gets me through good or bad times. Remember - alcoholics don't really need an excuse to drink. I wanted to drink just as much in the good times as the bad.

HOPE is what I try to give the newcomer, and the alcoholic who suffers (who may not necessarily be a newcomer), by showing that it is possible to stay sober one day at a time, whatever the circumstances of life. On my first day of sobriety I was homeless and destitute, but I didn't drink. I went to a meeting that evening and began to take further actions in order to recover my life. It started with the first Step. That is one reason I still keep coming back, even after 26 years - to give people hope, to confirm that sobriety is possible over a long period. And by doing so, it affirms my own recovery. Besides, I love AA now and I really enjoy most meetings I attend.

The issue in my post was about the phrase "I've never had a bad day" which is not an AA promise, and is bandied about in the Cult groups I have attended in order to bamboozle and control unsuspecting and vulnerable people, and lead them into a state of co-dependency upon another person (e.g. sponsor). It is a mechanism of control based upon exaggerations and even lies. It also causes unnecessary distress to people who, for one reason or another, cannot in the heart of hearts say that they have "never had a bad day". (And, let's be honest, that would include nearly all of the human race!) It is a way of putting people down while putting others on a pedestal. It also generates intolerance and division. Having witnessed the distress and confusion this phrase causes newcomers, and others in AA, I feel it right to unpack it, and to challenge it. That's all.”

The Fellas (Friends of Alcoholics Anonymous)

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PPS For new aacultwatch forum see here. Have your say!