Joe C. — June 2014
Rebellion Dogs Publishing — books, blogs, community
A new book by John Lauritsen called A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous celebrates diversity in recovery
I believe that the role of a new member's inner circle in recovery is
to help her or him find their salvation — not indoctrinate them into
our brand of salvation. A new person should observe many samples of
recovery from an ample pool of addicts to help formulate their own plan
According to the (big) book, “How It Works”, this is by implementing
the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. John Lauritsen, in his new
book, A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous says: “Not so fast!”
Fellowship and the 24-hour Plan are the pillars of Alcoholics
Anonymous. ... there is great freedom in A.A., both for the group and
the individual. In my 46 years of sobriety I have always been able to
find groups with a maximum of fellowship and minimum of religiosity.”
John reminds us that the suggested Steps is another way of saying the optional
Steps. They violate his creed and core beliefs so he never worked the
Steps. John explains why he disagrees with the powerlessness premise.
The concept of an intervening deity has never been proven in life or in
AA. Forget morality; while the Step Four idea of taking inventory isn't
a bad idea, as John sees it, alcoholism isn't brought about by moral
defects. Alcoholism causes moral compromise — not the other way around.
John credits his success, which he describes as social, physical,
financial and intellectual recovery to what he calls, “real AA”.
According to what John has observed in AA since 1968, what works is the
24-hour program, the Fellowship's mutual-aid environment, and a
determined mantra of “If you get run over by a train, don't blame the
caboose for killing you; stay away from the first drink.”
The dogmatic preaching of the Twelve Steps is what John calls “false
AA.” It's not because he thinks the Steps don't work; he accepts the
claims of many that, for them, the Twelve Steps have been life
altering. However, in A Freethinker in Alcoholics Anonymous, the
argument is made that there are some premises about the Steps that are
born of AA mythology and not our actual history. One myth is that this
is exactly how the first 100 members got sober.
The early members had an oral tradition before we codified it into 164
pages. Most members who were Step oriented had a six-step process which
varied from member to member and region to region. The Twelve Steps
were new to these (mostly sober) members when they read Bill's version
of Chapter 5, “How it Works.” Some liked them, some objected. It was a
tough sell for Bill to get the members to adopt the Steps and it was
hardly unanimous. As John writes:
the Steps are helpful, harmful or both, it is intolerable that they
should become sacred dogma. Everyone should be free to criticize or
reject the Steps — openly, and without risk of ostracism. Every A.A.
member and every A.A. group should be free to reinterpret and re-write
the Steps, in line with the principles of the A.A. Preamble and the
Twelve Traditions. The True A.A., the Fellowship, belongs to us
freethinkers as much as it does to the god-people.”
John's book describes AA as a Fellowship of two million members all
working their own unique “program” that we have quilted together in
part from ideas and practices we learn from the sharing and
encouragement we get in the rooms and, in part, from the values and
practices we bring to or develop in recovery.
So, John L is a sample of recovery. Anyone from the rooms or the
treatment industry ought to read his book to better understand AA's
wide tent. He is candid about his ideas of what could make AA better.
One need not adopt his views, but we would be remiss to not hear how he
came to these conclusions. John exemplifies, as many in AA do, that
physical, social and mental recovery are all possible without adherence
to a deity, the powerlessness notion, or the idea that defects of
character are correlated to substance or process addiction.