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 for sobriety.
    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!”

“The 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:

“Whether 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.

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