Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

AA: Threat or Menace?

I'm not an alcoholic, though I played one in the rooms. Mind you, I used to throw 'em back with the best of them, but then I just became a craven pothead. My boyfriend Bowleg Guy (BG) and I went to AA for 14 months because he's a stone cold alkie. The results are in, and they're not pretty.

Bowleg Guy has a colorful history of substance abuse. He started with Robitussin AC as a 'tween. Came to NYC in the summer of '69 (need I say more)? Shot coke, heroin, speed, acid, in death-defying combinations. OD'd a few l times--almost lost a leg. On Methadone when I met him but later detoxed. We partied heavily with alcohol and pot, but his hangovers were unbearable.

Bowleg Guy grew up Catholic, and like many fomer altar boys, he had Issues. His mom is a VERY big religious enthusiast who once joined a "Catholic" cult which was later exposed as a disgraceful scam. Every night, she used to interrupt his evening viewing of the Twilight Zone or Invaders from Mars by calling up the stairs: "Turn that evil stuff off, get on your knees, say your prayers, and go to bed!"

I don't think the hard religious sell works too well. It's negative conditioning, no? Like shocking the monkey. Then, Prayer = No Fun. But as a fledgling AA, Bowleg Guy was still haunted by his Catholic upbringing and saw God as an old man in a white beard sending down lightning bolts. So he started getting ON HIS KNEES every morning and night and praying for those he had resentments against.

That resentment thing is a bitch. You're supposed to "overcome" them. This is humanly impossible. Bowleg Guy was unflaggingly friendly, almost slavish, in the "Fellowship." But his resentments against fellow AA's and assorted nutjobs from his past were instantly transferred to me. As soon as he got home, the yelling and tantrums would start.

As part of the 12 Steps, you're compelled to compose a searching and fearless moral inventory, listing all your character defects, and be willing to make amends to all. In fact, BG doesn't have many character defects (I shit you not) and there's a busload of weirdos out there who should be making amends to HIM.

You want resentments? Go to an AA meeting. It was infuriating to see AAs wander in late and greet all their friends as if they were the embodiment of the Second Coming, rattle candy bar wrappers, or chat during the speaker's bloodcurdling testimony. Others came in very late, raised their hand, said "Sorry I missed your qualification," rambled on about their inane, solipsistic problems, and then got up and left.

In our other group we met Scuzzy Girl and Skanky Boy, who were deeply disturbed and repulsive. They were malodorous, unemployed, and unkempt. We couldn't shake them. They gave us disgusting details about their kinky sex life along with handy tips--even though we were old enough to be their parents. They constantly hounded us for cigarettes and spare change.

Then there were the old timers who tried to tell you how to work your program. Often, these were folks who never achieved much in life, so now, as professional AA's, they loved to tell you how to live.

A few assorted criminals and sociopaths occasionally wandered in, like the guy who said: "I think I'll use the money I saved on drinking to buy myself a gun." Bowleg Guy often noted that homicidal maniacs with weapons were certainly a Power Greater than Himself.

In one group, we got roped into doing all sorts of service. We brought the birthday and anniversary cakes. We helped the nice old timer set up and clean up. We even contributed extra food and coffee money from our own pockets. We also purchased new 12 Steps/12 Traditions banners because the existing ones were so old and gnarly that a newcomer couldn't even read the last two steps. The more we did, the more they asked for, because the other members were "too unreliable."

So what did Bowleg Guy do next? He decided to chair a weekly meeting every Friday at another group. One day, en route to the meeting, he said "screw it," turned around, and took the subway straight to the pot spot, the bar, and the liquor store. We "went out" for about 10 weeks, but Bowleg Guy was in absolute agony from the hangovers. We've been dry for about 6 weeks. Time will tell, but I think we may be able to make it without AA after all. From what I've heard, the success rate for AAs is not too impressive--and may actually be lower than the rate for those who just go it alone after getting "sick and tired of being sick and tired."

After we quit, I started looking up alternative sobriety webpages. I came upon a few rabidly anti-AA sites, where I learned the dirt about AA's founding co-father, Bill W. See, for example, the More Revealed Site Index.




At 7:49 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

To: Elvira
From: Elvira
RE: The sound of one blog blogging.

Hey, shithouse Rat. I'm adding comments to my own posts in a pathetic atttempt to make it look like someone is commenting (and thus reading) this blog.

I thought about contacting an AA website or board and welcoming them to comment on this topic. I'm sure many of them would love to since they can be a spirited and verbose bunch. But do I really want a bunch of hate mail? Something to consider...the only bad publicity is no publicity, right?

Well, take care of yourself, you crazy (and breathtakingly beautiful) chick, you.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous dr.bomb said...

Not all of us are psychotic. Misled? Oh yeah! If more people knew of what A.A. was about they'd beat it down and kick it to the curb. I nearly died from belief in their lies. That's why I do what I do now: Criticize the cult!

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous indiajane said...


I've come to the conclusion that the best way to change things is to keep speaking out against the Program, and to refer people to websites like

Little by little, the crazy cult of AA will go away. The Oxford Group evaporated after a few years, and although it may take a while, so will 12 Steps.


At 11:29 PM, Anonymous dr.bomb said...

Actuallly the only thing we hate is addiction. We are authentically against addiction while A.A. is pro-addiction. Read their doctrinal work and notice the IF...THEN conditions the organization sets up for continued intoxication. Some of us have been harmed by their Bill$h!t in that form so the anger is definitely justified.

The irony is that I've been told by Buchmanites that I should go out and drink more. And these people part of an alleged program to help people end their addictions? I never got that response from RR, SMART and the other organizations. In fact the anti-Steppers are some of the finest human beings on the planet who take charge of their own behavior instead of absolving that responsibility to some other Higher Power or Gang Of Drones.

I just have to ask you this very important question, E.B., in light of the above:

What is your plan concerning the future use of intoxicants?

At 12:33 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Thanks, dr. bomb and indiajane, for your comments. I've just started to look into the different anti-AA websites. dr. bomb, you site looks great but I haven't read through all of it yet--also some great links, which led me to start to look into the Synanon phenom.

From reading chapters from "AA Horror Stories" on the More Revealed site, I was shocked to find that some rehabs apparently use the Synanon Game in their groups. From what I understand, these involve putting each member in the hot seat while the rest of the group attacks this member and hurls accusations and attacks which do not have to be accurate. This smacks of true cult conditioning. I still have much to learn about Synanon itself, but from what I gather, it went down in flames and is infamous for its cultish and brutal approach to "recovery."

dr. bomb, in answer to your question, my plan concerning the future use of intoxicants is uncertain. I love pot, but cannot get hold of any at this point. If I could, I might very well use it. In my individual case, I'm not sure that it's very harmful to me, except that it gives me the munchies, which I need like a hole in the head. Since I am bipolar, it might be wise to avoid it to be on the safe side. I am not anxious to have any more psychotic depressions if I can possibly help it. Right now, I have more of an immediate problem avoiding the cookies that my boyfriend brings home all the time. In turn, my boyfriend has, at least for the time being, weighed the benefits of short-lived euphoria against the agonizing hangovers that follow and has decided that the price for this fleeting pleasure has become too high.

But I understand that a great many people have had serious problems with substances, and abstinence may be the only rational option for them. I know a little about the rational recovery approach in a roundabout way, because my old therapist was a certified REBT therapist (I think that's what it's called--i.e. studied under Albert Ellis, as I recall?)

One of the many things that bothers me about AA is the unnecessary religious component. The serenity prayer is a perfectly good concept, like the golden rule, but why is there a need to include "God" in the beginning of it? It would be just as effective as:

Grant me the serentiy
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

In addition, many of the meetings I attended closed with the Lord's Prayer, which is decidedly Christian (i.e. this was the prayer Jesus said to his disciples). What if you are Jewish, as I am? Not to mention the other Christian concepts such as Our Father (male deity) who art in Heaven (maybe one's Higher Power is not in Heaven)...thy Kingdom (male) come...etc.

Beyond even that, I think the fact that AA has become a national institution despite its religious foundation brings up the issue of separation of church and state--the "state", in this case, being the entire industry of AA which is virtually the only accepted approach for "addiction" in this country. The insurance industry, the rehabs, etc. are making a lot of money off the recovery business--which is based on a religious approach that some may find objectionable--just as some may find school prayer objectionable. Plus, I don't think it works very well.

My personal view is that thinking of oneself as powerless over a substance (AA's often say my "disease is talking to me") gives one a ready excuse to use (I couldn't help it, I was powerless, my disease overtook me; the devil made me do it).

Then you must come to believe that only a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity. Some people may find comfort in a religious or spiritual approach but again the responsibility is taken away from the user and put on something external.

I also think that many people with "character defects" have moral and behavioral problems separate from their using--the using being only a symptom, and not a cause, of their condition. People who lie, cheat, and steal with no conscience in the name of their "addiction" have a deeper problem than their drug of choice, in my opinion. But they can blame it all on their "disease." Very convenient indeed.

I think in most cases, the bottom line is that every individual has choices to make. Sometimes they are difficult, gut-wrenching choices. Stress can lead many people to turn to substances. Trying to escape emotional pain that a "normal" person would choose to work through can lead to abuse of substances. The process is the same whether it is food, gambling, crack, alcohol, sex, shopping--whatever. It "feels good" in the short run, but the consequences of excess can be anything but fun.

I do believe, however, that humans are constantly battling with their "two brains." In lay terms, the primitive part of the brain--the id, the pre-verbal instinct, the infantile part of the brain that screams "I want my toy, NOW"--has to duke it out with the neocortex, which may try to reason with the primitive brain in a rational way, like a parent trying to reason with a child. Since we are animals as well as humans, often instinct--in terms of the drives and demands of the brain's "pleasure centers"--wins out. But that, of course, is the very essence of the human condition, and doubtless the reason why my cat is not troubled by these issues.

I also think there may be a genetic predisposition to substance abuse in some cases, just as there is in mental illness. So just using "willpower" alone may not be sufficient for some people who may have a predisposition to addiction or an underlying psychiatric disorder. I think, as with most things, it is a complicated issue.

I welcome further thoughts from dr. bomb, indiajane, and anyone else who'd like to put in their two cents.

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous dr.bomb said...

I'm going to sum up your paragraphs which began with "dr. bomb, in answer to your question"...blah blah blah...

You are NOT other people. You are YOURSELF! Drop the dependency!

Despite your acknowledgement of the risks involved, your plan is to choose to intoxicate yourself any time you want and damn the risks. That's fine as long as you can live with the consequences.

That is the essence of addiction: The ambivalence. You want all of the deeeeeeeep pleasure with none of the consequences. All the "blah...blah...blah" you provide in ample quantities is nothing more than an evasion of that fact.

You say that there was too much upon my website to browse. The only link you should concern yourself with at this time is the "Recover Now" link which is clearly visible on all pages:

You'll find that all of the Bill$h!t regarding genetics, biology, disease is nothing more than that: Bill$h!t. Bill$h!t designed by an industry solely for the purpose of making you a slave to a cult of drug worshippers who kneel down day and night at the altar of the Beast. Until these cult-worshipping pseudo-scientists, hucksters and charlatans release a blood test which empirically proves that the choice to intoxicate oneself is anything but I will call all of that simply for what it is: Bill$h!t designed to foster learned helplessness in the form of First Step Powerlessness.

Dr. Schaler and Jack Trimpey have it correct: Addiction is a choice! It's your responsibility which is independcent of anything and anyone else. Do you even know the difference between right (abstinence and its benefits) and wrong (intoxication and its detriments) regarding your ambivalance concerning your self-intoxicating behavior? This is why addiction is rightfully seen as the moral stigma that it is!

Are you going to choose good over evil? Whatever choice you make is yours and, honestly, I could care less. The question is can you live with the consequences of your choices? Do you even care about yourself to do the right thing for once in your life? To hold yourself to ethical moral principles? To know the difference between right and wrong and basing your decisions upon that?

As for Synanon, it is alive and well within our corrupt social
services system:

At 9:13 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Oh my, Dr. Bomb! Why are you so cruel?

First, you dismissively blah blah blah'd my post. Didja read it? Granted, it was a tad long, but so is your website.

Then you told me that I'm choosing evil! Gee, sounds a little medieval or (you should excuse the expression) religious...

And then, to top it off, you say you just don't care. But ah, Dr. Bomb, I think you do care. Why else would you have created your website?

C'mon, Dr. Bomb! Don't go breakin' my heart!

Do you think that people who can handle a couple of drinks with dinner on occasion are choosing evil? Would you bring back prohibition?

And last but not least:

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (AKA manic depression). My shrink--who is a medical doctor, mind you, not a therapist--believes that my disorder is biologically based and involves a chemical imbalance in my brain. It has a genetic component (my mother and cousin suffered from it too). He prescribes medications for this condition, and it often helps.

Do you think that I am not really "ill?" Do you think that I am choosing evil by becoming psychotic? Do you think that when I was in the throes of a major depression that I "chose" to shit in my pants, wind up in the mental hospital for 2 months, and endure a full course of shock treatments? (not my idea, by the way. They gave me the "choice" to have them "voluntarily" or they'd get a court order to mandate the treatments.)

In the condition I was in, I could hardly even manage to SAY "blah blah blah." If that was my choice, it sure wasn't fun. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

Just wondering what you think.

At 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 5:14 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Hey, thanks for the tip! Never thought of that, 'cuz you gotta know I just love shitting myself and contemplating suicide.

But seriously, I have, and always will, take my meds religiously. I even did so when I was at my most psychotic.

In an ideal world, the meds would always work, and there would be no need for mental wards. Unfortunately, in the real world, meds are not always a magic pill.

Unfortunately, I've seen a lot of crime dramas and newscasts which show a deranged person who killed someone after refusing to take his/her meds. This is very rare. Most mentally ill people are only harmful to themselves.

To quote Depeche Mode:

Try walking in my shoes.
You'd stumble in my footsteps
Make the same appointments I kept
If you try walking in my shoes...

La dee daa--promise not to quote any more pop music lyrics in the future.

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing is full of superficialites and cliches and lacks any sort of depth.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger elvira black said...

Why thank you!

Hmm, I wonder who this "Anonymous" person might be. Could it be my old friend "Dr. Bomb"? Maybe...I miss him. We had loads of fun for awhile there. But I think he had his fill of me quite a few days ago.

Or could it be one of my long lost pals from the Bipolar forum? Nah-I don't think they'd be looking at this topic.

So I guess it's just someone who didn't like the lack of depth of my blog. Sorry! Maybe you'd like this better:

Friday, May 6, 2005

Wow. It's been about six months since I posted last to my blog. Guess nothing much has been going on but I figured I'd check in. Let's see: I went to the bathroom earlier but nothing came out. I'll try again later and keep you guys posted!

Well, whoever you are, anonymous, bless you. I live for comments--positive, negative, and neutral. Believe it not, besides being a cerified "wacko," I am also a shameless and craven publicity whore. I can't help it. I'm a writer. Writers like to be read. Painters like to show their work. Musicians like to get gigs.

Though I do wish more people would comment, I do know one thing for sure: for a blog that's only been up about a week, I think I have a respectable number of visits. Take a look at the blog-o-meter at the bottom of the blog. Not too bad for a beginner. I don't know if the trend will continue, but I'm getting visitors--more and more every day. Hits, hits, for the love of the Lord, give me more hits!!

Ah, controversy, humor, and sarcasm--a writer's best friends.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger L. said...

One week??? Too funny and true, and I lost most of my sense of humor back on the range somewhere. (... ONE of those ranges...) well i for one say right on. The a.a. stuff alone is priceless. I dont' have time to read it all and that's ok cuz i don't want to hit the end of it. The sound of one blog blogging. HA!!

At 8:55 PM, Blogger L. said...

This one got me. what about the people who don't find any other way to stay away from drugs and drink except to sit in those rooms whether they like it all the time or hate it? I mean really. people who don't have enough bipolar disorder to take meds? they can self medicate or let the blind lead the blind, and for many, that one addict helping another takes like no other thing. I don't get it, necessarily (ok primarily), but it sounds like you might end up back there after your complete tangent...if so, try to keep your humor the next time you're stuck with duties while others get the damned cookies, uh?

At 4:05 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Thanks l. ... glad you like my rantings...

Just for the record, though some may think I'm wimping out here, I'm not really pro- or anti- AA per se. For some folks, AA works like a charm, and their decades-long sobriety is a great inspiration to the newcomer. For some people, rational recovery probably does the trick. Still others quit on their own in sheer disgust after decades of misery.

I think for any addiction--food, booze, pot, gambling, spending, smoking--lots of people can quit for awhile. But the relapse rate for any of these substances is astronomical. For some, one method works, and they're substance free for good. For most others, they may stay abstinent for a little while, but soon go back out, sometimes with a vengeance.

I think whatever method you choose, there is no escaping that you have some hard, grueling work ahead of you. Like most things in life that are worthwhile, you've got to perservere and pay your dues.

The only thing I really hate are those bombastic extremists who insist that AA or Rational Recovery is the only route to redemption. If they had their way, the whole world would be forced to convert to their particular method or be executed. To me, that's a bad thing.

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous janice said...

Sorry to comment on such an old post.

Stone cold alkie here.

I've been thinking about AA, but I'm not a joiner. Also, if I can't stop drinking by myself, I don't see how a group could help.

I'm glad I read this. An insider's view is very helpful.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


I'm always thrilled to get responses to old comments--and this was my very first post, no less (lol).

Wow--I'm so sorry about your dilemma. All I can say is it can't hurt to check out AA, I suppose. I am also not a joiner, and am very wary of new people. Nevertheless, despite the fact that there were some assholes in the rooms (but they're everywhere anyway) I started to accept and like most of the people I met. Many of them were very sincere and warm people who were eager to help out others.

I never got a sponsor, although that is one of the "suggestions" they strongly encourage, along with a "home group" or groups. We went to a number of different groups, but the home group was the one where we got most involved in service and got to know most of the members fairly well.

Though I don't consider myself an alcoholic, I did benefit a lot from the 14 months BG and I spent in AA. We';re both kind of isolated, and this helped us meet new people. BG had never been sober for so long a period, which was a kind of miracle in itself.

As for me, I was able to conquer my shyness. At first I said little or nothing in meetings. Gradually I worked up the courage to say a little something after the qualification when people spoke. After about a year, I actually did something I never thought I could do--qualified in front of a group.

Although some groups prefer not to talk about other substances, saying that's what NA is for, most groups have no problem with discussing drugs. First, I wrote down what I wanted to say, and organized it in my mind. It helped me discover a pattern that had been going on for about 30 years--speed, cocaine, alcohol, pot--all of which I'd gotten into at some point. I gained a lot of insight from this exercise, and was able to share my story with others.

Though BG and I never got through more than a few of the 12 steps, I think the longer you go--even if you "go out" and come back--the more likely you are to benefit. Some of the 12 step business rubbed me the wrong way, but many people benefit from putting together a "moral inventory," talking to someone about it in confidence, and attempting to make amends to those they've wronged due to their drinking. And it does feel good to help other alcoholics and have a system of mutual support. Most people have a sponsor or other people they can call if they feel like drinking, which often makes all the difference.

In the case of BG and I, we have gone in and out periodically since we quit AA. However, BG's drinking is now more controlled, and rather than lay around the day after, nursing a hangover, he forces himself to get up and out and go to the gym and for long walks.

In some cases, it also seems like people "grow out" of their alcoholism as they get older.

There's also a medication that has just been approved by the FDA that apparently helps alcoholics, but I think it is mostly useful for those who have remained sober for a year or more. One of the biggest problems, of course, is relapse, so this sounds promising.

Another common problem is "isolating," and being part of a supportive group is often very helpful as well.

There are other groups that are similar to AA but do not get into the whole Higher Power thing. Some people are put off by this, because they feel it makes AA a kind of religious cult. However, you can choose any higher power of your own understanding. Some people, for instance, just think of the group as their higher power. I thought of it more or less as a benevolent force in the universe.

I have heard a number of success stories from folks who were also "stone cold" or "hopeless" alcholics. Some of them have remained sober for decades. And virtually all AA's would assert that yes, it is very hard to stop drinking alone, but with the support of others, it can be done.

Sorry to go on like this, but I would tend to say there's no harm in checking out a few groups. You don't have to speak; you can just listen. It can be quite a relief to hear other's stories, and there are some hair-raising ones--losing jobs, families, sanity, homes, crimes, DWI's, liver disease, etc. etc. I found these qualifications to be very inspirational. I can see where it would help to realize that you are not alone, and that others have been through incredible hardships but have prevailed in the end and gone on to useful, sober, productive lives.

Feel free to write in again or e-mail me if you'd like. I wish you the best of luck.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous janice said...

Thank you, so much.

At 1:49 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Thank YOU for giving me the chance to blabber away (for a change) LOL.

One more thing I forgot to say: In most meetings, after the qualification people get a chance to take turns sharing. At some meetings, they may go around the room. In the beginning, when I had nothing to add, I'd say, "I'm just listening today." This way, I didn't feel under any pressure to speak if I didn't want to.

All the Best,


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