Letters, We Get Mail, LXII
by A. Orange

1 September, 2006:

Well, since this list of letters sometimes looks like a blog, I'll slip a blog-style entry in here.

Here it is September, and I have all of the email from August still to do. Oh well. Time to get back to the salt mine.

It's been an interesting month. It started with volunteering for a big bicycle ride. There is an annual event here where about 25,000 bicyclists take over the city and ride bikes all around town, including over all of the bridges, one Sunday morning. Behind the scenes there are a zillion volunteers helping out and keeping things together.

I got dragged into volunteering last year by a friend who was one of the event organizers. He came desperately knocking on my door, saying that he had just lost a crew of volunteers and he needed some warm bodies to fill spaces. It turned out to be a lot of fun.

Then just a few weeks after that, my friend was out riding his bicycle one evening when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver in a pickup truck. The guy just drove off and left my friend to die by the side of the road. A neighbor heard the crash and called the police, who found him laying by the side of the road. They took him to the hospital, where he held on for about 3 hours, and then that was it. He was just too broken up to make it.

That left me feeling a little odd. I imagine that most of us are guilty of drunk driving, at least once, at some time or other. There is almost nobody who ever qualified for the title "alcoholic" who didn't drive drunk at least a few times.

With a lot of us, it was just a matter of luck that we didn't hit somebody. I'd like to think that I wouldn't just drive off and leave somebody laying by the side of the road to die, but I can't get on too much of a high-horse without being a little hypocritical.

So in the end, all I could say was, "Damn. What a bummer."

So this year, I volunteered again, in memory of my friend. It was good. I worked like a dog for two days straight, loading and unloading trucks for an afternoon, and then laying plywood across a bridge that night, so that the bicycles could cross it, and then directing traffic the next day. I was good and wrecked, totally exhausted, after that.

But it was nice to do that and see that I could still do it without getting a heart attack.

So I spent a week in the sunshine just recovering.

Then a disk drive burned up on one of my computers and I had to replace that, and reinstall the operating system, and then I goofed off some more.

And so here we are, another month gone by and the days are growing shorter and summer will end soon. Time to answer some more mail.

The following letters have the dates that they were sent in, but they were all answered after September 1.

Date: Wed, July 26, 2006 10:47 am
From: "John C."
Subject: GOOD JOB!

You are an ass. Why dont you put your time and energy into helping someone instead of blasting someone. At least he can tell his God he helped many people- you on the other hand can say you blasted at LEAST one person. A JOB WELL DONE!


Hello John,

I am working at helping people. Telling the truth about the whole recovery problem is helping people.

When you say, "At least he can tell his God he helped many people..." I can only guess that you must be referring to Bill Wilson. Um no.

Bill Wilson can tell his "Higher Power" that he lied like a rug and deceived a lot of people, and sold Dr. Frank Buchman's toxic cult religion to them, and helped himself to the A.A. treasury, and also helped himself to the sick but pretty women alcoholics who came to A.A. meetings seeking help to overcome an alcohol problem...

Such fraud does not qualify as "helping people".

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  One Stepper declared, "My stability came out of trying to
**  give, not out of demanding that I receive." Serving humanity
**  is all fine and well, but what if you are humbly, lovingly,
**  spiritually giving out cups of cyanide koolaid?
**  No matter how generous and loving and unselfish you are
**  while you hand it out, it's still cyanide koolaid.

[response from John:]

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 7:11 am
From: "John C."
Subject: Re: GOOD JOB!

My bad... we don't acknowledge outside influences.



These two questions came at about the same time, and are essentially the same question, so I'll answer them together.

Date: Sat, July 29, 2006 5:35 am
From: Kathleen
Subject: medallions

Hi Orange,

Thanks again for all you do. Phenomenal.

I saw on your site that for every 1,000 white chips that are given out, 31 10-year medallions are awarded. Do you have figures on the other amounts of recovery for which people pick up chips, like 3-month, 6-month, 9-month, a year, 2-9 years, more than ten, etc.?

Kathleen M.

Date: Mon, July 31, 2006 3:27 pm
From: "John M."
Subject: Your question

Okay, I've seen you post the question to AAers:

Out of a 1000 people in an AA group, how many of them pick up a 10 year coin?

You could do that real easy in terms of accounting. Let's start with the stock of "coins" a club has. Start from a given point, and order a thousand 1-day, 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 6 month, and year coins. Then measure how quickly they go. If you have a successful program, shouldn't you have the coins disappear in a constant state? Or, an even better question for a group: how many year, 18 month, and multiple chips have you ordered recently as opposed to 1, 30, 60, and 90 day coins?

John M.

Hi Kathleen and John,

Thanks for the letters, and great questions.

By a funny non-coincidence, that is one of the ways that I figured out the attrition rate in Alcoholics Anonymous. Somebody sent me the numbers for the sales of sobriety coins to the various groups and intergroups for a large area of Texas for the year 2002.

What I got is these raw numbers: These are the sales of just the multi-year coins, in various styles, like bronze, "bi-plate", silver, and gold, for a large area of Texas, to various groups and intergroups:

Sales of the various types of Annual Coins for a large area of Texas, 2002
Year Bronze Bi-Plate Gold Silver Total
1 32,382 809 300 44 33,535
2 19,260 403 148 23 19,834
3 14,342 276 104 11 14,733
4 11,462 275 106 11 11,854
5 10,329 371 147 36 10,883
6 8,555 235 61 9 8,860
7 7,678 172 82 9 7,941
8 6,807 152 84 8 7,051
9 6,254 136 69 7 6,466
10 7,381 354 154 47 7,936
11 4,746 160 66 14 4,986
12 4,895 176 46 10 5,127
13 4,172 142 57 11 4,382
14 3,786 115 30 8 3,939
15 3,186 115 50 23 3,374
16 2,272 69 20 8 2,369
17 1,835 34 15 6 1,890
18 1,412 25 11 2 1,450
19 1,121 28 8 2 1,159
20 1,021 60 26 14 1,121
21 539 21 6 2 568
22 385 24 3 4 416
23 273 14 4 1 292
24 269 13 5 1 288
25 269 16 5 4 294
26 142 11 6 1 160
27 114 13 4 2 133
28 94 11 2 2 109
29 97 10 3 0 110
30 85 16 4 3 108
31 25 5 1 1 32
32 16 5 1 0 22
33 20 2 1 0 23
34 11 0 0 0 11
35 9 1 0 0 10
36 1 1 1 0 3
37 1 0 0 0 1
38 1 1 0 0 2
39 3 0 1 0 4
40 6 0 1 1 8
41 1 0 0 0 1
42 8 0 0 0 8
43 7 0 0 0 7
44 7 0 0 0 7
45 8 1 0 0 9
Eternity 824 57 50 4 935

I also got tables of numbers for the sales of Narcotics Anonymous keytags for just the first year, and sales figures for what was labeled "chips", which appeared to be sales of the coins in the first year. I did the math and scaled results, and had it all worked out to have continuous sales numbers from one day to 35 years. Then I noticed a fatal error. It was the color codes for the coins in the first year. They were wrong. They were the NA colors. I got two tables of numbers for the sales of N.A. key tags, and no numbers for the monthly coins in A.A..

That little bit of misinformation is what led me to calculate that 31 people out of a thousand got A.A. 10-year coins, which is what I said a couple of times in the past. That number turns out to be way too high. 12 is closer to the truth.

Oh well. Upwards and onwards.

I recalculated the numbers based on the available information, which is that only 5% of the newcomers get 1-year coins. That 5% number comes from everybody from Bill Wilson's secretary Nell Wing, to Lois Wilson's secretary Francis Hartigan, to the Chairman of the Australian A.A. service organization. And that is also the success rate that Dr. George E. Vaillant got. So that is a good starting point for scaling the numbers.

Doing the math again yields:

All Numbers Scaled To 1000 Newcomers
Time Number per
1000 newcomers
Today 1000 100.0%
1 year 50 5%
2 years 29.54 2.95%
3 years 21.97 2.2%
4 years 17.8 1.78%
5 years 16.29 1.63%
6 years 13.26 1.33%
7 years 11.74 1.17%
8 years 10.6 1.06%
9 years 9.85 0.986%
10 years 11.74 1.17%
11 years 7.58 0.76%
12 years 7.58 0.76%
13 years 6.44 0.64%
14 years 6.06 0.61%
15 years 4.92 0.49%
16 years 3.41 0.34%
17 years 2.65 0.27%
18 years 2.27 0.23%
19 years 1.89 0.19%
20 years 1.52 0.15%
21 years 0.76 0.076%
22 years 0.76 0.076%
23 years 0.38 0.038%
24 years 0.38 0.038%
25 years 0.38 0.038%
26 years 0.24 0.024%
27 years 0.20 0.020%
28 years 0.16 0.016%
29 years 0.16 0.016%
30 years 0.16 0.016%
31 years 0.045 0.0045%
32 years 0.033 0.0033%
33 years 0.034 0.0034%
34 years 0.016 0.0016%
35 years 0.015 0.0015%
36 years 0.0045 0.00045%
37 years 0.0015 0.00015%

Now there are still a few problems with these numbers, like inventorying.

Look at the strange breaks in the chart at 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years. It appears that they lose one third of their members between 10 and 11 years, and half of their members between 20 and 21 years, and they lose more than two-thirds of their members — almost 3/4 — between 30 and 31 years.

No, not really.

What is really happening there is that the various clubs, groups, and intergroups stockpile and keep in inventory the coins for the lower numbers of years, so that they have them immediately on hand to give out to celebrants. But the numbers of people actually picking up the higher-numbered years' coins are so few that the groups do not inventory coins for the very high years. They special-order those coins one at a time when one of their oldtimer members has an upcoming birthday.

Where a given group will stop inventorying coins is a function of the size of the group. Small groups may stop inventorying the coins at 10 years. Larger groups, at 20 years. Very large groups, or intergroups, stop inventorying the coins at 30 years. It's pretty much human nature that they would pick round numbers like 10, 20 or 30. Hence the big non-linearities and apparent huge drop-out rates at 11, 21 and 31 years. We are just looking at sales of coins here, not actual membership numbers.

So the sales of a lot of the higher-years' coins do not represent success stories at all. Those coins have been purchased by clubs and groups, but not earned by anybody. They are just coins that were sold to the groups, and which are sitting in a box at the clubhouse, waiting for somebody to earn them. It appears that almost half of the 10-year coins, and fully half of the 20-year coins, and almost 3/4 of the 30-year coins fall into that category — just sitting in inventory, not yet earned by anybody.

Inventorying has a non-linear effect in distorting the numbers. Inventorying a moderate surplus of the coins for the first few years does not warp the numbers a lot, because so many of them are given out. But having just one spare 20- or 25- or 30-year coin sitting in the coin boxes of clubs and intergroups all over the USA may double the purchases of that particular denomination of coins. That is apparent from the huge discontinuities at 11, 21 and 31 years, where various groups cease inventorying.

Also notice the strange non-linearity between 7 and 10 years. They actually have 31 per thousand people getting 7-year coins, and then the numbers decline from there. But then they jump back up again at 10 years. I can only guess that maybe some people don't bother to pick up 8 or 9-year coins, but feel like 10 is a milestone that they want. But that would mean that they would have a zero-percent drop-out rate from 7 to 10 years, and only for those few years. Strange. I have no explanation for that anomaly.

[Later: one correspondent suggested that the answer is people picking up multiple coins at the 10-year point. Some people getting 10-year coins are so proud of themselves that they go to meetings all over town, picking up another coin at another meeting and enjoying the crowd applauding and cheering for them, again and again. And of course the same thing can happen with the other higher-year coins, especially the 20- and 30-year coins.]

I didn't bother to continue the last chart beyond 37 years because the following numbers are unreliable. That is, the sample size is too small. We are down into the noise level of the signal, where we can easily count all of the individual people in the state who have that many years, because such oldtimers are so rare. And the number of oldtimers jumps around randomly: 1, 2, 4, 8, 1, 8, 7... We need sales figures for the whole USA to see a smooth trend for those years.

Again, this is a very good indication of the A.A. attrition rate, but it is non-scientific and not 100% reliable. A.A. boosters who don't like these numbers are more than welcome to send in their state's total sales figures — preferably xeroxes or computer scans of the invoices for all of the purchases of coins from the manufacturers.

It would be especially nice to get the sales figures for the monthly coins during the first year, to fill out that part of the chart.

So have fun with these numbers, and have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** 'After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one
** to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman,
** "Lies - damn lies - and statistics," still there are some
** easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest
** cannot wriggle out of.'
** Leonard Henry Courtney, the British economist and politician
** (1832-1918), later Lord Courtney, New York, August 1895.

UPDATE: 2014.08.02: Well, it's eight years later now, and still, not a single A.A. member has ever sent in even one xerox or computer scan of invoices for purchases of coins. Not one has responded to the challenge. They complain often about these numbers, but won't supply any evidence to support their objections.

From: "susan c."
Date: Sun, July 30, 2006 4:07 pm

Since I first contacted you a few days ago with a short "thank you" note, I have since had time to 1) rest 2) spend about 12 hours reading the orange papers.

Thank you for the belly laughs (they must have thought I was a nut at the place where I was temping and where cruising the internet was okay to do bc I was simply waiting for phone calls in the temporary absence of a skilled legal secretary).

You cracked me up so many times with your wit and your logic.

As an English Lit major who has been out of school too long, thank you for reminding me of critical thinking skills and rational thinking skills.

One thing I really came away from your site with and the most glaring to me of the errors of AA, is the atrocities and the idiocy and the contradictions and nonsense of "the big book."

I view that book as trash at best and poison at worst.

I also smell in many of Bill W's passages an opiate high yet at other times, a woman-demeaning wasp.

I personally think you could make a living as a stand-up comic if you are half as funny in person as you are 'on paper.'

thanks for everything —

oh, by the way, the phone has not rung today for even though i am trying to enlighten my AA 'friends' by the 'spoonfuls' and not the 'bucketfuls' — they have headed for the high-hills bc i am a heretic for even uttering the idea of researching addiction beyond the definitions of AA.

It can be lonely having a brain.


Hi Susan,

Thanks for the letter and all of the compliments.

About the humor — You know, that's a bit funny itself. I don't think it's that I am so funny; I think that it's that life itself is funny.

In years past, when I tried to be funny, I fell flat. I wasn't funny at all, and couldn't pull it off. I just didn't feel funny, so I wasn't able to communicate that feeling to other people. (I felt more like that cigarettes and alcohol were killing me, and that wasn't funny.) Now that I have quit my addictions and improved my health immensely, I feel a lot better, and a lot lighter in spirit too.

Still, I don't try to be funny. I just notice that something is absurd and ridiculous, and communicate that viewpoint, and let other people see what I am seeing.

I don't know about Bill Wilson on an opiate high, but he was certainly "a woman-demeaning wasp". He was downright vicious in how he put his wife Lois down, writing in the Big Book that she was selfish and silly and dishonest, thinking that she was "too good to need God". And he did that while she was working in a department store to support his philandering ass.

Bill Wilson was so vain and thin-skinned that he just couldn't stand the fact that his wife was a better person than he was, and she had actually screamed at him and called him "a drunken sot" when he was throwing a drunken temper tantrum and tearing up the house. So Bill spent the next 20 years taking swipes at her and putting her down. He even formulated the official Al-Anon dogma that the wives had "injured" the alcoholics by criticizing them, and that the wives were oppressive and domineering bitches.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day. But who cares?
**   O. J. is back in the news."   ==  Alan Freeman

Date: Sun, July 30, 2006 5:50 pm
From: "Kathryn S."
Subject: quick AA question

do you know if buchman and/or shoemaker got their idea of morning silence from their journey to china (and zen)?

that you for any help you can provide. i enjoy reading your papers on AA and appreciate that you've taken the time to share them.


Hi Kathryn,

That's a really good question. There is certainly the appearance of some kind of transfer of knowledge or practices there, but I haven't seen any documentation of that. In general, Buchman seems to have had an arrogant attitude towards "the heathens" (and everybody else too), and obviously felt that they had a lot more to learn from him than he could learn from them.

Still, it seems more than a coincidence that a Lutheran minister would come back from China practicing morning meditation.

The one very interesting twist in the game is that Buchman changed meditation into an occult séance where you get messages from God and other spirits. Real meditation is a process of cooling off your mind and becoming centered and clear and quiet inside. Buchman made it into a process of "Hear the Voice of God telling you what to do." And other followers imagined that they heard the voices of other spirits in "spook sessions". Then two of Buchman's followers claimed that they were channelling Jesus Christ every day, and writing down a book of messages from Him.

That isn't quite the same thing as the meditation that is taught by the Oriental masters.

I'll keep my antenna up, and see if I find any other hints of Buchman's swiping of meditation.

Have a good day.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** "You talked about the first principle again, but I still
** don't know what it is," I said to Suzuki. "I don't know,"
** he said, "is the first principle." — Shunru Suzuki

Date: Mon, July 31, 2006 2:56 pm
From: H.
Subject: 12 step in general

Dear Orange:

I have posed this question to you before. Again, you may not feel the need.

But, I do.

12 step, in general, speaks to an issue. I have not found the question which 12 step purports to be an answer. What is the question?

I ask because AA is not alone in 12 step. 12 step appears all over.

Does 12 step provide an answer to a question ?

If it does, what is the question?

I ask because I do not know the question.


Call me H.

Hi H.,

That's a good question. And the answer is, SIN.

That is, the Buchmanite religious cult, from which A.A. sprang, taught that sin was the cause of all of the problems of the world, including alcoholism, and that the cure for sin was confession.

According to Buchmanism, you did not drink because you were in pain, or because you have broken dopamine receptors or not enough beta endorphins, or because you were depressed, or because you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress disorder, or from the scars from child abuse, or from Borderline Personality Disorder, or from Bipolar Disorder, or any other disease or disorder. No, drinking alcohol is a sin, and the alcoholic is a sinner.

(Now just to confuse the issue, both the Buchmanites and A.A. declared that alcoholism is "a disease", but they didn't mean it. It's a bait-and-switch trick. Declaring that it's a disease and it isn't your fault is just bait to get you in the door. They they pull the switch and declare that "there is something wrong with you", and what is wrong with you is a "moral shortcoming", and a "defect of character", which are both euphemisms for "sin".)

Buchmanism taught that people were separated from God because of some nasty little unconfessed secret, and the cure is to confess all of your sins to somebody else, and surrender your fate to some "God", who will really like you — if you confess enough. Then "God" will take over and make you into a good little slave. And God will talk to you in Step 11 "guidance sessions", and tell you what to do.

So when they say that the 12 Steps are The Answer, they mean "the answer to the problem that you are a sinner".

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "Early AA got its ideas of self-examination,
**  acknowledgement of character defects, restitution for
**  harm done, and working with others straight from the
**  Oxford Groups and directly from Sam Shoemaker, their
**  former leader in America, and nowhere else."
**  == Bill Wilson, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of
**  Age, page 39.

Date: Mon, July 31, 2006 6:43 pm
From: Anonymous
Subject: "Mr. AA"? aka Mel Gibson?


Mr. Mel I think has admitted to being in AA. Wow! He sure is playing the AA Nazi role! Relapsing and putting down Jews and saying there was no Holocaust!

I think he's just pissed because he didn't get the lead part in Schindler's List! And AA says you can pick your own God but Mel says you should be 'Passionate about Jesus Christ' and that the jews killed him, and that Hitler was 'right on'.

Just in case you haven't been watching the news, its the hot debate now. I guess i sort of feel bad for him cause he reeeeeeeally screwed up now.


Hi Anon,

Oh yes, I've been getting lots of news of about Mel Gibson and his problems. It's sad to see somebody self-destructing. I mean really.

I understand that he's actually been a member of A.A. for quite a while now. It does not appear to have helped him much.

I sort of figured that Mel had problems when The Passion of Christ came out. I deliberately avoided seeing it; I just don't need any more nightmares in my head.

  1. QUESTION: What do you call it when somebody makes a movie about a nice girl getting mercilessly tortured and brutally murdered right on the screen?

    ANSWER: It's called a "snuff film", and it's considered pornography, and it's illegal.

  2. QUESTION: What do you call it when somebody makes a movie about a nice Jesus getting mercilessly tortured and brutally murdered right on the screen?

    ANSWER: It's called a "wonderful religious experience".

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** It may be difficult to determine where religious
** beliefs end and mental illness begins. — Elaine Cassel

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 6:36 am
From: "Mike H."
Subject: Your Web Site Gave Me Sleep Deprivation!

Hello Orange:

(Actually I'm the one who gave myself no sleep, couldn't stop reading this stuff).

Thank you Sir. I was always reluctant regarding AA. Something never rang quite true about the whole thing. I could put my finger on some of it, but you cleared it all up very nicely for me. All I had to do is stay up and read it. The section you provided on the few clinical trials, plus the section about our "two" brains I think were very helpful to me. We will see.

Anyways, I think it is the best 'overnight' investment I ever made, to stay up and keep reading what you wrote. Your site opened my somewhat glazed-over vision of personal recovery from alcohol and provides alternative approaches that will work without me having to feel like someone is trying to control my mind.

A Sincere Thank You,

Mike H.

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the thanks, and I'm glad to hear that you are getting something helpful out of my web site.

Have a good day now.

== Orange

[2nd letter from Mike:]

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 3:47 pm
From: "Mike H."
Subject: Thanks Again

Hello Again Orange,

(I promise to leave you alone after this, my 4th email)...

You opened my eyes to the truth. That is called true healing.

Thank You Sir,

God Bless,

Mike H.

Thanks again Mike,

Well that really sweetens the morning cup of coffee. You have a good day now.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
*  If you have to pray for some "Higher Power" or "God" to save you
*  from alcoholism, why is that called a "Self-Help Movement"?

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 7:54 am
From: "Mike W."
Subject: a question for you

I read your dissertation on propaganda and the 12 step method. I know this isn't the point, but have you done any research on what the best method is to overcome heroin addiction? Mike

Hi Mike,

That's a good question. In general, the answer is, "No, heroin addiction is not my area of expertise. I definitely recommend talking to a doctor and others who are more knowledgeable about heroin."

The three ex-junkies whom I got to know well all quit by themselves (or with the help of a spouse who was also quitting), but I sure can't say that that is the only way to do it. My knowledge there is too limited.

At the same time, I know that some of the teachings of SMART and Rational Recovery can be a lot of help. And understanding the Lizard Brain Addiction Monster is a big help for dealing with any addiction. Check out those links.

And have a good day, and good fortune.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the
**  same level of thinking we were at when we created them."
**     - Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 11:12 am
From: "Jeremy B"
Subject: your site


I see you've made a business out of bashing AA ... couldn't help but notice the PayPal button at the bottom of your home page.

Some of the most responsible, articulate, sensitive and individualistic people I know are in 12-step programs and they are flourishing in their lives.

Your site is a disservice to people who have doubts because it doesn't present a balanced view, but rather the views of someone who obviously was deeply hurt by some experience(s) in a 12-step environment.

Have you considered psychoanalysis? You seem manic, indignant and rather self-righteous.

Your site reads like a propaganda document ... and propaganda is something that I have never witnessed in any 12-step group that I've been a part of.


Hello Jeremy,

First off, I haven't "made a business out of bashing AA". The total donations received last year were less than $100. (This year is looking much better — I might break $200.) And that had to cover everything from registering the domain name, to paying for bandwidth used, to replacing old computer gear as it burned up and died. For the first three years, I financed the web site by picking up cans and bottles and returning them to the store. That isn't much of a business.

Then a friend talked me into putting a Paypal banner on the pages, and accepting donations. That helped a lot.

Alcoholics Anonymous, on the other hand, is a thriving business. They are getting between $5 million and $6 million from the sales of the Big Book and Bill Wilson's other writings. Then they pull in more from fraudulent royalties from foreign countries, enforced through perjury. Then they get a cut of the take from the baskets that are passed around at meetings. Altogether, they have an annual budget of about 11 to 12 million dollars.

And they pay their Board of Directors $75,000 each, and the President makes about $125,000 per year.

CORRECTION (2011.03.28): It turns out that the trustees and directors are not paid. But other people get lots more. The President and General Manager of A.A. Greg Muth gets $125,000 from both AAWS and the GSB (General Service Board of A.A.), for a total of $250,000 per year. And then his friend Thomas Jasper gets $469,850 for being a "Senior Advisor". And many others get salaries in the range of $70,000 to $100,000 each. Look here.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The real money is in the treatment centers, 93% of whom sell 12-Step quackery. The treatment center racket is a $6.2 BILLION business, just in the USA. They get money from the individual alcoholics, and health insurance, and taxpayers through state- and federally-funded programs.

And you think that I'm making a business out of talking about recovery and having a Paypal symbol at the bottom of pages...

As far as the rest of your letter goes, it is nice that you met some people that you like. That does not prove, show, or even hint that 12-Step treatment of alcoholism does any good, or that A.A. actually sobers up a bunch of alcoholics. The real evidence shows that A.A. is a failure.

As far as "presenting a balanced view" is concerned, what am I supposed to do? Say, "A.A. works great on those few people who are willing to quit drinking by their own efforts and determination and will power, and then let A.A. steal the credit."?

Alcoholics Anonymous does not present a balanced view. They lie about their success rate all of the time, like at the start of every meeting: "RARELY HAVE we seen a person fail, who has thoroughly followed our path..."

Then their propaganda mill cranks out zillions of fake articles that claim that A.A. actually works and sobers up alcoholics, like these:

  1. A.A.-Booster Pseudo-Science: Spirituality: The key to recovery from alcoholism
  2. More A.A.-Booster Pseudo-Science: The Spiritual Dimension of Healing
  3. The Renascent Treatment Center's propaganda
  4. More A.A.-Booster Propaganda: the book Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion, by Marc Galanter
  5. The Humphreys-Moos faked studies at the Palo Alto Veteran's Center

And then they even make phony movies like "My Name Is Bill W.", which gives a completely false and sanitized history of Alcoholics Anonymous.

And then they plant plugs and lies in TV programs like the recent PBS History Detectives program.

And now you demand "a balanced view"? That is what you call cultish reversal of reality and hypocrisy.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** If alcoholism is really a disease, then A.A. sponsors are
** guilty of practicing medicine without a license. They are
** also guilty of treating a life-threatening illness without
** having any medical education or training.  They have never
** gone to medical school, and never done an internship or
** residency, and yet they presume to be qualified to make
** life-or-death decisions in the patients' treatment. That
** is what you call quackery.

Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2006 18:34:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: R.
Subject: AA stabbing


This just happened a couple of days ago...


Bond set in fatal stabbing at AA meeting

By Jason George
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 29, 2006, 8:52 PM CDT

Bail was set at $2 million Saturday in Cook County Bond Court for a Chicago man charged in the fatal stabbing of a man last week during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Carlos Rivera, 29, has been charged with murder in the Thursday slaying of David Isaeas, 29, at an in-patient alcohol treatment facility in the 1900 block of West 48th Street.

Both men lived at the address in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, according to court records.

Assistant State's Atty. Thomas Simpson said in court that both men were part of a group counseling meeting, which Isaeas was leading about 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Simpson said Rivera later admitted to police in a videotaped confession that he felt that Isaeas was "being overly hard on him" during the meeting, leading him to leave the meeting, go to a kitchen in the building and get a knife.

Rivera returned to the meeting and stabbed Isaeas four times in front of several witnesses, Simpson said. Rivera was later arrested at the scene, and Isaeas died of wounds.

Rivera has no known previous convictions, Simpson said.

Hi R.,

Thanks for the note. This kind of stuff doesn't usually get reported. A lot of editors seem to feel that "we shouldn't report on the negative side of A.A., because it is a good organization that has helped so many people..."

Unfortunately, that assumption just isn't true. And if nobody ever reports the bad side of A.A., of course everybody believes that it's an okay organization, because all they ever hear is the good... It's a vicious circle.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Nothing is as approved as mediocrity, the majority has established it,
** and it fixes its fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way.
**   ==  Blaise Pascal

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 6:22 pm
From: "Andy M."
Subject: AA

Thanks for some very interesting observations about the ideas underpinning the AA programme and its rather dubious history. I am happy to say that I've been sober for nearly 15 years despite past exposure to the 12 step bullshit that you debunk so well. I've made some good friends at AA meetings and we have helped each other through tough times, but it has had fuck all to do with any "programme".

Keep up the good work.


Hi Andy,

Thanks for the note, and thanks for the compliments.

And you have a good day too.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  You start with a full bag of luck, and an empty
**  bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag
**  of experience before you empty the bag of luck.
**  If you succeed you win the game.

Date: Tue, August 1, 2006 7:48 pm
From: "Gene"
Subject: Some information for your site

This is my response to article published today by JoinTogether.org

In today's article "12-Step Programs Offer Broad Benefits, Study Says"
I found the misleading information. This article addressed a beneficial role of 12 steps groups. There is no doubt, that self help, experience sharing groups are beneficial for patients; however, outcome of 12 steps cult oriented groups is highly questionable.

In your article you write: "study of alcoholics anonymous and other 12-step oriented self-help programs finds that they can help most people recover from alcoholism, even those who are not religious or have mental-health problems".

However, the primary focus of this study was to analyze all addiction-focused mutual-help groups. No differentiation has been made between 12 steps or non 12 steps groups. The outcomes of 12 steps versus non 12 steps groups were not directly compared to each other. The authors point out, that "addiction-focused mutual-help group participation is associated with better substance use disorder (SUD) treatment outcomes. However, little has been documented regarding which types of mutual-help organizations patients attend, what levels of participation may be beneficial, and which patients, in particular, are more or less likely to participate."

I hope you will inform your readers of this important aspect of the study. For your convenience I am including a copy of the abstract of this study, published in the August 2006 issue of "Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research".

Regards, Gene Sheynblat

A 3-Year Study of Addiction Mutual-help Group Participation Following Intensive Outpatient Treatment

John F. Kelly, Robert Stout, William Zywiak, and Robert Schneider

Background: Addiction-focused mutual-help group participation is associated with better substance use disorder (SUD) treatment outcomes. However, little has been documented regarding which types of mutual-help organizations patients attend, what levels of participation may be beneficial, and which patients, in particular, are more or less likely to participate. Furthermore, much of the evidence supporting the use of these organizations comes from studies examining participation and outcomes concurrently, raising doubts about cause-effect connections, and little is known about influences that may moderate the degree of any general benefit.

Method: Alcohol-dependent outpatients (N=227; 27% female; M age=42) enrolled in a randomized-controlled telephone case monitoring trial were assessed at treatment intake and at 1, 2, and 3 years postdischarge. Lagged-panel, hierarchical linear models tested whether mutual-help group participation in the first and second year following treatment predicted subsequent outcomes and whether these effects were moderated by gender, concurrent axis I diagnosis, religious preference, and prior mutual-help experience. Robust regression curve analysis was used to examine dose-response relationships between mutual-help and outcomes.

Results: Mutual-help participation was associated with both greater abstinence and fewer drinks per drinking day and this relationship was not found to be influenced by gender, Axis I diagnosis, religious preference, or prior mutual-help participation. Mutual-help participants attended predominantly Alcoholics Anonymous and tended to be Caucasian, be more educated, have prior mutual-help experience, and have more severe alcohol involvement. Dose-response curve analyses suggested that even small amounts of participation may be helpful in increasing abstinence, whereas higher doses may be needed to reduce relapse intensity.

Conclusions: Use of mutual-help groups following intensive outpatient SUD treatment appears to be beneficial for many different types of patients and even modest levels of participation may be helpful. Future emphasis should be placed on ways to engage individuals with these cost-effective resources over time and to gather and disseminate evidence regarding additional mutual-help organizations.

Hi Gene,

Thanks for the letter. Such misreporting just seems to be so common. A study finds one thing, and then somebody else happily concludes that the study "proved that A.A. works" when it said no such thing...

And there was no cause-and-effect relationship established by that study. The authors were honest enough to say that: "raising doubts about cause-effect connections".

The phrase "is associated with" hides a multitude of sins, as in the line,
"Addiction-focused mutual-help group participation is associated with better substance use disorder (SUD) treatment outcomes."

People mistakenly assume that those who drank less did so because they went to a lot of meetings. There is no evidence to support that assumption of cause and effect.

It is just as likely that the clean and sober people went to more meetings because they wanted to stay clean and sober (and they had been fooled into believing that meetings were necessary for continued abstention).

The people who wanted to drink and drug went to the meetings at the local pub, or at the dope dealer's house, instead.

So sobriety causes support group meeting attendance, and alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency cause pub and bar meeting attendance.   :-)

Likewise, abstention from drugs causes support group meeting attendance, while addiction to drugs causes attendance of the meetings at the dealer's house.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  Estimated amount of glucose used by an adult
**  human brain each day, expressed in M&Ms: 250.
**     ==  Harper's Index, October 1989

Date: Wed, August 2, 2006 1:57 am
From: Naganom
Subject: Upchuck With People.

Great section about Up With People; i'd almost forgotten about that group. Now i'm having Up With People flashbacks.

As a child in the late '60's, the original Up With People album was a mainstay at my house; not my idea, mind you. I didn't realize what a strange outfit it was until reading your article. NO hot showers? Say, what? I saw an Up With People show in 1977. It wasn't too bad, not nearly as diabetes-inducing as their late '60's performances. I like the picture of the 3 brothers on electric guitars; that must have been their attempt at playing rock & roll. I wonder if Jimi Hendrix sent them any death threats; I hope so.

I truly regret that servicepeople in the 60's were force-fed their shows; now you know why we lost the Vietnam War.

Looking at those old Up With People photos, I wonder; how many of them became Amway distributors? At least half, i'd say.

Just for fun, let's take a look at their theme song, with some comments of my own:

Up, Up With People
you meet 'em wherever you go
(No kidding)

Up, Up With People
there's the best kind of folks you know
(Well, I like dogs, but you can't have
much of a conversation with them)

If more people were for people
(That's enough; I can't take anymore)

This is interesting; the Up With People song, which was praised by Church leaders, sounds rather humanistic. Up With PEOPLE? Not Up With God? Hmmm..

Up With People ceased operating in 2000. Rumor has it that a new version will tour again; we can't have this. I want to be at their opening show with heavy explosives; care to join me? No jury on earth will convict us.

Hi again, Nagonom,

Thanks for the note, and the laugh.

I hear that The Simpsons also satirized Up With People — UWP was spoofed as the "Hooray For Everything" religious movement. (I haven't seen that episode yet. Maybe it'll come around in reruns.)

Your theological question about "Up With People" versus "Up With God" is a good one.

As tempting as it is to be "Blowing Up With People", I think I'll just hope that the new project never gets off the ground. I don't know if the American people are still as dumb as they were in 1965, and quite as ready to swallow mindless jingoism and flag-waving. The way that they are rapidly growing tired of the Iraq war tells me that they might have learned something. I hope so.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** The George W. Bush oath of office: "I solemly promise that
** when danger threatens and Americans are being killed, I will:
**  1. Go on vacation in Texas and ride my bicycle."
**  2. Read 'The Pet Goat'."
**  3. Go to a birthday party in Arizona and pretend to play a guitar."

From: "Michael M."
Subject: Mel: Today's AA posterboy
Date: Thu, August 3, 2006 11:37 am

Quote from Wikepedia:

On July 28, 2006, Gibson was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. According to the Sheriff's statement, Gibson was detained while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu at 2:36 am, spouted expletives and racist comments. He was later released from custody on bail of $5,000.

He has reportedly gone back to attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Poor Mel. He is by default today's AA posterboy. There are strong Catholic leanings in AA; and his obscure Catholic beliefs, I am sure appeal to his AA struggles. You would think that with all of that money (and parental priveledges) that he would have enough wisdom to stay away from the drink. I was told that people go to Church for one of two reasons: either they don't have $ and they desire more, or they have $ and they are finding a route to hold on to it (perhaps, even after death) and not lose it.

I believe that Mel's insane behavior is going to lead a lot of people "back into" the rooms. He went from Mad Max, to Holier-Than-Thou, back to Mad Max again.

Mel, do yourself a favor, read the Orange Papers. And perhaps your Jewish friends might forgive you for your bizarre behavior.

Michael M.

Hi again Michael,

Thanks for the laugh. It really is funny, him getting "sentenced" to go to A.A. meetings. I wonder if the judge had any idea that Mel had already been going to A.A. meetings for years and years... ...and that might be part of the reason that he is the way he is.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**       "The gods too are fond of a joke."
**          == Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

Date: Thu, August 3, 2006 4:30 pm
From: "B G"
Subject: Just wanted to say...

Dear Agent Orange,

I want to personally thank you for the time and effort you have put into researching the AA cult phenomena. My husband is a former member of AA, and I can confirm for anyone the horrors involved living with someone who was involved in AA. My husband now believes he was brain washed while he was in there. He still has some AA thoughts enter his mind when things get rough. To combat them he sits down at the computer to "get a dose of Agent Orange". That helps him get through those moments.

I can tell you we are both horrified when we read the comments that are made to you by people defending AA. There is no need to be vulgar when defending your views. We admire that you just state the facts you have researched back to them. You are definitely one in a million, and I pray that the truth continues to spread! Thank you for exposing AA for what it is. God bless you Agent Orange!


Hi Brenda,

Wow. Thanks for all of the compliments. It's nice to hear that somebody benefits in some way from this web site. — Especially when the Stepper true believers insist that I am killing the unwary newcomers... :-)

You have a good day now.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**   "Always do right — this will gratify some
**    and astonish the rest."
**       ==   Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Date: Thu, August 3, 2006 8:10 pm
From: "rock climber"
Subject: Waste of Time

Give it up man you are wasting your own time.

Do what works for you, if pretty perfume keeps you sober get some.

I think its rude of you to spend so much time and effort cutting down some thing that works for people.

I don't like churches but you don't hear me go around talking crap about them , the reason why? because they work for some people they dont for me and i think they are so full of crap man, but it would be a waste of my time and efford trying to convince them they are wrong. I have no doubt they are. All I know is this the 12 steps changed my life for the better, the rest of the BB is so wierd I dont need to read it and refuse to do so, your right about PEOPLE in AA but hey dude you dont know me. I dont buy a lot of things AA people say I know better.

So tell me Mr. orange how would you know what happenes when you work the steps? I will tell you you don't, you never worked them.

I would all so know whats is you way of staying sober? what keeps you sober?

I dont care how many people out of 1000 get a 10 years chip, it doesnt natter to me but i am sure its low, i bet its less the 2%, i know people that used to go to AA that drink like a normal person does, a few drinks and thats it. I say more power to them, maybe you are one of them. I know because I have done it before that i can go drink one Beer right now and stop but to me that doesnt mean i have a problem.

I get so tired of a lot of people in AA, I may stop going soon because of it, I know many people that are still sober that have stop going and are doing well.

Its just the attack on AA you represent is nothing more then a resetment (put on another list, like thats going to hurt me!) I just really would like to know why is it that you do what you do? I find it intertaining, twisted and interesting.

One last thing.... AA doesn't allow anyone to use the AA name.
They could take you to court............becareful....

How many AA people have emailed you?

Later Mr Orange Anonymous

Hello Rock Climber,

Well, I hardly know where to start. I guess I'll have to start with your statement that,

"I dont care how many people out of 1000 get a 10 years chip, it doesnt natter to me but i am sure its low, i bet its less the 2%".

Right there you are saying that you don't care what the actual long-term A.A. success rate is. So what's the point of A.A. when it doesn't sober up the alcoholics?

And at the start of your letter, you complained that I was "cutting down some thing that works for people."

Well you can't have it both ways. It works, but then it doesn't really work, and you don't care that it doesn't really work?

As for the rest of your letter, yes I am sober, and yes I get lots of hate mail from other Steppers.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
** Foisting ineffective quack medicine on sick people is not
** a wonderful noble act of self-sacrifice to help others;
** it is the reprehensible behavior of a damned fool.

Date: Thu, August 3, 2006 8:21 pm
From: "Kathryn B."
Subject: Why AA Works...

Hey Orange,

AA has worked so well for me. I am a successful executive, yoga instructor and now mother of a beautiful 7 week old girl. I also was nominated Woman of the Year by the Leukemia Society for the money I have raised for pediatric oncology. I also founded my own fundraiser, Karma for Kids which raised hundreds of thousands for cancer patients...none of this would have happened if I didn't get sober and stay sober.

Why do you care if AA works for some and not others?

I don't like Catholicism, for example. No doubt the Catholics are truly responsible for the deaths of millions. But I do know a few Catholics who benefit from the religion and seem like nice people in part, because of their Catholic upbringing.

It just seems to dedicate such extensive hate towards AA means you are obsessed with it. We are only obsessed with things that strike a chord in us.

I hope you get over your obsession.

When I read your site it was funny...'he doth protest too much..."

I hope you get over whatever is bothering you so much.

Good luck.


Hello Kathryn,

Thanks for the letter, and congratulations for quitting drinking and getting your life together.

But I'm not accepting your assumption that A.A. somehow made you quit drinking and improved your life, when it fails almost everybody else. I think you did the hard work yourself, and saved your own life. And then they fooled you into believing that A.A or its 12 Steps somehow did it for you.

You are familiar with the concept of spontaneous remission, aren't you?

If a quack doctor takes, say, a large bunch of women with cancer, and gives them a totally goofy worthless "cure", like colloidal gold and prayer, for example, a few of them will actually recover and their cancer will go away, in spite of the treatment. Then both the quack doctor and the lucky women will loudly proclaim that the cure is fantastic and really works.


A.A. simply takes advantage of the same confusion.

Oh well, have a good day anyway.

== Orange

*             orange@orange-papers.org        *
*         AA and Recovery Cult Debunking      *
*          http://www.Orange-Papers.org/      *
**  "Not only had we failed to alter the natural history of alcoholism,
**  but our death rate of three percent a year was appalling."
**  == Dr. George E. Vaillant, currently a member of the A.A. Board of
**  Trustees, describing the treatment of alcoholism with Alcoholics
**  Anonymous, in The Natural History of Alcoholism: Causes, Patterns,
**  and Paths to Recovery, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA,
**  1983, pages 283-286.

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