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The Church of 12 Steps


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While I wish Kevin Junior ["Heroin Hell," January 19] and Jamie Bolo [Letters, February 2] luck--and encourage them and any recovered/recovering addicts or those with drug/alcohol problems to do whatever works for them--Bolo's letter does toss out some misinformation that is unfortunately disseminated unchecked throughout the mainstream media:

(a) Although millions (and perhaps billions) of dollars are spent yearly attempting to prove alcoholism/addiction/substance abuse a "disease," as Bolo labels it, that has not yet happened (and, I believe, never will);

(b) More people recover from substance abuse without the help of any sort of "program" than do within the 12 Steps--and, curiously, they did long before the 12 Steps were invented (AA's own publications have in fact acknowledged the first point); and

(c) Numerous courts across the country have declared 12 Step programs either outright religions or, at best, religious in nature--a curious "medicine" for a "disease"--and the Journal of the American Medical Association originally reviewed AA's Big Book as "religious propaganda" (before 12 Steppers themselves entered medicine and created the multibillion-dollar "treatment" industry).

While anybody with a substance abuse problem should at least try the 12 Steps, it is irresponsible to suggest they are a necessary part of recovery--or, as they do in meetings, "you're doomed to fail without The Program!" We'd make a good deal more progress versus society's rampant drug/alcohol problems if we'd acknowledge that the "disease concept" is but one method of recovery.

And to any readers out there thinking of sobering up, I've been off the bottle 15 years, don't attend humiliating meetings dwelling in old problems all the time, and sure as hell don't fight this "one day at a time." As with everything else in life, time only makes it easier (in fact, any temptation is quite rare at this point). (In fact, I feel that in a court-ordered rehab I attended, the medical establishment's telling me I had to choose between death or an old-school religious group--make that "spiritual, not religious group," complete with prayer, meditation, moral inventories, amends, and higher powers--almost killed me.)

John Biederman


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