Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Congress One Big AA Meeting

“If we could turn Congress into one big A.A. meeting,” he said, referring to Alcoholics Anonymous, “where people would be required to say what they mean and mean what they say, it would be a lot better Congress.” -- Representative James Ramstad, Republican from Minnesota, quoted in the NY Times today. Source.

Oh, where to start?

If Congress were one big AA meeting:
  • Floor debate would consist of canned monologues, Bible readings, and speeches full of cliches and slogans
  • The members with the longest tenure would run the place
  • Nobody in the country would know who's really making the decisions
  • Nothing said in Congress would become public knowledge except if leaked through the rumor mill
  • A good portion of those present would be drunk or hung over
  • The members would proclaim that all their decisions were inspired by God
  • Funding for secular programs would be cut and diverted to faith-based programs
Wait a minute! Maybe Congress already is one big AA meeting. The Times article quotes a source saying there's "a very powerful recovering community" (read: 12-step) in the capitol, and points to an informal caucus of about 60 unnamed representatives who lobby for legislation affecting treatment for addiction and mental health. Names outed: Ramstad, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.), several former members.

For a religious take on this gem of a quote from Ramstad, browse to The World Views Blog


paul said...

Hi Martin,

I'm giving a short presentation about LifeRing to an early recovery group at Kaiser this afternoon. I've drafted a two column page contrasting differences between the two programs as objectively as I can, constraining myself from making personal value judgements. LifeRing has been a richly rewarding experience for me. I've attended meetings for about 6 months up here in Sonoma County. Prior to that I attended LifeRing meetings at 2 locales in San Francisco. Previously I attended oh, maybe a thousand or more AA meetings in a number of states and locales, dabbled in LifeRing's precursor, SOS, as well as Rational Recovery, anitbuse, a fistful of in-house/out house recovery programs, psychotherapy--you name it.

I'm laundry-listing all this for a reason. You've done a masterful job, Martin, of laying out an effective and sensible framework upon which to build ones' own sobriety program that fits he or she who builds it, a lot like sweat equity. How Was Your Week is succinct, well written, and parrallels my own philosophy concerning recovery. Recovery by Choice is, in my opinion, a more thorough and meaningful toolkit for one's voyage of inward discovery than, say AA's "searching and fearless moral inventory", since it dispenses with dictum, dogma and guilt.

That said I must admit I was given pause by your 9/19/06 posting. Bear this in mind. I am immensely critical of AA. I became ever more critical while a member as the years passed. I remain critical. The fact is while I accept that AA is good for some, it is not for me.

However, when entering into a dialogue vis-a-vis specific recovery programs it is important to adhere to facts, to wit--concerning your bullet points...

1. After almost three off-and-on decades of attending AA meetings countrywide I have never once been subjected to someone "Bible reading", unless of course you are referring to the Big Book. If so, please clarify.

2. While it's true there seems to be unwritten status which elevates one in proportion to the length of one's sobriety in many AA groups, this does not mean that "members with the longest tenure would run the place".

3. By their very nature most recovery programs invite persons to meetings who may at any given time be under the influence. Both AA and LifeRing insist that these individuals listen and not participate in the meeting, but are encouraged to get sober and return. And in reference to Congress, and it's just my opinion, but being an avid C-Spanner my guess is "A good portion of those present would be (in actuallity ALREADY ARE) drunk or hung over".

4. While in my personal opinion AA is often a God The Father program masking as simply a "spiritual" one, it really is a stretch to say that "The members would proclaim that all their decisions were inspired by God". That's like AA saying that all LifeRing members would proclaim that all our decisions were inspired by mere ego. In either case it's a stereotype, muddles things up and doesn't provide a platform for either clarity or mutual dialogue.

5. "Funding"--well, hell, you've got me there.

So Martin, thanks so much for developing a program where personal creativity and critical thought are recognized and encouraged as routes to recovery. I'm aware that your intention in said article was partially, if not entirely, tongue-in-cheek. Since much of my own writing is satire and parody please accept my apologies and help me pull this damn foot from my mouth. Anyway, I look forward to continuing to read your published material as well as your blog, and perhaps meeting you someday in peson. Thanks for all your inciteful and hard work.

p.joseph potocki
my blog-- http://stanfour.wordpress.com
for the first 11 episodes of my most recent serial novel google Bay Time Detective

Marty N. said...


Thank you for your kind words about LifeRing and also about the How Was Your Week and Recovery by Choice books. I would like your permission to quote your comments about the workbook (using your initials only) on the workbook reader response page.

All your serious points about my spoof on AA and Congress are, of course, very well taken. I did play it for laughs (see the label under the post) and you were not amused. Mea culpa. I hope you will agree that my satire was a rather mild one, poking fun at Congress as much as AA. On the religious blog that I pointed to, one poster, named Rebecca, took a much blunter approach:

"Conducting Congress like an AA meeting is an absurd idea ... AA meetings are no more honest than any other gathering of human beings. People in AA meetings very often lie their motives, lie about their past, and lie about their time sober. New people who don't know what is going on parrot others with time sober, some of whom are liars. There have been stabbings and shootings in AA meetings. More common are quarrels and emotional abuse. Most common are people with profound clinical depression which is not being treated because their sponsors told them they don’t need pills.... it's a good way to meet criminals and other sick, obsessed and abusive people."

And she thinks that's different from Congress? LOL.

-- Marty N.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is in a recovery program as we speak. The program is heavily into AA and I'm thankful for whatever will get her on the road to the life she should be living. I've been looking at LifeRing as something she might be interested in down the road.... but I have to say, I don't find "dissing" AA at all becoming to your organization. If you feel your methods are superior, fine; promote them. I see no need to denigrate AA or its members as you sing the praises of LifeRing It's quite possible that many LifeRing members offering their opinions here today wouldn't be in any condition to do so had it not been for their original contact with AA. A Hopeful Mother

Marty N. said...

Dear Anonymous:

I'm happy for your daughter and I hope she gets better. I'm in favor of whatever works. At the same time, I believe that recovery organizations, all of them, are not above criticism, and they're not above being spoofed. Listening to criticism and being able to laugh at yourself is a sign of a healthy person and a healthy organization. Sixty per cent of the alcoholics who successfully stay sober for five years or more do it without AA. Doesn't that tell you something?