An expert on alcohol abuse takes aim at Alcoholics Anonymous.
To a large extent, AA’s 12-step approach to dealing with alcoholism has been widely accepted as standard practice, writes Wilson, the co-founder of a different type of research- and outcome-based alcohol-rehabilitation program. In this debut, he bluntly assails AA for being “either irrelevant or damaging to most people whose lives are affected by the misuse of alcohol.” He further suggests that the program’s steps and slogans “so pervade our culture that most of us have come to believe things that simply aren’t true.” Wilson lays the groundwork for his argument by first debunking the notion that all alcohol abusers should go through the same type of program. According to Wilson, an individualized treatment approach should be based on the person’s “stages of maturation,” which he discusses in some detail. The remainder of the book is a scathing indictment of AA’s treatment approach, in which Wilson cites some startling statistics, such as, “Of all the ways to end alcohol abuse, AA ranks at about 30th in efficacy.” His contention that AA methodology is dangerous is developed in two chapters: “AA – Who It Helps, and Why” and “AA – Who It Kills, and Why.” He straightforwardly expresses his argument by lambasting both AA and the participating “Conformists” who “stay comfortably cocooned in their meetings and self-conferred specialness, self-righteousness, and true-believer status.” Even more acerbic is Wilson’s opinion of the AA culture; he writes that it requires a participant to “surrender every bit of your hard won independence, creativity, intelligence, personal power, and uniqueness for the pseudo-intimacy of conformity to a cult.” He also asserts that one might die while “trying to contort yourself into the one-size-fits-all 12 Step mold.” After such statements, readers won’t be surprised by the book’s conclusion, which advocates for individualized treatment by an alcohol abuse professional. However, Wilson’s intense indignation about AA overwhelms the work, and as a result, the book is one-sided in its criticism and presents no opportunities for opposing viewpoints. Still, the author does provide some recommended reading at the end of the book, which may help readers looking for other points of view.
A strident but sometimes-illuminating exposé.