A couple of months ago, I wrote the story of an acquaintance who was battling alcoholism. I hadn’t heard from him since he asked me about AA and some non-religious programs, but I finally got an e-mail from him over the weekend with a transcript of an exchange he had with a religious alcoholic that was trying to get him into a religious program.
Now I immediately noted in the first e-mail exchange that said theist was using some very religious-style rhetoric regarding the AA 12-step program. From what I understand, although I’m not exactly clear on all of it, this theist knows my friend’s sponsor and when he stopped showing up to AA meetings, having moved on to a non-religious program, the theist got concerned and asked for contact information, which the sponsor provided. Personally, I’d be rather pissed off if someone I knew, and presumably not all that well, was giving out my personal information to every Tom, Dick and Harry that came along asking for it. Regardless, I made a mental note to tell him what I was seeing, but it wasn’t long before it wasn’t necessary, he had identified it himself.
He concluded in this e-mail exchange that this theist 12-stepper was still an addict, but instead of being addicted to alcohol or drugs, he was addicted to God. He spoke about how much love he felt toward the 12-step program and how it had saved his life and made him closer to God. Now, he recognized that he was unable to do anything without the help of his imaginary friend in the sky, he spent his days on his knees instead of trying to make it alone and, of course, he was now an evangelist, not only for the program, but for Christianity. He was personally hurt that my friend had left the program and he got even more hurt that my friend had moved to a secular program where God wasn’t the most important thing in his life. He begged my friend to come back to the fold and embrace Christianity as his only chance of ending his sinful past. God was the only way!
Honestly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that this kind of thing happens in 12-step programs, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it in print first hand. I’d say it’s scary, but it really isn’t. It’s more pathetic than anything else. You have an individual here who is still giving in to his addictive personality, he’s just traded an unacceptable addiction for one that’s largely embraced in western society. I looked up some of the symptoms of addiction and I could see most of them in this person’s e-mail. He was defensive, he blamed his alcoholism on “faltering in his walk with the Lord”, there’s clear guilt and shame present in his words, he talks about how awful he feels that God had to punish him with alcoholism to get him to turn his life around.
My friend really wanted to know if he should continue to talk to this guy, seeing how I have a lot more experience debating crazies. My advice was, unless you enjoy being frustrated, stop responding, he’s never going to change the theist’s mind and the theist isn’t going to change his. Luckily, he seems to be doing well, has been totally clean, no alcohol, no tobacco and nothing else, for more than 30 days. Better yet, he’s not trading one addiction for another. If anything, he’s becoming a stronger skeptic and non-theist than he was before. Not only is he becoming healthier and happier, he’s getting smarter! You can’t beat those results!