Twelve Stepper:
The Venom Of Your Ilk
Joe Pinczewski-Lee

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From: "Positive Atheism" <>
To: "Pinczewski-Lee, Joe (LRC)"
Subject: Re: I'm not sure what your problem is ...
Date: September 05, 2001 1:27 AM

I cannot speak for what appears on other pages, but my "venom  is directed against Alcoholics Anonymous, an institution that has done myself and many others great harm.

I reserve my fiercest wrath for those who know about Alcoholics Anonymous but not only continue to defend it, but will go so far as to vilify me for expressing the honest views of my heart and for telling the truth about my experience with the Program -- both inside, as a member, and outside, as one who has been threatened with physical violence for criticizing the Program.

I have studied this issue as much as anybody who has ever written on the subject. Nevertheless, in their cultic loyalty to AA, Twelve Steppers continue to call me "ignorant."

I will not stand still for this slander.

Instead, I will take every opportunity that such slander provides me with and respond to it by issuing forth even more of that fierce venom which rightly falls upon that most vile of institutions, Alcoholics Anonymous. This is why I generally drop whatever I'm doing when I receive a slanderous letter from an Alcoholics Anonymous member and avail myself of the opportunity to let our readers see the dark underbelly of the Twelve Step Program for themselves -- to see precisely what the Twelve Steps do to people who practice them.

Then, maybe a few more voices will rise up and speak out against our government's and society's penchant for not just endorsing AA but actually forcing people to attend AA meetings.

So, tell me what you have done about it. Is what you've done limited to writing an e-mail to an atheist web site?

Have you brought a motion before your local Twelve Step body asking them to recommend that groups stop signing the courts' meeting attendance slips?

Have you suggested to your home group that they stop signing the meeting attendance forms?

Have you written to World Services explaining why you think they ought to recommend that groups stop signing the slips?

Have you ever told a newcomer that you're sorry, but you won't sign their form because Alcoholics Anonymous is a volunteer program, and the courts have no business sentencing people to AA meetings?

Tell me what you have done to reduce or eliminate this travesty, because, quite frankly, I don't believe you when you tell me that this is your opinion. I'd consider it profitable to bet that you've signed more than one meeting attendance verification slip within the past year.

And I promise you that you've spoken up and said absolutely zero in opposition to this scheme -- at least within the context of an AA setting. It's one thing to butter-up the moderator of an atheist forum and say this, but have you ever voiced your opposition to this scheme before your support group? while newcomers are in the room and while your sponsor is watching?

(And you don't need to place the word sentence in quotation marks, because they actually, literally, and physically sentence people to attend AA meetings and to pay for extended stays in inpatient Twelve Step "treatment" programs, run by AA members for the purpose of recruiting people into the local AA groups. I will enclose the word "treatment" with quotation marks because first, there's nothing to treat (addiction is not a disease), and secondly, religion does not constitute treatment (even if alcoholism were shown to be a disease).

Yes, I need go no further than this to see AA as the parasitic mind-trap that it is. AA is not about helping people get clean and sober, AA is about promoting AA. They do this by teaching people that they cannot get by without AA, creating a dependency upon AA so brutal that the victims think they'll die if they dare to leave the Program! Such coerciveness is unparalleled in modern cultic persuasion. The Krsnas and the Moonies could only wish to have the persuasive mind-control powers contained in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Furthermore, AA is endorsed and lauded across the land by "experts" who ought to know better -- "experts" who, with just a cursory investigation of the facts, would see precisely what AA is up to. But no, these "experts" are monumentally lazy, having found a convenient way to let someone else do their dirty work for them. Who wants to deal with drunks and junkies anyway? Why bother? There's got to be any number of better things to do with our resources, but here's a group of people who actually want to do this work -- so we'll let them! Meanwhile, society gets what it pays for, in this respect: our laziness has come back to haunt us because those who so eagerly offered to do this dirty work have exploited their position of trust by building for themselves an empire of Twelve Step slaves.

I don't know who "Clint" is.

So, then, is this another one of those, "There's nothing wrong with the Program itself, you're just not working the Program properly" ploys that we keep hearing from the many who insist upon defending the Program against her critics? Are you here saying it's impossible that the Program could be inherently and fundamentally flawed?

[Note to our readers: Here we have, once again, the very definition of fundamentalism: "There's nothing intrinsically wrong with ______ itself, it's the way that these false practitioners implement the methods of ______ which causes all these problems to come out of the ______ camp!"]

I dedicate so much space to commenting on the Twelve Step Programs precisely because the Steppers display so vividly the essentials of fundamentalism in their own defenses of the Program. For those Steppers who write to our Forum, defending the Program against our criticism is more important than even truth itself.

You need to justify this slam -- or else you need to apologize!

If you do not make a very good case for this comment, I expect to see a very humble apology from you for having written this to our Forum audience.

And if we don't see either, then we'll know precisely how dishonest you are. We'll know better than to take seriously anything else you've said here.

Aha! Caught with your hand right in the cookie jar!

There is nothing in the entire body of editorial of our entire web page (Cliff's editorials, Cliff's writings, the responses to the Letters, articles in Recovery Watch written by Cliff Walker) that expresses even a remote approximation of what you here attribute to me!

And you don't need to enclose the word critics with quotation marks because we are real, bona fide, actual critics of your game.

If you think other critics of the Twelve Step scam have said this (I won't call it "work" because it is not productive), then I suggest that you log onto their forums and tell them about it. But you logged onto our Forum and used the work "you" to describe who has done what you said. And we (I) haven't done this!

Quite the opposite! I have repeatedly urged that all crimes be dealt with sternly, that people ought not be allowed to get away with the "disease" of addiction as a mitigating factor in sentencing. I even said this publicly, in a piece I wrote that was published in the Portland Oregonian on January 17, 1997, called "Addiction doesn't excuse crime; accountability will help all recover."

In this piece, I said:

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"Addiction is no excuse for committing a crime, and we should stop allowing addiction to be a mitigating factor in sentencing. Addiction is a choice, not a disease."

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So, there you have it! Our audience now knows five different things about you:

This is the kind of people who tell us that the Program is a good thing: they lie if they have to, if that's what it takes to convince the public that they've got something that we ought to continue funneling our resources into, that we ought to recommend to people in need. Alcoholics Anonymous is not satisfied with just being on top: they've got to have more. They are not content with dominating and monopolizing the addiction care industry or even controlling the public's understanding of the nature of addition. They're so utterly greedy that they've got to have more! They will even lie about others just to rub it in! They will tarnish the reputations of anybody who dares to even question the validity of our nation's support of their program.

I've never heard either statement at any recovery meeting -- except when the statement came out of my mouth. And when it did, the people began to shift uncomfortably on their seats and clear their throats and the like, sending the signal to everybody in the room that the person speaking utters the Twelve Step equivalent of blasphemy.

Like I said, the Twelve Step Program has done a great deal of harm, and it deserves to be criticized. The public deserves to know the truth about Alcoholics Anonymous because our courts sentence people to attend AA meetings, Our tax dollars and insurance base gets funneled into Twelve Step-based "treatment" programs run by AA members for the purpose of recruiting people into the local AA groups.

You've spoken pretty harshly of me in this letter.

What have I done to deserve what you've dished out to me today? What do you think AA has done to deserve my criticism? What have you done to deserve my vitriol?

What did I do to you? Show me a lie that I have told! Find a single lie on this whole web site -- find a lie that I have told about Alcoholics Anonymous! I challenge you! You cannot do this! Just because you don't like what you hear does not justify you calling what I said falsehood.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <>
To: "Pinczewski-Lee, Joe (LRC)"
Subject: Re: I'm not sure what your problem is ...
Date: September 05, 2001 4:56 PM

I can take any valid criticism, a fact that is thoroughly documented on our Forum where many times I have changed my tune right on the spot when shown to be in error.

What I will not take are lies disguised as valid criticism.

If you wish to criticize me for doing something, you do well to first find out if that's something I even did.

Case in point:


You here criticize me for saying you called me a liar. I did no such thing. (And you never described precisely how I was ill-informed, you merely made the assertion and left it at that.)

I challenged you to find any lies or misstatements on my part, but I never said that you called me a liar. And I said this because you cannot find any lies or misstatements on my part. I spent years keeping my views to myself and checking further, lest I find myself making the grave and deadly mistake of dissuading people from AA on false pretenses. I had to know that I was right or I might have to hold myself accountable for inspiring people to avoid a program that might have saved their lives. So I kept silent for years and didn't start helping others until I was certain that I was not making a grave mistake. Only after I was sure of my facts did I begin to speak up -- only after I was dead sure that AA does much more harm than it will ever do good.

By 1998 I had studied every criticism of AA that I could get my hands on (about eight feet of bookshelf space) and had studied every work that is specifically a defense against AA's critics (excluding, of course, the generic pro-AA pap that comes off as if nobody smelled a rat). By then I had worked with thousands of people, both as an advocate for the Twelve Step Programs and later as a critic of them.

By then I had watched several thousand pairs of eyes light up upon their owners' learning that they didn't have their heads up their asses, that AA is, in fact, every bit as insidious as they suspected it was -- but you'd better not say anything lest you get thrown out of the rehab program and wind up back in prison or losing your kids or your career or, in two cases, your life because a liver transplant was conditioned on attending AA meetings (not on remaining abstinent, mind you, but on attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and getting those slips signed).

Shortly after the "Apeman" letter, I received one final telephone call. This one was brutal like none of the hundreds of other threatening and harassing calls had been. It scared me out of my wits and I still get chills just thinking about it. The caller warned me about my ongoing criticism of AA and said that I was personally responsible for the deaths of countless addicts and alcoholics.

After that, I had to stop doing the work I had been doing for almost eleven years -- almost half of my adult life at the time. I won't go back to it even though several highly respected people in this field have called me one of the most talented people they've known at convincing people that they could stop drinking and using drugs. I can't go back. If I lose my life, I can help nobody, but if I go ahead and stop helping people anyway, I at least stand a chance of remaining alive.

I challenge you to read "The Chocolate Easter Beast," my definitive description of the techniques of one "alternative" program, Rational Recovery. Tell me what it is about this message -- my message, the only message I told for over seven years -- that justifies the brutal opposition I have endured.

Why do so many Steppers lie both to me and about me for having said these things?

Why did my ex-sponsor tell scores of NA members that I had gone on television and said, "AA and NA ruin lives"? This fellow doesn't even watch television and never saw the program in question, but he was so sure of himself that he needed to warn the others to stay away from me (the "others" being people with years and years in the Program). But he never sat down and listened to what I had to say. Naturally he refused my offer to watch with him a tape of the show and see for ourselves what I did and did not say -- he was so sure that I was capable of nothing other than destructive behavior.

And true to the Twelve Step calling, he refused to retract his statement or to apologize to his fellow Steppers for lying to them -- or apologize to me for lying about me! The Twelve Step Programs are not there to help people stay clean and sober, they are there to promote the Twelve Step Programs. Anybody who criticizes the Program (anybody who has anything even remotely to do with someone who is even thought of as having criticized the Program) has endangered the lives of countless alcoholics and addicts. Never mind that the Program doesn't work! And if you dissuade people from the Program, those people will die (or so I'm told -- that has not been my experience, though).

Almost everybody who works in the "alternative" methods has read my piece, and those who have spoken to me about it tell me that it is the clearest statement of RR's techniques that they've ever read. I even hear this from people who disagree with RR's message, but they tell me that mine is the clearest, most useful statement of those methods, that someone can read this one pamphlet and walk away with a working knowledge of what RR says about how to quit an addiction.

This is precisely why I do not like to field questions or comments from Twelve-Steppers. With very few exceptions, their only goal has been to try to discredit me for the purpose of bolstering the image of AA.

Can you see what you've done, here? You tarnish my reputation just so you could shine the reputation of a third party -- an organization that is not even a person! You haven't even done this for your own benefit, but for the benefit of something that is not even you! not even human!

I don't like to discuss things with people who are so wholly given over in their loyalty to an idea that they'd harm other people just to stick up for an idea. This is the danger behind the motto "Principles before personalities."

If you will look at the context of that letter, comparing it with the letter of only a year or so earlier, you will see that I am criticizing the public's views here, which are a misunderstanding of an admittedly muddy position of AA's disease model. The public has taken AA's disease model to its logical absurdity by erecting a criminal justice system that will allow criminals to avoid the consequences of their crimes by diverting their sentences into "treatment."

This is shown by comparing this case with the earlier one, described in my piece, "Don't excuse breaking the law because gambler lacked self-control," which is linked directly from the letter in question. In it, I compare Commissioner Hugo's groveling hypocrisy with the highly laudable handling of Cook's crime. I wrote the second piece knowing that it would only last a single day in the newspaper, but that it would end up in the final state of becoming the second of a (then) two-part display on my web page. If you don't see the second letter as a continuation of the first, you have missed my most important reason for writing that letter.

Please also understand that some key components were removed from my original statement by the Oregonian staff. However, I still stand by the message as it reads: Here I denounce the "powerlessness" thinking of the popular addiction movement (that is, as it is understood by a large chunk of those working in the addiction treatment industry as well as most of the victims of the Twelve Step movement). Rather, I suggest, we need to start calling a theft a theft and hold people accountable for the crimes they commit (what Hugo tried to avoid and what Cook was not allowed to avoid).

Also removed from the original was my suggestion that addicted people start seeing themselves as capable of controlling their arm muscles rather than thinking of themselves as "powerless" in any way. I have watched thousands of people overcome their addictions by renouncing the "powerlessness" angle advocated both by the Twelve Step Programs.

The addicted person's mind wants to be powerless because this thinking increases the chances of remaining addicted. The addicted part of the mind doesn't know and doesn't care. Fortunately for us, the rational portion of the brain knows better and can make and keep a long-term commitment to remain abstinent for life. Also fortunate is the fact that the rational section of the brain is directly connected to the voluntary muscles, and thus is fully capable of overriding the spontaneous, compulsive urges of the midbrain's appetite center.

AA members, for the most part, have gone along with the popular understanding of "powerlessness" simply because AA members continue to staff these "treatment" clinics as well as visit them with their Hospitals and Institutions programs. Most of all, though, the Twelve Step Fellowships endorse this idea in their practice of signing the meeting attendance slips of those criminals who have skipped their responsibility and accountability by diverting their sentences into "treatment" programs. Thus, AA itself is as culpable as anybody in this matter.

But ultimately, it was AA's invention of the disease model which has caused this to even be a problem. The notion of treatment as an alternative to jail comes straight from AA Conference-Approved literature.

But I still don't see where you come off saying that I said what you insist that I said. You must do quite a dance of contrivance to wrest this message from my words.

I'm not sure I understand what an "Oprah" is. Is this from some television program? If so, I have not owned a television set since "Gilligan's Island," "Get Smart," and "Star Trek" were still being produced. I get my understanding of reality by making my own observations, and this is why I choose not to listen to the radio or watch television or subscribe to mainstream newspapers or magazines.

Besides, nowhere have I said what you here quote me as saying. Nowhere!

The only advantage I can see to holding it as a disease is to be able to soften the responsibility of one's drunken behavior. However, I have not heard any compelling reasons to believe that it is, in fact, a disease. The AMA recently voted (by a very slim margin) to pronounce it a disease, but the arguments in this discussion centered around allowing addiction "treatment" boondoggles to collect no small shaving from our health-care dollar.

Perhaps in your ideal little world this ought never happen, but in the real world, it happens in courtrooms across the land every day that court is in session.

Please use the English language when trying to communicate something to me. If you don't know how to spell a certain word, then find a suitable synonym. I don't know what your secret code means, here.

I pour out my vitriol on those who lie (like you have done here). If you had bothered to read even a small portion of what I have to say, you wouldn't have lied about me like this.

Oh, so you don't have a problem with people who lie about other people just to defend an idea? Oh, yeah, that's right! You not only don't have a problem with this behavior -- you not only laud this behavior, you practice it!

I don't know who this "us" is, but check out our Letters section and see what I put up with every day.

You definitely have not read very much of what I have to say -- if anything at all.

(Did you merely see the word atheism and then click on an e-mail link? Did you merely notice the existence of a web site critical of Alcoholics Anonymous and immediately draw conclusions prior to investigation?)

I openly and repeatedly state that AA deserves to exist. What I object to is AA's having monopolized the addiction treatment industry and having monopolized the public policy on how addiction and drug crimes are handled. Had AA remained in the church basements where it belongs, I would have nothing to say about it. I have made this very statement at least two dozen times in the past year alone. But since you show contempt prior to investigation, and I cannot expect you to be reasonable.

You still neither justified nor apologized for your initial statement:

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You and your ilk confuse, willfully or ignorantly, 12 Step work with "Oprah."

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What did I do to justify your referring to me as an "ilk"?

What did I confuse with what? "Spreak Ingrish, Troop!"

Was it willful or ignorant? If you know so much about me that you can make pronouncements which contradict the general tenor of the entire body of my writing, you ought to at least be able to pronounce on that!

What is "12 Step work"? And what the fork is an "Oprah"?

In lieu of a response along those lines, have a nice life. As far as I can tell, it's the only one we get. I choose to live mine trying to dignify other people as much as possible, reserving my wrath and vitriol only for those who would willfully tarnish the reputation of a person they don't even know, a person who did them no harm and who has done no discernable wrong, simply so they could defend an otherwise defenseless idea. As a lay philosopher, I consider this the lowest form of misbehavior.

Of course, had you read very much of my body of writing at all, you would already know this.

Perhaps you do already know this. However, defending the idea of disease and powerlessness appears to be more important to some than even truth itself. It is certainly more important than the carefully preserved reputation of a critic of the Program. After all, "Principles Before Personalities!" -- or so they would have us believe!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <>
To: "Pinczewski-Lee, Joe (LRC)"
Subject: Re: I'm not sure what your problem is ...
Date: September 05, 2001 7:07 PM

I just don't understand why you feel you had to stoop to lying about me and then attacking your lies!? Why not simply do a little leg-work and find out what my position actually is. After all, I did not write to you, you wrote to me.

Why not, instead, admit that the Program did not get handed to us on a golden plate by an angel from God, that it has some serious flaws at its very core?

But to misrepresent an individual's sayings and position just to defend an idea? I don't get it. Why is this such a common practice amongst those who would try to defend the Twelve Step Program against my entirely legitimate criticism? This makes the whole operation look so desperate!

Christians accuse me of having a hard-on for them. No. If there's anybody that I'd prefer never hearing from again for as long as I live it's the Twelve Steppers. Just cruise through the chronological Index of our Letters section and search for "Alcoholics Anonymous" or "Twelve-Step" or "Twelve Step" and read these things. Almost every one of them does this -- often even after I've straightened them out on the matter! Why on Earth should I remain patient with a class of people who consistently treats me this way?

Why should I even start out being patient with you? You opened up your letter by likening me to a snake and then proceeded to lie about what I had said, slamming me again and again for doing things that I never did!

And now you nit-pick about me saying you're in AA. Is that all the goods you got on me? That's like me sniveling because you called me a Humanist. Well, not exactly, but close enough. We know what you're trying to say! From our perspective, it's all AA -- just with different names attached to distinguish between the different problems: it's the same Twelve Steps. As long as Lois's estate gets their three-quarters of a mil each year for sales of the Big Book, they don't care.

Out of one side of your mouth you rail on and on about how I don't know what I'm talking about -- but here you hold me accountable for knowing exactly which of the 23,517 different Twelve Step programs that people have formed over the past few decades. You said you work the Twelve Steps so naturally I may assume you work one of the "Anonymous" programs. I really don't care about the petty differences between the different variations of the same program because it's all the same problem from our perspective.

One more time: Please leave me alone and go bother somebody else. It's not my role to try to help you and I certainly could do without your "assistance."

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism" <>
To: "Pinczewski-Lee, Joe (LRC)"
Subject: Re: I'm not sure what your problem is ...
Date: September 05, 2001 8:36 PM

Wow, man, where'd you buy that thesaurus?

People who treat me the way you have treated me often come away with similar assessments of me. It's almost as if they do this deliberately so that they can later gloat over the fact that I responded to them the way anybody would when treated this way in public.

Yes, I am very narrow-minded when it comes to people lying to me.

And as I said in my first response, I do not tolerate people lying about me in an attempt to defend a mere idea.

And as I asked before, please leave me alone.

At one time I thought I might be mistaken in my assessment of Alcoholics Anonymous. After encountering you, I am just that much surer of my opinion that this Program has spawned a whole slew of little Programs that are alike in at least one way: they are very destructive to those people whom they victimize.

I am sorry for only one thing in this respect: I am sorry that I ever told anybody that the Program might be good for some people. As time goes by, I keep encountering opportunities to have that claim verified, but each opportunity only reinforces my ultimate assessment of what the Twelve Steps do to people who use them.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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