Inside the world of Alcoholics Anonymous:
December 5, 2000 6:08 PM Subscribe
Inside the world of Alcoholics Anonymous: John Sutherland has a long piece in the London Review of Books on how AA operates and why it works well for some. The article purports to be a review of a biography of Bill W., one of AA's co-founders, but there is very little review in it; it's mainly a discussion of what AA is all about for a British readership. I am not an AA member, but have attended open AA meetings, have AA friends and belong to a different 12-step group so I can say it's a fairly accurate piece, though colored with some quirky opinions and a few opinions I think are wrong. An occasional line is humorous: "If you accept the modest estimate that 10 per cent of the adult population of this country are problem drinkers then you will conclude that the LRB readership will contain some 10,000 of them. And that 1.5 contributors per issue might have to be so classified." Yes. I'd be willing to wager a few quid that 1.5 contributors to almost any periodical have an alcohol problem! Sutherland correctly observes that the anonymous nature of AA means no one will ever be able to track how many people the program has truly "reformed" (an old-school AAer would say no one is ever reformed, they're only recovering a day at a time). The main beef I have with his piece is his statement about other organizations: Weight Watchers is NOT based on AA, though Overeaters Anonymous is; also, I don't think it is fair to say Al-Anon, OA and Narcotics Anonymous are weak imitations of AA.
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