On Alcoholics Anonymous – A Letter From Prison

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Gary L. Clark is an author. After a thirty year career he retired to write a novel. He then joined a counselor-in-training program at the local community mental health center and worked three years as a substance abuse counselor. He retired again and has written two more novels. He recently completed the annotation of a self-help book on faith-based self-help. Two published novels (available on Amazon.com) address social justice. Mr. Clark is the Editor of thefiresidepost.com. He lives in St. Joseph, Missouri.

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On Alcoholics Anonymous – A Letter From Prison

Corresponding with an inmate in the Missouri prison system can be rewarding – and it can be heartbreaking.  My friend Joey is again in prison.  Joey is not a criminal – but four DUI’s will get anyone some time behind bars.  I met Joey when he was in Drug Court.  He was my client.

As noted  in the above author biography, I worked three years as a Substance Abuse Counselor.  In that time I immersed myself in the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and the recovery community in general.   I left that employment almost seven years ago but I continue to volunteer.   While doing some innocuous volunteer work I ran across Joey’s wife.  She brought me up to date on Joey and gave me his address.  I wrote immediately – hoping to bring some cheer, however small, into Joey’s world.

Joey blessed me with an immediate response.  He sent his third letter on April 4 and I have been digesting his thoughts – that letter is included at the end of this essay.  Joey is characteristically disheartened by the recovery community.  He is happy neither with the local St. Joseph, Missouri, AA nor NA – and neither am I.  These local programs are fed by the treatment program offered by the local community mental health center – and the products of the treatment program bring all of their treatment baggage.

This local program is mostly financed by Drug Court and the local office of Missouri Probation and Parole.   The treatment model is of a modified Therapeutic Community.  The central focus is on breaking robust denial with harsh confrontation, all centered on the erroneous idea of an ‘addictive personality’.  This model dates to the 1970’s and has no consideration of either the original intent of AA nor of the many studies debunking the harsh model of treatment.

Modern studies, as early as 1999, suggest there is no such thing as an ‘addictive personality’.  The concept came from a desire in the medical community to find a definition of a ‘typical’ drug addict or alcoholic.  What we know today is that the only thing typical about substance addiction is that once the first drink or pill is taken all control is lost.  Without the drink or the pill addicts have the same range of personality traits as the general population.

The evidence is in Joey’s letter.  These are his thoughts, his perception of the recovery community.  I typed his letter but left the spelling and punctuation intact.

Dear Gary,    4-4-2013

What if.

Good morning. Have you helped anyone today?  How have you been?  I just can’t help myself.  You have awaken a sleeping giant.

What if.

Alright, what if their was a different way, a different view, different approach, a different way of thinking.  New ideas, new ways that work a program, new slogans than AA.

What if their was a program that didn’t seem so rehersed, so beaten in, one way or the highway, 12 steps else your doomed.

a program that proves & shows that not everyone is the same.  theirfore that not just one program is gona work for & the same for everyone.  I believe that AA is a great program thats helped many.  But, I also believe its became traditional and everyone gets tired of hearing the same old depressing war stories and feeling of not wanting to be their or like they are being made to be their by P&P.

a program that teaches and shows other addicts how to have fun by going to do the things we like to do while using like movies, picnics, cook outs camping, fishing but showing their is fun with dope & booze a new way.

Just like with time and technology that changes I believe that people change and that thinking in Todays alcoholics has changed from that of Bill W Barley  Corn.  I realize and have been to some new groups already.  But none that challenges the attics thinking, ways to change old thinking patterns, none that restore old fashion  values or mores.  none that show you how to find happyness with the fix of booze, valium, zanax, meth, cocaine.  None that teach sobriety and life isnt a game.  Built by people who has tryed numerous treatment centers, and that are tired of the old concept, built by old times teach a new way.  Guys who can recite the Big Book and by God, still hold true to those concepts that work from AA program.  But offer somethin new, sounds like NA right.  Wrong.  A program that shows different ways to think, opens avenues to schoolin way to obtain employment.  a program that care thats shows they care by their actions.  helpin people. learn the sober life with restored values, and sense of accomplishment that comes with clean living alright.  Just a pipe dream but what if two guys began this like the pioneers in the early days of Akron Ohio.

Your Friend


She needs pats on the back.  Help my wife to a meeting please.  She needs to surround herself with sober people and sense of accomplishment.

If you get a chance read  Sober For Good: by Anne M. Fletcher

you probably already have

Forgot who I was taking to didn’t I.


Every complaint Joey has of AA and NA are about practices that did not originate in AA or NA.  These are practices developed in Therapeutic Communities and other errant treatment programs.  They do not work.  These harsh practices serve to turn people away.  Sure – some people enter these programs and quit using drugs or alcohol.   I maintain that these folks were determined to get well, in spite of the obnoxious treatment programs.

I left the employ of the treatment center in 2008 – and wrote a novel about the goofy attitude of a cult mentality in Therapeutic Communities.   The novel “Cisco, A Tale of Addiction, Justice, and Redemption” is availabile on Amazon.com.



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