Friday, May 04, 2007

Exploiting Altruism – AA Name Defiled

Is there anything more despicable than taking a name that has earned a reputation for goodness and virtue and using it for selfish purposes? That is the question that members of the Washington DC Alcoholics Anonymous community are asking themselves, after one AA group has been revealed as a cult.

Alcoholics Anonymous is designed to help people suffering from a terrible disease. The group is not designed to benefit from its membership, either monetarily or otherwise, and its primary purpose is to help people who are suffering the disease. AA tries to avoid the power struggles that accompany leadership, and allows individuals to find the path most comfortable for themselves.

That is the key to AA’s success. The people who come into the program are often at their most vulnerable, and it’s the safe environment and flexibility of the program that allows individuals, like myself, to open up and help deal with the spiritual malady that is at the root of the alcoholism. The program focuses on people working together as equals with a similar affliction that they are trying to defeat.

But now one group is exploiting the good reputation of Alcoholics Anonymous. Newsweek exposed the Midtown AA Group in Washington DC, which appears to be designed as a cult. New members are urged to cut off ties with family and friends; members are pushed to avoid therapy and prescribed medications for things like depression; members of the group are even given paying jobs with other members of the group. The group becomes the center of the recovering alcoholic’s life.

All of the behavior I described above is against the tenets of AA, but the group has gone even further, by pushing new members to date members who have been in the group longer, and even to have sex with them. While different members of AA have different opinions on severing ties with old friends and taking prescription drugs, there is no question that the program is dead set against intimate relationships in early sobriety.

Members of the group point to their high success rate, and I’m not surprised so many people can stay sober in the group; the more support that is given to a member of AA, the easier it is to stay sober. Members of AA who have tight-knit circles of friends in the program tend to stay sober together, relying on each other in difficult situations. This would most certainly be true for members of the Midtown Group.

But AA is not only about staying sober, it’s about living a sober life. This group is pulling people out of life, preventing them from existing in society by providing for their every want and need in the group. They have created their own society which is probably successful in staying sober. The drawback is that each member has lost most positive aspects of their lives. The individual has been sacrificed for the common good of the group.

As a newcomer to AA, desperate to be relieved of the affliction of alcoholism, despairing at the multiple unsuccessful attempts to stay sober, immersing oneself in a group like this may seem like an attractive alternative. But the real benefits of AA, that allow members who work the 12 step program to live and experience life in a sober fashion, are lost. As such, I hope that this group gets revealed for what it is, a cult, before it hurts too many newcomers to the AA program.


Posted by Scottage at 12:09 AM / | |  

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Perfectionism v Powerlessness

As many people know, I am focusing most of my time on self improvement, which includes a daily stream of meetings. Well, at a meeting today we focused on the topic of perfectionism, and the potential downfalls of being a perfectionist. I’ve always been a perfectionist, it was always my way of seeking acceptance and approval; who would have thought that improving myself would require admitting powerlessness?

Perfection is nothing but an illusion, and in chasing it I was continuously chasing a dream that could never be realized. What’s more, the more I would try to control a situation to bring about the perfection I sought, the farther I was from achieving any level of excellence. Sure, I could appear to do excellent at any given goal on any given day, but in the end I was really moving farther and farther away from any true happiness.

In reality, I have been shocked to find that things get much better the less control I exert over them. When I let things happen as they are meant to happen, and accept the outcome as it is, I tend to be happier with the results then when I tried so hard to influence them. And what’s more, I’m far less stressed, get much less upset over the little things in life. Definitely, since relinquishing control over the events in my life, I’ve been a happier person.

Now it’s not to say that I don’t have to put in the work, and don’t have to put in the effort to push some things in the right direction. In actuality, I believe the goal needs to be some sort of balance between control and powerlessness, a point where I follow the serenity prayer, accepting the things I cannot change, and having the strength to change the things I can. But hardest is the wisdom to know the difference.

Before you go thinking that I understand all this, I’m no where close. In situations where I have the least control I am often most anxious to take control. I can see the futility in what I’m doing, and somehow am unable to do any differently. Go figure!

You know, it takes us full circle to where we started; perfection is just an illusion, and I can only strive for progress. I have a great deal still to learn, about myself, about how to make myself happy, about how to handle situations, about life. But I am working towards bettering myself and towards handling situations in a different way, and that is progress. For today, that’s good enough for me. Hopefully, it will be good enough again tomorrow.


Posted by Scottage at 9:53 PM / | |  

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

BigDawgRadio – A Very Good Night

Over the past 8 months, BigDawgRadio has been a project very close to my heart. In case you don’t know, BigDawgRadio is an internet radio station that I co-own with two other very cool people. The goal of the station is to provide listeners with a high degree of interactivity, including requests, dedications, and live DJs.

To date, we’ve been plagued by a number of technical issues, but today was a huge step forward. For the first time we were able to get all of our DJs in one room, to talk and discuss the issues, to assign tasks to the various players on the team, and to set a real time table for getting the tech side of the station up and running.

Seeing the team together, working towards a common goal and purpose for the first time, was a really wonderful experience. The team is made up of some amazing people, and I have really been blown away by the ideas they are providing. I can’t help but wonder if I am the weak link on this team, but at the least I have the ability to bring them together behind a common vision.

As of tonight, we have both a plan to address immediate technical issues and long-term technical plans. We have a firm schedule for our DJs that will provide greater coverage, especially during peak times, for the radio station. We have plans to update the website, including adding in a new artist of the month (Cole Blair), links to the chat rooms where people communicate with the DJs, and links to causes the site will support from here on.

In all, it was a very productive meeting, and for the first time in a long time I have a very optimistic view of the future of the radio station. And I’m excited that this station will be a real source of entertainment that can be the centerpiece of a growing online community. This was one of those special days that I’ll be grateful for a long time. If you feel so inclined, come join the fun.


Posted by Scottage at 12:24 AM / | |