Alcoholics Anonymous

This opioid addiction recovery program relies on the 12 steps. So why didn't Washington Post mention God?

This opioid addiction recovery program relies on the 12 steps. So why didn't Washington Post mention God?

We're going to do a little opioid-related ghostbusting today.

As regular GetReligion readers know, our journalism-focused website is built on the premise that "millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.

"They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there," editor Terry Mattingly wrote when GetReligion launched in 2004. 

"One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.

"A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there."

Many of our faithful readers have become quite adept at spotting these ghosts and sharing them with us.

Today's tip comes via email from a reader who is a long-term member of a 12-step program. It relates to this recent story from the Washington Post.

The Post's compelling opening:

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In NYTimes piece, bias against AA is a hard habit to break

In NYTimes piece, bias against AA is a hard habit to break

Sometimes our readers are sharper than us professional word pushers. One of them just dismantled a New York Times feature with the skill of a soldier field-stripping a rifle. The article in question looks at the Center for Motivation and Change, an anti-addiction program that favors secular counseling, therapy and medication. Well and good, as far as that goes.

But the article also notes how CMC shuns the 12-step method of Alcoholics Anonymous. No, more than that. It tries again and again to prove the superiority of the secular method, via biased wording, cherry-picking research and mainly quoting one side.

Again and again, CMC is held up as the enlightened, proven, "evidence-based" approach to kicking substance abuse:

It is part of a growing wing of addiction treatment that rejects the A.A. model of strict abstinence as the sole form of recovery for alcohol and drug users.

Instead, it uses a suite of techniques that provide a hands-on, practical approach to solving emotional and behavioral problems, rather than having abusers forever swear off the substance — a particularly difficult step for young people to take.

And unlike programs like Al-Anon, A.A.’s offshoot for family members, the C.M.C.’s approach does not advocate interventions or disengaging from someone who is drinking or using drugs. “The traditional language often sets parents up to feel they have to make extreme choices: Either force them into rehab or detach until they hit rock bottom,” said Carrie Wilkens, a psychologist who helped found the C.M.C. 10 years ago. “Science tells us those formulas don’t work very well.”

We'll get to that question of how well the CMC works in a moment. For now, let's note the code words of "strict" and "traditional," as if AA and Al-Anon are based on some Amish settlement. Those and other forms of gaming raised the ire of our friend Jean Lahondere.

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