You know the myth I'm talking about: the only way to recover from addiction is to turn yourself over to a "higher power." Unfortunately for addicts everywhere, study after study has shown that AA doesn't work, and actually hinders recovery for most people. (I've written about AA before; see Christian Shocker: God-Based AA Program Harms Alcoholics.)
Here's what Rabbi Shais Taub had to say over at Huffington Post:
"In a grim sort of way, the only "news" to me about Amy's death is the date. After all, what really could have stopped this from happening? The only time I have ever seen recovery in a case like Amy's is by an act of God. ... One of the axioms of recovery is that the addict is beyond human aide and that's why addicts need a "higher power" to live. You can call that hocus-pocus. I call it an everyday reality. There is no fact more real to me than the idea that no human power can stand up against the power of addiction."Except for one thing: Rabbi Taub, you are wrong. Dead wrong. It is not an "axiom." It's a myth that's been perpetrated by religious people with good intentions who don't care about the truth.
The myth that addicts need a "higher power" to help them recover is factually false. The real truth is that there are many types of people and many approaches to addiction. The faith-based approach works for a minority of addicts. But for many addicts, it has the reverse effect: it convinces the addict that he's powerless, and thereby provides justification for ongoing substance abuse.
If you want to learn more about this, I recommend this detailed summary of studies, which contains dozens of links and references to original material. For those of you who want a quick summary, consider the study that was done in San Diego county a while back. The courts randomly assigned 301 people who had been arrested for public drunkenness to three groups: AA attendance, no treatment, and a professional alcholics medical treatment facility. Guess what?
In every category, the people who got no treatment at all fared better than the people who got A.A. "treatment". Based on the records of re-arrests, only 31% of the A.A.-treated clients were deemed successful, while 44% of the "untreated" clients were successful. Clearly, Alcoholics Anonymous "treatment" had a detrimental effect. That means that A.A. had a success rate of less than zero. Not only was A.A.-based treatment a waste of time and money; A.A. was actually making it harder for people to get sober and stay sober.Got that? AA has a success rate of less than zero. It actually does more harm than good.
And here's another cop-out, one of those tricks that appears to guarantee that Rabbi Taub can't be mistaken:
Oh sure, there are people who "get in trouble with drugs" and then get scared straight. But addicts, real addicts, don't get scared away from addiction too long. Barring miracles, real addicts play for keeps.This is the easy-out clause for AA supporters and Rabbi Taub. If someone manages to recover from addiction without God, then Rabbi Taub can claim they weren't a "real addict." A "real addict," according to Rabbi Taub, is one who can't recover without God's help! So anyone who tries to argue with Rabbi Taub is automatically wrong.
That's not fair. But more importantly, it completely skirts the facts. Every time anyone does a proper scientific study, it shows that AA's "higher power" approach actually does more harm than good. Addicts have a better chance of recovery if they don't attend AA.
The simple fact is that even hard-core addicts can recover, and the most successful method is when the addict takes personal responsibility for his own life. It's exactly the opposite of what faith-based programs like AA advocate.
And one final criticism for the good Rabbi (and millions of others): it's presumptuous of us to assume Amy Winehouse died of her addiction. A member of my family passed away very recently, and we went through the same thing. He was a recovered addict, and his erratic behavior in the last weeks and months of his life made us suspect he'd "fallen off the wagon" again, and possibly died from the drugs. But our faith (not in God, but in our loved one) was too weak. It turned out he died clean and sober. His erratic behavior was actually a symptom of just how sick he really was.
The cause of Amy Winehouse's death isn't known yet. The news stories of her last hours aren't consistent with a woman who overdosed on drugs. Have some respect. Don't jump to conclusions.