My Grandma the Killer, part 1

This post contains my morbid, twisted thoughts about my grandmother, the people who died because of her, and whether or not she is a serial killer. 

My grandmother is alive. I write about her in the past tense, because she’s been dead to me since 2009. She’s also had advanced Alzheimer’s and been in care homes the whole time I’ve been writing about her, and about cult leaders in general. She lives nearby; I could visit her. But I don’t trust myself not to hurl invective at the shrunken confused person she now is. 

You see, my grandmother is a killer.

I don’t know how many my grandma killed or caused to die early in all, but my mother and I can account for at least twelve. Charles Manson “only” led to the murders of nine people. His crimes were clear, premeditated murders, intended to provoke race war and further bloodshed. He meant for them to die. My grandmother’s killings weren’t nearly so simple to define. 

She attended nursing school at the respected private college University of Tampa. She was enrolled early at sixteen, a naturally bright and gifted student who had always been undersized. “Bitsy” was her nickname. She liked to tell a story of her going to the doctor as a little girl. He asked “When will you be three?” And she shot back, “I’m five and very precocious.” 

I think she liked the positive attention from her parents and professors for her grades, and she saw herself as a kind of cute mascot for the older girls in the program. Once when I was a teenager and, in retrospect, her Alzheimer’s symptoms had started, she fearfully confessed to me about the night she and her dorm mates snuck into a medical supply cabinet to huff ether. I was too stunned to respond and after a minute her eyes slid back to FOX News. 

I don’t know the exact chain of events that led my Floridian grandma and Midwestern grandpa to meet, but they did. He was only one of many suitors, and she bragged she’d been proposed to “eleven and a half times.” The half was a guy she couldn’t tell if he was serious. During my grandparents’ courtship they’d go out dancing, and he’d sing along like the guys in the movie, only off key. 
(To be continued at a later date.)

AA is a Cult, part 52

Twelfth Tradition. And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that is, that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all. 

Short: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. 

“Principles before personalities” is another way of saying that the welfare of Alcoholics Anonymous the national 501(c)3 charity comes before the welfare of its members – the people who pay all the bills and volunteer most of the labor. The people it claims to be helping. Imagine if hunger or housing charities required all donations to come from starving and homeless people. That’s how AA finances work, by design. 

It’s also how AA responsibilities work. AA groups are responsible for being self-supporting, for sending extra funds to AA headquarters, and for the actions of their members. AA, Inc. sets the rules, but takes absolutely no responsibility for enforcement. That’s why they’ve never made any move to shut down the Midtown group in the DC area, even after allegations of rampant sexual abuse and exploitation of minor teens made national papers, more than ten years ago. 

I don’t know how much “genuine humility” we could possibly ascribe to the glory hound founder who wrote these words, Bill Wilson.  There are many words to describe his demeanor: gregarious, flirtatious, erratic, explosive. Humble isn’t one of them. He liked the attention, special favors, and exceptional permission to break the rules that leading a cult gave him. We must infer this edict was intended for others to follow, but not for him. 

“Thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all” is not what people look for when they try their first AA meeting. People with drinking problems want real solutions. They want to stop doing things they know are bad for them and they probably want to feel a lot better than they do. An “attitude of gratitude” won’t address childhood trauma or unmedicated chemical imbalance. AA pretends to get at the root cause instead of the symptom, by declaring alcoholism is a “spiritual disease”. The real root causes go ignored. 

This is a bait and switch, a con artist’s tactic, a shifty salesman’s best pitch. Alcoholics Anonymous promotes itself as a cure for alcoholism, as a holistic approach for a physical disease. But quickly, so quickly, alcohol itself is dropped from the conversation to make room for God. Not the Christian God, of course; Jesus is verboten. AA inserts itself into criminal courts and medical addiction treatment, masquerading as addiction counseling, but it is nothing more than a purile religion. 

AA is a Cult, part 51

Eleventh Tradition. Our relations with the general public should be characterized by personal anonymity. We think A.A. ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our names and pictures as A.A. members ought not be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed. Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion. There is never need to praise ourselves. We feel it better to let our friends recommend us. 

Short: Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films. 

 

There is a sixty-seven year old jab at an AA member in this Tradition. In 1940, famous baseball player Rollie Hemsley told the press he was recovering from alcoholism as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. In an instant, he became the public face of AA. Bill Wilson, founder of AA, was incensed. If anyone was going to get the glory and attention of press interviews, it ought to be him. So Bill broke anonymity, repeatedly, for years. 

The Twelve Traditions weren’t formally adopted until 1950, however the group had always had a policy of anonymity. This refusal to give glowing interviews about the wonders of the Oxford Group had been one reason the OG had been happy to break with these secretive drunks. The Oxford Group wanted glory and so, it turned out, did Bill Wilson. He gave a series of press interviews before embarking on a multi year national speaking tour. 

Probably the most influential article appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in March, 1941. AA membership quadrupled within a year to 8,000 nationwide. By the following month AA secretary Ruth Hock said she’d received 1,600 letters in response. After that Bill was on a press mission. AA was written about uncritically by the White Plains Reporter Dispatch, Fresno Bee, Dallas Morning News, Journal-Herald, Windsor Daily Star, Chicago Herald American, Washington Star, Los Angeles Times, and many, many more.

Radio interviews were a big deal too.  AA segments began on various local radio programs, and dedicated AA programs started up in New York and Florida. AA might not take out ads, but any suggestion it doesn’t actively seek to promote itself – and has not done so since the beginning – is laughable. AA loves positive free press and works hard to get it. 

Finally I just want to draw attention to the wording of the short form. Like much of AA literature, it has been preserved as if in a time capsule, back to the days of Bill W., before the internet existed. If the primary purpose of Alcoholics Anonymous was to help alcoholics get and stay sober, we could expect the materials to be updated to reflect changes in the world since the 1930s when it all began. But if Alcoholics Anonymous is a cult religion which treats its venerated founder as a messiah figure, preserving his archaic words makes perfect sense. 

AA is a Cult, part 50

Tenth Tradition. No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues — particularly those of politics, alcohol reform, or sectarian religion.  The Alcoholics Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express no views whatever.  

Short: Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside iissues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy. 

To properly understand the tenth Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, we must first review a little history. AA was founded by the rotgut guzzling bounder Bill Wilson and disgraced blackout drinking physician Dr. Bob Smith. Both men found sobriety when they were drafted into the flashy and fabulous Oxford Group, founded by Frank Buchman. 

Buchman liked to be seen as important and well connected. He sought out celebrities and titled nobility to convert to his mishmash faith of Christianity, idolatry, and the occult.  He presented his religion as uniquely suited to conflict resolution and himself as a master mediator. But his political preferences for capitalism and fascism were quite obvious. Buchman spent the 1930s attending Nuremberg rallies, courting top ranking Nazis, and saying things like “Thank Heaven for a man like Hitler” (because at least he wasn’t a communist.)

These objectionable behaviors were all evident before and during the tenures of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. They didn’t mind that their leader praised Hitler. They didn’t object or leave or try to change things from within. Instead each man became an enthusiastic recruiter, going into private hospital rooms to prey on alcoholics in withdrawal. They started meetings for alcoholic converts to the Oxford Group. By 1939 when the Big Book of AA was published and AA was truly divorced from Oxford, Buchman’s Nazi activities had damaged the Group’s reputation. 

This Tradition reflects what Bill and Dr Bob learned from Buchman’s mistakes. It protects the group from public scandal, but at the cost of doing the right thing. Obviously supporting Nazis is wrong, and Buchman and his religion deserved scrutiny for it. But this Tradition also prevented AA from supporting desegregation of public schools and venues, from protesting extradicial murders, from supporting laws that keep guns off school campuses. It prevents marching against the illegal and inhumane anti refugee executive action signed on Holocaust Rememberance Day. 

Notice the bait and switch. First it says only those statements which might “implicate” AA are forbidden. But by the end members are admonished not to express any views at all. The group’s “apolitical” position is required of every member. If you’re a pro-choice activist, believe Black Lives Matter, or want to fight against fascism, AA doesn’t wanna hear it. And they’d prefer you said nothing about it any time, in case the group is held responsible for your views. That’s not healthy detachment from politics. 

AA is a Cult, part 49

Ninth Tradition. Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is best. The small group may elect its secretary, the large group its rotating committee, and the groups of a large metropolitan their central or Intergroup committees, which often employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General Service Committee. They are the custodians of our A A Tradition and receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions by which we maintain our A.A. General Service Office at New York. They are authorized by the groups to handle our over-all public erelations and they guarantee the integrity of our principal newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness. 

Short: A.A. as such ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

Like most cults, Alcoholics Anonymous pretends to be less hierarchical than it is. Hilariously, AA literature draws the power structure upside down as an “inverted pyramid hierarchy”, with the General Service Board members at the narrow bottom and completely disempowered newcomers at the wide top. In my own experience in AA’s splinter cult Al-Anon I found twelve step groups to be more rigidly organized and structured than the faith healing sect I was raised in. 

Do note the bit about the Board being “receivers of voluntary A.A. contributions”. Recognize that AA is primarily run by alcoholic volunteers, and subsists on the monetary contributions of those same alcoholics. That set up doesn’t guarantee exploitation or the presence of a cult, but it can hint at each. The leadership of AA, whether we call them trusted servants or not, are the only ones paid for their labor on behalf of the group. The money which flows up from destitute alcoholics stops there. 

The main functions of the General Service Board are to establish new meeting groups; to publish AA literature including books, devotionals, magazines, and pamphlets; and to receive funds from each of the self-sustaining AA groups. It’s a racket. The 21 board members include 14 alcoholic AA members and 7 nonalcoholics from the Family Groups (Al-Anon and Alateen). Board members receive compensation packages which include six-figure annual incomes. While it is, unfortunately, typical for Chairs and Presidents of large charities to have such packages, virtually no other charity collects such funds exclusively from the population they claim to be helping. 

The phrase about being “guided in the spirit of service” should be understood as using cult speak. Guidance is also invoked in Step 10. We must remember that Bill Wilson, founder of AA, was once an avid Buchmanite, or follower of Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group. The Oxford Group taught that its members could communicate directly and perfectly with God via occult practices of spirit writing, conjuring, and channeling. AA calls this “conscious contact”. 

“Universal respect” likewise is best understood as less than wholly sincere. That respect only need extend to AA members in good standing; not struggling newcomers, 13th step victims, atheist members, medical professionals, or religious leaders who went to seminary instead of going for decades of binge drinking as preparation for the calling. It’s not universal at all. 

AA is a Cult, part 48

Eighth Tradition. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional. We define professionalism as the occupation of counseling alcoholics for fees or hire. But we may employ alcoholics where they are going to perform those services for which we may otherwise have to engage nonalcoholics. Such special services may be well recompensed. But our usual A.A. “12 Step” work is never to be paid for. 

Short: Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers. 

This Tradition holds that regular members of Alcoholics Anonymous will not be paid for being such, that counseling, sponsoring, chairing meetings, etc. will all be uncompensated. The only time an alcoholic will be paid by AA is when their sole alternative is to hire a professional outsider. Professionals – licensed therapists, doctors, non cultic addiction counselors, ordained clergy, etc. – are not welcome in AA unless they put the cult party line above their expertise. 

As we discovered in prior Traditions, AA prohibits the discussion of “outside materials”. And as we learned in the Steps, AA believes it alone can address alcoholism, that medical experts, mental healthcare providers, traditional religious instruction, and the love of a good woman weren’t enough. AA founder Bill Wilson particularly loved to hammer home that last point, as it gave his verbal and emotional abuse of wife Lois a spiritual gleam. 

AA does not respect the churches it secures discount rent from. Nor does it respect the hospitals and treatment centers AA members started sneaking into for converts since the Oxford Group days. Alcoholics Anonymous rigidly rejects outside influence into their insular program even while promoting its insertion into drug courts, rehab, and religion. AA thinks it is too good to change, and that nothing else is. That is cultic thinking. 

AA is a Cult, part 47

Seventh Tradition. The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members. We think that each group should soon achieve this ideal; that any public solicitation of funds using the name of Alcoholics Anonymous iis highly dangerous, whether by groups, clubs, hospitals, or other outside agencies; that acceptance of large gifts from any source,or of contributions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise. Then too, we view with much those A.A. treasuries which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated A.A. purpose. Experience has often warned us that nothing can so surely destroy our spiritual heritage as futile disputes over property, money, and authority. 
Short: Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. 

This is another Tradition about money. It states each group should support itself, accepting no outside contributions. Many or most AA groups receive no inside contributions from the General Service Organization or AA headquarters in New York. They are funded like most church congregations, through the passing of a collection plate or basket. Generally a dollar per meeting is the standard donation amount. This isn’t on the scale of outright usery we find in Scientology’s Bridge to Total Freedom courses.

Most A.A. groups have relatively few expenses. Rent is cheap thanks to the practice of subleasing spaces from public schools and houses of worship and their general reputation as a charity. The tables and chairs are already paid for, utilities and property taxes not their responsibility. Coffee, some funds to send members to AA conferences, and some free pamphlets are their only usual expenses. 

Bill Wilson recognized when he wrote the Traditions that outside money comes with outside obligations. He wasn’t interested in money with strings attached, not when he could rely on AA members to both fund his cult and obey him rather than ask more of him. AA members are told their contributions are voluntary, but also that the meeting won’t exist without those funds, and that they will diue without the meetings. 

This tradition casts suspicion on AA groups which retain large treasuries. Unspoken in this Tradition is the suggestion of what prosperous groups should do with excess funds. The answer, of course, is to submit those funds to AA’s General Service Organization. So, money comes from members to support their groups, and any beyond that goes to AA national level administration, including the salaries of the Board of Trustees and the headquarters facility. Money flows up, from homeless and disabled, incarcerated and hospitalized, often destitute alcoholics.