Date: Sat, 16 Nov 1996 12:31:27 -0500

From: Maia Szalavitz

I think this type of reaction (and I say this as someone with 8 years AA sobriety) is much of the problem with the way the field is today. People have strong emotional reactions to any research which calls into question the structure which they believe saved their lives. This is normal, but it also means that people in AA have to take particular care about their biases.

I mean, let's say I got sober by standing on my head because my sponsor told me to do so. And I believe that this practice, which I do every day, is what saved my life, and I want to spread this gospel to others about how the upside down position drains the alcohol from your brain and makes recovery faster. Now, a researcher does a study which finds that those who do this are no more likely to stay sober than those who don't, but my personal experience is that everyone who actually follows the suggestion does stay clean. I disregard the research, and believe that those who relapse lied to the researcher or didn't stand on their heads long enough.

Who's right? In terms of treatment practice, the researcher is correct that standing on one's head doesn't improve the chances of sobriety. But the person in the head-standing routine might be better off continuing that, even though it has only a placebo effect, because he believes he will relapse if he doesn't and that could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the head stander should not claim that this is the one true way for everyone. Btw, it could be that the act of following the suggestion and being willing to go to any lengths was the active ingredient in this treatment, but that isn't what the study looked at, was it?