A response to the M. Szalavitz NYT column on AA, many good books, robots who write your novel, filters that make you sad, a hormone that makes you un-drunk, a playlist that makes you chill
This week, Ten Things Right Now is its own post, like it used to be until a year ago when I merged it with the weekly essay in order to “do less work” (haha). I am curious (and just curious), do you like it this way? Sent as a separate email? Or are you liking having everything in one email, once a week?
There are some announcements at the bottom (a live appearance in London in April, mostly), and not to totally bait you but there’s a cat video in here too. I’m sorry, but there is also an absolutely too-long response (#14) to Maia S. NYT Op-Ed on AA alternatives, which I considered splitting out into its own post, but it’s Friday, we’re tired. Maybe skip #14, go straight to the cat video.
Comments are off today.
Much love. H
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Fifteen Things Right Now
This playlist called Coffee and Piano is perfect for writing and drinking Mexican hot chocolate while it’s raining outside which is what’s actually happening right now
‘Hi, This Is Oprah Winfrey. I Read Your Novel and Loved It So Much.’ Ann Napolitano, who wrote Dear Edward (one of my 50 favorite books), released another incredible book this week, Hello Beautiful, which I got to read an advanced copy of, and Oprah picked it as her 100th book club selection which felt like something that happened to me personally because that’s how lovey Ann is and how good her writing is. This NYT profile of her as a reminder of what a slog it is to be a writer, and how long it can take to break out (“she wrote two novels that never sold; her father was so concerned about her prospects that he paid for a full-day career test that flagged her potential as a park ranger”). Also: this Q&A with her in LitHub, about rejecting the notion of writer’s block and writing only what you know, was excellent.
More book stuff: I know I mentioned it last week but Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible is just stunning, I finished it last night and I’m moving on to Sacred Activism. I just bought Sentience (here’s an article on it in The New Yorker) which I plan to read while traveling next month along with Maame (fiction).
Last week I received an email with the subject line “Free Webinar: How to Use ChatGPT to Write Your Book Proposal” and I actually felt my brain cells die in response to reading that. As someone who absolutely does not want to know what tf ChatGPT is and will never learn to use it to write her mom a text message let alone her book proposal or whatever, here’s an article that I recommend reading about it. I salute you, Emily Bender.
This article on how 30 is the new 60 because of filters and then this other article that says filters aren’t bad for mental health (“And experts say we should take action — not by boycotting filters…but by developing mental-health tools that will fortify us against their potential effects.” LOL, what)
An amazing resource for folks in recovery who are interested in buddhism/meditation to support you: Recovery sangha through Insight Meditation Society. “The Insight Recovery Sangha will meet monthly on Zoom and is for anyone (self-identified) who is working with strong cravings or addictions.”
“The apocalypse is nothing new—it’s happened over and over again to marginalized people”—on the superiority of feminine skills in surviving a post-apocalyptic (television series) event
🍺💊: A pill for skin curbs drinking; a hormone de-intoxicates rats (as in, reverses alcohol intoxication); Australia reinstates an alcohol ban for Aboriginal Australians (cannot even); overdose deaths become the leading cause of death during or shortly after pregnancy; by design, women are not getting licenses to sell weed in NY’s restorative justice-based licensing program
Another writer quits Instagram, an angel gets her wings
As someone who is always looking for good travel gear, here’s a list of “must-have” accessories composed by travel writers
I was recently on a few podcasts—Where the Road Bends with my dear, dear friend Steve Schlafman talking about long transitions and non-resistance, and the Modern Spirituality Show with the lovely Ben Decker, talking about God and stuff
Many people sent me this article by Maia Szalavitz1 (“People Have a Right To Non-religious Rehab”, The New York Times, March 11, 2023), where she (Maia, a decades-long drug reporter, person in recovery, NYT columnist, author of multiple books) makes the very obvious and somehow still controversial argument that people court-ordered into treatment should have access to non-religious recovery support (basically not AA, not 12-steps). Without even reading the comments I knew what they said (AA is not religious, God doesn’t care, I’m an atheist and…, Take what you want and leave the rest, Thank god for my humility to get past my God-denying ego, AA is fascist, AA needs to burn, AA is a sex-cult, Fuck AA all the way to hell, This woman is brilliant, This woman is a scold, This woman is a psycho, This woman isn’t even pretty…). I’m exaggerating, obviously, but you get it. Before I finished reading it I sighed and asked Maia’s spirit why, Why would you walk through this door? Don’t fucking do it!! It’s seven years of bad luck to write this kind of article!!!
Maia concedes at the outset the following: “As part of voluntary self-help, the 12 steps can be powerful and life-changing. But they can also do harm when treatment centers or judges impose them without providing other options.” She says very clearly AA can be life-saving; the issue is the coerced usage, be it direct, or indirect through the lack of an alternative.
In my experience, articles like these (that are critical of the ubiquity and forced participation in AA, or critical of AA as the gold standard) are typically only “received” and interacted with, zealously, by two camps: the camp that is anti-AA and wants to see the organization implode, and the camp that is pro-AA and takes any suggestion of “other than” as some kind of personal attack on/threat to their own recovery. I know that’s reductive, and obviously there’s a wide range of responses, but it’s not far from the truth. There’s still, by all appearances, only two very loud, sloppy-ass sides here, and year after year and decade after decade we keep circling up the same wagons3, and instead of moving forward together (with critical debate and compromise) and toward progress and expansion and things that might save ourselves and our families and our children and our friends—we just turn inward and start shooting at each other like we’re the enemy instead of the only ones who care, and people die and die and die the same exact avoidable, horrible deaths they’ve been dying this whole time we’ve been fighting about bullshit things. How is it that we’re still in the comments section of a fucking newspaper arguing about whether or not a reason some people actually cite as why they won’t enter treatment or why treatment doesn’t work for them—also known in every other corner of the healthcare system as a barrier to care—is a valid enough reason to develop alternatives, or just the excuse of an addict who doesn’t want to change? Why is it a controversy, or a diminishment of AA, to assert other things might work for other people?
As mentioned above (#5), we are now writing book proposals with fucking robots. Literally, not figuratively, but literally: robots are writing books now, and doing many other things, like driving cars. The Jetsons is almost real! The Matrix is almost real! Terminator, Robocop, Bladerunner, 1984, Outbreak, The Handmaid’s Tale, all of that shit is, I think, happening? About to happen??? Some of it at least? Okay? So, maybe it follows that it is not a radical, ahead-of-its time thing to believe (1) there should be multiple choices to heal when it comes to addiction, (2) that these things can or cannot include God or AA or the steps, (3) and statements 1 & 2 do not threaten the existing order, God, or people saved by 12-step programs.
We are not colonizing mars here. Delivering effective addiction treatment is a real and achievable end, and it’s not just this one thing or that one thing or any one thing that accounts for it—not just AA or just not AA. We know the most effective treatments are holistic, integrated, and personalized, that they can include a wide range of things like MAT, harm reduction, housing, etc., and potentially—based on the person—mutual aid, which could be AA, or any of the other many mutual aid groups—12 step or not—that exist. This is not rhetoric, or my salty opinion. This is an evidenced-based statement, backed up by science and, oh I don’t know, the millions and millions of people that get have gotten sober through myriad combinations of modalities, including, but not limited to, AA. And still we have to fucking write Op-eds to state the most basic of all the truths, and risk being called a hairy childless cunt or inciting a culture war in the comments section just to deliver what should be the most uncontroversial point of view in a country that prides itself on individual rights above almost any other thing: That we should not be court ordered by the state for medical and mental health treatment to a decentralized, non-medical organization that grew from a religious organization, if we believe that is the wrong course of action to save us from our death.
You made it this far, and you deserve Titanic with a Cat
If you’re looking for support through early sobriety or any transition, our email course, 40 Days of Sobriety, is available for you to take at any time. Subscribers get 30% off (no expiration), which is about $10 off
I’ll be speaking in London on April 11th with a few other authors for Ruby Warrington’s new book, Women Without Kids. I’ll let you know details as it draws closer but it should be a very exciting event. My blurb for this book: “A startling, confronting, and liberating treatise.” And I am very proud of that blurb lol.
To be clear (I always have to be clear about this): As an offering, I love AA, like I love MAT, like I love psychedelics like I love SMART recovery and recovery coaches, or anything that helps people not die. My criticisms of AA have always been in the spirit of examining the system of recovery; I have never been interested in AA bashing, I have never said outright “this is an awful insane program.” I have said, who is this for and who is this meant to work for, what are the impacts of its philosophy. I am interested in the larger questions.
Maia does list out some things that I think were probably unnecessary to make her point, such as this: “Many meetings close with the Lord’s Prayer.” In the comments section, folks who had never read the Lord’s Prayer at a meeting used that to deconstruct her argument. I want to point out that just because someone’s home group doesn’t read the Lord’s Prayer, or refuse chips to people on Suboxone, doesn’t mean it’s not happening somewhere else. It’s a decentralized organization, and there are wildly different experiences across that spectrum. A West Hollywood meeting is going to look different than one in Little Rock. In my experience, a number of the arguments that follow any kind of critical examination of AA or its impacts on the entire recovery system are seated in a persons personal experience of the program—if that’s not their experience, then it’s not valid. It’s why I don’t talk about AA anymore (except I guess today).