This was originally published on this site on December 19, 2005.
Friends of Bill W. maybe in for a rude shock if a pill helps cure what is commonly believed to be the disease of alcoholism. The popular 12-step program for ‘drinkers’ may no longer be that states best kept religious secret. When an alcoholic patient couldn’t be cured of this affliction by eminent psycho therapist Carl Jung, he was urged to seek a spiritual or cathartic event which could do so. So to, judges are compelled to send habitual and even first time offenders off to classes and sessions that resemble a tent revival more than any thing. Often heralded as a decentralized, atomistic example of good anarchy, 12 step programs enjoy a reprieve from the government in terms of religion. They have no centralized leader, they don’t ask for money and one slip into drink topples one’s status as a leader immediately. Tenure only comes with hardened spiritual resolve and more often then not evolves into a middle-age male with a small purvey on human and social interaction. No seminary required.
The complete acceptance by judges of condemning offenders to a program whose content is quite religious or contrary to other belief systems should be an affront to the purveyors of individual freedoms and liberty. ‘Guilty’ motorists are given little choice about these classes in an effort to keep the state’s privilege of driving. After all, who can afford to stand on principle when their very real means of existence is threatened by reprisal from the sovereign. The only successful Constitutional amendment designed to restrict personal behavior was Prohibition. It was the only one subsequently repealed. Violating our common law right to passage or its anachronistic notion of less criminal accountability based on drunkenness, can’t even be broached in this day and age. A buck and a half says this author could down a six pack and pass some silly state built obstacle course better than the randomly picked driver ( a horribly old and bad one) could. The hard core offenders do it anyway and cause all the problems, let them be punished. Do not punish those who have done no harm to anyone by sending them to a class, let alone one with a religious agenda, about alcohol abuse. If the guilty party refuses to accept a God or some idyllic equivalent can the state compel him to stay in the intervention or revoke so called privileges ?
A young man I once knew had the misfortune of being pulled over in a 1965 Fairlane packed with peers on their way to Denny’s. Unfortunately half a bottle of MD 20/20 produced a rather damning result at the roadside test administered by employees of the state. After the plea bargain, life took a more serious turn as the involvement of that State became more prevalent at every step. Despite a workload of 18 credits and twenty to thirty hours a week at a decent paying job, the instructors at the out patient facility still felt he needed some mending beyond his ‘voluntary’ agreement to their own 7 week class. Despite his vocal protests, he found himself filling out forms about gambling habits which didn’t even exist, at yet another out patient facility. This ‘counselor’ felt that his denial of a problem was sufficient merit to recommend 26 weeks of further counseling. The prospect of a Saturday morning class, the horror of which only a college student without insurance or a social life felt, prompted him to ask whether the counselor still beat his wife. Needless to say a second opinion at more friendly agency negotiated a smaller 4 week deal. It was painfully easy to convince another Master’s Degree in nothingness (one who had never read Crime and Punishment !) that he in fact attended two AA sessions. Ever since then his personal rule is to never drive drunk unless alone.
That was the late eighties. In the fifties his Dad would have just pounded the crap out of him after the cops dropped him off. Things are a lot tougher now. Nobody doubts the pain and suffering caused by those who can’t control their drinking. Desperation plunges them into the arms of petty tyrants with control freak agendas. Those of us who made it out of our wild years without too much incident would rather not be laden with the burden of unbearable classes instructing us about nebulous gods or close facsimiles. If the hardcore folk can be cured with a pill in years to come, we would do well to explore this dirty little secret of the state that would have us embark on some quasi-spiritual path to cure ourselves. Lawmakers, judges, counselors and agencies that would have us seek repentance for our unseemly drinking actions are in fact more morally questionable forcing us to comply at the hands of a state that seeks to punish based on a mere probability of causing harm to our fellow citizens.