Pseudo-Egalitarianism – How’s that for a Description of 12 Step Pseudo-Science?

My friend and colleague, Dr. Steve Schrader-Davis, of St. Mary’s University, Minneapolis, was fond of using this word to describe policies which promote the false belief that equality exists where it obviously does not. In his particular field of interest, education of the gifted, it played out as schools penalizing academically superior students in order to regress them to the ranks of the average.

In our field of drug and alcohol abuse, it’s the patently false belief that all alcohol abusers and alcoholics, along with all drug users and addicts are the same, suffer from the same “disease”, and can only be “treated” with the same 12 Step regimen and by being “in recovery” forever.

In either case, the object of this nonsense is two-fold: to eliminate having to bother to discriminate between different individuals, and to eliminate having to provide appropriate services. With alcohol and drug abusers, the myth has the added advantage of guaranteeing the endless recycling of clients through the rehab mills since the “Steps” deliver failure at an even higher rate than doing nothing.

Understanding the absurdity of supposedly homogeneous “alcoholic” grouping is the first step in understanding how alcohol abuse differs depending on many factors and how treating the problem requires different approaches for different individuals. It also explains why AA works for some people long term and for others briefly, and why it harms many more people and destroys others.

It all starts with accepting that we aren’t all the same, do not have the same history, interests, abilities, skills, and circumstances. If you believe this self-evident idea, then you are ready to understand where you stand when it comes to fixing your own problems or supporting another’s efforts to navigate their way out of theirs.

Remember, you already know this, at least intuitively, which is why you’re reading this Newsletter instead of The Big Book or Minnesota Model marketing hype.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

There is no shortage of quotes suggesting that you can, and ought, to pursue the life you envision. Henry Ford noted that “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right,” and Katherine Hepburn’s mother advised, “Don’t die wondering!”

Two weeks ago we quoted Paula Kerger, “Find the courage to take a scary leap.”

Cheryl Strayed changed her last name to reflect her personal history, hiked the Pacific Coast Trail to kick her addictions, and ended up with a book, Wild, and Reese Witherspoon playing her in a very good movie. She also has a book of unconventional quotes, “Brave Enough” which are none-the-less applicable to many of us who have also strayed with both positive and negative results.

There are no lack of quotes, books, and, yes, Newsletters, offering advice, inspiration, information, and thought-provoking commentary. But there is one thing that these can’t provide: ACTION!

Only you can decide that it’s time for that.

Most of us sentence ourselves to Contemplation Hell for a very long stretch – sometimes life. We pretend that contemplating is doing. It isn’t. Once the research is over, it’s just procrastination.

Deciding not to decide is still a decision and a choice. Deciding not to find out is still willful ignorance. Avoiding getting a life still means not living one.

So! Perhaps it’s time to follow one client’s summation of our “2 Step” program: “Get a grip; get a life!”