Fact-Checking Charlie Sheen

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A few months back Brendan did a rather wonderful feature on Alcoholics Anonymous. He's followed that up on his blog, chiming in on Sheen's claim that AA is a hustle:


I learned enough in the course of my reporting to know that Sheen's attacks are wholly unoriginal, especially his insistence that AA's "success rate" is a mere five percent. (That oft-quoted stat is based on a misreading of a 20-year-old AA member survey.) Yet Sheen is, indeed, correct in asserting that there are many paths to sobriety, and that one needn't follow the 12 Steps in order to recover. 

My main takeaway from Sheen's tirades is that AA is unique in its ability to inspire such passionate love and hate. Those who stay in the program credit the Steps with, quite literally, saving their lives; those who choose another path to sobriety claim it's a cult every bit as creepy as the People's Temple.

Brendan grabs this quote from the cutting room floor to help explain why AA is so divisive:

The rigidity of the program is what turns off most prospective members, especially those who chafe at any tinge of religion. "You have to be pretty strong," says Lee Ann Kaskutas, senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville, Calif. "You have to say, 'Okay, I'm going to smile and not get upset and not get hurt when someone tells me to get on my knees and pray. I'm not going to argue.' Because you really can't argue with them about the philosophy. It's not up for debate."
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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