This particular post causes layers on top of layers of deep impact inside my soul. Not because of any special love for Dr. Peikoff. God knows I have my differences. But because I once so desperately needed a statement like this from one of the people close to Rand in the Objectivist world (if not Rand herself). And none was forthcoming.
Those who know my story know that I went through both AA and NA simply because there was nowhere else to go. So I would like to thank Dr. Peikoff from the bottom of my heart for the following public message he presented in a podcast dated June 15, 2009. Below is the transcript of the part concerning AA.
You can hear this podcast at his website at http://www.peikoff.com or you can download an mp3 file of it there.
The way Dr. Peikoff said "very, very, very hard thing to overcome" (three "very's) shows me that he has been close to alcoholism. Very, very, very close. Before any schism partisan mentions Rand's husband, Frank, let me preempt this.
I’m going to start today with a question about Alcoholics Anonymous.
I’m a recovering alcoholic. The program has many tenets that run counter to Objectivism, including letting a Higher Power relieve me of alcoholism. How can I reconcile Objectivism, but continue staying sober through AA?
Well, I once asked an official in AA, “Did you have to believe in God in order to join?”
And he said, “No. We leave the Higher Power…” (what they call Higher Power…) “the interpretation to the individual. And if you want to make it objective external reality, that’s OK with us. We want something that you can’t manipulate by will. And, of course, since you can’t manipulate reality by will, it basically plays to the same rule for an atheist that Higher Power does.”
I think, as far as I can tell, all of the steps that AA takes are actually interpretable in secular terms like that. I’m not sure, but I think so.
I think one of the most important things that AA offers is social support. So you get an outside perspective. You see that you’re not the only one with this disease. It’s very widespread. There are other people struggling.
So I, from that point of view, would definitely stay in. It’s like a group [of people] who help each other tell each other, “I had this temptation, but I resisted it.” [And] so on…
It’s a very, very, very hard thing to overcome, and anything you can do to make it easier is fine.
If it were really religious, I don’t think it could work. Certainly not in the long run. Because then, by definition, you are saying to yourself, “I am helpless. I am out of control. I’m just a puppet, you know, manipulated by God.”
Well, if so, you give in to… to whatever, you know, craving you have.
So, I don’t agree with a lot of their formulations, but as far as I can tell, the essence of their creed, combined with the important social support that they offer, makes it not necessary to choose between AA and Objectivism.
To be blunt, in this context I don't give a damn. For all I know, it was someone else close to him.
The important thing to me is that he made this statement.
You see, I know the importance this Addiction section on OL has to Objectivist-leaning alcoholics. I know for sure because I once needed this badly.
But I was always bothered by the fact that I also know that Objectivists who follow Peikoff do not see me in a good light. So I have been thinking about how to reach them. With this statement by Peikoff, now there is a way.
I want to address a word to any person who is what I call ortho-Objecivist and who is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction (I extend Dr. Peikoff's remarks to NA as well). I know there are people who fit this description and who read this section on OL. I know it because there are so few places they can turn to. And I am glad to offer this to them.
I speak to you right now as one who has the same problem you do.
I wish you well. I mean that.
I love Ayn Rand's works and Objectivism, but if I use alcohol or drugs, I lose it.
So I had to learn how not to use those things.
You can, too.
I know for a fact that it is not your fault you are in this situation. I lived it. Twice.
Better said, there are parts that are not your fault and there are parts that are. And there is only one way you are going to be able to figure out which is which right now.
You need help.
You need help from others, I don't care if you are an Objectivist.
Almost nobody succeeds at figuring all this this out alone.
So take the help. Go to AA or NA. There is no shame in it.
You don't have to like me or even respect me. Just hear me on one point:
There is hope for you to get better and you don't have to give up Objectivism to do it. Please, do yourself a favor and take Dr. Peikoff's message to heart.