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  • Writer's pictureOutside Lit

One: The Perfect Program

But first, a disclaimer…

Twelve step programs save lives, full stop. They do it time and again, sparing not only the addict but untold thousands of families by extension, and miraculously, they do it just exactly as they are. The purpose of this project is not to exclude, challenge, or dismiss the enormous good these programs do. We seek only to provoke thought and enhance community for fellows in recovery. Thank you, dear reader, thank you. Now, on with our underground show.


There are many reasons 12-step programs do not permit the use of outside literature; here are but a few…

To maintain uniformity of message: 12-step programs have specific sets of principles

and beliefs which are regarded as essential for recovery. Members are consistently

exposed to the same information and in this way, there is little opportunity for

confusion concerning program tenets.

To avoid conflict: There are countless diverse philosophies and approaches to addiction recovery. If 12-step programs permitted the use of outside literature, greater potential for conflict between viewpoints would exist. This could make it difficult for members to find common ground and support each other.

To protect the integrity of the program: 12-step programs are based on the idea of

anonymity. This means that members are cautioned about revealing personal

information about themselves and not allowed to disclose information concerning other members. If outside literature were allowed, it might be more difficult to maintain this anonymity.

The aims of “outside” or “underground” writing and literature has varied widely throughout history. Common purposes have included circumventing censorship, challenging the status quo, enhancing a sense of community, or simply seeking to entertain in a thought-provoking way. In what we think are its best iterations, it serves many of these purposes (and more). We also feel it’s something that lives and evolves through collaboration, so let’s build something together that serves these goals. It’s all but certain that if we do, we’ll have achieved greatly.

“A purpose of our lives is to broaden what we can understand and say and therefore be.”

-Salman Rushdie

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