Mapping Spirituality and Alcoholics Anonymous

Fourth edition (2001) of the Big Book, basic text of A.A. It has helped millions of men and women recover from alcoholism. Chapters describing the A.A. recovery program remain unchanged.

This project aims to map the patterns of adaption of spirituality through the infamous “Twelve Steps” as a commonplace in Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) programs in the eight wards of the District of Colombia. In their website, Alcoholics Anonymous provides information and resources for victims of substance abuse. More importantly, it defines the Twelve steps or principals found in their basic text that have helped millions recover from alcoholism. For example, they write, “A.A.’s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole”. In this passage, recognizes that the principals found in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, their basic text since 1939, are rooted in spirituality for its founder was of the Oxford Group, evangelical movement that believed in emphasizing universal spiritual values in daily living. For, then, spirituality is an essential part of the recovery program because it leads to long-term sobriety.

In order to determine what alcoholics are finding common ground in it is important to define spirituality in terms of Alcoholics Anonymous. In’s document Frequently Asked Questions About A.A., they answer 44 of the most frequently asked questions about Alcoholics Anonymous. More specifically, they answer the question of: Is A.A. a religious society? They write, “A.A. is not a religious society, since it requires no definite religious belief as a condition of membership. Although it has been endorsed and approved by many religious leaders, it is not allied with any organization or sect… The A.A. program of recovery from alcoholism is undeniably based on acceptance of certain spiritual values. A.A. suggests that to achieve and maintain sobriety, alcoholics need to accept and depend upon another Power recognized as greater than themselves. Some alcoholics choose to consider the A.A. group itself as the power greater than themselves; for many others, this Power is God — as they, individually, understand Him; still others rely upon entirely different concepts of a “Higher Power”. In this passage, the A.A. society clarifies that their spiritual program is based on depending on a higher power which is open for personal interpretation. For Alcoholics Anonymous, then, the ability of their spiritual principles and values to adapt to different backgrounds is what allows spirituality to work as a commonplace for alcoholics.

A map of DC with its wards outlined. Provided by the District of Colombia Office of Planning.

This project focuses on spirituality in the District of Colombia (DC) and therefore to map spirituality, A.A. centers that incorporate the Twelve Steps were chosen. The District of Colombia is officially divided into eight wards and therefore this project will look at eight A.A. centers and the spirituality in their programs. In, the office of planning provides a series of maps of the wards or regions that DC has been divided into. More specifically, it provides an interactive map that I used to verify that each of the centers I had chosen belonged to a specific distinct ward. The centers chosen and their respective wards will be listed here now:

For more information about each individual center visit my time mapper here.

Using the definition that spirituality is amorphous in the sense that each individual has the ability to choose what a higher power means to them, I have identified three adaptions to spirituality in terms of A.A. in DC which all share the common goal of sobriety.

The serenity prayer framed on the Dupont Circle Club’s wall.

The first adaption is institutions that take a religious focus by assigning God as the higher power that will guide you to abstinence. In wards one, two, and four, Walker Memorial Baptist Church, The Dupont Circle Club, and Takoma Baptist Church respectively use the Twelve Steps program with God as its higher power. For example, in their website Takoma Baptists Church advertises that they offer Twelve Step Recovery Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every Wednesday at 7:30pm with a mission to provide hope and healing through a personal relationship to God. Moreover, the Dupont Circle Club makes provides a variety of 12-Step Recovery groups and as a form of encouragement for its members has religious prayers or verses that go with the values of A.A. framed on the walls. For institutions like these, then, achieving and maintaining sobriety is based on turning oneself over to the hands of God.

The second adaption is a little more liberal in nature because it takes a form of meditation and combines it with Twelve Step recovery. Located in the third Ward of the District of Colombia, Shambhala Meditation Center opens its doors to all those interested in exploring the relationship between Shambhala Buddhist meditation and Twelve Steps recovery programs. The center holds a “Heart of Recovery” group every Wednesday from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. The center takes the basic principles of A.A.’s Twelve Steps and adapts them to fit with Shambhala meditation creating a unique road to sobriety.

The third adaption are centers that are more flexible in their interpretations of a “higher power” in the sense that they leave the interpreting to their members. In wards five, six, seven, and eight, CATAADA House, Clean and Sober Streets, The Better Way Program, and Federal City Recovery Services all employ a more flexible Twelve Step program. For example, CATAADA House is a free alcohol/drug intervention and prevention program that stresses the need for spiritual support when recovering. It promotes spiritual growth by employing the Twelve Step program that calls for the recovering individual to turn their life over to God or a higher power to attain recovery. Programs, like this stress spirituality but don’t define it like religious institutions would opening up spirituality as a commonplace even further.

By mapping spirituality through the different adaptions of the Twelve Step programs in the District of Colombia, it is evident how since its foundation Alcoholics Anonymous has morphed to include individuals with all kinds of backgrounds that suffer from substance abuse.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”


Samuel Becket, an Irish writer, born in the year 1906 explores the foundations of human life in his writing. A famous quote from his writing is: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better”. Becket in his quote simply puts that failure is not as negative as society makes it out to be. Failure is a part of life, and the accumulation of failures leads to learning. This is important because of the increasing societal stigma over the fear of failure. The fear of failure comes from the need to be socially accepted, and society has shown that it favors those who succeed. However, how does one succeed without first failing? Each time one fails, one fails slightly less. Lets call this a successful failure. Successful failing leads to overall success because the more you fail the more you learn from those mistakes and know not to repeat them.

Becket writes this quote in a very simple form, which I think is to express how simple the issue actually is. How are you going to get better if you don’t practice and fail? One is not born successful, you must take the steps to get there and one of those steps is failing (repeatedly). One should not be afraid of failing because just like you everybody fails, it’s simply a part of life.

Caffeine Overdose

The New York Times Magazine published an article by Mali Wollan titled How to Keep Your Hands Steady. In her article Wollan talks about how to keep yourself calm when overdoses of caffeine cause your body to tremble. She gives four main behavioral rules: Get sufficient sleep, limit alcohol consumption, eat regular meals, and to keep a calm psychological state. Now lets apply this to college students. Some of us, like me, had never shown much interest in coffee pre-college (even though our parents are coffee fanatics that need a fix of coffee to start the day).

Central, visual, auditory, muscular, respiratory, urinary, systemic, gastric, heart, and epidermal symptoms of a caffeine overdose.

However, college brings a pile of responsibilities that all have deadlines and for us that don’t have much of a tolerance for caffeine have probably experienced a coffee overdose. Yes, there is such a thing. In the image titled: Main Symptoms of Caffeine Overdose the common symptoms brought from way too much caffeine can be seen. Common symptoms include: physical trembling, nausea, dehydration, anxiety/restlessness, and ringing of the ears. I remember when I experienced my first coffee overdose it went much like this meme:

A meme describing the stages of overdosing on caffeine. Credit here.

I remember experiencing nausea, trembling, and extreme restlessness which overall caused me more stress because I could not get any work done. You may be thinking, simple don’t drink coffee there are other alternatives to increase alertness, little does everyone know that many of those drinks are caffeine based.

Popular energy drinks that contain caffeine. Source:

Energy drinks like JOLT Energy, NOS Energy, Monster, Red bull, Mountain Dew, and even Coca-cola contain different percentages of caffeine.

Now lets look again at the behavioral rules one should follow when intoxicated on caffeine: Get sufficient sleep, limit alcohol consumption, eat regular meals, and to keep a calm psychological state. These rules don’t seem hard to follow right? Most college students, including myself, find them very hard to follow. For college students sleep has become a series of power naps, three meals a day are reduced to maybe two and unhealthy (cheap) snacks, alcohol consumption is amplified instead of limited, and our psychological state is one of constant stress. What does this mean in terms of caffeine? Nothing good.

The average college student.

These subpar or even unhealthy living conditions mixed with way more than the recommended amount of caffeine (that we consume to try to compensate for them) yields to sleep disorders, addiction, extreme anxiety, cardiac problems, stomach ulcers, etc.

In summary, I believe Wollan’s four behavioral rules to not be applicable to college students. I know that for me overdosing on caffeine only increases stress levels because all you can do is sit and wait for the caffeine to leave your system.



A Numberless World

An article published by Caleb Everett Andrew in the newsletter Live Science talks about anumeric cultures or cultures where numbers are non-existent. It starts out by telling the reader that as one reads the article one is probably aware of: the date, the time, your age, weight, bank account balance, etc. This is our social reality, numbers and quantities play a big role in our lives. However, the use of numbers for quantification is a social mutation, making numeric cultures the abnormal ones, at least in a historic sense.

A picture of the Piraha (culture without numbers) who live along the banks of the Maici River in the Amazon. Credit here.

If means of quantification are seen through the lens of abnormality then these numberless cultures become normal. Societies whose cultures have numbers had to give their children these cognitive tools, which makes sense since all of us spent the better part of elementary school learning what numbers were and how to use them. To further solidify this a research paper by Susan Carey published by the National Institute of Health explores the concept of the natural number and concludes that natural numbers are a human construction as a response to allow for the representation of thoughts that are unthinkable without them (science and theory). This means that as natural as numbers may feel to you, they are not.

Naturally, our brains are wired to recognize abstract quantities. For instance, we know the difference between two apples and twenty apples. Cultures without numbers ‘quantify’ things by saying theres a few, some, or a lot. Studies have shown that adults in anumeric cultures have difficulty recalling and differentiating quantities as low as four.

Anumeric cultures gives insight into how diverse our global linguist culture is and how things we believe to be universal truths are not.

The Proximity Effect

It’s funny how much of childhood is about proximity. Like who your best friend is directly correlated to how close your houses are; who you sit next to in music is all about how close your names are in the alphabet. Such a game of chance… Allie and I stayed friends until she moved last year, but there was always something just a little bit humiliating about it, like we were two leftover heels of bread and together we made a dry sandwich.

In Jenny Han’s Chapter 8 of her book “To All the Boys I’ve Love Before” the main character, Lara Jean, talks about the formation and duration of friendships. Lara Jean talks about how when one is a child the friends you make and keep are based on proximity, in other words the people that you are with often. Even though I agree that this is true I also believe that this is not exclusive to childhood. I think that proximity is directly correlated to friendship duration in adulthood as well.

Think about your friendships or even past romantic relationships, what brought you together? For most people the top answers are: school, lived near each other, or some common activity. Being in close proximity with people allows you to get to know them and find common factors that make them more appealing. Psychologists: Frank w. Schneider, Jamie A. Gruman,

Book Cover of Frank w. Schneider, Jamie A. Gruman, and Larry M. Coults book “Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems”.

and Larry M. Coults call this the proximity effect in their book “Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems“. They describe the proximity effect as the idea that psychological and physical nearness increases interpersonal liking between individuals. The book later discusses the applications of the proximity effect, the psychologists write that by incorporating spaces into ones routine that bring us in contact with a lot of people the frequency of your interactions increases and so does the probability of friendship formation. They then define this as using the power of situation because by manipulating the locations one frequents you can enjoy the benefits of situational influence.

Example of how proximity causes people to get to know each other and find mutual likings that brings them closer together.

This makes one think about the nature of your own relationships and how proximity has affected them. For example, in Han’s book Lara Jean talks about how proximity formed her friendship and the lack of it caused it to dissolve. Another relevant example is me, during my freshman year at college I have lost and made friendships. I have lost friendships from back home that I attribute to the lack of proximity. People I used to see everyday I don’t anymore. Even people that I took classes with and was friends with first semester, when second semester came and we no longer shared classes our contact slowly decreased. However, I believe that these friendships are salvageable as long as the individuals regain proximity. For example, when I went back home during Winter Break I rekindled a lot of the friendships I thought I had lost because we were able to physically come in contact with each other. For these reasons, I am excited and nervous to go back home. I fear that the relationships I have built this year will not hold over the summer; but I also look forward to seeing all my friends and reconnecting. In conclusion, I believe that the increase of contact is what increases the likeliness of communication and therefore a relationship.



Winter Storm Stella

The Washington Post published an article by Chris A. Pabon titled About Winter Storm Stella and weird, variable weather about the winter storm Stella that hit northeast United States during the week of March 13, 2017. The article says that regions in northeast Pennsylvania received from three to five feet of snow and that nearly three days after the blizzard some streets were still waiting to be plowed.

Snowfall map and NESIS rating of Winter Storm Stella (National Centers for Environmental Information/NOAA)
Me outside of my aunt’s house in Reading, Pennsylvania.

This blizzard came during American University’s Spring Break which was from March11th to March 18th. During my Spring Break instead of returning home to the warmth of Puerto Rico I decided to spend it with my family in Reading, Pennsylvania, which was a victim of the blizzard. Coming from the Caribbean, where we have no changing seasons, I had never experienced a blizzard or winter storm before, so the experience was novel. The first two days were fun to see the snow fall and cover every surface available to it, however, after the third day the cabin fever set in. That afternoon my aunt sent my cousins and I out to plow the driveway before the snow solidified to the point where it cannot be plowed. I had never seen that much snow and even less held a snowblower/shovel. I only lasted a half hour shoveling before my muscles gave up from shoveling, who knew snow could be so heavy? I sure did not. I left my male cousins to shovel away while I sat next to the fireplace and tried to regain warmth in my body. All in all, I enjoyed my first blizzard; but, now that I can say I’ve experienced one I do not wish to experience one again.

Appropriating Culture

The awareness of cultural appropriation has recently increased amongst society due to the increasing instances of it. The Cambridge Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture:”. In other words, cultural appropriation is when cultures borrow from others culture without acknowledging their source. A recent instance of cultural appropriation can be seen right here in AU. Recently Sigma Alpha Mu Delta Beta Chapter at American University (AU) was forced by the school to shut down their much-awaited philanthropy event “Bad(minton) and Boujee.” The event was organized to raise money for their philanthropic partner, Armor Down, a reintegration program for US veterans. The event is a play on words of the popular song ‘Bad and Boujee’ by Migos’s that was though of to generate excitement for an event that has a rather unexciting sport, Badminton. The fraternity soon received  an email from Colin Gerker,  Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life, asking the chapter to rename the event because the term “boujee” is considered to be a form of cultural appropriation. The fraternity argued that the coloquial term loosely meaning high class was not in any way related to the event so it was not appropriative. However, the school insisted that for approval the event’s name would have to change so in response the fraternity decided to cancel the event and release a statement on their Facebook Page. When talking to one of the officiated brothers in the AU chapter he pointed out that plenty of American University events can be accussed of cultural appropriation but the school doesn’t shut down their events. He gave me the example of an event hosted by American University for its students, Final Perk: Tiki Time. The event revolves around a Tiki Hawaiian theme that could be called out for being appropriative. The Delta Beta chapter was so appalled at the events transferred that they decided to shed a light on AU’s hypocrisy and were able to get a televised interview with WUSA9 and an article published on the newsletter, Campus Reform.


False Personas

“But there was a part of her that wondered what would happen if she let them all in on the secret-that some mornings, it was hard to get out of bed and put on someone else’s smile; that she was standing on air, a fake who laughed at all the right jokes and whispered all the right gossip and attracted the right guy, a fake who had nearly forgotten what it felt like to be real… and who, when you got down right to it, didn’t want to remember, because it hurt even more than this.”

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s novel Nineteen Minutes gives social and psychological insight into the lives of its characters. The novels main character, Josie Cormier, in the first part of the book talks about how peer pressure has made her create a false persona so she can fit in, a topic that I believe is very relevant to today. She admits that even though
acting “fake” makes her unhappy it would be worse to be real and risk the pain of not being accepted.

I attribute her feelings and reasoning to the way today’s society has exploited individual’s mental malleability. Society has found the way to control its individuals by teaching them to idolize certain figures, trends, and philosophies. The majority of individuals have become spellbound with the idea that whatever society says is the norm. This has led to individuals rejecting everything that is not the norm which has led to peer pressure.  High school is a perfect example, most high schools are socially stratified into groups of people that share common interests. However, these social stratifications are not on an equal playing field instead they are on a social ladder. The way it commonly works is that groups of lower statuses want to become part of groups with higher statuses. Climbing up the social ladder is doable as long as these high-status groups allow you in. What are the requisites? Social groups look for commonalities, therefore what happens if I have nothing in common with them and they don’t want to let me in because I am not their norm. Humans share the mentality of wanting to belong so just like Josie Cormier I would feel pressured to create a false persona that resembles the one of whatever group I want to be in so they can accept me. What I find impressive is that individuals like Josie Cormier that feel stuck in a false persona prefer to stay stuck rather than face social rejection.  However, if we consider that deep down all we instinctually want to do is belong then maybe these false personas aren’t so bad after all.

Gender Inclusivity and Tax Exempt Institutions

A picture of the sign differentiating a gender assigned bathroom from this gender inclusive bathroom.

In this American University (AU) poster the institution takes the first step to gender inclusivity by creating gender neutral bathrooms. Suzanne Tick in her article in the architecture magazine Metropolis describes ourcurrent society as one that is post-gender because gender identities are no longer fixed as male or female but are being obscured. Tick’s solution is to sensitize the male oriented

A picture of the sign of a gender inclusive bathroom.

design landscape that predominates and as an example lists companies and institutions who are promoting gender inclusivity in the workplace by neutralizing bathro
oms. Similarly, American University is blurring gender norms by creating these safe places or gender inclusive bathrooms where individuals can feel safe and accepted while expressing their individuality. Although a big part of the gender revolution is the universalization of the design landscape another essential part is the revolution of a culture that is accustomed to assigned gender identities. Tick in her article describes an instance that highlights how important it is to not only sensitize our design but our culture; in the example the author describes how both female and male coworkers reported to human resources that they did not feel comfortable with the presence of their transgender coworker using their same gender inclusive bathroom. Creating gender inclusive commonplaces
where people feel safe and accepted isextremely important but what use are they if societies culture doesn’t allow for their success? The success of gender inclusive bathrooms in American University is contingent on the acceptance of its students. It is evident that not all students are comfortable with the multitude of gender expressions that the gender revolution has brought because American University offers the option of a lock inside the bathrooms converting them from neutral spaces to into same gender spaces. I foresee AU becoming a gender inclusive university when they achieve sensitivity toward the obscurity of gender in the majority of their students.


“Shall property owned by the University System of Georgia and utilized by providers of college and university student housing and other facilities continue to be exempt from taxation to keep costs affordable?”

    1. Sentence Root: Should property owned by the University System of Georgia be exempt from taxation?
    2. Keywords: Property, University System of Georgia, Tax Exempt, Affordability
    3. Rhetorical Analysis:

The University System of Georgia is composed of twenty-eight public higher learning institutions which are tax exempt. The Association of American Universities states that:

Private universities, as well as some public universities and foundations that support public universities, qualify as tax-exempt charitable organizations because they meet the requirements of IRC Section 501(c)(3), which includes “[c]orporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes . . .”.

This means that most public and private universities are considered charities by the International Revenue Service (IRS). On the one hand, many people argue that by narrowing the tax base by allowing tax exemptions makes everyone else pay more. To further their argument they reason that these charities enjoy local government services (roads, transportation, protection of police and fire departments) that they do not pay for. On the other hand, individuals pro tax exemption argue that these “charities” provide an essential service that in their absence would have to be supplied by the government. To strengthen their argument they justify that they are an essential part of the economy because their institutions employ thousands of people. Why is obtaining tax exempt status beneficial for public institutions? Tax exemption allows for universities to: maximize the services they provide society with because it means an increase in the resources universities can fund and charge students less. For these reasons, I agree that universities should continue to be considered as charities to qualify for tax exemption and keep costs affordable while maximizing the resources available to them.



Rhetorical Analysis of the Office of Planning Website

Logo for the District Government Website, taken from their website.

In the District Government Website (, the Office of Planning (OP) uses a series of sources to give its audience a picture of different complex local systems. More specifically, according to OP’s “About the DC Office of Planning” page they use historic resources research, community visioning, and the mapping and analysis of US Census data to guide the development of the District of Colombia (DC). In other words, they use outside sources to detect strengths and weaknesses to then create strategic plans and goals to not only revitalize spaces but preserve them. For example, every fiscal year OP releases a performance plan that emphasizes initiatives for improvement and highlights faults that hinder progress against goals for specific regions. For the Office of Planning, then, their mission is to preserve and revitalize neighborhoods, specifically distinctive neighborhoods like Dupont Circle because it leads to positive development of the complex local systems of the District of Colombia.

Logo for the District of Colombia Office of Planning, taken from their website.

In the District Government Website about us page, explains that their website is a portal for District government services and information. More precisely, the portal has become a commonplace for over one hundred sub-websites of District government agencies to communicate their information about state, county and municipal functionality. For example, one of the sub-websites in is the Office of Planning who as previously clarified provides a series of material that when put together communicates information about the District of Colombia’s different regions. What this means then is that uses a variety of different agencies to weave together a complete and extensive data base of all things District of Colombia. For, then, providing information and services on their website is important because it facilitates District business and residents to deal with their government. The successful relationship between the website and its audience is what contributes to the success of sub-websites like OP.

A picture of the director of the Office of Planning, Eric D. Shaw.

Who writes these websites? In the portal,, as suggested before, uses a multitude of authors to create their information database. More specifically, the sub-website (which from now on will be the main focus) for the Office of Planning is managed by a director and senior staff. For instance, OP writes in their ‘Directors Biography’ page, “Eric D. Shaw was appointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser to serve as Director of the DC Office of Planning January 2015.  As director, he manages a staff of 75 who are responsible for neighborhood and systems planning, urban design strategies, data and mapping, historic preservation and development review… He is a strong proponent of equitable development, innovative community engagement and community led implementation of plans”. For OP, this means that finding a leader who shares its common values of equitable growth, original community engagement and community led implementation of plans is essential for its success.

The Office of Planning achieves its goal of positive community development by gathering specific content for specific people equally. Source here.

It was just established who writes for OP, but who is the office writing for? The District Government Website writes in their ‘About Us’ page that their overall audience is visitors from the US and abroad, state and Federal agencies, and District residents and businesses. More specifically, (although not implicitly stated) from their list of divisions it can be inferred that OP targets neighborhood planners, city wide planners, zoning agencies, historic preservation organizations, geographers, and District residents and business. Why target this audience? OP provides very accurate and comprehensive material for not only District business but even for Federal agencies to use and therefore must target an audience that has use for their information. Providing information to the wrong audience would not leads to positive development of the complex local systems of the District of Colombia.

DC Office of Planning Functional Organization Chart September 2016

Now that we know the writer and audience of the Office of Planning let’s expose what information they provide and its sources. As previously mentioned the director of the Office of Planning appointed three senior staff or deputy directors who manage the three major divisions in OP that deal with place, policy, and project. More specifically, according to OP’s ‘DC Office of Planning Functional Organization Chart’ the three major divisions are: Citywide Strategy and Analysis (policy); Planning, Engagement, and Design (place); and Development Review and Historic Preservation (project). According to their website these divisions gather information by, “OP performs planning for neighborhoods, corridors, districts, historic preservation, public facilities, parks and open spaces, and individual sites. In addition, OP engages in urban design, land use, and historic preservation review. OP also conducts historic resources research and community visioning, and manages, analyzes, maps, and disseminates spatial and US Census data”. What this means is that OP uses a combination of internal and external sources to build their information data base. For the Office of Planning, then, using outside sources to make their database more complete is not a problem because it leads to the better development of DC.

Why should any of this matter? Websites like provide agencies like the Office of Planning a platform to not only compile their information but to publicize it for other agencies to use for their initiatives. OP uses its platform to communicate information that contributes to initiatives that work towards redeveloping and preserving complex local systems. The importance of the information that OP provides is that it is not exclusive to any one party. Promoting transparency and inclusivity the Office of Planning becomes a common place that engages all communities of DC to participate in the positive development of their district.

A chart of the steps of community engagement. First, the Office of Planning informs; second, its audience consults the sources; third, its audience gains the desire of involvement; fourth, a collaboration is made; and finally, the community is empowered. Source here.

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