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I am against abuse in addiction recovery meetings. That is why I cannot in good conscience ethically support professional recommendation of Alcoholics Anonymous [AA].
If going AA feels like it’s driving you crazy, you’re not alone.
I am not an alcoholic, and most people exposed to AA do not fit the criteria. [Yet if you ARE honestly struggling in a life/death situation please see a MEDICAL doctor- go HERE now you’ll thank me later- the damaging effects of addictions are real, just like with cigarette smoking.] When I began this blog in 2013, it was grassroots. Doors were shut on the idea anything other than 12-Steps should be promoted on blogs. Now, it’s downright trendy. My blog is a dinosaur by these stadndards. Life goes on- I do and have kept up with other things- here is my main art & design/writing site including all my non 12-step criticism projects since the 1990s.
Like many, AA was presented to me as a specialized support group alternative to therapy. My first exposure to it was when I was 21 years old in 2003 on and off through 2012. It was recommended by professionals. During AA I needed professional help to deal with AA meetings. Despite my concerns about the psychological damage of the literature, I had the audacity to complain AA was incompatible with professional psychotherapy. Whereas psychotherapy is rooted in a motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral, patient-oriented, individualized treatment methods with respect for one’s family history, background and religious beliefs- AA was the opposite. The best thing I ever did was quit AA.
Instead of staying silent, I decided to speak up and share the truth about Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Step methods. This blog will educate the reader about how the steps are ineffective, induce depression, and increase drinking problems. I offer constructive criticism about how AA can improve. I also mention the secular alternatives to AA meetings. But ultimately, the most effective method for treating a drinking problem is to avoid dependence on any support group, whether it’s religious or not. 75% of addicted persons recover without ANY recovery program at all. So if you are currently one of the many people coerced into 12 Step programs, I will be updating my links on how to fight forced mandatory religious meetings on here.
AA is: Misogynistic. Racist. Cult-like adherence to pseudo-religious dogma.
Thanks to pages like this- AA has a voluntary set of rules. The majority of meetings pay no mind to “voluntary” rules regarding membership safety— including sexual harassment. I blame this on the most read books in 12 Step treatment: Alcoholics Anonymous’ 1939 Big Book and The Twelve Steps and The Twelve Traditions (or 12&12). In the former, women are not the alcoholics but the wives expected to stay with abusive alcoholic husbands. In the 12×12, rape is considered an act of lust.
The books perpetuate sexism and misogyny. There’s even a nickname for sexual harassment and preying on newcomers: “The 13th Step.” The main belief of AA is learned powerlessness, or helplessness. That’s antithetical to therapy based in positive psychology. It is a negative-reinforcer. They won’t tell you in AA to seek professional help for your “drinking problem” but I will. You can’t depend on AA to have all the answers, the only answer in AA and that is it.
AA is entrenched in healthcare (treatment facilities often take insurance and Medicaid even though those monies supposedly don’t include teaching patients to use 12 steps). AA is entrenched in the justice system, where judges use attendance as bargaining chips for sentencing.
Professionals do not run AA. No one is trained. AA attracts lawless people as well as recruits from inside prisons. You never know what you’re gonna get.
Too many people are not aware of what Alcoholics Anonymous is. It isn’t ran by medical professionals and it isn’t funded by the US Government. AA says it is SPIRITUAL, NOT RELIGIOUS, but the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Circuit Courts have ruled that AA is religious or a religion. The Department of Justice deems all 12 Step programs religious and they cannot be funded by the DOJ in part or in whole.
Alcoholics Anonymous, unlike professional led group therapy, is ran by untrained laypeople, who are not screened with background checks. AA secretaries, chairpersons, and sponsors can be anyone; Many US Courts send violent and sexual offenders to the widely available, free, and ungoverned 12 Step meetings. This has ended in tragedy, where children are molested and people have been attacked or murdered by AA members they met at AA meetings.
Shockingly, 75% of US Treatment Centers heavily rely on 12 Step education as the bulk of their rehab program, which means they are charging patients hundreds and thousands of dollars- as well as insurance companies- for a program that is available for free. Despite AA’s 5% success record, the typical prescription for drinking problems continues to be recommendations to 12 Step meetings and 12 Step rehab. More shockingly, nobody seems to care about AA’s lack of success, the higher risk of binge drinking after AA attendance, and AA’s religiousness.
Only Step One mentions alcohol: “Admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS.
Thank you for visiting my page and be sure to like the Such Unfortunates page on Facebook, too. *Edit 2021: If any facts have changed the past decade please let me know. This page is not my full-time job.
Continue the good work!
Thank you so much!!
Great work. Please keep it up.
I was a low-bottom drunk, sober in AA for 14 years, then was 13th stepped by a self confessed AA “groupie” (her words, not mine).
Only when she eventually ended up with one of my sponsees did I realise that the fellowship was a place of potential abuse every bit as much as it was for potential healing.
I took some CBT as an alternate therapy and learned more about my “disease” in 20 minutes than I had 2,000 hours of AA meetings..!
What’s more the session was facilitated by two mental health professionals who wouldn’t entertain the idea of giving me their personal contact details, because that’s how they roll.
It’s one element of safeguarding. Yet, AA won’t even acknowledge this issue.
I’ve done a great deal of additional reading into the subject, which I’ve compiled into a blog here:
“Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at jonsleeper.wordpress.com
My next question is as follows. Do you think there’s a place for an umbrella organisation for people in the sober-sphere who are critical of AA and 12 step fellowships, and campaigning for more up to date science based recovery?
There are more and more of us, and if we had a common voice it would be more focussed and offer an alternative means of communication with the media – which currently seems to accept and even embrace AA entirely uncritically.
Best love. JS
Thank you and I just started following your blog, also.
I can relate to learning more through CBT quicker than all the time I spent in AA meetings.
I wish there was one umbrella group and I’ve tried to start an online way to connect others but it seems we’re kinda all over the map with the ex-AAs online. However, some blogs on my blogroll are obviously
ex-AA sites or how to leave AA blogs. If you’re on facebook there’s a lot of connections on there, also.
I’d check out Orange Papers, Leaving AA, and there’s more. There’s also http://www.thefreedomtorecover.com and there’s a great blog on there also. I’ll check in this week to make sure my blogroll is how I want it and easier to navigate, etc.
Thanks again for your comment
Unusual. .. but I am a 62 y.o female addict that, I believe, was 13th stepped recently, resulting in extreme depression & a breakdown.
I don’t know why I missed this comment, and apologize for taking so long to comment back… I don’t think it would be that unusual really. Did the depression & breakdown result in your distancing yourself from involvement in 12 Step meetings?
Enjoy your writing. For your interest,
Thank you and I will check out your link.
Roxspin/Abrams; AAAgnostica may be of interest to you today. Adam
I have started a blog/Website called “TheRapeVine”.
It is basically a posting of story’s of many peoples experiences with 12 step programs. I am wondering if there is any way you would allow me to post your “An Interview with Myself series” on my site. I am really looking for things just like this, it is set up to read like a book, well each topic reads like a book, as there are so many reasons why 12 step is harmful to different types of people.
Let me know if you would be open to it, and also I would like to put a link to your blog on my site.
The site is here: http://therapevine.blogspot.com/
my email is here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone reading this too Please submit a story if you can. I would really appreciate it, and I know it is already helping a lot of people, submitters and readers a like! Story’s can be on any aspect of your experience durning or after 12 step.
Hi Oddness. You may link or copy my pieces to your site as long as it’s linked to my blog, I don’t mind. Best wishes on your parody site the RapeVine and may I also link your site on my sites/groups to help get the word out? Let me know. Thanks.
Great, yes let us link each other, My site will get prettier as time goes on, it is a work in progress!
I will let you know when I put togather what I want, I will put it on a page nobody else can see and send a link to you if that is cool, I think you will get it better to just see what I am talking about in a finished form. And yes I will add links to where the text was taken from.
I see this blog has been removed. Anyone have any idea what’s up with that?
It’s still here Huey.
Sounds good to me. Send me a link. I saw your page and it seems to be coming along. I look forward to seeing your page evolve.
I am all points bulleting this: I am just copying and pasting it to all relevant sites, I wrote the original:
hopefully this link works as intended… A reporter who works for VICE news and other outlets is looking for people to share their experiences with the 13th step….. I contacted VICE they verified the email, but I am not sure this story is for VICE. I am linking the post here:
Read her words there, as her desire for the story gets even better.
Thank you… I reposted this on social media sites earlier. This is great more are interested in getting this story out there.
I am a high-functioning alcoholic who doesn’t resort to black-out, binge drinking. My addiction is more the “self-medicating” variety, not that that excuses it. I began going to AA when I finally woke up to the damage I was doing to my body and mind.
Initially, I was “welcomed” in the meetings as a newcomer and even went so far as to accept a sponsor. It didn’t take long for me to realize the “group conscience” was cattle-prodding me into a “their way or the highway” approach to recovery: If I didn’t follow the 12 Step Holy Grail I wasn’t really recovering. When I began to question some of the principles the steps were based on–in order to possibly find my own, science-based and progressive way to recovery–I was met with outright hostility. And, yes, to call it “bullying” is appropriate because that’s what it is. The “AA Religion”, a cult that preaches compassion, unconditional love and tolerance, literally cannot practice what it preaches. Any individual or group who challenges any of the “core principles”–cynically and purposely cherry picked from the various books Bill is associated with in order to justify bullying–is demonized, silenced, and in some cases, purged from the meetings.
The shame of all this is that an organization like AA is needed. Many alcoholics shy away from professional organizations because their behavior may be monitored and reported to agencies who seek to punish them for being alcoholic. Ironically, those who don’t assimilate ARE punished, even though it’s somewhat anonymously.
I have scoured the internet in a attempt to align myself with a group that practices a more secular-based approach to recovery. But I haven’t found one that isn’t professional and/or fee-based. Any advice you can offer in this quest for a more rational recovery would be very welcome.
Beaten with the Bible Belt,
Thank you for your comment, and truly love how you worded this: “The “AA Religion”, a cult that preaches compassion, unconditional love and tolerance, literally cannot practice what it preaches.”
I couldn’t agree more. It is one of the saddest things I had to accept in my life because AA sold me on a lot of good ideas— principles or practices I feel are greatly needed (like being honest) and those reminders helped me heal from great abuses/injustices done to me. I knew I could be a good person and have better behavior than some of the people or places that hurt me in the past, for example. More sadly, AA just got added to this list of a place that told me good things but couldn’t deliver on their word.
I suggest that you look up motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy. SMART Recovery is not fee based— although it may cost to become a facilitator to lead a meeting they do also give out scholarships to train for free. This is their website http://www.smartrecovery.org/
Their program is evidence based and also its recommended by ASAM and widely accepted. SOS is another secular program in more of the self-help vein and some find it preferable to the religious “bullying” of AA—- both SOS and SMART focus on abstaining.
I know Women for Sobriety also has info about Men for Sobriety but this program was the first offshoot from AA— it is not religious but it was created by a woman who found AA not helpful for women— and by extension just plain not helpful for all people. Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick founded WFS in 1976. http://www.womenforsobriety.org/beta2/
I listed this basically in the order of most professional and evidence based so I hope that helps. There are many seeking alternatives and I am urging all who write to me to contact their local alcohol and drug boards where they live (district/ county/ what have you) because they control funding for treatment centers. The funds primarily are funding 12 Step programs and it will take more public interest to get the supply/demand to change for alternatives. If the community presses the issue, you may find more SMART/SOS/WFS meetings popping up in the near future.
Hope this helps. Thanks again for your comment and …. on an additional note, sadly many alcoholics/alcohol abusers are forced to attend AA. This coercion into a religious program happens through rehabs and courts. (DUI convictions, for example.) So they are monitored and if they don’t get a sponsor or work the steps they can be punished by not finishing rehab (which could mean losing their jobs) or going to jail. This goes against medical ethics and the US Constitution respectively.
And, as I’m sure you know, Julie, NOT making AA a political tool, or a means of punishment or civic responsibility, is at the TOP of the “guidelines” read at every meeting. That’s why I say they can’t/won’t practice what they preach. In meeting after meeting I hear read, with great authority, the “rules” of anonymity and separation from other professional agencies. Then 45 minutes later I see people sheepishly hand one of the self-described “elders” a piece of paper to sign proving to a judge or other civil servant that they’ve been to the meeting. The gloat that comes over the elder’s face is downright sickening; as if they are granting grace from above.
My opinion: If you are counting on AA to help you with your addictions, you’d better prepare yourself for a large dose of religious fervor/indoctrination, and if you falter, bullying, in any attempt to help get you sober. And, by the way, as many have been told, it’s not YOU that gets you sober… It’s AA and its miraculous 12 Steps! (Would you like to purchase a Unicorn with your acquisition of the Brooklyn Bridge today?)
And… Again, my opinion, that’s why AA is, like many church’s that cling to 18th and 19th century superstitious dogma, becoming less and less relevant in today’s Western culture. Not to belabor the point, but the day it was reported that the literal voice of God–the Pope–had been instrumental in covering up and therefore propagating the heinous acts of pedophile priests, a huge gust of wind fell out of the sails of the Christian faith, and it’s forward momentum. Like the well-paid factory job, it ain’t returning anytime soon.
Sorry for the rant. And thankful for your response and advice.
–Man from the Midwest
However, Ken, I don’t believe much of what AA prints— although I do believe AA wants its members to believe they are not a political tool or a group to be forced into joining it simply isn’t true. AA’s other literature (guidelines they call them) instruct members how to go into courts/prisons etc. There are other publications by AA that are quite detailed on how this works. Also, there is one guideline explaining that since courts are not AA they don’t have to follow the AA traditions— it’s loophole after loophole— all to AA’s benefit in gaining more members or potential members.
It is honestly a religious indoctrination course (but hey, some people want to be brainwashed!) … Whichever way one “paints” AA it is only indoctrination. AA gets the credit if you succeed but it’s your fault if you fail at AA.Steps!
If one buys into AA they are believing in AA, it is a superstition. And if you leave AA, you’ll fail according to its dogma. At least the Pope has publicly apologized for the church’s crimes— and for crimes made by priests he took responsibility but AA is not making any statements about crimes in AA— or how its program is failing its members or how others leave. Catholics must have better PR people.
Thank you for your comment— it wasn’t too terrible a rant at all! You made a lot of great points.
Hi Ken- Nice post. I understand and I think Juliet gave some really good advice. There are other options as she posted. AA is way too popular. But just because there is a meeting near by doesn’t mean its any good. Good luck. There are many ex steppers blogging on my site Leaving AA. You are not alone in how you feel.
Thanks Juliet for creating another important blog! .
Hi Massive (and Juliet),
“Amends” to Juliet for not properly spelling her name. 🙂
And I want to preface my remarks with an admission that they come from AA experiences in the very heart of the Bible Belt. There is no doubt that there are pockets of AA around the country that are progressive and much less staid than what I describe here. I admire people who are fortunate enough to attend AA meetings where open-mindedness is welcome and encouraged. That being said…
Your use of the word “popular” to describe AA is an interesting choice for two reasons. First, in the literal interpretation of “popular” the organization is by all means, “…suited to the taste, understanding, or means of the general public rather than specialists or intellectuals.” That is a very good description of AA as an organization. It tends to be, and here I purposefully omit the women, a group for the Everyman; it is steeped in 1940s stereotypical, paternal language and action. I believe the fact that women form their own “ladies only” AA meetings is a damning testimony to the backwardness of AA. I am sorry to say that “13th Stepping”–using AA as a hunting ground for vulnerable women–is still accepted and sometimes even celebrated by male members of the group. Unfortunately, to many, an addiction to alcohol is replaced by an addiction to AA meetings and the AA lifestyle . Many, having been “saved” by the 12 Steps, make AA the social center of their lives, often to the point of abandoning friends and family. They often go to two or three meetings a day, know all the people who come to the meetings, get involved in the politics at both the meeting and administration level, do and arrange “service opportunities” for themselves and other members, and, in practice, turn their entire lives over to the grace they’ve been granted at the alter of Bill as they may see him. AA becomes more than a cure for alcoholism; it is the reason they get up in the morning.
AA is also “popular” in its knee-jerk reaction and eventual purging of anything that even smells of what could be considered “intellectual” critical thinking. Anyone who dares to question any of the many–and often blatantly contradictory–writings that have been passed down from Bill, or Friends of Bill, is immediately dismissed and shut down. Questioning of the 12 Steps, to the true believers, is just more resistance by the alcoholic to the one and only miraculous cure he or she is being offered. There is only one way to get and remain sober; everything else is called meaningless BS. In AA you sink or swim; there is no middle ground.
Thank you again, Juliet, for offering me a place to air my thoughts and grievances.
AA is popular I believe more so because it’s a monopoly and it’s steps are tied into treatment/education/certification etc. of addiction counseling fields. Is it popular for real? No. In fact, 75% recover without rehab or ever going to a 12 Step meeting. This is a fact. So what we really have here is a power game with AA at the top. Is it because it is the best? No, in fact, AA is the worst treatment at 5% it said to be no more successful than natural remission which per year is also 5%. In another 20 years remission catches up to that 75% figure I stated. So there is much more hope than doom out there. AA helps only a few— it has harmed many. Much of what I write about in my experiences echo others’ experiences— others have also been physically, financially and sexually abused by AA members. There is a lot of contradictory writing in AA and by Bill Wilson— so almost anything from AA works or doesn’t work depending on what you cherry pick. And it’s ok— didn’t really mind how you spelled my name. Works for me 🙂 You’re welcome to post here anytime. Thanks!
I found the teachings of AA were in direct opposition to my beliefs and counter-intuitive to self-efficacy.
Only after reading the books, Recovering Spirituality: Achieving Emotional Sobriety in Your Spiritual Practice Mathieu, Ingrid (201108-24).Hazelden Publishing. Kindle Edition, and Spiritual Bypassing, When Spirituality Disconnects Us From What Really Matters, Robert Augustus Masters, North Atlantic Books, did I realize how much spiritual bypass is practiced in the rooms.
Thinking that one might pray away feelings and emotions, do continual service work to shore up a shaky sense of self-worth, sponsor another to reaffirm their own commitment to the program, or quiet or quell a different opinion, was not a program I wanted to be a part of.
The teachings of AA are in opposition of empowerment and self-help. There is some good spirituality out there. There is also some good from Hazelden but make no bones about it that Hazelden is a front group for AA and no one going to Hazelden treatment will get alternatives like SOS or SMART for example. I do find it is more helpful to take what you need and leave the rest from self-help books in place of attending meetings— but if you do want a meeting I don’t recommend 12 Step meetings specifically because they are emotionally/mentally harmful and go against supportive and empowering messages…. messages people who want to recover from addiction or substance abuse need the most.
And another great point, a program that doesn’t want to speak of or mention other opinions or options is not a program I want to be a part of either.
If I may, I’d like to extend the thoughts expressed in your post with a bit of my take on AA as an organization. AA DOES work, but only for those willing to take a huge leap of faith into the pre-Modern world. If you are willing to live your life accepting the “fact” that a (clearly defined male) God is responsible for all that is good in your life–sobriety, family, economic success, etc–and that alcohol and everything else that doesn’t play by God’s rules is the work of the Devil, or simple human weakness and frailty, then you can make AA work for you. Thus, any attempt by someone to start down the slippery slope of rationality, science or “modern” common sense, is a literal threat to your world and your sobriety, and must be extinguished.
If I had the power to amend the “Prime Directive” of AA, I would start all writings regarding their organization with the following disclaimer: “AA is a Christian-based organization that requires its participants, above all, to believe in the Christian God and be willing to turn your life over to Him.” THAT would not only be a huge admission on their part, but it would offer the people coming to AA a true glance at the REAL requirements for success in the program.
Unfortunately, as it functions today, there is still the false promise of it working for the “Agnostic”, if he/she can find a “higher power” to give themselves over to. The flaw here is that AA ignores the meaning of the word “agnostic”. Agnostics– “…people who believe that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.”–by their very definition are going to be constantly questioning, critical thinkers, and anathema to the true believers. It just doesn’t work, and it’s time AA owns up to that. Again, unfortunately, AA’s ranks would quickly diminish, and that is not something they–dependent on donations from members and support (cheerleading) from the secular government and private institutions who rely on them as the magic bullet of alcohol treatment–can let happen.
I don’t recommend 12 step meetings either. To those I meet who have some interest as to my not attending, I just ask them to watch the movie, “Airplane” and that just about does it. Now that was a man with a drinking problem and a good representation of some of the people I met in the program flying in a jet plane, that’s really prop driven.
Regarding using the word “popular” to describe AA. You say it’s not “popular…for real”. However, may I very respectfully quote your own words about the organization? “Shockingly, 75% of US Treatment Centers heavily rely on 12 Step education as the bulk of their rehab program.” In my eyes, that makes AA popular. In fact, as I previously stated, it is more and more considered to be the magic bullet of recovery. But not because it really works, but because it’s more of a warehouse to send people to who don’t respond to more rational, reality-based treatments. So… “popular”? Yes. Effective? NO.. WAY NO.
Thanks again for this great forum.
The only thing keeping AA from being Christian is the absence of speaking of Jesus Christ… but the appeals courts are ruling AA highly religious and the more this happens by law the more AA will have to admit it’s at least religious in some context. And yes, I believe AA is religious. And you’re right that many members feel if you take away any element or change it then it affects their sobriety or ruins AA… something like that.
The chapter in the Big Book “To The Agnostic” is blatantly against non-believers. Any notion that a doorknob can be prayed to or take away one’s defects is nonsense. Any substitute HP is basically a gateway to belief in God and this is also stated in much of the literature i.e. those who come to scoff will stay to pray (paraphasing)…. And HIM is the pronoun and that too cannot be changed and many excuses are made for that pronoun but none that I can find unless it’s a religious belief… To me, spiritual terms need not have gender terms. Or at least those genders can be either one without argument. But in AA, at a meeting, say God is “he/she/it” and prepare to hear a lot of chuckling.
There are a lot of atheists/agnostics/freethinkers in AA and I completely understand their “take” on the AA message, however, I do not understand why they think they can carry the AA message to others when in actuality they are in a religious organization just not practicing all of it. It would make far more sense if AA was at its baseline secular and those who found a way to include God or Buddha mentioned it in passing as an alternative way to work the steps. However, this is not how AA is set up— the nonbelievers must tolerate the believers not the other way around. In fact, the BB chapter to Agnostics GIVES PERMISSION by members to harass others for not believing— there is no permission in AA to mock the believers. How fair is that? Lol… OF course I am against mocking anyone for their spiritual beliefs.
The organizations are overrun by steppers (I don’t use that term to criticize just to illustrate) and the rules and bureaucracy in place favors 12 Step treatment. The treatment for addiction/alcoholism must be examined without bias and then explained, properly, that the 12 Steps are not effective— at best they will help 5% of patients seeking help. Only when this truth is in place, and accepted, will real success happen for far more people. I would also love to see proof that taking the 12 Steps can also harm a person therefore, if they get worse after treatment this problem can be addressed too. Popular? Magic Bullet? Hardly. In the Rehab Paradigm recovery is not expected… clients are expected to fail… relapse is part of the process. At most we can only expect 1 in 6 to make it after rehab. Death is inevitable. Etc. These beliefs are based on AA’s “success” rate… which we know to be about 5%… some say 10%. So let’s give AA a 7.5%.
Those frustrated loved ones who just “don’t get treatment” and go back out and get worse— they are getting worse AFTER treatment. There is something wrong with that, isn’t there? Instead, they blame the patient when treatment fails.
Well said and agreed on all points. Rather than continue to beat a diseased horse, I’ll just say that if there is anything good about AA, it’s that walking into a meeting may, for some people, finally be an admission of their addiction. But as you have illustrated, the AA experience may convince them there IS no real help–just more reasons to view the world as the cold, cynical place it can be to people who are drowning their suffering in alcohol.
How secular professionals can justify shuffling their patients off to AA is beyond me. It’s nothing short of laziness and possibly even criminal in cases where the patient is weak and vulnerable.
For you folks looking for support without all the baggage, look into LifeRing Secular Recovery. We are growing quickly and have a large online presence. It has really saved my sanity.
In my opinion Dale LifeRing is sometime as rigid as AA is and may be considered AA-Lite to many who need to deprogram. I know of 2 women who switched from AA to LifeRing but I think LifeRing is very pro-AA on too many levels.
However, getting these names out there- LifeRing, SMART, SOS is a huge part of the mission… we need to continue raising awareness other groups exist. They are needed. And it’s equally important to remind others that meetings should not be life-long and the majority of addicts recover without any meetings/programs.
Glad to hear your sanity has been saved and I hope you understand my negative view of LifeRing is not nearly as severe as my negative view of AA— I hope LifeRing embraces more science and less rigid program-tools as LifeRing grows. And of course let’s keep all recovery meeting attendees safe and happy in recovery!
Wow, Juliet. LifeRing rigid? Not sure where you got that idea. I’ve been involved with them for years and there is no prescribed program and no dogma at all. Our method is simply to support folks in finding their own path to sobriety. Don’t take my word for it , though. Look into us for yourself. If there are no meetings in your area, there are tons of online meetings and resources available.
Great new blog, Juliet. More truth.
Thank you NIKA.
Please email me, Juliet. I can’t see contact details
I have sent you an email NIKA.
It’s been a few months since I’ve commented so wanted to add an update. I continue to go to AA meetings, not because I believe or do any of the antiquated practices preached there. I go more as an objective observer, learning how the process works. What I’ve found is this: People are coming to AA at the instruction of incompetent and lazy bureaucrats who use AA as a warehouse for repeat AA alcohol offenders. The legal system doesn’t know what to do with addicts other than fine, jail, and/or send them into a “treatment/rehab program” that ultimately ends with a prescription for continued reliance on AA and 12 Step programs based on AA. Therapists cop out in the same manner. The can’t convince the patient to stop drinking, so rather than admit defeat, a lack of training, they spout delusional thinking of their own that blames “evil” for the ravages of drug/alcohol dependence. Off to AA you go.
I’ve witnessed over the past year several people come and go to the meetings and program in general. The progression is usually this: The newcomer is celebrated and congratulated for “starting a new way of life”. If they continue to return the pressure is slowly but surely ratcheted up to take on a sponsor who will, in their ultimate wisdom, guide them one by one through the 12 steps. The problem here is that most sponsors fall into two categories: one is someone who has stopped drinking but remains a dry drunk, i.e. behaves the same sober as they were drunk–mean, delusional, disrespectful and sometimes downright damaging to the frail psyche of the addict who is vulnerable, weak and lost, just needing help getting through the day–not a boot camp of dos and don’ts monitored with daily calls to their sponsor. The next type of sponsor tends to be someone who, like the inductee, just needs a friend who will listen to their opinions, whining and general “other blaming” for the disease of alcoholism. Misery loves company.
The long and short of the words above is that success with AA, for the vast majority of attendees, becomes another unrealistic, unreachable goal that cannot be achieved without casting out the demons of rational science and the realities of daily life in favor of allowing God to “run your life”. I’ve tried to get a devotee to explain exactly how that takes place, but have yet to hear anything but Bible-based, cherry-picked, Christian gobbledegook. The mantra is, “Just give your life over to God and the Miracle with happen.”
Another note, Julie, and you can respond as you see fit. What I see more and more is a cynical form of co-dependency/usury taking place at AA. Many of the “saved” are people with money who end up with felonies on their record and can no longer practice medicine, the law or in other money-based corporate arenas. The answer for them is to start their own businesses–as landlords, construction companies, demolition and/or cleaning services, etc, etc. And, lo and behold, they just happen to go to daily meetings filled with poor people needing work!! It’s a miracle! They recruit the jobless alcoholics into minimum wage labor jobs out of the kindness of their hearts, with the added bonus of having a built in sponsor/AA cheerleader. The psychological effect on the people who fall into this trap is beyond my expertise, so I can’t predict the outcome. Suffice it to say that one thing the recovering addict doesn’t do is question the words of his/her boss at a meeting–they are silent. Not only would they lose their job, but they would suffer more bullying and humiliation at the meetings and eventually, as I’ve witnessed, return to their old ways, stop the AA program, AND, be vilified and talked about at meetings when they are not there to defend themselves.
I am curious Juliet have you had any people write in about their negative experiences with Palmer Drug Abuse Program? It is geared more toward teenagers and young adults indoctrinating them at a vulnerable age and labeling or rather mis-labeling them before they even have a chance to really figure out who they are.
No, I am unfamiliar with this but I can look around. In regular rehabs, teens are indoctrinated into AA every day. They are hardly full blown addicts/alcoholics.
I’m grateful I left AA and it’s wacko-sicko brand of religious distortion. IMHO I love the God of the scriptures who wants to love me and holds me to be a sinner but worthy of being his child and does not keep me in a merry-go-round of self-deprication and loathing having to put up with slavery to Bill Wilson’s mentally ill hatred of a person’s ability to use God given intelligence and the gift of critical thinking & analysis. AA rooms are full of predators who hide in the rooms to victimize people knowing full well they are protected. One fellow I know is used & abused by members all the time and has been brainwashed to believe he has to put up with it as a requirement of sobriety. He goes into an anxiety attack just seeing a bottle of alcohol. He is so “powerless” over everything I think AA has driven him quite mad, just like good ol Bill. My message to the AA cult is “good riddance to bad rubbish”.
Thanks Dennis. I agree AA can drive a person mad, and in combination with being constantly verbally abused etc. matters only become worse. To discourage thinking for one’s self and then simultaneously blaming them if they “slip” is nothing more than a recipe for insanity— It can’t be both ways. AA offers a perfect breeding ground for abuse and predators because they can hide there anonymously, court ordered or not. Sick people are attracted to AA’s lack of rules, condition of anonymity, and for the vulnerable people there who believe they’re “powerless.” That’s just a buffet table for an abuser. Everyone’s a sitting duck, except for the abusive people, of course. It’s the good people who really buy into AA, work the steps, and obey the ridiculous orders even if it hurts them. They can’t figure out why it’s not working even though the “abusers” are all telling them how happy, joyous and free they are today. It’s disgusting.
Yes I am here DrShok
If I have a Higher Power today…it is the internet!
Thank you all for providing the community I crave, and am told I need, to stay sober. (Staying Outside Bullshit, Entirely in Reality)
I steel myself by educating myself online about the true nature of AA before going to the court-ordered meetings later in the day.
It’s so HELPFUL to see articulated the wording I need to resist the sponsor traps, the public basket-filling and so on.
The only time I have ever seen everyone in the room perk up to notice when I was called on to share, was when I told an alcoholic sex joke… Gave me the creeps and I really regret being lulled into that kind of self-depreciation.
Thanks for your comment and glad you have left behind your self-depreciation. The 6th step doesn’t help much does it? AA has more character defects than I will ever have.
The fact that you have been court ordered to attend meetings of an organization that claims to reject political ties on the one hand, while literally pushing a religious agenda in their meetings on the other, highlights both the hypocrisy of AA and the courts. The plain truth is that government agencies–and psychology oriented services–just pass people off to AA out of pure laziness, based on grossly inflated claims of success with addiction on the part of AA. AA does more harm than good in the vast majority of cases, adding self-blame and guilt to the already heavy burden of alcohol addiction. Get yourself to a state with Medical Marijuana and slowly work yourself off the liquid death.
It is pure laziness. And the failures are chalked up to people being “stubborn” or not accepting the help offered. As though it’s all their fault if AA doesn’t work. This is the big fat lie that’s perpetuated, that addicts are difficult to treat when in fact they can be simple to treat if offered help that they actually were motivated to use.
For what it’s worth Jahner… my state does have Medical MJ and the court has ordered me to not use any of it. Howdaya like that? A judge over-riding a doctor! The day I agreed to quit drinking* (to prevent drinking and driving), I did: no ” slips”. But to get involved in my private medical relationships and self-care is outrageous.
There are times, despite all the CBT, ‘mindfulness’, exercise and self talk, that I could benefit from some medication to calm my fried nerves. I just have to make sure it is some over-priced brand name Rx from the for-profit medical cartels. My neck seized up the other day from the stress of an abusive landlord. It took two days of overwhelming pain, hundreds of $ to access a doctor I’ve never met, and $30 for a bottle of generic pills to get relief. A visit to the neighborhood pot shop would have fixed it for $20. BUT I choose to keep my driver’s license, sooo…. I am SOOL for another 4 years.
Our courts do have the authority to mete out justice. It’s all the other agencies: licensing, insurance, etc. that pile on an gloatingly pile on more and more “fees” just because they can; that reveal how venal and punitive the average grunt is in any bureaucracy. A person with a substance abuse problem is a convenient target for society’s urge for vengence.
* If seeing yourself piss-drunk on a dashcam video isn’t enough to convince you that alcohol is going to kill you, then more intense help is definitely called for. A dashcam of me after some medical MJ?: just boring.
For what it’s worth I believe the judge is acting illegally in your case by overriding your MD. Can you afford a good lawyer?
AA 12 step rooms are not safe! Let me put it in the words of a woman who at the time had 7 years of sobriety. She spoke this at a Friday night women’s meeting. “Sexual predators are always lurking in the 12 step rooms, and no one is safe. Not if your straight or gay young or old, no one is safe”. What caused me to leave was someone at the meeting stalking me. It got so bad that after the last meeting I ever attended the person in question ran after me, then started hugging & kissing me. The problem? I didn’t really know her, but knew of her crush on me, thus I avoided her. There needs to be better safety measures in addition to a mental health substance abuse counselor on hand at every meeting.
AA needs to re-assess their program, start training its meeting’s leaders, and make sure all meetings are safe. If they were smart, they’d change the literature to reflect CURRENT times and ideas so the literature wouldn’t be used to HARM others. The steps need to be re-written so they’re not religious and they should strip away the religious overtones and make it truly open and secular (spirituality doesn’t necessarily involve direct prayer with God or reciting the Our Father). AA won’t do any of those things so the problems will continue until something real awful happens (not like that hasn’t already happened, consider Karla Brada’s story for one) and the lid is blown off on what AA really is!
For the record, this court orders “sober support” meetings and can get around the obvious religious mandate that way. I am lucky there are a few in my large city. But they are few and far between, so I go to the convenient nearby AA ones. I try to get something out of all the time spent. There is usually some thing worth hearing. I tune out when the True Believers read their literature, but there are some people who are also agnostic, they are just a little more bold than me.
Many years ago I was engaged to a guy in recovery and found it embarrassingly hard to quit drinking. So off I went to AA. A young woman there insisted upon being my sponsor and immediately tried to get in my pants, knowing I was straight and engaged. So selfish and disrespectful. I was disgusted!
Fast forward to this year. I put a note in the basket “looking for agnostic sponsor” with my email. Watched the secretary throw it out. Maybe I dodged a bullet. I am so leery about a sponsor now. I heard some really negative sponsor stories in my first 3 months of group. Not interested in homework and a bossy pants in my life.
I would like to make local sober friends. I try to talk with people at the meetings but they look through me. I’m broke and old: unfuckable. I don’t especially share much, because I don’t feel I have so much to offer. I don’t drink now. My ‘program’ is not buying into being programmed. I know what will happen if I do. It’s not rocket science this time around. They have UAs
I broke my leg 3 weeks ago and don’t have the help I need. It’s tough. I am isolated and feeling quite frightened at times (no income until back to work-can’t spend the rent $ on caregivers). I have one good friend still living who works full time. She just can’t do anymore than she is. I ask myself, if I had been more willing to lie and fake being with the AA religious program, would I have that famous AA support and cameraderie now? Should I do that in the future-for the benefits? Who knows? I know it is a religious clique. I learned not to sign in because you get called on. Everybody says “you can’t do it alone”. Well, here I am! Sober for months now. I asked my ‘therapist’ in the treatment program I am in (CBT) for suggestions about dealing with physical pain while I am bedbound and he just ignored my email. Must be in it for the $ and they don’t get paid for answering their emails from a desperate patient who can’t come in?
We are born alone, we die alone. I drank alone, now I don’t. Face to face meetings seem so much like chasing my own tail for so so little. It seems like mutual public shaming and detours from better uses of time to me, so far.
“It seems like mutual public shaming and detours from better uses of time to me, so far.” Without my going into a lot of editorializing, I’ll say that you pretty much hit the nail on the head. I spent many a meeting knowing that it was the meetings, and the mean-spirited, self-absorbed people that “run” and attend them, that made me want to go back to drinking. I wouldn’t regret not going. Use your time looking for others in your community who offer positive uses of your time. Volunteer somewhere. Join a book club. When your leg heals, go to the mall and join the mall walkers. Find positive uses of your time, even if it’s 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. Use Google; there are people and organizations out there who are willing to help you. Reach out. You’re not alone, trust me.
Ah, but I must get that slip signed twice a week. I have a break from it while I’m laid up at least.
I surely appreciate the others here online. It’s so isolating to be in here a month. Even the book-bangers will look good.
But over soon enough!
Just another indictment of this sick system. It’s not about recovery; it’s about people who don’t have a clue pretending to know what’s best for you. I’m sorry.
Thank you for these posts. I’m very frustrated by AA and therapists/psychologists. I won’t say a lot a now but if your “Sponsor” tells you to get off your meds, run the opposite direction as fast as you can. Sometimes I still go to meetings and I think the BigBook is inspired, in parts, but don’t fall into the trap.
I do believe in God and we aren’t powerless if we “say yes” to our Creator. I just came in from my balcony where I saw 2 meteors after asking God to please show himself – not that the wonderful nite sky is enough. I’m greedy.
I am in the middle of alcoholism right now but definitely want to get out….I can be of no use laying on my pretty teal couch!
Love to all of you – don’t give up. Get back up. I hope I’m there to grab your hand.~ Melissa
You’re a great writer. I’m glad I found you !!
I deeply identified with Leah Remini’s A&E special exposing the psychological cult abuse in Scientology. AA total denies it all just like Scientology totally denies it all – while blaming and smearing the reputations of anyone who criticizes the blatant institutionalized abuse and neglect.
As I watched, I kept thinking there also has to be some psychologically sharp celebrity who can stand up and make the case against AA’s evil sneaky malpractice in abusing 900,000 vulnerable people every year. However, since “”AA rehabs”” make 30 billion every year they are probably even more protected by their big money elitists who own all media Vs. little Scientology which has only accumulated 1 billion in 50 years.
Let there be no doubt. BIG BIG Blood Money is at the root of AA evile.
If treatment centers were regulated the very idea of recommending an unregulated support group as a mandatory part of treatment would collapse. States issue guidelines but treatment centers cherry-pick what they define as “evidence based.” Their programs need to be investigated and scrutinized by every state. I can’t find one fair reason why anyone should be removed from society, home, family, friends, their jobs, to be in “a bed” for 90 days or even more because nothing medically warrants “going away to residential treatment.” Also, restricting contact with the outside world and throwing a bunch of people together who only have drug use in common sounds like a horrible idea. The reason this model persists, of course, is money and the high failure rate of the programs. Ending addiction is not impossible. Treatment makes the claim “addicts are notoriously difficult to treat” because they treat them like prisoners. Thanks for your comment, I have yet to watch the Scientology show although I mean to get around to it.
thank- you for this. i am fed up with 12 step groups I have been bullied in 12 step groups. There is a member who has taken so much control over an online 1 step fellowship, that no one wants to serve the group. She is a bully!
She get great pleasure out of tearing me apart and getting others to do so.
12 step groups tear up people who are shy or struggle with interaction. Its there way or the highway. I do try to give others support.
I will tell this bully off in a private message.
Each need to find what workd for them! 12 step groups were terrible for me I was mandated for a while
I am against mandating anyone to 12 Step groups. Each person, whether court ordered or in a treatment center, needs to be treated as individuals. Resources and money stay in the hands of AA and even though it’s not much for AA (it goes in circles from meetings to districts to NYC) it mainly goes to treatment centers and professionals who only recommend AA/NA. The alternative groups need more attention, but also the professionals need to offer more than one treatment option. You’re not alone and your opinion is not rare, odd, or strange. Thanks for visiting my blog. 🙂
Hello Fellow Travelers. Like many people who find themselves addressing alcohol abuse, I have underlying issues that remain after achieving sobriety. I am careful to be positive in self-talk, yet it feels so foreign. The trauma therapy I was promised in ‘treatment’ has been non-existent or abusive. So I muddle along searching. I found this account by a renowned nature writer that is an utterly riveting story of an AA pedophile and his own healing as an adult. His mental break-throughs , decades after the events are worth sharing.
12 women raped North of SEATTLE by a 32 y.o. “very spiritual guy”, Vincent McPherson, preying at ALANO CLUB
“There’s a lot of these types of 12-Step Recovery Programs where people come in at their most vulnerable and people seek to prey on that,” said Seely.
Seely is the guy’s sponsor who let him live at his home where many rapes occurred.
Charges have only been filed for four rapes: one second degree and three third degree.
HOW DID THIS GO ON SO DAMN LONG???
I commented on the other post, too, thank you so much for bringing this story to my attention. I find it disturbing the sponsor still thinks McPherson is a nice person who just made mistakes. That is horrible. This is preventable. First of all, the treatment model invites criminal minded people. There is no regulation. Treatment centers are complicit (as are DUI judges, etc) for sending vulnerable people to dangerous meetings. America’s addiction services are failing everyone.
I don’t have an answer to addiction treatment services. I know that the cognitive behavioral therapy I qualified to get, thanks to The Affordable Care Act, has been helpful once I found an agency (private, for profit) that is professional and actually has treatment plans. The first one was so incredibly unprofessional: my ‘counselor’ couldn’t get her paperwork done in time for my court appearances, (costing me hundreds of $), told me who was gay, and who couldn’t read. They forced me into a trauma group with a completely inexperienced “abuse counselor” who tried to make us relive our abuse-at two weeks sober! At $80 a night, we watched movies… We drew pictures.
What the decent treatment group covers is identifying our unique values, mindfulness (I’m too ADD to do much), nutrition for impulse control, and a lot of discussion led by a professional who brings all topics back to teaching better self-understanding, self respect, and self determination.
I don’t think an individual who does NOT want to get sober will ever get sober without restriction. It’s not fair to blame the treatment effort, if they just don’t want it. If the underlying trauma is never addressed and we take away the only escape from that, are we cruel? I think so.
Personally I am 7 weeks away from ending all of that: AA, treatment, UAs, Parole Officer, etc. I think my sobriety is going to blossom! Because I will not be reacting to BS, but seeking the soul-feeding sources of serenity and knowledge for myself.
My best moments have been online and I deeply thank ALL those who originate and participate. For me it’s as simple as not taking the first drink, because I cannot stop. It’s a chemical reaction in my brain.