When AA Hurts …

If you asked me a year ago if I would share my story, I would likely shrug my shoulders and mumble something like, “who cares?”  AA is a behemoth and my criticisms were not welcomed by former “friends” of mine from the program.  They would rather leave their beloved AA the same than make any improvements that would help more people such as myself.

This blog reveals how AA’s program echoes the pattern of abuse, and instead of helping me heal from abuse, going to meetings only continued the cycle.  Frozen in a vulnerable state, I did not recognize the problem I had with AA for years.   It seemed if I kept myself down then I would always return to AA as a power over me.  “Abusers like easy targets, such as people who are starved for love or attention or who fear being abandoned.  I also used alcohol to tamp down my feelings of shame and disgust from being emotionally, physically, and sexually abused.”

I am truly honored and grateful to Dr. Stanton Peele, author of  Recover!: Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program (with co-author Ilse Thompson) for all of the help, support and encouragement.  I’ve waited a long time to share my story and this marks the beginning of my of shutting the door on the past, and making progress into the future.

Please visit the guest column link here: When AA Hurts.


For more about Dr. Stanton Peele’s work visit: www.peele.net


Visit the home of A.A.R.M.E.D. with Facts on Facebook



18 thoughts on “When AA Hurts: Guest Column at Psychology Today

  1. OMG! This is truly remarkable! You go girl! Your story made it in Psychology Today through Stanton Peele? Incredible! Hats off to you!

    It was so sad to hear the story about your Mom and what you endured. It really makes the connection how people who have been abused before they land in AA or NA can be ripe pickings and fall victim to more abuse.

    1. Awww thank you so much for your comment! I had to write something for myself to get through the grief– as my mom did suddenly die in August ’13. There were so many great qualities in her, too, which makes the relationship we had more difficult.

      Deep rooted problems with relationships, especially with mothers & daughters, etc, are virtually ignored in 12 Step treatment. The emotional abuse does make one vulnerable to AA’s strong emotional language. Plus, AA is supposed to be the top group in the world for drinking problems. You’re supposed to trust these experts recommending AA.

      I am so happy to read your comment here. I’m glad to have my story out there and outside of my head now. I hope others who might see themselves in this story might gain the courage to walk away from a destructive abuse cycle. It is truly an honor for me to have someone like Dr. Peele see my story and find that it needed to be told. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity. 🙂

    1. It can either draw in a narcissistic person or create one, in my point of view. I do feel empathy for those who are trying to make AA into something better, for they mean well, but the organization does not want to change their “status quo.”

  2. (I’m now leaving the fellowship after eight years, with six years of sobriety. It is terrifying, as I’ve been trained to believe I will relapse if I leave. some folks can moderate, but I have a bipolar diagnosis that makes drinking a seriously awful idea…sends me insane, screws with medication…but I am so much happier since leaving.)

    1. Hi Tracy, first off, you are correct; leaving AA involves a degree of deprogramming. They DO train people if they leave AA they relapse. Please understand that is just one fraction of thousands of AA “b.s.” that screws with peoples’ heads. I am glad you are happier, because that is one of the reasons why leaving AA is healthy for the majority of those who try it out. As for your diagnosis, take care of yourself. You come first. That is not selfish, it is called “survival.”

  3. I believe that once an addict/alcoholic is medically/professionally detoxed, that they/we have a choice to choose sobriety. The only way that I am “powerless over alcohol,” is if I choose to ingest it into my system. If I do, then the physiological aspect takes over and I am powerless. So, I/we don’t drink, not matter what. That is empowerment not powerlessness.

    1. I think “belief” you are powerless is dangerous, and a thought one should never have if they slip up and take a drink or a drug if their goal is to abstain. It’s far better to maintain a sense of empowerment if one slips so they can get back up again and pick up where they left off abstaining. The belief one is powerless once they ingest a chemical substance only leads to guilt and shaming. You might “feel” powerless under the influence, but you are definitely not “for real” powerless.

  4. I was raped by a fellow narcissistic AA member and recently got involved with another one who refused to take medication due to his sponsors advice. I am so fed up with people in AA sometimes. I have 20 years sober and I ready to move on. I am really happy with my life but I don’t see others getting better. My hope is that people find a better way to stop drinking. I have been bullied in AA and I’m done.

    1. Hi Laura, first of all thank you for sharing your story, that is a horrible experience and it’s part of the damage AA causes in people’s lives. I hope you’ve been able to get real therapy to address the rape and the problems AA has caused you. You can stay sober without AA, in fact, you have been doing that for 20 years already— give yourself the credit! Don’t credit AA for that. You can find other support groups- like SMART Recovery, SOS, Women for Sobriety– or you can go your own way. Get involved in your community or church, join a sports league, book club, or other activity to keep yourself busy. Organize a girls’ night out every few weeks and keep it consistent, go to concerts, painting workshops, watch a movie. Plan more family activities, Sunday dinners, meet up for coffee regularly with family and friends or co-workers. I feel others are not getting better in AA because they’ve isolated themselves to AA-only activities, and they haven’t grown out of it, so nothing changes. They get bored, they start acting out in many disturbing ways whether its gossiping or using AA as a dating-club, even preying on others to force sexual acts on them. Normal people do not quit drinking and stay stuck in AA where they’ll eventually change for the worse, become closed minded, and even hateful towards anyone who found sobriety without AA.

    2. Laura, I had over 20 years of continuous sobriety and then a very, very unfortunate thing happed to me when I was away on business out on the West Coast (I had a real monster of a boss), we lost some business and of “course” I got blamed for it and got emotionally beat up all day (then, at dinner that night he poured a drink in front of me, I told him on a previous business trip, that I didn’t drink). I had no support, the person that I put all call through to, didn’t return my call, there was no Bible in my room; I was set up; finished. I’ve had several people in a.a. blame me for this and say: “You helped me,” to me. I worked a junk job at a gas station after that (because I was 60 years old that is all that I could get,) then I retired 2 years later. I attended 88 trade shows in my 22 years of business and survived 87 of them sober. Towards the end of my career I was covering half of America and part of Canada too. I took heat from everywhere and stayed sober for over 20 years, but be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people and I get “all the blame for it..” Totally unfair, unChrist-like. I’m so, so sorry to hear what happened to you. And “yes” there are alternatives. Wish you the best.

  5. I could really relate to the story in Psychology Today, re: When A.A. Hurts. I went into treatment, the description of it’s being “individualized” was misleading. An abusive encounter with and A.A. member that came in from the outside to “help” or be a facilitator, cause me to relapse. I won’t repeat the exact incidence and words, the same thing happened at an outside meeting recently and I said: “Enough” and have set hard boundaries to protect myself. I go to another type of support group and also a Church based one as well. I appreciated the article. Now I know that I am not alone in my feelings about A.A.

    1. Individualized treatment is misleading. Supposedly “clients” (and treatment centers do not call people patients because they are not ran by doctors) also have a Bill of Rights guaranteeing no discrimination (but prayer during sessions is against those who do not pray the Our Father)… It’s great you set hard boundaries, and found a church and other support group that helps you more. You are totally not alone. And, AA and its members are not always right.

  6. It’s hurt me a lot as well. Sponsors that use make-fun-of-you type of putdowns, other’s that try to play “professional” and mess with my mind (when they were not that). Kicking sand in my face when I was down, instead of offering a helping hand to me. They have hurt me much more, I feel, than they have helped me. My pastor told me not to go anywhere near them, and now, I’m considering cutting most ties. I still have one group that I am very, very fond of. That’s it though.

    1. Would be nice if every AA meeting operated at the same standards, instead of having to find that just “one group” that’s liked. I guess it’s like the Bob Evans restaurant concept where no matter what Bob Evans I go into I know exactly what I’m going to get and have a familiarity with it. I think your pastor sees the situation from an outside perspective, and if that one group turns sour that may prove both your pastor’s and my own point on the matter. I do not recommend AA for anyone.

  7. Wow!
    Someone that speaks the truth 🙂 I have been attending ACA (Adult children of Alcoholics or other dysfunctional families) meetings since about 9 months but coming from a final “full” understanding of narcissism. I have had a hard time to handle the narcissim in the program itself as well as with my fellow adult children, worse of course… the longer they have been in and the more dedicated……. ACA was created for those that had suffered as a way to “get all the way”, not “just” stop drinking but it was soon “taken over” by AA……

    I wrote a blog post on ACA shortly after I found my way to their meetings but today I wrote an update and promised to get back with more details. Don’t know when that happens but until then here is the post I uppdated: https://healcptsd.com/2017/09/11/adult-children-of-narcissists/

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