No Excuse for Abuse- even in AA

When AA Hurts” revealed more about my personal life than I have ever shared before, and there a few additional remarks I’d like to add in response to the piece.

People make all kinds of excuses for drinking too much: “Work was hard,” or “My sweater shrunk in the dryer,” or “It’s St. Patrick’s Day,” or “It’s Saturday.”  These are excuses people can easily shut up about.  A person who finally is brave enough to share a traumatic experience, such as abuse or rape, is not making excuses.   They are finally coming to grips with core issues that made them self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

I had a narcissistic parent, which gave me the perspective to recognize narcissistic patterns in AA.  I could not question my mom’s authority, even when I lied to protect her paranoid, irrational behaviors.  At one point, I did not question AA’s authority when members told me there was no other way but AA.

This example of abuse seems overly simplistic because it is.  Still, when these subtle techniques to control someone else are repeated over a long period of time, it becomes abusive.  Telling people their abuse was an “excuse to drink” trivializes their bravery for coming forward and asking for help. Silencing people who have been abused is as bad as the abuse itself.

At age 15, I didn’t want my teachers to find out I was cutting myself because I didn’t want my parents in trouble for not helping me.  A 15 year old kids shouldn’t spend hours at the library studying depression in the attempt to cure themselves. But I was more concerned about protecting and obeying my mom.  I had to keep her happy.  As Karyl McBride, the author of Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, explains in her blog: “This causes the child to repress or deny feelings, and to determine that their feelings are not important. It translates into adult life as the child grows up not trusting themselves or their own feelings and thus creates crippling self-doubt.”

I convinced myself that the incidents I mentioned above were no big deal.  No, I wasn’t beaten or sexually molested as a child, but that doesn’t discount the emotional and mental abuse.  I was prompted on several occasions to conjure up memories of my uncle molesting me, but I didn’t want to lie.  It became difficult to trust my own memories.  That is abuse.

At 18 years old, I started to drink regularly, but I wasn’t consciously thinking about my childhood memories.  That’s proof that abuse is not an excuse for drinking too much.  Well into my adulthood, my emotional attachment to my mom made me behave like a child towards her.  She was a power greater than myself.  It wasn’t until an abusive relationship with a man who threatened, beaten, and raped me, that I found myself court ordered to AA as a consequence of being forced to steal for my abuser.

Initially, I was grateful to be given the chance to rehabilitate myself instead of jail. I didn’t refuse their help.

Actually, I believed I might be the worst alcoholic in the world because I became angry with AA.  I was unable to understand how an “honest” program pretended the wives of Alcoholics wrote “To Wives” in the Big Book” when AA co-founder Bill Wilson actually wrote it.  (As retold in Susan Cheever‘s biography: My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson–His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous) .

The cracks in the perfect facade of AA triggered reactions inside me that reminded me of how my mom made me feel.  AA was not sick.  AA was religious, not spiritual.  It’s ok for AA to contradict itself.  AA is never wrong.  Who are you to question AA?  I could not fix AA; I could not fix my mom.  As much as I would like to lie about how great AA was, I couldn’t.

My experience as a survivor of abuse that helped me realize how AA was not helping me.  Members consider all life events before AA to be excuses for people to drink.  Anything wrong about AA is, of course, just another excuse to drink.

Supposedly it is not insulting, or hurtful, when AA people joke around the “13th Step,” or the a playful term members use to describe sexual harassment.  Not only is it ok for their books to be dishonest, but it’s also ok to not care if others make unwanted sexual advances towards you, or stalk you, or rape you.  The AA organization to lack concern for its members.  I don’t feel bad at all about not wanting to be a member.

One of the biggest excuses I’ve heard about rape happening in AA is that rape happens elsewhere, not just at their meetings.  Now, that really is an excuse.   If I was sexually harassed at work, I could report it to upper management.  The employee could get fired.  I don’t have to inundate the police with reports that I was leered at and propositioned, which probably won’t result in arrest anyway.

All anyone wants is accountability from AA when there is a problem in the rooms and a clear outline on how to handle 13th Stepping.  I seriously doubt the loving God who is AA’s ultimate authority would be pleased with AA’s decisions.

I don’t need a group of people or books that remind daily that I am a bad person who deserved bad things to happen to me.   AA does not want me to concentrate on why I drank, just how much I drank.  AA wants me to believe it’s not my fault for having my disease, but at the same time it is my fault and I must repent.  I don’t have any desire to argue and critique AA’s books at meetings because, quite honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make sense of their books.

As Stanton Peele writes in Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT PROGRAM (with Ilse Thompson): “As sports psychologists teach people, you will head in the direction that you look toward and fulfill the goals you visualize for yourself.”  All I want is a full and happy life, and in order to do that, I need to speak out and be honest even if AA members don’t like it.

____

For more information on the 13th Step documentary:  http://the13thstepfilm.com/

Are you safe in AA? News about rimes in AA- Court ordered sex offenders- available here:  http://nadaytona.org/

Stanton Peele’s website:  http://www.peele.net/

Find AARMED with Facts on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AARMEDwithFacts

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5 thoughts on “No Excuse for Abuse- even in AA

  1. I just cannot tell you how much I appreciate your work. It is so nice to have young energy on board to expose AA and NA for the dangerous organization that it is. It is obvious you are quite talented writer and creative artist. Keep up the good work Julie!

    • Thank you!!

      And thank Leaving AA and NA Daytona and Orange Papers and others for showing me that speaking out against AA & the 12 Step monopoly is the “next right thing.” Side note: I would tell members of AA that “the next right thing” was to fix the books, or make AA less religious…. of course I was wrong, according to them.

      I don’t believe in God, but my idea of God is more inclusive than AA’s God. That’s for damn sure.

  2. this is a good post and certainly shows that young people, especially women should not be sent to the 12 step environment. I was much older when I went, and although I did get a bit caught up in it all for a short while, soon came to the realisation that a lot of what I was taking part in was crazy.

    I feel it is important to share what is good and bad about our experiences in recovery so that other people can find suitable rational help when they need it. I can see Antidenial has comented her and the stories on Na daytona often horrify me, but don’t really suprise me after having been exposed to some really crazy people in certain meetings. I went to other very quiet meetings in the english countryside that were more about recovery and where the people seemed genuine but some of the city meetings are really tough places. They are often driven by people who wish to push their own agenda. There is a UK site you may be interested in that is run by AA members who are concerned about certain things. There is quite a lot on the meetings I used to go to. http://www.aacultwatch.co.uk/2014/06/kensington-road-to-recovery.html

    I personally think AA would work better if it dumped the out date spiritual/religious stuff and just conentrated on fellowship but I cannot see that happeing as old timers love it. It is up to others to offer a better alternative and I think that is starting to happen, but it will take a long time to change views, especially in America, where religion is respected more than most of the developed world.

    Keep up the writing such as the piece in the Fix. People need to find alternatives and I think these small sites do have an impact. Most people simply move on from AA, after realising it was not going to help, but the alternatives are often so inaccessible that people don’t bother with them. Thankfully the online book sellers are making books such as those by Lance Dodes and Stanton Peele more available. It is so frustrating to see people struggle, and although I realise that some in addiction will not do that well with most methods, they do deserver something more rational than the12 step world when they make the effort to change.

    Best of luck for the future!

    • Thank you! I agree with you on every point. I don’t see AA changing its religious ways, and although the agnostic/atheist groups have grown, they are using the same religious literature that condescend their beliefs! How unreal is that? Although the fellowship is nice with picnics and dances and non step related stuff, there is still the 12 Steps themselves that are fixated on negativity and powerlessness, and letting go of defects without applying any introspective work as to why the defects are there to begin with. The drink is the cause and the effect of everything. They’ll say the drink was “but a symptom,” but then not delve deeper. Childhood traumas, mental health issues, and other predecessors to drinking are ignored, and in cases of abuse the victim is blamed in step 4. Behaviors can’t be changed by praying them away, if that were the case many church going people would have no problems in life at all. AA needs to consult some current experts, like Dodes and Peele and integrate the current research into their information. Not doing that is keeping them stuck in the past.

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