*This is from a blog I wrote in 2012, i am reprinting it here today.  I wrote this a month after leaving 12 step rehab— feeling a bit shaken, but not stirred. *

A Slap In The Face

Evidently, it doesn’t seem to matter to drug and alcohol counselors that Alcoholics Anonymous virtually ignores the facts about women and alcoholism.  Women don’t drink like men do. For one thing, women have a lower percentage of water in their bodies, which means a woman who drinks the same amount as a man will have a higher blood alcohol content.  THIS is fact. Alcohol related problems for women, however, are dealt with the guidelines developed for men. Why? Because of Alcoholics Anonymous.  A program developed for men.  A program that uses a book written in 1935, no less.  That book, The Big Book, is even used in treatment centers for women.  Even though, the book was obviously written for men.  There’s even a chapter titled, “To Wives.”  Not to mention, since most female alcoholics also have past histories of childhood or sexual traumas, it makes even LESS sense to subject them to such an inconsiderate, sexist program such as AA.

On another note, Alcoholics Anonymous is also a “spiritual” program.  Even though alcoholism is a known and recognized medical disease**, the best known cure doctors and therapists still recommend is AA? Even if you’re not put off by spirituality, you might be put off by the fact that AA doesn’t use vague terms.  AA uses “God,” and a male God at that.  For many women who have a history of rape, perhaps the idea of an all-powerful male deity coming to the rescue might not be very helpful.  In fact, it could have the opposite effect.  Consider the 12 Steps themselves:  Step 3 is, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Psychologically, Alcoholics Anonymous re-traumatizes women.  It creates an atmosphere of women being treated as secondary.  This lowers a women’s self-esteem.  Alcoholics are supposed to rebuild their self-esteem.  Instead, AA tells a woman she has a problem, and then goes and slaps her in the face for having one.  What I have to wonder is, how many women tried AA, found it insulting and nauseating, and started to drink again only to die from alcoholism?  So, Alcoholics Anonymous, what’s YOUR problem?  Are you there to save lives or to stubbornly refuse to CHANGE your ineffective program because you’re scared to help more people?

Juliet Abram

Author’s Note: **I was told repeatedly in rehab (again) that alcoholism was a medical disease, and took the angle that, if it WAS a disease, that would rule out AA as medically sound.  I do not personally hold the view that addiction is a disease.**

ALSO: Filming for The 13th Step documentary is COMPLETE!! So excited!  Very happy news, and a fantastic job by Monica Richardson.

5 thoughts on “A Slap in the Face

  1. There is a lot of general slut shaming in “the rooms” too. Every woman is considered a whore for being an alcoholic while every man brags about his sexual inventory. Women are expected to basically slut themselves up in their “leads” in order to come off as “honest”. None of this is stated, it’s just the traditional way it’s done. I’ve seen such respectable, hard-working, successful women stand up and utterly demean themselves as human beings to meet the AA standards. It’s really nasty and psychologically damaging.

    And then when they tell a woman that she had a part in her rape if she was drinking, that burns me up. I knew a woman who was told by her home group not to mention her rape when she shared because it made the men in the room uncomfortable. WTF?????? She wasn’t drinking the night she was raped, maybe that was the problem, they couldn’t blame it on her alcoholism.

    Many women drink because they have underlying issues including low self-esteem. The treatment for these problems is not to try to debase them further.

    1. I agree with the ‘slut shaming’ especially, great point. I have 2 children with 2 different fathers— I could make that sound worse than it was for sure. My early sponsor in 2005 did not hesitate to tell me I had a part in my rape, it was something women should expect while drinking. Depending on the people, and the meeting, the culture drives this exaggerating your wrongs, your crimes, your perversions. (If she was raped and not drinking, I imagine some thought of her as a “dry drunk,” to write off the crime.)

      I would argue with therapists– who aren’t known to argue back and forth by the way– that the low self-esteem and women’s issues are what they get paid to know about. How could they not know about AA and the issues I & other women may face there? Instead, I kept my mouth shut out of “respect to AA” and so I don’t dare hurt someone with my criticisms… I was abusing myself again.

  2. I have heard a woman share that she once got “so drunk that she was raped” as if it were a side effect, another woman share about discovering “her part in” being tortured with knives as a child — apparently she was “holding on to it”, as if she were supposed to have no feelings about it — and much more. That’s when I started to lose faith in meetings.

  3. I just read on another site that the rape was not my fault, but my behaviors leading up to the rape were! Lucky I can’t punch people through a computer. I’ve heard also that I had an ego and holding onto my “vicitmhood” was my ego. I’m not a victim, I was during the rape, but not after it. I understand, and relate to every word you wrote. They’re laypeople, they aren’t rape counselors in AA. Sad, because someone can’t always afford or see a counselor, and this community of people may be all they have to find support at. It can be damaging, unless they realize AA is not helping them, and they move on and speak out.

  4. I had never seen this. I was having a health crisis the summer of 2012. Anyway….I will read it later. Working today of the film etc.

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