Post-Abuse-Recovery-Trauma is real. Ok, it’s not in the DSM manual yet, but if it were there are symptoms that make P.A.R.T. real. This will be a shorter blog than usual, but it needs to be written, and I volunteer to write it.
P.A.R.T. is characterized by a unique set of symptoms that only those who quit A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) and survived (no jails, institutes, or death) can be diagnosed with. Usually, P.A.R.T. emerges after years of exposure to 12 Step meetings. Although symptoms may vary by magnitude and strength, and not all may apply to each person, if you can identify with even ONE of these symptoms you are suffering from P.A.R.T.
1.) Intense Fear of Alcohol– You learned this from A.A. They taught you “one drink, one drunk.” Beyond your control, your brain keeps replaying this thought, and it can interfere with your life, at work, at home, and within social contexts. (AA’s familiar 12-step program encourages members to admit that they are powerless over alcohol. Treatment programs premised on the 12 steps boast recovery rates as high as 85 percent. But here’s the rub: as many as two thirds of drinkers drop out within three months of joining AA, and AA helps only about a fifth of people abstain completely from alcohol.)
2.) A Surge of Bullying Directed to Your Exit from A.A.- Whether you just simply leave A.A. or you begin to speak out about negative feelings about A.A., bullying is a symptom of P.A.R.T. Not you becoming a bully, however, but you being bullied by active participating A.A. members. Another factor is those who may be basically on your side telling you NOT to talk about what A.A. did wrong; telling you to be polite about A.A., to not blame A.A., and to speak only about the alternatives. This effectively shuts down your “truth.” It’s bullying, in varying degrees, but it is still bullying.
- Bullying or Victimizing Others- Reader, Barbara, also adds: “Another symptom: bullying or victimizing others. Many people especially men who were victims of abuse as children grow up to be victimizers.” This occurs not only if you exit A.A. but in the meetings themselves. I’d add women can become victimizers too. Not all victims of child abuse become victimizers, please note, the effects are different for everyone. Those who do tend to seek self-control by controlling others. The 12 Steps mirror the abuse cycle: Render the victim powerless, make them dependent on another, list their defects, tell them they’re wrong and make them apologize even if they’ve done nothing wrong. An A.A. member projecting the 12 Steps onto another member, or anyone outside of A.A. for that matter, is an abuser. The steps themselves are a form of self-abuse.
3.) Co-Dependency– Being taught in A.A. that you cannot think for yourself, and must rely on the group, your sponsor, and higher powers results in a belief system that you are incapable of fending for yourself. Degrees of uncertainty to trusting your own thoughts are gravely affected. “Don’t think!”
4.) Anxiety/Panic– Former A.A. members may have repeated episodes of anxiety or even panic attacks. Commonly, this appears in situations that have a familiar vibe to it as an A.A. meeting. You may hear the Lord’s Prayer and cringe, your heart rate may accelerate, and your breathing may get faster.
5.) PTSD/CPTSD– Unlike being shell-shocked in a war, your PTSD may be more like CPTSD. Constant, repetitive exposure to trauma, such as religious abuse (forced prayer), protecting predators (13th Steppers), hearing negative messages such as “Keep it Simple, Stupid,” and listing your character defects will leave a person with P.A.R.T. which is very similar to basic PTSD/CPTSD. If you were 13th stepped, especially raped, your PTSD will naturally occur. (CPTSD means Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)
6.) Self-Harm- Former A.A. members may practice self-harm, whether it’s overly self-medicating, cutting yourself, or isolating yourself from social situations where normally you’d be emotionally invested in and would enjoy. (See also: Gaslighting. You are harming others by speaking out against A.A. Needless to say, the fact you speak out against the harm A.A. caused you is why you are speaking out, but the manipulation can cause you to blame yourself.)
7.) Social-Isolation– Former A.A. members may have been told to abandon every friend or family member who is not in the “program.” This leaves a newly freed former A.A. member without many social ties.
8.) Depression– Whether it’s Major Depression or reoccurring episodes, there may be a gnawing feeling that life without A.A. is glum and fruitless.
9.) Inability to Say No– In A.A. they teach you to always say yes. When the hand of A.A. asks for your help, you must volunteer. Outside of A.A., this can continue to happen. You may find yourself over-exerting yourself in order to be there for everyone at any time.
10.) Exhaustion– Helping everyone all the time can leave you mentally and physically exhausted. Also, constant thoughts of A.A. and what happened wrong there can leave you exhausted.
11.) Racing and Intrusive Thoughts– Memories of A.A. haunt you weeks, months, and years after you quit A.A. Big Book and 12×12 passages might spin about your thoughts and affect your life.
12.) Binge Drinking– A.A. can cause increased binge drinking.
13.) Bizarre Fascination with the Number “12”— A dozen eggs. 12 disciples. 12 hours until noon. The number can drive you nuts.
I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to play one on TV or the Internet. But here is a short list we can all add to. Please comment below if you have other symptoms you’d like added to this new diagnosis I have coined P.A.R.T. What is your P.A.R.T. in it?
Another symptom: bullying or victimizing others. Many people especially meN who were victims of abuse as children grow up to be victimizers.
Barbara, just noticed your comment and never got around to replying to it. I think people in AA develop a level of conceitedness they think they are better than others, better than those who don’t follow the steps for example. They develop a very strange form of sarcasm where they think being mean & saying mean things is funny to them. And others encourage this behavior to boot! They take a sick glee in telling people, “If you don’t like AA why don’t you go back out and try some more research.” They encourage people who leave AA to get drunk, warn them if they ever drink again they can’t stop after one drink, and that they are powerless. The steps mirror abuser’s tactics: Render victim powerless, make them dependent on another, list their defects, tell them they’re wrong, make them apologize even when they weren’t wrong. This can totally turn people into abusers. They project these steps onto others and use them to bully/club them over the head!
For me, the most abusive part of AA doctrine is the ‘the program is perfect, if you drink again you have no one to blame but yourself’ line. I have friends I was in rehab with here in Scotland who relapsed and consequently blamed themselves for ‘not working a good program’, having sadly swallowed the dogma that they are ‘constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves’, and had neglected to remove their ‘moral failings’. Abuse, pure and simple.
AA teaches the concept to blame yourself and don’t blame AA if AA doesn’t work. As though AA is infallible and always works.
A member believes this, and thinks they must believe this in order for the program to work (among many other things they must believe in). It’s a very abusive teaching! The person drinks again and examines what they did wrong. Then it can get religiously abusive from there. Did they pray wrong? Does God not want them to succeed— Did Got not take away their character defects? They feel even more defective. They could be being completely honest and then they start to question their honesty. It can make a person go mad!
I love this post this can be expanded considerably.
In the 12 step program the victim is encouraged, keep in mind it is ONLY a suggestion to change all the people places and things within there life. The victim having followed the suggestion will now find themselves isolated once they break free of the cult. The person not only has to deal with issues relating to a substance they also have to contend with purging themselves of the indoctrination and 12 step dogma and they are trying to do it ALONE.
There needs to be a recovery from 12 Step abuse treatment… I wish there was, and I’ve often considered starting one.