Sunday, March 2, 2014

Written Off...Sentenced and Condemned by AA

I'm back in a recovery home. My life is in ruins as far as I can tell. I got drunk..mean drunk. A policeman arrived about the music blaring. I picked a fight with him then gave my wife a verbal lashing for disagreeing with me. The copper was my wife's cousin, thankfully for me; I slept in my own bed that night. My wife, however, was terrified. I wasn't planning on going insane and drinking myself into a borderline blackout..I never did.  

My wife is leaving me with our children in tow. But I don't know this yet as I sign into a 28 day treatment. All I know is that vodka isn't doing me any favours, and it has to stop. 

I just can't seem to "get it". What do I do when I can't seem to "get it"? I try a little harder to "get it". I was told that from day one, some 25 years ago at my first AA meeting. It's written into AA's "Big Book" in the chapter "How it works"..."Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program..." So there it is. It's my fault that I'm bouncing in and out of these meetings, always worse each time I return, always latching onto a recovery home when my desperation reaches a point of unbearable pain, when even a meeting a day and a marathon session with the members at the coffee shop afterwards won't calm my inner storm. It's my fault. AA said it. How can AA be wrong? They are millions of members strong. They've spawned recovery homes on nearly every continent. Judges sentence people to AA (that's another topic) It's my fault. I am riddled with guilt. I drown the guilt in vodka. They told me I should feel guilty. 

And it's your fault if you don't get it. You should feel guilty.

But wait...

Was I... were WE given the proper medication, the appropriate treatment in the first place? Or were we handed a prescription that actually has severe side effects?

For me personally, all I was plagued with was my own refusal to let go of my selfish way of living and my inability to see myself as someone other than this person who was , as AA says, "incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty". 

It happens to people. It's not a disease. My experience tells me that it was merely a matter of making some adjustments to my personal machinery. You may be different...but I would guess that if you're reading this, you may have a doubt or two about Bill W's salvation plan.

So, the recovery home...

It's heavily influenced by AA's 12 steps. We are encouraged to enter the 12 step world afterwards, unless we reside close to the recovery home, which offers meetings of its own. So, it's a non-official AA. 

Day 1, call my AA sponsor, tell him where I'm at. He tells me that he tried to help me, but I went back out drinking. He's hurt. Call someone else, he says. I'm wasting his time, he says. He's a busy man, racking up notches in his bible belt. In retrospect, his real problem was that he couldn't save me, and his ego is bruised. I'm crushed. I thought we were friends. He represents a good cross section of AA Old Timers, who thrust their archaic and unqualified doctrine upon the more vulnerable of the AA species, with very little compassion for those who "don't get it".

Day 3, formally introduce myself in group, group leader listening on. It goes like this:

Group Leader: "You're not staying 90 days? Why?"

"I have to return to work. I can't miss that much time before I go broke and things don't get paid. On top of that, my boss is going to be in a bad spot if I don't return to work before summer's end. I'm staying 28 days."

GL: "Then you don't really want help"

"Of course I do! You just met me! You haven't asked me one thing about my life!"

GL: "I'm done talking with you. Next..."

From that moment forward, for the remainder of my stay, I am barely allowed to participate in group. Group leader, merely a sober graduate of the place, no credentials beyond that, no certification, (sound familiar?) calls my wife, and tells her I really don't want help, and that getting away from me was a smart move. She trusts him, and stays gone for nearly a year, despite my subsequent maintenance of a sober life. This is a beloved recovery home in my area, and the ongoing press praise they garner is dizzying-more than generous for a place that boasts a mere 4% success rate. (according to follow up of the graduates)

OK, so this isn't exactly AA we're dealing with. But this is...

My wife meets a couple while I'm gone, in her pursuit of answers. She doesn't want the marriage to end, she just wants a loving husband...one who doesn't guzzle vodka almost daily and who doesn't start fights with cops. The couple..husband is in AA, a long time member. The wife is a pillar in local Al-anon groups, as well as a local group that ties itself to this recovery home I'm in. I've known them for years myself, colliding with them often as I bounced around church basements in search of reality.

Couple is a coaching team, a "tour de force" locally for those afflicted with the "disease"...the drunks and their families. Couple represents 99% of the sponsors in the AA biz..no real credentials, and too many personal views. 

Couple (well, in all fairness, the dominant female half more than hubby) tells my wife to stay clear of me until I am good and healed. Why? asks my wife. Couple tells her that I have a disease, that I will hurt her. But he went for help, my wife says. Not good enough, couple says. He should have stayed at the recovery home for 90 days, couple insists. Couple tells her I'm a drunk, I'm a con, I don't really want help. How do you know for sure? wife asks. All drunks think alike, couple assures her. When will he be healed? wife asks. We will tell you if we think he's healed enough to be a husband, couple says. I speak with the husband often over the phone, and he becomes my unofficial "sponsor". I'm very candid about my recovery to him, and he continually encourages me and tells me I'm doing great, which by all realistic measure, I am.

Couple doesn't tell me that they're coaching my wife.

My wife stays away. Nearly a year passes. No communication with my wife outside of visitation with my daughter. I bring up our marriage, she changes the subject. She was encouraged by the couple to such and end. I finally end our marriage, believing that my wife is only trying to avoid telling me that it's over herself. My wife panics. She didn't want to end the marriage. She was merely "letting me sit in my shit" as the couple directed her to do. She thought she was saving the marriage. I am sober and moving along. My wife is a bit naive, God bless her, but she trusts these people. They have a reputation locally for helping(?) many, many families. My wife finally divulges the utter sickening details of this coaching she's been receiving from the couple; again, more so from the dominant female half. I am floored. I call them, and demand that they return my call. No call back. Weeks pass, no call. To this day, no call. My unofficial sponsor has mysteriously fallen silent and become unavailable. My wife receives no phone calls either.

Here is a very similar story, and one that is not uncommon within the groups, from Robert (via "12 Step Horror Stories"). Robert is speaking of a woman he knew who attended AA:

"While at the meetings, she was told that she was clearly an out-of-control alcoholic and that if she was serious about recovery she would have to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. As a newly single mother trying to raise a daughter and transitioning back into the work force, she told them that she would be unable to do that, as the babysitting costs would be more than she could afford, and the meetings would take time away from her daughter, who was about three years old, and who was also transitioning to life without daddy.

Essentially, this woman was told that she wasn't serious about recovery and that she would undoubtedly relapse and get worse and worse. She was told not to think about coming back to another AA meeting until she was ready to get serious about her sobriety and do 90 meetings in 90 days."

I could fill an entire blog with testimony from those who have gone through the Bill Wilson's meat grinder. Devout 12 steppers will counter attack and claim that AA simply isn't this way in "good" meetings. Research trumps that defense.

I ultimately opted out of the 12 step life, and I'm good with that; very good with that. I changed my life...on my own. Whether or not you are like me is your call. The important thing is that you don't let a twelve-stepper, who's only interest is bloating himself up, imposing his or her AA agenda, or putting another sponsee notch in the bible belt (yes, they are a religious cult) tell you who you are and what you should do, which, sadly, is woven into the very fabric of AA. 

My wife and I are happily together now, and safely removed from the lie that is the 12 steps. And you know what? I did get it. I got it when I realized that I had the power to choose...that I was not a product that required 12 step assembly to function properly...that I do not have a mental condition that fills me with "stinking thinking" and an insurmountable desire to drink unto self-destruction. I am free because I decided to be free. If I screw up in life, as humans do, I make it right and move on. I don't call a sponsor and indulge in a self-loathing process and play victim because I acted human, not "diseased". You too can be free. Be responsible for yourself, plain and simple, and enjoy life. Drink if you want, don't drink if you shouldn't. 

If you need to get help, whether it be counselling, hospitalization or psychiatric, do so! But NEVER let a 12-step group or a self-gratifying AA or Al-Anon member tell you what you should be doing! 

Be free.


  1. Brilliant. You are one great writer. These AA disciples are insane and will destroy your life if you listen to one word they utter.

    On one point I disagree. Your wife may very well be a bit naive. However, this is a powerful (while you remain without any power) cult religion we are talking about here. Even the most skeptical among us are taken in by the lies of AA. She is no more to blame for trusting these monsters than you are for not trusting the dangerous dogma of the 12 steps.

    You are free. Your writing this will help others to stay, or finally become, free too. Thank you!

  2. Thank you Laura. I agree with you on the point about my wife's coaching. It was just so surreal when I learned how deep it went, I really didn't give my wife enough credit, because I saw how utterly insane and biased the advice was, but yes, she trusted these people blindly, only wanting to find a way to save our marriage. She called the woman awhile back and told her off, and my wife doesn't often raise her voice. It is a relief to say the least that the mind control is over. And I love your blog by the way! We need to champion this cause for so many people. When we believe we are victims we will cling to the steps and never be free.