Response to criticism of the 48 Hours episode on Karla Brada. I originally posted this on the 48 Hours Facebook page, here.

The argument that anyone who enters AA is just as vulnerable as they would be in any other public venue is profoundly inaccurate, for several reasons:

  • It has been drummed into our cultural consciousness by trusted sources – from Ann Landers, Dr. Drew, and reality TV to family doctors and therapists – that AA is the only true solution to a debilitating addiction and that the only other options are “jails, institutions, or death.”
  • Most people maintain a certain healthy wariness and personal boundary in public places. People do not go to bars or grocery stores at their lowest, most vulnerable point, specifically to bare their souls to and seek help from the people there. 
  • When one enters a public sphere, one is *not * told *not* to trust his or her own instincts as they are in AA meetings (their “alcoholic brain” – i.e. – “Your best thinking got you here.”).
  • Nor is one told to trust the people one meets on the bus or the mall; while in AA, newcomers who have a hard time turning their will over God are told to start by turning it over to G.O.D (Group Of Drunks).
  • Nor is one instructed to trust the guidance of a sponsor – an Anonymous stranger with no formal training.

I understand that there are so many people with a deep investment in AA who feel enormous gratitude for their recovery – so this protective mama bear response to such exposure is to be expected. Over the years, I have seen so much cold-hearted defensiveness and outright denial from AA members when confronted with glaring problems that result in the victimization of vulnerable people: Victims of sexual, mental, emotional, or financial abuse in the rooms are told to look only at their own role in their victimization; victims and their advocates are accused of being angry, resentful, or intoxicated. (For evidence, you need look no further than the responses to this episode.)

Considering the recent exposure of Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, this 48 Hours story is particularly timely. The cases of Ghomeshi and Cosby have resulted in a public soul-searching about the protective infrastructure we erected around these abusers in order to maintain the wholesome and inspiring stories they reinforced to us about ourselves. How did we allow this behavior to fester? Before the soul-searching, however, came waves of denial, victim-blaming, speculations about dastardly motivations, and accusations of fame-whoring.

Members’ investment in AA is – I’d guess – much deeper than anyone’s investment in Bill Cosby’s legacy. People who credit AA with saving their lives or the lives of their loved ones – and don’t forget the people who make a living off AA and 12 Step programs – are defending their very survival or livelihood. Perhaps they have been complicit – or turned a blind eye – toward abuses they see in the rooms, abuses they’d never tolerate in any other situation. And, remembering their own complicity, take an even more ferocious position against exposure and, thus, accountability.

The fact is that AA Members – and AA’s own board – are taking a position against providing newcomers with information. That’s it; just information – information vulnerable people need to make informed choices about their own well-being. Look at the vitriol ignited by the suggestion of such a simple reform. Information. 

This information, however, exposes and undermines too much. No one wants to feel that they’ve been duped, coerced, or complicit in others’ having been duped or coerced. Perhaps AA members and defenders who have their hackles up could consider that AA is nearly a century old. Times have changed, but AA has not. Won’t. Our social awareness and understanding of addiction has evolved, but AA and AlAnon is still including the outrageouly sexist and outdated chapter “To Wives” in the Big Book, without caveat – among other outdated notions.

We all love stories about grasping neurotics and curmudgeons who finally get just a little more compassionate and accepting of change. We have been telling this story over and over again, since people have been narrating the human experience – think of your own favorite movies or novels. You may accuse those of us who advocate for reform of being drunk of having alterior motives that will result in the death of alcoholics. If so, you must also consider the demise of the wider population of those who are turned off by AA’s collective dementia. If AA has saved your life, please honor it and pay it forward by acknowledging its weaknesses and brightening the light for those who might find community and comfort there.

Pernicious Propaganda for “Moderate Drinking”

Kevin Jones, who for the sake of anonymity shall henceforth be referred to as “Kevin J,” is a 12-stepper who has taken enough time off from his serenity and otherwise strict adherence to AA’s 10th tradition, to post a must-read review of Stanton Peele’s and Ilse’s book. He didn’t much care for it, and gave it a single star.

“Peele attacks Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) repeatedly, in ways that show no real knowledge. Yes, there is religiosity in AA, but many members simply ignore it. Since 1975 there have been explicitly secular AA groups, with such names as “We Agnostics”. Peele never mentions the AA-published book, “Living Sober”, which is secular and gives excellent advice for getting and staying sober. Peele never mentions two important organizations: Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) and LifeRing. Peele never mentions the AA Preamble, which concisely tells exactly what AA is and is not. He never mentions the Traditions, which have kept AA alive for three-quarters of a century. He never mentions the great freedom in AA — for the group and for the individual — nor the fact that AA is entirely free.

In short, this book is both worthless and harmful. One star is one star too many.”

On the plus side, Kevin J gives the Lance Dodes Serenity Voodoo Doll™ a full five stars. Maybe I’ll buy one to help relieve the stress of Ilse charging me full price to read her sham of a book.



Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict

The book I have been working on with Stanton Peele will be released on February 4th, 2014. Recover! is now available for sale on Amazon.


Reviews are in!

Recover! goes well beyond brainless, mindless, and choiceless approaches to addiction. Dr. Stanton Peele’s work offers hope for mindful, practical, and liberating addiction treatment and self-help.

–Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Co-Founder, Program in Psychiatry and the Law at BIDMC Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School


12-step treatment worsened my addiction to the point that I nearly died of withdrawal. Stanton Peele’s books saved my life by showing me that I was not powerless and did not need to be rescued by a “Higher Power.” For a step-by-step guide on how to overcome addiction I most highly recommend Dr. Peele’s new book Recover!

–Kenneth Anderson, MA, Founder and CEO of HAMS Harm Reduction for Alcohol


In Recover!, Stanton Peele and Ilse Thompson offer a blueprint to help addicts cope with their triggers, from loneliness and feeling unworthy, anxious, and overwhelmed. Recover! focuses on what’s right in the addict’s life, and adding to it. It’s a hopeful, tangible set of tools designed to give power back to the addict—not give it up.

–Gabrielle Glaser, author of The New York Times bestseller Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink—And How They Can Regain Control


“I am a recovering addict” was the way someone introduced himself to me on my first visit to the USA. He explained he had been in recovery for the past 25 years. The irrationality, helplessness and disempowerment inherent in this statement shocked me. This is what the disease model of addiction does to people. I am in agreement with Stanton Peele that people are not powerless or helpless in the face of dependence on drugs, and the evidence supports this view. This book dispels that, and other myths about drugs. Stanton has come up with another must-read book.

–Professor Pat O’Hare, co-founder and former director of Harm Reduction International


At a time when addiction is being trumpeted as a “brain disease,” Peele slashes through the hyper-medicalized rhetoric to get to the human core of addiction and recovery. This acutely insightful and compassionate book is required reading for anyone struggling with an overwhelming habit.

–Sally Satel, MD, co-author of Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience; lecturer, Yale University School of Medicine


Stanton Peele’s insistence that addiction is not a disease, but a symptom of dysfunctional societies, families, and/or psyches is compelling, compassionate, and almost certainly correct. In Recover!, his most impressive work to date, he lays out a program—both utterly simple and profound—that will quite literally save lives by addressing the root causes of addiction rather than pathologizing its many manifestations.

–Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. & Cacilda Jethá, M.D., authors of The New York Times bestseller Sex at Dawn


In his latest book, Recover!, pioneering addiction expert Dr. Stanton Peele moves on to exciting new ground by providing practical advice and tools for dealing with addiction, based on Buddhist-inspired mindfulness techniques. It is essential reading for those who want to understand the reality of addiction and ways it can be effectively addressed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to move on from their own addiction or is supporting someone else to overcome their addiction.

–Julian Cohen, author of Drugs and Young People: Essential Information and Advice for Parents and Professionals


For decades, Stanton Peele has been at the forefront of the battle to understand addictions and eliminate the twin myths that addicts are powerless over their addictions and that they have a lifelong “brain disease.” In Recover! he has taken another crucial step toward freeing us from these prejudicial, disempowering misconceptions while truly helping people suffering with addiction.

–Lance Dodes, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (Retired); co-author, The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry


Recover! is Stanton Peele’s most comprehensive workbook. It provides an astonishing array of resources, neatly organized into accessible and sensible tasks, and a final chapter for coping with unexpected problems. In this book you will find guidance on everything you need to address in recovery. Peele writes as if he were a close friend, explaining important concepts carefully and with genuine concern that you truly understand them. You can relax and soak up what he says, feeling your perspective and life change with each sentence. He doesn’t tell you what to do, but shows you the tasks that need to be accomplished and gives you options for moving forward. Many readers may well emerge from this book and think, “I knew that!” True enough, but only after reading Peele, who masterfully re-connects us with our own wisdom.

–Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP; President, SMART Recovery® and Practical Recovery; Past President, American Psychological Association’s Division on Addictions


Stanton Peele’s writing has been a Copernican paradigm shift in the field of recovery. With his Diseasing of America, Peele emerged as a savvy provocateur with the guts to take on the recovery establishment.  With Recover! Peele shares his clinical wisdom and compassion with those who are on the path of change and self-acceptance. Recover! is a recovery program of practical perfection without the typical recovery perfectionism.

–Pavel Somov, Ph.D., author of Lotus Effect and Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time


Recover! is a powerful new tool for helping people with addictions heal and grow. Dr. Stanton Peele is a trailblazer who has led each new progressive wave in the addictive behaviors field since the 1970s. Today, Dr. Peele is a leading voice for a new shift in the field, one that refutes the myth that addicted people are victims of a permanent disease that they can arrest only by accepting their powerlessness and lifelong abstinence. Recover! is a how-to guide to recovery through cultivating mindful awareness and self-compassion. The book introduces Stanton’s PERFECT Program, a creative blend of ideas and practical strategies for leaving addiction behind while creating the life you want. Inspiring, hopeful, and a good read as well.

–Andrew Tatarsky, PhD, author, Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems; Director, Center for Optimal Living, NYC


Probably the world’s most notable figure in addiction studies, Stanton Peele has written another great book.  Recover! really is a self-help book. Unlike most of what you read, it teaches you to help yourself, rather than telling you to rely on a treatment system because helping oneself is impossible. Stanton’s work assisted my recovery many years ago, and he can help you now.

–Peter Ferentzy, Ph.D., author of Dealing with an Addict: What You Need to Know if Someone You Care for Has a Drug or Alcohol Problem


Stanton Peele knows more about addiction than anyone in the world. Every one of his books is a masterpiece. So is this one. The materials in this book are factual, inspiring and helpful for anyone making for change on their own. If you need additional help, take this book to a good therapist. Ask them to help you apply Peele’s materials. You will be very happy with the results!

–Robert M. Muscala, R.N., Addiction/Chemical Health Specialist, Minnesota


In the midst of the turbulence about defining and dealing with addiction, Stanton Peele has consistently articulated one of the few sane voices.  Increasingly, research has proved that he is right. Recover! continues and extends his presence at the forefront of advice and help based on common sense and efficacy for those struggling with addiction.

–Liese Recke, Manager of Clinical Treatment, Oslo Norway, and former addict


Monica Richardson’s “13th Step — The Documentary”

It’s really happening! Congratulations, Monica!

Gabrielle Glaser and Monica Richardson (aka Massive!) on the TeeVee

So, my dear friend Gabrielle Glaser just published a book called Her Best Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control Since it was released, Gabrielle has been making a splash in the media. Not only is the subject matter timely, but she calls out AA as ineffective and inappropriate, especially due to the complete lack of oversight and accountability built into the program. So, she’s been featured all over the place lately — on the Wall Street Journal Live and was interviewed by Maia Szalavitz for Time‘s Healthland.

Gabrielle interviewed my other dear friend, Monica Richardson  (founder of, and whom many of us know as Massive) for her book and featured her story and activism toward making AA accountable and safe.

Since I don’t think about posting on the blog much anymore, I completely botched the opportunity to announce that Gabrielle and Monica were going to appear on Katie Couric’s show last night! Please go catch the interview on the website.

Great job, you guys! So exciting to see you on TV!


AA Sends Out Its Anonymity Letter

And Romenesko has picked up on it!

A day after a Romenesko reader noted that Roger Ebert was an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor for reporters, A.A. sent a message to journalists on its email list. It says that “our fellowship does not comment on matters of public controversy, but we are happy to provide information about A.A. to anyone who seeks it.”

Check out some of the comments.

AA Club Owner Breaks Bad

Alcoholics Anonymous Host Allegedly Sold Drugs at Meetings

“We took a closer look and realized what we had here was a pretty significant drug operation,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb with the Seattle Police Department.


“It’s like, show-up early, stay late and get your drugs and in-between,” Whitcomb said. “If you want to learn a little more about AA,  we can talk about that too.”

Read the whole thing, plus video…

“Why Rehab Fails”

The New Republic review of Anne M. Fletcher’s Inside Rehab: The Surprising Truth About Addiction Treatment-and How to Get Help That Works

Why Rehab Fails: The dogma of AA has taken over

My favorite two sentences in the Alcoholics Anonymous literature are: “Alcoholics Anonymous does not demand that you believe anything. All of its twelve steps are but suggestions.” When a drunk at the end of his tether, Bill Wilson, founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930s—a spiritual program based on meeting with other addicts—there was a fundamental humility to his ideology: It might work for some.

But that sentiment is often forgotten in the rooms of AA itself, where I spent a lot of time getting sober. There I found that what are suggestions to some are fundamentalist Scripture to others. In the rooms of AA, suggestions and traditions can sometimes feel more like ironclad laws, and when I inadvertently trespassed upon those laws, I was humiliated and rebuked. The predominantly AA-based culture of rehab in America has become one of imposition and tautology: If the program doesn’t work for you, then you didn’t work the program. If you succeed in staying sober, then you did a good job working the program; ergo, the program works.

Read the whole thing…


AA Is Being Sued by Parents of Murder Victim

h/t AntiDenial:

Parents Accuse AA of Harboring a Predator

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Grieving parents say in court that their daughter was murdered by her sociopathic addict boyfriend because Alcoholics Anonymous concealed his history of domestic violence. Eric Allen Earle allegedly strangled 31-year-old Karla Brada to death on Aug. 31, 2011, after Brada asked him to move out of her condo in Santa Clarita. After the murder, Earle reportedly spent the night sleeping next to Brada and called the authorities when he found her unresponsive in the morning.

Read more…