The Doctor’s Opinion: You’re Hot!

A Minnesota AA and doctor is in a bit of hot water for violating her ethical responsibilities, and seducing one of her patients. Ann Friedmann, an obstetrician and gynecologist, put a unique spin on 13th stepping. She befriended and began treating another AA with a history of psychological problems, became her sponsor, and set forth on a sexual relationship for the next several months. Her argument was interesting…and typical:

Friedmann denied wrongdoing, arguing that the patient initiated the sexual relationship, and that their professional relationship ended four days later in September 2005.

But the board found that Friedmann violated her legal and ethical duties to maintain professional boundaries, and that she had blurred the lines for months by taking overnight trips with her patient.

Friedmann, who worked at the Women’s Health Center in Northfield, did not dispute the facts: She began treating the patient in January 2005, after they met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The patient, a 39-year-old woman with “a complex medical and psychiatric history,” asked Friedmann to become her AA sponsor that April, and for a month, Friedmann agreed.

Medical practices board reprimands two doctors

First, she held true to the AA script by reminding the patient/sponsee of “her part” in the abuse, and then minimized her abuse as a physician by claiming the professional relationship ended within a few days. What she or this article does not mention is the fact that she continued in her role as an AA sponsor to manipulate the very person who she was supposed to be counseling. Nobody from AA will speak out about this, and she will not be held accountable for her manipulation of her sponsee. Unlike the medical board, there is no oversight. It will be business as usual in the separate universe of AA.

In a second case, the board suspended another physician for failing a required drug test. Maybe she should give Dr. Friedmann a call, and join her group. She has an open slot for a new sponsee.

  • this is just gross. it's saturday morning. i am avoiding homework, yes. but i am not at a meeting. progress. good this stuff is sick. and it is sososo typical.

  • SoberPJ

    I am dying to comment on this but I can't get my mind out of the gutter. A lesbian gynecologist in AA "doin" her sponsee patient … in a rigorously honest kind of way… I guess they were really close…… ya can't make this stuff up !

  • Clyde

    Scraping for substance??

    I'm sure everything would be just fine with you guys if AA wasn't spun into this mess somehow.

  • tintop

    you guessed wrong.

    guess again

  • SoberPJ

    I'm pretty sure this kind of thing may happen outside of AA, but the AA involvement makes it soooo much more interesting. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing a case exactly like this…. I wonder if AA involvement is somehow at the core of the situation? Oh, that's right, they met in AA. Not church, or work, or the gas station, or the shoe store. So, I guess AA is kind of involved after all. Maybe the good doctor just couldn't find anyone with her required level of character defects outside of the rooms. Alcoholic – check. Lesbian -check. Stone cold batshit crazy – check. The book will be out next year, " Love, Prey, Speculum"

    Wookin pa nub in all the wrong places ….

  • @Clyde, are you implying that if AA were not involved we would condone (or have no opinion about) a doctor's serving as her patient's mentor, and then abusing her power and position by establishing a sexual relationship with her?

  • Clyde

    No! I'm just sayin it wouldn't have made the headlines here.

    It kind of reminds me of the Wal-Mart bashing sites. I go to them to see fact about Wal-Mart and just how they "Suck".

    All I find out is that Wal-Mart Employees sleep with the boss on the night shift.

    I guess if that makes Wal-Mart suck, so be it.

    • MA

      No! I’m just sayin it wouldn’t have made the headlines here.
      It kind of reminds me of the Wal-Mart bashing sites. I go to them to see fact about Wal-Mart and just how they “Suck”.
      All I find out is that Wal-Mart Employees sleep with the boss on the night shift.
      I guess if that makes Wal-Mart suck, so be it.

      Of course this would not have been posted here if AA were not involved. That is, after all, the theme of this blog.

      Comparing an AA sponsor who manipulates and abuses their position of authority and trust, with a Wal-Mart manager, is ridiculous.

  • tintop

    Wal Mart is not AA.

  • Mike

    To be fair to the good doctor, I get the feeling that the abuse was a two-way street in this situation. The sponsee probably got off a bit on seducing someone with authority in her life and sawbones was dumb enough to yield to the temptation. And yes, AA provided the venue for both of these sickos to meet. That's ultimately my problem with AA: it provides a means for sociopaths, neurotics, the unaware, and the vulnerable to coalesce.

    The results are predictable.

  • Anonymous of Course

    A doctor/patient relationship is a professional one. A sponsor/sponsee relationship is not. The doctored erred when she ended the professional relationship instead of the personal one and for that she was reprimanded and fined.

    Usually in sponsor/sponsee relationships it is a good idea for men to be sponsored by men and women by women. I don't know how it should be done in gay and lesbian situations, that's kind of confusing. My first sponsor was gay. He didn't try to prey on me. It wouldn't have done him anygood if he did, I would have turned him down or kicked his ass if I had too. He was a good guy and I miss him, he passed away about 15 years ago.

    Sponsors are not professionals. They have no training, certification, or minimum requirements. The sponsee picks whom they ask to sponsor them. These relationships get close anyhow and sometimes get out of hand. Sponsors are lay people and are not counselors. They just share their experiences with the sponsee and shouldn't act like they are counselors. Sponsors are not forced upon sponsees and sponsors do not have a position of authority. The trust that they have is placed there by the sponsee and they have a choice of staying with a sponsor, finding a new one or not getting a sponsor at all.

    Sponsorship is something that should be enter into carefully, fully getting to know the person you ask to become your sponsor. A sponsee needs to be aware that sponsors are human and are far from being perfect. When inappropriate things happen, a sponsee can always "fire" his or her sponsor. If that sponsor commits a crime, you can always call 911. As the post stated, there is no oversight in these relationships, but there is accountability. The doctor was held accountable for the her improper relationship with a patient by the medical board. Every AA member is accountable to the laws of the country they reside. There is but one ultimate authority in AA, a loving God that as expressed in the group's consience. Leaders are trusted servants, they do not govern.

    • MA

      AOC – The idea that a sponsor is not an authority figure is laughable. Of course they are in a position of authority.

      Sponsorship is something that should be enter into carefully, fully getting to know the person you ask to become your sponsor.

      How can a person who is told that their best thinking got them there, and are told not to trust their judgment, at the same time be told that they are accountable for getting an appropriate sponsor? It's more double-talk.

      Every AA member is accountable to the laws of the country they reside. There is but one ultimate authority in AA, a loving God that as expressed in the group’s consience. Leaders are trusted servants, they do not govern.

      Quoting the 'Big Book' really doesn't get you anywhere here. That is your scripture, not ours. The reality of AA is all we care about, and in reality, the authority figures in AA are largely composed of narcissistic nutjobs and abusers. That is all the "group consience" is.

  • Anonymous of Course

    MA- I was never told not to think. If someone told me that, I'd have to think about it. The only authority in a sponsor is that put there by the sponsee. If a person can't think for themselves then they will fall prey to somebody somewhere.

    My last quote above isn't just reciting the big book, it is the structure of AA. There are no AA bosses. Each group governs itself. Some groups aren't even registered with their districts and take no part in the national activities of AA.

    On the anonymity article above, did you mean to leave the comments off?

    • MA

      On the anonymity article above, did you mean to leave the comments off?

      No I didn't. I fixed it. Thanks for pointing it out.

      As for the rest of what your comment, it doesn't matter what you specifically do or do not do, or what has or hasn't happened to you. You may not have been told not to think, but it is the standard in AA. "Your best thinking got you here" and "think, think, think me another drink" and "none are too dumb for the program, but some are too smart", are a few of the mind numbing slogans used against people who question things. AAs are encouraged not to question the program. You know this, AOC; and you have seen it. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in AA will see it. It is that common. It doesn't matter what you do, and the argument that "I was never told not to think" is poor. You may not 13th step or encourage people not to take prescribed meds either, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen in AA, or that it isn't common.

  • tintop

    I did not get a sponsor. I looked at the people who were there- the people that I had to choose from. No, thank you. The other attendees were good people who meant well; trying to help themselves and to have a kind word for the other guy. Did they have good advice concerning what I should do, or not do? Not that I could see. I used AA as a short term support group; I found that it served my needs at the time. Long term? No. I am not a practising clinical psychologist; I am unqualified to give advice or guidance. I had no logical reason to stay.

  • Mona Lisa

    AOC: You wrote "sponsors do not have a position of authority" … and I am ROTFL. I can't even breathe.

  • @Clyde "No! I’m just sayin it wouldn’t have made the headlines here…."

    OK, that makes total sense. That is, if by "No!" you mean, "Yes!"

  • howlermonkey

    I can't believe AOC when he says he was never told not to think. Maybe there were one or two people who didn't tell him that, but if he was told he could think (and ask questions) all he wanted to, then he was either in something other than AA or he's lying.

    I went to a meeting in a major metro area that included many people with highly intellectual professions. Scholars, writers, researchers, technicians, etc. Some had PhDs. These people knew how to think if they wanted to. But the disdain and pitying condescension I heard from these same people when I asked a simple question about the program or put forward an idea of my own about it – you'd think these were teabaggers they way they were terrified of any sort of honest, rational inquiry.

    Granted, in my first two months they went pretty easy on me. The condescension was covered with more smiles than frowns. But I still got NO answers of any sort. By three and four months the reactions started becoming more angry, disdainful and occasionally laced with threats of violence. In reaction, I decided to give the "program" one last chance. I took the cotton out of my ears, put it in my mouth and listened without sharing anything of my own.

    When I really listened, I realized what I had gotten myself into. All I heard were BB mantras repeated along with hefty doses of self-hatred. It turned out that THIS was the real heart of AA. And this "program" allowed for no questions and no critical thought whatsoever. Keeping what you wanted and leaving the rest was also clearly NOT an option. I was told in no uncertain terms that if you did not accept utter powerlessness, the infallibility of the 12 Steps and the disease theory of alcoholism then you were not doing AA – and thus not actually sober or recovering. Period. And the other meetings I tried were exactly the same.

    And of course there are "bosses" in AA. What do you think all the bragging about "sober time" is really all about? And how could a ranking system like "amount of sober time" function otherwise? Those with the most time are the most "qualified" to say what AA is and how it works, and that is exactly what they do.

    It really is frightening how important dishonesty is in the AA program and AA culture.

  • Mike

    @HowlMonk:"Some had PhDs. These people knew how to think if they wanted to. "

    Bingo. They don't want to think so they don't. And believe me, people with advanced degrees can let their neuroses get the better of their intellect just as as well as the guy who mops floors. I do have to question though how good such people are in their regular professions. My sponsor had a PhD in Biology from Oxford university. But he had a second-rate job reviewing medical records at a second-rate hospital. After he got laid-off he became a counselor at a Salvation Army rehab. Definitely a case of emotional IQ being less than intellectual IQ.

  • Rick045

    One of the few things I got right during my time in AA was my consistent refusal to formally sponsor anyone. The best explanation I could give at the time was simply that I couldn't really help someone work the steps because I hadn't worked them myself "by the book". That was true as an explanation, but I also sensed that sponsorship is very much a position of authority and responsibility – a position that I had no desire or qualification to assume.

    In spite of that, I did for a time have a person that I considered a sponsor. He was a decent person that outwardly did not try to influence my decision-making. To some extent though, he did that in more subtle ways. He very much needed validation for his own choices, and he found that through my compliance with, and allegiance to the program. The more I began to challenge the program, the more the relationship deteriorated. His need for the certainty that the program provides wouldn't allow for the kinds of questions I was asking, and all I accomplished was to trigger a lot of passive aggressive responses.

    In hindsight, I don't think my situation was unusual, I think it's what many sponsors do. By passing on the indoctrination, they are reinforcing their own need to believe. The insidious thing about the whole process is that they simply have no clue what they are doing.

    Sponsors are very much putting themselves in a position of authority and responsibility, but it doesn't show as long as it remains unchallenged.

  • iawoken

    The case doesn't suprise me, I've seen a lot of high functioning lesbian sexual predator sponsors in the rooms. What's worse is the drug courts give pidgeons to these women. They have to have a sponsor sign off their step work or they could go to jail. Often those pidgeons go back to using drugs, and to compound it they think that 12 step is the only way. left a bad taste in my mouth seeing it go on. Often these lesbian sexual predators will try to finger point at men who are harmless.

  • zooromeo

    @Anonymous of Course & @Clyde

    Your responses are an interesting reminder of the type of half-truths and dishonesty going on in AA.

    You have engaged in “Blame the victim”, “Minimization & denial”

    Its very clear that “Sponsors are not professionals. They have no training, certification, or minimum requirements” BUT – the little ways in which people are led to believe to trust them is extremely deceptive – fuelled partly by the desperate and vulnerable state many people arrive at AA in, but also because of the almost charming, folksy vibe & LOVE BOMBING going on in AA. Add the 2 together and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Its a bit like government… Of course politicians aren’t allowed to lie, cheat or steal, also not all of them do but it does go on – just because “officially” it’s all above board – doesn’t mean it actually is.

    The sponsee picks whom they ask to sponsor them. YES – but what kind of f**kin state are they in to make a rational decision? Of course, its easy to follow the lines of “don’t play victim” you made a choice with your sponsor, but its not that black and white and people are too often ripe for exploitation.

    There is but one ultimate authority in AA, a loving God that as expressed in the group’s consience. Leaders are trusted servants, they do not govern. – THIS UNFORTUNATELY – IN PRACTICAL TERMS IS A FLUFFY, BULLSH*T IDEA WHICH HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE POLITICAL, BACKSTABBING DYSFUNCTIONAL MESS THAT MOST AA GROUPS ARE.

  • lucy

    @AOC & Clyde – It would help you both to watch what AA members do instead of listening to what they say or repeating what is written for you to say.

  • DeConstructor


    "Its very clear that “Sponsors are not professionals. They have no training, certification, or minimum requirements"

    That can actually work in the favor of people with XA or anti-AA thinking. Can you imagine the people here being love-bombed or ordered to attend AA? Do you think a "sponsor" or some one who considered themself an AA "winner", guru, or expert telling someone here about AA?

    I have been. I have been in that position, and the last time it happened to me the man who was an overbearing, militant steptard starting crying like a little girl at the end of the conversation. And no, I did not show any mercy.

    The AA faith is an emporer with no clothes, and is in dire need of exposure for the tremendous DAMAGE they inflict on people. If you are armed with knowledge of the fallacies the AA faith attempts to promote as medical fact, the steptards hold no power.

    I am forever grateful to Agent Orange


    Another True NYC horror story ….

    I was attending the NYU meeting sometime last summer before I bailed out of that place … A woman raises her hand and says " My girlfriend and I broke up i'm so devastated …and lonely … I'm miserable I know I have to find a sponsee that will make everything all better …" I'm taking mental notes here cause I know she is obviously gay … so I decide to obligate and ask her after the meeting to sponsor yours truly … knowing what the results will be from past expierence …

    Me… Hi I heard your looking for a sponsee i'm looking for a sponsor maybe you can help me?

    Her … I don't sponsor MEN …

    Me … but I understand your gay so what diffence does that make?

    Her blank look ….

    (she busted and she knows it)

    I think …. a true spiritual giant would at least introduce me to someone who can help me

    She ….. Walks over to the newcommer with three days and tells her to stay away from the men and go to coffee with her …

    So thats how she finds girlfriend ….???? evidently the two of them started dating …. pretty slick too bad gay 13th stepping gets a complete pass in AA …. but Men are pigs … stay away … Glad I left Glad I'm not spiritually ill glad when I see them I can laugh now and say …. man life must suck if all one can do is be a predetor either male or female in an AA meeting

    Men with the men and the woman with the woman ……. hahahahahahah


    Never let anyone abuse you verbally … They call you idiot or retard on one hand and preach spirituality with the other ??? Thats Psycotic sociopathic abuse behavior and abusive not loving and caring as they put it not "tough love" I was around long enough to see these people hit that wall and crash burn and cry to reap what they have sown … I did have a sponsor in AA that taught me alot years ago to be nice and to alway remember a wise man just tells people sorry for your troubles and lends an ear without advice … is compassionate and always pays attention when someone talks to him with eye contact and concentration … shake hands and look the person in the eye not a6t some persons ass across the room …. he was 1 in a million over 23 years never met another like him … when he died in 1991 of AIDs people said he was using cause he was taking medication for AIDs and pain killers …. and to dicount whatever he was saying cause he was High …. heartless bastards


    And i'm forever gratefull to Orange too