Z’s Story


by Z

The great burden of guilt I carry, and which stops me in life, is older than my experience in the 12 Step movement but was greatly exacerbated by this.

The sorts of things I remember being told by my parents, both in their cups and not, are these:

“We had you, but it was with doubts and then, misgivings.”
“We cannot easily afford you, and we also know you are scheming to get our money.”
“You are perfect.”
“We do not believe you can be competent.”
“You are the most intelligent person in the world.”
“We love you because we have to, but we do not like you at all.”
“Play the piano and try to look pretty; then, with luck, some man will step up to take care of you. Otherwise, the way you are, you will be out on the street.”
“I love you so much. All I ever wanted was you.”
“If you think this is cruel, just wait to see what I could do to really make you cry. In the Congo they chop children right to pieces.”
“We know you very well.”

My mother was ill and it was because she was so unhappy being a mother; my father drank and it was due to the stress of caring for my mother. He would play for me the Bob Dylan song “Like A Rolling Stone,” in which the addressee is out on the streets and trying to get used to it. I understood this as one of the many threats that were made: walk carefully, or you will be out; walk carefully, or I will commit suicide; walk carefully, or I will self-injure and everyone will know it is your fault.

The situation was exacerbated when my childless aunt died leaving money earmarked for us children to go to college. My mother hated my aunt and also felt entitled to her savings. When it was discovered that a part of these were earmarked for us, and that the meaning of this was that we could not only go to college, but choose our own colleges, my parents’ anger at us increased. Again and again the point was made to us that we were causing them great financial harm. We did not know whether we had the option of rejecting my aunt’s will, and we were not old enough to know how to find out. I decided that going to a college I had chosen myself, and hurting my parents in that way, was my fate. I decided not to take it too seriously since, as it had already been made clear to me, my existence itself had already hurt my parents more deeply, both in their pocketbooks and in their being.

I knew I had issues with confidence, self-criticism and self-doubt, and I wanted help. I had also been told many times by my parents, when I objected to some of the more irrational propositions, that I was very neurotic and needed therapy. I promised myself I would seek it when I could afford it, and I did.

When this happened I was in my thirties. I had a good PhD and a good position at a good university, and I had fallen in love with the nearby city where I was living. School had been good – I had left home for it early, and stayed late – and I was vibrant and happy and full of life. Still I had vulnerabilities: visits with my parents engulfed me in depression, and women like my mother pulled at my heartstrings with need and guilt. Now seemed to be an excellent time to finally seek help with these issues, since I was otherwise strong and happy and free.

The error I made when I sought therapy was in saying that my parents drank. Had I not said this, I might have been funneled to a different type of therapy, but I was labeled as and Adult Child of an Alcoholic. This meant that I, necessarily, would have a specific list of problems including, although not limited to: work in a field not of actual interest to me; interest in outward success only; a strong desire to control other people; obsessiveness; compulsive activity; inability to feel; and incapacity to speak truthfully.

This news was devastating because it meant that to attain health I would have to work in a field other than my chosen one. I must become less successful in order to show that my interest in success was not an interest in mere outward success and power. I must give up control over my own life in order to show I could give up control of something. I must become distracted; I must develop difficulty with follow-through on tasks; I must take setbacks all too seriously; I must doubt my perceptions and otherwise accuse myself of dishonesty.

This program was destructive in itself, but it was particularly shocking to me because it was the program my mother had always advocated. Because the abuse from my ACOA/Alanon based therapy so mirrored the things I had been told by my drunken parents, I fell apart. I have stabilized, but I never really recovered. I do not think this is coincidental, nor do I think it is because I “transferred” anything onto the therapist. I think it is because the 12 step programs advocate and foster the kind of confusion our society actually wants to foist upon its members. I think my parents were trying to teach me to be functional, as they saw functionality; I think the 12 step programs do the same; I believe life is larger than this.


Part of the reason I never really recovered is that falling apart had a set of material results which surround me daily, and which I have not been able to overcome. I have a situation I am not happy with and that I know exactly how I got into. How could I have been so foolish to fall for that Alanon / ACOA line is the question which now tortures me.

Of course, I know how I fell for it and why – there is a term, “overdetermination,” which anyone can look up; it means there were so many factors contributing to an event that it took place almost inevitably. I can see this and yet I am still devastated to see that I allowed these things to happen.

Years have passed and I am alive and lively. I am someone you are glad to see, I am invited because my presence brings light; I help people in need, and I pass my bright ideas on. Yet I maintain a journal in which I am a character speaking from the grave and trying to get out, trying to reach again the bright world in which I lived as I did before, before acquiring the burden of guilt and self doubt I did from that therapy. Some days I think I am almost out; other days I am cast back; materially I live on an edge and this is a result of the invisibly impaired state in which I still find myself. In the days when my father played “Like A Rolling Stone” for me I was not actually close to being out on the streets, but I am closer to that now or feel myself to be.

When I started that therapy I was excited: I will be free at last! And the therapist said, “You have been the victim of abuse and neglect,” and I was delighted to have names now for what I had undergone in the past. He continued, “What you have achieved in life, given your past, is nothing short of remarkable; it must be the result of a high degree of denial.” “You are part of a special population; you have genetically based defects; you should not aspire to the things you do; people with your kind of background must live smaller lives.”

And then I died. Everything was false; everything my parents had said when I was a child was true; I had deep defects and all the things I had done, in particular the intellectually oriented things I had done and with which I was now making a living, were wrong. Wrong. As long as I was who I was, people would suffer; I must accept my true nature and rein myself in.


I say to anyone who contemplates seeking help for anything through AA or any of its spinoffs, please think twice. Do not let people tell you your accomplishments are not legitimate, or that your sense of reality is off. Do not let people tell you that if you can think, you cannot feel. Seek a second opinion. Do not allow it.

I would also suggest that no matter what anyone may have gone through as a result of alcoholism or alcoholics, it is not the only kind of bad thing people can go through. People go through things which are often worse. I do not know of any “program” other than the 12 steps which suggests that people who have had a certain kind of experience can never recover from it. I do not mean to suggest everyone should be able to recover from everything – I mean nobody should be told that getting over something is denial.

I find it disingenuous that the 12 step programs emphasize forgiveness and “letting go” while also taking a militant stance against the very possibility of these selfsame gestures.

I think we should all allow ourselves the freedom people who have had other kinds of misfortunes are regularly allowed – the possibility of getting over bad experiences. This is so much more realistic than the sentence one is given in the 12 step “movement,” to perpetually manage a difficult situation represented as inescapable.

[Z’s important follow-up to this post in the comments. — ftg]

  • cherokeebride

    Z, this is a beautiful piece of writing. I need to digest it, and plan on reading it again, but upon first reading, I want to say two things:

    1) I am so glad you have fought like hell. Keep on fighting.

    2) It wasn't until I read this that I realized that the messages I'm getting in AA right now are internalizing in myself. I have a successful career and a wonderful family and a fledgling side project, and am constantly made to feel like I'm "reaching too far" if I share my plans, goals and dreams with the very few people I'm forced to interact with in AA at the moment. I've been feeling lately like I should go smaller, do less, etc. I need to think on it, since I'm in that realization stage. I've tried so hard for it not to affect me, but dammit, I think it is.

    Thank you SO much for sharing this.

  • SoberPJ

    @ cb …. how AA negatively affects your life is subtle but profound as z's article demonstrates. If you let them, they will eventually take what you are doing and supplant it with "spreading the message". They will let you do all you want to spread the religion but normal goals and aspirations will be "dangerous" to your sobriety. Think about it. There is nothing in AA that talks deals with Maslows hierarchy of needs. Their version of self-actualization is to become a message spreading AA drone. For a daily homeless gutter drunk with absolutely nothing to live for, that might be an admirable goal. But for people with semi-healthy lives, it is many, many steps down. Since you are now in doubt, please look at SMART or SOS or Rational Recovery. There is no hocus pocus in those methods. No mind bending lies or contradictions. Save yourself.

  • cherokeebride

    Hey PJ:

    I'm actually very active in SMART and marginally knowledgeable in RR – have been since I quit! I'm the one who has to go to AA for a DUI, and unlike some states, my state doesn't offer the option of going to a non12step alternative.

    It just galls me that – despite all of the information I have – that I can still see "the message" get to me in certain ways & have me questioning myself and my motivations in areas of my life.

    If it can affect me, who knew a LOT going into meetings (I'd read the Orange Papers before ever walking into a meeting, am a skeptic and a non-theist who makes liberal use of Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit all the time) I can see how it can draw in someone who is very vulnerable with no critical thinking tools whatsoever.

  • AndyM

    The spin-offs alanon and acoa seem even more cruel and abusive than aa itself. They just seems to blame and denigrate people for being the victims of ill treatment by others, even as children. It is inhumane and totally unfounded for a "therapist" to label someone in this situation genetically impaired. This sort of cruel and nonsensical pseudoscience wouldn't be out of place in the Third Reich.

  • tintop

    excellent post, z.

  • DeConstructor

    Another example of failure of the real medical and psychological community not only failing to dispute the claims of the AA faith, but to irrationally embrace it.

    The AA faith, and its underlings (NA/Al-Anon/ACOA etc) are inexcusable and indefensible. The unearned admiration of the AA faith has caused unquantifiable damge to society, and it is truly the worst healthcare disaster in modern history.

  • SoberPJ

    cb .. it seems Frank Buchmann gave Bill W the "crafty" foundation which is a subtle religious indoctrination process. Without that special knowledge, AA would not exist. So, critical thinkers are trying to fight a finely tuned religious persuasion and conversion technique in addition to AA baloney which is not an easy task if you are forced to go. Based on your broad critical perspective and current observations, it appears the only way to not be negatively affected to any degree is to simply not be exposed to it. Further proof the "take what you want and leave the rest" advise is just not possible.

  • Z

    Thanks, folks. 🙂

    @PJ, Buchmann, oh YES, that plus I guess Dale Carnegie … although they don't do as well as he does they are still being sneaky like this:

    I really agree with this conclusion:

    "…it appears the only way to not be negatively affected to any degree is to simply not be exposed to it. Further proof the 'take what you want and leave the rest' advice is just not possible.

  • ez

    cherokee, perhaps breaking out the ABC technique might be help when you 'see “the message” get to {you} in certain ways'?

    I am fairly confident that you would be able to knock out several strong D's to whatever is going on there.

  • Gunthar2000

    Although I was never in ALANON, I've experienced similar situations in AA.

    When I first began to question the things that were happening at AA I started seeing a psychotherapist in Worcester, Massachusetts, named Douglas Counts. At the time I had a nice apartment, a new truck, and custody of my 12 year old son. The main focus of our therapy sessions quickly turned to my supposed "denial." I remember Mr. Counts asking me the same question each time I was ready to leave, "There's just one thing that you're still avoiding. There's a secret in there somewhere… What is it you're not telling me?"

    I never answered the question, but later I realized that my therapist was trying to plant a seed of self-doubt in order to push me toward his proposed solution to my problems.

    Mr. Count's solution to my problems was that I should drop my job, give custody of my son to his mother, and move into a sober house in Worcester so that I could be immersed in the AA cult. I argued that dumping my entire life for AA made no sense, and my therapist did his best to try to convince me that I was unwilling to do, "whatever it takes" to get sober.

    It was a couple of years before I was able to prove that the plan was not the only plan that could help me. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had followed his advice. I'm sure that things wouldn't be as good as they are now, and although I was drinking at the time, I wouldn't trade those years as a father for anything. My son and I have an excellent relationship. Imagine how it could have been if I had told him that he was no longer welcome.


    I was never in ALANON, but your posts are usually something I can relate to. AA and ALANON are the same religious cult with different target markets.

    Keep challenging those ideas that ALANON planted in your head. You've already proved that you are able to excel… Not everyone has the skills to succeed like you do. That's something you should be proud of.

  • Mike

    @AndyM: "The spin-offs alanon and acoa seem even more cruel and abusive than aa itself. "

    Indeed they are, but in a more Stepford-wives, forced serenity, tight-lipped sort of way. It's the ultimate cruelty, telling a newcomer they need to change themselves, living conditions notwithstanding. These people are delusional fools.

  • howlermonkey

    Thank you, Z.

    I am grateful that I only spent a few months in the hell of AA before I ran for my life. I could tell that something was wrong. It was only when I heard opinions like the ones here (and Penn and Teller's) that I started to see what it was. AA, NA, Al-Alon, all of them are destructive to everyone who crosses their paths. Some "thrive" by finding roles (sponsoring, counseling) where they get to crush others' lives and individuality as compensation for their own losses. But most just suffer, one way or another. The 12 Steps, no matter its form, is a program of self-hatred and self-destruction.

  • causeandeffect

    Z, thank you so much for writing this. I can’t begin to tell you how much I related to it. I wept. I realized some things. I had a release. Had to take time to respond, to think of what to say. But all I can say right now is I really relate to it. It’s so much more honest than what I hear in AA even with all it’s confessing. I was wondering if you keep a log of what you read and how it relates to the 12 steps? Thank you again so much.

  • cherokeebride

    @ez: Good point. I have tangentially worked them into a few ABCs, but not formally. I'll get on that. 🙂

  • humanspirit

    @Z A wonderful and deeply moving post. – through truly shocking too. I wish this could get to a wider audience.

    @Gunthar2000. Your story is also deeply shocking. HOW do these people ever manage to get themselves qualified as therapists, when they're giving advice (which any proper therapist wouldn't do anyway) which would destroy people's lives? No, no-one should ever be required to do 'whatever it takes' to stop drinking, if that 'whatever' means abandoning your children and everything else of value in your life. And how on earth would making yourself unemployed and totally destroying your relationship with your son help you stop drinking anyway? It's more likely to make the most abstemious person reach for the bottle.

    I've read so often on AA sites that people should put their 'sobriety' first, AA second (though this is inextricably confused with the first) and their family third. (Is this also in the BB too?). What kind of complete misanthropic bastard would preach this? Children will forgive their parents an awful lot, no matter how much they drink and mess up, if they know they are genuinely loved. What they will never forgive and what will really screw them up is the kind of outright rejection and abandonment your therapist wished on your son.

    And I'm at a complete loss to figure out exactly what either you or Z were supposed to be 'in denial' about. It is all such malignant nonsense it makes my head spin.

  • Rick045

    Thank you z, excellent post.

    Any mental health professional that blindly endorses and promotes the tenets of steppism to the exclusion of anything else is a quack and a fraud. I think many legitimate professionals are privately embarrassed by these charlatans, but they will never come out and admit it publicly.

  • Z

    @Gunthar: Terry Mayers, MSW, BCSW, of New Orleans, LA kept saying exactly this: “There’s just one thing that you’re still avoiding. There’s a secret in there somewhere… What is it you’re not telling me?”

    @Primrose: I should write this up for a fancier venue, yes. For a broad audience I'd have to target a venue and write to it. It needs references; my tendency would be to heavy on references and that would make the venue smaller; a lot of the theoretical points have been made by Elayne Rapping in her _The Culture of Recovery_ which I wish I'd read then … wish I'd even known these ideas were 12 step ideas, which I it took some digging to figure out. If you search my blog http://profacero.wordpress.com for the term "reeducation" which means Alanon among other things, you can see how I figured some of this stuff out. The 12 steps really are more or less storefront fundamentalist Christianity.

    Also, these therapists with MSWs really only have a couple of years' education beyond the BA and that isn't a lot. They may not yet distinguish well between self help conventional wisdom and actual psychology. If they're also steppers, they may have more stepping than actual training in them.

  • Primrose

    Thanks Z. I thought al-anon was bad. ACOA scares me. That some people embrace this? There must be a percentage of the population who just love being in a cult.

    Cherokee, it is so difficult not to be affected. I had read the orange papers, more revealed, etc, and contributed negatively to AA sites, and go shot down there and personally attacked, which itself was helpful in proving again that this is a wacky and dangerous cult. I had not been to a meeting for over 2 and a half years. But it was re-reading the story of Marty Mann funding Jellinek to prove that alcoholism was a disease that finally deeply convinced me. And convinced me how brainwashed I had been, even up till then. Once one has internalised how awful one must be, then hanging out with people who have come to regard themselves in the same light must feel like the only option. (Bit like very heavy drinkers hanging out together)

    I have had some interesting conversations with people telling me that altho AA contains some bad apples, al-anon is just a bunch of people who are affected and want to help. What would you make of that?

    Is there a section on al-anon and other spin offs? Can you imagine what it is like to have a partner in al-anon when one is a fully paid up agent orange supporter? It is insane. I am out the other side now and the now ex al-anon partner is slowly but surely being read this site. We are working down the escape stories.

    Thanks again z, and for sharing your research about torture etc.

  • Z

    Once you internalize the self doubt and start suspecting yourself of things, you're sort of doomed until you can shut that off. The way they tell you to get rid of your friends is bad, too — they assume your friends are bad influences. What they really want to do is surround you with other steppers, to help convince you.

    I think many people *do* want to be in some form of cult. They don't call them cults, but they're narrow little groups with narrow little ideologies. To go back to the research on torture, it's why so many people support it … believe it's making us "safe" and so on … and yes this is an outside issue but the U.S. is a torture state that fears dem A-rabs. Ask the average person on the street what the "American freedom" they want to die for is, and you'll just get a few empty slogans, too.

    I went to Alanon a second time, years later, because of being involved with this man who was using insulin like a drug. I was reading the Orange Papers then. There were a lot of nice people who really were at a loss about a situation and had been referred there. They had things like, high schoolers caught drinking and sent to rehab. And some really seemed to just have been through something alcohol related at some point and now to want to come to just discuss life issues. This was in a huge group with over 100 people – maybe even 200, visualizing now. I didn't last long because I got what I had come for pretty soon: confirmation that the behavior I was getting really did resemble alcoholic behavior, and that the feelings I was having were related to this.

  • Ben Franklin

    Just curious,Z, how does a person use insulin like a drug?

  • Z, great , well written post! Thanks for writing it. I went to Al ANon for 20 years, Sober for 35 years in AA but I am the spearhead of exposing the criminal and sexual and financial harassment going on in AA now. It is a grassroots movement we started to try and Make AA Safer. LOL. Now I see this as not possible.

    SO I will eventually leave, staying sober and start something new. I plan to visit SOS and Women in Sobriety just to check it out.

    Here on ST I see I am not alone.

    WHen I needed AL ANon it helped but when I recently went back I heard them say we only speak "AL NAON here" WTF is that a cult or what. Besides Al ANon has never really grown and that is one reason. EVen in Hawaii there are only 7 meetings a week after 30 years.

    I heard someone in higher up in Al Anon years back bought a ouse in Virginia Beach with members money sent to the Headquarters in Virginia Beach.

    AA has made itself seem like it's so special and secret like its a special society that Presidents belong to. Really The Traditions…. It's not that special.

    Hear this, If there were no leaks to the press ever!!! WHere Bill W. Mr anonymity himself didnt talk to Newspaper etc. AA would be very small.

    If AA did not break the 3 rd tradition and allow the courts and rehabs to meetings over the past 25 years AA would not only be flatlining it would be really really small.

    The Woman who started the The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug ABuse was from AA. It was how she got around the AA BS, Traditions. the secrecy, the DUI , The rehabs becoming all 12 step recovery etc.

    All of it has to be exposed. ALL OF IT.

    ANd yet the small little member believes in this serious anonymity. WE're special, we're a secret society. This is BS.

    IF the Founder of The

  • Sorry for my ranting on an on but I get so pissed about all of this.

    Right now, someone in every city, in every state in the USA, someone is being fucked over in AA, someone is being 13stepped, sexually harrassed and financially ripped off and told their best thinking got them there. I am just at a loss. I need to regroup and find some like minded people in my city and or group. The reality about AA is that what is represented on aa.org is a fraud. Pure and simple. It's a LIE!

  • AllyB

    @Z, "And some really seemed to just have been through something alcohol related at some point and now to want to come to just discuss life issues. "

    This was what weirded me out when I was attending al anon. Why were there these women who had either left their alcoholic husband nearly a decade ago, or whose alcoholic husband had been sober for many years still attending these meetings. I used to listen to them talk and think surely the healthiest thing for them to do would be to get on with their lives for real. Maybe they could spend Monday evening in a drama group or a yoga class or just drinking tea at home while watching tv. Why come and sit in a room full of people who need help with someone's drinking and keep talking about how happy you are to be in that room? What good does it do?

    I get that if you have come through a difficult time you might like to help others who are still in difficulty. I ache with what I know about different treatments for alcoholism. I hate that the majority of people seeking help are pushed into a cult and left either figuratively lobotomised or without help. And I hate that I have complied some pretty great information about eliminating cravings that almost nobody wants to know. All addiction doctors here prescribe thiamine (vit B1) to help manage withdrawal as heavy alcohol consumption blocks the brain's production of thiamine and leaves anyone trying to withdraw open to severe mood swings. I have posted this repeatedly on addiction websites and been completely ignored. So I get why someone who has bee through living with an addict would want to help others who need help now. But that's not really what the al anon old-timers are doing. They just talk and talk about how the steps are helping them through current issues.

    A common issue was; My husband who hasn't had a drink in 4 years is annoyed I came to this meeting tonight, he thinks that because he's sober now I don't need to come here any more. Other old timers roll their eyes and chuckle at his folly. While I would sit there agreeing with her husband. Why would anyone want to come and sit with a group of desperate, anxious women (and the occasional man) and talk about how alcohol problems if they weren't affected by alcohol problems? It's so counter-productive.

  • Mona Lisa

    Z: Thank you for your post. I found it stunningly painful to read. As a therapist in training myself, I am simply horrified at what a member of my future profession did. Honestly, I am sick over this: it disgusts me. If your therapist was a social worker, what he did was wholly unethical under the ethical rules that govern social workers. Social workers are ethically bound NOT to impose their own worldviews on their clients and especially not to disempower them. My feeling is that anyone who experiences this sort of con-game at the hands of a social worker should contact their state's licensing body and complain about it.

    Regarding the level of competence of master's level social workers, I'm actually a bit astonished at how much work and education is involved. It is not a bubble-gum profession in the least. I've also got a JD and am licensed to practice law, and frankly there is just as much if not more involved in becoming a licensed clinical social worker than there is in becoming a licensed attorney. In my state, lawyers have 3 years of law school, pass the bar exam and that's it. LCSWs have 2 years in a masters program and can test to be LSWs at that point, but 3000 hours of supervised clinical work, plus another licensing exam, are required for full clinical licensure.

    The problem is not that social workers are idiots or that MSWs can't be good therapists. The problem is that steppism is alive and well and has unfortunately permeated the ranks of ALL the helping professions.

  • Mike

    @AllyB: " Why would anyone want to come and sit with a group of desperate, anxious women (and the occasional man) and talk about how alcohol problems if they weren’t affected by alcohol problems? It’s so counter-productive."

    Because these are typically people who are lonely and have not found other social outlets. The 12-step movements allow them an ersatz social group in which the sharing of intimate details of their lives can be done without having to build and maintain actual intimate friendships. It's laziness coupled with complacency.

  • true believer

    Alanon gives power to the doormat (the groups own terminology). The payoff is great; the doormat gets to win the pissing contest! The problem drinker is beat down and stepped over while the AA solution is passively stuffed down his throat. If he fails to accept "the solution" he is abandoned and striped of his family and home. Now the born again gal is free to find another love at an Alanon convention. Meanwhile the kids languish in the shadows and adopt behavioral problems.

    What do I suggest you ask? Try to love your husband enough to offer them every solution and support available. Many people can’t get help in AA. To offer it as the only solution is suicide.

  • LUCY

    @TB – You are right about the pissing contest, but there is another kind of Al-Anon, besides the nagger.

    The ones who have the family member who continues to drink and have accepted the situation as normal so that they can be in charge of the family. Those members are the ones who regularly come in and list the many sins of the drinker, and crow about how Al-Anon has given them spiritual and saintly tools so that it doesn't bother them. They have no real interest in helping the drinker stop drinking because it robs them of a platform for victimhood. They win the pissing match when the spouse keeps drinking.

    That's why there are tons of spouses in those meetings who have married more than one alcoholic. It's also why there are 60 year old "children" of drinkers who use their parents' drinking as an excuse as to why they are failures in their careers, marriages, etc., despite years of Al-Anon, therapy, etc. They have no reason to change if they get positive attention for being immature.

    I understand the hell of living with drugs and drinking. I grew up in a home like the one Z describes, and I would not want to visit it on anyone. However, there is a big difference between acknowledging the affect it had on me (and dealing with the consequences of my reaction to that affect) and blaming my family for my behavior. There is also a big difference in being a kid who is forced to live with a drinking, out-of-control parent, and being a spouse who picks a drinker to marry.

    The problem I have with Al-Anon is the same as the problem I have with AA. They are both "programs" based on the faulty notion of faith healing for a non-existent disease. They infiltrate our mental health system so that they become the de facto first resort (as Z so eloquently pointed out in her piece) rather than allowing the professional community to find both better ways to help people stop drinking, and better ways to deal with the infliction of the drinker's behavior of the family and the choices the family can make to adjust their own complications (and choices) from the infliction.

  • humanspirit

    @Ally B

    "I used to listen to them talk and think surely the healthiest thing for them to do would be to get on with their lives for real."

    Exactly. This is one of the most depressing things about all these 12-step groups. They may actually be helpful for some people for a while, and I wouldn't deny that. But to encourage people to base their whole lives around the fact that they once drank too much or someone close to them did is sheer insanity, especially when this problem is in the past. One of the great paradoxes of Al-Anon (among many) is that people are told to stop 'obsessing' about the drinker in their life and to 'detach' – but then, even when that person has actually stopped drinking, they are expected to continue with their 'obsession' with this person – for ever, it seems – and let the drinker's (or ex-drinker's) behaviour completely dominate their lives. It is just another bit of proof that AA is not, ultimately, about helping people cope with the issue of alcoholism, either in themselves or in their nearest and dearest.

    @true believer. Spot-on.

    @Z "@Primrose: I should write this up for a fancier venue, yes. For a broad audience I’d have to target a venue and write to it."

    (Are you getting me and Prim mixed up again? 🙂 No problem, btw – I do the same with Violet and Lucy!)

    I would just SO much like to see this article published for a wider audience – it is extremely powerful. The abuse that's carried out in the cause of steppism is allowed to continue because people generally are completely ignorant about what goes on within these groups and in the name of the half-baked philosophy behind them. I'll check out the link to your blog – thanks.

  • Marco

    I really did not understand what this person was talking about, except for the first part describing how her parents put her down, which was horryfying.

    It seems to me that AA or Al-Anon alone could not have such an effect on this person, because these organisations are not that intrusive and abusive and cultish. I think what happenned to her is due more to her previous traumas in life (like from her parents, see the book The Primal Scream), not Al-Anon. I mean how could someone write they were bright and lively and successful after such a childhood, and be traumatised like that only from idiots like at Al-Anon, which I have also attended. It did not have such an effect on me, nowhere near. And I would venture, nor does it have on most more stable people.


  • Marco

    Hi again: Just a correction to my previous post: The first part of my first sentence should read " I did not FULLY understand..".

    And I would like to add generally that we should not attribute every sin in the world to AA and Al-Anon, as is done a lot here on this site. We can't have a counter-conformity here to criticise AA. For example, if someone who is a psycho has been to AA, that does not necessarily reflect on AA as a whole.


  • Gunthar2000

    What happened to Marco?

  • causeandeffect

    I suspect a stepper has him duct taped to a chair and has hijacked his computer. Oh my! I hope they're not watching porn too!!!

  • SoberPJ

    Why, yes, stinkin-thinkin should be the Fox News of 12 Step muckracking sites – " Fair and Balanced" . Otherwise, people might get the idea we actually don't like 12 Step institutions and want them to radically change or disappear altogether. Oh,… wait ….

  • tintop

    What do you think of AA as whole?

  • Primrose

    I 'hear you, Marco. I am committed to exosing this cult, but I don't want any grouthink here, as there is there.

    I am grateful that I didn't get sucked in as much as some eole did and I am very grateful to Orange and my own sense of reservation for that, but luck also layed a art in that.

    I totally understand why z and others got suck in .

    They get them when they are vulnerable.

  • Primrose

    Z, thanks again for that. It will be re-read. I would like to hear more about the al-anon and acoc asects of the 12s movement. (The letter between o and q is not functioning on my keyboard, so deciher accordingly).

  • Z

    @Ben Franklin, how to use insulin like a drug.

    Well, remember that the highs and lows in blood sugar of diabetics mimic drunkenness in the first place.

    If you want to get the sort of drunk feeling you can get from those sugar highs and lows, you can manipulate your mixture of food, coffee, exercise, and insulin so as to be skating on the low and high edges a lot of the time. That means you'll have weird behavior and also pass out when you're not doing it just right — i.e. when you haven't gotten the mixture such that you're just a little off, but rather have gone too far to the edge.

    The problem is that you can't just put a blanket over someone who has just fainted from diabetes and tell them to sleep it off. You have to get the paramedics in to revive them, otherwise they die. It is very stressful and this is what he had done to another girlfriend and an ex wife, or so I heard later.

    I wanted to dump him so as to get away from this scene but various people said it wasn't fair to dump him because he was sick, he couldn't help it, I wasn't justified, etc., and I feel guilty about the sick because of my mother, so I went to Alanon so I could hear that the situation was unmanageable, that I hadn't caused it, couldn't control it, and couldn't cure it, that he'd only stop abusing insulin when he decided to stop, etc., etc., so I wouldn't feel so guilty about breaking up. It still took a few months but it was the only place in town where they didn't know him and wouldn't say "oh, but he's so great," and "oh, but you are such a good couple," and things like that.

  • Z

    @ Marco — as you wish. I'm your friend Iemanja from the boards, with whom you have been pleased to correspond at profacero@gmail.com.

    Remember — this was not Alanon, this was a BCSW who was a secret stepper; it took some sleuthing to figure out where his ideas came from and what Hazelden was. Also remember, just because one has certain parents who part of the time do certain things, does not mean they also do not teach other things, or one does not have other influences. Please get a little more sophisticated in your thinking and a little less judgmental / simplistic.

    YES I am vulnerable to certain kinds of mental abuse and when I explained this to this therapist he used it to his own advantage. This kind of thing does happen. And abuse works on everyone, not just on the weak.

    Mona Lisa, yes, MSW/BCSW training and JD are about the same amount. A PhD is a research degree. It requires a lot stronger intellectual background and a lot more training than either, and a PhD in clinical psychology is in that field, and not in social work. I don't mean disrespect to social workers and I am sure a lot of them do a lot of good.

    My view is that the amount of training you get for the MSW / BCSW isn't usually enough to dislodge all the faux therapeutic ideas that float around in popular culture and are taken for truth / nature / common sense / etc. That doesn't mean the PhD will do it but from what I've learned since this era it's more likely, just because of the years more of hard reading and thought that are involved. Before my experience with all of this I would have considered this view elitist.

  • tintop

    ketoacidosis can, very easliy, be lethal. Do not trifle with insulin.


    Diabetes is a very dangerous disorder. It must be taken very seriously. Type 1 diabetes can, very easily, reduce life span by 20 years. And, frequently, does just that. Voice of experience.

  • SoberPJ

    I learn or realize something new every day by coming here to Stinkin-thinkin. Who would of thought to mess with insulin levels to cop a buzz? Not me. I guess I wasn't as clever an addict as I thought………. The first time I heard in meetings of people going to real estate open houses and asking to use the bathroom to steal drugs, it was like, "what a great idea ! "

  • Z

    Yes, I mix up hs and Primrose, sorry!

    On this from Marco: "I mean how could someone write they were bright and lively and successful after such a childhood, and be traumatised like that only from idiots like at Al-Anon, which I have also attended. It did not have such an effect on me, nowhere near. And I would venture, nor does it have on most more stable people."

    –Well, this is the reaction I usually get when I tell this story. It's more or less what the therapist thought: how could I be bright and lively, it must be some form of denial. Being told so many times, if that therapy was that destructive it must be because I really was much more screwed up than I thought, is why I kept internalizing the ideas that were suggested more and more deeply. It was as though the only thing one was not allowed to think was the truth: I told a professional what my weak spots were and trusted them with the information, and they used that information and various psychological weapons, including the 12 step ideas, in a destructive way.

    That is what would have to be included and explained, in a more detailed way, in the official version of the piece under my real name. The relevance to 12 stepping is the theme: pervasiveness of 12 steps in society at large and in the mental health industry.

    The importance of the 12 steps is that, as I did research to try to find out where this guy's ideas were coming from (I had assumed that given his education and license, he would have an education in actual psychology), I discovered that every core idea was a 12 step idea. That was how I became familiar with the ideological background of 12 stepping (although I didn't find out about its early history until I read Orange, which explained another chunk of the background).


    tt: insulin, d-d straight. Trifling with insulin is self destructive and generally destructive. And, re your general question on AA as a whole (whether the presence of a psycho in it reflects on the whole program): the program as a whole is psycho although one can meet some non psychos there.


    tb: I think dumping the alcoholic spouse *is* the way to go. I've never dealt with an alcoholic but I did go out with the insulin abuser. He wanted the highs and lows and didn't mind the hospital scenes. I did not want that life.

    I have said many times that Alanon like anything can be useful in some ways when there

    is nothing better available, just as some people here have found AA to have been useful at certain points. But both come with huge doses of unhelpfulness as well, and something better would be a lot better.


    Finally, re groupthink here: I don't think it is groupthink. If AA/12 stepping is to be critiqued, we *do* need to identify the common threads. That's not groupthink, it's more like brainstorming toward scientific inquiry. It seems to me that there's a serious effort going on here to identify positive things people got from AA that one would like also to be effects of the alternative.

  • Z

    @PJ, yes … well I had another diabetic friend who said she *wanted* to do it, because you go into this interesting haze, just didn't dare because it is bad for you. My diabetic date, though, was getting off on the drama: worried people, paramedics, etc. I don't know but it occurs to me you might also get some great endorphins after being brought back from the brink like that. After being revived he always felt relaxed and great and everything, and it occurs to me it might have been like the highs people get on from self harm.

  • SoberPJ

    Wow… the highs from self harm ! That got me thinkin…. I wonder if that can include psychological self harm? I think it can ! Constantly putting oneself in difficult situations or perceiving the world as if it is always confusing and overwhelming so you can feel better about minor triumphs. Or, like AA, where you focus on the negative and debase yourself and get debased by others and then it feels so good when it stops momentarily, then the process repeats. Are addicted people not just addicted to a substance that knowingly does them harm, but addicted to the concept of debasement as well? Is that why negative and abusive humor is so popular in the rooms? It is meeting a need. The need to be debased. The need to confirm a negative self-image because it feels "right". …. omg.. there's something there. Self harm isn't just physical !!

  • Z

    @PJ yes, I am convinced this is on the mark. It took me a long time to figure it out but I came to the conclusion that there are people like this.

    I work with young folks so I know all sorts of people who do things like cut themselves and I've had them explain how it's hard to resist because of what it releases. That's how I realized the parallel with other people who do it at the psychological level. As you say: "like AA, where you focus on the negative and debase yourself and get debased by others and then it feels so good when it stops momentarily, then the process repeats."

  • Z

    P.S. I am now hogging the thread, overposting because I found Marco's comment above triggering — I've just heard responses to that effect so many times, and trying to take them seriously just pushed me back into the morass. So I'm talking back to it and making it therapeutic.

    1. Why my childhood didn't have worse effects than it did.

    a. There was just one drunk, who wasn't too bad as drunks go;

    b. There was just one emotional abuser (with the drunk as accomplice sometimes, sure, but still just one);

    c. There were lots of other people and excellent influences, and all sorts of great input — living in a gorgeous place, having great schools and recreational programs and travel and all of this, and even elements (a) and (b) have their positive sides (and while demented, are NOT as demented as Dat Shrink.

    2. Therefore, leaving home at 16 and having another couple of decades of coolness in life after that, it really was possible to be in quite good shape.

    3. Yes I had traces of that BS in me that I wanted to look at and heal, and I submit that that desire in itself is a sign of health. I submit that said childhood had the bad aspects I say it did, but not MORE, and that it is totally possible to come from a bad situation and get over a lot of it on your own; many people do this, not just me.

    4. Therapist: bad luck, really. I trusted the person who gave me the reference, and didn't ask enough questions; I kept too open a mind; it was in the 90s when 12 stepping was *really* in fashion; that therapist was a stepper although I didn't realize it; I didn't go to step groups myself at that time but a lot of my friends started doing it, and step theory was in the popular press, and so on.

    5. So, during that period I had *lots* of people telling me that steppism was health, whereas earlier in life the similarly abusive attitudes only came from a couple of sources and there was a lot to counterbalance them.

    6. But, the Horror was that all of these sources, in that period, were calling "health" the ideas I had always known, instinctively, were not health, BUT that came from elements 1(a) and 1(b). Because of who these two elements were, the sudden affirmation of their ideas, coming now from professional and supposedly objective voices, was too much to bear.

    7. That's why.

    Or one can look at it differently. One can say, I only had that reaction to the Steppish ideas because of my past. If that's true, then it means the Steppish ideas were a bad fit.

    This was in fact the question I had at the time: how can this do any good, I can only see it as harmful, what is going on? The answer I got was that I was in denial. But once again, notice that the questions I had were on the mark.

    So I want to underline Lucy's point, that the de facto use of 12 stepping as first resort is the real problem. And I want to register my strong objection to Marco's idea that if I had been "more stable" the 12 step ideas would not have had the effect they did. I submit to you that being stable is why their effect was not worse.

    I would also like to underline that this is a typical 12 stepping idea: if it was bad for you, then you were unstable. I would like to underline that a major problem with 12 steppers is that so many of them are so truly unstable, and that they call signs of stability such aas questioning the program, having attained a decent education and job, maintaining a decent home, having friends and interests outside work, being engaged with the community, having plans and goals, etc., "denial."

  • SoberPJ

    thanks z… that is actually huge for me to realize and its great to read your supporting remarks.

  • Z

    Finally, in defense of Alanon itself:

    When I actually went to the Thing Itself was in a second period. In the time with Dat Shrink, I had Da Shrink and then a supposed women's survivors group. I didn't realize their secret guru was Melody Beattie (a Hazelden mouthpiece) or who/what she was (she's pernicious and not feminist by a long shot).

    Then, when I was over a lot of that stuff already, I got involved with the now infamous diabetic, decided there was a weird dynamic there, wanted to go to a support group for partners of devious diabetics, but such a thing didn't exist. I armed myself with the Orange Papers and went to Al-Anon.

    I could have gotten what I got, probably better, without the influence of the steps in the way, but what I got was really valuable. I found out how people felt in relationships with others who were disrupting their lives with alcohol abuse. I saw how similar my situation really was, and confirmed for myself that I was justified in wanting to leave the situation.

    Of course, the hardliner Alanons assumed that I wouldn't really want to leave and that I would find another ill person if I did leave, so I might as well stay. These would have been undermining ideas had I listened to them. What I did listen to was people talking about how these hopeless situations made them feel. I saw myself in what they were said and this didn't just confirm my sense that I should get out; it also showed me how I'd gotten in.

    My point: I learned from the group. Key to all of this was not doing the steps and not buying into all of the assumptions about what kind of personality you "must" have if you have the kind of situation I had. But I was only not vulnerable to all of that because I'd already been exposed to those ideas and thought about them.

  • Z

    @PJ "that is actually huge for me to realize"

    … huge for me, too.

    It's a recent revelation I am still trying to wrap my mind around.

  • Z

    P.P.S. ALSO on this: "how could someone write they were bright and lively and successful after such a childhood, and be traumatised like that only from idiots like at Al-Anon"

    ***Did you read the post? I'm talking about a licensed and supposedly feminist psychotherapist who was a closet stepper, as I finally figured out.***

    ***Indeed I should have escaped that therapist quickly, not slowly, but that would have been classified as "resistance" and "denial." Steppers would disapprove of my escaping quickly as much as they do of my escaping slowly and then discussing the experience.


    ***My other objection to stepping, not mentioned so far, is this contradiction:

    – they want to say there is a certain population of inferior people, who need stepping to stay straight

    – at the same time, they expect perfection of people: any error you make is due to insufficient stepping, or to a flaw in your upbringing.

    What they do not realize is that people, even when not inferior, do make errors and wrong decisions. My decision to give that therapist the benefit of the doubt was one.

    I don't think it's at all fair to put every human error up to "dysfunction," "instability," and so on as the steppers do. Nor do I think they are fair when they say that pointing out errors is "blaming."

    If the idea is to "keep it simple," then it should be all right to call an error an error, I think.


    Marco, who wants to know "how could someone write they were bright and lively and successful after such a childhood, and be traumatised like that only from idiots like at Al-Anon," also wants his DUI to be considered a mistake.

    He has gotten a lot of sympathy on this site, including from me, for his ear problem, his lack of a work situation, his social isolation, and his lack of his own place to live.

    I do not understand where he gets off accepting all of this and then turning around and calling someone who wrote a brave post "unstable."


    More generally I think a huge error in the current culture is the assumption that people who seek psychotherapy must be in some kind of secret crisis and are probably habitual liars or otherwise dishonest.

    I knew people with serious problems saw psychiatrists but I thought most therapy was more like a luxury available to the fortunate, to blow out the last of their cobwebs. I thought it was something you undertook when you were at a calm point in life, so you could dig in and get some real work done.

    I knew part of its point was to increase awareness, but I really didn't expect its core assumption about the psyche to be the AA assumptions about the character of alcoholics. Also, not being familiar with AA I did not know what these assumptions were. That made them, and their source, hard to identify.

  • Z

    *** AND I promise I will shut up. But one last thing re Marco's comment.

    PRE-POINT. The comment upsets me greatly because it's the same justification of that therapist I usually hear: "If it was bad for you, it must have been because you were unstable, it couldn't be because it was an incoherent paradigm, or an incompetent or abusive practitioner." I have really considered this point of view very seriously, for a long time, and I have come to the conclusion that it makes no sense.

    POINT. When various people here, including Marco, were being yelled at by that poster William Casey, who kept saying he was such a good educator, and athlete, and coach, and had more authority to speak than the rest of us low lifes, I fought with him about this argument from (tenuous, in my view, although not his) authority. I said look, a lot of people on here are as accomplished or moreso than you, and those who aren't are still as smart or smarter and their experience is still just as valid, and they may have more experience or more insight, so stop saying you are right just because you are an educator, athlete, and coach.

    So I don't like to take the tone of William Casey and say look, I'm an accomplished professional and a pillar of society, always have been, but I am. When I say the 12 step ideas were really destructive to me, I mean I became quite depressed and was never as high functioning again as I had been. I don't mean I lost jobs and houses or did drugs or got drunk and so on and so forth. I don't mean I was barely functional ("unstable") in life beforehand and got worse later.

    I did get worse later and I've already said so. I got involved with that diabetic, for Heaven's sake! I haven't written as many books and articles as I would have liked to since that time! I am scribbling in a blog, reacting to a random comment, in the middle of the night! I don't deny any of this!

    But people who are studying the steps, are studying humility. One way to practice that would be not to make random judgments and throw random barbs at people who have been nice to them!!!

    !!! OK I am finally done. All of this has obviously been written by one who in childhood was called "unstable" for noticing that certain people were drinking too much. 😉

  • Z

    Ha! P.S. Reiterating:

    "And I would like to add generally that we should not attribute every sin in the world to AA and Al-Anon, as is done a lot here on this site."

    I don't think this is what's done on this site. And this post, if you notice, is critical of a licensed psychotherapist with the 12 steps in his closet, who was not up front about saying that was what he was working with.

    "We can’t have a counter-conformity here to criticise AA."

    That's not the purpose and I really don't think it is what is going on. What *is* getting shaken out is that a surprising cross section of people has similar experiences in both AA and in its spinoffs.

    I see nothing wrong with coming up with basic talking points or a list of key or root issues, such as criticism of the disease model, criticism of the idea of treating an (allegedly genetic) disease with religion, etc. This is, once again, how research is done, how learning happens, how committees get together to analyze a problem and figure out how to understand it, etc. I really don't see people on this site quoting from any particular dogma and I don't see everyone having the same emphases.

  • Z

    ***And also*** just in case, I don't think people here are basing their lives on "being anti-AA" or something like that — they seem to have a lot else going on.

    In my case, it took a long time to understand and then dislodge the things I'd been taught. I seemed to have to dismantle it bit by bit, dislodge each piece, look at it, throw it away. That is because the 12 stepping ideas are so close to a lot of the standard training women get — doubt yourself, defer to authority, etc. etc. and because I had had enough early training in accepting unwarranted criticism, projection, and so on that the 12 stepping ideas took hold pretty well when I decided to just try them on. So, you get me and a lot of others, it seems, using this site to help with the detox.

    But ultimately what I'm interested in is exposing all of this; my lemma about everything, not original to me, is "don't mourn, organize!"

    That's very different from "blaming everything on AA/12 stepping." 12 stepping was invented in the 20th century and most problems in the world predate it and cannot be attributed to 12 stepping itself; I think most people are aware of that.

    My larger point would be that 12 stepping goes hand in glove with patriarchy, capitalism, etc. because it piggy backs on the fundamentalist Protestantism already lodged in so much of world culture. It really works to keep the masses in line, blaming themselves for problems they did not create, questioning themselves instead of changing things, doubting themselves instead of asserting anything.

    If it's a question of learning to be happy and tranquil even in bad circumstances, there are *much* better paths to that than the 12 steps. At the present juncture, with 12 stepping having seeped so far into the general culture, it's important to call its precepts into question. "Live and let live" should not be taken to mean "never examine anything."

  • We love you because we have to, but we do not like you at all.”

    z, were you listening at my house's window? you must've been!

  • DeConstructor


    That was stated very diplomaticly. There are some of us who would be more direct in outright criticism of the AA faith. I have stated many times that people should be able to participate in the AA faith as they should in any other strain of religion.

    However, with that being stated, it is important to rightfully put blame where it is due on the clear and present danger that the AA faith fosters. There are many complications to the AA faith and the unearned admiration they recieve that are extremely dangerous to people.

    We have links to story after story here of people that are murdered, raped, assaulted, and robbed. Daily it seems there is another disaster arising because someone had the great idea to put the inmates in charge of the asylum and give them carte blanche credibility.

    I also think it is very important that an alternate view be strongly promoted on the internet because we have security here, anonymity wise, and also we have the freedom to not be hassled (sometimes Soprano style) that happens in the real world when people are critical of the AA faith.

    When I was going through the process of stopping drinking, I found it tremendously beneficial to find others that were very critical of the AA faith. They certainly recieve far too much admiration for the very little good they do for society.

    On a side note, the last thing I said to my employer mandated professional stepper "counselor" was that I promised that I would spend the rest of my life destroying and deconstructing the 12 step empire.

    He arrogantly stated "good luck on that one".

    That was years ago- and I still carry an attitude about it, and I still have intentions of destroying their empire- even if it is one person at a time.

  • Z

    @Violet, yes. I might as well have been listening, because these people are all reading from the same script!

    @Deconstructor, thanks for that. I'm tolerant to a certain point of individual steppers, because they're not professionals and are struggling themselves, and of my mother for the same reasons. But having this stuff sold as treatment for various and sundry ills and also as a rational perspective on the world is really harmful and I favor getting it stopped.

    As far as Marco's thing — in a nutshell, why did that therapist get to me when my parents hadn't fully — well:

    + because it had always been clear my parents had issues and I had also always kept my guard up to some degree;

    + because the therapist was a licensed professional with a focus on feminist therapy, child abuse, family systems therapy, and I wasn't familiar with the 12 steps or the problems with them, and didn't know the therapist was a stepper.

    @Marco: who are you to be calling me unstable, you self described homeless, unemployed, friendless one who drinks a lot and is dealing with a DUI? Me the always well employed non drinker with the cool house and all those interesting friends and projects? I am not saying not having the problems you have make me better than you in some class sense or metaphysical way, but I am saying you sure are in no position to call anyone "unstable," much less me.

    I am also saying your behavior on this thread has been pretty damned bad, since a lot of people including me were very nice to you when you came wailing on here. As I said up thread, it was William Casey who pegged you for a jerk; maybe he saw himself in you in a way we couldn't; maybe he was right.

    You e-mailed me asking whether people on ST were offended by your swearing, and I said I didn't think so and it didn't bother me. What does bother me is your making insulting remarks on a post you barely read. As I kept saying, when you've told your story I've been kind to you about it. I tell mine and you come up with an AA cliche or two and call me unstable. I therefore think you are an asshole of the first water.

  • Rick045

    As others have already noted, the real tragedy is how the ideas of steppism have been allowed to infiltrate and find acceptance in other areas of health care. Generally speaking, this isn't the sort of thing that people study before hand. Desperate people end up in a therapist's office and they often don't know what to ask or where to begin.

    Many of us here have learned our lessons the hard way. Even steppers who occasionally drive by can't understand where we are coming from because they haven't come out on the other side.

    Personally, I still have a lot of problems with issues surrounding trust. Those same toxic mixed messages from childhood that Z describes so well are simply magnified and repeated throughout twelve step programs. The bottom line being that "you are inherently defective, and always will be, you are wrong, and always will be".

    The AMA was right in it's 1939 review of the Big Book, and then they sold out anyway. Legitimacy can be bought. Diseases can be manufactured. Credentials don't necessarily mean anything…

    The medical community as a whole needs to get honest and ask themselves why they ever allowed this blight to infest their ranks in the place.

  • true believer




  • Z

    "The medical community as a whole needs to get honest and ask themselves why they ever allowed this blight to infest their ranks in the place."

    AMEN. The answer is that a lot of them are in simplistic religions and other ideologies that resemble the 12 steps more than one would think. An MD is a technical type of training and it does not necessarily teach the skills one would need to have to criticize 12 stepping. To the contrary, it often teaches condescension to patients and endows the MD with godlike qualities. So to them, a program that "teaches us we are not gods" can seem like profound wisdom.

    Or: having an MD and working in a doctor in the US is working in the capitalistic and patriarchal system that spawned AA and that 12 stepping justifies and supports. So *of course* MDs and AA would go together (and of course lots of MDs are in AA and NA).

  • Rick045

    @Z, I've never met an MD who would criticize another MD. (and I've given them plenty of opportunities). Unfortunately, I think a similar situation exists in the therapeutic community.

    On the other hand, since leaving AA, I have met one MD and two therapists (one LCSW and one PhD) who admit to holding very negative opinions of steppism. (the MD even called it a cult).

    So, even if they won't criticize each other, at least some of them will admit to holding negative opinions of the thing itself. Of course, what they say privately and what they say publicly are very different things. I know this is purely anecdotal, but I hope that in some way, it does indicate that progress is being made toward questioning these things more openly.

  • causeandeffect

    It's getting to the point where I see no reason to comment because all of you have already said it so well!!!

  • Gunthar2000

    People will often rise to the defense of things that they don't really understand.

  • Gunthar2000

    @true believer…

    Our outreach project could be a great way to bring change to the recovery industry.


  • AllyB


    My husband was at his GP last week and he told him he had quit the AA. His GP told him he was really happy to hear that. Apparently while he doesn't want to discourage people who are giving it a go he would never recommend it and is glad if they give it up as he sees a lot of patients who do better without it.

  • causeandeffect

    Yes Gunthar, we need to work on this. Also I'm very frustrated because I registered for other AAinfo site and never received a confirmation email. Same thing happened on another anti AA blog. maybe there is a problem with the process of joining that site. I'm sure everyone here will be very happy to contribute.

    @ AllyB it makes me wonder how many people and professionals are seeing something wrong with AA even without attending.

  • SoberPJ

    Maybe the activist area should contain an "open letter to MD's" that can be emailed or given to the doctor directly at an appointment.

  • Gunthar2000


    Try to register again. I've seen the problem before… not sure why.

    There's not much on there anyway right now, just a template and some links.

    I was really impressed by Amy Lee Coy's approach, and the more I see from her, the more I want to get a copy of her book.


    I' can be really aggressive sometimes, and I think that can be counterproductive.

    I'm not sure how to structure the website. Maybe a focus on the addiction treatment industry is better than an outright attack on any single organization.

    If anyone has anything they'd like to post on the site…. and ideas… anything… I'd sure appreciate the help. There are some good ideas in the conversation over at the outreach project… Action is what we need now.


    That's a pissa idea!

    We say pissa around here.

    I appreciate the research you've done. Your posts can be really enlightening.

    Who's gonna draft the letter?

  • Marco

    Well I did not expect this lenghty reaction from Z-Iemanja that's for sure. Before addressing some preliminary remarks to Z below, let me get some other business out of the way: I did expect some negative reactions to my defending AA and Al-Anon in part, which specifically came from Causeandeffect and Gunther. Let me say that I will always give credit where credit is due, even if that is to an "enemy". No, I don't go for the pacifist attitude of "loving" and "praying" for one's enemies at all costs. That bunk, which characterises AA and most spiritual groups, is mostly saintly hypocrisy or masochism. But I will defend ANYONE if I feel they are being unfairly attacked. As a Leftist , for example, I will even defend businesspeople if I feel they are being unfairly attacked by ultra-leftists, as I did in a letter published in a local paper today (circulation 150,000 weekly; I was once asked to be a regular political columnist for the paper. A good place to have perhaps put down AA for its REAL sins).

    Further I did not appreciate Causeandeffect little dig about me watching porn. I never watch porn…well…OK, except for that site of naked AA and Al-Anon ladies you all know about :), and a site called IFeelMyself, which I must say is hard to resist… I did appreciate Primrose's support, on the other hand, and his or her warning us from getting into a counter-groupthink here, with anti-AA fundamentalists swarming around anyone who would possibly defend AA about something.

    OK, back to Z. I am not going to reply at length right now, because I want to download Z's initial article and his or her lengthy comments (and some other people's), so I can go home and read them over VERY CAREFULLY (I use a computer at a library). I will then write again here in about 3 hours from now , or tomorrow at about this time.

    Let me just say, at this point , (to repeat) that I was really moved by the first part of Z's story, but, afterwards I did not clearly understand what he or she had to say. What I did understand did not make enough sense to me, so I wrote my first remarks stating so. Let me clearly state that NO denigration of your bad expereinces, Z, were intended, although I still can't understand how ACOA could have done all that to you with there not being a fertile vulnerabilty beforehand, which has litlle or nothing to do with ACOA. But, look , I am going to read it all again carefully and get back to you.


  • causeandeffect

    @ marco

    First, it’s pretty obvious that you didn’t really read Z’s post before you called HER “unstable”. Yes, that’s right, Z’s a woman. You would know that if you had taken the time to read the post before ridiculing. You just judged the effects of someone else’s cumulative abuse, something you apparently know nothing about.

    You said, “I will defend ANYONE if I feel they are being unfairly attacked.” Do we need to go over some of your past posts?? Should we take a look at the profanity you’ve used in attacking people when such language was unnecessary?

    Nobody is saying that all the world’s ills are due to AA or its many spin-offs. Still, it would be unfair to make accusations of there being a bad element in these groups if such accusations can’t be proven. The blind appreciation and following people have for AA needs to stop. It may be appropriate for the few narcissists out there, but many others are brainwashed and/or abused. It has been very unfair to many people and I, for one, am angry about it. And that’s what this site and others like it are for. This site also serves to heal those abused by steppism. People finally feel free to express themselves here unlike in AA where you get rejected for expressing your feelings and ideas.

    Finally, Gunthar expressed concern that you didn’t sound like yourself when you said “It seems to me that AA or Al-Anon alone could not have such an effect on this person, because these organisations are not that intrusive and abusive and cultish”. I made a joke that a stepper had hijacked your computer and was watching porn, not accusing you of it. But your 5th step here is not needed, and to me, unwelcome. I really don’t want to know about your porn watching habits.

  • howlermonkey

    Marco – You are correct that occasionally good things happen in AA. A lonely guy trying to stop drinking feels some sympathy from people who really do know what he's going through. Some stressed out woman realizes that if she watches her feelings when she's hungry, angry, lonely or tired ( or whatever) she might prevent herself from drinking when she doesn't want to. Great.

    But what you seem to be missing is that these things have nothing to do with the AA program. The AA program as laid out in the Big Book is about becoming powerless over your life. It is about submitting your own will to a fictional will that wants you to obsess over and identify with your faults – and only your faults. It is about putting yourself in an extremely vulnerable mental and emotional position and then hoping that this will make you a better person. And the list goes on.

    Anything good that happens in AA can (and does) happen somewhere else that doesn't require people to lobotomize themselves. But in itself, AA is no good at all.

  • Mona Lisa

    Howlermonkey: EXACTLY. You hit the nail on the head.

  • jhtepper

    The only way that I have ever been able to have a dialogue with an MD, Ph.D, Psy.D, LCSW, MSW (forget CDCs and CDACs) about alcohol abuse is to be armed with knowledge of Stanton Peele, Agent Orange, CBT, REBT, DBT, RR, SMART, SOS, Bandura, HAMS, WFS, Charlotte Kasl, etc. It is caveat emptor all the way. Unfortunately, a person in crisis probably hasn't done their homework and thinks that they are going to a professional for care best tailored to their needs, strengths, talents, liabilities, and present circumstances. That is the tragedy of Z's tale and referring everyone to AA or one of its bastard progeny is just reprehensible.

    But Marco really? Wouldn't you just be more comfortable on a pro-AA site where experience, strength and hope save the day? "Fertile vulnerability" ? Don't you read the posts on this site. The dangers of AA, et al, for confused, despairing, vulnerable people is a mainstay complaint on this site. How could you have missed that? To blame Z for her vulnerabilities and frailties is, to me, ghoulish.

  • Z

    Howlermonkey: "The AA program as laid out in the Big Book is about becoming powerless over your life. It is about submitting your own will to a fictional will that wants you to obsess over and identify with your faults – and only your faults. It is about putting yourself in an extremely vulnerable mental and emotional position and then hoping that this will make you a better person."

    YES. This is the text that should go in the letter Gunthar is talking about.

    Marco's latest post is kind of creepy.

  • Marco

    Well, I reread Z's story carefully, as well as all posts after my initial ones .I think that is enough to get a good enough idea of what is going on to make some comments, although there is still a lot I don't understand about Z's story; whether that is due to my inability to understand, and/or her confusion I don't know.

    So, after re-reading most of the thread, I stand by everything I wrote. Let me be very clear that there was no judgement of Z's story intended, and, for, example, using the word "unstable" was not a judgement, it was just an observation. Why would I judge her in the second part of my first post, when I said that her parent's insults and denigrations were "horryfying" in the first part? So I stand by my opinion that Z's put-downs of Acao/Al-Anon based therapy are not fully warranted. My non-professionnal opinion is that she will find more information about the sources of her sufferring by reading the book The Primal Scream.The sources are in those abusive put-downs by her parents, in my opinion,not what some Acoa idiot told her.

    Causeand Effect, you wrote: " it would be unfair to make accusations of there being a bad element in these groups if such accusations can't be proven". Exactly my point. We may differ on what constitutes proof, but we agree that we must try to be fair. That's all I'm saying. Yet, right away, someone like JHTepper jumps at me saying that I would be better off at a AA site, just because I attempted a few defences of AA and despite the fact that 99% of my posts here have blasted AA. That fucking pisses me off, this stupid fundamentalism of JHTepper's.. And then HowlerMonkey says : "AA is no good at all", more fundamentalism. At all?: The AA guy who I heard give a testimony last night said it saved his life, and I beleive him. My beef with AA is how these people turn out AFTER AA saves their lives.They become boring little saints, most of whom never really hurt me personally badly, and I was always rebellious and defiant throughout the years. AA, an abusive cult: gimme a break! I was in an abusive cult, and there is just no comparing AA with the pernicious abuse of the cult I was in.


  • humanspirit


    "It is caveat emptor all the way. Unfortunately, a person in crisis probably hasn’t done their homework and thinks that they are going to a professional for care best tailored to their needs, strengths, talents, liabilities, and present circumstances. "

    Yep, this is exactly how it is. This is why me and my partner's family got tricked into paying thousands for rehab for him that was never advertised as faith healing, when we were all completely desperate and at crisis point. The brochures promised treatment that was 'tailored to the needs of the individual', was 'holistic', etc., and no-one even mentioned 'spirituality' at all, let alone the rest of it. What my partner actually got was huge pressure – almost amounting to bullying – to conform to the nonsensical superstitious ideas of steppism. Fortunately he was old enough, stubborn ('self-willed'!) enough, and intelligent enough to get and keep himself sober despite all this nonsense. I'm extremely grateful that he was 'too smart for the program' , as I'm sure he would have been drinking again by now if he hadn't have been.

    But I'm still furious that anyone can be cynical enough to prey on desperate people and their families in this way, do not openly advertise their agenda to people who are paying huge amounts of money they can't afford, and who – in the case of the place my partner was in – seemed to be dead set on jeopardizing people's genuine attempts to overcome addiction in a massive way by insisting more on a religious conversion than on stopping drinking.

    They also advertised themselves as providing 'counselling, support and help' for family members. What did this amount to? Being told to go to Al-anon! And for me, personally, it meant being subject to a hugely upsetting personal attack because I said I wasn't going to. (They were, however, very happy to accept all the money I paid them, even if I was an infidel.)

    Yes, in the end it comes down to 'caveat emptor' and you have no legal redress. (Except I'm still working on going down the line of getting these people on deceptive advertising – am proceeding slowly and cautiously on this though). But they are so cynical, dishonest, and exploitative of people in genuine need, it still makes my blood boil.

  • howlermonkey

    @Marco – Instead of getting pissed off, you might try reading a little more carefully. I said that AA is no good at all. But I was quite specific that I was talking about the things unique to AA and 12-step programs. Before that, I said that I admitted that good things can happen in AA, just that they have nothing to do with AA as such.

    You believe someone when he says AA saved his life? Why do you believe that? What evidence have you seen that the 12-Step program saves anyone's life or leads to long-term sobriety? Sure, quitting drinking saved that guy's life, but did AA have anything to do with that decision? I don't think so and I've defended that position elsewhere. AA shaped the WAY that he quit drinking and his experience and meaning of that event, but that's all. And as far as I can tell, that way of experiencing sobriety leads inevitably to becoming "boring little saints" as you put it. Why else do you think it happens all the time?

    Why is AA "no good at all?" Because nothing that is specific to AA has any value to a person who is trying to break an addiction. Try responding to that concept – which is what I wrote the first time – the next time you answer. And try backing your arguments up a little. If you're going to defend some aspect of AA, name it and defend it seriously.

    Otherwise, I've got to agree with Z. Your tirades and personal attacks are more than a little creepy.

  • jhtepper

    Jeez Marco you really seem to be missing my point. Isn't your main purpose to be of maximum service to god and those about you? (Answer carefully) Tell me how blaming Z is of any service to her? Other than making you seem like a bully. Really man leave the girl alone and go hang out at sober recovery. We're not buying what you're selling. As I've said elsewhere such attacks are just ghoulish and shows a profound lack of humility and humanity.

  • jhtepper

    Oh and by the by Marco how could you possibly infer from my response that my position is that AA is not a fit for certain people. My objections were related to the WHOLESALE referral of anyone with alcohol issues to AA but more so to kicking someone when they're down. Also, I suggest that you look up the word fundamentalism and ask yourself was I offering a fundamentalist response, i.e., was I presenting only one alternate view? Finally, why are you so belligerent? Isn't love and tolerance your code?

  • Z

    @jhtepper, I think the relevant point would be, this is the kind of thinking (slightly off, abusive, self serving, entitled) one is likely to run into in these 12 step societies. People are going to be more screwed up than they realize, and less honest than they admit, and they will be touting a program that believes these characteristics are human nature. And they will be quick to sit in judgment, despite lacking expertise or authority to do so. These are the things I think people deserve to be aware of when it is suggested to them that they "try Alanon on for size," and that is why I wrote the post.

  • Gunthar2000


    I'll try to make this really simple.

    Yes, some people drink because they want to try to run away from fear and self-doubt brought on by traumatic childhood experiences. This is not true in every case… There are many reasons why people find themselves trapped in a cycle of addiction.

    My personal experience is that I was not treated well as a child, especially during the early years of personality development. This was definitely one of the problems that led me to become a drunk… I wanted to run away from myself because I was taught to believe that I was abnormal… not like the other kids… and that life was unfair. I was taught at an early age to believe that I was powerless. Mom was so unpredictable… Sometimes, if I behaved, Id get my ass kicked anyway. Sometimes, when I acted like a little jerk I got hugs and kisses. Mom was very unstable, and how Mom treated her kids depended more on which end of the bipolar scale she was on than how us kids were acting. So, I learned that it just wasn't worth it… There were no rewards for doing the things I should, and as far as consequences went, I could get my ass beat because my shoes didn't fit me anymore.

    I spent years of my life not even trying… sabotaging myself… running away from my life because I didn't want to face failure again. Powerlessness was a big part of my reality… and I drank, and drank, and drank because of it.

    When my drinking and depression became overwhelming I turned to medical professionals for help, and they scurried my ass off to 30 days of AA rehab where my insecurities about myself and the world around me were solidified… I was not only powerless according to those people… I was also morally reprehensible… I had a defective personality… and I had a spiritual disease that I'd never overcome. According to AA I was corrupted in every way.

    Before AA I was living by a philosophy of confusion and self-doubt. Years of AA membership only reinforced the negative philosophy I was living by… Trusting those people nearly cost me my life.

  • jhtepper

    I have no problem with your post. I have a problem with you being attacked for posting it especially in such a cruel manner. I'm all for informing the public.

  • SoberPJ

    @ G2K … I liken that bipolar mom stuff to calling a puppy and then when the puppy comes over, smack it with something … but not every time. Do that enough and you have one screwed up puppy. I think I was 12 when the cops caught some of us drinking. The cop took me home. My Mom met us at the door with a baseball bat – I thought I was a goner. When the cop left, she put the bat down and we went in and watched TV and she thought I was funny and laughed a lot. Lesson – being drunk and funny cheers up a bipolar mom. Guess what I turned into? The drunken family clown ….

  • Z

    Put-down of ACOA/Alanon, no, criticism, yes. 12 steppers please note the difference.


    @Marco, I said to you before when you went on about Janov, he's not someone I really take seriously. There's a lot else one can read, and know, and experience, and it had been easy to see how simplistic Janov was when his book came out when I was 12. I'm not saying there aren't nuggets of sense and so on that one can read in him or that I'm not willing to chat about these.

    But I was a lot more sophisticated than that when I entered therapy, which I did not enter due to any crisis but because some deep work re the family had always been on my list of things to do. I gave the therapist the benefit of the doubt, as I did not realize you could be licensed and all and be as thinly educated, and mis-educated as he turned out to be. I Kept An Open Mind. I have already explained this many times, in the post and in this thread. I do not know why it is so hard for you to believe / comprehend / grasp.


    @ Readers in general: No, naturally that therapy would not have been as destructive as it was had I not been vulnerable to its destructiveness. Yes, had I had a healthier upbringing I might not have been as vulnerable to it. But, remember torture works on everyone, and people who get into abusive situations do not do so because they are defective in the first place. These things are documented.


    My point in this post is that the model is destructive and was destructive to me. The idea that because I had a problem I wanted to resolve, inappropriate and destructive treatment is justified, is (a) ridiculous and (b) misses the point. The point of this post is not "I had a bad therapist" or even "I had abusive parents." It is, 12 step ideas aren't helpful and are harmful. In my view they are those things generally, although I recognize some people like them.

    @jhtepper, realize that Marco came on this site when he got a DUI and was worried about what the consequences would be; he wanted and I think got some input from people who might be kind about it. His DUI issue is resolved now and he is taking a different tone. I think he came to this site more looking for company than anything else. Recently he's found some IRL company at AA.

    So to finalize this, let's look at the typical justification of AA/12 steps programs:

    1. You had a problem, so you are not to be trusted.

    2. You did not approve of the 12 step programs assigned to your problem, or you had a bad experience trying them out.

    3. This has to be because of your problem, not because there can be anything wrong with the 12 steps.

    4. In addition, your not seeing the virtues of the 12 steps is due to your problem.

    I find it amazing how many people say these things and feel they have the authority to say them. (Talk about "thinking they are gods"!) The fact that they do, the fact that this kind of abuse is not recognized as abuse, is the reason I think these things need to be talked about. I find it amusing that Marco, above, refers to "some ACOA idiot" but will not cop to his own, similarly abusive behavior.


    I am of the belief that 12 stepping really is all bad. As was said upthread, some good things can happen or be said in the programs, and as I said in the post and in this thread, I got good things out of Alanon later. But the 12 steps really are all bad, although parts of them are imitations of good things which exist elsewhere. This is my considered opinion after a lot of experience, reading, and thought. It is not a kneejerk reaction and it is not something I am just saying because I have not yet Understood.

  • Gunthar2000

    I don't want to be a prick or anything… I know personal attacks are kind of against the rules, but I feel the need to agree with you z.

    Marco came here looking for support… and he got it.

    Now that his problem is solved He's a whole new Jan Brady.

    It's not my job to tell anyone what they can and can't say, but it seems like lately Marco has the 12 step cooties, and that makes me not want to play with him any more.

    Marco's posts were pretty boring anyway.

  • Z

    Well, his ideas are legion and that's why I'm addressing them. Here's a briefer boildown of this conversation, which I have had quite a few times:

    Person: Well it's not that 12 stepping wasn't right, it's that you needed [Janov, or whoever].

    Me: Well I am not convinced about [Janov, or whoever], but 12 stepping wasn't right and I had in fact been looking for something else and expected something else.

    Person: Still, it doesn't mean 12 stepping wasn't right. If it was abusive it was your fault, and anyway it is mean of to say anything critical of the 12 steps because some people love them very much.

    Notice how the main point is to defend the 12 steps and malign anyone who doesn't believe in them.

    Notice also the overinflated egos — I know which popular psychologist you really needed, little girl! I know what really happened!

    (Marco in particular has no creds whatsoever, so I don't know where he gets off trying this or how he imagines it could work. But my point is that this is so common. All of these things are being written here so that future people can read them, so I'm spelling it out. I know from experience that it is precisely these kinds of objections I'll have to write in such a way as to preempt, if I do a more formal version of this piece.)

  • Z

    And also – re Dat Shrink and the relation to 12 stepping. The way that whole thing went awry was my problem as well as his, but in a way that doesn't have to do with the 12 steps.

    What – out of the 4 people I interviewed I picked him, the worst choice really, because the other 3, who were actually better trained generally, didn't name the issue I had (emotional abuse) as he did.

    #1 and #2: "Yes, I see you have weirdness in your past and in the present of your family of origin, but you're doing great and I think you should just keep on keeping on, keep building on what you've already done." This was not a bad p.o.v. but the thing was, they didn't really see where the pain was, which was what I wanted help with so that I could really clear out the cobwebs.

    #3 had an intellectual and cultural orientation that were really foreign to me at the time, although I could handle them now. I said I though we were too different to jibe and she said yes, possibly true, and that since I was so self aware and together already the best would probably be to either find the truly right person or just keep on therapizing my own self. Which was fine, too, except that I wanted to find that person because I had Real Questions.

    And #4 gave me a name for the problem, and thus fascinated me. My error I think was sort of insisting that since he had named it, he must be the one to help me deal with it. A third party might have said good, you've gone this far, now it's time to change people, but there was no third party. So then I was demanding that he work above his level of expertise, and he didn't know how to get out of it, so he started running this 12 steppy stuff on me.

    So I got caught because I didn't realize he was out of depth and struggling and resenting it, because I was expecting skills he didn't have. I think he realized this at one point and tried to say it, and that I didn't recognize that, and that we both got trapped that way.

    This is why I hesitate to say he was out and out evil or idiotic, just inexperienced and not entirely grown up yet. My point about it all for purposes of ST is that I think it was the 12 step indoctrination, and the view, current at the time, that the 12 steps could cure any ill, that stunted this person and made him sort of quack-like when he didn't have to be.

    My other main point is that the reason I got caught in that was that the 12 steps were and are bad for people. The reason they mirrored the emotional abuse from my earlier life was precisely because they replicated it, since they are in fact abusive as many people have pointed out on this site. And the reason I fell into the trap was that abuse was now being presented as healing. Had some random person from the rest of life presented these ideas to me out of the blue, I wouldn't have taken them seriously.

    So, get it, y'all? My complaint isn't about Dat Shrink per se, as a human being, and I'm not saying I didn't have weaknesses that made me vulnerable to certain things. I'm also not saying that positive things can't come out of interactions one may have with people one meets in 12 step groups. What I *am* saying is that the 12 steps themselves are destructive, and I think they're a little dangerous to play with for people who have been victims of emotional abuse, especially at the hands of people who are supposed to be caring for them, already. I am saying that this whole experience, through which I got introduced to the 12 steps inadvertently, showed me that they weren't a healthy set of steps.

    Also: the reason I know as much about the structure of emotional and verbal abuse as I do is because I studied it, I mean really read up on it, as a result of dealing with that diabetic. The thing is that I've only met 3 entities who have the techniques all mastered: one of my parents, and that diabetic, and the 12 steps/their ardent defenders. All these entities are really different, but the technique is one technique, one complex set of skills, that they all share. This is how I *know* the step theory and its presuppositions about who one is and what one must be like are abusive.

    Finally finally, I'd like to draw attention to the commenter AOC who got a lot out of AA and gave advice on how to use it well. Notice how he wasn't a defender of step theory and religion, and warned about the predators that can show up in the meetings. It worked for him because he got a circle of friends who were serious about quitting and finding non alcoholic social outlets. This seems reasonable to me. It's important to note, though, that he wasn't saved by the steps, but by deciding to quit drinking and get a social life that would support this, and then doing it.

  • Mike

    @Gunthar: "My personal experience is that I was not treated well as a child, especially during the early years of personality development. This was definitely one of the problems that led me to become a drunk…"

    My experience also. I caught beatings when my mother was stressed, not when I did something wrong. The cause/effect feedback loop was all out of whack. I did things wrong but got rewarded, I did things wrong then got hit. This, plus the fact that my father was a drunk, helped feed my additions as a teenager. Not an atypical story: sociopath tendencies, social isolation, anxiety/depression. Alcohol really was my savior at the time. And I have to admit that AA was too. I saw that I was not unique. Later on down the road AA became problematic. But that's a whole other story.

  • howlermonkey

    Mike wrote: "Alcohol really was my savior at the time. And I have to admit that AA was too. I saw that I was not unique. Later on down the road AA became problematic. But that’s a whole other story."

    This is a fine example of how AA can take a good idea and twist it into something harmful.

    Finding out that one is not unique in one's feelings is a very important, real part of breaking addiction. That's why contact with other addicts/former addicts is a good thing in the early days of quitting. You see that other people feel exactly as you do, that they are caught in the same web of self-deception and isolation but that it is also possible to break out.

    But AA and the 12 steps twist this by saying to the addict that he or she is not unique at all. Even worse, the addict is told that her sense of uniqueness or self is itself the cause of all her problems. That's not just factually wrong, it's vicious, destructive and abusive.

  • SoberPJ

    "But AA and the 12 steps twist this by saying to the addict that he or she is not unique at all. Even worse, the addict is told that her sense of uniqueness or self is itself the cause of all her problems. That’s not just factually wrong, it’s vicious, destructive and abusive."

    This is deep cognitive stuff and it just adds to the contradictions the brain has to resolve when being part of AA. No wonder AA makes people crazy. Society tells you that you are in fact unique – fingerprints, Iris, personality, etc. – and AA tells you just the opposite. What the hell is the truth !? I'll bet its not the AA version.

  • Gunthar2000

    Of course I wanted to meet people who understood what I was going through, so initially AA seemed like it was the right place for me… That's the lure folks. It's the old "You are not alone" routine… Soon after comes the old…

    If you want what we have, you'll do what we do…

    You're not unique…

    You're too unique…

    You are good…

    You are bad…

    You can succeed…

    There is now way to succeed…


    Don’t think…

    Don’t live in the past…

    Look at your past…

    Keep it simple…

    Half measures availed us nothing…

    Take what you need, and leave the rest…

    No one can help an alcoholic like another alcoholic…

    You can carry the message, but you can’t carry the drunk…

    Welcome to our family…

    Get off the pity pot! …

    We see ourselves as chips off the same old block…

    You seem to think you're special…

    Join us on the happy road to destiny…

    Selfishness is the root of your problem…

    I enjoyed hearing you speak tonight…

    Your mind is a bad neighborhood to be in alone…

    If no one tells you that they love you today, don't worry, we do!…

    Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink…

    Rarely have we seen a person fail…

    You didn’t work the steps the way they are laid out…

    Keep coming ! It works if you work it!

    The program didn't fail. You failed…

    These are just suggestions…

    If you don't conform you'll be alone…

    We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows…

    Some of us our sicker than others…

    You are helping a lot of people…

    Jails, institutions, or death for people who refuse to erase themselves…

    Remember those promises…

    You are one fucked up alcoholic!

  • causeandeffect

    Z, thank you again for your insightful posts. They have helped me to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling and thinking the way I did while trying to make sense of the steps.

    You very accurately stated; “The reason they mirrored the emotional abuse from my earlier life was precisely because they replicated it, since they are in fact abusive as many people have pointed out on this site. And the reason I fell into the trap was that abuse was now being presented as healing.” That’s what it all boils down to. I think it’s an excellent statement to use in the blurbs. Just remove the first person perspective and add the threat of jails, institutions and death for those addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. Then specify the kinds of abuse.

    Abuse is the cornerstone of the 12 step philosophy. The reason so many accept the 12 steps is that it is within their comfort zone due to a history of familial abuse. They seem to fit into categories.

    1. Those abused as children who need to abuse and control others so as to compensate for their own insecurities by feeling superior. They are finally in a situation where they can actually justify their bad treatment of others as being “for their own good”. Their behavior is condoned by the program as being “ego deflation”. While not all sponsors fit into this category, it’s my opinion that these people will invariably become sponsors. They are seen as the highly respected “Nazi sponsors”. They are not getting what they need to become psychologically healthy.

    2. Those abused as children who have become submissive. Their insecurities allow them to accept abuse. If they accept the role of sponsor, they will most likely hesitate to abuse but will do so when they see it as justified. They are not getting what they need to become psychologically healthy.

    3. Those who aware of the abusiveness on some level, but will subject themselves to it in the name of healing and/or the fear of “jails, institutions or death”. They rationalize that all the millions of people in 12 step programs, as well as the many professionals who utilize it can’t be wrong. They are not getting what they need to become psychologically healthy.

    4. Those who fit anywhere along this spectrum. They are not getting what they need to become psychologically healthy.

    Those who seem to be helped by the program seem to be the exception to the rule.

    Only an abusive person can be exposed to the fact that the 12 steps are abusive and destructive and still condone it. This seems to be the case with Marco.

  • Marco

    HowlerMonkey, Your arguments are total sophistry: " Good things happen in AA but they have nothing to do with AA ". Huh!?

    JhTepper: I did not attack Z. Why would I attack someone whose parents' putdowns I clearly stated were "horryfing"?You'll probably say I'm lying or in denial. Whatever. Your posts are meaningless to me.

    Z: Read Janov again. You once told how much you liked the posts by him I put up. And I am a non-professionnal, I admitted that. And my partly now defending AA has nothing to do with my DUI being resolved for the most part; look at my past posts, are they all related to DUI? No. Only a minority.

  • Ben Franklin

    From Wikipedia;

    Primal therapy has not achieved broad acceptance in mainstream psychology.[45][46] It has been frequently criticized as lacking outcome studies to substantiate its effectiveness.[47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54] It is regarded as one of the least creditable forms of psychotherapy [45] and has been classified in a 2006 APA Delphi poll as discredited [55


    Enuf said.

  • Marco

    CauseandEffect: I'm abusive because I defend AA a little? Huh? And AA is abusive? Huh!? AA people are in fact, in my opinion, just boring marshmallows, lukewarm Christians without the overt Christianity. I don't trust them, because they can be a bit hurtful in a passive-agressive way .They won't get involved and engage you, they can only spout superficial slogans which is boring and enraging, not really hurtful. They probably have a tendency towards loneliness and depression because of that, all compensated by the drug of a make-beleive God that supposedly watches over them benevolently ( a "loving" God subsitute for the love they really never got enough as children).


  • howlermonkey

    @Marco – I'm sorry that critical thinking is not in your tool-kit. I'm not sure that you understand what the word "sophistry" means, but it's clear that you do not want to take a hard look at the 12 Steps and will do whatever it takes to avoid that. Well, it's your life and your mind. Enjoy them to the best of your ability.

  • Gunthar2000


  • Marco

    BenFranklin: Read Janov first yourself before judging. Here is some Janov (below) on the topic of religious conversion , as we see it in AA and other religious or "spiritual" groups. I think it provides an interesting explanation of Bill's conversion experience in the hospital, although I am not quite sure since I have not undergone the therapy and don't understand Janov enough yet to perhas suggest him to other people. I think it is at least worth considering… Check it out. But this short article might not make enough sense alone like that, because it is always better to have read at least one complete book by him to understand what he is saying. Then, if you disagree, fine.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    The Conversion Experience by Arthur Janov

    The conversion experience is an important aspect of belief systems. Due to one cataclysmic event, a person "sees the light" and is inalterably changed. As a rule, this epiphanic moment happens suddenly, converting the individual from a suffering, despairing human being into someone who has found peace and salvation. It is a seemingly magical experience that appears to happen without rhyme or reason.

    Many of my patients have talked about their earlier conversions. Things must be going badly — this is the sine qua nonfor the conversion experience. Further, the difficulties must have endured for some time before the defense system begins to crumble. The individual's current situation, compounded with past trauma, becomes more than the person can handle. Suddenly there is breakdown and conversion.

    I recall how one patient put it: "I was broke, divorced and alone for some time. One day, sitting in the park alone at dusk, I felt something grab me and I screamed out all to myself, 'I’ve been saved!' What I discovered later in therapy was that I had been "saved" from a feeling that I was never loved really, that my parents let me drown in my misery without so much as batting an eye. They did nothing to help me, turned me out at the age of 15 because I didn't behave, and let me flounder in life through drugs and alcohol without once reaching out to help.”

    Naked before this neglect, unloved, alone, she fled into the arms of the mystical, where she no longer felt alone or unloved. Now that she had been "saved" in a compensatory way, she no longer had to feel the whole hooror that there was no one to really save her from her childhood hell. She now had renewed "hope". This was the essence of her conversion; she had converted hopelessness into "hope", a false hope, as opposed to the true hope of the healthy person.

    Therein lies the paradigm for the conversion experience. I call it a primal crisis. It usually occurs to people when they are in enormous pain or on the brink of it. It is really the snapping point and it occurs when the person can no longer defend. There's nothing else left for her to do but to be "saved" by God.

    Very often, when my patients are on the verge of tremendous feelings, particularly the feelings that predate verbal abilities, they begin to shake and tremble enormously; they thrash and writhe as the force of the pain almost lifts them off the ground. One patient, while convulsing violently, screamed out that she felt a "force" shaking her. Finally she cried, "I’ve been saved, I’ve been saved!"

    This occurred during a personal crisis, a period of utmost despair and hopelessness. For weeks she had been seriously contemplating suicide. Finally, her conversion experience told why she was suffering so much. By being "born again," she had been "saved" — saved from the discovery that she had absolutely no one in her life, not now, not ever. Her "rebirth" spared her the profound hopelessness that comes with the realization that she was utterly alone in an indifferent universe, that no one loved her.

    Why do people tremble and shake while undergoing "religious conversion?” It's really a very short leap from the feeling fueling these convulsions to sensing a new, magical, benevolent force that controls one's destiny. It is childhood pain converted to a belief in childhood magic, the belief that anything is now possible. The form doesn't matter: Jesus, Buddha, Allah, pyramid power, communication with an omniscient seer from centuries past. One is now in another realm, another universe.

    What we see in the conversion experience is how pliable feelings are; how easily they are turned into ideas and how those ideas have the strength of feeling. This process is not as freakish as one might imagine, since it aids in survival.

    Posted by Arthur Janov at 2:37 AM 36 comments

    Newer Posts Older Posts

  • Marco

    HowlerMonkey: I have taken a hard look at the 12 Steps, because I attended meetings for years and read all their literature (which I have since dumped). And 95% of my posts on this site have been critiques of AA (check my back posts).


  • Ben Franklin

    The Primal Scream has two appendixes. One deals with a patient whose treatment was the subject of a documentary about Primal Therapy. The second contains seven instructions for primal patients. These are to abstain from smoking and drinking, to abstain from drug use, to stop tension-relieving habits, to be totally alone for twenty-four hours before therapy, to do exactly what the therapist says, to not work or go to school during the initial phase of therapy, and to attend a group of post-Primal patients. According to Janov, Primal Therapy is not effective if these instructions are not followed. [3]

    Sounds like a cult.

  • Marco

    BenFranklin: how can you judge what you have not even read about? Read the book at least for "god`s" sake , and then form an opinion. Wouldn`t that be fair?

    The link you provided to Wikipedia was a good idea. It provides a resume of the theory, as well as criticisms that have bben made. I don`t beleive though that the Wiki article provides a link to one key site critical of Primal, and that is "Debunking Primal Therapy". I like to look at all sides of a question, but for now I`m with Janov.

  • Z

    Good God, y'all.

    Point one: this website right here is a pretty good group therapy session available 24/7 for people who have experienced abuse and trauma by, through, and with the 12 steppy ideas. I'm not convinced by the screaming therapies of the 70s (Janov's was only one of the fads), or by any miracle cure. If I had unlimited funds and access, what I'd be more tempted by would be a Reichian analysis with someone smart, with additional background in trauma recovery and a feminist viewpoint of the first and second wave kind. Realize too, everyone, that abuse has not been well understood until quite recently, and it's a lot easier now to find therapists who have background in this don't engage in some kind of victim blaming than it was only a few years ago. I see someone now who does trauma recovery and has a broad/deep background and I am pretty satisfied with him. Back when I ran away from Dat Shrink, I saw another BCSW who was a serious old style lesbian feminist therapist with a Jungian bent for dream analysis, and she was smart. Very. I think that if I'd found her in the first place she'd have clarified those family issues in 6 months and I'd have been on my way — the original plan. So there are lots of options besides people in the grip of 12 stepping. It sounds as though Marco really wants to do Primal Scream therapy and I'd encourage him to go for it. Maybe the Primal Institute would take him on for free — it can't hurt to ask. Also, they do that kind of thing at Esalen in Big Sur, and Esalen will let you participate in exchange for work. It's a gorgeous place and the weather is nice, S.F. is nearby for excursions to a city.

    Point two: back to the theme of the post. No, Dat Shrink would not have had the influence on me and my life he did had it not been for various factors in my past and various attendant circumstances, most specifically the authority the 12 steppy ideas had at the time. And M. Scott Peck was big in the popular culture of the era, and one of his big points is that you shouldn't "resist" therapy. So there were lots of forces leading toward questioning one's doubts and gut feelings, and toward suppressing the sense that there was something quite wrong about the whole theory.

    All of that explains why Dat Therapist wasn't some unique villain, and more like someone trying to do his job as best as he could and as his training allowed at the time. But it does NOT justify the application of the 12 step paradigm. My view is that the paradigm itself is antitherapeutic and should never be applied as a cure to anything, and there is academic literature to that effect as well. A conclusion that has been drawn in other threads on this site is that it does help a certain kind of person get through the day and through life in some sort of fashion, by insisting they keep certain impulses under control. From what I have observed, this seems true, too.

    However, what I observed in the period I attended Alanon because of that diabetic was that MOST people, if they were getting something out of the program, were getting it because they weren't actually following it; and that many others were in the process of learning to view themselves in the 12 steppy way and it wasn't comfortable for them (and wasn't right for them, and wasn't what they needed). I would wince as people who in fact seemed like great people learned to beat themselves up for character defects I doubt were defects. I would also notice people, on the one hand, learning to take on huge amounts of responsibility ("I am sicker than the alcoholic, I am central in this dynamic, I see it now") and on the other hand saying "You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it."

    There is a point at which those 2 ideas fit together: trying to fix the unfixable does draw you into drama and make you a player in it. But the seesaw of these two extremes: "I am the truly sick one" and the recommendation of (cold) "detachment" from virtually everything, seemed like an odd ride.

    The other thing about it I found odd was the supposition that you had to stay in the situation. You were supposed to learn how to step around the mayhem, yet stay involved with the person. This might be feasible or necessary in some situations but I never understood why one would choose living with the millstone of someone's addiction around one's neck rather than dumping it and actually living life. It was explained to me that the Alanons weren't capable of not living with millstones around their necks, so there was no point in putting one down since they'd just get another the next week or month. I really don't know about that: I guess it's possible but most people I know aren't that hungry for pain. It seemed to me more like a fringe position that the Theory wanted to assume was true of everyone, and project into everyone.

  • Marco


    Wilhelm Reich and Alexander Lowen are the two other psycholgists that I admire the most, as much as Janov. Lowen's therapy is called Bioenergetic Analyis and is an off-shoot of Reich's work. I do Bioenergetics on my own in part (a series of body exercises called Bioenergetic exercises, they are very very helpful).

    They are all saying and doing the the same thing.


  • Z

    @Marco this is just curiosity but what was the abusive cult you were in, that you refer to upthread?

    And, different topic: when you originally came on this site and talked about your disability I asssumed you were in US but I think you're actually in Canada. If so, there's the national health and more social programs / retraining for people with disabilities / funding that might be used for distance learning, etc. — at least I *think* (I know there are budget cuts there too). Still it would seem that someone with a disability like the one you have would have access to a social worker who might be able to help figure out some options. I'd have said this before if I'd realized you might be in a country that has better care options than the US, so since I didn't say it then I am saying it now. Bonne chance…

  • Z

    @Ah, Lowen. (To have been born in 1910, and to have lived in NY when he did.)

    Anyway, to topic: was it just 12 step type ideas which undid me at that time? Of course not, I had numerous other pressures. The point of the post is that the 12 steppy ideas, particularly due to their covert presentation, are problematic because they present themselves as benign when they are not.

  • Marco


    I was in a cult called Relationships, an offshoot of the EST cult. AA is a pussycat in comparison to the emotional breakdowns which occurred in such cults, and which have been well documented in many books and at most major cult sites. I once came close to a breakdown because of various emotional pressures in intense workshops. I never came close personally to any breakdown in AA or al-Anon. If others have, for whatever reasons, I wish them well in working out their traumas.

    As far as where I live, I live neither in Canada nor the US. Thanks for the info anyways.


  • Marco


    The post I just wrote did not seem to appear. So again..

    The cult I was in was called Relationships (which no longer exists), a macrobiotic offshoot of the notorious EST cult. Many books and articles have been written about the emotional breakdowns in these types of cults, and I came close myself. In AA, I never came close to anything like that. If others have, for whatever reason, I really wish them luck in recovering from their traumas.

    As far as where I live, I live neither in Canada nor the USA. Thanks for the info anyways.

  • Z

    And also — realize that this post is just a "Why I Left AA Story" and if you look at that thread, the criticisms people make of it are the ones I make here.

    So again, I really object to the idea that I am some special case, especially crazy, who found the 12 steps destructive because of certain harrowing things I'd been through earlier. Yes, I trusted that therapist more than I should have, and allowed his ideas to get to me when I shouldn't have, but people do make errors, and what the steps want you to do *is* trust them and question your own reactions.

    I think CherokeeBride's post, the first comment here, is one super-relevant one. She is feeling eroded by the 12 steps despite being clear on what is wrong with them. It's the repeated exposure to them in the meetings. All the repetition is designed to get to you.

    The key problems for me are, that they don't believe in you / trust you (you are "dishonest") and they say you must doubt yourself. The self-doubt and the idea that you're "dishonest" or even if you aren't, that you will be perceived to be "dishonest" are the two things I find most destructive.

    I am still not convinced that my problems with 12 stepping all have to do with my family of origin. I think that the ego deflation that drives them is invented to keep narcissists like Bill W. in check. I note that while it may keep them in check, it doesn't cure them, and it really isn't what other people need at all.

    Being accused of dishonesty, and encouraged to take on an exaggerated degree of self doubt. The reasons these things were hard for me to handle, I think, were not just because of The Family. Note, for instance, that at the time I had a research job women were not supposed to have. Note what it is like to hear at work and from other people: we don't believe you will be able to do this, we don't believe it is natural for you to be interested in this, and so on, and so forth. I held them at bay because I knew they were just silly / retrograde, but letting the 12 steps into the mix was kind of a last straw.


    An example from that era: under pressure, I signed a book contract for a manuscript I didn't really believe in, on a timeline I knew was not realistic. WHY: because you have to write books, and I had now been convinced I would have to take the contract I was offered out of the blue, not the one I wanted. WHY: because of the exaggerated self doubt. Who was I to think I should write up my actual research findings and not rejig them to what some editor thought might sell books? Who was I to say that even if I wanted to write what the editor thought could be written, that it would take 12 months not 6 given the other commitments I had?

    I found I couldn't do the project, which was confusing because:

    a. I like research and writing, I have good time management skills, I don't suffer from "writer's block" and so on, so what was going on? I did not understand.

    b. We are supposed to write books, and I really needed to get one out, so this contract was a good thing, what was the problem? I did not understand.

    It took forever to understand / remember that:

    a. I hadn't really agreed with what the editor wanted written, and had serious doubts about writing this book this way under my own name — it wasn't my project, and I had other projects I wanted to do.

    b. I had been right about the timelines. Saying this would be a 12 month project, not a 6 month project, wasn't conspiring to procrastinate; it was making a realistic plan.

    So this is an example of making bad decisions while under the influence of the idea that:

    a. One should doubt all one's instincts and ideas, and

    b. One should not trust oneself, one should assume that whatever one thinks is "dishonest."

    It's a bad business, and my point and I think the point of this whole blog is to say that the 12 steps are destructive because they're destructive, and not just destructive to a few weaklings who are damaged people anyway.

    I also find it really interesting that the ones who make that claim — "oh, you just didn't like it because you weren't smart enough to get it, or you had other really deep problems you are in denial about" — are people not qualified to say that on any level, and who themselves have really bad problems (e.g. can't keep jobs or houses or relationships, have substance abuse issues, and so on).


    Probably my most revealing experience this year was a visit from an old friend who is a dedicated stepper (Alanon person) and who was one of the strongest voices telling me to stick with Dat Shrink when I was in doubt about his competence.

    She is someone I know from college, and who is now a professor like me. Back in the day I followed her lead in some ways: I'd gone to a regular high school, but she had gone to a fancy high school, so she was better prepared than I for freshman year, and so on, and she always was just a half step ahead on school stuff. I didn't envy her personal life but I always trusted her intellectual abilities.

    Anyway, on this visit what amazed me was how abusive she was. Like: asking a question, then continuing to talk so I couldn't answer, then calling me a "poor communicator" because I hadn't answered yet. It was very revealing because it was an exaggerated version of a current I realized has always been there. And she's always best by allegedly mean people she has to confront, and who she is convinced are oppressing her — like the time in graduate school, when she thought the library was "fascist" because it recalled a book from her. AND she's a dedicated stepper.

    And so I realized: she likes the stepping because:

    a. it forgives poor behavior.

    b. it tells you not to be overbearing, which she needs to hear.

    c. it channels overbearingness in a certain way, gives it an outlet (preaching the steps).

    What this person likes to do is define other peoples' realities. She doesn't listen to what they have to say, doesn't respect their contexts, and assumes her experience as she understands it is universally valid. She has a lot of problems that she projects everywhere, but seems to manage to hide from them herself by blanketing everything in step theory.

    All of which means that step theory is a great refuge for emotionally and verbally abusive types because it lets them channel all that into an officially acceptable language.

    In that way, and to that extent, I agree with some Alanon people when they say, "I see now that a key problem in this whole dynamic is me." H*** yeah, if they're verbally and emotionally abusive then they are a key problem. But the larger problem is that the ones who say that tend not to be the ones who need to.

    So again, what all of this comes down to is that the 12 steps are quackery. A germ or two of goodness doesn't justify the thing.

  • Z

    @Ah, Marco, interesting. And: sure it would be extreme to live in a cult. The thing about a lot of people who post here is that they've been in treatment programs with 24/7 12 stepping, which is sort of like that (or even like Guantanamo, if you read some peoples' stories).

    Re your location — I'm glad it's not the US which can be a pretty desolate place. It just seems to me there must be a way for you to gain access to something, anything, an online MFA, whatever it is, that would be a social outlet you could manage given the hearing problem you have and that some government program would loan money for given you have a documented disability. Back when you came on this site, people were trying to figure out ways for you not to have the bleak choice of AA or no human contact. I'm still convinced you have more choices than that.

    Unless of course there's something going on I'm not aware of. Maybe the reason you were going to AA was to meet women, and when you got that DUI it wasn't as easy. Maybe you were fine with AA, but they didn't like your DUI, so you came to this site to complain about them. Maybe you didn't realize this wasn't just a site for blowing off steam, but was rather engaged in a serious critique of the whole 12 step enterprise.


    I think the thing about a lot of people who post to this site is, they never would have considered joining an actual cult. My view on 12 stepping is more or less the same as FTG's: it's not a cult, it's a storefront faux religion masquerading as a form of health care, but that the people who escape from it have feelings and reactions like those of cult escapees. That's why she uses the word "cultish." I notice that these feelings and reactions are those of trauma victims and I think this is because the 12 steps are abusive.

    Sure, it wasn't abusive the way AOC used it, and if it's just something you visit once a week to see people, it doesn't have to be and it is hardly like joining a 24/7 cult if that's all you're doing with it.

    But the point of this blog is to look at the whole structure of the 12 step edifice and its relationship to the treatment industry. In the process, people tell stories and get comments on them but the project is larger.

  • holy mother f-er, 107 responses. z, you rock hard, huh? thanks again for your story.

  • Z

    Hi Violet! Well, 107 minus about 15 dissertations from me and a couple of double posts. I can't believe the thread deteriorated into an argument between Marco and me about which of us knew more about my life.

    Anyway, since he started it I'm trying to use it to clarify some things for myself and/or for the next person who asks, so I can be more concise.

    YES child abuse was the reason I sought therapy, and YES that was worse than incompetent therapy. But my point is that therapy was therapy, it was supposed to be professional, licensed, healing. What it did was make the shadows grow far larger than they had been, make the child abuse take over my life in a way I had never let it before. The way it did this was, it was filled with 12 steppy presuppositions about what human beings are like, and abusive 12 steppy slogans. And I gave it the benefit of the doubt, which is to say I gave it enough time to erode me. There were more elements to it all but key was the mistrust, the idea that one must have dark and immature motives for everything and must be lying all the time.

  • mikkke

    Great initial post – very informative. Myself being a prime candidate for membership ACOA coming from a very abusive childhood, have made a clear decision never to support anything involving 12 stepping, especially now that my wife just was released from rehab a month ago…and is now following her AA fellow treatment,.

    Now that I am living by myself…(gotta love AA) , I had all the free time in the world to read up on the absurdness of the 12 steps and stumbled upon this site and post.

    A couple of months ago I purchased the Adult Children of Alcoholics book, and have to say I had quiet the revalation.

    I do have to say – almost all the charistics of the AOCA list of dysfunctions match 100% of my personality. My porblem with the book was I couldn't find any solution to my problems. The eyeopener to my dysfunction was worth the couple of bucks – however I tried and tried to find any guidance on how to self improve and was quiet dissapointed. Didn't realize all those endless pages of the 12 steps were supposed to be the solution….

    What are the best therapy plans for children of alcoholics. Seen a therapist twice, first session was more of an introdcution -second session was bascially telling me to do 12 stepping…

  • Z

    Ooh, a good question and difficult. Maybe you should find someone who has expertise in addiction but explicitly rejects the 12 steps and can explain why. See if you like their explanation. Also, figure out your top two or three issues and find someone who has training and experience working on those.

    I finally figured out what my main issues were and sought based on that, on treatment for that. I decided they were:

    – guilt over putting my needs over anyone else's, ever (that creates anxiety)

    – unrealistic doubt of my competence (that creates anxiety)

    – d-d if you do, d-d if you don't feeling: I must be myself to be able to do anything and therefore survive, on the one hand, but on the other hand, if I am myself, then others will die since their lives depend upon my not being a distinct person (that vise creates extreme anxiety)

    So based on this, the best therapy is one that will affirm my sense of reality, support my sense of trust in my own reason, and encourage me to acting on my true feelings.


    I've seen the ACOA lists and they overlap with the abuse victim lists; I relate to the latter more. I think it's important to find someone who won't try to get you to "come out of denial" and "get honest" and "admit" you have all the characteristics, or insist that you work on a problem that happens to fall within their comfort zone rather than one that's actually bothering you.


    I recommend someone with a broad education and a lot of experience. The advice I got when I initially sought therapy was that I shouldn't be too critical, they didn't have to be as bright as me or as educated, they didn't have to share my viewpoints, etc. I think that was bad advice. I think experience in particular is very, very important.

    I need someone that can keep up intellectually and is willing at least to see what my perspectives are and why I have them; I also need someone who doesn't have anything invested in my being like them (or like anyone except myself).

  • Z

    P.S. Here's something on emotional abuse and ACOA I just found.

    What I don't like about these lists is, I think a lot of people who have been abused and so on don't take on all the characteristics; looking for oneself on these lists can be abusive in itself. But I will say I had more of the characteristics after therapy than before — actually several more, and some other got exacerbated. This is why I say therapy was worse than the family — especially since it was supposed to help heal.

  • howlermonkey

    Z- I completely agree with you about how to choose a therapist carefully. You'd think that your criteria would be the standard for the profession, but that does not appear to be the case, does it?

    I got lucky and found a great one on my second try. But it probably isn't so easy for most folks. If anyone thinks they could use therapy, real therapy, then keep trying. Because Z shows very clearly that bad therapy is worse than just a waste of money.

  • Another thing about the ACOA list of characteristics is that they are also very human traits, and it is inevitable that they a person seeking answers in ACOA is going to see themselves in a couple or more on the list.

    This, of course, is not to deny that abuse or growing up with addicted parents leaves a very clear mark on people, but it surely manifests precisely according to the abuse inflicted. Alcohol is not some magic ingredient that transforms plain old vicious abuse into something wholly different — some elevated form of abuse which results nothing more than alcoholism by proxy that requires a spiritual awakening. Adult Children of Alcoholics are treated like "dry drunks."

    Anyway, that list of ACOA characteristics is insidious. Some of us are naturally more serious, for instance. And most of us seek approval and judge ourselves harshly. The list is like a horoscope or a psychic reading. "I see someone in your life with the initial 'M' — who is 'M'?" So, I suggest dropping that list like it's on fire and, like Z says, find someone who specializes in treating victims of abuse or trauma, someone who does not revere alcohol. Definitely interview your therapists.

  • I have to add that the "guessing at normal" characteristic of ACOA really exposes the whole list as snake oil. What normal person goes around completely confident they're perfectly normal?

  • Z

    @ftg GREAT points on those lists. They're like a psychological assault, or at least that's how I felt when I first saw them. The first time I looked at them I didn't relate at all, and MY GOD was I healthy then … then when I started getting beaten about the head with them, that was the assault that pulled me into therapy.

    ***The worst result of all that I still have is not really feeling I have the right to enjoy life or hold opinions. I'm in denial and I'm dishonest, so I need to keep searching for my deep dysfunction. Time not spent doing that is time hiding in pleasures to which I have no right.***

    Of course at an intellectual level I do not believe this but I notice that at a deeper level I do. And I dream about having ACOA dogma preached at me and it is distressing.

  • Z

    @howlermonkey – "real therapy" – yeah. I think a lot of therapy now isn't therapy — it's just going to talk about your divorce or whatever it is. A way of having someone to vent to. I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just saying it doesn't take a really trained therapist to do that — they just have to be someone supportive with good sense. That's why people say their training and experience don't really matter.

    I'm looking at the list of things that had happened that I made when I escaped that therapy and it's embarrassing how much I still struggle with them all. It says:


    1. Sowing of self-doubt

    2. Destruction of work

    3. Growth and nurture of my worst and weakest self, on the theory that the weakest is the most "real"

    4. Re-inflict old wounds in more extreme way

    5. Taught me my life was bad; I should question all achievements and be proud of nothing


    1. How to tear myself down

    2. How to go into denial

    3. To limit, rather than affirm self and growth

    4. To think of people in immature ways: caricature them as per AA scripts

    5. That the most appropriate attitude is depression — one should be there, and then take vacations from it, but the bottom line is one should be depressed


    1. Ability to face situations and solve problems. Therapy believed in evasion and compensation, not solutions

    2. Ability to set boundaries and not "own" other peoples' weirdness. In therapy, all weirdness had to be one's own fault

    3. Self-trust, self-esteem, self-care.


    1. Feeling good is good, and solving problems is unimportant. Only mood matters, because no problem is actually real.

    2. There is no positive reason to do anything except go on vacation, which is taking care of oneself. Otherwise, everything is negative.

    3. Do not respond to questions put to you the therapist, but do intervene in unwelcome and inappropriate ways.


    1. Hostile stare if one says anything sensible

    2. Non response to genuine questions

    3. Needed a lot of care and affirmation

    4. Ironic and derisive

    5. Believed I could not be there to make progress, but that I only wanted to complain about life and get attention


    1. Guilt about sleeping, exercising, eating, and recreation. If I do these things, I will feel well, which will mean I am in denial about how dysfunctional I really must be.

    2. Fear of work — if I do it, I will do well and that will mean I am in denial about my dysfunction.

    3. Low self esteem about work — I am now doing the minimum which is embarrassing.

    4. Shame over what happened.

    5. Every day starts with work to fix both the emotional and the material harm which were done me in this therapy. It is a handicap.


    1. Therapy, instead of resolving anything, made things worse, and gave me new problems.

    2. Therapy meant searching my soul for imaginary sins.

    3. Therapy replicated parental narcissism and neglect. I was to fit the therapist's paradigms; if I did not, I did not exist.

    I wrote that out years ago and there's a lot of it that's still relevant to some degree, although I am of course a lot wiser now and would never fall prey to such a thing again.

  • Zerafinel

    Friendthegirl, your story is almost identical to mine. I asked for help with some problems, and mentioned that one of my parents drank, and was led to ACOA. What a nightmare that time was. I recognize so many things in your story that are identical to what I experienced. Me ending up in ACOA was a huge step backwards in my development and understanding of my self and my value and dignity. I did not see myself in the picture they made of me, I felt strongly that this was not me, but slowly the whole process and group pressure wore me down. I was told, this was what I was like – even thoguh it didn't describe me at all. I lost sense of who I was, and what truth is. I hope no one else has to go through this in the future.

  • Zerafinel

    I'm sorry, it's Z.s story. Phew, reading this and coming here to this site, it brings up bad memories…

  • Z

    @Zerafinel that is amazing, we are clones of each other or something. How did you repair yourself after going through this???

  • Zerafinel

    Oh, and yes, I absolutely agree that everyone should stay away from AA/12 step "therapists", as far away as possible.

  • Z

    @Zerafinel, absolutely.

    Also: it is really, really important to realize that the scientific research indicates that abuse, torture, brainwashing, etc., work on everyone, not just on people who have had difficult childhoods. Yes, people with difficult childhoods may have more difficult lives; I for instance at age 10 decided I would not commit to a serious romantic relationship until I was sure I was capable of not replicating my parents' dynamic.

    BUT abuse, torture, and brainwashing work on everyone. (That is why governments engage in them, after all.) It's not true that it only works on you as an adult if you were softened up in childhood, or that if you undergo it as an adult it is because you "attracted" it somehow. This is part of the 12 stepping + pop psych sophistries plus misogynistic psychiatry; it's not part of anything I'd call serious work in psychology.

  • Welcome, Zerafinel!

  • Marco


    I had time for only a quick read today, so just two points:

    – I have never thought you were crazy, nor do I now. Quite the contrary. You seem to be smart and sensitive that is for sure.

    – You make an interesting point about those forced to undergo AA 24/7 for even a while. That is very different from going to and leaving a meeting whenever one feels like it. That would drive me a bit crazy, literally.

  • mikkke

    Z – thanks so much for your reply to my commentand thanks for everyone contributing as well! Good advice on on how to select a therapist. I can especially relate to "I need someone that can keep up intellectually and is willing at least to see what my perspectives are and why I have them; I also need someone who doesn’t have anything invested in my being like them (or like anyone except myself)."

    Going to seek help for a couple of my main issues sounds like the best plan. My list is pretty long:


    Point 1: Guessing what healthy behavior is – CLEAR OF THAT

    Point 2: Have trouble completing things – CHECK

    Point 3: Lie when you don't need to – CHECK

    Point 4: Judge yourself without mercy – CHECK

    Point 5: Have trouble accepting compliments. CHECK

    Point 6: Take responsibility for problems, but not successes. CHECK

    Point 7: Have trouble having fun since their childhoods were lost, stolen, repressed. SEMI CHECK

    Point 8:Take themselves very seriously or not seriously at all. CHECK very seriously…

    Point 9: Have difficulty with intimate relationships. CHECK

    Point 10:Expect others to just "know what they want." CHECK

    Point 11: Over-react to things beyond their control. CHECK

    Point 12: Constantly seek approval & affirmation. CHECK

    Point13: Feel different from others. SEMI CHECK – I am smarter than most 🙂

    Point 14: Constantly seek approval & affirmation. SEMI CHECK ( had been seeking that from wife…to no avail…)

    Point 15: Are extremely loyal, even when facing overwhelming evidence that their loyalty is undeserved. CHECK

    Point 16: Are either super responsible or super irresponsible. CHECK ( unfortunately irresponisble…but hey my sis is SUPER responsible…lol)

    Point 17: Tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences CLEAR OF THAT – actually usually overanalyze things which leads me to not act upon things…

    So I will try to focus only on things that influence my life the most – which will be point 2 – trouble completing things, which goes hand in hand with point 16 – being irresponsible, and becoming a prick…

    But the list 2 on that link from you hits me like a nail:

    Feelings of low self- esteem (This is a result of being criticized too often as children and teenagers.)

    We perpetuate these parental messages by judging ourselves and others harshly. We try to cover up our poor opinions of ourselves by being perfectionistic, controlling, contemptuous and gossipy.

    We tend to isolate ourselves out of fear and we feel often uneasy around other people, especially authority figures.

    We are desperate for love and approval and will do anything to make people like us. Not wanting to hurt others, we remain "loyal" in situations and relationships even when evidence indicates our loyalty is undeserved.

    We are afraid of losing others.

    We are afraid of being abandoned.

    It is difficult for us to "let go."

    We are intimidated by angry people and personal criticism. This adds to our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

    We continue to attract emotionally unavailable people with addictive personalities.

    We live life as victims, blaming others for our circumstances, and are attracted to other victims (and people with power) as friends and lovers. We confuse love with pity and tend to "love" people we can pity and rescue. And we confuse love with need.

    We are either super-responsible or super-irresponsible. We take responsibility for solving others' problems or expect others to be responsible for solving ours. This enables us to avoid being responsible for our own lives and choices.

    We feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves or act in our own best interests. We give in to others' needs and opinions instead of taking care of ourselves.

    We deny, minimize or repress our feelings as a result of our traumatic childhoods. We are unaware of the impact that our inability to identify and express our feelings has had on our adult lives.

    We are dependent personalities who are so terrified of rejection or abandonment that we tend to stay in situations or relationships that are harmful to us. Our fears and dependency stop us form ending unfulfilling relationships and prevent us from entering into fulfilling ones. Because we feel so unlovable it is difficult or impossible to believe anyone can really love us, and won't eventually leave us once they see how "bad" we are.

    Denial, isolation, control, shame, and undeserved guilt are legacies from our family. As a result of these symptoms, we feel hopeless and helpless.

    We have difficulty with intimacy, security, trust, and commitment in our relationships. Lacking clearly defined personal limits and boundaries, we become enmeshed in our partner's needs and emotions. We often become codependent.

    We tend to procrastinate and have difficulty following project through from beginning to end.

    We have a strong need to be in control. We overreact to change things over which we have no control.

    Sorry for posting the entire rehased list here all here – however all of these issues listed are describing my personality so much. ANd for that I am thankful for ACOA- however the solution to resolving those traits clearly shall not be in the hands/guidance of ACOA / Al Anon – 12step therapist.

  • mikkke

    when I purchased the ACOA book I was doing it trying to find a self help method, it's just in personality to try to figure things and do things on my own. Would anyone happen to have advice on any good books on the subject of abuse victims that adresses the above issues?

  • Z

    @Mikkke, good deal. Good luck finding someone. You have to really sleuth, I've found. I've seen 2 since then, after much sleuthing. One soon after the first "evil" one, to help clean up the mess. This time I asked all my wisest contacts in the likeliest communities for leads and really specific recommendations. Now, years later and elsewhere, I have one to work on the issues I went for in the first place, that got worsened and added to. Again I shopped around a lot. It took a while to find someone I could really work with. Key was being willing to wait until I found the person (but to keep looking, and keep getting clearer on what I wanted to do / what I was looking for).

    @Marco, yes, I think that if you actually have a drinking problem then at least in AA you can meet people who share it. That's sort of how I used Alanon the time I went because of my insulin abusing ex. I went to listen for any words of wisdom I might hear, used it as a resource, didn't let it try to work therapy on me or anything like that. CherokeeBride says the steppish is getting to her despite having that attitude; this is why I think Mikke is wise not to go to Alanon.

    All – I still think ftg is right that those lists of characteristics of ACOAs and abuse victims are terribly broad. Some of the problems listed are just common problems, and some come from just living in our society as it is right now. I think that if you have abuse / trauma it is good to go to someone specialized in that (and not in a 12 steppy or pop psych way) because a lot of people don't really understand it, the best research on it is kind of new and you have to be up on it. Otherwise I think a broad and deep education, not just a single gimmick ("I'm going to work X method on you!") is the best bet. By this I don't mean someone blandly all-purpose, I mean someone really experienced and engaged.

  • Z

    @Mikke, Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465087302

    (But don't buy it from Amazon, they've suppressed Wikileaks!)

  • Z

    P.S. Mikke – here's one of my mini-essays on abuse from long ago; it got some really useful comments. http://profacero.wordpress.com/2007/09/26/on-disc

  • Z

    P.P.S. Mikke – I think the term "self esteem" is misleading … conjures up the special snowflake image and so on. I think "self respect" is more on the mark and that is what I lost through the "reeducation" I think of 12 stepping as. Here are 2 paragraphs from Joan Didion on it:

    "To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.

    "It is the phenomenon sometimes called 'alienation from self.' In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home."

  • Z

    Notes to self:

    Lucy, on the "Anonymity" thread:

    "…Taking away someone’s identity is one of the first steps in brainwashing. Telling a member that the fellowship is” more important” than him would be a second step. It goes with teaching him to learn total dependence on AA and AA members."

    What I said months later:

    "@Lucy: “Taking away someone’s identity is one of the first steps in brainwashing.”

    Yes, important point. What I remember being told is, essentially, that everything I knew was wrong and I was not who I was.

    If you listen to that with an open mind and agree to consider it for at least six weeks, then you need a program."

    ***AND, re the program, remember: it's not what abusive people do to you that is important, it is what they get you to do to yourself. That is why it is so important that you get with the program and so on.***

    So, once again, despite conciliatory remarks above re the 12 steps, Dat Shrink, etc., I still think it's the steps and the theories justifying them that are so pernicious.

  • Z

    I am still thinking about this. I think people appreciate some things about AA/Alanon in the beginning when they go there to deal with real, practical situations they have, and get some insights/support. I think ACOA is the bigger, meaner version of it all because it is supposed to apply to people even if they have actually dealt with those issues already, or are already dealing with them well. It tells you you haven't, you couldn't have, you must be monstruous, in the same way AA tells former alcoholics that their "disease" is still active and they must return forever to square one.

    I think Dat Shrink was running an ACOA model on me out of frustration, having realized I didn't have any of the AA/Alanon things going on and still wanting to run his model. So it was sort of like revenge or punishment.

    More generally I think a lot of therapists and clients assume a different model of therapy than I had. They think, you go to "counseling" because you are in a rough spot, often a rough spot that isn't even a neurosis but is a life event like grief. So the therapist says some sensible and kind things and gives support, and may see some dysfunction and point it out, change some perceptions and ways of thinking about things, some behaviors. And then things ease, and that was therapy, although back then I thought of that sort of thing as counseling, not therapy; and counseling is different, lighter. I think it's from that model that people say your therapist/counselor doesn't have to have a lot of formal training or expertise, just be a compassionate, balanced and insightful person.

    I on the other hand didn't go to therapy for a crisis, but because I had overcome some things and was in a good position to start really looking at some root issues. Earlier in my life I had kept demons at bay, and then I had started facing them one by one; it seemed that now would be the right time to have expert guidance on the ones I really didn't understand. It was a good idea in principle but the model I had in mind was a lot more along the lines of psychoanalisis than of counseling, and this is where I misunderstood. Once I realized what ACOA was and that this was what this therapist was running on me, I quit; had it been explained to me ahead of time I'd have opted out.

    The thing about the 12 step model is, well, all the things that are said in this site. It's a really rough beast that teaches you to use both your strengths and your weaknesses against yourself. It is convoluted and superficial, like Baroque decor, so it occupies the mind and exhausts it while also imprisoning it in surface detail, false starts and dead ends. It re-presents the gargoyles on the parapets as YOUR deepest self. Meanwhile it makes constant accusations: ADMIT you are X, CONFESS that your real feelings are THESE, and so on, and this is how it wears you down.

    Before I did this therapy I had a student who went to marriage counseling and was sent to an ACOA intensive and summer program. She was destroyed after that, sleepless, smoking, agitated, pale, and the things she accused herself of were patently false. She had been really vibrant but now she barely passed the M.A. — that is, we passed her based on former, not current performance and potential, and she had just enough of a GPA left to squeak through.

    I was horrified at what she had clearly been put through. She said she had needed it. I say that what is scary about abuse is not what it does as much as what it teaches you to do to yourself. Later on, in this therapy I went to, I began to recognize in myself traits she had also acquired via ACOA (and no, I don't think either of us had them before, I think they were inculcated). I saw myself think of myself the same thing she had said to me of herself: "I know this looks destructive, but I know I need it." I saw it, on the one hand, but continued to believe I "needed" it … because I had become convinced I was so "dysfuctional."

    Another problem with going to 12 step groups is, as someone else said on this site, people in them think they are suddenly great psychologists. They have read a lot of other half baked self help and faux psychology and they mix it in. All of this is why 12 step theory has to get out of the therapeutic and medical industries. Even without it there are still a lot of problems, e.g. the mainstream/commercial aspects of the whole enterprise. But the influence the 12 steps seem to have gotten in the 80s (I have seen some manifestos by therapists from then about how the 12 steps were better than anything invented theretofore) really has been detrimental and has to be gotten out.

    Final thought for now: when I was a child, in the days of women's liberation, the housewives were on pharmaceuticals and seeing Freudians who were trying to get them better adjusted as grownup women … which meant, accepting of really limited lives. That got roundly criticized but it is as though 12 stepping were what took its place. And was more efficient, since it could be applied to everyone.


    Therapy is hard to find, as someone said upthread, because it takes some expertise to know what kind one is looking for and why, and because one may not know how to explain what one is looking for. I can now say with confidence what I suffer from, and what kinds of approaches I have affinities with. But it wasn't as clear then, although in general terms I was a lot healthier than I have been since and had been improving by the year, for years. Still, in terms of naming root problems, I could only point to their signs; that would have been where (good) professional help would have come in.

    I think in my case, though, bad therapy was much worse than none since I'd always improved on my own. I notice that a lot of people really resonated with the beginning part of this post — the best written part too, the one with the most literary value. At the same time, it is the falsest part of the post, the most caricatured, and so also the "easiest" to understand. It records the aspects of my early life that most interested the therapist, and writes them large; it does not include other nuances. Most interestingly re that therapy, it was not something Dat Shrink was interested in working on — he was interested in finding Yet Worse Stuff, a wilderness. This was traumatizing because I kept being asked to remember, re experience, keep in mind, keep very present the sentences in Part I of this post, while being continually required to come up with yet more of it.

    No amount of trauma that I could "honestly" say I had was enough, and I was leery of inventing any for my own obvious reasons but also because in therapy, I was under constant suspicion of being "dishonest." So, this is how Dat Shrink taught me to keep searching for more pain, and to keep telling myself I was in denial, denial, and needed to "get humble" and "get honest."

    And once again: all of this is why yes, that therapy was worse than the experiences in the family — especially since it was presented as medical/healing which the family wasn't alleged to be.

  • Z, this is a really good follow up to your initial post, and I think I will link to it from the body of the post.

    I say that what is scary about abuse is not what it does as much as what it teaches you to do to yourself.

    I think this is a crucial insight.

    Well, first what I think is crucial is the fact that you came to therapy from a strong place, and in the spirit of inquiry and growth and self-actualization, and ended up having all of this betrayed.

    And then, yes — what this kind of therapy teaches you to do to yourself. That is a serious sign of abuse and gaslighting: the fact that it takes root and can perpetuate itself. It takes on its own life, like a parasite in your mind. The most destructive element of abuse is how it can erode us from the inside.

    Consider, for instance, a child… a child like you were — who received those spirit-breaking messages from her mother. At some point, we actually honor our mother by continuing to live up to those awful expectations. People end up feeling that exceeding those expectations and achieving some success is actually a betrayal, and so they resist it.

    AA/12-Step establishes the same dynamic. And now, since psychology has gotten hold of it, these AA therapists can generate this ear-worm with great efficiency.

  • Z

    For that sentence in bold, credit goes to the domestic violence counseling program of the city of Madrid, which appears to be top flight. A friend of mine was remanded to this program, where she learned this sentence and reported it to me.

    Apparently the Spanish anti domestic violence program is based on real research. According to them, I am told, victims do NOT have any special defects that "attracted" the abuse.

  • howlermonkey

    Z wrote: "The thing about the 12 step model is, well, all the things that are said in this site. It’s a really rough beast that teaches you to use both your strengths and your weaknesses against yourself. It is convoluted and superficial, like Baroque decor, so it occupies the mind and exhausts it while also imprisoning it in surface detail, false starts and dead ends. It re-presents the gargoyles on the parapets as YOUR deepest self. Meanwhile it makes constant accusations: ADMIT you are X, CONFESS that your real feelings are THESE, and so on, and this is how it wears you down."

    I don't have anything to add to this. It's a very tight (and vivid) summation of what the 12 Steps really do to people.

  • Z

    P.S. On the question of education, here are two brief examples.

    Why therapists need a good undergraduate education: mine believed that women had never been "allowed" to have college degrees or work until the late 20th century. Ever. Therefore, he insisted, my family was aberrant.

    Why they need a good graduate education and not just some principles in counseling and case management: language, metaphor, logic. He would draw odd conclusions and couldn't really work with words or images.

    I learned the terms passive aggression and abuse from him, which was good, but my point is the insistence on ignorance. In terms of general information he insisted on these huge misconceptions, and in terms of professional training it was all about managing people and everyone had to be more "dysfunctional" than he.


    I finally realized this was a very MSW type of mentality and this is why I'd now say beware the social worker, especially if trained from the 80s forward, in the ascendancy of the 12 step model. Remember also that in the 90s the idea was that everyone should have short term advice from a "therapist," Prozac, and a 12 step group, whether they needed any of this or not. This was when the HMOs had come in and it was advantageous financially to get people into treatment — yet everything had to be short and piecemeal, also for financial reasons. I remember from those days the derision with which people spoke of older forms of therapy, more long term, deeper, more serious, more wholistic. These were just narcissistic wastes of time, it was said. All of this is about as abusive as one can get, in my view.

  • Z

    @howlermonkey — thanks — I've been thinking about it — I like this description too — but there is a much simpler version of the program:

    "Abuse yourself. Show us you are doing this. If you do not, you will suffer in yet more disabling ways."