Prosecutor Talks 12-Step Sentencing

Last night, criminal prosecutor, maozedong,  posted an interesting comment offering insight into the courts’ practice of sentencing people to 12-Step programs. I didn’t want anyone to miss this, so  I’m reposting it here. Thank you, maozedong. — ftg

At the risk of drawing some ire, I will disclose that I’m a criminal prosecutor; threads like these are getting my attention as I’d never given much thought to issues related to criminals in AA.

How prosecutors and judges handle sentencing varies from state to state and county to county. In my county, first time DWI (aka DUI) offenders are not generally required to attend AA meetings as a condition of probation. There’s this perception out there that anyone who gets a DWI must have a drinking problem, but my experience has been that this is not the case. In the case of someone with multiple DWIs, AA attendance is usually imposed as a part of the standard plea deal.

Most people who are charged with first-time DWI find the criminal process to be scary, embarrassing, and downright horrible. Memories of that experience will keep the average person from making the same mistake again. A person who went through all that and STILL continues to drive drunk does, in my opinion, need to closely examine his/her drinking habits. Sending that person to AA may be of some help. I’m not saying I hope every repeat offender that goes there will get a sponsor, work the steps and buy into the DOUBLETHINK. I just want the offender to think about the choices s/he is making with regard to alcohol, and I think to an extent AA facilitates that end, even if it just leads the person to conclude “I don’t want to end up like these AA idiots.” Yes, there are church/state issues that I avoid talking about. :)

What about sending rapists and child molesters to AA? That does happen in my county. Most of the time, it is brought about via the Presentencing Investigative Report (PSI) prepared by the probation office. The probation officer asks the offender a variety of questions, basically taking a life history. The offender will often volunteer all kinds of stories about substance abuse in an effort to mitigate their own responsibility for the crime (e.g., “I didn’t assault that woman because I’m a bad person, Demon Rum made me do it!”). In such a case the probation officer recommends, among other things, that AA is made condition of probation. We don’t have to go along with that recommendation, but we almost always do, so I do accept responsibility for this practice.

In most cases, I hope a felon placed on probation will succeed in completing his sentence. However, there are cases where I hope the person fails. Many times, we are faced with horrible crimes, such as molestation, where the evidence is flimsy. If we go to trial and lose, the guy is out and about to do whatever the hell he wants. So instead, we put him on probation, then watch him like a hawk. The more conditions of probation, the better, because if he violates any of them he’s headed to prison. Accordingly, I’ve always been on board with including AA as a probation condition – one more thing that could trip him up.

Honestly, it’s never occurred to me that I’m sending predators to AA groups that include very vulnerable people. I guess I’ve always subconsciously assumed that the old-timers would protect the innocent ones, but my own experience actually doesn’t bear that out. I can remember old-timers doing nothing more than chuckling at the hideous 13th-steppers making the rounds of my groups. I was never a member of the AA “inner circle,” so I don’t know if anything worse was going on, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Ugh. This site has given me some things to think about and discuss with my colleagues.

  • JD

    Interesting that a fellow who sends the dangerous convicted to AA is shocked that AA may have dangerous convicted people hanging around the fringes. Great you picked up on that, dong.

    Why not lose the idea that AA is available to be used as part of your plea bargain apparatus, even though it's been useful to you. We have other priorities and don't need any more convicted losers warming the back bench and getting your cards signed. You put us in the spot of babysitting these people when you should not.

    We aren't interested in them until they drag themselves in with the purpose of finding a way to stay sober. We're not involved with or care about their social rehibilitation, or if your case wasn't good enough to put them where they deserve to be.

    Not our problem. They'll get their cards signed as long as you force them to come around us, but members don't care about them staying sober until they start caring about it themselves.

    You wind up getting them pissed off at the AAs, and they wind up at sites like this. Better they went another direction.

    Why not send them to Rational Recovery? Following that astute and scientific program they could identify their inner Beast and give it a name, like Pootsie-Boo, and then ignore it when Pootsie-Boo starts yapping and thereafter be forever cured. The State could give Trimpey a cool grand for each and everyone would be happy.

  • tintop

    I agree, for the puposes of this discussion, that there are three groups in AA: prey, predator, and those who are silent. The prey, in my view, will have to protect themselves as best they can. The silent ones, in their view, bear no responsibility to protect any vulnerable person. Caveat emptor.

    As for the prosecutor's post, what he wrote is no surprise. I do hope that he has a learning curve.

  • tintop

    I meant to say, 'in their view". not, 'in my view'.

  • SoberPJ

    I knew JD could bond with us… The good point is, what do you do with people that are dangerous and don't really care about changing their behavior? They are wanted nowhere.

  • JD sez:

    "Why not lose the idea that AA is available to be used as part of your plea bargain apparatus, even though it’s been useful to you. We have other priorities and don’t need any more convicted losers warming the back bench and getting your cards signed. You put us in the spot of babysitting these people when you should not."

    Are you aware of this?

  • SoberPJ

    There is very little sympathy when one complains about the pain of a self-infilcted wound. If AA doesn't want them, don't recruit them.

  • DeConstructor

    This letter is an crystal clear announcement that the hard work of all of us is beginning to come to fruitition. The simple acknowledgement that this madness needs to be reconsidered, and real facts need to be talked about by persons in sentencing positions is a HUGE victory for us.

    The web of deception that has been spun by the AA faith and the recovery industry cartel can not and does not withstand any serious scrutiny. There is a lot of work to do, but this is a SOLID victory for team ST.

    Good job people….

  • tintop

    hey, jd — spare us your keyboard kommando drivel, it is just gasbaggery.

    you want those people in AA. And, you know it. If they were not there, you would have a lot of empty chairs.

    But, jd, never forget: we will love you until you can love yourself. keep coming back!!

  • Mike

    Tony JD at it again. The "we only want those who are ready" drivel is exactly what he said in a MH forum post a year or two ago. Welcome back, TJ(d)

  • tintop

    maozedong, what matters to me is that you are aware. I know that your options are limited . AA is, after all, the most common, and it is free. Free to the defendant, and free to the court. I hope that you can find better options.

  • maozedong

    JD, you're full of shit. AA actively pursues reprobates.

  • maozedong

    I do too, tintop. I'm glad I found this site.

  • mao, I try to keep all these stories under the "keep coming back" category (though I'm sure I've missed some), so if you'd like to direct people to these stories, there's a category link in the sidebar, or you can use this link:

  • Mike

    " What I will do is slowly try to get the ear of coworkers and judges, and plant the idea that maybe sending rapists into unsuspecting AA groups isn’t such a good idea. Will it work? I don’t know because, again, we’ve being doing that for years."

    Maybe only send rapists to groups/facilities that openly state parolees, sex offenders, etc,. have open access to the meeting? This might provide some forewarning to the unsuspecting newcomer. Something has to be done. AA has become overwhelmed by offenders of all types. Much worse than when I first started 20+ years ago.

  • maozedong

    Thanks FTG, I was actually going to ask for such a link. Sorry about my profane rant at JD, that kind of slipped off the keyboard.

  • Gunthar2000


    I'm willing to bet that the majority of repeat offenders that you see have already been sentenced to AA at one time or another.

    How does it make sense to mandate a supposed "treatment" that has already been proven to be ineffective?

    If you believe that violating offenders 1st amendment rights is an effective way to administer justice, I'd suggest that you should pay closer attention to the principles on which this country was founded, and less attention to moving these people in the most efficient manner through a system that does not seem to be working. It's not okay to violate the rights that you are sworn to protect and defend… assuming that you are sworn to protect and defend.

    You have taken that oath… haven't you?

    If you're violating these rights because you believe that it's the most effective way to force treatment, I'd say you've failed. AA is not a treatment… it's a room full of screwed up people trying to run each others lives. These people are unlicensed, and unqualified to counsel anyone about addiction. The number of repeat offenders speaks loudly that this is the truth.

    If you're violating these rights because you believe it's a good way to punish offenders, I say shame on you. This is where you are clearly responsible for fostering the establishment of government sponsored religion. You are the missing link… you are the one making the decisions here.

  • Gunthar2000

    Please don't feed the trolls.

  • AnnaZed

    @maozedong ~ "…Is AA a religious organization? Yes. Should we be sentencing people to AA? I’m not sure."

    Why not just require church attendance instead then?

    "… Keep in mind that there’s no way my county is ever going to spend money providing treatment for these people. Taxpayers, especially in my state, could care less about helping those convicted of criminal offenses. Until some better alternative comes along, AA is all I’ve got. If it helps, great. If it doesn’t, fine. I would hate to think of AA harming a defendant, but maybe in some situations that’s an unavoidable outcome in the same way as a prisoner being harmed by incarceration is an unavoidable outcome. I really don’t know."

    This is a very good point and quite likely the crux of the matter; always follow the money. The general public considers drunks and addicts to be scum, not worthy of their interest or care and certainly not their tax dollars. That is unless it's their family member, but that's another matter. Basically, most people consider all substance abusers to be human garbage who pretty much deserve each other. Obviously, if there is no significant outcry in this country against say prison rape or other abuses during incarceration then one can hardly expect anyone to care what happens to people who aren't even being locked up.

    What people don't take into account is that tossing all of society's human detritus (DUIs, sex offenders, parolees, violent offenders, drug offenders etc.) into the same room with vulnerable people trying to straighten themselves out like young women or guileless old people or teens is directly counter to any idea of civic responsibility. If we could only get judges and ordinary citizens to comprehend that.

  • eddy

    well the options aren't limited to AA, there is also smart recovery and lifering, if someone has to be mandated, then offer altenative options for the person thereby they have a choice of secular options. It stands to reason for the middle class drunk driver a program like smart would fit better with his profile.

    To me it is frightening the grip that a relgious cult like AA has on American society, if you are framiliar with the history you will see it is little more than the Oxford group repackaged and sold to people with drinking problems. If a church was to show up at the courts and request the drunk driver be handed to them would you be so willing?

  • joedrywall

    The flip side of making AA a condition of parole for tripping people up is that it will trip "decent" offenders up also, due to its ineffectiveness folks whose needs that could be treated better elsewhere will fail in AA and perhaps re-offend and then be incarcerated.

  • I would like to quickly express thanks to the prosecutor for reading this blog with an open mind. I was sent to AA by, well, my mother. I was one of the vulnerable types. And I am not, after years, in my late thirties getting my life together, away from AA. This blog is pretty intense, well done, and helpful to many, many people. As I say–probably too often, I know–FTG is amazing, as is MA. I appreciate their work more than they could ever understand.

  • The Drug Courts need to design their own thing. Sit them in a room downtown next to the courtrooms. Bring a leader in from RR, SMart Recovery, SOS, CHurches… or what ever something, even AA could come

    and give there explanation of ways to get help. One size does not fit all.

    It could be a panel of all 5 programs with literature from all of them.

    Hey not a bad Idea.

    I think a coalition of ALternatives to AA/NA should be formed. We could raise awareness that they even exist. I had no idea till I found ST blog.

  • maozedong

    Indeed, I did take an oath. I would love to be in the position where I could stand on high, pontificating on the principles of our founding fathers. Unfortunately, I have a caseload to move through the system. Again, I concede that AA-sentencing is not particularly effective. And again, I ask: What is the alternative? The probation office would accept SMART, LifeRing, SOS, etc. as alternatives to AA, but none of those groups have meetings here.

    So if not AA, then what? Nothing? Nothing is better? I am by no means an AA fan, but I can't believe that doing absolutely nothing is better than attending a few AA meetings.

    • MA

      So if not AA, then what? Nothing? Nothing is better? I am by no means an AA fan, but I can’t believe that doing absolutely nothing is better than attending a few AA meetings.

      Hi, mao.

      I greatly appreciate your contribution to our blog.

      To answer this question, I would say the answer is yes, nothing is better than sending a person to AA. For more than one reason just off the top of my head. The first is, AA is wholly ineffective at getting a person to quit drinking, so in that sense it would not matter if you made AA, toastmasters, paintball or absolutely nothing part of a plea bargain or sentence. Secondly, there is one study which actually shows a negative correlation between abstinence and AA attendance, in which case it would do defendant more harm than good. Third, not sending them to AA eliminates the possibility of an AA affecting an innocent member of AA who happens to be in the group that the person chooses to attend. Fourth, as poorly as AA is at dealing with alcohol addiction, it is even worse at dealing with psychological issues. Why on God's green earth would you send a sociopath or someone with bipolar, who is in need of psychological treatment, to a support group consisting of non-professionals with sketchy psychological profiles themselves? If you think sentencing a child molester to AA is a benign act, you're nuts. And you don't seem nuts.

  • Gunthar2000

    Jack their insurance premiums through the roof.

    Make the financial penalty so severe that people will think twice before they get behind the wheel drunk.

  • Martha

    The very first step in AA is that you must accept that you are powerless. IMHO that is worse than doing nothing. Powerlessness is a lie. Instead I would suggest a group like SMART Recovery whose very first lesson is self empowerment. If someone makes the mistake of believing they are powerless they are more likely to drink again. Also the other 11 steps of AA are totally unnecessary. I learned in SMART that abstinence is exactly the same thing as sobriety. AA makes it seem like abstinence is not an end in and of itself when in fact it is. The choice is not AA or nothing. There are several other options that teach self empowerment and tell people that they do have the power to stop.

  • Gunthar2000

    One problem is that AA is so widely available that most people who are handed a list of choices will find that AA is the only geographically convenient choice available.

    AA's basically got this one locked in, but if we look at it from the perspective of correcting the offender, rather than assuming that all offenders are alcoholics and trying to treat them, it's obvious that public service (picking up trash), financial penalties (big fines), and losing the privilege to drive on our roads are the answers to the problem.

  • eddy

    I am 100 percent with you on that gunthar

  • Mona Lisa

    Mao, as causeandeffect accurately points out, SMART Recovery will verify online meeting attendance (see…..

    Now before you say, "well, we need face to face meetings, or it doesn't count", I ask you why that would be. There's nothing unconstitutional about online meetings, and there IS something unconstitutional about forced AA attendance.

    And why SMART Recovery? Well, this is a shameless plug, because I happen to really like SMART Recovery, but one reason is that SMART is the largest of the secular support groups. Also, the main components of the program (REBT and motivational enhancement) have been shown in numerous studies to be far more effective than either AA or 12 step facilitation (see

    So you want something that might actually help and doesn't place predators and prey in the same room? SMART Recovery.

  • causeandeffect

    The combination of the ideas of powerlessness, the "disease out in the parking lot doing push-ups" (progressive even when not drinking), and hitting a lower bottom all seem to result in those in AA who relapse to completely spin out of control, drinking more, often for many years. I don't know everything about those who relapse in SMART, but from what I have seen, they drink a day or more, regret it, and quit. Also, when someone in AA relapses, they attribute it to not going to enough meetings, not doing enough service work, not calling enough alcoholics or some other nonsense. In SMART, when someone relapses, they become aware of what REALLY triggered it, and it becomes part of a valuable lesson, something they can actively work on to avoid in the future. And the danger factor just isn't there unless you decide to meet up with someone you've met online.

  • One more thing in support of SMART is that hierarchical and boundary-crossing relationships are not built into the program as they are in AA. It sets the stage for abusive relationships — creating an imbalance, a skewed power dynamic among people who are unqualified and unaccountable. In SMART there are no sponsors, no love-bombing…

    The sponsor-sponsee relationship has proven not to be in the best interest of the sponsee. It is in the best interest of the sponsor. People who sponsor are more likely to stay in the program, because it invests them on a deeper level. Sponsees, however, have not been shown to benefit at all from the relationship. Sponsees cycle in and out.

  • causeandeffect

    I agree ftg, I've had a couple of sponsors so sick, I very quickly realized they were a bad mistake and dumped them in less than a week. One had 24 years, the other had 5. Also wanted to add that I personally don't feel meetings are necessary for sobriety but they do provide tools for self improvement.

  • Mona Lisa

    Maozedong, I’m a lawyer too although I don’t do any criminal work. I read your comment with great interest and I truly appreciate your effort to see things from a fresh perspective.

    I’m writing this comment as someone who was in the “inner circle” of AA for several years, and I can report to you that the oldtimers I hung around with definitely did not make an effort to protect the newcomers from abuse. My friends were not typically abusers themselves, but my clique did a lot of sponsoring of new women so we got a ringside seat to see what happened to them. I still can’t believe how many times I watched a new girl get 13th stepped, or taken advantage of by one of the program con-artists, or warned to go off psych meds, etc. before I became disgusted with the whole thing and refused to have anything more to do with it.

    In my experience, AA consists primarily of three groups: vulnerable people, people who prey on them and people who look the other way while it all goes on. I don’t know if you remember the DC Midtown Group scandal a few years ago (underage girls being pimped out by their sponsors to male oldtimers) but the striking thing about it was that within the AA community no one was concerned about what had happened to these vulnerable children. Instead, they were concerned mostly about the public image of AA. Where there should have been an outcry against the abuse going on in AA’s name, the largest concern seemed to be keeping the matter quiet, or explaining it away as an unusual event, even as we all watched similar things going on in our own meetings.

    I hope that you will continue to learn more about the reality of life in the rooms of AA. Following nearly a decade of dedicated membership, I learned the lesson that it is not a safe place.

  • Commonsense

    Maozedong, Yes, thanks for you input and views! It is always good for us "eye in the sky" observer guys to get the operational ground-level perspective from those "with their ass in the grass."

  • maozedong

    Let me clarify one thing. I COMPLETELY agree with all of you that continuing the practice of sending predators to AA is unacceptable. I am guilty of that, and I really hope my thoughtlessness hasn't resulted in someone being hurt. I guess I'll never really know for certain. I can't do anything about the past, but I promise you that there will be some changes in how I handle future cases. I will also discuss this issue with my colleagues — I'm kind of known as "that bleeding-heart Assistant DA," but I will try to get them to listen. The head of county probation is on my Frisbee Golf team (please don't say it), so I will talk to him as well. I can't promise results, but I will certainly try.

    I think I mentioned that I have a few years' worth of history with AA. I found the general fellowship helpful and comforting at times, so I do see good sides to the program. But, I agree with many of you that some aspects of AA are destructive, particularly the "It's us or death" mindset. Another pet peeve of mine when I was in the rooms was the shameless glee the AAers would express when someone "went back out." I once went out of town and missed a couple of weeks of meetings. When I got back, several AAers cheerfully asked me how much drinking I'd done. I also hated it when new members were told things like "You don't have bipolar. You don't need that medicine. Your brain just needs to get used to not drinking and you'll be fine." Wonderful.

    SMART online for the multiple-DWI folks. Hmmmm. I think I could sell that if I am able assure probation that participation could not be easily faked. My kids have a birthday party to go to tomorrow; after I drop them off, I'm going to check out that website Mona Lisa provided. Are there any particular SMART leaders or facilitators to whom I should direct questions?

  • Gunthar2000


    You're not guilty of anything.

    This is your opportunity to bring change to a broken system.

    A little advice… Try not to give any personal info on this blog that could effect your career.

  • Gunthar2000


    Joe Gerstein is the guy you are looking for.

    SMART Recovery contact info at the bottom of this pdf.

    Here's some info about online meetings verification…….

  • maozedong

    Some of the comments left after my original post were quite interesting to me, so I’ll reply here.

    Is AA a religious organization? Yes. Should we be sentencing people to AA? I’m not sure.

    Take the mulitple DWI defendant. Sending him to an AA meeting is probably not going to subject members of the group to any heightened risk — AA groups are already full of drunk drivers. So in that case, I guess the concern would be over the well-being of the defendant himself. In any case, I see three outcomes: 1) the defendant actually examines his drinking practices [good]; 2) he blows the whole thing off [neutral]; 3) he buys into the hype and becomes an AA drone [could be good or bad]. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that a criminal prosecution is not all about what’s best for the defendant, what’s of more concern for me is what’s best for the community. I think it’s in the community’s best interest to get this guy into some sort of alcoholic treatment.

    So what other options are there for the DWI defendant? If a defense attorney asks me to waive the AA requirement and allow the defendant to get treatment from a substance abuse professional, I always agree. I see that as being better than AA, but not much, because all the professionals around here are 12-steppers anyway. Beyond that, what’s out there? I concede that studies show sentencing defendants to AA is not very effective. But what’s the alternative? (that’s not a rhetorical question, I welcome ideas). Keep in mind that there’s no way my county is ever going to spend money providing treatment for these people. Taxpayers, especially in my state, could care less about helping those convicted of criminal offenses. Until some better alternative comes along, AA is all I’ve got. If it helps, great. If it doesn’t, fine. I would hate to think of AA harming a defendant, but maybe in some situations that’s an unavoidable outcome in the same way as a prisoner being harmed by incarceration is an unavoidable outcome. I really don’t know.

    Does sending defendants to AA overstep the boundary between church and state? Yes, it does. My only explanation is a lame one: that’s how it’s been for years, and it’s not going to change until some better alternative comes along. Since I’m being honest here, I will tell you that quite frankly, I don’t lose any sleep over the church/state issue. That line gets crossed all the time (see GWB administration) in many ways that concern me much more than the idea of making some drunk driving asshole go to AA.

    Moving on from the subject of drunk drivers, I find myself more and more concerned about the points I read on here regarding predators in AA. In fact, the more I think about it the more terrified I am becoming. I’d love to be able to tell you that on Monday I will go to work and put a stop to all that. I don’t have that kind of drag in the District Attorney’s office. What I will do is slowly try to get the ear of coworkers and judges, and plant the idea that maybe sending rapists into unsuspecting AA groups isn’t such a good idea. Will it work? I don’t know because, again, we’ve being doing that for years.

  • causeandeffect

    Mao, thanks for visiting and considering what's being said here. I'm so glad to see that you're going to try to implement some suggestions. Please keep us posted!

  • SoberPJ

    An incumbent solution that gives the appearance of high utility and accomplishment will be nearly impossible to remove. AA is embedded in the US like a tic.

    There are few options that will unembed the tic, and ALL involve undeniable, overwhelming proof that harm is being done. No wholesale change will be made on isolated accusations or alternate outcome speculation. Example, ” AA is not safe and it would be so much better if people were sent to SMART Recovery”. There is no proof of that statement.

    In this complex situation, to oust the incumbent will take a significant amount of effort and that includes time, resources and money – nothing this large gets changed on the cheap and easy. ST will get some attention, but it’s utility in the evolution of any battle to displace AA in the court system will be in the beginning. There has to be a transition to an official organization that spearheads any initiatives for change.

    Let’s say mao gets the attention of co-workers around one of the issues. Even the DA. As a DA, I’d want to talk to someone twho has experience with the specific issues that are being considered. I want to call somebody or look at a body of data or read some credible documents on the topics. Who could I call? Where would I go? ST? Even though we believe we are serious here, that doesn’t mean we will be taken seriously. We can incite thought, but this is not an authoritative venue. Without an organization with a coherent structure and solid mission and vision to shine a spot light of awareness into the eyes of America, there will be no real change. Even with an organization with lots of volunteers and tons of cash, there are still no guarantees of change. The incumbent has cash, owns the stadium and they’ve been playing there for decades and have a huge fan base. A few stragglers on a mission is fun and all, but is not even considered an adversay to a $14-17 Billion industry. Now, an organization with accomplished leadership and numerous alliances with other organizations has a chance, but the solution it offers must be better than the current system or it is a non-starter. We just can’t keep poking the 12 Step industry in the eye and expect a substantive result.

    The answer to “if not AA, then what?” HAS to be answered. No crediible answer, no change.

  • eddy

    Stanton Peele has done some great articles on treatment and here is a very accurate description of the downside of the disease theory:

    More so his comments on George Vailliants research
    .Vaillant reports that 95 percent of the patients treated at his clinic, where A.A. attendance was compulsory, relapsed following treatment. After two and eight years, they showed no greater progress than comparable groups of untreated alcoholics

  • eddy

    for the prosecutor I have the smart recovery newsletter, no I am not a member , but I believe in choices:

    Possibly a plug from your local newspaper would help you in your decision making.

  • Gunthar2000

    Court ordered individualized therapy, and take their drivers licenses away for a year on the first count.

    No plea bargains.

    Anyone who violates the terms of their probation goes away for a long long time.

  • Gunthar2000

    Impound the vehicles, and auction them off to help pay for individualized therapy.

  • causeandeffect

    SMART has online meetings and those who need verification of attendance get an email address at the end of the meeting so they can email the facilitator, who will email official verification back. I don’t know about the others. One point an AA made to me was that it was just as easy to get the court slips signed in a bar as in a meeting. Someone here said they worked with the PO in a sponsorship capacity but I think that could just as easily be faked. So could attendance in online meetings, one could just show up for check ins and send the email requesting verification, but at least with the email, it seems more official than a mere signature.

  • California Jenn

    Wow! You guys are incredible…all of you!


    Thank you once again so very much for having the bright idea of making this place available for all of us! You are where this all started and I cannot thank you enough…ever. When I was in desperate need of exactly this, it was here! I just had to find it and I am so glad that I did! Not to mention the fact that you have attracted a group of pretty awesome individuals! 🙂


    Really great points and don't forget the fact that if one does have a diagnosed psychological disorder that requires medication such as bi-polar , the AAer's will tell him/her NOT to take their prescribed medication.


    You sent predators to A.A. not truly realizing the impact of that decision. Clearly, you did not do this maliciously or with intent to cause anyone harm. I believe that that is the case for many others that are sending predators to A.A. as well. They just do not realize the full impact of that decision. Helping others to become aware of this issue is a great place to start. It is awareness that brings about change. Thank you! 🙂

  • California Jenn

    I would like to thank you as well! Loved your last paragraph especially the part about bringing awareness and “discussing things” with your colleagues. 🙂 Thanks for that!!
    For the rest of are so awesome!! You guys really are going to break the silence, help those that want to be in AA be able to be there safely 🙂

  • Mona Lisa


    Joe Gerstein would be one person to contact. He is on the board of directors of SMART. However, he's often traveling and hard to reach. You might have better luck contacting the executive director, Shari, at SMART's headquarters near Cleveland, OH. The phone number of the organization, and some more information about it, can be found on the most recent issue of their quarterly newsletter:

    You might benefit from joining the online message board on the SMART Recovery webpage, checking out the online forum, attending an online meeting (there are several each day) and dropping into the chat room. Since you've got some experience with AA, I think you will be favorably impressed by what you see going on in SMART. The approach is so different…I can't speak for anyone else, but the first time I was exposed to it I was stunned. I thought, "now THIS makes sense!"

  • Mona Lisa

    Mao: One more thing. It is actually LESS likely that SMART online participation would be faked than attendance at f2f AA meetings. There is nothing to prevent a person from forging the signatures on an AA court slip, but with the SMART online meetings there is a clear process to be followed involving the meeting facilitator. Meeting facilitators, by the way, are individuals who have been specifically trained (there is a 6 week online training) on the program tools and how to run the meetings.

  • AnnaZed

    @maozedong ~ “…Are there any particular SMART leaders or facilitators to whom I should direct questions?”
    There is a member of this list, Claire, who is a SMART facilitator.

  • AnnaZed

    Probably I am so paranoid that I see AA connections in the trees, but this guy:
    sought on connection with the Arizona shootings looks like a classic AA member to me, and the shooter had been ejected from school for drinking (even suffering an alcohol poisoning incident). We'll see I guess.

  • AnnaZed

    Ok, scratch that, and chalk it up to my out-sized AA paranoia. The guy is a taxi driver.

  • Doreen

    maozedong–very glad to see you here. I am a ‘multiple DUI offender’ and I truly believe that my long term exposure to the concept of powerlessness in AA has affected me in very negative ways. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different if I had had the opportunity to explore SMART or other support groups 30 years ago.

    I personally see no purpose in putting multiple DUI offenders in prison unless there are other charges or enhancements. It is extremely expensive, debasing and ineffective. I think that, say on a 3rd or subsequent DUI, 30 days in the county jail, fines, loss of license and probation are as effective as anything. One caveat on the probation: if it were up to me, every single violation of probation involving alcohol or drug use should result in immediate jail time, perhaps beginning with 2 days and increasing from there.

    I like the idea of requiring an offender to try a support group for a period of time, say 3 months. Since SMART and some of the other groups are not available f2f in many areas, the requirement could be met by attending online meetings, as has been mentioned. Even people without computers of their own can go to the public library to use one and if they are computer illiterate, library staff are there to help them get started.