Rigorous Truth* in Duluth

A year and a half a ago, Julie Gronski was driving home drunk from a Halloween party, slammed into a couple of people walking along the side of the road, and took off. Her claim was that she thought she hit a deer, and didn’t feel the need to stop. This makes a hell-of-a-lotta sense because, who ever stops after hitting a deer to check on the condition of their car, or the welfare of the deer? I’m not sure what her excuse was for not reporting the accident for four days after sobering up, and for never turning herself in to police, only to get arrested for the hit-and-run after others tipped off the police.

Naturally, she managed to plea her way down to some community service and coerced membership into Alcoholics Anonymous. Earlier this week, Julie was cited for speeding on her way to an AA meeting, and also slapped with a charge of driving under a suspended license. In a fit of rigorous honesty™, she claimed ignorance to the fact that her license was suspended. Now she is using her involvement in AA, and the fact that she is now a sponsor who was simply shuttling her pigeons to and fro, as reason to cut her some slack. From her attorney:

He said Gronski was being a good Samaritan when she got a call saying that three people she knew needed a ride to their Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She borrowed her father’s car and got pulled over by police for speeding.

“Her whole life now is doing community service,” Malban said. “She’s attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and sponsoring a couple of others in A.A. She does buses and gets rides everywhere. The only reason she was driving this time was to get others to A.A. She borrowed her father’s car. … They have to prove that violation of probation was an intentional and inexcusable act.”

So, if she was unaware that her license was suspended, why would she suddenly start taking the bus and get rides everywhere she goes (except of course, for this single altruistic carpooling act)? Her explanation doesn’t sound very honest to me; but it does sound rigorously honest™.

Duluth hit-and-run driver accused of speeding to AA meeting

* Rigorous Truth – akin to truthiness; the truth as seen through the lens of AA; kind of the truth.

  • AndyM

    1) Any sane or fair-minded judge would have put her behind bars for the first offence
    2) A claim of gnorance should be no excuse before the law
    3) Since when was aa involvement a blanket alibi or excue for breaking the law?

  • AndyM


  • chris

    im so against the program, its not funny. but, when i was arrested, back in the day-MANY TIMES. i used the AA-rehab excuse myself, seems to work pretty well.

  • Mona Lisa

    Yep, the fact that she was taking buses and getting rides everywhere kind of puts the lie to the notion that she was unaware her license was suspended.

    Lawyers call the “I’ll say this, but if you don’t buy it, then I’ll change my argument to that” approach “arguing in the alternative”. Most people call it lying.

  • Lucy

    i have heard some version of this story so many times in meetings that it has become apocryphal to me. ” I got this DUI but the God I found in separated me from drinking and now I obey God’s law. I don’t know why the law keeps hassling me, because don’t they understand that I am saving lives?”

    In one meeting, a wealthy newcomer, who had started hanging out in a sober house for 12th step work, brought home a woman who went into the DTs on her couch. She called her sponsor, who was not too sober herself, and the sponsor told her to give the woman honey and OJ. When wealthy woman came back with the honey and OJ, she found DT woman in a gran mal seizure. Wealthy woman decided to call her next door neighbor, who was a dentist.

    By the time the dentist got there, DT woman had bitten off part of her tongue and broken her arm by falling off the couch. DT woman died en route to the hospital because she had not been sedated in time to keep the seizure head injuries from stopping a brain bleed.


  • chris

    why did her grandma have a seizure, if she was the one detoxing?

  • Lucy

    The wealrhy woman (who had been in AA off and on but never stopped drinking) picked up a drank-two-days-ago) soberhouse woman from the sober house “to help her get sober.” The wealthy woman was an idiot (or she was drunk – who knows) and thought AA would help the soberhouse woman stop seizuring. She didn’t call the 911 because she thought she knew how to handle the woman’s “spiritual state” better than a doctor or a cop would. Her thinking was exactly like the idiot who sped up in a “borrowed” car to get someone to a meeting because God was helping her/

    Writing on my phone which is a little difficult, and not making the sense I would if I were at a computer

  • chris

    so, her grandma is going to be ok then, thank goodness.

  • chris

    your making perfect sense, im just messin with ya. havin some fun.

  • Lucy

    Chris – If only it had been a grandmother. The woman who died was in her 40s and looked like she was in her 70s.

  • chris

    haha, so, your saying grandmothers are expendable?

  • Poofter! AKA True Believer

    I think someone should produce a game show that pays back society and the individuals who were damaged with the proceeds. The contestants don’t know what they will win, they have to play the game and end up in front of the doors of opportunity to get a chance. If they loose they automatically get Arizona prison work camp.
    If they win they get to choose a door to find out what they get!

    It’s called Duluth or consequences…
    With or without Bob Barker,
    (Door #1= Prison with TV)
    (Door#2= AA Rehab in beautiful Duluth)
    (Door #3= A tour of duty in IRAQ or Libya, some restrictions apply)

  • AA Escapee

    Speaking of AZ prison work camp, I live in AZ and stories like this almost make me understand why Sheriff Joe (as he is known here) keeps getting re-elected. AZ has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country and DUI offenders get thrown into Tent City (far as I’ve heard although I’ve only driven by it). I did once meet a woman at an AA picnic who was going to Tent City for 90 days due to extreme DUI. It is not too pleasant when the temp is 110 or 115, but that is how they spend their time for drunk driving.

    This particular woman should have paid for the crime by doing time.

  • I would not have the balls to get behind the wheel, even if it were LEGAL had a created a life for someone that entailed no short term memory and 24 hour care. What a little creepy bitch this chick is. Good samaritan? Not likely?

  • this is a slight overshare, but…

    lucy, your story reminded me of one of my particularly smart sponsors. she worked in a doctor’s office, and spoke with the most dopey authority , even by aa standards. she truly believed that she was almost on par with an rn. my sister, who was fourteen at the time, was having sex and the condom broke. she called me, very scared and frantic, not knowing wht to do. it was during a weekend, so i had limited people (professional types) who i could contact. thus, i (stupidly) called this sponsor… she quickly knew what to do. here was her solution: “She could try a douche.” She was 100 percent serious. I knew before this point, but was 100 percent convinced from that point forward that I needed a new sponsor. 🙂 I ran into this level of stupidity so, so often at aa. makes me sick! i ended up bringing my sister to the er and we got some morning after pills. then, my sister went on the pill, pretending to my parents that she was having irregular periods. she was always so, so smart! i was the dumb one in the family, every time trusting parents who could not EVER be trusted! and i was this same, same way in aa, for years.

  • AnnaZed

    Good point violet, the breathtaking sense of entitlement that AA engenders is a thing that I could never completely comprehend. Humility my ass. Seriously, what is up with that? This woman isn’t even an extreme example actually. Just look at those sober house board members or pretty much anyone featured in ftg’s Keep Coming Back series.

    The bizarre thing is that I became so acclimated to it in AA, so accustomed to hearing on the one hand soul-stirring shares about humility and spirituality and on the other hand real world confidences (almost boasts really) about beating legal consequences, scamming social services or snatching a payday in a lawsuit (all time honored AA member activities given that hardly anyone in AA actually works) all coming from the same person. It’s very strange and disturbing.

  • hulahoop

    “Her whole life now is doing community service,” Malban said. “She’s attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and sponsoring a couple of others in A.A. She does buses and gets rides everywhere. The only reason she was driving this time was to get others to A.A. She borrowed her father’s car. … They have to prove that violation of probation was an intentional and inexcusable act.”

    Your Honor, my client was merely driving a spiritual ambulance speeding to do God’s will in an effort to save the lives of those AA members riding with her because without that meeting all of them surely would have ended up drinking…jails, institutions, or death. The officer who pulled them over should be suspended without pay and this wonderful example of a humanitarian should be set free.

  • Rick045

    @AnnaZed, It wasn’t until I rejected everything they had, that I even began to consider the sheer arrogance of a statement like “if you want what we have”. There’s no humility there. That claim itself implies that you’re dealing with special people. I think the constant repetition plays a part in making a person numb to those contradictions.

  • flannigan

    When I first heard the statement “if you want what we have”, I had to ask myself what did these people “have” or think they “have” and why did they think “it” was so desirable to others. Some very strange stuff.

  • Johnny Crash NYC

    The power of the cult ,,,has caused her to break the law ,,, and she has broken the law no one is above the law regardless of on your way to church or on your way to a meeting ,,,its all about obeying the law ,,,and she is sponsoring people guiding them… all in the while driving while suspended endangering the people she is intrusted to help ,,,,,, I’m sure she at this second is blaming the system when she should be blaming herself …

  • MADD Mom

    What Julie (D#@%) Gronski did to Alex is criminal! She took a bright young man with a promising future, and left him with so little memory that he can’t remember if he had breakfast a few minutes after he ate. Who knows what contributions this great guy might have made to society had he finished college, and become part of the working world. He will probably never marry or have children now. Julie took thier lives away too. I know that God will deal Julie, and earthly punishments are only temporary. However, I still struggle with the profound loss of the former Alex Balluff. He isn’t who he was. Julie Gronski killed that person.

  • Gene

    Another reason why I don’t go to AA meetings anymore! The double standards that go on there. Do as I say, not as I do. But since she is “being of service,: that gives her carte blanche to break the law?

    Keep staying away from AA as I always say (since 2008). It’s nothing but a death sentence.

  • Alex’s Mom

    Dear Rigorous Truth,
    We are the parents of Alex Balluff. We ran across your web site today and wanted to thank you for brining to light what happens when people live destructive lives. Over the past 18 months we have come to realize that our justice system is fractured in so many ways. The criminal has more rights then the victim. As Judge Floreke stated at the last hearing, “if the law’s punishment was an eye for an eye- Julie would be run over and left for dead” We are a normal family and we love our 5 sons. I pray more people share Alex’s Story each day in hopes that no other individual and or family will go through the heart ache, and pain that Alex and our family have lived since Alex’s severe traumatic brain injury.

  • Sally

    Dear Alex’s Mom,

    I’m so sorry that one of your children suffered this way. It seems all too often that the news, etc. discusses the criminal/their lives and trial and we rarely get to hear the story of the victim. Please, if you like, post something about your son here. I for one would like to hear about him 🙂 It is a good reminder to me, and another reason I choose to leave that lifestyle behind.

    Many that suffer the “disease” of alcholism feel not only that they are powerless over drinking but also stretch their beleif into thinking they are powerless over what they do while drinking. It’s appalling really.

    Again, so sorry!


  • SMR

    You know, I understand that this was a terrible tragedy, and I need to say she is NOT the person people portray her as still today! I met her recently and she, just like everyone else IS and always will be a child of God. No sin is too great to be given forgiven by God and God has forgiven her as well as changed her life. She has stayed sober herself and touched the lives of many, many alcoholics. She is an amazing sponsor and an inspiration to all! Something to consider if you say you are a Christian. No sin or mistake is too great to be forgiven.

  • Mark

    Hi, SMR.

    She’s a sponsor? Are you shitting me? I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, but who the hell would listen to her.

    As or forgiving her, she didn’t do anything to me. I can judge her, and pulling the god card doesn’t really do much for me. This gal is a horrible human being. Just sayin’.

  • SoberPJ

    SMR, that was so wonderful, you should stop by more often and preach at us, how blissful your egotistical scolding was. I’m so glad your set the record straight and let us all know how to act. Very touching. So, did gawd send her a registered letter or something that made the forgiveness thing official or are you just delusional and full of shit? Did the judge give her a break because of her miraculous transformation that wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t severe consequenses for killing people? Enquiring minds …

  • Swamibedpan

    God has forgiven her as well as changed her life.

    Have you got that in writing?
    I heard that god forgave Osama Bin Laden as well but somebody forgot to tell the navy seals. Joining a crazy cult is not a get out of jail free card.

  • AnnaZed

    I don’t recall saying that I am a Christian … anyway, if you’re on the scene there SMR could we get an update on how Alexander Balluff’s recovery is going and exactly what form (monetary I’m hoping) Julie Gronski’s amends to him has taken?

  • AnnaZed

    There is this news from 2009 about his serious ongoing medical problems (including brain damage): http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/90717904.html

    Please tell me that you and your AA group had a raffle or took up a collection to add to his medical expenses fund?


    [what a surprise]

  • AnnaZed

    As of April 2010 Alex’s brain damage was still affecting him pretty extensively:

    I guess no college future for Alex as of now. Thanks Julie!

    Here’s a local meetings map:

    You could flyer every meeting and take up a collection for Alex’s continued treatment.

    [didn’t think so]

  • AnnaZed

    @Swamibedpan ~ Joining a crazy cult is not a get out of jail free card.

    Except of course when it is. ::sigh::

  • Sally

    “I met her recently”

    I guess that means you heard her share at a meeting. Or two. Then what, decided to google her name or something and come across this sight. I’m curious. Did she give you her FULL name? How did you stumble (no pun intended) across ST?

    “she is NOT the person people portray her as still today!” You mean she didn’t crash into some pedestrians today?

    She might try changing her recovery option. She was committed to AA prior and during the last accident…The following is a quote from the article posted above.

    “Her whole life now is doing community service,” Malban said. “She’s attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and sponsoring a couple of others in A.A. She does buses and gets rides everywhere. The only reason she was driving this time was to get others to A.A. She borrowed her father’s car. … They have to prove that violation of probation was an intentional and inexcusable act.”

    AnnaZ, thanks for posting the reminder about Alexander Balluf.

  • Swamibedpan

    Yes correction
    Joining a crazy cult SHOULD NOT be a get out of jail free card.
    Interesting that aa never compensates the victims of this incurable malady. With all the millions heading to HQ every year I am sure they will be sending Alex some financial assistance while they continue to research a cure for this insidious disease.

  • AnnaZed

    Whoops, not having JR’s considerable Googling skills I missed this one before:
    Victim sues drunk driver, 2 bars
    …. the Balluffs are asking for more than $50,000 in damages. A jury trial is scheduled for May.

    I taking that to mean that Julie hasn’t quite gotten around to making amends to Alex.

    [just a guess]

  • AnnaZed

    Someone should contact the Balluffs and tell them to add AA to their lawsuit; seriously, I’m not kidding.

  • Forgiveness

    Julie is a wonderful woman who made a very poor decision which, for many, often follows drinking. What happened that night impacted all families involved and even if the roles were reversed, I would still understand that what has occurred was definitely never intentional. I am taken aback by all the hatred… but that is just me, because I don’t carry hate within my heart. I have lost many due to drunken driving and I just thank God that those involved in this tragedy are all alive and still here with us today, in whatever shape or form we have them in. Sadly, most of my friends hit by drunken drivers have not survived such horrific accidents and I would give anything to just hold them one last time. So you must understand, as your love for Alex isn’t dependent on who he used to be, my love for Julie is not dependent upon this horrific mistake… we love them anyway because that is what family is. I’d just like to offer my own apology as I personally am very sorry for the devastation my cousin’s actions have had on the Balluffs, especially Alex. I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of tragedy and know the pain and broken dreams being experienced and no one should have to go through that. I pray daily for his strength, along with the strength of his family, as he continues his fight to recovery.