13 stepping in AA mentioned by The Guardian

13 stepping in AA mentioned by The Guardian Newspaper.

It is always good to see some progressive piece written about the reality of recovering from addiction and alcoholism in the press. People are realising there is more to recovery than sitting in a 12 step meeting and praying yourself well. This piece in the Guardian ( which is my favourite UK paper) is really worth reading. It is certainly not typical of most pieces that you would see in the American press which generally praise AA and ignore every other solution. On the other hand, there have been a few pieces recently that have questioned AA such as the Gabrielle Glasser piece in the Atlantic. which have either pleased people or angered them. The recovery community is often split on AA effectiveness. Many have made it their religion and feel it will work for all.

I was somebody who made use of AA, but was also able to see that it was not treatment and went elsewhere for that. In fact I left AA after a second attempt at CBT based therapy which helped me rediscover my self-esteem and move on from addiction. I credit AA with giving me a place to go, but do not feel the steps were really going to help me, especially as I have no interest in praying to God, which is going to be an increasing problem for people attending AA in the future, as those who are religious are dwindling in numbers. I certainly found the approach in Smart Recovery to be much more helpful and this is a solution recommended here by the experts such as Scott Stern who has written some great pieces on harm reduction.

The Guardian

Powerlessness in AA

There is some good points in this piece about the problems with the idea of powerless which can cause people problems if they do relapse and 95 % of AA members do at some point. It certainly does not fit in with any modern ideas on self empowerment which often help people deal with the underlying issues that drive their addictions.

13th stepping in AA.

This is one of the big problems in the 12 step world where women (normally!) are hit on by members who see AA as a pick up joint. This has always been an issue but has become a real problem as more women have joined the 12 step world which was setup for low bottom male drunks. The piece looks into this and several woman talk about bad experiences. Everyone sees this going on and it is inevitable in such a disorganised group of ex addicts, but the problem is magnified by some of the people sent by courts.

Smart Recovery.

I am glad the piece is mentioning the strengths of Smart compared to the religious AA world. Smart is slowly gaining momentum as a support group and has a trained facilitator running the meeting and not just a popular member of an AA group. It is not cult like in the same way that some AA meetings have become, where they have become overtaken by people who treat the Big Book as a Bible and have no practical advice to offer just a few 12 step quotes and some stock phrases. In the past AA has helped many (it was the only thing available) and is useful for social support and giving people a daily sober environment. I found some of the sharing helped me to come to terms with my own issues and am grateful for that. However I do realise it is unsuitable for many and that I would never recommend it to a good-looking young woman. You have to be careful who you trust and what you share and some people are not capable of doing this. Those with mental issues can really be live that prayer is going to fix everything and some stop taking their medication after poor advice from 12 step cranks. AA does not deal with many of the underlying issues that drive addiction for many people and can make some feel worse, especially if they are expecting God to sort out their life. I feel it is out of date and has not evolved to take into account the problems of modern life. It has produced some Evangelical members who have held back progress in the field and newcomers are not told about alternatives to AA such as the Sinclair Method which is much safer and more effective than putting your recovery in the hands of another alcoholic as your sponsor, or in the hands of a higher power.

I left AA

One of the reasons I left AA was due to gossip and I was reminded of that today when I was talking to a man who is a current member who mentioned somebody who is in AA that I have known for over 30 years. He assumed that I knew this person was a member of AA, but I did not. He was somebody who I have worked with in the past and this highlights another danger of AA. Some of its members treat it as a social club and pay no attention to the traditions. Even if they do, the traditions are out of date in this modern world of social media. This is something that is not restricted to AA and many of those who are responsible for the dreadful online arguments about recovery and who are “anti AA” are equally as bad. For any kind of interactive social group to work you have to be able to trust the other members and that is something that I can no longer do in AA. Smart is certainly more regulated, and this is needed in AA. I still think that really serious issues are best dealt with in  a therapy one on one situation, but sadly many do get the chance to see decent therapists. Other people don’t want solutions that involve dragging up the past and again could really be helped by the Sinclair Method, which also has the benefit of needing to be supervised by a medical professional, so things such as suicidal tendencies can be assessed. It is time for change as the problems being caused by drinking are increasing and not going to go away. AA is not going to motivate the majority of people seeking help today as it has not kept up with the times and many are put off by creepy members and God.

A section from the Guardian Piece

Blackwood said she began dating a man with nine months sobriety within her first weeks at AA, and later found out he was sleeping with dozens of other women in the same support group, many of whom she had considered friends.

That discovery was devastating.

“It never caused a relapse, but it did make me question the joy of sober life, and also consider suicide,” she said. “The world seems like a really mean place when you are surrounded by unhealthy people.”

Blackwood’s story of love in the time of drug abuse is not unique. Women trying to recover are falling into the trap of dating in which the goal is not love or mutual support, but a power play in which they are the losers.

Joella Striebel, a behavioral health specialist at Gundersen Health System in Wisconsin, says that women have a different pathway to addiction than men. To recover, they must believe they have control over their own lives and can make decisions for themselves, rather than admitting powerlessness – which is one of the main tenets of AA.

“Recovery from addiction is most successful when it is addressing not just the problematic substance-using behaviors, but the underlying issues and past trauma,” she said. “Many women who have been victimized engage unconsciously in repetition compulsions, seeking out archetypes and familiar situations, and through that they can be victimized.”

You can read the rest here http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/22/alcoholics-anonymous-aa-women-dating-addition-rehab?CMP=twt_gu

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  1. Great article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I wonder why it doesn’t mention Monica’s film “The 13th Step”? JS

    • I’m not sure but they have probably not seen it, as she is just showing it at festivals. I don’t think a journalist would talk about a film they had not seen. I don’t know if she is in contact with the press or what her publicity people are doing if anything. I assume it will be able to be acessed by a wide range of people at some point in the future, but she is probably trying to get it broadcast first to recoup some of hers costs which were high.

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