Monica Richardson- The 13th Step Film

The 13th step Film – Monica Richardson

Today I met up again with Monica Richardson who has made The 13th Step film, which is a documentary about issues in AA. it is well worth watching and if you are in the UK, it is being shown for free at The Crown Plaza Hotel on Wednesday 15th February. Monica will do a question and answer session afterwards.

The last screening was great and a few of us who had met online on various recovery forums got together afterwards for a great chat.

I did a quick podcast with her talking about how we met years ago and how things have changed. She was still in AA and trying to make it safer back in those days, but when she could not make much progress she studied Film Making and decided to make this documentary. It  took a couple of years and has been streamed on Amazon Prime and is available on Vimeo as well.

Here is a link to the film website. and here is her more general Blog. which are worth a look. I hope to see some of you at the Film.


Commenting area

  1. Orange papers is archived on the Wayback Machine, by the way. I noticed the aorange1.tripod site had broken links referring to, so here’s a better source for the content

  2. I think the Tripod site is his orginal site that got too big so he moved it. Originally he would have had the real domain pointing at it which would explain the dead links. I always thought the Orange site was over the top although he did get some things right. I think he went way to far with his theories on the Oxford Group and twisted lots of stats. The thing he did get right is that AA is ineffective for many and the steps are not a universal solution for alcoholism. I think the Lance Dodes book “The Sober Truth” which I mention here is the most balanced critique of AA and the 12 step world. I think he debunks AA and the steps really well without getting hysterical about Hitler or going on about brainwashing etc. Key Players in AA History by Bob K also has some interesting points about the development of the fellowship. This would be a great book for people in AA as it explains a lot about Bill Wilson and co and it is ironic that it will; never be sold in meetings, as it is not official AA media.

  3. Silver Damsen February 15, 2017 at 6:12 pm · · Reply

    RE MIchael D. and Tom Gleason on the Orange Papers. I have to confess that while I like aspects of the Orange Papers that its organization was a challenge for me. How the material was presented made me trust it less, at least initially. It seemed more like a very old eccentric book store of information than what I was used, the format of academic libraries. I’ve gotten used to the format now and I would give it more credit than Michael D.

    I also really like Lance Dode’s work but my complaint is that he doesn’t go far enough. I think someone who didn’t really understand AA might still think it wasn’t harmful and that Dodes was being extreme. When the fact is that Dodes is actually very, very cautious. He is even inaccurate when he says that AA has a strong social support system that is what it works because its powerless and all or nothing sobriety are dangerous. The problem is that AA does provide social support but at a very high cost of conformity to the beliefs. Thus, one has to accept the crazy beliefs to get the social support.

    This pattern of highly conditional emotional support, with some except of more support for newer members as way to entrap them, is symptomatic of religious cults. Thus, the problem with backing away from saying that AA is a religious cult is that it is a religious cult, and it will continue to hurt people unless this is widely understood. However, I also know that one has to write to audience.

    So I appreciate writers like Lance Dode who can appeal to readers who are not ready to understand that the most dangerous religious cult in existence is AA and 12 Step.

    I think the film bridges the gap between giving accurate information but in a way that doesn’t feel reliable and giving information that feels accurate (and is) but doesn’t go quite far enough. It also does so in highly accessible terms, as in one gets the highlights of the most serious problems of AA in a very watchable feature length documentary, as opposed to spending hours reading the many articles and books and blog posts by those that have analyzed the ideology and the worst practices of AA.

    • The film went down well last night both among those in the recovery world and those from the Film making world. Many of those watching who had no direct contact with AA were amazed by how religious it is. I think it is important that people realise this, as it will change attitudes to 12 step groups, especially as a paid for treatment. The film is rational unlike some of the anti websites, and so people are more likely to be influenced in a good way by watching it.

      As you know I don’t think much of the Orange Papers or the person who runs the site. He had a forum which was basically a venue for sick trolls on both sides to attack each other and this spilled over onto other sites. I felt the anti side were in their own little “anti AA bubble”, which was not in line with most people who move on from AA. They had the view that you either agree with them or get attacked which is not acceptable, in a recovery situation online, where many people can be vulnerable. Monica was even attacked there and had her film illegally distributed via members of that site. When told to stop they became even more vicious and “the author Orange” did nothing to stop it. I find this sad and pathetic. Sadly the same people were responsible for the excellent Stinkin Thinking site and community being shut. That was by far the best online community calling out AA ever, yet the hard core anti AA trolls wrecked it and so we lost a really great resource. It was that site that introduced me to Lifering, Smart, The Sinclair Method and Stanton Peele and reading that type of information really helped with my recovery. I would not have known a fraction of what I do today if it had not been for that site pointing me in the direction of decent research. I think the Orange Papers was liked by many people on that site (prior to it having a forum) but he was considered extreme in his views, not the norm, but his supporters tended to be the loudest and had an online presence (probably because they had no job and little else to do).

      I think Lance Dodes gets things right in his book. He does not have to resort to trying to link Bill Wilson to the Nazis etc to make his point. It is things such as the attack on the Oxford group which in my opinion blow the credibility of the Orange Papers. I realise that Buchman made an unwise comment about Hitler before the war (along with many others, and similar to some Christian views about Trump today!), but that does not make him a Nazi and the MI5/6 papers on him do not find that to be the case. A friend of mine who was interested in this, after reading the Orange-Papers, offered these documents to Orange, but he did not bother with them as they contradicted the point he wanted to make. Buchman could not have gone back on his Hitler statement without endangering many Oxford group members abroad and he ended up rebranding to the Moral Rearmament lot which were looked on as a quaint organisation, full of old fashioned lunies such as Mary Whitehouse, rather than a religious cult.

      I don’t think AA is the most dangerous religious cult, it certainly does not function like Scientology. There are cult like meetings in some towns and some crazy sponsors but it does not try to take all your money or stop you from leaving. I think that there is some thought control going on and we did a podcast about it here I was around some Scientologists in the past and think that there is a big difference in their approach in getting people to conform, which can involve brainwashing in which repeated violence is a vital component that is completely different to AA. I think that some of the more outlandish claims about AA made by Orange Papers supporters result in them being ignored and this has has a cost, because it also means people who make more rational claims about the ineffectiveness of AA are lumped in with these hard core Anti AA people. In fact many people in AA, go onto the Orange Papers site to laugh at it, and I can see it actually being used to strengthen their position for AA. Everything from its childish colour scheme to some of the blown out of proportion conspiracy theories give something for staunch 12 steppers to ridicule.

      AA was not for me although I do feel that having a sober community to attend was very helpful and so i agree with the point Lance Dodes makes in his book about this. At the time I needed help Smart was not that well established. However, I was not impressed by the religious side of AA or the faith healing side and saw how some vulnerable people could be adversely affected. The steps were originally meant for middle aged males who were low bottom drunks who had drunk through prohibition and therefore broken the law so the moral side makes some sense for the 1930’s. That is not the case today and I don’t believe in a one size fits all solution. When I look back I am surprised I lasted any time in AA, but then I remember how desperate I was to stop and would try anything. That is how many get sucked into a fairly disorganised, dysfunctional recovery group. Many just walk away and that it why it is so important to attempt to promote alternatives that are smaller in a sensible rational way, rather than in the ranting fashion that used to happen with the trolling that happened on sites such as the fix. Who would try a group such as Smart if their first impression was made by some hate filled, lunatic troll making themselves feel superior for a few seconds by attacking an AA member on some addiction website. First impressions count a lot, and aggression puts off many people straight away. A lot of this behaviour seemed from the unmoderated Orange Papers site and was then taken over to any online venue that would allow its ten or so dedicated members a voice. this resulted in most people not bothering to read any comments on sites such as the fix. I don’t bother reading any of it any more.

      I accept people get hurt in AA and am certainly with Monica on pointing out the dangers of 13 stepping which is a big issue. AA needs to modernise and perhaps it will be forced to do so after this film and articles in the mainstream by Gabrielle Glasser etc. It will take a lot of effort changing public opinion but I hope this can be achieved over time. This will be a hard job as many people feel they have benefited from AA and are happy to be members. I certainly would not want to attack their chosen method of support if they feel it works for them. I wish them good luck which ever method helps them beat addiction. AA members are often evangelical and proud to be members. That will not go away over night, but the effectiveness of 12 step rehabs that people are paying for could be attacked as they are not providing the best care available, which many believe is something like The Sinclair Method and CBT. It is important that the strong arguments that can be made for these solutions are not lost in a load arguing over if AA is a cult etc. I can understand the anger some people feel when they realise they have been involved in something that conflicts with their values, but I feel that their energy would be better spent in supporting the alternatives to 12 step and not simply attacking it. The anti AA movement is not big considering how many people leave AA and I don’t feel they represent most of the people who simply move on after a while having got some sober time.

      I don’t know what happened to the Orange site but I would certainly prefer the unmoderated forum to stay gone. I don’t think it has achieved anything other than fuel bad feeling in the recovery community and I find the personal attacks by some of it’s more stupid members to be unacceptable. The lack of moderation shows contempt for people in the recovery world. I hope that things die down and some of the hotheads move on and perhaps a new community will spring up. Something with the humour and lightness of Stinkin Thinking that could bring people together again would be great but would require a lot of work. I do miss some of the people from that site as there was such great banter.I know that the people running Stinkin Thinking expected the 12 steppers to make themselves look irrational and that happened for some time. The only problem was that it attracted members who were anti AA who were even more crazy, and that resulted in the experiment backfiring. I had a similar experience on my original site which was a disaster despite being warned by people at the time such as the Blamedenial people who were early film makers against AA to watch out for the Antis.

      I hope somebody does have the energy and resources to build a great online recovery community that achieves something worthwhile and gets the following it deserves. Something that actually builds bridges and brings people together where different solutions could be discussed would be great and could really help. Whoever does this will need a thick skin and to be a good leader after the past few years of online fighting, which has not resulted in much that was worthwhile. I am certainly impressed with what Monica has achieved by making her film. That took so much hard work and dedication and she was attacked by people on both sides. I hope it raises awareness about 13 stepping and how old fashioned AA is. Nobody else has come close to Monica in dedication to this cause although Ilse Thompson certainly started things off in a good way with her original blog and I owe her a lot personally for highlighting things that helped me. Monica would probably still be in AA if it was not for that site! I am sure Monica is exhausted by all the work and I must admit it took a toll on me at one time and so I took a step back from blogging and got involved in another area of recovery support which I find rewarding and seems to help a few people sort themselves out. Anyway time to go, I’ve got a few emails to answer including one from somebody who thinks they need an exorcism after being taken over by AA!

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