Quicksand C.A. Sheckels

Quicksand The Darker Side of 12 Step programs C.A. Sheckels

One of the great things about the modern Information age is that people with a specific interest now have the opportunity to self publish their own books which are free from the constraints of mainstream publishing, which often makes changes to a book to try to broaden a books appeal. This often ends up, with a book that has been diluted from the author’s original intentions, and this has been avoided here.

quicksand  book

This book is about the problems you may face in the 12 step world especially if you are vulnerable and is one-sided which the author makes clear. The author makes the point that some people are fine, and behave well in recovery groups, but the uncontrolled environment of the 12 step world, is often a home for a few rather undesirable members, who can hide behind anonymity. Most of the book is about the problems these people can cause.

Many people, try to push the idea that 12 step ideas are the answer to every problem and lead to a great way of life for everyone. This was not the case for me and certainly not the case for the author of this book and I feel it is very important that we tell our stories, as many people do have really negative experiences in the 12 step world, yet it is the individual who takes the blame if they do not recover from the rest of their group. The book has many examples of this and I think it is important to point out to people who the 12 step environment does not always lead to the promises. It can actually lead to depression and worse and there are many stories that tell the opposite to accounts in the “Big Book”.

It points out that many people who go to 12 step groups in America are court ordered which brings its own set of problems. 12 step programs can have very unstable members who seek to control others, and who have realised that there are plenty of vulnerable people in the 12 step world to pick on. Many of the accounts here are very sad, and it is tragic that people looking for help, having realised they have problems, find themselves in an even worse position.

I certainly came across some groups in AA that I would not consider to be safe and which have poor reputations. These groups often have a fairly strong leader type and members try to influence other meeting in the area. I certainly saw this in a certain part of London, where there were many unsavoury characters such as financial predators and those involved with 13th stepping. I was reminded of some of those people when I read about similar people in the book. it really made me reflect on how crazy some of the people were that I trusted in those days, but it was much worse for the author of this book.

Many in AA are dismissive of the abuse that can take place and actually tend to deny it, so I do feel it is important to put over the other side. It would also be useful for people who are feeling or worried, that a friend or family member, is being “taken over by AA” to read this book, as it deals with some of the cult like aspects of the 12 step world. It talks about the anti medication brigade, which I have first hand experience of and the way that some members regard people outside the program being very different.

I saw some people being completely taken over by the 12 step world and start to act in an almost childlike way and this is covered in the book. They would often start in a group like AA and then join all kinds of 12 step fellowships, after deciding that every part of their life is unmanageable . Their whole life would revolve around these groups and they would not really do much outside them. it is often these people who go to lots of meetings and try to sponsor as many people as possible. They often have a really warped view of recovery. They can often be sociopathic, but other members  who are not as bad, can also be extremely judgemental. There are many accounts in this book about people who would fit this category.

This book is not for everyone, and will probably offend quite a few, but that is the price for sharing experiences of this nature, which cannot really be avoided. Many will say that their experience in a 12 step group was completely different and dispute the content here. I found meetings in small sleepy towns did not have the same problems as the large city meetings, with a large amount of transient members. People need to remember that the 12 step idea was formulated about 80 years ago to deal with low bottom male drunks after prohibition in America and moralised addiction by using a religious solution from the Oxford group as the basis for the steps. It is not always a great solution for those who are sensitive and who should not have really gone to these meetings in the first place. Many in the 12 step world become evangelical before they really understand the reasons for change in their journey in recovery and can try to suck people into their groups. Treatment centers often do the same thing, where poorly qualified staff, push the 12 steps on people whether it is appropriate or not. In the case of this author, it is pretty clear that it was not a suitable environment and that they were taken advantage of.

It takes a lot of courage to write a book like this, and I hope that people who are being damaged by controlling sponsors etc get a chance to hear about it. It certainly wont be on sale in the literature section of any AA group, but like several of the books that have been self published recently, I think that it makes some important points. I try not to think about the really crazy side of AA these days, as I have managed to move on from a small group of people who certainly had a negative effect on me, but it did bring a few things back and made me wonder how new people are doing today in those groups. I really do feel sorry for people like the author here who get caught up in groups that are not suitable for them and who are harmed by the ignorant reaction they receive for from some members of the 12 step world. I hope that the author does more publicity for this book so that those who would be helped by it can find it. It is available here http://www.lulu.com/shop/c-a-sheckels/quicksand/paperback/product-21543010.html


Commenting area

  1. I agree Michael, it does take courage to write a book like this. It helps for people to realize that they are not alone in their bad experiences in AA and NA.

  2. Michael D.: thank you for this excellent review! I really hope it is helpful to people who read it.

  3. Thanks AD! It was something I felt I had to do- and I hope other people benefit from it.

    • I think it would help if you got a small website together talking about the book and published a few pieces online, as people would find it over time who are having problems with AA or 12 step groups. This site and many others run on wordpress which is free to start with and fairly simple to get going.
      You can then link your site to your name when you post anywhere and more people will find the book. WordPress is very search engine friendly compared to forums and would probably get you some readers who are still in the 12 step world and who may find the book helpful. It is hard to get publicity for a book without a publisher, but a lot of people are starting to look at these blogs now. Good luck with everything.

  4. My copy has not come in the mail yet, but I do know when I was first having problems with Daytona AA and NA in Holly Hill Florida near Daytona Beach Florida I was so relieved when I came across Massives Stop 13 Stepping in AA website http://stop13stepinaa.wordpress.com/ It does help others to hear other peoples accounts with AA and NA or other 12 step programs. Finding out you are not alone is very therapeutic!

    • I agree but I was thinking that the book would help people and if there was a site related to it and it would sell more. Some people in AA would not go to an outright AA critical site but would search for something like controlling sponsors in AA etc and a site based on the book may catch some of those people. I try to keep this site a bit more middle of the road for the same reason as it does reach a wider reader base if you are not polarised in views. I may have a bit more time in the coming months to try and get this site visible to people in the 12 step world rather than just for people who have left or who are leaving.

  5. It is a good idea to have a website for this book, it would certainly help bring attention to it.

  6. Hi Michael & AD: please don’t laugh too hard at my initial attempt, I’m working on it:

    My computer’s acting up, there are some sites I can’t get into- wordpress is one- and I can’t afford a domain, so this is what I’m starting with. I’m doubting it will do much with Google rankings, though.

    • Good luck with it. Google often takes about 6 weeks to find a site but you can submit it to them. There more links the better to anything these days. If you comment on sites like the fix you can link your site to your name and that will get a few people to visit. Another thing that may help you is a google Id. I’m pretty sure that they can affect search engine rankings.

  7. Both books are now available on Lulu as ebooks.

  8. My copy came in the snail mail! I will start checking it out more next week as I have had a super busy week. So far so good. It gets right to the point about the dangers in 12 step programs. WOW!

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