Addiction in Society

Addiction—the thematic malady for our society—entails every type of psychological and societal problem

When AA Hurts

This is Juliet Abram's story of being abused, first by her mother, then by her rapist-“boyfriend,” and then by AA. Each form of abuse predisposed her to be a victim of the other, and she had to escape all of them. Read More

so touching and so sad

I believe I know the writer here and am so moved. AA is a perfect storm for all of this to just get worse. No one should ever be sent to AA. Im sorry you had to go through this stuff. My story is different but we have some commonalities. Thank you Stanton for having her piece published here. Juliet...keep on writing girl!

Thank you!

I really appreciate your comment. I really want the system- both the courts and all treatment centers & doctors- to give people in need a real "assessment" and if AA is not the right fit: Don't force AA on people. All other treatments are based on the patients' needs and this is really no different. I am very glad Stanton gave me an opportunity to share my story on here. Many thanks to him.

A real "assessment"

I'm sad to hear your story, but I am truly confused by it. I am a substance abuse counselor in NC and I work with people who have gotten DWI's in NC and other states. I can't speak for all the states but I have worked with a large number of states. All the way from California to Kansas and New York. What I have learned about the state mandated or court requirements for DWI offenders is a real assessment and education or treatment depending on the need of the person. I conduct these assessments myself and recommend appropriate levels of education or treatment. I take what I do very seriously and try my best to help those dealing with addiction. In NC any treatment recommendations come with the requirement to go to AA, NA, or Celebrate Recovery. We do this to help people learn about addiction and the resources they have for support. Often times they get a lot more out if it. I have been to these meetings myself and have heard countless stories and feedback about them. What I have learned about these types of meetings is that most of the time people will find what they are looking for in them. However, I have had people tell me about experiences where a person in the meeting was in the wrong. We're all human and you can find type of wrong any where we go because people aren't perfect and sometimes we make mistakes- say things we shouldn't say or think in an irrational way. I'm certainly no different. I have had people go to one AA meeting and hate it, but try a different one and love it. I don't doubt there were people who were in the wrong in your case. But we can't control others, only ourselves. That doesn't necessarily mean not going to meetings. If we wanted avoid people who are going to treat us unkind or unfair we would have to avoid the world and stay at home. We can change the way we react and think about these things. It seems to me that I have a different understanding of the AA steps. For example the character defects is a way to find what led us down the path of alcohol abuse. This to me simply means to become aware of it and try to improve on it. It's not about just pointing out our faults. It's about empowering ourselves to change for the better. I don't think it is right to look at what you did that could cause your own rape, because no matter what you did nothing excuses rape. No one wants that. But instead to look at the thinking and behavior that led to the drinking in excess. One more thing, as a substance abuse counselor with a master's degree in mental health. I have to say that people (myself included) have a way of getting stuck in roles in our lives. Being a victim is one of those roles. We are drawn to certain types of people (bullies for example), just as you pointed out that bullies are drawn to victims. I used to be a victim myself. But I got tired of it. I went to counseling myself and empowered myself to change my way of thinking and behaving. I still catch myself sometimes trying to slip back into old ways, but self-awareness goes a long way. Bottom line: While AA and similar groups may not be for everyone I think it is misguided to accuse them of making you a victim. It sounds to me like your thinking in reaction to the meeting led you all too ready to assume that position.

Professionals have trivialized my experience before

"We do this to help people learn about addiction and the resources they have for support." There is no education, facts, data or resources in AA.

I was criticized, mocked, and put down by my "friends" in AA for not accepting their program. I delved into AA literature and read up on the writings of Bill Wilson himself. I could not understand why they did not want to remove the sexism or make their spiritual terms generalized. Then, I got the impression that telling their "last drunk," was perhaps not healthy for them, or myself. I mistakenly thought a spiritual program created spiritual, kind, people but that became an unrealistic expectation for me as too many in AA were not spiritual or kind.

I also get the impression that some people say they like AA meetings to their counselor because they think that's what the counselor wants to hear. Most are too intimidated to speak up that the program doesn't work, that they go there to get drunk or high after the meeting, or that most of the people there are "still sick."

The program is the cause, and the effect is people treating other members unkindly for not liking the program. People will not be supportive unless you worked the "program." That is unhealthy, creates closed minds, and does not help people grow in recovery. No, I can't control others, or AA, but I was not the professional in control- I was not the one who chose AA for me even after it was evident AA was not good for me.

Sure, there are unkind people at the grocery store or in the line at the bank, but here's the kicker--- I do not willingly choose to go to a meeting to be around unkind people on purpose because I care about my health and sanity. I can't predict it at the store, no, but it's far less likely anyone at the market will come up to me and harass me about what my higher power is, laugh at me if I don't have one, or hear about my rape story and tell me it's my fault. So you can't compare the outside world to why a person is at AA. You don't go to the bank to give your teller your 5th step, do you?

The steps as written are not empowering--- unless you play a game with linguistics and semantics and redefine them entirely. The steps by themselves are negative, self-deprecating, and harmful to the rest of us who read them as they are written.

How did my thinking and behavior lead up to my rape? Women in AA told me that too. I realize you may think you are being helpful, but if you tell women their behavior led up to the rape, you are still blaming her for being raped. There is no excuse for that. On a usual basis, I don't have to change my behavior to avoid rape. It's not my fault.

I'm sure your master's degree in mental health and substance abuse certification involved learning about AA, it may make you book smart on the steps, but it doesn't indicate how it is to be at meetings and in the culture. Perhaps you don't like what I say about the program, but it is misguided to compare my experience to someone else's who adores AA. I was raped. I was court ordered as a result of abuse. I was abused by the AA teachings. AA's program is abusive and I've been to therapy for that, and I will not have my experience trivialized.

Well said

Ms. Abram's post is a beautifully written statement about the very common failings of AA meetings. In our new book, "The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry" we presented many similar accounts written by people in AA. Whenever these stories are made public,though, there are always others who try to minimize their significance, and marginalize those who speak out as rare exceptions. The truth is the reverse: in our review of nearly 50 years of research, we found that only 5-10% of all the people who attend 12-step meetings do well. It is precisely people like Ms. Abram who represent the majority of those who attend AA. We need to listen closely to people like her, and learn from her conclusions. I'm so glad she does not let herself or her experience be trivialized.

"There is no education,

"There is no education, facts, data or resources in AA." First of all, I want to say that AA in of itself has been a tremendous resource for countless people. Just having the support and outlet or a sponsor- someone you can call in the middle of the night and get help backing down from taking the wrong step. Facts and education- when I was referring to education on addiction I was referring to hearing peoples stories about what addiction has done to their lives and what they have done to stay sober or what has contributed to a relapse in the past. Like you mentioned my book smarts, it helps to hear real life stories.

"How did my thinking and behavior lead up to my rape? Women in AA told me that too. I realize you may think you are being helpful, but if you tell women their behavior led up to the rape, you are still blaming her for being raped. There is no excuse for that. On a usual basis, I don't have to change my behavior to avoid rape. It's not my fault." ----- As for this I specifically said that what they said was wrong about that. What I said was this "I don't think it is right to look at what you did that could cause your own rape, because no matter what you did nothing excuses rape. No one wants that. But instead to look at the thinking and behavior that led to the drinking in excess. "
I was basically focusing on the drinking, completely separate from the rape topic. AA is not for the treatment of rape. I am so glad to hear that you were getting counseling specific for that abuse and the other abuse you wrote of, but when it comes to what I was saying about looking at your own thinking and behavior I was referring to it being related to the drinking. We choose to drink. We don't choose to be raped.

Your response seems to be an example of what I was talking about. In no way did I want to trivialize your experience. Just that I feel it is unfair to discount AA altogether. That was my whole point. I believe I also pointed out that everyone's different and so AA won't be for everyone, but to discount it across the board is a little extreme. It's just hard for me to read something like that when I have been to these meetings and in the culture (as you said) and have literally heard so many people say that AA saved their lives. I understand you disagree, but slamming it and saying things like... "The program is the cause, and the effect is people treating other members unkindly for not liking the program. People will not be supportive unless you worked the "program." That is unhealthy, creates closed minds, and does not help people grow in recovery." ... seems a little over the top. That was the way you experienced AA. Not everyone has a bad experience with it.

At the end of the day what works, works. If what you have done has helped you in your struggles then that is wonderful for you and shows how much strength and courage you have. However, AA works for a lot people. Telling your story is one thing, but to label AA in the terms I've read from things you've written can be discouraging for those who might be considering it and and could possibly benefit.

AA harmed me and may harm others

Including stories then means, including my own. My experience in AA is a real life story. I do hope it helps others.

I assumed education meant current information, not 1939's definition of alcoholism by AA, but decades' of information. You have a master's degree which I assume you did not earn by listening to stories all day.

Perhaps I misunderstood how you phrased understand why I drank right after you said there's no excuse for rape, which made it seem those ideas wee linked. The counseling was more helpful than AA, however, I'd have to say alcoholism was not my primary problem. And AA and rehab combined with counseling did not mesh well, as you can't heal and find empowerment while listing wrongs and making constant amends. Rehab and AA set me backwards, counseling sent me forwards.

I used to tell counselors and AA meetings that AA saved my life too, it seemed the right thing to say at the time. But as my experience and knowledge changed, so did my impression of AA. Have you followed up on those who've claimed they owe it all to AA? At any rate, people who have been hurt by AA are allowed to tell their stories, they are as valid as anyone who says AA is great. Education includes learning from all people, then, not just those who think AA is wonderful all the time.

Seems easier to blame people who were hurt by AA, instead of blaming AA for hurting others. How many people do we hurt by telling them AA helps everyone? How are you responsible for stories like mine, sending people like me to AA and telling them they'll hurt others if they tell them AA harmed them?

Options and opinions

My comment in my last post:
"That was my whole point. I believe I also pointed out that everyone's different and so AA won't be for everyone, but to discount it across the board is a little extreme."

Your response:
"How many people do we hurt by telling them AA helps everyone?" --- I never said that and I certainly don't tell anyone that.

Like I mentioned to Mr. Peele when he replied to my first reply to your story, Smart Recovery and other options work also. Some people tell me that they don't like AA, but because they are religious they like Celebrate Recovery. Others will just go for Smart Recovery.

We're just going back and forth. I think we agree that people should have the option. Where we differ seems to be our opinions on AA, which is ok. Everyone is going to have their own opinion. You had a bad experience, which is very unfortunate and I am sorry that happened. Sadly, it's not the first bad experience I've heard and it won't be the last. Although yours is probably the worst experience I have heard. Like I said I have also heard some wonderful stories about AA.

When you say that people are going to say one thing to counselors and either not mean it or change their mind I can completely agree with that. I wasn't born yesterday. However, I have gone to meetings and had people tell me this when they knew nothing about me, including that I am a counselor. I've also heard other accounts from other times and places where I was not in the counselor role. Addiction runs in my family, so I have a little history there as well.

"I assumed education meant current information, not 1939's definition of alcoholism by AA, but decades' of information. You have a master's degree which I assume you did not earn by listening to stories all day."

We can read the facts all day about what addiction leads to. We can look at the DSM's (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder- what used to be Alcohol Dependence. But when a person hears another person's real account of what they have been through because of their addiction that tends to speak volumes in comparison. When someone says "I don't know about you, but this helped me to stay sober." That can speak volumes. Education is not always about the books. That's why I had to do years of internship actually working with people. The education of facts, statistics and all that comes in the educational portion of the treatment program. They can compliment each other whether the person chooses to go to AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery, or Smart Recovery. They also get to hear peoples stories in our treatment program, but just in a different way.

I feel like I was just trying to express in the beginning that while you sadly had a bad experience, it has been helpful to others. Both parties are welcome to share their experiences and opinions. Hence my writing about mine. I just don't want to discourage people from any option of support or help they are considering and at the same time encourage people to try the next option if the first doesn't work.

I'll still tell my story

Previously you wrote: "Telling your story is one thing, but to label AA in the terms I've read from things you've written can be discouraging for those who might be considering it and and could possibly benefit." I can't tell you how many times I was told this. If someone had a negative reaction to heart medication, would you tell them if they said anything about it they might harm others who are considering it? I do want to discourage someone from taking or using anything that might harm them, exactly.

AA doesn't have to be the first option, either. Or the only one we measure other options by, this is a myopia-of-AA kind of thinking.

So I won't discount you- you won't discount me. That's fair. I simply reversed your aforementioned quote, to show you that it is unreasonable, and hurtful, to tell me or anyone that we are hurting someone by speaking against AA. I was hurt by AA, others should know that also. I was told that AA would help me, I considered it, and it hurt me. If I had been discouraged to attend AA, it may have helped me avoid all my horrible AA experiences.

After you assess a client, I imagine you already know if AA would be the right fit for a person. Possibly, with better assessments, we can avoid more bad experiences from AA. People who shouldn't be there won't be prescribed AA.

People are less likely to criticize AA during AA meetings. The NESARC data shows 75% of people recover without AA or rehab. AA facts are like this: "You can't unpickle a pickle." AA facts are: You're powerless unless you work AA's 12 Steps. AA sells AA. Accounts of drinking in AA I've heard are 1.) usually highly exaggerated and 2.) the worse your drinking story is the more applause you get. Not to mention- all AA stories end with "I'm better today because I found AA." These are infomercials and testimonials to sell AA to people.

Hey, lawbreaker

Fortunately, you've disguised your name. You and the state of NC happen to be in violation of your clients' civil rights, and are collectively and personally liable for damages. This is the same type of violation as if you harassed a gay man or refused service to an African American.

See Hazle v. Crofoot, 2013. The Ninth Circuit ruled that, as a matter of law, the jury was required to award Hazle (an atheist forced to chose between AA and imprisonment) monetary damages to compensate him for the violation of his constitutional rights and wrongful imprisonment.

Please get a tee-shirt, brag to your children, and place on your tombstone:

I VIOLATE PEOPLE'S CIVIL RIGHTS WITH IMPUNITY, AND I'M PROUD OF IT--WATCH OUT, I'LL VIOLATE YOURS! SIGNED, A PROUD NORTH CAROLINIAN.

Smart Recovery

Mr. Peele- You are right, I did leave out the option that we give people to create more freedom of choice when it comes to the religion aspect. SMART RECOVERY. Smart Recovery is also a wonderful resource that some of my clients choose to do instead or sometimes in combination with AA. I'm sure you are aware of this, but just in case you or any other readers aren't:

"Humanists and other atheists and agnostics suffering from addiction now have more modern alternatives. Rather than join a group that actively blocks membership by those without a belief in God, nontheists can seek out other programs that not only accept them, but empower them to overcome addiction by helping develop tools and encouraging mutual support among members. SMART Recovery (Self Management And Recovery Training) is a program that pioneered an individualistic approach, free from proselytization and ethical requirements for people of any or no religious background."
http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2011-07-modernizing-secular-addi...

Leaving this out in my initial response was an oversight and I do feel that Smart Recovery is great option for people who dislike or disagree with the principles of AA. However, I do stand by my confidence in AA. After all it has helped a lot of people.

Before I wrap it up I have to comment about your last statement:

"Please get a tee-shirt, brag to your children, and place on your tombstone:

I VIOLATE PEOPLE'S CIVIL RIGHTS WITH IMPUNITY, AND I'M PROUD OF IT--WATCH OUT, I'LL VIOLATE YOURS! SIGNED, A PROUD NORTH CAROLINIAN."

As someone who has dedicated my life to helping people and has poured my heart and soul into the field of addiction I am speechless at this comment. And as someone with your knowledge I would think you would ask a question or two before flying off the handle to trash talk someone. Isn't that effective communication 101? "So, anonymous, you don't offer any alternatives to these meetings you've listed?" Then, I would have said, pretty much the same as I started off this reply. Hey- Mr. Peele, as a matter of fact, you are right. What an oversight! Thank you for pointing that out. While, I am appalled at this incident because that was a pretty terrible thing you said, I understand that we are all human.

For those interested in Smart Recovery:

http://www.smartrecovery.org/

P

O

You are part of the problem

You should not be in a position of recommending any type of treatment. Your post justifies the AA doublespeak as you try to explain to the author why she is wrong.

Assessment

"Substance Abuse Counselor"... Or as commonly known as " Dangerous Quack".... AA and it's like do NOTHING to empower anyone... Quite the opposite, Based on lies and started by Two Losers... Only now that we have information readily avalable can we hear and Assess the stories of perhaps tens of thousands who have been damaged, abused, misguided or even lost a loved one to AA or any 12 step ..... DON'T keep going back!!! Find real help.

As a mental health professional?

Don't you have an ethical and professional obligation as a mental health provider to respect the right of an individual to tell their own story without stigmatizing it or labeling it. I'd be curious as to where you were credentialed because from where I see it your not acting like any mental health professional I have ever met. While the grammar in your last sentence obscures your meaning, it sounds like your blaming the victim and defending a hidden agenda with some possible transference issues that you haven't worked out yet. Try reading Gabor Mate's book "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts", and familiarize yourself with a wider treatment spectrum and model of care, if your who you claim to be your ethically obligated to expand your education and your viewpoint.

readings in "recovery groups"

BTW what is this s*it looser stories all about ?

Read His new book (written with Ilse Thompson) RECOVER! Stop Thinking Like an Addict with Ilse Thompson

The first chapter is fully compatible with BOTH
1. Jellineks PHASES (1946)experimental - anonymous (~ functional) - outofmind / out of spaceandtime
2. Jellineks TYPOLOGY (1960) IE most problem drinkers (alpha/beta/ ~epsilon) are not "diseased"
3.* Cloniger's Type I/II (*lol - loughing out loud) Type III should be +60 ?

Go to aa/12st and read HIS** book !

**oups, sorry for that

Seriously?

I had very similar experiences in AA. When I first started going, I thought it was helpful to be around people who drank like I did. Before long, though, I started losing the good things about who I was. I was sidetracked--in a very unhealthy way. After a while, I didn't like the meetings at all. I felt like I was being forced to let go of the core of who I really was. I started reading about other approaches and finally, after all these years, I have my "self" back. I know who I am and how and why my addictions began. It took a long, long time to get where I am now. Oh, how I wish the newer approaches to dealing with addiction were available in 1979, when I first started seriously trying to deal with my problems! I cringe at the thought of going to another AA meeting!

"people who drank like I did"

I thought the same thing when I first attended AA I could share my drinking stories and not be judged. But, come to think about it, I could share the same drinking stories at a bar and not be judged either. And I'm being serious when I type that. I was told to attend AA to get support from people who've had similar problems. But, the support came with conditions--- I had to work the steps and believe in ideas, beliefs and value systems that I disagreed with. I could not give myself completely to their "complicated" program.

I sincerely appreciate reading your comment and understand how it feels to have yourself back. Thank you so much for reading this.

seriously

and on top "cristian revovery" - the hard core US-version, A. Adler, Ellis, DBT, ... whatever to name a few

OK transactionanalysis/UsNavy

Exposing AA for The Hurt it Causes People

Thank you Juliet and Stanton for getting this firsthand account about how harmful AA is to vulnerable people that have already been been abused in life prior to coming to a 12 step program. What is very disturbing is AA and NA and other 12 step programs have no safety guidelines in place. Complaints fall on deaf ears at AA and NA headquarters. I know firsthand because I have contacted them myself.Also the fact that Juliet and others are mandated by our Court system is unconstitutional and needs to stop.

Suicides by AA and NA Members

It does not help that AA and NA are both guilty of telling people to go off their meds when many many are taking them for depression, bi-polar and schizophrenia. Even though AA does not officially support this practice, they have acknowledged that it is prevalent and that it has literally cost lives by people committing suicide after stopping their meds at the advice and pressure of sponsors and other fellow 12 step members. AA and NA does nothing to stop this.

http://aarmedwithfacts.wordpress.com/

Very true

The horrible fact is I had to get a 3rd DUI 'after' being sent to rehab and AA years before. And I was still court ordered to 12 Step rehab. At that point, even I knew something was wrong with both of us- the system and myself. I wasn't getting the right help, even though I was begging for help. My psychologist suggested an emotional behavioral cognitive therapy group (ran by a professional doctor) and my probation officer rejected it because it didn't specifically address "addiction."

AA rejects all non-current AA practices. I've tried e-mailing them at any address I could find. Even the literature committee. Same excuses every time. "The majority of AA members don't want any changes," line of thought. Very heartbreaking trying to get anything to happen with the organization at every level.

Alcoholics Anonymous Kills, Fiend of William Wilson

Juliet, great read with very interesting insight into the narcissistic nature of Alcoholics Anonymous, and how it relates to other forms of abuse. The things AA members said to you reminded me of my experience, and the mental anguish I felt as a result. What baffles me the most about AA is the members who defend the "program" as if it is the greatest thing ever, saving countless lives, and keeping people sober. Especially when just the opposite it true. More people stay sober on their own, and countless lives have been lost as a result of AA and their habits of doing major disservices to people, like telling people to get off their meds. I came across this criminal advice by many people in AA, and it caused me to believe I didn't need my meds if I worked an "honest program." What utter nonsense, but just one of the many dangers of belonging to the cult of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Thank you for your comment.

Thank you for your comment. I never could understand how so many people I met in AA, from different cities, could have such similar angry responses to my criticisms of AA. They do "defend the 'program'" no matter what the argument may be. I was told to stick with the women, but the women I met weren't offended with the Big Book's first 164 pages which ignored female alcoholics. (The first 164 pages are the textbook on how to work AA)... I did not find strong women who respected themselves enough to stand up to such extreme sexism- especially since everyone was expected to read the same book. (Chapter 8 is titled "To Wives")

That sexist element of AA bothered me because I am a woman, but the apathetic reactions from members hurt me even more. They do have a pamphlet about medications now, but the old timers resist change and probably don't order those brochures to have on hand at meetings.

I don't see how having non 12 Step options for meetings would cause any more harm than just the 12 Step model alone. Especially because treatment facilities and AA meetings are linked and are not separate. From what I know (and anyone can correct if I'm wrong) states fund the costs of paying for treatment if people cannot afford it- but it must include the 12 Step model or it will not be considered addiction treatment. AA cannot deny the fact they benefit from the current system- it is a monopoly for them!

The rhetoric and dogma remain

The rhetoric and dogma remain the same throughout the twelve-step religion, regardless of locale, because it gushes forth from the same poisoned wellspring.

The Narcissistic Nature of Alcoholics Anonymous

We did a short video on this same topic several years ago:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ4Y8suWOXo

That video is awesome...

Awesome video and straight to the point. "God blessed us with this disease"!!! I would wonder if I was in the Twilight Zone at these meetings hearing them talk like that. (Let alone, hearing them say I was one of them--- I was in no way, shape or form like them.) The faith of many AA members makes them unable to believe anything else can work. That's almost a good trait compared to their incessant need to "carry the message," yet that is a requirement of the 12th Step so they "must."

For AA being "exploitative" I think most people often overlook, or choose to downplay, the extent of sexism in AA's literature. Although women can be leaders in AA, they surely don't think updating the literature is of any importance. No matter how many times the word "he/him/his/wife" appear in the Big Book a woman must never complain. "If it ain't broke don't fix it," I've been told by members. Or even, "I've never heard other women complain, so why are you?"

In short, AA culture protects abuse of sex power, and not just with men having power over women.

But my "wow" moment in your video comes in with how they imagine others are jealous of AA. I think if your wife is angry you're never home because you're constantly at AA that isn't jealousy. They're more than likely worried there's something is wrong with you!

Bill W. has been described as a narcissist. To the point he'd attempt to write the Big Book by himself- including a story about himself. Also, the Big Book lies to its reader. The chapter "To Wives" was not written by anyone's wife or wives- it was written by Bill W. "An organization designed by narcissists for narcissists." It explains all the mild mannered, meek people in the rooms who are literally mentally and physically afraid to leave AA because narcissistic members are bullies.

Definitely AA's universally accepted definition of an alcoholic is a narcissist who drinks too much. I'm with you 100% in this video.

Glad You Like It

It isn't one of our most viewed videos, but is on of my favorites. Thanks for the thumbs up.

I am so sorry you have suffered because of others' ignorance

Your suffering was not necessary. The system is rigged right now and needs to be changed so that people can get the recovery help that will actually work for them, personally, rather than be told that if AA doesn't work for them that it is their fault and they are doomed. Our society needs to wake up from its Puritanical delusions and look to actual, proven methods of help.

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Stanton Peele, PhD, JD, is the author of Recover! He has been a pioneer in the addiction field since publication of Love and Addiction in 1975.

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