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.

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


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.


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.

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:

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.

"suffering was not necessary"

I agree. The problem with being court ordered to treatment is that the state has a definition of what "treatment" is--- and I believe Ohio mandates that treatment includes the 12 steps or it's not addiction treatment. I should not have been given the "AA" prescription 3 times. I shouldn't have had to defy the system to get the right kind of treatment I needed. Also, I did not find much benefit talking about alcohol every week with other people. It was like trying to go on a diet but being forced to talk about cake and ice cream at meetings. I didn't plan to attend meetings forever and make "avoiding alcohol" the focus of my existence.

Whether court ordered or not, there need to be options available that the states will fund as "treatment." The people truly hurt by the government's role in funding treatment are those who can't afford to pay for it. And like I said, Ohio will pay the courts to send people like myself to 12 Step treatment. Which would also be a church & state issue- something my rehab counselors did not want to get into a discussion with me about.

Very moving account,

it speaks of great courage, survival skills and resilience facing a messed-up "Recover" system.

I hope you keep doing well and you will be ruthless and selfish towards your recovery. I am sorry about your mother and her sudden passing. She is at peace, you are still dealing. Maybe you feel you were robbed of a chance of getting closure, or getting real love from her. Just don’t.

As a child of a narcissist, hanging on to the magical thinking that they are going to change and love you the way you want or need to be loved is second nature. But, it is magical thinking.

All you can do is really feel the emptiness and loneliness of your childhood, work through those feelings with adult wisdom and refuse any avoidance remedies to escape them. Many people do not want to be transported back to a time where they were vulnerable and powerless and prefer the blinded forgiveness without understanding how a parent came to be abusive. They require you to forgive your parents before any “ progress” can be made, when it’s total bullcrap. Accepting that your parents could not meet your needs ( probably because their own parents did not meet theirs either), letting go of the Good mummy / Bad child fantasy and seeking your needs to be met in appropriate and mature ways is better than forgiveness.

Like Victoria Secunda said in her book, When you and your mother can't be friends:

" To be a mature adult is to accept the good and bad in your mother and in yourself. It requires resolving the Bad Mummy in your head, in your memories, in your self-destructive coping mechanisms, so you that you can have a life of hope on your own terms.”

You can still do that.

magical thinking

Thank you so much for your comment and feedback. I recognize I had a lot of "magical thinking," even in AA where I thought I could fix AA. I was trying to fix the same qualities in AA I thought were wrong with my mom. It became too much for me to keep going to meetings and feeling the same strong, upsetting emotions.

I aim to continue to move forward and past the hurt. There is no perfect situation, but I feel better equipped to deal with daily situations now than when I was attending AA.

I feel the same way

Hi Julie,
I can relate to so much of your story. I also have a mother who I've just learned has a PD. I truly believe that is part of why AA was so horrible for me. I spent my life as my Mother's scapegoat, and then AA wanted me to just spend more time thinking about my responsibility in things. I was taught as a toddler to see how I was responsible for every bad thing happened, whether I was or not. I didn't need a 4th step to do this, I was programmed for it since birth.

And like you, the worst was my Mother's involvement in the program. She joined alanon, and learned all about how she could now shame me mercilessly over my drinking. Again, like she needed another way to do that, it's all she ever did my whole life.

I stopped drinking several years ago, thru sheer willpower and refusing to go to AA anymore. It wasn't until I read Peele's blog, and discovered the work of Lance Dodes, that I finally feel free from the idea of a lifelong disease. I truly believe my problematic drinking was the result of the horrible life situation I was in at the time.

I am finally letting the anger I had towards AA go. I have spent the last several years just loathing the program, and speaking out against it to everyone I could. Now, I am letting stronger people, like Stanton Peele, fight this battle in the media. I hope that more people will learn that there is an alternative.

I hope that one day the 12 steppers will respect all ways of getting sober as valid, and stop accusing me of living in denial because I don't choose to sentence myself to a lifetime of meetings in a church basement. Tolerance for all of us who have struggled with the same issues.

small world

I can relate to "letting the anger" go towards AA. It's the grief process. I feel your comment shows you're able to speak about your experiences in AA now with less anger and more insight. I hope more people do speak out for alternative, valid ways to recover. AA is a monopoly.

PD people plant very strong impressions in our minds. Like our mothers did to us. I remember how AA reminded me of her telling me about "unconditional love," and how she would love me "no matter what,"-- of course, there were many conditions and sometimes I didn't know what they were. The rules changed and contradicted each other too much for me to keep up with. Likewise, in AA, I was told the only requirement was "a desire to stop drinking," but that wasn't true. The "suggested steps" were mandatory. It bothered me that the word "suggested" was used when it wasn't a suggestion.

Repeatedly, I was told AA was a support group by my probation officer or treatment specialists. A support group, however, welcomes the sharing and exchange of new ideas. In AA, I couldn't ask the group to stop reciting the "Lord's Prayer" because it was the tradition to do so. Support from others was dependent on my "willingness" to be "open minded" only to AA and working the steps. To get others' support in AA there were conditions.

Tolerance for me is knowing if someone in AA doesn't want to discuss my ideas with me, then I know I need to walk away. I've opened up my world to discuss this topic with people outside of AA. I don't feel abuse is automatically connected to addiction. I couldn't go to AA and talk about alcohol 24/7 and ignore my real problems. I am baffled AA is considered the best support group for anyone with a drinking problem.

In the age of the Internet, the professionals all have access to real life stories that show AA has hurt and harmed a lot of people. This cannot be ignored any longer. I really appreciate your comment. I can relate to every part of it you wrote.

when aa helps

iF aa/12steps helps (as Juliet Abram's story indicate) does the aa/12step TRADITIONS say you cant move from aa-basher upto aa-hater?

No !

for good reasons...


I apologize, but I don't understand your comment. The AA Traditions don't mention "basher" or "hater" at all. Also, I do not believe the AA 12 Steps help everyone. Only a certain personality type could benefit from practicing taking negative self-inventories and listing one's sins/ defects on a daily basis. I believe the 12 Steps clearly benefit narcissists and people who generally lack morals and a conscience. People who abuse alcohol in their lifetimes have a wide range of personality traits, life experiences, and family backgrounds.

I do not believe

you understand me.

You will do some sort "NPD-therapy" at aa. Is it boost the self-esteam? Or do you have some unknown new idea about NPD? OK

I do "criminal ASD":

1. arrest
2. forensic therapy

NPD therapy?

I would classify the 12 Steps as NPD therapy, yes.

The outlined program of the 12 Steps are designed to deflate an exaggerated ego (i.e. grandiosity/ sense of self-importance). They deflate self-esteem and make one "humble" so they aren't "playing God." The point is that the person working the steps admit they are powerless, and that is the main point.

In addition, NPD sufferers lack a sense of right & wrong. The steps are also designed to correct this malfunction. As though all alcoholics/ addicts/ substances abusers have no conscience. That is bogus science. The majority of people I've met in recovery have an enormous conscience, they are often overly sensitive in fact. AA folks will call this low self-esteem issue is the "ego in reverse" just to keep people towing the line. However, for people with very low self-esteem the steps keep them down, if they are working them correctly.

There is not one mention in the 12 Steps of empowerment and assertiveness or listing good qualities and traits and talents. It's a very depressing, demoralizing process.

"Zerosteppers" and "Stepnazis"

Thats my story
(after 200 days non-aa treatment: detox (disease!), rehab (disease!) and after-care (disease!)
Disease, what else. Read Stanton's new book: recover!

I was heading to relapse if i didnt change something. Thats disease as I understand. Thats why I had no problem calling it a disease - I was client in medical institutions. On the other hand I had no problem to think that "I WAS an alcoholic" two years later.

my first 9o days in aa
I had been around aa w/o sponsors, steps and spirituality early this century. It was nearly imposible to talk about the steps. These people were meeting-makers. I called them "zero-steppers". The stinkin-thinkin'-website says: "Zero-stepping – the act of talking someone out of going to AA in the first place. (see Fourteenth-stepping) (Martha)"

my second 90 days
The outlined steps in the literature FE "alcoholivs anonymous", "twelve steps and twelve traditions", "the best of grapevine", and "the best of grapevine vol 2" seemed somehow contradictory and make little sence.

My third 90 days
my 8 hours step-workshop at an "aabacktobasic"-meeting was aspecific view on the steps as Wallace P and his followers sees it.

My fourth 90 days
was running away from aabacktobasics and its followers. I was told not to speak about that by cult-oldtimers "or else"... WTF "or else"?

My fifth 90 days
I researched on aa in the USA/Canada to improve the aa that i found to be to much culty and ineffective.
I was shocked about
- mandation
- no information about the Vaillant scandal (1983), IE the 29% death rate.
- the treatment of aa-critics, ESP some web-sites and blogs

Unlike you and steppers of all sort Im not a cultist as such. I may have other and even more serious problems, though:

"However, for people with very low self-esteem the steps keep them down, if they are working them correctly."

Not true for the younger half of Vaillant's clinical sample, especially the stunning low death rate (10%), and jobs and homes.


I admittedly do not know much about George Valliant, except that he is a past Class A trustee of Alcoholics Anonymous. As a general rule, I don't trust statistics presented by someone who is biased towards or against AA. The fact that AA can't keep their own success statistics alone makes it clear that right now- currently- we do not have an answer to the question: How effective is AA?

We do know that not all alcoholics/addicts will ever enter AA and that they can and do recover. Not sure what this 10% death rate from AA for young people is that you cited but would love it if you provided a link. I was 25 when I wrapped up two straight years of AA and did not have a job or a home of my own. I guess if you count "having a place to live" or "raising kids" then I could be in that category.

Also, I try to avoid labeling AA a "cult" but that depends on how the individual in the program perceives AA. The steps instruct prayer, which is ritualistic just like religions are. And members who take the steps literally definitely treat the steps as the anecdote against drinking, therefore those who don't work the steps are told they're doomed to drink and die. That would make a lot of people question if AA is a cult. Especially when one is told they can never leave the organization, for the rest of their lives.

I have never considered myself a stepper. At least, not with a straight face. I never couldn't tolerate lying about how I felt in AA. I feel better speaking the truth. One has to question who is studying AA members and what their motives are, because it is impossible to survey everyone who has been affected by AA. I'll look into Vaillant again some more. But I'm pretty confident that he had his own agenda that was different than my own.

The fact that Vaillant was presented with a Jellinek award is a little funny because Jellinek was asked by Yale to refute his own fraudulent studies. Yet, here we are, still unable to believe that AA has been interfering, tampering with, and inventing the qualities of what "alcoholism" is since the day AA was born.

P.S. I believe Vaillant's 1983 study only included males. That is very inconclusive for women in the 21st century, isn't it?

try SMART Recovery

Just to add my quick two cents: I found 12 Step programs to be disempowering, outdated, and far too religious for my taste. I learned about the SMART Recovery program, based in the rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, and have happy and successful there for five sober years. (

The support groups are led mostly by peers, not medical professionals (though some are), and are always free of charge (most locations will accept donations). You don't need to register for a meeting ahead of time, just show up.

There is also a robust web-based community that includes online meetings, a forum with message boards, and extensive resources you can use to address just about any crisis.

SMART Recovery is my addiction recovery program of choice (5 year sober on September 21, 2014). Good thoughts to you all!


Treatment must start teaching SMART

American treatment centers won't even instruct clients about SMART; They are usually partially government funded also. The problem is that anyone going through treatment is only introduced to the AA organization. Unless they know of alternatives beforehand, it is unlikely any treatment professional will tell them about SMART or SOS or anything else.

So the problem isn't that SMART doesn't work-- it does. A lot of other ways to recover work. The problem is that the "Minnesota method" of the 12 Steps is the only acceptable treatment paid for by insurance companies and the government as specialized "addiction services." Regular emotional cognitive behavioral therapy or anger management or counseling (etc.) is not covered as "addiction services." In order to become a drug counselor one must work within the framework of the law and what they are obligated to teach.

I'm bothered that a group that is based on so much scientific evidence and created by an actual doctor is overlooked & ignored by the US treatment world. You'd think they'd welcome new developments in their specialty of work! AA was developed by greedy opportunists who pushed their distorted-religious solution onto the masses and paid their way into the medical community and government.

try SMART Recovery

Just to add my quick two cents: I found 12 Step programs to be disempowering, outdated, and far too religious for my taste. I learned about the SMART Recovery program, based in the rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, and have happy and successful there for five sober years. (

The support groups are led mostly by peers, not medical professionals (though some are), and are always free of charge (most locations will accept donations). You don't need to register for a meeting ahead of time, just show up.

There is also a robust web-based community that includes online meetings, a forum with message boards, and extensive resources you can use to address just about any crisis.

SMART Recovery I my program of choice and in September 2014 I will celebrate five years sober. My thoughts are with you all thus evening.


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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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