Juliet Abram is a woman who was abused by narcissists, her mother and a "boyfriend." She became alcoholic and was sentenced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and rehab after several DUIs. She experienced AA and the 12 steps as abusive and narcissistic in the same way as her mother and her rapist-boyfriend were. Needless to say, this didn't lead her to recovery. Abram's narrative appears in her guest post at my blog titled "When AA Hurts."
Juliet's post roused quit a bit of attention and brought many comments. I found these comments and Juliet's responses very enlightening, and I repeat some of them here (edited for length).
Submitted by Massiveon April 23, 2014
AA is a perfect storm for all of this to just get worse. No one should ever be sent to AA. I'm 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!
Submitted by Juliet Abram on April 24, 2014
I really want the system--both the courts and all treatment centers and 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.
Submitted by Doreen on April 24, 2014
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!
Submitted by Juliet Abram on April 24, 2014
I thought the same thing when I first attended AA -- that 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. But the AA support came with conditions -- I had to work the steps and believe in ideas, beliefs and value systems that I disagreed with. And I could not give myself completely to their program. I sincerely appreciate reading your comment and understand how it feels to have your "self" back.
Submitted by AntiDenial on April 24, 2014
Thank you Juliet and Stanton for getting this firsthand account about how harmful AA is to vulnerable people that have already 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.
Submitted by Juliet Abram on April 24, 2014
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 (run 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 every address I could find. Same excuses every time. "The majority of AA members don't want any changes." Very heartbreaking trying to get anything to happen with the organization at every level.
Submitted by RCT1 on April 25, 2014
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.
Submitted by Juliet Abram on April 25, 2014
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. 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 states fund the costs of 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!
Submitted by MikeBlameDenial on May 10, 2014
We did a short video on this same topic several years ago:
Submitted by Juliet Abram on May 13, 2014
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."
As for AA being "exploitative" I think most people 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" appears 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 do 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. He'd attempt to write the Big Book by himself -- including, of course, his story. 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 of the narcissistic members who bully them. I'm with you 100% in this video.
Juliet Abram is a clerk at a tool shop in Ohio who also writes. Juliet is seeking to expand addiction treatment and support group options in Ohio. If you share her concerns, please contact her through her A.A.R.M.E.D. website.
Stanton Peele has been empowering people around addiction since writing, with Archie Brodsky, Love and Addiction in 1975. He has developed the on-line Life Process Program. His new book (written with Ilse Thompson) is Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict with The PERFECT Program. You can follow Stanton on Twitter and Facebook.