News Item: August 6, 2013, Newburyport, MA: Spilled coffee, uncleaned room leads to ban on AA meetings at hospital.

After allowing AA to meet in its conference room for a decade, after repeated warnings that the group was fouling the premises by spilling coffee and not leaving the room in the condition they found it, the president of Anna Jaques Hospital, Delia O'Connor, was forced to give AA the boot.

“It’s just not feasible for us in terms of staffing or money,” O’Connor said, adding that AA has been using the room free of charge for years.

But, according to an AA member, this situation is standard for AA.

An AA member, who only would identify herself as Janice M. due to confidentiality issues, said Anna Jaques’ stance is typical of past experiences with hospitals.

People/establishments get tired of us making messes/noise, etc., and they don’t understand how much the meetings are needed — but fortunately, in this area, there are plenty going on to make up for the closed-down ones. Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff that has happened for years in AA,” the AA member wrote in an email. (emphases added)

Janice seems to say that the messes are an obligatory part of the AA experience, but that -- "fortunately" -- other people get used to putting up with them and cleaning up after her and other AAers. "Unfortunately," hospitals are deficient in offering this dispensation, what with their limited budgets and resources for helping sick people. What is the matter with them?

This is revealing testimony. Janice and her fellow AA members have developed a sense of entitlement about their right to make a mess.  Why shouldn't they expect others to clean up after them? Janice has learned over her years in AA that this is part of her AA-disease birthright.

Get this from the people defending AA.

The move has generated some controversy with a Salisbury psychiatric nurse practitioner calling O’Connor’s decision shameful.

Terry Lee Harrington, in a letter to the editor he confirmed writing, said the decision reinforces belief in the community that alcoholism isn’t a disease, further stigmatizing those afflicted with it.

According to a treatment professional, expecting AAers to restore the room they used and to care about their host's property is to treat them as though they are normal human beings -- which is impossible! It is shameful, this professional asserts, for a hospital not to compensate for AAers' misbehavior -- even though this means diverting resources from caring for sick people -- which, of course, the AA members are, and always will be.  (David Brooks -- are you listening?)

And this from an AA defender critiquing another commenter who had the gall to say that AA members should clean up after themselves.

That right there, I believe, is part of Terry Harrington's concern. That people don't view this as a disease, rather as something borne of pure laziness. Many times, those of us diseased (not just drugs and alcohol) are incapable physically and/or mentally to do things the rest of us have no problem with. I'm not blaming the hospital for anything, other than maybe a little naivete or shortsightedness.

The medical personnel at the hospital should know better, AA supporters tell us.  They, of all people, should expect AA particpants to behave like people in traction or with a terminal illness.  How naive of them to think that alcoholics and addicts can act responsibly -- just because (assuming this is true of those attending the meetings) they're not taking drugs or drinking

Let's leave aside that these AA members were incorrigibly dirty and ignored reasonable warnings of consequences to come.  Let's put aside that they felt free to foul a hospital after it had graciously extended itself to the group for a decade, the setting making their filthiness doubly reprehensible and their rudeness doubly boorish.  Most importantly, AA defenders assert, everyone should know that misbehavior by people in AA must be excused because such behavior is self-evidently caused by their disease. 

That's right, if you deal with AA members, they casually, gladly foul your life up then express disdain that you would expect anything different! This, from a group that claims to be all about making amends and guiding people to take responsibility for their lives.  But the core principle people learn from AA, we see, is that they're permanently diseased and disabled and incapable of changing.

So, people, take this message to heart -- according to AA's defenders, you're naive if you deal with AA members like responsible human beings!  That's something they'll never learn to be in AA.*

*Here National Geogaphic, no less, explains in "scientific" terms (that is, with no data) why AA is so beneficial for members spiritually, psychologically, and neurobiologically. Except for caring for the spaces they occupy and the people they affect.

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Some Truth to This

Submitted by Anonymous

I'm a member of AA. The groups I normally attend don't have a problem cleaning up after themselves, but I see other examples of the mindset you're talking about.

For example, people will say in meetings "I'm a liar, cheat, and a thief." Well, it seems to me if you describe yourself if such fixed terms, that you will act accordingly and lie, cheat, and steal. And if you are still lying, cheating, and stealing, I dunno...perhaps one should consider stopping such behavior?

Another big one is members talking about their "alcoholic mind" or "alcoholic mindset." It's almost as though they use the label to make it seem like they're "rigorously honest," but in reality the label gives them wiggle room to act like a jerk.


Another Anonymous made a series of comments (I am confident in attributing them from their timing and tone -- see if you agree) which I know he'd like me to share with readers.  I select eight (there are five more):

1. (this is response to another commenter)

Have another drink. NO doubt.

2.  (this is in response to a comment I made that the quotes in my post are "no aberration --")

"This is no aberration -- it is a straight-down-the-middle expression of the AA worldview, philosophy, and message to alcoholics and to the world."

This is an outright lie. Of course it's an aberration so ridiculous you'd be hard-pressed finding anyone in recovery who would agree with with it. (Maybe a few dual diagnosis or personality disorders.)
You know this.
Are followers this important to you?
Dr Peele, have you been assessed for personality disorders.
Really. Disturbing.

3.  (this is in response to the comment by another Anonymous printed under P.S.)

Of course there are examples, but Mr Peele's characterizations and shameful generalzsations are bigoted - or else AA wouldn't be working for you and so many others.
And these self-deprecating self-characterizations change over time - they're thought of as narcissistic tendencies, that come to recede with increasing self-honesty.
Any weight given to Dr Peele's biases can only come from a narrow or short-term experience with recovery.
Give it 10 years or so.

(this is from another Anonymous, so I won't number it)

also wondering how much true interaction there can be without the "politics of experiernce "r..d. laing ,becoming the invisible actionable elephant in the room and one upsmanship etc.there is always , unless you are dealing with fear based economy,the messiness of living .. the controlling powers must be paying you a bit for you to vomit on us ;addict, alcoholics ; like this . i am afraid of you and afraid for you.

4.  (this is our Anonymous' response to the last Anonymous' comment)

"Dr" Peele is the Rand Paul of the addiction field, and he is known as such by educated professionals.

5. (this one is in response to another comment --  Anonymous is responding to the other commenter in the first two lines; the rest is addressed to me)

This is an outrageously bigoted piece. And you're a professional?
This entitled attitude isn't a mainstay of AA culture or its members.
Is this about money Dr Peele.
I've been in this field longer than you, almost (academically) as credentialed, and you're taking an individual occurence, a lay person's opinion, and taking this as evidence of a general attitude and personality diagnosis amongst the recovering community's members?
Shameful, sloppy.
Time for therapy doctor!

6.  (this is in response to another person's comment):

AA's culture is based entirely on taking responsibility for one's own actions.
Have another drink. And when you want to have a look at why your life is, at best, operating at about 22%, get sober and get a therapist.
And stop reading this Sarah Palin of the addiction field.

7.  (the next two comments by Anonymous are in response to another comment by the same commenter)

Get a(nother?) therapist. Adjust your meds.
Irrational, insubstantial, angry and, obviously, a life that reflects it. I'd be upset too.
But you'd be better off getting help to improve things for yourself.

8.  I think a med adjustment is your first move.


This is my response to this string, made to a further comment by the Anonymous who wrote the P.S. His comment this time is titled "To AA Members," and says:

Those of you getting your britches in a bundle about Dr. Peele's articles better get used to it, since the criticism of AA appears to be growing. Anne Fletcher's new book, "Inside Rehab," describes how treatment centers force the 12 Steps on clients whether that's the best approach for them or not. Another new book, "Her Best Kept Secret" by Gabrielle Glaser goes into great detail about the abuse of women at some meetings & how AA is refusing to do anything about it.

My comment:

Mentioning where I'll be speaking, and responding to the next comment, from Mike, reminds me that, in my career, I've been threatened in various ways. But no one has made me think that an imbalanced person might actually attack me so much as this most recent serial commenter. This might have to do with the reality that AA is seriously being challenged for the first time. According to Tom Horvath, president of SMART Recovery, within ten years SMART -- a cognitive behavioral support group -- will be as accessible as AA! Nothing has ever come close to matching AA as a force in the field before.


Yet another Anonymous weighed in: I don't buy into the honey/vinegar analogy

When one starts talking about honey and vinegar that is just another way to say "Be nice". Sometimes nice doesn't work.

I wouldn't say I'm big fan of Stanton Peele, but when it comes to free outpatient addiction treatment it certainly does seem that AA has a corner on the market. The standard advice given to anyone suffering from alcoholism is to attend an AA meeting.

- - - - -

But AA has such a stronghold on the US and worldwide one dareth not start a new treatment avenue. As one can see from this comment section that if one points out anything the least bit negative regarding AA, its members will appear to respond with poorly written missives insulting the writer though with very little content explaining their position.

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