November 12, 2017
A Response to “The Culture of Alcoholics Anonymous Perpetuates Sexual Abuse” by Elizabeth Brown
(This article on sexual predation within the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous and my comments that follow may touch some nerves of people I love, but it’s an important topic. If you are offended by the public discussion of Alcoholics Anonymous, reading beyond this point is not recommended.)
The predators in AA are often not even subtle. A newcomer–extremely vulnerable and looking for a safe place– walks in and the predators salivate. There are always folks of both sexes who work against this element, but the real victimization is going to happen away from the clubhouse or meeting. It’s common enough to be casually referred to as “13th stepping.” Such behaviour works contrary to the ideals of the “program.” Often the result is a short sobriety, which means that the pain and suffering of the alcoholic and the all who love the alcoholic are increased rather than eased. And these stories of sexual predation go back to when AA first allowed women to participate.
This is a difficult topic and one that I could discuss for hours, but the sort of power influence described in this article is part of why I moved beyond “the rooms” in my own journey. I’ve known people to trust the advice of sponsors over medical professionals–and die.
The article states that “AA members are repeatedly told that leaving the fellowship will lead them to drink.” Yes, I heard that many times. I left the fellowship but have continued to practice the principles of spiritual growth with an emphasis on helping others. The fact that I do not go to meetings will cause some folks in AA to immediately conclude–without further information– that I am either drunk or on a “dry drunk.” For some, to believe otherwise threatens their own faith in what they have been told is “The Way.” I don’t worry about what they conclude or what they believe. I simply seek spiritual nourishment (love) while concurrently seeking to be loving toward others as my life unfolds. And, to quote the AA text, it’s a daily journey of “progress, not perfection.”
I don’t want to be misunderstood here–I will always have love and gratitude for the many folks in AA who were there for me and loved me when I couldn’t love myself. My own sponsor from 1990 is like a brother to me today. Whenever someone comes to me for help with alcoholism or drug addiction, I always suggest AA or NA as a good starting point–but I do so with cautions.
For me, when the anxieties of seeing the power games and ego wars in the groups–some of which are touched upon in this article–became greater than the serenity I sought, I let love take the lead. In my case, love led me to the great wide open and to growth of the sort I had never tasted within the dogmatic structure where I first learned I could move through the world sober.
And it’s still one day at a time.
Peace & Love ✌️