Activists or AA Bashers? By Juliet Abram

I have decided to highlight some ex steppers who are writers getting their ideas printed in more places then their own blogs. Juliet Abram has a blog and runs some FACEBOOK Groups as well. Here is a post about defending ones own opinion about why some DON”T like AA anymore. ( I do think we have a right to express this, just as if we didn’t like a burger joint! )

By Juliet Abram 06/04/14


Am I an AA Basher because I found Alcoholics Anonymous unhelpful?

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Ten years ago, I learned that AA’s primary purpose was helping “other alcoholics to achieve sobriety” through working the 12 steps. To disagree was to “bash” AA. I believed AA could help MORE people if it was secular, not spiritual. I even objected to staying anonymous. Were we ashamed? People with other diseases organize 5K runs and put magnetic ribbons on their cars.

Today, my home state of Ohio has over 266,000 people with three or more drunk driving arrests. When I was court ordered to 12-step meetings for the third time, I knew I had to do something different. After all, hadn’t I heard in AA that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing and expecting different results?

I had over a year left of probation when I started a Secular Organization for Sobriety (S.O.S.) meeting. Still, my probation officer professed AA was necessary for my sobriety, and my refusing to go could have resulted in jail time.

I discovered that AA is not a support group that encourages the exchange of ideas. It is a fellowship based on living spiritually and carrying the AA message to others. The women who wanted to help me would ask if I had a higher power – was it God, and did I pray to it? I wanted to be restored to sanity, but as an atheist, I could not make believe I had an imaginary friend.

Discussing spirituality, or religion, made me uncomfortable. As far as I am aware, alcoholism is the only “spiritual” disease. I believe it is beyond the government’s scope of power to prescribe prayer under threat of imprisonment. My opposition to the AA organization does not mean I oppose recovery, but as long as 12-step treatment centers only support AA, other options like S.O.S. or SMART Recovery cannot grow.

It’s not bashing AA to claim AA does not work for me. According to a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism survey of 43,000 Americans, three quarters of those dependent on alcohol recover, and three quarters of those do so without AA. NIAAA uses the clinical definition of remission from alcohol dependence as a person who is no longer dependent, including asymptomatic, or controlled, drinking. A majority of those in recovery drink without problems according the government’s massive national survey.

So I am in the majority! But in AA one drink is failure and sets you back to Step 1, admitting you are “powerless” over alcohol.

In his 2014 book, Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with the PERFECT Program (written with Ilse Thompson), Stanton Peele writes: “Most people overcome alcoholism themselves, as they do smoking and every other addiction.” Instead, AA enabled me with applause and reward coins for not drinking. Nobody needs to clap for me because I didn’t drink today.

It’s not bashing AA – it’s truth – to point out that AA doesn’t work for everybody – for most people – and that other methods can be helpful to them. Psychotherapy helped me recognize continuing life and emotional problems I had that the 12 steps never addressed. And I don’t consider myself powerless.

Co-founder of AA, Bill Wilson, wrote in 1958: “Today, the vast majority of us welcome any new light that can be thrown on the alcoholic’s mysterious and baffling malady… We are glad of any kind of education that accurately informs the public and changes its age-old attitude toward the drunk. More and more, we regard all who labor in the total field of alcoholism as our companions on a march from darkness into light.” It’s entirely possible Wilson would have considered SMART Recovery or Moderation Management or Peele’s new book as worthy companions to AA today.

I hope those in AA become more accepting of people who disagree with AA, or who find other ways work for them, instead of calling them bashers. Hopefully, we’ll all benefit by having fewer drunk drivers and “powerless” alcoholics.

Juliet Abram is a writer and artist. She is also a former court mandated attendee of Alcoholics Anonymous. Her activist cause for 12 Step alternatives in Ohio is the AARMED with Facts blog.

Recovery Bullies If a bully cannot see they are controlling others with fear, what are they to apologize for in Step 9? Not one of the 12 Steps gives advice on confronting those who hurt you.

by Juliet Abram Posted on THE FIX Blog


A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.” ― Bruce Lee

Admitting that Alcoholics Anonymous psychologically harmed me has been cathartic and healing. Replies from AA fanatics predict that without their steps catastrophe awaits via jails, mental institutions and death. Where I live, anyone trying to convince me to do anything, let alone stay in a 501(c) non-profit organization, under threat of death is a bully.

Asking me to accept “powerlessness” is asking me to relinquish personal power to make positive changes. The anti-feminist misogynistic books and patriarchal spiritual terms of AA are also condescending. Steppers eager to judge me as an angry, self-centered dry drunk who wants to play the victim are name-calling bullies. The all-knowing 1939 Big Book doesn’t know that evidence connects bullying to substance abuse in adults.

Bullying is defined as “aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power. Most often it is repeated over time.” Links to bullying prevention and information can be found on well-known 12 Step treatment center Hazelden’s website.

Maybe the bullying is really an attempt at being confrontational. But using fear to recruit others to follow AA means AA is not a program of choice. If I’m afraid to speak my mind out of fear of retaliation, then the tormenters have become my higher power. Although currently some former AA friends believe I have a vendetta to put an end to an AA, I know I alone do not have that kind of power.

Are scare tactics something sponsors pass down? Do old timers who bark out orders to “keep it simple stupid” consider themselves bullies? What if instead, the counselors were skilled in motivational interviewing, an approach centered on a person’s values, beliefs and preferences. Stanton Peelewrites that MI developer William R. Miller, along with Bill White, have shown “not a single study over four decades had found confrontation therapies to produce a positive result.”

In comparison, AA’s 62nd General Service Workshop notes that members with sponsors are “healthy people,” because sponsors can set a good example and curtail sponsees’ bad behavior. If someone can’t acknowledge their bullying is wrong, the bad behavior won’t be corrected.

Read more here…