Another Case of Denial — or AA Run Amok?

This post is a response to Common Themes in Addiction by Carl Alasko, Ph.D.


Most people exposed to AA, the 12 steps, and the concepts endorsed with such certitude by Dr. Alasko are (a) young (in their twenties or younger), (b) forced to undero the experience. This could be because they are experiencing denial which must be confronted. There is another possibility.

A typical AA story:

“I am 31 and live and work in Los Angeles. I never was an addict, dependent or dysfunctional, but I did like to drink and smoke pot in college. But I did something that wasn’t very smart. I had a little too much to drink one night and made the unwise decision to drive home. I got a DUI. And my AA nightmare began.

“First, I had to go to these meetings where I had to say I was an alcoholic. When I refused, they said they were going to throw me out. I had to comply since I was under a court order, and the alternative was jail. This messed with my head from the start.

“Next, I smoked an occasional joint thinking that it wouldn’t be detected in a drug test. I only had a few hits one day a week. But I tested positive, resulting in my being declared non-compliant.

“But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that everyone in the system immediately ‘knew’ that I was caught up in a ‘serious illness.’ You know the drill. I had a disease. I was powerless. I was in denial. More AA meetings. Endless AA meetings.

“These places were so depressing and the people were so consumed with themselves that it DID finally make me depressed. My sponsor was a woman who had been hospitalized for mental illness and had issues with social services around her children. I thought, ‘You have got to be kidding if you think this person is going to help me with anything!’

“On top of all of this, the guys at these meetings use them primarily as an opportunity to hit on women. There’s nothing or no one to stop them. Those women who really did have such bad problems that they fell for these losers’ lines really experienced a hell on earth, like they were always warning us that our drinking would create. Add to this all the smoking and coffee drinking and crazy talk, and I started thinking — ‘I NEED to start drinking and drugging to endure this craziness!’ And, remember, I was young and had to figure out what was going on for myself.

“I personally relate to Lindsay Lohan. I see a girl who leaves a club like millions do every night and decides to drive with TMZ cameras following her. She is young and makes some stupid decisions (like I and countless others have). But the real trouble started for Lindsay AFTER she was forced into rehab and AA.

“Next, Dr. Drew is broadcasting all over the place about her biological brain disease.

“I got through it all, but I have been reading about the addiction industry ever since. I first came across your name about four years ago. You say the exact opposite of Dr. Drew. Without trying to be too cynical, I think the media promote these ideas because people love hearing about celebrities, and if famous people are messed up and have a disease, that explains their own problems.

“So, that’s where I am today. Curious and trying to educate myself.”

Oh, you hadn’t heard this kind of story from an AA alum before? I wonder if anyone else has had experiences like this one? Actually, they are more common than the rah-rah AA experiences we typically hear.

Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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