Do you have a friend or family member who is a problem drinker or drug abuser? Did you look into participating in a 12-step program such as Al-Anon, CODA, ACA or open meetings of AA, etc., and find that it didn’t appeal to you? Or did you attend meetings and find them helpful at first, but their relevance seemed to diminish over time? Were you among a group whose life circumstances seemed to get worse even as they condemned themselves as selfish and defective, while expressing gratitude that they had such a wonderful higher power and program to rely on? Did you get a sense that some vast breakthrough or miracle was being promised, but feel that you hadn’t quite understood how to achieve that, that there was something that you couldn’t quite see or didn’t quite get?
If so, this blog is for you. It is particularly aimed at those who have given up on 12-step programs as a bad job, but also at those who are still pursuing such programs but starting to doubt their validity. Questioning the tenets is discouraged within the programs themselves.
In this blog, I will recount parts of my story as someone who attended Al-Anon meetings and worked the steps for over seven years, before becoming profoundly disillusioned. On the basis of a thorough and critical examination of the practices and beliefs of 12-step programs, I will illustrate why those programs may be unhelpful and even harmful to friends and family members of people with alcohol or drug problems. My own experience was that I found the program helpful initially, but less so over time, and I will go into why that was.
I will also share the resources and techniques that helped me to make tangible progress with regard to aspects of my life where the principles of 12-step programs just weren’t cutting any ice. I can honestly say that today I’m in a better place than I was when I left the program 18 months ago. I hope to guide you to a better place too – and provide information about better places to be than the rooms!
I will write about topics suggested by readers. So far there’s been a request for something on gender issues in 12-step programs. Let me know your requests!