My first experience with 12-step groups was in Ryther, an adolescent treatment center. I had received a DUI with a very high breathalyzer, and I was told that because of that and my age I might as well accept the deferred prosecution, as the judge would probably sentence me to treatment anyways. I intuitively resisted the treatment option, but since I was really given no option—either accept treatment or punishment and treatment.
I quickly realized what a repressive, mind-warping atmosphere I was in when I gave a fellow inmate a pinch of chewing tobacco and given three days of 'cabin restriction'—i.e. solitary confinement—for dealing drugs. While everyone was allowed to smoke, although we were all under age, apparently chewing tobacco was dangerous and addictive-like caffeine and sugar, which we were also denied, along with any outside reading material.
It was at Ryther that I first learned how a 'drug is a drug is a drug;' except cigarettes of course, and that AA was different or special, for it was the one place where the rules about caffeine and sugar were not enforced. We were carted to meetings every night, where my fellow inmates would quickly seize upon the sugar packets and fill their coffee cups; we also got to smoke with impunity there instead of scheduled breaks.
It seemed the rule in aa was there are no rules, and I quickly felt comfortable there as I never was in any other aspect of the treatment program.
I was absent without leave twice from the Ryther, but they advised my parents not to let me back home. Tough love. I had no where to go and the fact of the matter is that as a youth on the streets with no money or housing one is left with few options—females enter prostitution; males become queer-bait.
One of the reasons I left was the so called 'honesty meetings' that were held periodically when evidence of drug use was discovered. An honesty meeting is where everyone stares at each other indefinitely until the person whom they thought committed the offense confessed. What appalled me was that people were confessing to things they could not have possibly done just to end the meeting, but if the confessions didn't match the scenario that counselors envisioned the 'honesty' meeting continued of course with no smoke breaks!
The first meeting occurred because somebody hot-knifed some bud and they found evidence in the trash can; the second because somebody had heard that THC was in banana peels and smuggled some into his room!
I felt like I was in a show trial or some witch-hunt, but again I had no choice but to endure this treatment. Nevertheless, I graduated from their program level four, their highest level, and I thought AA was different as they always treated AA different.
The judge, however, treated AA and treatment as the same coin that it was, and I was appalled that I had to answer to him about what meetings I went to and produce court slips. What happened to anonymity? The civics class attended the court sessions and the whole high school knew of my meeting attendance.
I was also appalled to find that most people I was interned with quickly relapsed after their release and were in far worse shape than when they entered. I didn't feel anymore sane than before I entered treatment and I thought my anonymity was being violated in these very public review hearings. No special treatment for meetings in the courts. My old friends also thought I was strange and I was now isolated because of my very public AA attendance.
In AA I was treated as a celebrity as one of the first young people ever; everybody who shared lamented that they hadn't entered AA at my age and that I was a very special person. I began to suffer from what they call "terminal uniqueness" in AA and was unable to fully enjoy the group-think mentality of meetings. Eventually the stress of celebrity got to me and I relapsed; after all, everybody I was in treatment with relapsed and I was told relapse was part of recovery in treatment.
I felt very ashamed of my relapse and eventually became suicidal, as I couldn't 'get' the program and let all those old stogies down in meetings who wanted to be a young person like me. To make a long story short I entered a saga of repeated treatment centers—6 total—and a hard lesson in mind-games and brainwashing tactics that are ultimately useless and a scam. I was never really suicidal prior to my first treatment/AA experience; but afterward the guilt was unbearable and I made repeated attempts on my life for failing the program.
At one point I entered AA without any court slips or treatment centers. I was having DT's and had already been admitted to the emergency room several times. I thought this time I was truly beat and better stop at the "last house on the block". I made a 12- step call and in a room full of thirty people I sat for an hour verging on a seizure. A well meaning member finally insisted that I go to the hospital where they had to check my blood pressure twice in disbelief.
I began meeting attendance daily but I had a bad case of the shakes for what seemed a month. As sick as I was I was vaguely aware that something was amiss, as I wasn't being helped but instead seemed to be everyone's soap box for their pet theories of recovery. I was correct in this assessment as members of the group soon took me aside and said that they couldn't help me, that I had to go back to treatment, that I was too sick for AA.
It would seem after all that AA and treatment really were connected, and that the way the counselors in Ryther stood back and treated AA different was just a guise. In the end they walk hand and hand down the road of happy destiny, as the six treatment center I went to I always found a professional there who was also a member of AA.
One of the strengths of AA, even Chaz Bufe will acknowledge, is its inclusiveness. Indeed, I have seen the worst wack-jobs in meeting halls always being accepted. During this time, however, I was prescribed various medications to steady my nerves. Most in AA did not accept me as a full member because of this, even though a number of members had already died as a result of such unsolicited medical advice. I stocked piled sedatives as I was admonished not to use them unless it was absolutely necessary—then change my sobriety date. This stockpile made for a great and near fatal suicide attempt in the end.
I have to mention Sundown among all the treatment centers as the paragon of irony in this whole saga, as I remind the reader that I eventually entered AA voluntarily after several expensive hospital trips due to DT's. Everybody, including my psychiatrist, lauded Sundown as the crème de la crème of treatment centers, and as I mentioned before I as persuaded by members to enter treatment as I was to sick for them to deal with. In sundown I never saw a more unabashed endorsement of AA, as speakers like paid circus performers would stand up and extol the virtues of the 12-step program that sent me there in the first place because I was too sick.
They took away my medication of course, and I endured 2 days of shear agony of ongoing shakes, panic attacks, and no sleep, with no access medical facilities to speak of while they attempted to treat me with group hugs and so forth. (any lawyer who would like to help me sue them for this agony they inflicted upon me would be much appreciated) In the end, as I am bouncing off the walls, they called an ambulance. It would seem that after all was said and done a trip to the hospital was what was called for after all. That was the trip I was hoping to avoid by believing AA/treatment's claim to fame as the be all and end all of alcohol recovery. I almost recovered another hospital bill because of them.
I do not deny that I am an alcoholic. What I contend is that AA is the biggest scam ever perpetuated upon the public. My story underscores the base hypocrisy in the system that treats a physical disease with moral dogma. Ryther tricked me into thinking AA was different; AA is full of such tricks and mind games that result in a form of circular thinking that can see no evil. My story literally ends in a circular trip to the hospital based on their own dogma. In the meantime they enrich themselves with cushy jobs as professionals in the treatment community that have no accountability to anyone and produce no positive results. 12-steppers are a menace as they divert valuable time and resources to their own twisted cult and destroy more lives than they save. In the end they couldn't even save me an emergency room visit.