Horror Stories
True Tales of Misery, Betrayal and Abuse in NA, AA and 12-Step Treatment

Rebecca Fransway
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This book is here courtesy of See Sharp Press and Rebecca Fransway, Ed.

38. Dean
Treatment Anger

I don't know where to begin, but I know I have to. My name is Dean X., and I was introduced to the 12 steps back in 1989.

Up until my ex-wife put me in a hospital on the West Coast, I knew zero about AA or the steps. The place I went to was one of the better-known hospitals/treatment centers, and I was glad to be there. I had never tried any kind of addiction treatment and was absolutely clueless as to what the treatment would be.

It was a typical treatment center -- addicts smoking, drinking coffee, and telling war stories in between eight to ten hours of groups and meetings per day. The counselors literally had to convince us that we had a disease because of the so-called denial that kept us from seeing just how sick we really were. We were the last to know, according to them.

They convinced me that I was ill. They said I had come to the last house on the block. Of course, this now seems ludicrous, seeing as how I never stopped at any of the houses before theirs. They didn't care; they knew better than I did -- I was sick and insane, not to mention that even if I did go into recovery, my disease would keep on progressing even after I stopped using.

They also told me how my ego had to be smashed or "humbled," and that only by believing in God as I understood him could I ever find any hope to stop my using. They told me that only people with the disease can understand, and that normies -- the rest of the human race -- could never, ever understand us. I felt good. I felt at home. I'd found friends.

Sobriety lasted for about six months. Then I used periodically, but it eventually caught up with me. So, back in I went , same place, same treatment. it worked again. This time I saw a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist, Dr. D., every day for 21 days and then on a regular basis for the next six years. I stayed sober for the next seven years, thanks to the excellent treatment from Dr. D. I attended meetings for a while, but got very upset with the "fellowship" and its rhetoric. Eventually my insurance ran out, and I couldn't afford to pay for therapy on my own, so we ended it. I was fine for the next year or so, and then I relapsed.

I had been in school and was extremely tired, stressed out, and worried about my future. I made a bad choice. I used. It was a small amount. I did not use anywhere near the amount that I used to. My "disease" had not progressed into a wild beast with horns. Then I used again after two or three months -- same small amount. I did this for about one year and then checked myself into an outpatient program. I was again feeling desperate and really did not want to go back to using regularly.

This time I told them up front about my feelings about the steps and the Big Blue Book they read at every meeting. No problem, Dean. Trust us, you're sick. So I joined up and had a couple of relapses while in treatment. Even though I said I didn't like their rhetoric, I was convinced to be more "open minded" this time and to live and let live. I tried. Nothing would derail my spiritual program. Then it really hit me about the third month into treatment -- I started to think about what they were saying, and my eyes suddenly opened. I realized that the 12 steps made me feel really bad about myself. I felt bad, not because I had a drug problem; it was because I hated every word that came out of their mouths.

To me, 12-steppers looked like the walking dead. Sober zombies stalking the earth in search of alcoholics to suck dry. I began to cringe when I heard other steppers talking in acronyms (KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid -- etc.). Talking about God, Jesus, praying, our sins, amends -- what in the hell happened to being an addict or alcoholic? Did I miss that group? I was in real trouble now. I could no longer listen to the crap that was being called treatment, but I didn't know anything else existed -- until I looked.

What an idea.

I looked and found really good resources for recovery without the superstition and folklore that was being called treatment. I left the group and am now drug free and sort of happy.

I know now that it will take time to get this junk out of my head. It does not just stop the moment you leave. It lingers on, like a fungus. One thing that is really true about the 12 steps is that the program will mess up your using. That is true, but what they do not tell you is that it can screw up your head.

I have a lot of anger about the package of lies and deceit that is called treatment. I would never recommend the 12 steps to anyone. I hope that others who read this will see it as a warning. If you want to stay sick forever, label yourself as insane, believe you have a disease that has a mind of its own, and believe that only a belief in God will help you, then by all means the 12-step program is for you. Me, I choose to be well.

I still have a very difficult time getting rid of the 12-step philosophy. I constantly have to check my feelings because of the negative crap that was put into my head by the less-than-knowledgeable people who call themselves professionals. I wish to God (if there is one) that I had never been introduced to the 12-step powerless way of life. It has truly complicated and delayed my recovery from substance abuse. My goal is to speak out at every opportunity I get about the mindless, punitive, and degrading tactics used by 12 steppers. Refuse to engage them in their idiotic lingo. Call them on their lunatic fringe philosophies. I urge any person who is new and has questions to get answers. Do not let anyone ever again tell you to take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. Do not use slogans to explain away human suffering. Do not let anyone tell you how to live, what to believe, or what to think. Use your brain. Whatever you're told by these quacks and charlatans, do the opposite and you will get well real fast.

My name is Dean and I'm a human being.