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.

20. Georgia
The 13th Step

I was an active AA member for over five years. During that time I saw it all: abuse, attacks, assaults (both verbal and physical), vicious gossiping, deceit, and betrayal. I finally found the courage to leave the cult in March of this year.

When I was 26 and had been sober for over two years, I was 13th-stepped by a man with over five years. I trusted him because he was a sober member of the program. I had not been sleeping around with anyone else, and we discussed our HIV status (both negative). However, after our second sexual encounter I discovered that he had given me herpes. Needless to say, I was devastated. I didn't understand how he could do that to me, and if I was living this great spiritual program, why would God allow this to happen?

I found my sponsor and told her what had happened. She was less than sympathetic; in fact she was judgmental, as always. When I told her that I was angry about the situation, her response was to yell at me, Well, I'm sure you didn't ask God if it was his will before you jumped into bed with him, did you?

It was hardly comforting. She made me believe that this happened to me due to self-will run riot. It was my own fault, not the fault of the man who deceived me. Her counsel did nothing to help me through this difficult experience -- in fact, it made it worse. It took me a few years even to be able to discuss this with anyone. I eventually found out from other women in AA that herpes is rampant in AA here (a large city in the south). Many of my friends had it, as they all contracted it from men in the program. Oh well, as long as those guys aren't drinking today . . . is the consensus.

I dread to think what will happen when someone with HIV introduces that virus into ever-incestuous AA. A couple of years ago, a man with over 10 years sobriety committed suicide. He had been extremely promiscuous with AA, and there were rumors that he was HIV-positive. Maybe the time bomb is already ticking.

The last few months have been difficult for me. I am ultimately happy to be free of AA, but I almost feel like I need to be deprogrammed. There is a lot of freedom in being critical of the program. Up until a couple of months ago, I could not do it. When asked by friends and family why I had left the program, I would only tell them that AA just wasn't for me. I was still thinking that AA was the only way, and that by being critical of the program I might doom another suffering alcoholic to death, insanity, etc. Today I would be happy to dissuade someone from joining AA. Finding a group of people who have been hurt in AA, and making friendships with people outside AA, is helping me a lot.