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.

29. Jack Levine
A Gambler's Horror

Fifteen or so years ago, I quit a very heavy and very dangerous methamphetamine and marijuana addiction. It had gotten way out of hand, and I made the decision to never do it again. I ignored that whiny voice in my head that screamed at me to go get high again. It eventually stopped, and I wasn't an addict anymore!

Fifteen or so years later, I was astounded to discover -- first through Rational Recovery and later through www.aadeprogramming.com -- that when I quit being a drug addict, I hadn't invented anything. I had merely self-recovered, as so many others had before me.

Getting to that same place with a gambling problem, though, almost killed me. Twelve years ago, I had the misfortune to stumble into a Gamblers Anonymous meeting because of a very expensive weekend after having moved to Las Vegas. I can trace my eventual bankruptcy, several near suicides, a nearly failed relationship, and many other hardships to that meeting.

In truth, I was ready to quit gambling just as I had quit drugs. I was 95% there before I walked into the first meeting. All I wanted was some encouragement for a week or two. Instead, they scared me with their horror stories. No one warned me! Where was Ann Landers when I needed her? Ann, Abby and others had suggested that GA was the place to go if I thought I had a problem with gambling. It seemed like good advice.

Little did I know!

Many of the GA groupers I met were doing 14 or more meetings a week between GA, NA, AA, ACOA, etc. They told me that I had to essentially waive all of my common sense and humanity, to stop trying to tell them that this is a religion and that I was an atheist. I had to work the steps, which were incomprehensible to me. They said I had to give up control of my life. They said I was powerless. I quickly came to believe that I was. They said my best thinking got me there. I stopped believing in myself.

When I gambled some more, they said, "See -- we told you so. They said I could not trust my intellect, or my human nature, or my common sense. They convinced me that I had a disease. They did everything they could to undermine my having, on my own, quit drugs. They refused to believe in me or my resolve. Who are you kidding, they said. We're the experts on addiction. We know people who abstained for 20 years or more and went back out there. Everyone falls off eventually. Be extra careful after each recognition chip -- that's when most people relapse. Relapse is normal. Quitting isn't an option for addicts like us. Quitting on your own is an oxymoron. You must know you're like us, or you wouldn't be here.

And an inner voice screamed, Well, if you can't quit, then let's go gambling! Relapse is normal, why wait for an anniversary? You still have one credit card that isn't maxed, GA will still be there if you lose, but you might win, and then you won't need to come back. You're bound to have a winning streak, it's your turn, just a 20, just a hundred, just another thousand . . . blah blah blah . . .

And guess what, I continued to gamble away my life's income and savings, and I ran up a hundred thousand in credit card debt that had to be bankrupted away. Unlike drugs, with gambling I did everything except quit -- 12 years in and out of the rooms, 14 different 30-day chips, five different 90-day chips, one for a year and a day. (Hey, it was my fault; they had warned me! I should have worked my program harder!) How many useless hours did I spend trying to find the childhood trauma that caused my illness in the first place? No 12-stepper ever told me that I could quit! Unbelievable! There I was in the belly of the beast surrounded by all the people who were trying anything they could to avoid finally and resolutely quitting for good gambling/drinking/using. They told me to keep coming back if I wanted what they had. And by the way, they said, you didn't quit using drugs, you just found a high that you liked better than drugs.

Fortunately, somewhere around a year and a half ago, I found The Real AA book by Ken Ragge. Finally I was sane again. I finally had the clue that I needed, and from there I found Rational Recovery, and voila! Within a month the self-destructive inner voice was gone. Now my finances are stable and improving quickly, depression and suicidal thoughts no longer control my life, and I will never, ever, ever attend another 12-step meeting.

I now know that I am the best authority on addiction that I have ever met. I have introduced a dozen or so others to this way of thinking. All I had to do was give them the clues, and they solved the puzzle for themselves. We didn't even have a meeting. All anyone needs is a clue as to where to get started. I believe that 12-step programs are destructive. And I believe that most people sitting in the 12-step rooms right this minute are thinking some of these same thoughts, but are still too terrified to voice them.

-- Jack Levine (I will never be anonymous again)