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

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

9. Loretta
My 12-Step Counselor Stole My Husband

Sparky and I were married on a dismal rainy Saturday in November 1969. Mutual friends had introduced us (blind dates are supposed to make a lasting marriage). We courted in the old-fashioned way (no-sex before marriage) and discovered one another with gentleness and respect.

Our first year of marriage marked my first year of teaching in a local public school district. Sparky worked in the computer department of a local university. We spent time together building our garage and house, camping, fishing, organic gardening, raising animals (pigs, chickens, and rabbits), and spending a lot of time together. It was an ideal life and marriage for at least the first five years.

Suzy was born in December 1974, and within a few days I spiraled into a horrible depression from which I never totally recovered. My obstetrician had taken me aside to inform me I was depressed ( already figured that) and would probably benefit from antidepressants. But I didn't try them. This was in the 1970s, the choice of antidepressants was limited, and I didn't want to put strange chemicals into my body.

Sparky and I began to drift apart after Suzy's birth. He drank more and more, and I focused on Suzy and my art -- painting and basket making. At this time I started giving private art lessons in my home. I used art, jogging, natural food supplements, and Suzy to alleviate my depression. It worked, somewhat, for a while.

I saw the relationship between us weakening and thought I would drink with him in order to be with him. I could never keep up with him -- that was never the intent -- although he decided that was what I was doing. I just wanted the return of his closeness, but it was already too late. We began having more verbal fights and misunderstandings.

In 1983, our summer schedule was usually divided between the house and our cabin in the country. I gave a private class on Wednesday mornings, and the following class I'd pack the cat, dog and Suzy into the car and go to the camp to wait for Sparky to join us.

On one occasion it was 7:30 p.m. before he arrived, and boy was he drunk! While waiting patiently for his arrival I had one drink while I ate supper with Suzy. She was around six or seven years old and was in the habit of going to bed early, even in the summer.

Playing solitaire at the kitchen table, I watched for his coming from the window. As his truck lumbered into the clearing and crept toward the buildings I knew he was drunk. He walked into the cabin weaving and wavering. Picking up his guitar, he struggled with strumming and trying to sing. Then he wanted me to sing to the tunes he strummed. He played so badly that I got pissed and told him to get someone who knew how to play. I muttered something regarding his drunkenness and before I knew it he flew at me. I anticipated his wrath and got up before he could strike.

We went at it like we had never done before. I ran toward the back door which was in the bedroom, but he caught me. He picked me up and threw me onto the bed where my head slammed against the brass headboard. It hurt! He punched and hit me. I got up and jumped into his truck to try to get out, but I was unfamiliar with his vehicle and couldn't start it. He yanked me out by the hair and we tussled on the veranda of the cabin. He dragged me into the pond and shoved my head under the water a few times, then pushed me up the hill close to the camp where he slammed a flashlight on the back of my head, splitting the scalp. Dazed, I staggered to the ground.

Suzy woke up (she had been sleeping through all the commotion), saw my bloodied head, and started crying. I stayed calm for her sake. Night had come, and the light from the kerosene lamps glowed dimly as Sparky washed away as much of the coagulating bloody mess as possible.

I was feeling dizzy and generally bad. I asked him to stay the night in case I slipped into a coma as I might have had a concussion and, if that was the case, Suzy wouldn't be left alone. He did stay and we slept together.

He left for home about 6 a.m. I slept a little longer. When I got up and looked in the mirror, my face and head were swollen. I wasn't sure who was in the reflection. Bruised and aching, I moved slowly in both body and mind. Suzy helped collect the animals and pack my car. I rarely had a drink after that and soon quit altogether.

I had my first experience with alcohol counseling in the Spring of 1984. I wanted Sparky to stop drinking, and on the recommendation of acquaintances went to a local alcoholism counseling facility that I'll call The Alcoholism Agency. I found the counseling to be abusive and knew it wasn't what I needed. Even in my undiagnosed depression I knew I didn't need to be heavily confronted or constantly thrown off balance. Sparky had been doing that for quite some time now, and this counseling reeked of the same. I left after three or four sessions with some information on how I could "detach from the alcoholic."

My first counselor also diagnosed me as having depression, but did not refer me to an agency appropriate to that health issue. When I didn't return to what I perceived as inappropriate and abusive counseling, I was accused of being in denial and unwilling to deal with my "alcoholism."

We tried couples counseling with other agencies for four years. These efforts were to no avail as they did not deal with the alcohol issue. Sparky continued to drink and suffered adverse consequences.

Case in point: Sparky was in the throes of his drinking. On this particular occasion we were at the camp. A gentle summer rain was falling, yet he had gone into the woods to cut dead standing trees for firewood. In the camp I listened to the buzz of the power saw and knew all was OK as long as I heard it. Suddenly it stopped. My heart rose to my throat. All was ominously quiet.

Suzy came to say she could hear her father calling weakly from the bush, "Help me." I told her to stay at the cabin, as I didn't know what I would find and didn't want her traumatized further. I walked into the wood lot, called to him, and a garbled "here" answered. I soon found him, dazed, sitting on the ground, his glasses off, a lens out, a big gash along his brow ridge and his jaw immobile. The tree he had been cutting had kicked out and, as it fell, the butt end caught him in the face. I helped him back to the camp, stumbling over deadfall and tanglewood. After assessing the damage, I took him to the ER for initial treatment. A week later he had surgery to have his jaw wired.

Surgery was done in a city about a hundred miles away. We came home the same day, when I began my job as acting 24-hour nurse. Loyal as a dog, I slept on the floor beside him, as he slept on the couch. Unbeknownst to me, when all he could eat was puree, even while on pain killers, he continued to drink beer through a straw. What insanity!

I returned to The Alcoholism Agency in the Fall of 1988 as a last resort. The one-on-one counseling seemed to get better than the first time, but I was still depressed. I ran away with Suzy in February 1989 to the local women's shelter. The household insanity had become too great. The accusations, the drinking, the passing out, the quiet rage all made life in the house impossible to endure. I was urged to get my "ducks in a row," stash money, leave home, make a plan, and in effect to create a crisis. This leaving was subtly encouraged by the counselor, who used the words, "I support you." The Agency forced my husband into its intensive outpatient program. I was put into their women's group in March 1989. The women were from all walks of life, some alcoholic with any number of chronic illnesses, and some depressed and codependent as I was. Some were very confrontative and created issues out of the most insignificant matters, just as the counselors did.

I was vilified in the name of healthy confrontation by the head women's group counselor, a male, Herr Direktor. His reason for being the group facilitator was that the "unhealthy" women would see what a good role model was like! His only admitted addiction was a former cigarette habit. Herr Direktor is a stocky middle-aged man of southern European decent. he reminded me of a little Napoleon, especially when things didn't go his way. He'd tap his foot, then mutter and snort. He was opinionated and a master of head games, which I felt were abusive.

Word is that his wife rules the roost. It appears he has resentment toward women who are outspoken or assertive, and as a result tries to mold them into apologetic and demure Stepford wives. He certainly strove to "modify" my independence and shake my diminishing self-esteem. The precepts of the program for which he worked were a throwback to the '40s and '50s. It's no wonder it held to such an archaic idea of how women should behave. At least Herr Direktor thought he knew how I should behave -- keep my mouth shut, share feelings, don't try to be in control, and don't expect my opinion to matter. I did as he dictated, thinking maybe it would work. They took control of my life. In order to survive the group experience I had to play his game, in effect, "fake it 'til you make it." It was "his way or the highway," and they dumped many vulnerable clients who were in the midst of a crisis of The Alcoholism Agency's making. So I complied.

I was expected to stop doing my art (supposedly to "get in touch with my feelings"), and at one point had to initiate sex on a weekly basis with my husband. This was excruciatingly difficult as the issues of sexual abuse had not been dealt with. Their intent was to beat down the client (me), to break through the "denial," and then build the client up again. Trouble was I was already beaten down. My boundaries had been trampled first by Sparky and now by Herr Direktor and his crew.

I survived this group therapy, though even on my last day Herr Direktor, in his closure speech, made it sound like I hadn't learned anything from the experience. He intimated again that I was an alkie and would need to deal with that someday. He was still trying to create self-doubt in me. I guess that the more clients they had who were alcoholic, the more funding they got from the state.

They clearly stated that if you had an illness such as depression, it would be resolved only if your "alcoholism" was addressed. They told this lie to every client so that they would "come to believe." Not only were their clients' chronic illnesses a result of alcoholism, (instead of the other way around) but the counselors led the clients to believe that their "character defects and shortcomings" would become easier to deal with by going to many 12-step meetings and though treatment of one's "addictions" and "alcoholism."

Remember, I was depressed, a real medically treatable illness that had never been addressed. When I would tell them that their allegations didn't fit or feel right, I was chastised and told just to "take a look at it." The counselors tried at almost every turn to shut me up. I was accused of being alcoholic. If I didn't deny it, that set me up to be one; and if I did deny it, they'd say "thou protesteth too much" -- you're in denial. It was a no-win situation.

My husband was in intensive outpatient treatment for about five-and-a-half months. Upon "graduation' he was asked to be a volunteer. Within a short time I too was asked to be a volunteer, a psychosocial intake person for The Alcoholism Agency. I agreed and was accepted into their world. I soon obtained my F.S.A. (Fundamentals of Substance Abuse Certification). At the same time I was working part time, going back to school for my master's, continuing my art activities and private classes, and being a mother and a wife to the best of my ability.

Within the first year of my "graduating" from the women's group and Sparky's "graduating" from the intensive outpatient program, a different kind of abuse began in the home. Where there had been abandonment, neglect, verbal and some physical abuse, now there was real domestic violence, and the abuse now became intensely psychological in nature. The same type of cold, insidious confrontations, abusive head games and judgmental attacks that had been present in group and one-on-one counseling became a part of our home life.

Sparky would work as a volunteer at least once a week. Often he was called in to volunteer two and three times a week. With all this training he began to "live" this therapy.

Sparky and I returned to couples counseling to deal with issues in the marriage, including our daughter. Initially, the focus was only on him and me, with the assumption being that if we got back on track, so would the relationship with our daughter. While in counseling some things improved. But on the last day of counseling, Sparky said as we left, "don't you ever do that to me again!" I perceived that as a threat! I felt terrified and at a loss for what to do.

I called Herr Direktor, the number one women's group counselor and director of The Alcoholism Agency's substance abuse services, and told him I needed help in dealing with the escalating irrational rages of my husband. His behavior was worse than when he was drinking. No longer did he pass out on the floor or couch; instead he stayed awake and raged about non-issues. At least when he drank our daughter and I could do what we wanted, but now he scrutinized our every move, counted the phone calls and what items were in the root room and freezer, and judged our every action harshly.

On one occasion Herr Direktor invited me in to talk about what was going on. He asked, "what do you have to own?" I told him, "I'm staying in an insane situation again. It's like he's gone nuts, screaming about the most insignificant things." Herr Direktor told me to go home and think about what I wanted in the relationship and to call him in two weeks. This was an emergency! I needed help now! I didn't call back. I felt confused and hopeless. The Alcoholism Agency was not a safe place, but I didn't trust anywhere else, as I had been brainwashed by them to believe no other agency could adequately address our problems. Sparky by then had bought into Herr Direktor's Gestalt therapy and wouldn't consider going to another agency because he and the agency had all the answers! . . . . "You would get pissed too if your wife wouldn't clean the house" was probably what he thought. The problem was all mine. The counselors had said so.

Sparky's comments at home to Suzy and me had become accusatory. He was on a mission to prove I had an addiction, too. I felt as though I was falling apart. My depression intensified and it was all I could do to get through the day. I felt hopelessly trapped. My marriage was supposed to have gotten better according to The Alcoholism Agency's philosophy. It didn't. In fact, it was going downhill fast. Something hadn't been addressed, and they decided it was me -- that I needed to "get honest."

I had become friends with most of the counselors as I was still doing the psychosocial intakes along with attending Al-anon meetings, sponsoring newcomers, working on my master's, teaching publicly and privately, and doing my arts. I was put into one-on-one counseling again, this time with my husband's primary treatment counselor. He didn't even bother to update my file. Not a single entry! He promised to address problems with my husband when the two of them were on break while working in the intensive outpatient program, and he probably did this twice; but the balance of the time nothing happened. I was given instructions to initiate sex weekly, stop sponsoring newcomers, go to more 12-step meetings, stop doing my art, stop taking 12-step calls, and to stay off the phone. That really isolated me, and I began to think of this place as a cult trying to cut me off from the outside world.

Things didn't improve with Sparky. My efforts were never enough! Sparky's moods changed like the wind. One moment he was raving about the mess and the next he was helping with the laundry. It's real interesting that Sparky had never complained about my house-keeping until he got to The Agency. Once he got his teeth into this one he was like a pit bull.

Nothing changed at home except the insanity got worse. No counselor seemed to get it that Suzy and I were trapped in a constant battle zone that had become so bad that I was functioning in a survival mode typical of one who was experiencing battered woman's syndrome (learned helplessness) and a major depression.

After several more years of this, things got so bad that I had to leave. One morning after Sparky left for work I packed my belongings and didn't return home for two weeks. I went to see Herr Direktor after work that day and told him what happened. He asked again what I had to "own" in this and I couldn't give him the "right" answer (the one he wanted to hear, to prove I got his program). He did finally suggest that sometimes problems are greater than could be handled by The Alcoholism Agency, and perhaps I should go somewhere else. But I felt abandoned and was hanging on by a thread. Their brainwashing had made me doubt my own judgment and the value of any other mental health agency.

Some of my friends had gone to a hospital in another state to deal with their depression. I called to have an assessment via phone and was accepted. I couldn't get in for another two weeks, but when I did I spent four weeks finally getting appropriate help long past due. Officially diagnosed and finally getting appropriate meds, the depression cycle began to slow down, but never really lifted.

At the first three sessions of group after I returned to The Alcoholism Agency, Herr Direktor loudly yelled at me. He accused me of bad mouthing the counselors (at this time I still blindly loved and trusted them), not working a program (I was attending meetings and workshops), flirting wit a male counselor (flirting and sex were the furthest things from my mind), associating with "unhealthy" people (program women and counselors? -- they were my support group), and then the kicker: that I needed to start from square one and get a whole new group of people in my life that I couldn't fool by blaming my problems on my husband.

I informed Herr Direktor that I needed to be treated respectfully. I also told him that I believed his confrontational approach was abusive and was like that which my husband had perpetrated on our daughter and me since he had begun volunteering at The Alcoholism Agency. Herr Direktor blew up and started yelling at me.

I had just returned from a hospital with responsible, educated staff, where I had been diagnosed and had been treated for severe clinical depression. Barely a month had passed, I was in a very fragile mental state, and now I was being emotionally battered by a male counselor who was also the program director. I shut down and blocked all feelings.

The schedule and irrational expectations of the Alcoholism Agency "therapy" group wore on me. I felt horribly overwhelmed, and the antidepressant was losing its effectiveness. I was not getting well. All I wanted to do was sleep (but couldn't) or just sit and vegetate, then vaporize.

The Agency eventually told me that I had to go to the ER to get help for my suicidal ideation. I didn't really think that would be necessary, but Herr Direktor stood his ground. I cried hysterically, but I agreed to go under duress. After waiting for what seemed forever, I finally met someone from another agency who would treat me appropriately and help me on my road to a real recovery.

My last group session at The Alcoholism Agency was spent with my recently assigned female counselor reading excerpts from my file in front of everyone in the women's group. I fell right into their trap. I felt shamed, abused, and vilified as the reading progressed with pauses and innuendoes that implied that I had made no progress and that I still needed to deal with alcoholism. There was no mention of the symptoms and dynamics of depression and what had become domestic violence. Herr Direktor suggested that after I dealt with the depression elsewhere, I could come back to be counseled by one of the female counselors, Helga, since I didn't have a history with her. Sorry, but I couldn't imagine how that would happen, since I knew I wasn't an alcoholic.

Months later, I completed counseling with the new agency, and felt ready to work on my relationship with Sparky. I called Herr Direktor to ask if he thought Sparky would be ready too. He said he'd talk to him.

Soon my husband contacted me, came over, and we talked. He was adamant about me not having adequately dealt with all of my issues (the same thing I had accused him of in one of our more recent arguments). He stated that I couldn't be ready for a relationship until I'd dealt with my drinking, and then brought up counseling with Helga. He held the relationship out as the carrot before my nose. I knew it wasn't right, but I agreed to go.

Sparky and Herr Direktor had apparently collaborated and had decided that I was truly in denial and needed to be in their treatment. They totally ignored the serious nature of my medical diagnosis and hung onto the erroneous belief that depression is due to drinking alone.

Sparky was supposed to have been in counseling to deal with the abusive way he treated our daughter and me -- at least so I thought. Why hadn't the counselors contacted the proper authorities regarding the child abuse? Why hadn't we been referred to domestic violence counseling? Why was this counselor/director so bent on believing that "it always takes two"? How could he be made to see that he endorsed violence without realizing it?

Once again the focus was put on me as being the one who needed help to deal with my denial (maybe my denial of the nature of The Alcoholism Agency and of what our marriage had become). My husband apparently had embroidered tales of our life together, turning me into a wild drunk as he talked of the times when I was so drunk I couldn't know whether I had a highball or a glass of soda. In his mind I was consuming all the alcohol. I had not drank for over a decade, since the early 1980s, and was still accused of "just putting a plug in the jug." I'd had assessments for substance abuse when I first started counseling at The Alcoholism Agency, and again when I arrived at the hospital in another state. Neither indicated substance abuse, let alone substance dependence. So why would my situation now be any different? But they chose to ignore official diagnoses.

In my first session with Helga, she asked me what I thought my issues were. I told her my issue was depression and that the issue with Sparky was that of power and control, that he had to be in control because of what he had learned through being a volunteer in the intensive outpatient program and in Herr Direktor's Gestalt treatment. She snapped at me that I was a "fuckin' drunk" like her. Wow! I felt very disrespected.

I didn't respect her very much, either. Helga is a sorry sort of a person. She's an angry alcoholic who believes the whole world is against her, has a very foul mouth, an abrasive nature, and a voice as deep as a man's. She isn't physically attractive either. She may have a soft side, but I could never find it. Since her alcoholic first husband died at his own hand, she had been "man hungry," and just about anything would do.

Helga expected me to go to closed AA meetings and announce I was an alcoholic. I did as told, knowing my marriage was on the line. My guts rolled each time I said I was an alkie. It was a lie. I jumped through every hoop she put before me, including a "no contact" restriction regarding my husband. (After we separated, he'd occasionally stop by to see how things were going, check if there were any needed household repairs, and then we'd chat and get caught up on personal events.) She told me not to answer his phone calls or let him in the house. Why? I wanted to cut myself, wad up into a fetal position and just disappear. This shit was too much.

She implied in a number of sessions that I didn't need my meds, which she called "happy pills," and said "once a pill popper always a pill popper." I responded by saying "that's not true," and repeated that I wasn't alcoholic. Of course, her tactic was supposed to throw me off balance, but it wouldn't work anymore. I was wise to it. She yelled and swore at me again, saying that I was still a "fucking drunk" and had better get honest and start dealing with it or there would be consequences.

Hmmmmmm, "consequences"? A flash of what that possibly meant crossed my mind. Divorce! I had seen them use this pressure tactic with numerous clients when they were trying to break through the denial of their alcoholism. What happened to my official medical and psychiatric diagnosis -- had they "forgotten," chosen to ignore it, or just blown it off?

In early summer, after I started counseling with Helga, I visited the family camp and sensed a "presence" in the buildings and around the landscape. Sparky had had a woman at "my camp"! I discounted the feeling, still wanting to believe he was loyal to the marriage.

During the time I was in counseling with Helga, Sparky had a difficult time holding eye contact with me. Friends in the program asked if he had ever had an affair, suggesting that his behavior was that of a man who had "something on the side." I said that ours was a marriage of fidelity, but I wasn't so sure about that now.

Sparky called the week before our 26th wedding anniversary to tell me he had filed for a divorce. He said he didn't love me and only cared about me in a "program way." He wanted to remain friends and offered to help around the house if necessary. Friends?!!!! What?!!!!

I was devastated!

I got off the phone with him and called everyone I could think of for support, including my counselor. And she wasn't home! Hmmmm . . . I wondered where she was . . . in the background cheering my husband on?

I saw her a couple of days later in session, and was "in crisis" crying about the divorce. She was cold and controlled, said that I would be getting a divorce and that there was no stopping it now. I told her again that I wasn't an alcoholic and that my issues were depression and domestic violence, and that Sparky was supposed to have been getting help! She returned the focus to my unwillingness to "get honest." While my counseling continued with her, I continued to deteriorate psychologically.

In the spring, Sparky decided to have our old dog euthanised. It seemed like Old Jake was the last thing that connected us. He had aged to the point where his legs would give out, and he had trouble hearing and seeing. I didn't want the dog to go, but conceded as he was in a lot of pain. We buried him at the camp, on the hill. I cried as Sparky covered the old boy with dirt. Ace, our cat, also passed away in August of the same year. Even the animals that symbolically bound us were gone.

A few weeks later I had a chimney fire for which the fire department had to be called. In the same week, I accidentally left the gas flame on under an empty cast iron pan for five hours, the water pump burned up (that meant no water to cook, drink, bathe, or flush the toilet), and the furnace had to be replaced. Then I backed out of the garage with the hatch on my van up and managed to break the window (damage of a couple thousand dollars.) All this in one week! Yet Helga accused me of "dry drunking" and being on a "pity pot."

A few sessions later she announced that if I didn't want to deal with my alcoholism there was no sense in her counseling me. I'd thought that right from the beginning. Counseling ended in December 1995. She said she was going to discharge me, but would keep my file open, and if I wanted to deal with my "alcoholism" I should call her.

Because of my trip to the ER I had been introduced to an agency that treated me and my illness respectfully. Additionally, someone who counseled Vietnam vets and Post-Traumatic Stress disorder clients helped me deal with my own PTSD issues and the trauma from the past few years of marriage and the abusive counseling. I also attended domestic violence counseling at the local women's shelter at the same time. As I struggled to heal, some people in the Agency program had the gall to imply I wasn't in recovery because I -- who hadn't drank in years -- wasn't dealing with my "alcoholism."

Word reached me that my counselor and my husband had been seen together at numerous AA and other social functions. She had given him a license plate for the front of his truck. On it was a single red rose with the words "a touch of class." This happened on Christmas 1995, during the last month I was in counseling with her. I was in a state of disbelief and shock about how blatently she behaved!

The next year was a year from hell. There were numerous trips to the attorney. More reports of their affair. The antidepressants no longer worked. More confusion and emotional devastation. No one took my illness seriously, not even my divorce attorney, whose office (I learned later) had connections with The Alcoholism Agency. No fair counsel there either. But he sure wanted his money.

In October 1996, three days after our 27th wedding anniversary, we signed the divorce papers so we wouldn't have to go to trial. Shortly after I got home that evening I received a phone call from a friend who had seen Sparky and Helga kissing in front of an AA meeting place that same evening. The truth was in the open. It was her telltale energy that had lingered at the camp, in the sauna, and the surrounding land. She had been seducing him by making herself available when he was confused, lonely and vulnerable, and while she instructed me to have no contact with him.

Within two weeks I presented The Agency with phase 1 and phase 2 of the client complaint forms. I was blown off by Herr Direktor. They lied regarding Sparky and Helga's relationship, and to top things off they attempted to have me banned from the public services available at The Agency. They also tried to charge me an administrative filing fee for services for which there were no established fees policies. When they denied me restitution of any sort I moved on to the next stage of the process, involving the coordinating agency and then the state licensing department.

In December 1996, barely one month after our divorce, word was out that Sparky and Helga planned to marry; in January 1997 it was publicly announced that they would be married. The other counselors at The Agency planned a wedding shower for her. Talk about a betrayal! My husband, my counselor, and The Alcoholism Agency! My emotions whirled! I felt overwhelmed and my depression got worse. I couldn't do anything to stop this travesty. I struggled to get through the days at work and the nights at home.

My complaint went through the state process. Before that came to an end, Helga the Horrible, the "garden implement" (ya know . . . a rake, a shovel and a ___) and my now ex-husband married in August 1997. The Alcoholism Agency insisted that they "did not start seeing each other socially until September of 1996," barely 10 months after Sparky had filed for divorce. What about early summer of 1995 when there had been a woman at the camp, and what about the license plate with the single red rose on Christmas of the same year? The time frames just don't match, nor does the intensity that the relationship had reached in such a "short time." It's also relevant that Sparky was in counseling in The Alcoholism Agency at the same time I was. Counselors, clients, and spouses of clients are not supposed to have any kind of personal relationship.

People from the AA community, many of whom were my friends (or so I thought), attended their reception with no consideration of how Helga "bagged her buck."

The Ethical Standards Policy states that counselors will not have a personal relationship with a client, or have sex with a client, former client, service recipient, or former service recipient. In order for agencies to receive insurance, counselors are not to have sex with clients or spouses of clients. This applies to anyone who has been counseled by anyone at an agency. No wonder Herr Direktor lied about when Sparky and Helga's relationship began.

As a result of their lies, Helga still had her job, my husband and my cabin, and Herr Direktor still had his job.

For the most part I have withdrawn from the program. I don't make 12-step calls or sponsor newcomers. I don't trust men or many women. I avoid coming in contact with "friends" who are in the program, and I'm cautious about those with whom I associate.

Periodically I do go to 12-step meetings, only to come away with immeasurable feelings of hypocrisy, disgust, betrayal, and helpless victimization, especially when Sparky and his twin are at the same meeting. They greet me with a sugary sweet, "Hi Loretta." Oh, gag me! It's as if they're rubbing salt in my wounds. And it's hard not to run into them, as this is a relatively remote area without many meetings.

I no longer have a loving, caring husband who could've stayed at my side through my illness. The marriage might have been saved if my case had been handled responsibly. Things simply did not have to turn out this way.

Untreated depression often deepens. Mine is now resistant to conventional antidepressant therapy. Recently I was told I was bipolar II (cycling depression that never reaches the manic phase and is difficult to treat), yet at The Agency I was treated as though I was a "hard core alcoholic" who needed to "be broken." At times I felt as if I was in the Dark Ages where they cajoled, taunted, poked, and prodded the mentally ill, then put them in small rooms where they lay in their own excrement. Who would've thought that in the 20th century this type of abusive treatment would exist?

The Alcoholism Agency continues to discount real health issues and uses them as a manipulative tool to convince clients they're alcoholic. They take advantage of clients' vulnerability by using their position of authority. In regard to numerous chronic conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, and anything in between, the counselors tell clients that if they deal with their alcoholism then all their other health problems will cease to exist! This is what my husband bought into and continues to buy into.

I'm sure many clients initially were self-medicating to alleviate the pain of other chronic ailments. I know many who have drunk very little, if at all, who the counselors at The Alcoholism Agency have prodded -- in the name of "healthy" confrontation -- into believing they were alcoholic. These supposedly professional counselors discount the care that the medical profession has provided their clients, resulting in many of them going off their meds, thus endangering their lives even further.

There has to be some kind of protection or justice for persons who have been victimized in this manner by over-zealous, self-righteous, unscrupulous, self-serving, uneducated, tunnel-visioned counselors and their counseling. Maybe their hearts were in the right place in the beginning, but it appears that they've lost sight of their ethics, ideals, morals, scruples, and objectivity.