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.

3. Mr. Texas
Bait and Switch

Sometime last spring, I was finally able to convince myself that I was an alcoholic and had to do something about it. I had no idea what treatment centers were like. Also, I had never had any dealings with AA.

I checked myself into a local treatment center, with my insurance paying for the excursion. The center was self-contained, with doctors and nurses on board. A package deal. However, as I was soon to find out, it also double as a mental health facility. There was no room in the alcoholic unit, so they put me in the mental care unit. I stayed there for two days. Finally, I was moved in with the drunks and druggies.

The center was a very loose operation. You could go to meetings, or not. You had free access to the whole campus. You could leave if you so wished, but I had no intention of leaving. Not until after I attended about six AA meetings.

I soon found out that the folks who run these places preach a bunch of garbage with little, if any, facts to back it up. For instance, I heard if you surrender your heart and soul to God, He, I guess, would cure you of this awful sickness. I also soon found out that the folks in the audience were not prime examples of this surrender they talked about. I had never heard so much cursing, vulgar language, threats and damnation from one single group of people. One of the classes I went to was devoted to sex, with rubber toys to enhance the presentations.

The doctor I was assigned to looked, talked, and acted like he needed to look in the mirror. The director or treatment was an old, very hateful and sarcastic Ph.D. Many, many times he left people in tears. I would not put up with it. I pulled him aside one night and told him I was going to put the biggest Texas ass whupping on him he had ever seen. Boy, do they believe in drugs! Fill you up on a moment's notice.

My counselor had never had a drink in her life. And she was trying to stuff all this Big Book, 12-step holiness down my throat. I stayed maybe six days. When I walked out the door, I stopped at the nearest bar and had a few drinks. Five grand down the tubes and still a drunk. Thanks, AA.

The next place I checked myself into was a pre-packaged deal also. I went through the yellow pages calling drug treatment places at random. If you have good insurance or a huge credit limit on your VISA, and pay in advance of course, then you are in the door. This was a total lockdown facility, which I did not realize until the door was closed. It was an AA preaching facility, which I knew up front. I figured I'd gotten a bunch of loonies at the other place, and that this one would be OK. Wow, was I wrong! They searched every bit of my luggage, including personal belongings. They strip-searched me. Several items were confiscated, including my cell phone. They also searched my wife's purse. The AA people at this place were three times as loony as those at the other place. God this, Jesus that, Holy Spirit this and that, higher beings all over the place. We were totally locked down to one wing. They even took shoe laces out of people's shoes. If we had to go outside the ward, for food for instance, we were escorted by guards.. But there were very few meetings, for which I was thankful. The most fun we had was playing volleyball in the gym, under the watchful eyes of two guards. I lasted two days at this place. I had to leave, or I was going to get into trouble. And believe me when I say that I did not want, and still do not want, to be in a Texas prison. Four grand gone this time. Thanks, AA.

My third and most recent try was a resort-type lodge setting in the Texas hill country. Damn, was that salesman good! My dumb butt did it all over again. Except this time it was 300 miles from home. The salesman said this place was the Betty Ford of Texas, only better. He said it was in a beautiful setting and that nothing would be forced down my throat. This guy should sell used cars. At check-in, everything I brought was searched, and I was strip-searched. I soon found out this place was 100% pure AA. They had meetings eleven hours a day. You had a set schedule and had to carry a punch card. We were preached hell and damnation (jails, institutions and death) twelve to fourteen hours a day. When I resisted, I was brought in for counseling. They did bed and spot checks, and would call the guards if you were not in your bed -- note, I said bed not room -- at curfew. You were required to be in bed with the lights out.

As this center was coed, there were, of course, flings and romances. And boy did the staff not like that! You could get kicked out for it, no less. Most thought this was dumb. Hell, if you are a consenting adult paying fifteen grand a month, it ought to be your choice to have a romance.

The meetings were so religious in nature that I walked out on many of them. We were required to stand in a circle, hold hands, and say the Lord's Prayer. I stopped doing that also. The intern counselors would try to trick us by saying the meetings were spiritual, not religious. This did not work on me. I am an engineer, and you have to have your act together or I will put the cards on the table and call you a dumb ass. The staff did not like this at all.

Thanksgiving night, the AA chapter in a nearby small town was there to present a meeting. At this meeting there was a raging war going on between the visiting AA loonies and the local AA loonies. I sat back and laughed so hard it hurt. They almost came to blows. It was the best time I had there.

Later that evening there was another meeting at a place called the "Bell." People go there and leave mementos  -- mainly, religious memoirs. It is, indeed, a gorgeous place. They immediately announced, no pairing off. I assume the jailers would put us on lockdown for talking to a member of the opposite sex. Then the praying and story-telling started. And these upright Christians almost got into another fight. I left and was accosted by a guard, who, when I told him about my Texas ass whuppings, backed off. I left the center the next day and just dared anyone, and I meant anyone, to stand in my way. Fifteen grand gone. Thanks, AA.

Now I am at a stage where I really couldn't care less. Had AA and their cronies tried to fix me rather than preach at me, perhaps one of these treatments would have worked. Maybe, maybe not. But I place the blame squarely on the arrogant program of AA.

Of course, I take full responsibility for my drinking. No one held me down and made me drink. That's my own decision, and my own failure. But I believe in playing the ball where it lays. I do not care about all this religious crap. I am not paying you a grand a day to convert me. Would my outcome have been different without all the crap? I don't know, because I didn't have the chance to find out.

Here is a letter I wrote to one of the treatment centers:

Mr. Thaddeus Rattnut
Hope Mountain Center
Sassafrass, Texas

Dear Mr. Rattnut:

This is in reference to my abbreviated stay in November 1998.

As I do for my employees, I will give you and your center a performance evaluation. Do with it as you wish. It is not meant to be either critical or helpful. It is just fact. Use this as toilet paper, line your cabinets, or maybe even take it as constructive. Whichever, rest assured I could not care less.

In descending order, here are the reasons I left your center:

1) The endless pounding of religion. God, Jesus, and a higher power. Every other word that came out of faculty's mouths tried to slam this into me. An immediate turn-off. I was there to receive help with my drinking problem, not go to a series of church revivals.

2)Prison-like conditions. For $15,000 a month, I could stay at the San Francisco Airport Hilton and live like a king. They would even bring in a preacher if I so desired. Hell, they would bring in AA if I wanted. Your accommodations from the outside look fantastic. From the inside they are a shambles. Bare bones living. The telephone is not really a telephone, bed checks, search and seizure of personal belongings, screening of mail, screening of telephone messages, restricted telephone use, and Gestapo-like raids. Also, brainwashed (or brain-dead) counselors. If there is a God, these guys and gals think they are him, and they are giving him a bad name.

I have not been treated like your place treated me since the military. However, an extended trip to Nam put me in my place. I came out alive, and there ain't anyone going to act like god to me again. I mean, ever!.

4) I was amused by your policy of non-fixation with the other sex. This, in my opinion, is stupid. If both are consenting adults paying $15,000 a month to park their butts at your place, exactly who cares? Although I did not participate, I assure you your prison did not prevent this from happening. Happened all the time. We are animals, Rattnut -- live with it.

5)Restricted to post: Since when do I have to ask, or even report to someone, to leave the premises? Remember, I was paying you. Not the other way around. My wife of 41 years came to visit the Friday after Thanksgiving, and a group of three counselors told me that I could leave for only an hour or so. I told them: Guys, let me rephrase. I am leaving for the weekend. Any questions? You see, Mr. Rattnut, I paid you. When you pay me, I will do as you say.

6)We -- my wife and myself -- were not aware of the Gestapo prison-like conditions. If we had been aware of them, I would not have come.

I think the Big Book is a crock of crap written around the turn of the century. I also think AA is a crock of crap. A bunch of people telling other folks their sob stories, and no one could care less. Perhaps, just perhaps, someone will come up with a rational treatment plan that does not hit you up side the head with Southern Baptist God, Jesus, Holy Ghost, and higher beings. As one of the inmates, believe me when I tell you most of the others did not believe any of this junk.

Your nursing staff was the best part of a lousy wasted two weeks.

Mr. Texas

Later down the road I went to a shrink MD thinking he might be able to help me with this booze problem. After all, this is his speciality. He told me, and I quote: You must get religion and let God take care of your life. Then go to AA and let them guide you. Honest injun, that's what this moron said. I am an atheist. That is like asking a Baptist to become Catholic. Just ain't gonna happen.

In my opinion, AA is one sorry organization, nothing more than a bunch of religious bigots.