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.

41. Sven
Swedish AA

I started using alcohol at about 18 years of age, and I found it was a great door-opener for relationships and fun living. I drank on the weekends, and there were no problems with it.

I began university classes in 1990, and in that social context I started to drink on weeknights.But I completed my studies and moved back to the town where I now live. Times had changed and it was hard to get a job. I felt bad and bored, and drank more than before, but not daily.

In 1995, I searched for help with depression, and spoke out about my drinking. I then stayed sober on my own for some months and felt all right about that. But in the summertime, I started to drink again. My only really bad period was in 1996-1997, and it ended one day when I came drunk to my job.

I realized then, on my own, that I had to do something about the situation, and searched for more help. I had heard about AA and started to go to meetings on a regular basis. The first meeting was okay, but I couldn't identify with all the people or their stories. I had drunk a lot, and had been in some trouble, but not to the same degree as most of the other people I met. They told me that I had the same disease as them, but that mine hadn't progressed as far, yet.

At the time, I was confused and felt that I had lost some control over my alcohol situation. Therefore, I easily accepted their analysis and went to meeting after meeting. Sometimes I felt good, but there were times when I felt something rotten in the air. One thing I will say is that while I liked some AA people, others were very strange and intolerant.

I had some "relapses," but always came back and told the others. They told me to keep coming to meetings and working the steps. The strange thing was that the times I drank as a member of AA, my drinking was more destructive and out of control than it had ever been before. I had been told I was helpless, and my "relapses" seemed to confirm it.

After some months, I got into non-12-step treatment. But by that time I was already brainwashed by AA, and rejected those parts of treatment which did not fit with the AA program.

After that, I became more involved in AA. I went to meetings every day and started to work in AA service. I was not treated extremely badly in the group, but the old-timers said that I was a dry drunk and that I must let go and come down in the program.

In the summer of 1998, I took the old-timers' advice and started to read all the AA literature and really analyze it. Ironically, this was the beginning of my end in AA. The more I studied the books and the program, the more I realized that there were many contradictions as well as lousy "scientific" conclusions in the texts.

I started questions, and sometimes I shared that I disliked the program. I'll never forget one woman who works at a 12-step treatment center. She told me to get rid of my ego and let God do the work. I had never liked her, but I accepted her advice. I was too afraid not to.

I left AA in September 1998. I had begun to feel that something in AA was very wrong, but I was scared and confused and continued to try to get answers inside the program. But the only answers I got were: It's your disease, and Your ego is playing tricks on you.

One day I searched for AA sites on the net and found a Swedish anti-AA site. I read it and was very upset, but I saw that the information on the site was right, and AA was not. But AA was still deep in my mind, and I thought, maybe I'm in denial.

Then I read Ken Ragge's The Real AA That book made my brain work again. I have studied social science and am trained in critical thinking, and have always had a rebellious attitude. AA had nearly killed that. I never returned to AA after reading Ken's book.

My way out of AA included re-reading existential literature, and making contact with alcohol researchers to get a scientific view on addition and recovery. Of much importance has been contact with people who have thought the same way and managed to get out of AA, and live their own lives using their own minds. This process has made me more secure, and has helped me to take power over my own life. Now, I don't feel addicted to drinking -- or to AA. I'm free!

People need both freedom and security. When you are totally free, the world is full of possibilities, but in many ways it is an insecure and dangerous place. Some people find it too hard to see themselves as free and responsible for their own lives, and search for a doctrine to rely on. AA's doctrine is to give up freedom and submit to another's will -- your sponsor's, a Higher Power's, or the group's -- in order to get the world under control and to feel that someone else will take care of everything.

When you are lonely and confused, it's easy to shut your eyes to facts that don't fit in with AA doctrines. Some of the AA slogans, program, and culture scare members into becoming uncritical conformists. They use the old religious trick of telling people that turning their minds over and submitting will make them free.

I'm glad that I can write down these thoughts today. There are many still out there fighting for the right to live their lives as self-governing individuals with power over their own minds.