AA is NOT ever going to be able to address the TRUTH of just how bad what happened to her, and how ALL her adult caretakers failed her.
Your point about your friend’s past family experience and AA is a good one nuf. I am not here to defend AA or make it the topic of this forum, but I do have a number of years having seen the way the meetings work first hand. If someone ends up attending AA, usually it is because they have a physical addiction to alcohol. AA was never meant to be the end-all and be-all self-help group. Its sole purpose was to help alcoholics start down the road to recovery, which means to stop drinking.
The youth who came into the group home where I lived and worked, often came from family backgrounds where they were physically, sexually, and emotionally abused. Some horribly so and from very young ages. Often, they would turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain and medicate their feelings. Eventually, the addiction would become the primary problem and the past abusive experiences became the excuses for drinking. To deal with the drug and alcohol addiction part of the problem, one of the first things they needed to learn was past experiences are not the reason they drink; they drink because they are physically addicted to alcohol; the past family experiences are just an excuse to keep drinking. If they did not have one excuse, they would just find another. AA was never meant to replace other forms of therapy for psychological problems; its only role was to address the alcohol addiction. So, you are correct, AA is not going to be able to address the past family abuse issues, because it was never meant to do so. Sponsors are not trained psychologists and therapists and were never meant to be. They are only a friend to call up when one is about to take that first drink; someone to help in the road to recovery. And meetings are a place where one can begin to learn about the disease and take those first steps to recovery—learning to live without alcohol and self-medication.
No group is immune from anecdotal cases of "overly intrusive aspects." Not every sponsor is wise and unselfish. Sponsors can err too. But anecdotal cases do not define AA, its core teachings and mission statement do.
One of the requirements of being in the group home if the individual was dealing with an alcohol or narcotics addiction was that they enter a treatment and recovery program. AA was one of many options that were available. I witnessed it working in some cases, but not all. What I did witness though, was that for those lonely and isolated individuals that had absolutely no healthy family or social support group, it gave them a place to form new friendships with individuals who shared a similar problem and commitment to overcoming that problem--addiction to alcohol. And this sometimes helped them do that which is most difficult--cut off old so-called friendships with their drinking buddies and form new friendships built around activities other than drinking. And for many it was a matter of life or death.
I remember a young girl who was about 14 when she entered the group home. For discussion sake I will call her Jessie. Jessie had been drinking since about the age of 8 or 9. She was sexually abused by her father and then abandoned by her mother, both of whom were heroin addicts. She was in such an advanced stage of alcoholism that when she didn't drink, delirium tremens (DT's) would set in. She was one of the most challenging and difficult kids that ever entered the program. I don't think when she came to us she had one healthy human relationship that was not based upon either an exchange of sex for protection or drugs or alcohol with some male, or a relationship based upon drinking/drugging buddies.
The first year with Jessie was literally one battle after another. She was self-liberty run riot, and rules and policies had but one purpose--to be broken. Her favorite greeting, "f... you," was always on my ears ;-) My pat response was "I love you too." I remember one day I searched her room to confiscate her contraband, and found some very big doobies (ok, that gives my age away, I don't know what they call them nowdays). I flushed them down the toilet. The next week, while all of the kids were sitting at the dinner table, I hear from one of the other kids that the plumbing must not have been too good, because it came back up and Jessie retrieved it, dried it out, and smoked it. Without so much as looking up, my comment was, "That must have been some good shit." Jessie practically choked, and laughed so hard she spit her food at the kid sitting on the other side of the table. We had a hell of a laugh that night. In the end, it was persistence, humor, and consistent "tough love" that brought Jessie around.
She did not trust anyone. Yet, what she needed most was to know someone loved her and cared. The final straw came one night, after a year of ongoing work with her, when she was suffering from DTs. You see, she would try to stop drinking, but it was not easy when your body would go into withdrawals. She went to the local 7-11 and stole some beer, which she then hid in her room. Of course, I knew something was up, and when I confronted her in her room, I looked her in the face, and told her in no uncertain words I was not going to allow her to stay in the home if she was intent on drinking herself to death in front of the other kids and myself, and that I wanted her to go get the beer and give it to me. She did, and informed me that she had stolen it from 7-11. That night, together, we worked out a plan for her to make her wrong right. She would return the beer and apologize to the store owner, and if he agreed, she would do a car wash to reimburse him for all the six packs she had stolen and on the store owners insistence, the money would go to charity. I worked the car wash with her and we both had a fun time doing it. She learned that people can make mistakes and if they honestly fess up, can make amends.
Jessie, as part of her program, went to AA. She met an older lady who had been many years sober, and sought her out to become her sponsor. The women turned out to be a wise soul, and was a good sponsor, and became a good friend and in some way a surrogate mother to Jessie. In time, one could actually see the physical change that Jessie was going through. She was healthier in every way. She discovered she was capable of many things when her mind was clear, like getting good grades in school. Jessie went on to graduate from both school and the group home when she turned 18. I wasn't always able to keep in touch, but on more than one occasion, years later, after I had left the social work field and moved on to another career, a few of the kids made great effort to find me. Jessie was one of them. Years later I received a letter that reached me after perhaps a half dozen failed attempts, but finally, found its mark. In this letter she shared with me that she herself was now a mother, and for the first time, knew what it was like to love as a parent. She told me that she realized that this was the love that I had loved her with--like a parent. She said that in part, she learned how to love like a parent because of the way I loved her, and that she just wanted to tell me this. She said she realized love was not always nice, but sometimes included wise discipline, and recounted a few of our more memorable experiences. She found it humorous that she was now in the same role with her own growing children. She told me that her sponsor was still her life-long good friend, and was now like a grandmother to her children.
Not all the stories of the kids who passed through the group home turned out like Jessie. Some kept drinking; some would not learn to discipline themselves, and eventually had to leave the group home, especially if they were leading others astray and otherwise undermining the wellbeing of the group. But quite a few benefited from their experience, whether it be long or short, with AA and its program. But they also had other programs; friends, family, each other, to help them overcome their problems. AA was not the end-all be-all, but it was one part of the solution for some.
Only two points I really want to make: First, not everyone's experience in AA is going to be positive; nor is everyone's experience going to be negative, but over fives years of witnessing people in recovery, on balance, I have to say it works. And second, real
parental love is not always "nice." It may always be fair, but sometimes, it may not feel "nice" when the parent confronts sometimes self-destructive behavior of the child. Real parents, who really love their children, don't stand by and say nothing when their children start taking drugs; that is what strangers do. Instead, they confront them, and tell them their behavior is very stupid and self-destructive. And if needs be, they discpline them, even severaly if that is what is called for.
BTW, in my book I would give your comments above an "a+" and you, an "AA++" nuf.
Edited by Fellow Reader, 11 January 2009 - 01:02 AM.