I had a very bad experience with someone from AA today, which leads me to ask the question: How do people really stay sober in AA?

I posted my blog on one of my support groups in order to help someone with something completely unrelated to AA. She read one of my posts and said it was very helpful. I was thrilled!

This morning I saw that someone had put up another post on this comment thread. It was someone from AA. She let me know that she had read my blog and talked about how there are many different meetings that you can try in AA and some other things and talked about how she hadn’t had my experiences. She stood up for AA, and then quoted me the serenity prayer! Now if you read my blogs like she did you will read that AA related material is highly triggering to me and has actually resulted in suicidal thoughts before. So I was pretty shocked that someone had read my blog and then slew a bunch of AA phrases at me.

I fired back and told her exactly what I thought. I said something along the lines of “What does choosing a meeting have to do with sexual assault?” amongst other things. I told her that she is scapegoating, victim blaming, and being abusive. I also said that this it is really typical for people to use AA rhetoric against someone speaking out about AA, and reached out for an admin. I haven’t heard back. The thing is that if she had posted this on my blog itself I wouldn’t be as angry because she would obviously just be making herself look bad. But instead, she came back and took the whole thing out of context in order to defend AA. I’m pretty pissed.

I wanted to keep going off on her but stopped myself. I reminded myself of the indoctrination in AA and realized that her posts show that she definitely is one who is so. I realized that she’s in a cult and that instead of continuing to throw anger at her, I should back up and try to have some compassion.

I described the situation to my boyfriend David and he told me that no matter what I say, she’ll like probably reply with more AA rhetoric. He reminded me that she is unlikely to apologize or even consider my point of view. To her AA is her safe place. He also reminded me that she could be a sexual assault survivor or abuse survivor as well, as so many women in AA are, and could have been triggered herself by my blogs. Her response to this could be to use AA phrases and rhetoric and to get defensive and/or try to “help me” in the way that she believed to be correct. I know that many abuse survivors have a tendency to try to help others to the point of where it hurts the other person. Hopefully, this woman can work through whatever she needs to work through if this is the case.

So I feel kind of sorry for her now. Whatever her motives, she is obviously a damaged woman. I am glad that I myself am no longer in denial and trying to “help” everyone in the ways that I used to. I recognize that I myself would do similar things such as suggest the steps to a rape survivor because I thought that the steps had helped me with my own sexual assaults and abuse experiences. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the steps didn’t actually help me and in fact hurt me. But I really was convinced that the AA program was a cure-all, even if I didn’t fully realize this at the same.

Trauma is a really hard thing to process, and we use all kinds of coping mechanisms to keep ourselves in denial about it. AA is one thing that I unconsciously used to keep myself in denial about my childhood and adult trauma. It has taken me a while to realize this. I suspect that this is true for a lot of people. I believe this is because it’s common that trauma may be an underlying reason that a person drinks, plus if a person discovers, even on an unconscious level, that AA keeps them from working on the trauma that is too hard for them to deal with, it easily becomes a habitual behavior to attend AA. B. And if a person is using AA to stay in denial about trauma, it really does become the safety net that they may need in order to survive. At least that’s how it was for me. This raises the question though, of what aspects of AA really keep a person sober. Is it really spiritual principles, as is claimed, or is it psychological principles such as groupthink, denial of trauma and life situations, social persuasion, confirmation bias, ignoring emotions, or simply social support? I tend to believe that the reason why people stay sober in AA (the 5 % that do anyways) is more likely rooted in the principles of psychology rather than spirituality– and not really in the best way.

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