Monday, November 14, 2005

ptsd, AA, and different types of addicts

OK, so today I want to talk about something I figured out from years of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. First, let me say that I am speaking as a member, though not an active one, and I can do this because my blog is anonymous. I make no claims, as will become obvious, to be speaking for all of aa. In fact many would probably disagree with what I have to say.

I think there are two (who knows, maybe more, but two will do for now) types of alcoholic or addict. The first kind is the kind the program is designed for. Sort of a "type A" aggressive, in your face, screw-up-everyone's-life-around-you alcoholic. Then there is te second, the "type B" alcoholic that basically self-medicated and tried to disappear into oblivion in order to avoid dealing with pain, often in the form of traumatic memories leading to ptsd. This isn't to say that "A"s don't experience pain, trauma, or ptsd. It is more about how they respond to it.

The twelve steps are designed to break down this "type A" kind of alcoholic's denial about the effects of her alcoholism on those around her. This is often a rude awakening, as the alcoholic comes to terms with all the damage he has done, and he will often fight it tooth and nail, hence the necessity of breaking down the defenses.

The "type B" alcoholic gets treated with this same barrage, but has a different system. Often this type of alcoholic, of which I was one, is more than willing to take on all the baggage of being some kind of perpetrator even though he -- I in this case -- mostly did damage to himself. On a personal level, I thought I was rotten to the core, because I had internalized my abusers' messages to me. As a result, I basically isolated myself from other human beings. I had this backwards idea of boundaries that rather than being there to keep other people out of my space, their purpose was to keep me in, to prevent me from doing more harm by nature of my very existence.

Of course, the "type B" -- and here I'll just switch to the first person to keep it real -- soaks this stuff up. List our personal defects? You bet. How we had harmed others? Oh sure, I was worried about how I might have upset my perpetrators and thought I had to make amends to them for what I had done wrong!

And then there is the AA approach to anger...just accept things, forgive and forget, turn it over, do anything but get angry: This is "a dubious luxury we cannot afford." Of course to a rage-a-holic, this is pretty good advice. But to someone who has been beaten and battered it is harmful. Unacceptable things happened! Accepting them is wrong. Maybe accepting that they happened is productive, but accepting that it is ok is just messed up. Forgiveness for atrocious behaviour needs to be optional. I'll do it, or not, in my own time, and I don't need to forgive assholes in order to heal. That is just a bunch of crypto-christian BS. But for a decade, I was turning it over, praying for my perpetrators, and dying inside because I didn't get any better. That is because they were wrong, fucked up, and I don't wish them well. I wish them a hell on earth of their own making, I wish that they get back what they gave me. And since I have come to terms with that, I have been able to get better.

But the the program seems to encourage the opposite. Particularly since most of the big book thumpers and the people who tend to take things over and have the strongest opinions are "type A"s who are more than willing to say that everyone should be doing things and being exactly like they are. They cram their version of spirituality down people's throats, even if it means using their god as a justification for doing sick and twisted things. Anyway, that was my experience. None of this was done in a hostile way, it was always, even at its most aggressive, done with a patina of holiness and a sort of new agey type zen affect.

I am so well trained in AA that I feel a little guilty even saying this stuff, and I do think that the twelve steps can be a useful approach, but not unless there is some recognition that there are more than one type of addict and that one size recovery does not fit all. Rehabs an dplaces that deal with ptsd are starting to realize this (pdf).

And finally a quote for said big book thumpers:
Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.
Maybe some of them, if they opened it and read it instead of just thumping it, would be a little more open to the full gamut of people who suffer and are in recovery from addictions, not just the ones who match their profile, which they then claim to be universal.

So anyway, a bit of a rant today. If you read it, plz let me know by leaving a comment, whether you agree or disagree!

38 comments:

mary said...

How ironic. Went to an alon-meeting, supposed to do the 12 Steps, same as the Alcoholic. Took a fearless inventory of those I harmed. (Harmed? After years of recovery and staying strong, I simply forgot.) I can't even type this without getting physically ill, sick to my stomach. I hate AA! Used to joke about it, an alcohlic named Bill W ruined my life. My getting wrapped up in his recovery program, ruined my life. Years earlier I went to an Al-anon meeting, didn't like it, blamed the victim. Somehow forgot all that. Different man, same abuse, hence Al-anon meeting. Come to senses, mail stuff to guys mother, her problem not mine. But the mental damage was done. The earlier damage done due to my relationship with the alcoholic. AARGH! Make restitution.

I'm a type B alcoholic. It's the only thing that will shut off the brain, so I can sleep at night. Wonder why the kids don't say anything about drinking their liquor closet dry.

Tiffany said...

Exactly what I have been trying to tell my chronic relapser of a boyfriend. Not all alcoholics are the same. He chose alcohol to sedate his mind from the pain. Finally someone with a brain to realize that AA is not the, "be all end all."

Anonymous said...

thank you for your courage
i love AA and yet I also love the USA and both have many flaws and NEED to be pointed out

Anonymous said...

I have PTSD and DID, and I've struggled with various addictions. I fully agree that not all addicts are the same. Under your classification system, I'd definitely say I'm on the type B side. I've used my addictions to avoid pain, and have almost exclusively harmed myself as I've historically mostly shut myself off from the outside world. I do appreciate your analysis; I have had similar disillusionment with the Anon programs as they don't cater to people who have traumatic backgrounds. It's good to know that I am not alone in this understanding.

Anonymous said...

I believe that AA can help anyone to sobriety and a life worth living. AA members, sober though they may be, are human beings, warts and all. There ARE AA members experienced with PTSD. Value your own recovery enough to seek them out. Of course we don't all have the same background and life experiences. Some trauma is harder to deal with. PTSD is at the top of that list. But sobriety and life are worth the effort. If it were easy, EVERYONE would be sober and sane. Find the people in AA who relate to who you are and where you've been. They are there.

Anonymous said...

".....I've used my addictions to avoid pain, and have almost exclusively harmed myself..."
As the wife of a man with PTSD I respectfully disagree with the quote from another post here. I imagine if you ask family and friends of anyone with PTSD they will tell you they feel the loss. Family wonders what they should do that they aren't. Loved ones feel they have failed. There is no blame here; everyone is doing the best they can. But to say that the person with PTSD is .."almost exclusively harming themselves..." is denial at its greatest. It takes courage to ask for help.

GettingBetter said...

Oops, my reply to the three most recent posters turned in its own post.

catherine todd said...

Wonderfully put, my experience with AA and AA & NA'ers.

Ironically this has kept me 'clean and sober" for years, for the fear and horror of having to go back to meetings if I ever slipped up again!

Some of the people there were the biggest rip-offs, scam artists, liars and thieves... worse than any I ever met anywhere in my life. The Devil never sleeps.

Thank you for this wonderful website. FINALLY someone is telling "my side of the story' when I myself couldn't put it into words.

I particularly appreciated the notice of the 12 step "group bullies running the show,' and resented the "forced forgiveness" and 'identification as an addict with an illness" when I had not done anything wrong!

But I did not know where else to go. This website is a great place to start. I can't believe you decided to share your story and are helping so many more.

Thank you - thank you - thank you -

With Gratefulness and Godliness, help us all to find our way home!

GettingBetter said...

Catherine,

Glad you recognized some of what I talk about in your own experience. If you look through the comments, not everyone does, some still want to get me back to the rooms...

I think the scam artists and ripoffs is just the demographic...take a bunch of addicts, remove the drugs, and you are left with a much sharper, more dangerous addict! I don't want to get bashing 12 steps though...if someone came to me and asked how to get sober, I still might take them to a meeting...and drop them off! I wish more alternative approaches like this one would grow more popular.

Anonymous said...

I'm very grateful to you for posting this. I'm a type B alcoholic and have diagnoses of chronic depression, chronic anxiety and PTSD as well; my excessive alcohol use started as an attempt to moderate the PTSD etc. symptoms - and I'm an active, but fairly frequently relapsing, AA member. I'm also in a situation in which I get unpredictable but often acute additional stresses linked to the original trauma for the time being, and while I ride many of these, relapse is a distinct possibility following a sufficient pileup of additional stressors.
However, I "got" AA sufficiently rather over 13 months ago to have managed one 6 month and 3 one month periods of sobriety, to have been sober on 330 out of the last 365 days and never to have exceeded the recommended weekly maximum in any one week in that time - and I DO ascribe that to AA, despite agreeing with everything you say about it being type A focussed and positively damaging to a type B (at least potentially).
I don't fit the profile of "alcohol problem from early age" (the precipitating trauma was at age 44 and for the previous 23 years I qualified as a "light social drinker"), I've no history of repeated binges and, as you can gather from the above, I haven't have one drink as a relapse and gone right back to "worse than previous". But I've had a couple of blackouts (one assisted by an overdose of over-the-counter drugs), three years of attempts to stop (potentially frustrated by the fact that I was doing it for others and actually wanted to be dead) and one awful period of about 14 days when I desperately wanted to stop and couldn't (which ended with the overdose, followed by the six months).
I'd thought until doing some googling on a friend's suggestion that I'd been relieved of the PTSD, because the nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive imagery haven't been much evident for those 13 months. However, I've also looked at a PTSD site this evening and seem to qualify on every other indicator for PTSD, irrespective of alcohol (my worst month was the last of the six).
Oh - I should mention that I'm also afflicted by the Christian ethic, and have been for a long time. That held even through my worst period, aside from one occasion, with the result that my amends list consists otherwise entirely of unintentional damage and apologising to those who've done me wrong. And yes, I appreciate that it's a major obstacle to recovery...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your take on type A and Type B catagories of alcoholics.

I am definitely a type B and have had a growing dissatisfaction with meetings and prgram that I have been battling it out for the last year with "do I stay, or do I go.

AA, I believe worked for me in my 1st year of recovery. I was buying into everything hook, line and sinker. I did service back to back for 18 months and averaged 5 meetings a week.

I started cutting back on meetings and was feeling more sane. I started to realize that the answers and truth I was now ready to deal with was outside the rooms. I started behavioral cognative therapy and am dealing with what ailed me. Alot of pain and disappointment ~that's why I drank.

I have begun dealing with that pain. I have begun to see that the old adage is true in that there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.

I'm feeling great and emotionally, so much healthier, but...fellow AA'ers in my group are not liking it. They have called to see if I'm okay because they weren't seeing me at meetings. (I'm presently doing one a week) Some of these people that I had put in the "normal" category of the group, turned out to be BB thumpers when push comes to shove.

What I think happens to fellow members when someone reduces their meetings schedule,is it somehow serves to threaten their sobriety.

Thanks again for your post. I don't believe all addicts are the same and so a one size fits all program does not work.

What I think pushed me closer to the door was when I realized that there was NO ONE I could talk to in my group about how I was feeling. I tried with a number of friends in the program and in shock, thought "oh no, they have you too!" everytime I got that look of disappointment in me followed by slogan slingling.

catherine todd said...

Hello, GettingBetter!

I see that you responded to my comment, but I must not have clicked the "email follow up comments" button so I never knew! Just by chance I came back to your blog today, reread much of it and was restored once again. Thank you so much! This time I'm following your blog on google reader, so I will get updates.

Hope you change the comments to include the DATE people post their comments so we can look back and see our actual progress. I can see just how far I've actually come, rereading all this. I would never have guessed this was possible. All it took was being AWAY from the bullies and the bores and the leeches and the people that kept blaming me, and dragging me down.

It's been almost three years since I made a rule to "just say no" to anyone who asked me for anything, a vow I've taken one year at a time (which for a good ole codependent like me is poison as a drink to an alcoholic or a drug to an addict), and guess what? The bums now leave me alone and for the first time in my life I have actual friends who do things for me! We actually share our lives, not one sucking the other one dry. I never knew these kinds of relationships could actually exist. And all it took was me to say "NO" to the users and the abusers, and they all disappeared. Off to happier hunting grounds, I suppose. But they are gone away from me.

Now all I have to do is learn how to take care of myself. Even at this late stage and this late age, I can and I will!

God Bless you and all the world, yours in sickness and in health, Catherine Todd

GettingBetter said...

Hi Catherine, thanks for posting...maybe there is some way to format the dates but I have not figured it out. But glad to hear things have gone better for you too! It seemed so hopeless and permanent for me during the worst of it.

GettingBetter said...

Thanks to Catherine for the instructions...comments are now dated!

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for this. I've been arguing with my sponsor on the whole amends thing and that's how I've come to the conclusion that there is a tweak missing in the AA stuff for what you call type B alkies. The way i had started trying to define it was that some of the stuff I heard/read in CoDA-codependents anonymous jibed better with what I was feeling about having to make amends to a type A alcoholic with whom I was involved in a trauma bond. I've ordered Carne's book, which I have read online. There have been other parts of the Big Book with which I do not identify, but since it is frowned upon to compare, I just tried to spin it some way. But I had also been feeling this distinction between a more selfish AA and a more codependent-just to use some word. For example, the service thing was hard for me bc it's supposed to be a way to teach us non-selfish ism, but, and i honestly don't think all my help to friends is of a sick type, but i am THE DEPENDABLE one, the bud who comes over to help you move, who'll lend you her car, etc... I guess I don't feel that all of that i do as self-serving, and it's not all out of a desire to control, as they say about codeps, nor do i try to make someone else do my laundry or pay my bills, so, yes, thank you soooo much for also noticing these differences, which are not even that subtle, come to think it. I don't have access to all of my childhood trauma memories, but I have been getting into betrayal bond situations now, at 43, that I did not get into as a younger woman, so i think it's some of this trauma rearing it's ugly head now, in midlife. I've read how others have had shit explode way later in life that they thought they were past.

catherine todd said...

How incredible to read your comment about "trauma bonds." I had never heard of this until I came across a book a few days ago on my bookshelf, somehow ordered but never read, called "The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships"
by Patrick J. Carnes.

Wow. "Fly on the wall" on every single page. Me on every single page. I couldn't believe it. Explained so much. Now I'm reading it all the time, even when it gets depressing... and I am learning how to pray, how to really pray and "put it in God's Hands" since I've tried everything else. I ask God to "show me the way" and all else will be well. I am so happy now that I go to a Latino church with friends of mine (who don't speak English) and I don't know all the words in Spanish but I "sing" along (humming if nothing else) and I get down on my knees and cry and ask God to forgive those that I can't forgive myself, and I remind myself that in God all things will be well because in God all things ARE WELL. Eternity lasts a long time and our human troubles really are small in the eye of the Divine.

In the meantime, when my small life gets overwhelming, I try to seek solace in things such as this blog that brings me such great messages of sharing and caring, right when I needed it most! Today I really could use a message and lo and behold, here comes one. And two. And more.

Listen to the songs I recorded on last.fm (first time I've ever done this, hope the link comes through): http://www.last.fm/music/Catherine+Todd

In the meantime, to the one who mentioned things hitting home (exploding, I think they said), it surely happened to me when I hit 40. It's taken almost 20 years to overcome it, and it's been my own Mount Everest - down and back, down and back again - but I have survived and I'm still here to tell the tale. By God's Grace we all are.

Love to you all... thanks so much for writing. Really makes my day and makes me realize how far I - and we all - have come. Your friend Catherine

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'v just read a few posts and totally identified with them all. I've just stumbled onto this website looking for support for a trauma bond I'm struggling with.

I've been around AA for a good while with a 6 year gap after getting betrayed by a bunch of people in there and bullied and so I went back out. Its taken me a long while to get back, but I'm still hanging on by a thread.

AA frightens me. The cross sharers really do my head in.

I recently came to terms with child abuse issues during step work with new sponsor and was sharing that I realised I'd been carrying around shame and thinking it was my fault what happened. I was sharing this new insight and step to freedom in a very positive way, when a woman leaned right across the table, said my name and said I had to forgive my parents.

It was bad, and I reacted badly and shaved off my hair.

I've now made a decision that I will never share anything deep in AA again cos its too dangerous. It is not a safe place. Its not group therapy, even though people act like it is at times and the boundaries are shit.

To me I no longer want to be around poorly meetings where there are no safe boundaries, just dry drunks 'acting out' there illness really. Not good.

I've chosen 2 meetings that I still go to. One is an excellent step meeting. No one talks about washing machines at this one and then I also go to a Step 11 meeting where we meditate for the first half.

I also go SLAA where I learnt about boundaries and Patrick Carnes.
Thanks for listening.
This website is a REVELATION!!

GettingBetter said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for sharing your experience with 12 step rooms. It goes to show there are more ways than mine to deal with the same issues, which you pegged exactly right as boundaries...both mine and others. One line which gets paraphrased as a mantra around our house with dealing with all sorts of dysfunctional people is "good boundaries are the key to non-repetition of trauma." As I think I've written elsewhere, the idea that boundaries were more about keeping others out than me in was a revelation. I was constantly taking on other people's garbage.

Also, if you are ever totally fed up with 12 step approaches, or even if you just want to try something different to see if it works, there is a secular recovery group called Lifering that seems to me to be the most sensible of the secular recovery groups. They are a total abstinence group, so none of this controlled drinking nonsense, just without the steps and secular, though not in any way anti-religion or AA. I was active in it online and thought about starting one in my hometown, but have not been home enough lately to do so. Just a thought. Sounds like you are finding a way that works for you which is great.

catherine todd said...

Always so good to read some new posts; everyone has such hard-won insights! Thanks for sharing them all.

As the Oct 14 post said: "This website is a REVELATION!!"

Couldn't agree with you more. Amen!

Anonymous said...

I agree that 12 step groups are populated by two catagories of people. I speak as a person with 25 years experience as an NA member. I have been clean for just short of 4 yrs (aged 21-25) followed by a further 17 years (aged 25-42) with a 4 mth 'relapse (on a less harmful drug than my initial drug of choice). I define the two groups as perpetrators & victims of abuse. Many perpetrators were initially victims but for reasons unknown became perpetrators. Victims of abuse are those like me (often with severe PTSD) i.e people whose substance abuse emerged to medicate PTSD symptoms & are not & have never been abuse perpetrators. IMO a third group also exists - addicts / alcoholics with no abuse history as either victims or perpetrator. There are many of these people who just don't 'get' the experiences of ppl like me. I would dearly like to leave NA as I've been severely traumatised there (although I moved to a new area / diff meetings which helped a lot & a decade later I can now attend my old meetings with only rare triggering of my PTSD). My problem is that I feel trapped into keeping on attending as I have zero family support & no partner etc. I'm also going through severe episode of complex PTSD at the moment so risk of drug relapse is real. It's really a bit of a nightmare. I'm so over everything...

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anonymous! You just explained the whole story of the 12 steppers, and why so many meetings and people are abusers just like the "outside" world. In fact, the people I met at the NA meetings were so awful they made sure that I never relapsed as the thought of having to attend those meetings again, and be around those kind of people again, was enough to keep me clean!

Talk about ironic... you're supposed to find so much support and kinship and all the rest there, and all I found were a bunch of s.o.b's that beat on everyone, and took advantage any chance they got. The abusers were both men and women. I had never in my life been around people like this and it was enough to keep me clean!

I'm glad to find out that changing mneetings (and members) CAN make a difference, and the three groups you identified really makes sense.

I suffer from PTSD and it's quite severe at times, and being around any members of my own family is bound to trigger it.

In fact, some relatives just left and as well-meaning, generous and good-hearted as they are, they still act just the same. Talk about "triggers." I am recovering today and it might take a few days to get over their "visit," but I know it will end. I will be OK. So that's a huge change. This WILL pass.

But the BIG DIFFERENCE was that this time around (after more than 20 years of staying away) I could see it for what it was: the way THEY were raised and the way THEY behave, not the way "I am."

It's clear to me why I had such a terribly negative self-image most of my life growing up... how could one not, being criticized for everything you do or say?

But this time around I could say to myself "let it go; they don't know what they are talking about" and I stayed away as much as I could and sat at the other end of the table and refused to become engaged ("trapped") in conversations that would of course immediately lead to "what I was doing wrong" and guess what? My PTSD levels were so much less.

For the first time in my life (and I'm 62 years old today), I could step outside of what they were throwing at me and saying about me and see "where it was coming from" and who was doing the throwing. At one point I "threw back" and said I would not be insulted like this any longer; I had had enough and I was leaving. That put a stop to it for that period of time and although one didn't speak to me the rest of the trip, all was well.

Sometimes I think it's better to be lonely than to be "family." I can find other friends to spend time with. And PTSD will not rear it's ugly head. Peace will reign and tranquility, too.

Thank you again Anonymous for your most fortuitous comment. Came just in time!

Catherine Todd said...

Thank you for all these great comments, especially the description of the 3 types of NA or AA'ers. Finally what I saw in these groups makes sense! I am a "raging codependent" with PTSD but am able to control my do-gooding when I make sure I limit it to a certain group, and not individuals so I don't get overwhelmed and trapped like I always do.

I always say "I may not have created my own monsters, but I surely have fed and watered them.

"The winds of grace blow all the time; all we need do is set our sails."

Here is my prayer and my hope:

Dear God show us The Way.

Anonymous said...

Hi. It's me 'Anonymous' again. I'm glad others found my contribution re 12 step fellowships helpful. I'm still attending one here but very aware of how it can trigger my C-PTSD & doing my best to avoid this. One thing I've noticed is that since I've started sharing (in general terms only) about having C-PTSD, that others also (especially females in women only meetings) are keen to jump on the bandwagon. Some of these women are OCM's (older cleaner members) with experience working in the mental health or drug & alcohol fields (typlically with very low levels of appropriate education). Although the research suggests that between 1 to 2/3rds of females with substance abuse disorders also have PTSD, I would posit that very few would have the kind of C-PTSD I am dealing with (charactarised by 35 YEARS of chronic suicidal ideation & major depressive disorder spanning over a decade at a time). As such, I'm getting a but sick of the 'who is more eff'd up' olympics I'm noticing emerge in my area. Most of these women are from very middle class backgrounds, set to inherit assets from parents, married etc & so really haven't got the foggiest clue of the level of trauma which someone like myself is dealing with. I seriously wish these 12 step know it alls would piss off & stop pretending they know far more than they actually do. Such people cause enormous harm to C-PTSD sufferers like myself & interestingly re my 3 catagories of addicts / alkies tend to be either perpetrators or have abuse history. Cooincidence not!

bundlesofcoal said...

Thank you. A ton.

I'm pretty convinced my AA experience could potentially have been deadly because it triggered me so badly that I stopped going to AA & quit cold-turkey.

The thing is, my particular PTSD comes from a fundamentalist Christian environment. And AA shares a ton of extremely similar traits with fundamentalist Christianity. Like the whole idea that you have to surrender your entire life to God and stuff like that.

Actually, I typed a post about this a while back if anybody is interested in reading it... trigger warning for an incompetent therapist as well as the topics I discussed above.

http://bundlesofcoal.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/how-aa-almost-killed-me/

Catherine Todd said...

Thank you Bundles. Nice to know I'm "not crazy" when I found the nastiest people in AA and was so grateful that just the thought of having to go back there was enough to keep me "clean and sober" forever!

Plus the comment about triggers and "incompetent therapists." I had one that just about killed me. Again, taught me to rely on MY SELF, which ultimately worked like a charm. I do pray every day and ask God to "show me The Way," but it's an individual thing that I do in silence that helps keep my heart and soul "clean." I just need to do more.

Prayer and meditation and learning how to "calm down" in times of stress. Deep breathing and all that. Can't beat that simple breathing if I can just remember to do it in time.

Going to your link right now.

Catherine Todd said...

Anonymous wrote: "I seriously wish these 12 step know it alls would piss off & stop pretending they know far more than they actually do."

LOL... Ain't it the truth? I saw the very same thing over and over again.

"Such people cause enormous harm to C-PTSD sufferers like myself & interestingly re my 3 catagories of addicts / alkies tend to be either perpetrators or have abuse history. Cooincidence not!"

Double Amen. That's why I'm "clean and sober" forever, so I will never have to deal with these kind of you-know-what's ever again. Worse two years of my life but it saved my life at the same time. Thank God for the few good souls that were there that did offer the kind of support we read about in "The Big Book." One of these days read up on "Bill" who was a real rip and took advantage of his "good friend" who started AA with him. Good old Bill was quite the Devil in Disguise. But at least those meetings got me through the darkest times and I managed it without hurting myself. That was a miracle in itself.

No suicide, no drugs, no alcohol; somehow I survived. In spite of the a&^*^%&R^ there! It was better than sitting home alone gnawing my nails and asking Death to come. I did learn to "put it in God's Hands" and get down on my knees and beg God to help me... and whatever you call it; God, Spirit, Soul, the Divine... my Guardian Angels did come and I did survive.

And now I can be grateful for sites such as this one, where we can all offer each other the real support that we need. And it's all for free. Gracias to all of you and thank you so much!

GettingBetter said...

Catherine said:
"I do pray every day and ask God to "show me The Way," but it's an individual thing that I do in silence that helps keep my heart and soul "clean." I just need to do more. Prayer and meditation and learning how to "calm down" in times of stress. Deep breathing and all that. Can't beat that simple breathing if I can just remember to do it in time.
ThanksCatherine, and bundles...really great post of your experience. I want to point out to people who might be digging around here that one of the points of this blog, for me, is to show that it is possible to get better without relying on the spiritual/religious forms, such as prayer. Part of my abuse history was spiritual abuse, and the idea that one must resort to a deity to sort out one's thoughts, actions, and feelings worked for a while, but then it did not. I am glad it is working for you Catherine, but I want to point out that meditation, self talk, and higher powers need not be accompanied by any belief in a deity. For myself I just suspend both belief and disbelief. It is not something I am capable of knowing, and the more I have looked at the self-delusions, often times on epic scales, of people who believe in some form of deity --faith, I believe it is called -- the less I want to do with it. The idea that a person needs to have faith or belief in a deity was a tremendous harm in my own personal life, allowing me to put off dealing with things and leaving me open to exploitation by charlatans passing as "spiritual" people. Like, "let me F%$K you over and then tell you it was God's Will."

The point I want to make clear here is not that relying on spirit power to heal is a bad thing, just that (A) it did not work for me, and apparently from the comments on this blog, from others too, and (B) it is not necessary and for me was in fact harmful to my recovery from PTSD, although often times the counsel is that spirituality is the necessary key. It was not for me, and in fact I did not get better until I jettisoned that idea.

Catherine, please don't construe this as an attack on you. It works for you, great, and I posted your comment because it might work for someone else. I respect your experience and welcome it. Your version often passes as the only option in recovery from addictions and PTSD, though, so I want to make sure my experience is available for people for whom the spiritual path fails or even hinders.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this blog. I too feel that I am much more the type b that you describe, and that the Big Book was written more for the type A. When I first came to AA I think the type A stuff very much applied to me, becuase I WAS resentful and blaming everyone else, but after the first year of AA and sobriety, things stopped getting better. I had done EVERYTHING I was told to do but the promises had in no way come true aside from staying sober. It took me a year of staying away from meetings and going to a therapist to realize that my "fear of people, places and things" had a name (Agoraphobia stemming from PTSD) and that forcing myself into AA social functions(that seemed to only go worse overtime as people tend to mirror my level of discomfort) had been of little help.

I have been sober now for 3 years and I'm finally starting to see the major personality differences between people in recovery and that AA definitely appeals to a certain type (over the long run) but pays little notice of those who are unable to fend for themselves. It is true that my problems are all mine to solve, no matter how difficult, but my major grievance was and is that the general public thinks of AA as the solution without knowing much about it. So when I went, I did exactly as told and then blamed myself for everthing that didn't work.

What you said about boundaries fits me perfectly; I have, for as long as I can remember, felt that nobody wants me around and that I should be hyper vigilent towards keeping everyone around me happy. I'm just now starting to realize that my family is just fine with me coming to social gatherings and maybe even want me there ( that is what they say but I just can't fully believe that anyone REALLY wants me around). When I was told in AA that I had arrived at "the last house on the block" because, apparently, nobody wanted me, I ran hard with that idea.

I think 12 step groups are a essentially a great idea and, like you, I don't know where else I would take a person in active addiction. I still go myself and I feel that now I may be able to make some use of the social environment as a sort of practice area for getting comfortable around people. But there is definitely, in my opinion, a LOT of work that needs to be done to make recovery groups usable for those that have more serious problems than being a class A @*$hole. The problem as I see it is that the person in recovery is not listened to or aloud to have a voice, so that, for everybody that it works for, it works just fine and can't be improved.

Thanks again. I really needed to read this.

Gadfly said...

I recommend avoiding going down the 12-step rabbit hole in the first place, or going to a new location ASAP if you're already there.

There are alternatives to AA, alternatives that many, especially in the medical and counseling world, don't know about. Alternatives such as Lifering Secular Recovery, SMART and SOS.

They don't try to shoehorn everybody into a one-size-fits-all (allegedly) set of steps. It's more self-focused (and self challenging at times too). But, that all makes it more self-empowering.

I'm involved with Lifering; check us out at http://lifering.org. And ... Getting Better, maybe this gives you a starting point for a new post?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog. I have had problems with sponcers in AA. Everyone wants to be one, though most should not. Many seem to be jocking for authority they are not able to provide. I did a step study on my own, listening to a set of speaker tapes. The teacher stated, sponcers were only really needed for step five. And, if you desire, that could be done outside of AA with someone you trust. I am tired of giving away my power, to hairbrain individuals who's lives are in worse shape than mine. When they get their failing lives together, I will take there advice. Right now my therapist makes much more sence. : )

Catherine Todd said...

Thank you Anonymous! I had to smile and *almost* laughed. You nailed it!

Jj Lancey said...

I would venture to say "Type B" alcoholics aren't true alcoholics. Although you have different reasons not to drink, our experience is different and I experienced 5 years of real harm from that programs. Because I cannot control triggers, I haven't had a drink in 20 years. But I am not an alcoholic.

GettingBetter said...

I would venture to disagree. I'm a real alcoholic/addict who spent the last five years of my addiction unsuccessfully trying to quit on my own with nothing but misery as a result. Being this B had no bearing on the physical addiction. It only mattered onceI got into the steps, which didn't produce "happy joyous and free" by a long shot. AA saidI was doing it wrong but the best decisionI made was get away from 12 step work after16 years of trying (all the while sober and still so to this day, 28 years into recovery). Type b had nothing top do with the addiction though. I was as much an addict anyone in the rooms. Of course you may not have been an addict. I can only speak for myself.

Anonymous said...

My long time DID/PTSD therapist told me to go to AA or she will not work with me. I had extremely hard time with DID group of people run by the same therapist. I had hard time trying to put thoughts together, switching, trying to find feelings to talk about or having to much but not able to speak because speech gets difficult. I have problems witrh peoples thoughts invading my head. I can not separate what is real of me or them. Tonight at AA, I was pointed to speak. I did but I didn't know what we were saying. The sentences were garbled to me but I guess I was talking. I don't crave alcohol but self medicate I get retraumatized. I was panicked after the meeting and felt suicidal after people speaking about everyone is the same. I need coping skills to make boundaries and more things. I just finished screaming leave me alone over and over again. And don't hear people in AA have ngithmares of being hunted, or hear inside voices, or being terriefied of strangers. I will not go to my therapist anymore because I am having a breakdown from that meeting. Alcohol is not like food to me. I hope I can find another therapist that will teach me skills to not have to cut off pain and keep protection from people. I hope that I am not labled alcoholic for the rest of my life. I already got DID and that feels incurable. AA says denial? denail of what? I don't think of drinking every moment I feel like I am shamed all over again. It hurts so much before my binge of drinking 2 glasses each day for three days, I already was suicidall. Sorry for misppelled I am trying so desparately to keep AA mindset out of our head. It feels like born a sinner attitude of AA and nothing is good from you.

GettingBetter said...

Sorry to be so slow on posting your comment. Please everyone, be aware that I am not equipped to deal with any crisis situation or give advice in one. I only share my expereince strength and hope. My experience was that I was not able to begin working on the PTSD issues while continually retraumatizing myself and clouding my judgment with drugs and alcohol. I also had a therapist say she could do nothing for me unless I went to AA/NA. That was thirty years ago this October and I have been clean since. I didn't have the benefit of working on trauma issues in early recovery and ended up getting in worse jams as result in recovery from the drugs and alcohol, but without the clarity that recovery brought, I would have never found my way through.

GettingBetter said...

"And don't hear people in AA have ngithmares of being hunted, or hear inside voices, or being terriefied of strangers." I had all of these during the late stages of my addiction, and less so, into early recovery. There are plenty of 12 steppers who have had all these things and more go on as a result of addicition. I Still have nightmares from the PTSD, mostly learned to deal with strangers once sober, and the voices are more friendly now that I stopped with drugs and alcohol. My experience was that I could not begin to address the PTSD stuff while still using drugs or alcohol though.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to your post! I have 12 years. Ive worked myself to the bone w/ the steps & have uncovered so much fear. Ive experienced a number of very sick people in AA & that has created MORE fear. I end up wanting to avoid mtgs they attend. Then an explosive interaction took place after a mtg one evening and I havent felt safe since. I was told this guys sponsor said that if I had only not pissed off the guy, he wouldnt have lunged at me. Im to blame? Because of this incident (a blessing really) I started having symptoms that led me to ptsd therapy. It has more to do with my upbringing but this event set it off. Since then Ive had a complete paradigm shift and have had to use my therapist throughout it. Its been like a deprogramming that is taking place. I do not see AA the way I used to. I have never been able to identify with the deep bottom drinker that needs a screaming sponsor. Im now @ Step 8 with my sponsor and have yet to make any progress on that step. I havent been to a mtg in over 2 months and my sponsor knows it. Ive been nothing but honest. I work a very honest program and this I feelis my core work that has kept me sick, fearful, victimized. My therapist says I am individualizing. I grew up with an emotionally & physically abusive mother & terribly controlled. AA was perfect for me in the beginning although I ALWAYS struggled with it. Now Im beginning to see that my sponsor, although she has many yrs of sobriety & is highly regarded by many is controlling. Shes been very loving compared to others Ive chosen in the past. My sponsor and I have become friends too although she never hesitates to put on her sponsor hat when needed. Today she told me she wanted me to go to a mtg every day & that the disease is talking to me. Funny, but although Ive been microscopically aware (as us ptsders are) of changes in me since Ive NOT been to a mtg, thinking of drinking or questioning my alcoholism is nothing what Ive done. Ive actually realized how FREE I am to NOT be in those mtgs in my hometown. I asked my sponsor if my disease was rearing its head merely because I havent been to a mtg. I do attend ALanon 1/wk. shes not happy w/ me. My worry is that I have contributed to a controlling relationship AGAIN as its what I know. My therapist tells me I suffer from a fear of being controlled while feeling fear of abandonment.What I do KNOW is I do not want to drink. Staying away from alcohol has given me time and space from what has kept me sick and struggling with the PTSD symptoms. Ive been away from my family, getting honest with myself and therapist (even my sponsor) about my fears. Im also able to see certain characteristics in people that I want no part of in AA. I do have AA friends & sponsees. My sponsor told me today that quitting AA is not an option and that the behavior Im exhibiting is not what is expected from someone she sponsors. Control much? Im scared right now because Im still processing this "deprogramming" or individualization. Its freeing and yet SO terrifying at times. I dont identify in a black or white manner as being alcoholic. The "one size fits all" does not work for me and truthfully I cannot fake it til I make it anymore. I havent found an exact answer and with my abuse Im not sure I will ever feel totally secure with my decisions but contrary to what my sponsor told me today, ..that Im unable to differentiate between my will and Gods will...I dont think Im that far off from Gods will. Besides, I felt her fear and I felt I was being controlled by it. If I defend my right to decide other than her way then apparently or possibly she thinks Im threatening her way? Who knows? I have loved having her in my life. My therapist thinks my sponsor has served as a healthy surrogate mother thus far. Perhaps our relationship is in need of redefining. Im beginning to feel not so good about things.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your insights I agree that there is more to this AA helped me alot in the beginning but I have always thought although I pretended to be an A I.was really a B I wanted to be like A s because I thought they had better recovery more together but of times they turned out to be narcissists The PTSD factor came out after a series of hits I took after moving to new area where everyone very clannish and judgemental As was never supposed to be judgemental supposed to be a gentle program alot depends on meetings and boundaries I am trying to be gentle with myself and take what can use leave rest my best to you all