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!