Friday, March 13, 2009

exploitative folks in 12 step programs and elsewhere

Once again, somebody's comments sparked a post from what started as a simple response. Anon, thanks for your comments on this page and and on the "type A&B" page. In a nutshell, she said thanks for the heads up as she tended to trust 12 step folks blindly and had not realized there were some exploitative types in the rooms.

I really need to tread a fine line...AA and 12 step programs saved my life at one time, but nearly cost it another. I managed to get sober there when I could not under my own steam no matter how hard I tried. I'm forever grateful for that, because it has made the rest of my life possible, painful as parts have been.

That said, the most manipulative, scheming, two faced, fair weather friend type people I have ever met, straight or high, have been in 12 step programs or the addictions recovery field. I had the blind trust anon talks about -- after all, these people had literally saved my life and I knew it! And there are some great, decent, and honest people in AA. There are also used car salesmen (I bought a lemon from a guy who used 12-speak and AA "seniority" to get me to trust him when making a purchase I wished I hadn't), spiritual abusers ("when I f&%*ed you over it was God's will"), therapists ( did anyone ever notice that the word spells "the rapist?" -- just kidding sort of...while several of my therapists were akin to rapists, others I have learned to choose have been remarkably helpful) willing to rip up families to make a few thousand bucks, even to the point of driving the abandoned ones to suicide ("oh she was messed up...good thing he left her when he did!"), and this is before even getting to romantic relationships, where as I said, because of my tendency toward trauma repetition, and never having been around healthy people to know any better, and my blind trust in 12 step folk, I got involved with the sickest most twisted people I have ever met in my life. I'm still trying to sort it out 15-20 years later!

I would never tell anyone to avoid all relationships with recovering people...there are some healthy ones I am sure (plus I'm one!), but tread carefully! Trust slowly and cautiously if at all. Trust is earned and provisional, based on actions not words, and not granted eternally, just for now. Pay attention...don't disregard your common sense and intuition...a major part of my recovery has been to slowly reclaim those things...if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

The thing is, I was so needy and vulnerable, even 5-6 years into recovery, that I ignored all this and rather than waiting and going slowly, I dove in and trusted blindly because I did not know how to develop earned trust over time rather than just give it or withhold it arbitrarily. As a result, I got in traumatic relationships again and again (twice in recovery, to be exact) that I am still struggling with much later. They very nearly cost me my life. They did cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost work time when I just could not function because of the results of them. They caused unbearable and completely unnecessary pain and a number of trips to psyche wards and a trauma treatment center. When I have told people the details, they have been amazed that I didn't pick up over this stuff...many just assumed I had. One person I respect a lot, an earth person (i.e., not in 12 step programs) said the last perpetrator was an emotional rapist.

But honestly, I don't know if I could have taken the advice I am giving now, because I was stubborn and thought if I did not get somebody *now* I'd be alone forever. Looking back, I would have been better off alone, but I needed to learn it the hard way I guess. And even today, knowing what I know, I don't know that if I were single and put in the same situation I wouldn't repeat my mistake again. I like to think I have learned better, but I don't know that. I am just glad I am in a healthy non-abusive relationship for a long time and don't have to face that particular weakness in myself.

It is a funny thing...the healthy relationship didn't come with all the drama, risk, and emotional highs -- or lows -- that the sick relationships did, so it took me literally years to figure out that all that drama and ball of hurt I was used to was not an intrinsic part of human relationships! I thought I was missing something and I guess I was. To be honest I missed the rush, just like a drug, but also to be honest, I have learned I certainly don't miss the consequences.

I just have to say, over the few years I have intermittently written this blog, I have been continuously gratified that there are other people who understand. One of the worst parts of my PTSD was thinking I was alone and hopeless and crazy. So thank you to all of you who have commented over the years. You keep me thinking and writing about this stuff, which helps me work stuff through, and I am grateful that something helpful to others has come out of something so insufferable.

6 comments:

Echo Location said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
catherine todd said...

I just came across an incredible piece of work calling AA a "cult." It's pretty incredible, and mirrors many of the same experiences I found when I attended both the AA and Al-Anon meetings. I'm not an aethist, but take a look:

Alcoholics Anonymous:
Of Course It’s a Cult!

by Jack Trimpey

Reprinted from The Journal of Rational Recovery,
Volume 9, Issue 5, May-June, 1997

positiveatheism. org/rw/ofcourse. htm

catherine todd said...

you wrote:

"That said, the most manipulative, scheming, two faced, fair weather friend type people I have ever met, straight or high, have been in 12 step programs or the addictions recovery field."

My experience, exactly. Thank God my life was saved and then I got out and my life was saved twice. Isn't life strange? I can't figure it out.

Capt. Chaos said...

You are a very brave person and strong. This stuff is very hard for me to read. I'm trying to understand the things that happen so I can be a better friend and better person overall. I can see why so often so much of the world simply sweeps abuse especially sexual under the rug. The truth is it is so hard and ugly. The world is hard enough to navigate successfully without this extra being added to so many peoples lives. Society is letting so many down all the time. The idea of exploited people being exploited by their own kind makes a kind of sick sense.

It's pretty cyclical and no one but someone who lived it ever really understands. It's a rock and a hard place scenario. No wonder so many PTSD sufferers feel alone.

catherine todd said...

Capt. Chaos "said it all" and said it so perfectly. I was wondering why I felt "so alone" today after my mother's death when I was refused admittance to her deathbed vigil. I could not even say goodbye. She always aided and abetted my abuser, as did all my family (siblings included). It's a miracle I'm not dead. But AA and it's ilk do help in the sense of helping people to stay off drugs and alcohol (as an Adult Child of Alcoholics I am very familiar with the 12 step programs) but why are the people so far from the spiritual steps themselves? Does this mean the steps don't work? Does this mean God does not exist?

Perhaps this means we truly cannot rely on each other but have to find our own "Higher Power," wherever that might be. But Capt. Chaos put it all in words so well today. It's sad but just what I needed to read. Thank you for posting all of this. You have no idea how much this helps, knowing we are "not alone." Yours, CT

GettingBetter said...

Catherine, you wrote, "Does this mean the steps don't work? Does this mean God does not exist?" I tried a brief answer and failed, so it turned into a post.