Saturday, January 05, 2008

Gurus, authoritarianism and recovery groups — not just an AA phenomenon

For years, beyond its religious emphasis, a major complaint many people have had about Alcoholics Anonymous (and NA), is the idea of “sponsorship.” While the idea of a mentor to help in one’s sobriety, especially if truly voluntarily chosen, may be an idea of worth, in reality, especially with it being a quasi-requirement of AA/NA, it is easily abused.

Predatory-minded sponsors can easily become controlling and manipulative to minds in the midst of trying to clear themselves of the fog of alcohol and/or drugs. Or, people who aren’t official sponsors can do some of this. The predatory nature can come in with sexual manipulation, establishing a power base in a local support group for the sponsor, and more.

Even outside the official sponsorship idea, gurus can set themselves up with new insights on the best way to get clean/sober, etc. And not just inside individual groups.

The name “Clancy” is well known for propagating an entire subset of groups within AA.

Many critics of AA have observed that, sociologically, it’s a place of redemption for people who washed out of their local Lions Club, or something similar.

But, it would seem the problem is related to recovery groups and personalities susceptible to addictions, and not 12-Step models of recovery.

Several examples from the world of “secular recovery” will suffice.

One is Jack Trimpey, founder of Rational Recovery. Trimpey, as though he were the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Recovery, has, in essence, declared recovery groups null and void. He has said alcoholics/addicts who continue to go to such groups are, in essence, still weak.

Then, you have Marty Nicolaus, founder of Lifering Secular Recovery, an offshoot of Secular Organizations for Sobriety. LSR ostensibly was founded as a separate recovery organization after a Nicolaus-led lawsuit against SOS over some serious recovery issues, such as “single-substance sobriety,” failed in court.

I’ve talked to enough people in LSR besides Nicolaus to not doubt that SOS needed a fire under it (to which its founder, Jim Christopher didn’t repond), and there were grounds for the lawsuit. However, I’ve also talked enough to people in SOS, and done enough analysis on my own, to know that personality issues, including Nicolaus’ personality, were involved.

And, at the individual meeting level, “control freaks” and other types have popped up in my LSR experience too. This is true for online meetings as well as face-to-face ones.

That said, I reject the idea of “the addictive personality” as many people (often not really addicts) use it. But, to the degree addiction exacerbates personality traits, and less desirable ones in some people, and recovery groups give them a platform to spew this out, this is a worrisome phenomenon.

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