Growing Up In a 12-Step Home

Growing Up In a 12-Step Home

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Since: May 08

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#1 Nov 11, 2008
My childhood wasn’t bad. All things considered, it would be petty to complain. I have a sister a year and a half older than me, and my parents are still married. I am now married with 4 children, live in a modest home in a nice little town and finally have a decent career going. My sister hasn’t done quite as well; she floats jobs, often serving drinks in skid-row bars, and lives in places and neighborhoods that are beyond comprehension. Her two teenage sons live mostly with their father, which isn’t much better.
My parents, until recently, had earned a very respectable living. They have a nice house on the “Old North side” of Indy, a section of town that despite all of the urban chaos that has grown around it, has remained well kept and has very high home values. My mother sells a lot of antiques on e-bay; my father has recently worked his up to Store Manager of a well-known retailer of electronics that now sells more cellular phones than anything. They struggle financially, but they used to make a lot of money. Their income came from the “Recovery Movement”, and this was particularly profitable during the 1980’s.

Since: May 08

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#2 Nov 11, 2008
At the peak of their financial success, they maintained an office with a staff (all people known via 12 step groups) and had a cleaning lady come in to the house weekly (also known via “The Program”). They marketed, produced and sold audio and video “training materials” geared toward addiction counselors. When I was in high school, a friend and I would go to the office right after school and stuff flyers into envelopes, which were sent out on a mailing list advertising the newest available materials.
Eventually, they put on their own conference, where addiction counselors would come from far and wide to sit through seminars and speakers, having paid, or having had their employers pay, hefty registration fees. Additional revenue was earned by selling the recorded seminars. This conference was an annual event until just recently, when declining registration forced it to end. In the latter years, other matters related to mental health were covered.
That’s a little about my parents, so let me go back to my childhood and recount some of my experiences growing up. I will undoubtedly make many observations about others, especially my parents, along the way. Before reading further, may I make it clear that I love them and do not blame them for anything, and genuinely appreciate all that they’ve done for me; whether it was good or not. I do know that they always tried to do what was right.
I will try to limit this writing to my experiences growing up in a 12 step environment, but might stray now and then...
I was around the age of ten when we had a family meeting. I remember sitting down at the kitchen table with my sister and my parents. I don’t recall very well what all was said, just that dad was going to quit drinking, and would be attending meetings. Furthermore, there were meetings for kids that my sister and I should intend. Either I or my sister inquired why. I do have a vague recollection of us being told that dad had an illness, and as a result of this illness, the entire family had been affected; as if we were somehow “sick”, but these meetings would help. Mom would go to Alanon, my sister and I to Alateen.
It was very confusing, because I had no idea that my father had a problem with his drinking. I can only recall seeing him stumbling drunk a couple of times, after parties, and he would usually have a scotch and water after work, but I don’t recall him drinking all evening. He had a quick temper and was never one to show affection, but that hasn’t changed to this day.

Since: May 08

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#3 Nov 11, 2008
The meetings themselves I found boring, I would zone out most of the time, but it was something I always looked forward to. They utilize the same 12 steps as A.A., and now I find it down right appalling that these principles are taught to vulnerable teens (You are powerless. You are insane. You need to confess everything to another person.) There were a couple of girls I liked, and after the meeting everyone would go to McDonald’s. The Alateens would hang out in their own area and it did have its social pleasures. This went on for a few years or more.
Before any of this began, my father started his own business traveling to various conferences and seminars (nothing specific yet), and record speakers. He would have labels pre-printed for audio cassettes, and would travel with machines that could duplicate multiple cassettes within minutes. He would sell cassettes of the speakers on the spot, available within minutes of the speaker completing his talk.
After my father joined A.A., his business was directed solely into the addictions field. This proved to be lucrative very quickly. As an adolescent and teen, I saw much of the country as the family would travel during the summer, working at various conferences. For this I am grateful. San Antonio, New Orleans, and Fort Lauderdale are just a few examples.

Since: May 08

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#4 Nov 11, 2008
I began to notice that my parents were becoming highly judgmental. It became impossible for them to see someone drinking without making a comment. A complete stranger enjoying a beer would always warrant a comment. My mother was especially bad about this, and I remember her distinctly making a comment along the lines of:“I wonder how people that aren’t in recovery cope with anything, and I don’t mean just alcoholics. What a shame not to have a support group to keep you living right.” This struck me as wrong. What she was saying was is that addicts in recovery are far better off than any non-addicted normal people.
My mother is a book by herself. Never proclaiming herself an addict (except once, when a stepper that thought she was showed disappointment to learn otherwise), she developed a strong following of “cultees” that fed her ego enormously, and viewed her as some sort of guru.

Since: May 08

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#5 Nov 11, 2008
By the age of 13, I had begun my experiments with beer and pot. I would say the reasons were two-fold: peer pressure from school and neighborhood friends, and maybe even more so, curiosity based on all of the people I had been exposed to through my parents and what was now their entire world. Their seemed to be a certain GLORY in being a recovering addict or alcoholic and I had heard plenty of entertaining war stories. Looking back, there is little wonder why I would be very curious to see what it would be like to get wasted and act out. In this little world, it seemed as though 12-step programs were a life necessity; anyone without them was simply lost, addicted or not. Surely there was a 12-step program that suited everyone; and if you weren’t involved in one, you were lost and in denial about something. My mother attended ACOA, though she was raised in a simple, yet loving blue collar home. My grandfather drank beer, but was a sweet gentle man and I know of no obvious “dysfunction” there. I think that the eighties were an interesting period of history in the recovery group and treatment center industry, as the phenomenon surely grew into a sub-culture on its own. No longer was anyone wishing to be anonymous, many people proudly wore it on their sleeves, seeking to “save” others much like Fundamentalist Christians or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Since: May 08

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#6 Nov 11, 2008
Around this time, while traveling in Texas, I disclosed to my parents that I had tried alcohol and pot a few times and felt bad about it. They did not scold me; rather embraced me and told me how proud they were for sharing this with them, and were genuinely gleeful that I would now also label myself an addict and attend meetings.
Yes you read that correctly. Few times = addict. Here I will raise a very disturbing point that I always realized, deep down:
My parents would prefer having an addicted son in recovery as opposed to a son that was non-addicted.
To any rational person, this would seem sick. I doubt my parents would ever say such a thing outright, but it’s pretty obvious.
As I progressed in my teens, my experimentations continued. By my freshman year in high school, I was regularly cutting classes and running with a crowd that loved to party. Friday nights were for drinking beer, no questions asked, and smoking weed was pretty much whenever we could sniff it out. It was smelled on me on occasion, but nothing too serious came of it.
Until shortly after I turned fifteen. A police officer stopped into my parent’s office to purchase a tape. My mother said that upon seeing him, she was immediately struck with an ill-feeling that I had gotten into major trouble. Despite this visit having nothing to do with me, it was decided right there and then that I would go to a treatment center.

Since: May 08

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#7 Nov 11, 2008
I spent 60 days in a new low-cost facility; just for adolescent boys (it would later treat girls also). Most of the staffed was pretty inexperienced, and I got close to some of them quickly. It wasn’t too bad, we had no responsibilities related to school; the food was pretty good; we only had one or two group sessions a day that were often fun and never to intense; and would venture out a few times a week for an AA or NA meeting.(The insurance companies and taxpayers shell out thousands of dollars per “patient” for this type of “treatment”). I became friendly with many in the NA meetings, including multiple people that I later found out had prior sex offenses against minors, and attended these meetings to look for fresh meat. Wasn’t this a lovely environment for an emotionally vulnerable teenager?(I was never abused sexually, but I did later find out about some of these people. I can locate some of them now on the Indiana Sex Offender Registry. I also witnessed some abuse, just didn’t see it for what it was at the time. People in their 30’s have no business dating teenagers).
It was actually very emotional when I left the facility just before Christmas in 1985. I had formed some strong bonds…reflecting on this, a dependence on some of these people to validate me, make me feel special, and to tell me what was wrong with me. For a time afterward, I would visit the center (not far from home) and continued with my NA meetings. I stayed in touch with a few of the kids I was in with, but not regularly.

Since: May 08

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#8 Nov 11, 2008
I would later connect with and smoke weed with one kid that was in there. His name was Jeff, and he truly was from a bad home. He moved in with an NA member for a while about a mile south of where I lived. This person he lived with is one of many now questionable people as previously mentioned (but I seem to recall he died from AIDS). When he was 17, Jeff took his own life in a stand-off with the police. He was in the back of a van full of stolen items. The police tried to coax him out; instead he put a .22 to his head and later died in the hospital. His father refused to pay for a funeral.
Prior to this, I had made it to 90 days clean, 60 of which were in the treatment center. I remember when I “relapsed”. I was sitting in my bedroom alone, and I had a sudden compulsion to call a guy in the neighborhood. There was no confusion as to my motives, our relationship at that time was all about getting high, and we had never communicated about anything else. A short time later, I was at his house getting high. I largely justified this with being taught that I was “diseased” and “powerless”.
Ironically, this person, who seemed so hopelessly addicted and seemed to have flushed his life down the drain, would later quit drugs completely on his own. He began developing health problems, and that was all it took. In later years we would become very close friends, and still stay in touch though not as often anymore.

Since: May 08

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#9 Nov 11, 2008
The next couple of years were like living in two separate worlds. Due to my family pressures, I had to maintain some level of involvement with meetings and people involved, and keep any drinking or drugging secret. I would periodically commit to sobriety/being clean, but couldn’t really bring my self to sever ties with my school and neighborhood friends. As I kept that life a secret from the recovery world, I also kept my recovery world a secret from them. In retrospect, I had much turmoil in leading this “double-life”.
As I approached 17, I decided the turmoil was too much and committed myself to recovery, yet again. I voluntarily transferred to an alternative high school, which was a “last chance” for troubled teens that had been expelled from the city’s other public high schools. I probably would have found even more trouble, had it not been for meeting Eric. Eric was sober over a year in AA, I about 6 months in mostly N.A.. We became very close and it wasn’t long before we were inseparable. I began spending all of my time with him. After school we would go to my parent’s office to stuff envelopes for their mass marketing mailings to the treatment industry, the rest of the time at an AA club. We went to a lot of meetings and were friendly with a lot of people, many of them young too. This period of my life in the program is the fondest. We had a lot of fun. Cars, girls, occasional fights and other trouble but we were sober.

Since: May 08

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#10 Nov 11, 2008
Eventually the call of my old buddies came back and I was back to the double life. As Eric and I developed other friendships and were no longer going to school (we had both dropped out. Many teenagers in recovery then felt like they could have no ambition, a peculiar discussion for another time). I worked full time and partied every chance I got. My strongest urges to drink and use were often immediately following an interrogation from my parents.
Between the ages of 20 and 25 I had 3 DUI's and multiple public intoxication arrests, the whole period is a drunken haze once I was out on my own (with an occasional in-between places/roommates). With every legal dilemma came plenty of scolding from my parents, and I had plenty of exposure forced on me by the courts. By now I simply resented it. I had no respect for it. The counselors and addiction treatment services that the court would refer me to were clearly about the money. One place didn’t even bother to provide any treatment or counseling if you didn’t want it. I was free to show up, pay for it and leave. That’s exactly what I did. When the system is putting you through the grind, they own you. If you made a million dollars a year, they’d find a way to take it. Of course if you did have the money, many lawyers claimed they could make it disappear. Otherwise, you go through the machine. It’s all money; if you can’t shell it out up front, you will over time.
As far as AA meetings went, I was given the “court cards” to have signed at meetings, but after all of the years I had spent in them, I was well aware that nothing could be verified. All I needed to do was look up the names and dates of meetings on the schedule, and my drinking buddies would sign it. I remember one particular probation officer looking at it funny, but what could he do? How could he prove it was bogus?
I decided to grow up around the age of 26. I reconnected with a very sweet gal that is now my wife. When my parents saw that the relationship was serious, they made it a point to pull her aside and “educate” her on my drinking problem, as they have done with many of my closest friends over the years.
My parents were of course, thrilled when I started going to AA again. I decided to abstain because my behavior is unpredictable with alcohol, and I want to set a good example for my kids. It has not felt right. I often felt strong cravings to drink during and after meetings. I’ve grown increasingly frustrated listening to people whine about piddly-assed problems. Grow up. I’m tired of the self righteous arrogant people, and I’m tired of being told that I’ve got serious character defects by people that don’t know me that well. I’m tired of being told to find a higher power I can call God. I even made an effort to become religious in my early 20’s, but couldn’t swallow it. I am an Atheist not by choice, yet I’m repeatedly told by people in AA that I’m in serious danger of death because of it.
No doubt it will take years of deprogramming to shake off a life-time of 12 step philosophy and mental conditioning, but I am convinced with unmistakable clarity that I am better off without it. I have come to realize that the people that I have seen truly overcome addictions do not depend on anyone else. Neither will I.

Since: May 08

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#11 Nov 11, 2008
That essay is three years old now. I'm doing just fine and still wanting to spread the truth about 12-step quackery. I consider it a public service.
Rebecca

Oviedo, FL

#12 Nov 13, 2008
nice fourth step.keep coming back!

Since: May 08

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#13 Nov 14, 2008
Rebecca wrote:
nice fourth step.keep coming back!
That's funny.
I will certainly not "keep coming back". The point of the story is how indoctrination in the 12-step religion and what it teaches results in learning certain behaviors. Three years completely away from it (and realizing what it actually is) and I'm doing better than ever.
Rebecca

Clarksville, IN

#14 Nov 14, 2008
Looks like your meeting is here.

Since: May 08

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#15 Nov 14, 2008
Rebecca wrote:
Looks like your meeting is here.
I like to share my story (experience, strength & hope, LOL) when and where I can if it might help at least on person know ahead of time that the AA cult does not help people, and often causes them greater harm.
Though I would agree that there is much benefit in people coming together to support each other in overcoming addictions...if only that's all AA and the 12-step programs were.
Rebecca

Warren, MI

#16 Nov 14, 2008
Did it ever occur to you that everyone hasn't had that cult experience? There's rotten people everywhere. I wouldn't say ALL of AA is rotten. As far as a cult,I can't relate at all. I have gone to meeting in three states and dozens of cities.

Since: May 08

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#17 Nov 17, 2008
Rebecca wrote:
Did it ever occur to you that everyone hasn't had that cult experience? There's rotten people everywhere. I wouldn't say ALL of AA is rotten. As far as a cult,I can't relate at all. I have gone to meeting in three states and dozens of cities.
I have been to more AA and NA meetings than I could count, and like you, I've been to them in other states as well.
I also wouldn't say that all of AA is rotten. In fact, most of the people are good people seeking a solution for their problems. People coming together with a common bond to help and encourage each other is a good aspect.
Unfortunately, it is also a haven for control freaks, sexual predators and others. The guise that it's a friendly support system for quitting alcohol is replaced by coming to believe in Bill Wilson's cult religion, Buchmanism. A newcomer can only come around so long before the dogmatic "old-timers" are filling them with misinformation and guilt.
soybeans

United States

#18 Nov 19, 2008
Take what you need and leave the rest. Stick with the winners. Control freaks and sexual predators aren't the winners.

Since: May 08

Location hidden

#19 Nov 19, 2008
soybeans wrote:
Take what you need and leave the rest. Stick with the winners. Control freaks and sexual predators aren't the winners.
True enough, but it's not always easy to tell who they are until it's too late.
"Take what you need and leave the rest" is more bait and switch. I've heard that many times, but there are always the control-freak dogmatic self-appointed gurus who impose their will.
Best to just stay away. I cringe at the thought of teens still regularly being sent there by the courts.
soybeans

United States

#20 Nov 19, 2008
Now I know. 13 step. I knew it. dude, I got 13 stepped a long time ago. Funny I was told to stay away and was still willing. did that make it right? no. But I always volunteered for chaos. I stopped volunteering. No one would DARE even try now.

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