Resisting 12-step Coercion: How to Fight Forced Participation in AA, NA Or 12-step Treatment

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See Sharp Press, Jan 1, 2000 - Self-Help - 204 pages
4 Reviews
This book is a guide for the one million-plus Americans per year who face coerced religious indoctrination in the guise of alcohol or drug treatment. It outlines legal strategies and existing court decisions and shows how useless and sometimes harmful 12-step treatment can be. It also contains a considerable amount of material on the routine violation of standard medical ethics by addiction treatment providers, and examples of such violations.

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I actually used to espouse the exact same views and express them to the point of being asked to tone it down by my grad school professor in my Substance Abuse Counseling seminars. That is until I attended 12 step meetings to address my own life-threatening addiction after nothing else- including countless therapists, harm reduction, psychiatry, abstinence, etc.-worked. That said I absolutely agree with the hypocritical use of blatantly patriarchal, Christian language and prayers throughout AA literature and meetings. Hypocritical and inappropriate in that it is indeed a self-identified "spiritual not religious" program where any one of any creed (or lack there of) is welcome. At the same time I have come to accept that AA never would have taken off and turned into the international phenomenon helping millions of people it has if it weren't for this very language that I too loathe. In 1930s America, it was actually extraordinarily progressive to even suggest that people could come up with their own idea of a Higher Power, and furthermore, should meditate?! Where is there any mention of meditation in Christianity? Each of these fundamentals have far outweighed and outgrown the Christian roots that made AA therefore far more acceptable and palpable in that day and age to embrace, in my opinion. I disagree with the points made that it truly is a "religious" organization however. I have been active in AA for 4 years and finding "religious" members is actually rather rare. It truly is a spiritual rather than religious fellowship at its core, and if it weren't for that- and furthermore its total embrace and acceptance of atheists and agnostics as I started out as- I would never have continued going and may very well be dead right now. This book is also misinformed from what I read regarding newer fellowships and their use of "religious" language and not changing anything but the the wording in the 1st and 12th steps. Having explored several fellowships addressing various issues with remarkable insight and wisdom that rival any other resources out there, I can tell you that many if not most of the newer fellowships with sizable membership, including ACOA, CoDA, SLAA, and CMA, have all updated the language to remove all male personal pronouns and either replace "He" and "Him" with "God" or "Higher Power" (what I think is in most keeping with AAs traditions of unity and no outside affiliation). Plenty of AA members attend other fellowships where this is the case, and I have often initiated dialogue during and after meetings about the use of "H" and referring to God at all; rarely have I been met with anything but agreement and support. I have also heard members in AA read the steps using "She" and "Her" to balance out the patriarchal hypocrisy, which I think is also exciting, while I am still opposed to assigning gender to any God/higher power period. I do wish that AA would finally get with the progressive program and change its own dated language and align itself with its own ideals and traditions in the process. Every meeting opens stating that AA is not aligned with any sect or denomination, so we shouldn't then close meetings with something as outrageously tradition-violating at the Lord's Prayer (which is rarely if ever used in more progressive cities or outside the US). I therefore refuse to say it myself, and talk about its inappropriate, alienating use, proposing we eliminate it regularly. The fact is AA and the 12 steps save and transform lives in a more dramatic and immediate way than any type of therapy I have been through or offered as a counselor (never mind addict) myself. This is my experience at least, and it's pretty extensive personally, professionally, and geographically at this point. I think this book makes totally legitimate arguments for what AA needs to address as an organization, while unfairly dismissing and misrepresenting AA and its progress in the process. 

Review: Resisting 12-Step Coercion: How to Fight Forced Participation in AA, NA, or 12-Step Treatment

User Review  - Michael T. McComb - Goodreads

Important read for anyone forced into 12-step treatment programs. Read full review


The Nature of the Problem
The Efficacy of 12Step Groups and 12Step Treatment
12Step Groups as Religious Organizations
The Courts and Coerced 12 Step Attendance
Informed Consent
A Prototypical Case of Alcoholism
Summary of Legal and Clinical Objections to Compulsory AA 12Step and Abstinence Treatment
A Complaint Regarding Alcoholism Therapist Misconduct
Secular SelfHelp Groups

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About the author (2000)

Stanton Peele is a psychologist, attorney, and distinguished critic of the addiction treatment industry. He is the author of Diseasing of America and coauthor of Love and Addiction and The Truth About Addiction and Recovery. Charles Bufe is the author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? Archie Brodsky is senior research associate in the Program in Psychiatry and the Law, Harvard Medical School. He is the co-author of Clinical Supervision in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling.

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