Unusual 12 step groups
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: June 17, 2019 12:37AM

I know CEI doesn't view 12 step groups as a religious cult, because they don't match up with the official cult characteristics. However, I've recently heard and read about certain groups that are very cultish in nature. I have a friend who had a very bad experience with her sponsor and a group she was in. Her experience was very different than the meetings I had gone to.

She has shared stuff with me about it over the years, and it sounded very controlling and rigid. The meetings I went to (OA) were different. They were round robin discussion meetings. Some used the big book from AA, some didn't.
The meetings she went to (AA) used the big book, but were very rigid, strict, and at times sounded abusive with how she described how her sponsor and others spoke. I went with her to a meeting once, and it sounded and felt cultish. There seemed to be a lot of fear based, reverse psychology group-think. I tried to gently suggest she go to more of a discussion type meeting, but she told me she was told that those meetings are full of people with untreated alcoholism who just share about their problems but don't turn to God or do the step work correctly. She had an answer for everything, based on what they told her. It was strange going with her to a meeting, and hearing everyone parrot the same things.

After things fell apart with her sponsor, she told me she thought the group was too rigid, and understood why people in the area she lives called it a cult. She has started going to different meetings that she likes better. But she seems rather traumatized by her experience with her former sponsor and group. And anytime we talk about 12-step stuff, she still parrots what her former group used to say and quotes the big book word for word. She used to constantly email me stuff about Dr. Bob, Bill W, God and the Oxford Group, but she's stopped doing that. She also stopped wanting me to go to an open AA big book meeting, because I would just tell her the same thing repeatedly in response--that I was benefiting from my meetings.

The group she was in seemed overly focused on "sin/character defects", instead of helping her recover and feel good about herself. And all she talked about often times was God. She told me she was taught not to do anything in her life, big or small, dealing with being around alcohol or not, without connecting with God first. It was odd to me and didn't sound like AA. She even had started to attend a bible study based on her sponsors suggestion (more like "demands") and got obsessed with that for a while. I thought that was odd, too, since she had left Catholicism many years ago, had very strong opinions about religion, and was an atheist. Also she reads mostly religious/spiritual books now. This isn't like her.

I'm glad she's doing better in her new group. Her new sponsor sounds a lot less harsh in how she talks to her. But I'd like to know how to help her get past her experience. How do I help her? Has anyone else heard of groups like this before?

Re: Unusual 12 step groups
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 17, 2019 10:39AM

Quote

I tried to gently suggest she go to more of a discussion type meeting, but she told me she was told that those meetings are full of people with untreated alcoholism who just share about their problems but don't turn to God or do the step work correctly.

The first tip off that your friend was being mind controlled by her sponsor
was the sponsor instilling fear and contempt for 12 Step groups outside of the one the sponsor recommended. That's classic cult behavior.

As in all social groups, the 12 Step world has some dictatorial types who can and do become dictators and abuse their sponsees. They give
the entire enterprise a bad name.

Your sponsor should NEVER be your jailer, no more than your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife should become your jailer.

Am very sorry to hear that your friend's sponsor was dictator.

Yes, there are some AA people who will push their own religious recipe on their sponsees. If fortunate, the sponsee will fire them. Unfortunately, sponsees are exquisitely vulnerable and a dictatorial sponsor can do terrible harm.

Some AA people become terrible snobs. They make a distinction between themselves as 'real alcoholics' versus those whom they arrogantly claim are
merely 'bubble bath' alcoholics, who only need a bubble bath and stress management to feel better, who are not real alcoholics at all. These snobs claim they can only stay sober by working with 'real alcoholics'.

Woe to the newcomer who falls into their clutches and innocently lands one of these as a sponsor.

After years of difficult experiences, the 12 Step communities came up with
the 12 Traditions as a precaution against a meeting becoming isolated and cultic.

If one follows proper procedure, a meeting should never be antagonistic or contemptuous of other meetings. And there should be regular, scheduled elections so that no one member becomes excessively domineering.

A person should be able to leave or fire his or her sponsor at any time. For a sponsor to become as domineering as what you describe here -- that is dangerous.

There are authoritarian types who can turn anything beneficial into a
psychospiritual cult bondage situation.

Your friend's sponsor sounds like a control freak and a dictator.

The whole point of genuine recovery work is to emerge from fear and isolation, not to become an inmate of just one meeting and avoid everything else.

The point of recovery is to become more and more able to to enjoy a wide variety of social relationships.

There are legions of people in AA who identify as atheist, as agnostic, who put in years of solid sobriety who do not ID God as their higher power.

Re: Unusual 12 step groups
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 17, 2019 11:04AM

corboy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
Quote

I tried to gently suggest she go to more
> of a discussion type meeting, but she told me she
> was told that those meetings are full of people
> with untreated alcoholism who just share about
> their problems but don't turn to God or do the
> step work correctly.
>
> The first tip off that your friend was being mind
> controlled by her sponsor
> was the sponsor instilling fear and contempt for
> 12 Step groups outside of the one the sponsor
> recommended. That's classic cult behavior.
>
> As in all social groups, the 12 Step world has
> some dictatorial types who can and do become
> dictators and abuse their sponsees. They give
> the entire enterprise a bad name.
>
> An AA sponsor should NEVER be your jailer, no more
> than your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife should become ones jailor.
>
> Yes, there are some AA people who will push their
> own religious recipe on their sponsees. They need to be called out.

> Unfortunately, sponsees are exquisitely vulnerable
> and a dictatorial sponsor can do terrible harm.
>
> After years of difficult experiences, the 12 Step
> communities came up with
> the 12 Traditions as a precaution against a
oming isolated and cultic.
>
> If one follows proper procedure, a meeting should
> never be antagonistic or contemptuous of other
> meetings. And there should be regular, scheduled
> elections so that no one member becomes
> excessively domineering.
>
> A person should be able to leave or fire his or
> her sponsor at any time. For a sponsor to become
> as domineering as what you describe here -- that
> is dangerous.
>
> There are authoritarian types who can turn
> anything beneficial into a
> psychospiritual cult bondage situation.
>
> Your friend's sponsor sounds like a control freak
> and a dictator.
>
> The whole point of genuine recovery work is to
> emerge from fear and isolation, not to become an
> inmate of just one meeting and avoid everything
> else.
>
> The point of recovery is to become more and more
> able to to enjoy a wide variety of social
> relationships.
>
> There are legions of people in AA who identify as
> atheist, as agnostic, who put in years of solid
> sobriety who do not ID God as their higher power.

Re: Unusual 12 step groups
Date: June 21, 2019 03:59PM


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