I am wondering if anyone can give me advice on this situation.
My relative is a young woman who has a severe mental illness. She seems normal to most people, it's not a very dramatic mental illness, but it's very, very severe. She worked for a few years after college but then had a nervous breakdown. Since then she has not been able to work or go to school, and has been living on disability. She's been staying with my mother.
She's been involved with 12-step recovery groups for several years. In the beginning I talked with her a little bit about why she went to these groups. She's not an alcoholic or drug abuser. She told me it was important for her to heal from her mental illness and her problems growing up. However, over the last 2 years, she has not gotten better. Her life revolves around meetings of these groups. She has almost no life outside the group. Six months ago she had a breakdown because the leader of one of the groups yelled at her, singled her out and attacked her verbally during a meeting. We found out that this group was a "secret" group that was more intense than a regular 12-step group. They use jargon words like "maintaining lineage". The members of the group all hang out with each other and support each other for everything. They are all women of various ages and the destructive leader is a woman... we know her first name and that's it, because the group is so secretive.
After the breakdown six months ago, she said she was staying clear of this particular group, but the meetings (sometimes 2-3 times a day) continued. She had another breakdown this week. It's really, really bad. She is staying with her mother and father now and they're trying to get her into a psychiatric clinic. We found out that contrary to what she said, she has always stayed involved in the group, and all the friends here that she is so close with are also group members and under the sway of this leader! Her older friends from college are extremely worried about this. Luckily she has still stayed in contact with some of them and what they have heard about the group really scares them.
We all feel really angry and upset. Any kind of intervention is out of the question because her mental state is too fragile. She is an extremely vulnerable person and she can't handle stress right now. Hopefully she will be in a clinic getting some real treatment soon, and she'll be cut off from the outside world (including the group) so that should give us a little breathing room to figure out what to do for the long-term.
This is a really tough situation to make a decision. We can't live her life for her or treat her like a child. She has to work towards independence. But she's also incapable of living on her own for now. She will have to live with family members, like us, or old friends until she makes more progress towards independent living.
I don't have anything against groups like AA and Al-Anon and I know many people who have been helped by 12-step group. But her group isn't just anonymous. It's turned evil. It's secretive and encourages codependency under the guise of recovery. It's led by an abusive, power-mad woman. I looked at this page -- [www.sossobriety.org
] -- and I could check 9 out of 10 items on the checklist for my relative.
I'm looking for resources on how to persuade people they are really in a cult, when they argue back by saying "it's just a 12-step group". I'm looking for more material that shows how and why these groups can go bad.
I'm so angry that they promised to make my relative better but all they're doing is making her worse. I've told her before she needed to stop going to so many meetings, stop thinking about other people's problems so much and work on her own problems more. I told her this just a few times, in a very mild way, and dropped it immediately when she disagreed, because I didn't want to seem patronizing. I'm kicking myself now. Maybe I should have been more forceful and argumentative. I wanted to have more of a relationship with her over the last years but every time I ask her to do something with us it's always been "I have a meeting".
We are considering hiring a private investigator to get more details about this group and its leader. Any materials or articles on situations like this would be helpful. Especially first-hand accounts of getting out of these groups. Thank you.