By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
In the issue before last, theVoice published a cover article headlined "AA Unmasked," alleging that Alcoholics Anonymous has been attempting to discourage members who are cross-addicted from sharing (talking) about drugs during meetings. Approximately 200 letters were received in response to the piece. Some of the mail is being printed on the first page of letters this week. As in the article written by "M.T.," and in conformity with the practice of 12-step programs, writers are identified only by initials or partial names in order to protect their anonymity.
'12-STEPPED' BY THE 'VOICE'
As a reader whose life was changed many years ago by a collection of Village Voice articles on AA, I would like to respond to the article "AA Unmasked" [May 15], on the issue of cross-addiction and sharing.
In your July 23, 1985, issue, the Voice ran a special section about AA on its 50th anniversary ["Living Sober: Celebrating 50 Years of Alcoholics Anonymous"]. I was sitting in my office with my usual hangovertoo sick to do any workand I picked up the issue and started reading. I was 25 years old and hitting bottom, a stone cold drunk. I've been sober ever since, and I always like to think that The Village Voice "12-stepped me" (introduced me to the program).
I was also cross-addicted 16 years ago, but alcohol was my primary drug of choice. Contrary to the article by M.T., throughout my years in AA, I don't recall ever feeling that I couldn't share freely about any of my substance-abuse issues. Whining about not finding the perfect meeting is a pathetic excuse. It's the classic addict response to blame outside circumstances.
WILD WEST VILLAGE
Living in downtown Manhattan, I have never seen anyone cut off from talking about drugs in meetings here. Everyone shares about everything, and drug and alcohol addiction absolutely are considered the same thing. People share about all kinds of addictionsfood, sex, gambling, cigarettes. I have been to meetings in Utah, Florida, upstate New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and Paris, France, and in most cases the message is the samethat drugs and alcohol are the same thing. In Paris and Puerto Rico, I met people who had been to my home group, Perry Street, in Greenwich Village. Everything goes there, which can have its drawbacks, but I treasure the freedom I have to say whatever the hell I want. Good luck, M.T., and thanks for sharing.
M.T. makes a crucial distinction that AA dangerously ignores. A drinking problem is not, in itself, a disease. It is merely one symptom of a far more complex psychological condition known as the addictive personality, which easily shifts to other symptoms. In AA meetings I have attended, some die-hard members have encouraged me to take up cigarettes, eat all the fat I desired, up the coffee intake, and attend sex partiesharmless daily relief from the power of the demon drink. This is sober advice?
ROOMS TO IMPROVE
In five-plus years of attending four to five AA meetings in Chicago, I have never heard someone tell another member not to share about drugs. I have only heard people talk about how it is the same disease. I don't know where M.T. is getting his or her information.
ADDICTION AND SUBTRACTION
Thank you for printing M.T.'s article. Finally, the word that many addicts have known for years is out. Drug addicts are not welcome to share their experiences in AA.
The basic struggle to make that first meeting is virtually insurmountableand once you find the strength to get there, you are again shamed, isolated, and desperate.
BACK TO THE BASICS
One thing M.T. failed to mention is that many NA members attend AA meetings because they have found the quality of recovery to be better in AA. Recovery is a difficult process that is based upon principlesnot personalities. M.T.'s article was more about the behavior of people than the principles of the program.
Here in Boulder, Colorado, we have about 80 AA meetings a week, and everyone talks about what they want to: drugs, food, relationships, sex, shopping, gambling, and of course alcohol. We have every addiction known, and our AA community is a cross-section of the hippest small city in America. Considering that AA cofounder Dr. Bob was a barbiturate addict (read "Dr. Bob's Nightmare" in the AA "big book"), it's no wonder that drugs have been up for discussion at most of the meetings I'm aware of.
Sober 23 years,
I found M.T.'s article on the shortcomings of AA interesting. I identified as a black drug addict who felt m uch the same alienation described in her rap. Since I had problems with subst ances in addition to alcohol, I had to leave AA early to find a home for my recovery. I found NA and have stayed there. It only makes sense.
However, I can understand the single-mindedness of AA concerning alcohol. Along with nicotine, it is the biggest addictive drug on the market, and there needs to be a direct (even if narrow-minded) approach to dealing with the pitiful, incomprehensible demoralization associated with alcoholism.
NA is too young, too individualistic, and too egotistical to rise to power. And there is an ethnicity factor in NA. Somehow, NA accommodates itself to white people, but not to blacks in general. I find this perplexing and frustrating.
I also have to wonder if the race to oblivion of the '60s and '70s from the politics of the day and the flight to personal salvation and lifelong "nonpolitical" recovery of the '80s, '90s, and '00s is no gat-damn accident: We's been bamboozled.
Grateful addict in recovery,
Here in south Florida the sheer number of cross-addicted members of AA has overwhelmed the old hard core. One old-timer admitted that his real problem was fear and ignorance, and he now supports open discussion.
A dear friend of mine was told 50 years ago when he came to AA that AA would probably last only a few more years.
As a speaker from California said, "Don't worryin 20 years there will not be anyone in AA who is not cross-addicted."
The future is bright for recovery, all recovery.