The Voice's May 15 cover article, "AA Unmasked," prompted an unusual amount of reader mail. Following are some of the more than 300 letters received. As in the the article by M.T., most are signed either with initials or first names and initials to protect writers' anonymity. A response by M.T. appears at the end.


I'm wondering what M.T.'s motive for writing her AA hit piece actually is. I have been a sober member of AA for 13 years, eight of them in L.A., and I can't imagine where she's been going to meetings. Throughout my sobriety, which has included at least three meetings per week and plenty of outreach to newcomers, I have always been encouraged to listen for the similarities, rather than differences. My story, like those of most baby boomers, includes pot and pills, although alcohol was always my drug of choice. I've never been shown the door or shouted down, nor have I ever witnessed such behavior. AA isn't for everyone: Some people, whose experience centers on a specific drug—say, cocaine or heroin—may be better off in Narcotics Anonymous, where their identification may be greater. It's said in AA that it takes only a coffee pot and a resentment to start a new meeting. M.T. seems to have half that already.

Shoshana G.
Los Angeles, California


Excellent article by M.T. on AA's official attitude about limiting addiction to alcohol in discussions at meetings. I couldn't agree more with the author.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area there tends to be much more openness about many subjects. In travels across the country, I've found that women generally have been the leaders in welcoming the inclusion of other drugs in discussions. In earlier years this seemed to relate primarily to women's frequent negative experiences with addictive prescription drugs. Men, on the other hand, were never prescribed antidepressants to the same extent as were women.

Too bad the AA leadership is still stuck in the past.

Sally Brown
Palo Alto, California

The writer is the author, with her husband, David, of the recently published book A Biography of Mrs. Marty Mann: The First Lady of Alcoholics Anonymous (Hazelden).


AA has no mask. If the author actually got clean and sober in New York in 1988 I'd like to know which meetings discouraged talk about drugs. At the same time, and for a good four years after that, I went to virtually every meeting below 125th Street in order to save my life, and was enveloped by unconditional love. I have remained sober and have reentered life.

Any group of people can run the gamut from angels to assholes, and 12-step groups are no exception. I was repeatedly told that if I liked everyone I met in an AA meeting, I wasn't going to enough meetings. A fact that can sadden anyone is that a friend or loved one may not "take' to the program. The truth is that AA is not for the people who need it; AA is for the people who want it.

I would say to M.T.: Keep coming back.



I always think about that part of the AA "Big Book" where [cofounder] Bill W. says the steps are meant to be the skeleton of recovery, and that God will reveal other ways of recovering. It's as though Bill knew that AA would have to evolve—that the fellowship, like the rest of humanity, would only survive by reinventing itself constantly. Hopefully, the AA rule-makers will catch on soon.

Fran S.

Malverne, Long Island


As a "pure" alcoholic, I am not interested in listening to drug addict stories. There is a psychological difference between drinking and taking illegal drugs. I went to my local grocery store to buy my poison. I didn't go to a back alley, or sell my soul, to get drugs. There is always someone who thinks they know better than the people who helped get them sober.

Twenty-two years of sobriety,

Terry H.
San Francisco, California


Loved M.T.'s article. I relate to every word. When I came into AA as a heroin addict, it was difficult. Then I found NA. The current cruel rancor between NA and AA has cost both groups members—and some I know have died from not "coming back." Has everyone forgotten that [AA cofounder] Dr. Bob was a drug addict? I don't know what will happen with this problem, but I do know that a few meetings have to be open to all. One meeting I go to is for cocaine, alcohol, heroin, and pot users, and glue sniffers.

Clean since 5/11/96,

Maggie C.
Thousand Oaks, California


In "AA Unmasked," M.T. indicates that there is a flaw in AA's overall philosophy and with members who take literally its Fifth Tradition, which dictates that each group's primary purpose is to help the "alcoholic who still suffers."

I am one of those individuals who, after having been "sober" for a year, was told I could not share about my obsession to abuse narcotic medication given to me after a uterine biopsy. Instead, I was quietly told there were other meetings I could attend to share about that issue.

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