What I Have to Say in the Wake of the TAL Episode Airing

I’d like to answer some of the responses I’ve gotten since my story aired on This American Life last week.

First off, to the AAers who have accused me of “violating the traditions”: Calm down. AA is not a secret society. It’s not the Masons. That cited tradition, a custom really, pertains to AA advertising. “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.” The long form lays it out more clearly and asks that AA’s avoid “sensational advertising.” Stating, “We feel it better to let our friends recommend us.”

So relax. I’m not going to hurt AA. Alcoholics Anonymous is much more threatened by dogma and paranoia than by anything I could possibly say. Open and honest dialog is always good. Always.

The next group I’d like to address are those with a clear preexisting agenda. Those who assume I not only agree with them but that my story could be useful for their swindle. I’m speaking of course of the recovery charlatans—the ones who feed off the misery of substance abuse. Those who write books about how AA doesn’t work/help/matter while claiming they’re the only ones who will say this (unlike all the other snake oil salesmen who say it).

To the addiction “experts” who know the “truth”—I’m not your show monkey.

The most bizarre one was a lady who graduated from the Hazelden Academy (think AA as a public school and Hazelden a charter school) telling me I’m just brainwashed and eventually I’ll come to her way of thinking and realize AA is a cult. Condescending? Very. Sorry, but if AA is a cult, Hazelden is also a cult. And Moderation Management is a cult.

And Starbucks is a cult and Chipotle is a cult—and everything is a cult. And people just like using the word cult. I was born in a real cult. Trivializing the word cult only aids charismatic leaders in abusing their power. So knock it off.

(There are cults in AA – the Pacific Group and the Midtown Group just to name a few. AA alone doesn’t meet the requirements to be a cult but neither does Christianity even though there are Christian cults. The distinction is important.)

But that’s how recovery charlatans operate, in a bubble of pompous absolutism.

I’m not an ex-addict. I’m not an alcoholic who learned how to drink moderately. I’m not an example of how recovery parasites are right about anything. My story is not giving credibility to quacks. My story is not for you. It’s not yours. You cannot co-opt it for your own purposes.

My story is for anyone who feels less alone after hearing it.

My story is about how two able-bodied Baby Boomer religious zealots abandoned their child in foster care,  justifying it with a hybrid of woo woo and Puritanism. My story is about being left to be raised by strangers yet wanting to give my parents a pass in hopes they’d love me. In hopes of not doing whatever they found so objectionable. I wanted redemption. I wanted a second chance. Instead I found foster care and AA and built a narrative making me the bad kid and my parents the injured.

My story is about survival and how it’s not always linear or rational. It’s messy and admittedly weird. It has way less to do with drinking or AA and much more to do with child abuse.

I’m not good at emoting publicly. It’s not my strong suit. This is all very real for me still and very raw. I’m still coming to realizations about my upbringing that leave me sad and aching. I just kicked up a lot of sediment and I don’t know when or where it’s going to settle.

Thanks to all who’ve gotten in contact with me and shared their stories. Thanks to all who’ve showed interest in this saga. Thank you for your kindness and emotional generosity. With the few exceptions I’ve already mentioned, the response has been heart warming and amazing.